Brand Better: the right way to use stock images on Instagram

You know that using stock photos in your Instagram feed could save you a ton of time, but maybe you’re feeling a little apprehensive. Or maybe you just don’t know where to begin. Well, there is a right and wrong way to use stock images in your feed, and this article will show you how to do it best!

I often meet people who want to use stock photography in their social feeds, but they’re a little nervous because they just don’t know HOW. And I get it. Social media- and Instagram in particular is all about sharing YOUR life, YOUR brand. So while the thought of using stock images to alleviate some of that content generating grind is appealing, it also feels like it’s in direct opposition to the personal nature of social media- especially if you’re the face of your brand.

And it’s a really good argument- because a lot of people are using stock all wrong (but you’re not going to be one of those people, no you’re not, are you?) So let’s chat about how to use stock photography the RIGHT way, K?

{And just in case you’re ready- or will be ready to dive in after reading these tips, I’m here to help you out. Click below to snag 20 free images right now!}


number one

think of stock images as the B-Roll to the rest of your content.

You know how when you’re watching Fixer Upper, Chef’s Table, or Part’s unknown and you see shots of the neighborhood, city, or ingredient the hosts are talking about? That’s called B-roll, and the hosts were most certainly NOT present when it was shot. In fact, some shows don’t even shoot their own b-roll, they simply purchase, you got it, stock footage. It’s edited alongside existing footage, and the viewers are none the wiser.

Treating stock images this way makes them filler. The side dish, or appetizer to the main entree- your content. A good rule of thumb to start with is 1 stock image for every 4-6 pieces of custom content.

So how to do that exactly? Let’s say you have a great post caption idea talking about your grandmother’s cherry pie recipe. You know the story will resonate with your audience, and this particular story will give you a unique way to share some personal info + relate it back to your business. (She always knew to make it when you were feeling down, it took her years to perfect the recipe, but she never gave up. WHATEVER that story is…)

But here’s the deal: You’re not exactly a baker, and you’re not going to be baking Grandma’s pie anytime soon. Additionally, you have no desire to drive to the store, buy a cherry pie, and then figure out how to shoot it, just so you can use this anecdote with your audience. This is where stock comes in friends. Find yourself a lifestyle image of some cherries- doesn’t even need to be pie- and you’re in business. This is the perfect way to use stock as filler to the main content on your feed in a way that still feels personal to you or your brand.

number two

Lean into lifestyle type imagery because it blends more seamlessly on social.

We’ve all seen overstyled, over perfect, over staged stock imagery. No- just no. Keep as far away as possible from those types of images. They’ll stick out like a sore thumb in your feed, and leave your followers scratching their heads. There are so many resources (both free and paid) for well-done stock photography now, that there’s really no excuse for images with a high “cheese” factor.

number three

Know your aesthetic and your brand

Speaking of sticking out like a sore thumb, let’s talk about customizing those stock images, shall we? Yes, did you know you can customize stock images? It’s true! And it’s the fastest, easiest way to blend them alongside your own content.

While it’s important to source images that go along with your overall aesthetic, (is your feed bright, light and airy? Then maybe take a pass on that moody forest shot- no matter how beautiful it is) you can also make minor adjustments to really make them your own.

Minimally edited images are great for this because you can add your own edits on top. You don’t even need photoshop, just put the images on your phone and use your favorite app. One I really love is A Color Story, and you can look over my shoulder and see exactly how I use it to edit in this video.

Cropping is another way to give a custom vibe to images. It’s remarkable how much an image can change simply by choosing to highlight a different subject or area of the photo with cropping.

And lastly, you can also use graphic overlays or text to make images your own. There are so many apps now that make this super duper easy- no graphic design degree required! Canva and Wordswag are two of my favorites.

Are you all fired up about using stock images now? After reading some of these tips, would you take the plunge and start incorporating stock into your own account? Or maybe you’re already using stock images, but these tips make you think differently about how you’re using them- let me know in the comments below!

And hey, if you ARE ready to dive in, I’m here to hook you up. Click above to get 20 free images you can start experimenting with right away.