How to Pick the Perfect Image – Even When It’s Stock Photography

A look at ways to get inspired when searching for the right photos to accompany your content, and tips for helpful keywords to point you in the right direction

There’s a rumor going round that stock photography is done. And it’s true; forward-thinking brands shouldn’t rely on stock entirely when it comes to brand design and visual identity.

But a carefully curated selection of quality images? That’s a necessary element of any successful online presence and sustainable content marketing strategy.

BuzzSumo says that articles featuring images every 75-100 words get twice as many social shares as those with fewer visuals. For content marketers and all kinds of publishers, illustrating blog posts, landing pages, or other text-heavy material with frequent photos, graphics, or artwork should be a no-brainer. But many don’t have the budget or resources it takes to constantly be producing original editorial shoots.

Anastasia dyakovskaya


Cover photo by @chne_ on Unsplash

That’s where quality stock images come in. With in-editor photo sourcing tools — made possible by Setka Editor’s recent integration with Unsplash — you can seamlessly find the perfect visuals for any piece of content, right as you’re work on its layout design. 

Read on to discover some helpful tips on how to start thinking outside the box while staying true to your brand values and visual language, and how to optimize your search efforts for premium results no matter what you’re working on.

This post was designed with Setka Editor, a new editing plugin for publishers who care about high-quality content. Learn more about Setka Editor or try it for free.

Thought Leadership

Photo by @andybeales on Unsplash
Photo by @austinchan on Unsplash
Photo by @anastasia_p on Unsplash

Stock imagery has come a long way since the days of staged businessmen posing against plain white backgrounds, or cartoon lightbulbs signalling bright ideas. These days, you can find an immense wealth of top quality images that have the power to inspire and emotionally connect with viewers. When dealing with B2B content, take advantage of these visuals — after all, they’re at your fingertips.

They may range from the playful to the pensive, but remember that within thought leadership pieces, the key idea is to stand out from the crowd — in terms of what you offer or the knowledge you bring to the table, and visually as well. Whether it’s one red flower in a field of yellow, a hiker perched upon a summit, a tangle of lights, or something more lighthearted, don’t be afraid to push the envelope in terms of what you may consider to be traditional business imagery.

SEARCH: Try keywords like “stand out,” “silhouette,” “glow,” “leadership,” and “success” to see the myriad of options Unsplash has available. Pay special attention to lighting, composition, and color — especially if your brand’s associated with a certain hue.

Company Culture

Photo by @anniespratt on Unsplash
Photo by @kaleidico on Unsplash
Photo by @kaleidico on Unsplash

Content that deals with HR, internal communications, company news and product updates deserves to look good, even though, most of the time, design efforts within this niche are slim to none. With free, quality images from sites like Unsplash, there’s no reason not to include some visuals to boost reader engagement as well as the overall aesthetic of your work. Photos of attractive office spaces, collaborative teams, and a cast of friendly and diverse faces creates a welcoming energy that’s key when your goals are impressing various stakeholder and attracting and retaining talented employees.

SEARCH: See where keywords like “teamwork,” workspace,” “office,” “colleague,” and “employee” lead you. Unsplash features images of all kinds of spaces and teams, so you’ll be sure to find something fitting for your company profile.

Food & Beverage

Photo by @margobr on Unsplash

From milkshakes and green juices to beers and cocktails, sweets and cakes to wholesome meals, Unsplash has a vast assortment of quality images featuring food and beverage. Whether you’re looking for an influencer-worthy snapshot or a mouth-watering set-up, you’ll be sure to find just what you need with a simple search.

And remember, everything you’ll see is an example of modern and relevant stock photography at its best. Getty Images recently reported on a new trend in food imagery, for instance, featuring dark and moody still life shots. “The vibe is contemplative, the colors are rich, and there is a high tonal contrast between the foreground and background,” according to their Creative Research Team. And food and beverage shots, in particular? They’re not just for restaurant websites and cooking blogs. Depending on the topic at hand, a round of drinks or a beautifully arranged table or tray can be just the ticket.

SEARCH: Key in specific foods, ingredients, dishes, or drinks, or start with terms like “food photography,” “food styling,” and “food presentation.”


Photo by @slelham on Unsplash

When it comes to sports, authenticity is key. Audiences don’t want to see female athletes made-up and posing fakely with a ball or racquet. They want to see real men and women, through sweat and through grit, giving it their all. Let Sports Illustrated deal with models; you want images that convey strength, drive, and sheer human will. Focus on action shots, creative angles, emotional responses, and punches of color. And it goes without saying that athletic themes apply far beyond the field — the values translate beautifully to content dealing with B2B topics like tech and collaboration as well.

SEARCH: Try keying a specific sport like “boxing,” “rowing,” “jogging,” or whatever’s relevant to the content at hand. You can also add in details, should you choose, like gender specifics, accessories like “boxing gloves,” or even search for particular brands, like Nike, Reebok, or Adidas.


Photo by @reo on Unsplash
Photo by @lucabravo on Unsplash

There’s a time and a place for the now-standard out-my-airplane-window shot — but it’s not every time and every place. Travel imagery needs more variety, and Unsplash has it in spades. Show your audience what it feels like to breathe in a new place — from the middle or a busy street, or the top of a sprawling cityscape. And as we’ve seen, a powerful image can work across genres, themes, and business verticals. Whether you’re searching for an airport pic, famous destinations, or something a bit more creative perhaps, there’s something to be found for every trip and taste.

All the images seen here were sourced straight from within Setka Editor with Unsplash. Click here to learn more about our brand new integration, and let us know what you think @SetkaEditor on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

SEARCH: Try a certain destination, like “beach,” “forest” or “mountains” or give a specific city or country a whirl and see what you might find. “World,” “globe,” and “map” could offer some fun results as well.