Thursday, July 25, 2024
Digital Marketing

How to Use Stock Photos in Your Ads [Explained]

What is the first thing one notices upon seeing an ad on a social media platform?

Most probably, it is the images!

See, mediums like Facebook and Instagram are visual platforms. And the key to grabbing the viewer’s attention lies in the pictures you use. Your headline, CTR, or brand message won’t get a good conversion if the image you use to convey it isn’t persuasive.

Regardless of the brand niche and goals, your ad must be visually appealing to capture attention. 

However, crafting the right pictures to display in your ads can be challenging for many marketers. As we said before, no matter how good your copy is, you will need some great visuals to make your ad stand out. 

Of course, we are aware that not every business has a reasonable budget, time, and resources to hire photographers and designers to create high-quality images for their ads.

That’s where stock photos come in!

What are Stock Photos?

Stock pictures are photographs or illustrations that are created for commercial purposes. It’s a readily available source and relatively inexpensive to license. They are ideal for blogs, social media channels, advertisements, and personal projects. 

Benefits of Using Stock Photos in Ads

Saves time and money: Stock images are an excellent option for small businesses with limited resources and no budget for designers or photographers.

They can be easily sourced, edited, and used for various purposes, including ads – saving you a lot of time and money. 

Quick results: Using stock photos for your ads can get fast results. How? Because the images are usually pre-tested, which means you’re using images that have worked successfully for others.

Optimized visuals: Your ads will look great because stock photos are professionally created, which aligns with channels including Facebook, Google, and Instagram.

What to Look for in a Stock Photo?

When sourcing stock photos for your ad, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.

Brand Consistency: Stock photos should be consistent with your page’s brand message and layout. Always choose professional-looking pictures that boast quality and resonate with the message you are trying to convey. 

This will ensure that your content looks good in ads, boosting brand trust.

Originality: The stock photos you use for your ads must be less common. Seeing the same picture you use on a competitor’s website can make the audience question your authenticity.

For instance, check this image from Unsplash:

This picture is viewed by 5 million visitors and downloaded over 436,732 times!

Plus, if you Google the same image, you will come across the following result:

The search engine results show the image to be used 1,750 times. To avoid the issue, always make sure that the image you purchase is unique.

Now, let’s discuss the main categories of stock pictures:

Public Domain

The images available under the public domain are free to use for anyone, anywhere. What’s more, you can even edit them to suit your brand without worrying about any legal issues.


Royalty-free is a standard license that you will find on most stock photo websites. These images require one-time payment, and then you can use them for as long as you want.

Rights Managed

These images require one-time payment as well, but using these images comes with a lot of restrictions. For instance, you can only use the image for one particular project, and you’re not allowed to change the image in any way. 

If you use them once in your ad, you need to get another license. Due to the limitations, the category isn’t ideal for most advertisers.

Follow These 3 Strategies to Use Stock Photos for Ads Successfully

Now that you know everything about stock photos, it’s time to put them to use. Here are five strategies you can apply to make the most out of stock photos when using them for ads.

  1. Avoid Getting Sued

The first thing to consider when using stock photos in your ads is to ensure you are using them legally. Failure to do so can result in heavy penalties and even lawsuits. 

A similar incident happened with the postal service for using a copyrighted image of Lady Liberty. As a consequence, the organization was sued for 3.5 million dollars.

Another copyright infringement case happened with Skechers. The footwear company had to pay 2.5 million dollars for ignoring the terms and conditions stated by the photographer they hired. 

Simply put, it’s always better to be safe than sorry!

Avoid copyrighted or protected pictures under specific terms when using photos in your ads. Educate yourself regarding the legal details of using stock pictures, and always research the source of the image before publishing. 

It is also a good idea to opt for reliable sites for images – such as the one mentioned in this guide by Stock Photo Secrets. These websites offer better quality at a relatively low price compared with free picture sources.

They are also licensed according to the latest laws – allowing you to use them without worrying about legal issues. 

  1. Always Humanize Your Ads

When creating ads for eCommerce, use stock images that show people. They convey a human touch that boosts click-through rates (CTR). People like to see other people in ads as they connect better with them and respond positively to their needs.

For instance, if you’re selling a weight loss product or service, choose stock photos that show people struggling with their weight.

Or, if you are a dentist marketing your practice, show smiling people with bright white teeth. It will enhance your brand’s image and build trust.

For instance, check this Facebook ad from Dentist Kusadasi:

The woman smiling shows people they can look good after availing the service. 

  1. Modify Your the Images to Fit Your Needs

The best feature of stock pictures is the freedom to edit as per your requirements. This means you are free to crop, apply filters, add text, and even change the background to fit your branding layout. 

So here are a few things you can do when modifying an image:

Cropping: Cropping aids in better focusing. For instance, don’t show the whole picture when selling a service. Just show the part that is related to your service.

Placing Your CTR: When placing your CTA (call to action), always place it in a visible area and not at the bottom of the image.

This is because most people ignore ads with poor placement.

Color Contrast: Apply color contrast when choosing stock photos. Color psychology is a big part of e-commerce, and you can use it to highlight your CTA.

For instance, check this ad from Didsbury Dental Practice where they have utilized a stock image:

Doesn’t this image grab your attention? The bright blue color, the good CTR right in the middle, and the man with a bright smile are all necessary elements for a persuasive copy. 

Modifying the picture will enhance its credibility, boost CTR, and potentially drive more conversions. Surely a great way to ensure your ads are successful. 


Every brand aims for success, and most of them use stock images to create successful Facebook ads. These three steps will help you use the right images for your ads and boost CTR.

Use them wisely and make sure to avoid copyright infringement. In other words, research the stock photo site and choose your image carefully to avoid trouble. Good luck!

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