Not sure where to start?

If you’re new to searching for stock photos, we know it can be overwhelming at first — and we want to make sure you get the image that’s just right for your project or campaign. Check out these tried-and-true tips for advice on how to search:

1 Location, Location, Location!

Think about how the image will work in its space. Do you need empty background space so you can fit text on top? Will it be so small that a complex image will look confusing or “busy” to the reader?

2 Think about the big picture (pun intended).

If you’re looking for a series of images, make sure they work well with each other. For example, you may want all your images to have neutral backgrounds or similar lighting. To see all the images you’re considering side-by-side, create a Favorites list for your project.

3 Choose images that reflect your audience.

If your audience is a specific group of people, search for images that they’ll identify with. For example, if your target audience is mostly older African-American women, choose images that represent that group. ("Refine Your Search" is your friend here!).

4 Prioritize diversity.

If you’re trying to reach a wide range of people — like “all Americans ages 18 and older” — it’s important for your material to resonate with diverse audiences. Remember to include people with a range of ethnicities, ages, genders, abilities, and other factors.

5 Stay relatable and realistic.

If you only need one or two images, you may not be able to show as much diversity as you’d like, but that’s okay! You can still choose an image that will help your audience connect. For example, if your topic is physical activity, walking is relatable to many more people than skiing, which requires expensive specialized equipment and a cold climate.

6 Challenge stereotypes.

No one likes a cliché. When you’re choosing images, try to include ones that challenge stereotypes — like a father taking care of an infant, or a doctor who’s a person of color.

7 Stay positive!

Audiences respond best to positive images — so if it’s appropriate to your topic, look for images of happy people. If your topic is easy to show visually, choose images of people engaging in the behaviors you’re trying to promote — like physical activity or healthy eating.

8 Be compassionate.

If you’re addressing something that’s potentially sensitive, challenging, or negative, look for images that evoke feelings of caring and compassion. Seeing a friendly face can go a long way towards making your topic seem less scary, even if it’s something like coping with a cancer diagnosis or helping a friend who’s in an abusive relationship.

9 Think about the “Why” — not just the “How”

If your topic is technical and (let’s be honest) kinda dry, you may want to include some specific images that accurately demonstrate your subject matter. But don’t stop there. A technical diagram will teach your readers how to install a car seat — but a picture of a happy parent and child makes an emotional connection, reminding them why it’s important to install a car seat correctly.

10 Less is more.

For many health topics and procedures, images can reinforce your message without being specifically related to your topic. For example, for a material on mammograms, you could choose an image of a woman talking to her doctor.

That’s it! Now that you’ve got the basics down, go forth and search!