Based on data from millions of websites and advertising campaigns, JumpStory has put together six Golden Rules for selecting the right stock photos for your marketing. Use these six rules when you create your next landing page, social media graphic, advertising campaign, newsletter, blogpost, etc. and increase the impact of your work dramatically.
#1 We connect with people like us
Photos with people on them are far more powerful than other kinds of images. As human beings, we respond to other human beings like us. When you look for the right stock photos, go for images with people that resemble your core target audience.
If you’re creating a product or a service for elderly people who would like to exercise more, choose images like this one – found on JumpStory:
Currently diversity is a huge trend, but you should only have photos with people from multiple backgrounds, ethnicities, and lifestyles, if these are also your target group. There is nothing wrong with having very specific niche audiences for your product. The key is to show photos of this particular audience.
When you search for photos on JumpStory, you can choose to only display images with or without people making it easier to find the most powerful photos. Of course, JumpStory also has lots of photos portraying diversity and inclusion in your image library, but again, if your product is aimed at women, you’ll want pictures of real women, and that’s it.
#2 We respond to emotions
Human beings are not rational animals, even though we like to think of ourselves as such. We’re very much driven by our emotions, and many of our decisions in our daily lives – including those about what we choose to buy – are based on feelings and emotions rather than facts.
We might justify our decisions afterwards based on rational arguments, but it’s rarely these arguments that convinced our brain to act, like we did.
This is also why emotions and photos that can create certain feelings in us are much more powerful than other kinds of stock images. Especially the photos where the emotions displayed feel real and authentic like these two examples:
If you want to create high-converting landing pages, newsletters, or ads, showing real emotions in the images is key.
The kind of emotions you want to portray depends on the emotion that you want to invoke in your target audience. Perhaps you want them to relate to a frustration of some sort, so you show an image like this:
Or maybe it’s simply about putting the visitors in a good mood, so you show them this image:
Psychologists Kirsten Ruys and Diedrick Stapel of the Tilburg Institute for Behavioral Economics Research discovered that imagery has the ability to affect our mood, even when we’re not aware that it’s happening.
So this tells us that choosing the right photos is all about connecting with our audience and invoking emotions …
#3 We are drawn by colors
Adding to relatability and invoking emotions, choosing images with the right kind of colors is an important choice. Using the psychology of color adds to your ability to make your customers feel and do what you want them to do.
This is not only about the photos that you choose, but also how you apply colors to graphic elements like fonts and buttons, but we’ll focus on the images for now.
This is a basic illustration of the ten key colors and their psychological impact on us:
When you search for photos on JumpStory, you can use our simple color filter and add a color preference to your search results.
#4 We look at images first
When people visit your website, read your blog, or respond to your ad, they always see the images first. We are visual animals, so even though great copywriting is very important, be sure to remember that your choice of photos has the power of drawing your visitor’s attention to whatever you want them to focus on.
This also means that your selection of images should add value. By adding value, I mean thinking about the selection of your photos in the following way:
Would this landing page work just as well without the images that I’ve inserted, or do they play an important role in the message of the page and the actions that I want the visitors to perform?
In this example from Unbounce, the stock photo of the woman helps direct your eyes to the first message on the page. Making sure that you read the headline and then let your eyes glide down through the rest of the page:
And in this example, the photo on the landing page is used to convey a feeling of happiness, summer, and nature to the visitor:
#5 Avoid clichés at all costs
So, our first four golden rules were about the importance of:
- Real people in your photos
- Authentic emotions in your photos
- Selecting the right color(s)
- Using images to draw & direct attention.
The fifth golden rule is about avoiding clichés at all costs. Historically, stock photos have gotten their bad name because of the many clichés, toothpaste white smiles, and picture-perfect people that can be found on some stock photo platforms.
However, on JumpStory we’ve used AI to get rid of all of these. Yes, that is right. We’re actually using artificial intelligence to remove all the artificial stuff, not to generate artificial images like you might have heard about on sites like DALL E 2 and the projects of the company Open AI.
We find the technology fascinating, but we honestly prefer to keep things authentic and real, so we’ve named our use of AI ‘authentic intelligence’ instead of ‘artificial intelligence’.
This also means that when using JumpStory, we’ve tried to remove all cliché photos the best we can. We’re not perfect, just like human beings are not perfect, but here’s an example of the difference between our search results and average search results when you search for words like:
We did another search to compare. This time for the word ‘HAPPY’.
Here is what we found on some big stock photo websites …
Here is what we found on JumpStory …
#6 Use photos that you don’t find everywhere
As we mentioned above, some stock photos have rightfully got a bad name because they represent the world in a fake and cliché way. However, we founded JumpStory because we don’t like stock images, but also because we can’t hire a professional photographer every time that we need a great photo. We do have a budget after all.
So, the solution here is to use authentic images that you can’t find everywhere. How are we doing this? Don’t use the free image platforms like Unsplash, Pexels, Pixabay, etc. Why not? We’ve written other articles about why using these free image websites can also be really costly because of the potentially huge legal risk, but that’s a completely different topic. For now, let’s stay focused on finding the more unique visual content for your work and marketing.
Using the biggest platforms out there, such as iStock or Shutterstock, can also result in using the images that everyone else does. Just to test that out, we bought a random stock photo there and did a reverse image search on it using Tineye. Here’s what we found:
2931 other pages have already used that photo in their marketing and communication. Not very unique or authentic, right?
On JumpStory, we selected a similar-looking photo to the one shown above and ran the same reverse image search on it. Here is what we got:
So using a photo database that focuses on authentic and real images and isn’t everywhere on every single marketing platform out there (hint: JumpStory) is really good for your ability to create more authentic and more unique content.
About the author
He is one of Denmark’s most well-known entrepreneurs and business authors. He has been nominated as Entrepreneur of the Year and is amongst Denmark’s 100 most promising leaders according to a major Danish business newspaper.
In addition to being a serial entrepreneur, Jonathan Løw is the former Head of Marketing at the KaosPilots – named Top 10 most innovative business schools in the world by FastCompany. He is also former Startup-Advisor and Investor at Accelerace – the leading investment fund for startups in Denmark.