Making Stock Photography Work For You

Finding great images for your full color printing

Here at Hotcards, we do a lot of design work for print and for the web. But all this full color print and web design pretty much has just one thing in common: it all requires stock photography.

A lot of designers might cringe when they hear those words, and with good reason. Stock photography tends to bring to mind images of grinning telemarketers and laughing families that look so phony they set your teeth on edge.

Particularly when it comes to web design, we've all been exposed to a seriously tasteless crop of stock images, most of which, for some strange reason, depict a blonde woman with glasses, speaking on a blue-tooth headset and looking super ready to help you with your customer service questions.


But stock photography doesn't have to get this ugly. I'm going to tell you about a few simple strategies we use at Hotcards to keep our full color print design looking like we set up a photo shoot for every brochure and poster that comes our way.

Don't Leave It 'Til The Last Minute!

This doesn't happen as much in print design, but often, in web design, we wait until the very last minute to plug those stock images into their allotted space on the page.

When you're running against the clock, it can be hard to find that high-quality shot that's going to bring a little extra bit of soulfulness or humanity to our design.

Avoid this problem by building up a database of images. Those stock images sites have lightboxes for a reason!

Next time you're browsing, don't just focus on what you need right now. If you come across an image that it particularly striking, save it for another day.

You'll be patting yourself on the back for time saved when it actually does come in handy.

Keep Your Eyes Peeled For Textures

One of the best resources a full color print designer can have on hand is her own personal texture library. But this doesn't mean you have to beat the pavement with your camera looking for that perfect paint-chipped wall or rusty grate.


Again, just keep your eyes peeled for textures during stock photo searches. Download your favs or save them to a lightbox, and when that time of need presents itself, you'll be ready with an awesome selection.

Get To Know Your Photographers

Anyone who works with a lot of stock photography knows that I'm not being mean-spirited when I say that a lot of the work being done out there is…not fabulous, let's say.

However, on the flipside, it's also true that there are some amazingly talented artists selling their work for a few credits a pop. The BEST thing you can do to ensure that your full color print and web design gets great stock images is to get as much work done by talented photographers as possible.

Next time you come across an image that really blows you away, don't just put it in a lightbox, check out all the work on offer from that photographer. This is the perfect way to build up a collection of beautiful, soulful, high-quality images for your full color print projects.

By using these simple strategies, you'll take your print design to the next level, get the results you want, and never have to look at that overly-helpful blonde lady again.

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