9+ Ways to Use Custom Stock Photos for a Cohesive Brand Experience

This is a guest post from Erin Sanchez.

We’ve all been there—scouring free stock photo sites for that perfect image. You know, the one that matches our brand in every way: color, content, vibe. Maybe you need it for a blog post or your Instagram gallery. And maybe you found that perfect picture. Hallelujah!

But there’s a problem.

You can’t find another one similar enough to use for your next post.

Not only that, you just saw someone else post the exact SAME picture!

The horror!

In all seriousness, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with using free photos. When you’re just starting a blog or business, you’re not always ready to invest a whole lotta dinero in your endeavor right up front.

However, if you’ve been at this for a while and you want to create a shiny, cohesive brand experience, it may be in your best interest to use custom stock photos. In other words, you’ll want to hire a professional to produce photos created just for you, based on your branding, content needs, and other parameters.

That’s just what I did when I decided it was time to step-up my branding game. In order to stand out online and match my visual imagery to my high-quality standards for written content and service offerings, I took the plunge and started working with Glady.

And you know what? It was worth every penny!

Here are at least 9 ways you can use custom stock photos to take your branding to the next level, with a few examples from yours truly.

 

1. Pinterest Pins & Board Covers

It’s no secret that Pinterest is a major traffic source for bloggers. But with over 200 million monthly active users at the time of this writing, in order to snag attention on the popular platform, you’ll want to upgrade your profile and pins. What better way to do that than tight branding and topnotch visuals? Here’s how I used custom stock photos to make my Pinterest presence shine:

 
Customized board covers that convey the purpose of my blog and business.

Customized board covers that convey the purpose of my blog and business.

 
 
Pins that look consistent, professional, and on-brand.

Pins that look consistent, professional, and on-brand.

 

2. Social Media Posts & Banners

The opportunities for using custom photography across social media are virtually endless. Hence the “+” in title of this post! You can use photos to accompany a link, as profile banners, or as an inspirational image with overlaid text (such as quotes or announcements). With the popularity of Instagram Stories—and the diverse ways you can use the feature—custom photos make the perfect background for sharing insights and making announcements.

Below are a couple of examples of using custom stock for my social media channels:

 
A branded Twitter banner that immediately “tells” people I’m in the business of writing.

A branded Twitter banner that immediately “tells” people I’m in the business of writing.

 
 
Branded photos create an attractive Instagram gallery (custom stock: top left, bottom left, bottom right).

Branded photos create an attractive Instagram gallery (custom stock: top left, bottom left, bottom right).

 

 

3. Your Blog

Of course, every blog post should have at least one featured image. What better way to illustrate your blog than with branded photos? This way, each time someone visits one of your posts, they’re “indoctrinated” further into your brand. It may seem like a small thing, but visuals literally help you build community! Through consistent branding, you build familiarity and “speak” directly to those who resonate with your vibe.

Think about some of your favorite online publications or blogs—do you know immediately when you’ve landed on one of their pages that you’re in “the right” place? Do you feel confident the article is going to be relevant to you and resonate with you? This is exactly what you want to accomplish with your online presence as well, and visuals can help.

4. Your Website

In order to create a compelling experience for those who visit your website, you’ll want to make sure your user interface is carefully branded. So you’ve chosen your copy, fonts, colors, and other elements, but now you need images to match. Sure, you might be able to find a couple stock photos from free sites that fit, but to really tie everything together, nothing beats custom photography. Case in point:

 
This custom stock photo fits seamlessly with my website design.

This custom stock photo fits seamlessly with my website design.

 

5. Advertisements & Landing Pages

If you’ve reached the point of investing in custom stock photography for your business, chances are, you’re considering running ads to promote your blog, products, or services—or perhaps you already have. While copy is no doubt important in advertising, images are just as vital (and arguably more so!).

I’ve intentionally grouped landing pages with advertisements for one key reason: when people click on your ad and are taken to a landing page to make a purchase or opt-in to your email list, you want the branding to match… unequivocally. Don’t underestimate how important this is to converting lurkers to action-takers.

Check out what I mean:

 
This is a Facebook ad I ran using a branded photo.

This is a Facebook ad I ran using a branded photo.

 
 
And here’s my coordinating landing page

And here’s my coordinating landing page

 

Admittedly, I should’ve tightened up the landing page copy to better match my ad, but I still had a great conversion rate—most likely thanks to high-quality, on-brand visuals.

6. Newsletters & Email Campaigns

You know as well as I do that nurturing your coveted email list is not something to take lightly. In order to keep your list “warm,” you’ll want to touch base with them regularly. In doing so, it’s a good idea to remind them of your brand and what influenced them to sign up in the first place. Humans are visual creatures, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that including banded images in your newsletters is a great practice.

Moreover, when you’re ready to promote products or services to your list, echoing the visual story you’ve been telling about your brand is key. Nobody’s going to sign up for a military-style mud run if they suddenly receive a promotional email with pictures of people leisurely jogging through a park.

Are you starting to see how important cohesive branding is for your business?

7. E-courses & E-books

Once you’ve indoctrinated people into your brand and they see you for the polished, professional business you are, they’re more likely to purchase from you. And what do you think customers will expect from your products and services? If you said “high-quality branding that matches everything you’ve given them for free,” then you’re absolutely right! Here’s your prize: a sneak peek inside my upcoming free masterclass (gee thanks, right?).

If you invest in custom stock photography, of course you can and should use it to illustrate your digital products and programs.

 
Using custom stock photos to create snazzy digital products

Using custom stock photos to create snazzy digital products

 

8. Webinars

I won’t drone on too long, here, as I’m sure you’re starting to get the picture (pun totally intended). But webinars are still a popular way to build your email list, grow your reach and influence, and sell your products and services. As with digital products, embellishing your presentation with branded photos is a no-brainer. Doing so will help reinforce your brand and create a polished image people are more likely to trust—and buy from!

9. Video Intros & Transitions

We’ve all heard the proclamations: video is going to rule 2018! And I’m all for it. Video is fun and easy to consume. But like all other mediums, you’re going to need to stand out, because before long, everyone’s going to be on the video bandwagon. Luckily, your personality will play an important role in video branding.

But what if you go a step further than most? What if you take your (video) game to a whole other level? I’m certainly brainstorming ways to do this. Think BIG; think creatively. I envision the real players in video are going to do some pretty fancy things with branded intros and transitions. And with custom photography, you can, too.

Final Word

Phew! You made it!

With all of the examples above, I hope I’ve illustrated just how valuable high-quality, branded photos are for creating a cohesive experience for your tribe, customers, and clients.

If you run a blog or online business, you likely already know what an important role images play in your brand. You’ve probably spent more time than you care to admit searching for the perfect photos. I’m here to tell you that there’s a better way, and custom stock photography is that way.

Think of all the time you’ll save, not to mention you won’t have to worry about licensing or using the same image as everyone else.

I’m glad I chose to invest in custom photos early in the launch of my latest endeavor. I believe it sets the tone for what people can expect from me right out of the gate.

What other ways can you think of to use custom photography? In what situations have you wished for great photos that match your brand? Share your thoughts in the comments!


Erin Sanchez is a writer, marketing maven, and branding boss living in the Greater Seattle Area with her husband, four dogs, and five chickens. She geeks out on consumer psychology and what makes businesses tick while drinking way too much coffee. When she’s not enjoying the outdoors, Erin blogs at CandidlyErin.com where she teaches creatives how to flee the 9-5 grind and build businesses they love. You can sign up for her upcoming FREE Procrastinator’s Masterclass right here and finally start your dream biz!

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