How to create stock-worthy images that brands will love

Why is imagery for brands so important?


If you’re responsible for a marketing campaign and you want to make an impact, you’ll need to use imagery. In fact, tweets with images receive 150% more retweets than those without, and 37% of marketers say that visual marketing is the most important form of marketing for their business. That puts visual marketing second only to blogging (38%) in terms of its perceived importance – and it’s a closely fought battle, too.Here at Miappi, we’re in the business of finding the best, most impactful images for our demanding blue-chip clients to use on their marketing channels. We do that by collecting millions of user-generated images and giving our clients the tools to curate and moderate that content before they publish the very best images and videos to their marketing channels.

Girl on a boat
So you could say that imagery is in our blood. We spend all day looking at images and identifying both the good and the bad, and with 200 million social media posts processed, we’ve developed a pretty good eye for what makes a good image. That’s why we’re sharing some of our tips for creating the most impactful photography for brand marketing campaigns. Let’s go!

What brands are looking for

Gone are the days when brands were simply looking for a “nice” image. Modern marketers have started to realise that the images they choose are reflective of their brand’s personality, and if a picture is worth a thousand words, they want to make sure that those thousand words don’t tell a horror story.
Man holding red Nike shoe
Today’s marketers know that stock photos conjure up emotions in their audience, and that those emotions can be either positive or negative. On top of that, as human beings we tend to remember images better than we remember words – so if you think back to the last ad you saw, you probably remember the image better than the copy. Because of that, brands are looking for eye-catching photography that stands out in people’s memories without it feeling gimmicky or out of place.It’s a difficult balance for photographers to get right. On the one hand, brands don’t want the same old stock photos that everyone else is using, but on the other hand they don’t want ‘wacky’ photos that are staged and unnatural. As with most types of modern marketing, authenticity is vital. If the photos feel unauthentic, they can be off-putting to viewers and even do more harm than good.

Achieving Authenticity In Stock Photography

Girl in bikini coming out of a lake
One of the big challenges for stock photographers can be translating authenticity in their images. People have become weary of images of handshakes and light bulbs being used to represent business deals and ideas, but even using less cliché imagery can feel inauthentic – especially if they show people that don’t actually work for the company. Worse, when we look at an image we make a split second decision about its authenticity, and if the image feels fake or heavily doctored, we can lose faith in the brand that’s using it.It can be difficult to define what actually makes an image feel authentic, and it’s the photographer’s role to try to capture those candid, authentic shots during a photoshoot. For the authenticity to shine through, you’ll want to avoid ‘perfect’-looking models and unnatural postures, as well as staged shots that are quite clearly either unrealistic or unlikely to ever happen naturally.It can help to enter common keywords and to look at what else is out there. You don’t need to be at the top of your game to tell which photos look good and which don’t, and that should also help you to identify gaps in the market. But that knowledge alone isn’t enough. You’ll also want a clear understanding of how brands tend to pick their images in the first place.

How brands pick their images

When you’re looking to cater to brands and their needs, it helps to know what goes through a marketer’s head when they’re looking for an image. For a start, they’re usually trying to plug a gap in a piece of content, whether they need an image for a social media update or whether they need a featured image for their blog.
Girl holding a donut
Relevance is key, of course, but it’s usually harder to find images for overall concepts (i.e. the internet of things) than for physical objects (i.e. a smartwatch). This is where there’s a gap in the market for creative photographers to come up with new ways of communicating a concept. Brands are also obsessed with meeting the expectations of their target audience, which means there’s also room for photographers to specialise in certain target audiences. Millennials, for example, are notoriously more lifestyle-focused than product-obsessed older generations. They want experiences. more than they want things, and your photography can reflect that.
Party of colours in the street
There’s a subtle art to capturing stories and concepts authentically in your photography, particularly when it comes to those brands love to use; especially considering how brands are often trying to evoke some sort of reaction or emotion with their imagery. As a photographer you need to make it happen through the way that you direct the shoot and take your photographs. The key is to maintain that sense of authenticity while simultaneously capturing shots that can be customised and brought into play for all sorts of different use cases. As ironic as this might sound, the best stock photographs cater to a specific audience while simultaneously staying versatile.


As we’ve seen throughout this article, the key to creating killer images that brands love is to create an authentic feel – and the best way to do that is to focus on capturing real emotions, avoid flood lighting and other characteristics of cliche images.  There’s a concept amongst roboticists called the uncanny valley, and the idea is that when a robot looks too much like a human, we’re repulsed by it. You could argue that stock photography works in reverse, where the more a human looks like a robot, the less likely people are to feel a connection.
Little robot looking like a human
This is one of the reasons  why user-generated content is exploding in popularity. Brands know that you can’t fake it, and that makes the real deal even more valuable. But there’s still a place for stock photography, too – there has to be. Marketing departments just can’t function properly without it, but that doesn’t mean that they have to put up with bad imagery.The art of shooting stock photography is like the art of cooking, and brands are no longer willing to put up with a tasteless bowl of pasta. They’re expecting Michelin-starred images, and they’re relying on photographers to up their game and to take the kind of delicious photography that they need. They’re hungry for it.Now it’s up to you to go out there and to put these tips into practice.This article was originally featured in the Depositphotos Blog.