Social media has changed the landscape of real estate marketing more than ever before, which is why I always encourage agents to prioritize the visual appeal of their businesses. You can’t skimp on the excellence of the images you put out to the world. They inherently reflect the excellence of your brand. Agents, you need high quality photos—and lots of them!
That said, I understand that creating quality visual content is not always easy. Between back-to-back showings, negotiation fires and late-night contract writing, keeping up with your content on Instagram and other channels might feel like the impossible task.
Enter stock photos.
Whether you are just starting out, or running out of fresh content to use on your website or social media accounts, quality stock photos can save you a lot of time and stress. They are an incredible solutions for agents who aren’t quite ready to invest in a professional content creator.
(Keep in mind that personalized, branded photos are always the best choice. I’m not suggesting you slack on creating original content or decide to rely wholly on stock photos. What I am saying is the pressure to constantly produce original content doesn’t have to bog you down. I love stock photos for “filler posts,” alongside my own personally branded photos, and know agents who take the same approach with great success. I still highly recommend hiring a photographer to do a small style session for your business, giving you images to use on your website, social media, marketing materials, etc.)
RULES FOR STOCK PHOTOS
Here’s the boring but necessary disclaimer to all of this: certain rules and general etiquette come with the territory of using stock photos, so always check your source for guidelines to follow. Maintaining honesty in your practices is more important than delivering great visual appeal in your business. If you download a stock photo for purchase, and don’t pay for it, expect a hefty fine somewhere down the road. (I’ve heard some terrifying stories from the corporate world — the Stock Photo Police will hunt.you.down. To the tune of $1000+ fines. Don’t risk it.)
MY FAVORITE STOCK PHOTO SITES
The number of stock photo providers to choose from is practically endless. As a brand designer I’ve spent many, many hours curating quality images, for everything from basic agent flyers to 50+ page Buyer and Seller Guides. I’ve done the legwork here so you don’t have to, and compiled a list of my favorite stock photo sources.
Here are the website I recommend looking into…
FREE STOCK PHOTOS
I honestly can’t say enough about the quality of this resource. If you aren’t ready to invest in a branded photo shoot yet, this is a great FREE source for images. With our 300,000 high-res photos sorted into convenient categories, Unsplash has become a go-to for me and my clients both. Their manifesto is to “Share, Care, Create,” and while they allow you to share images without copyright limitations, they do request that photo credits are used whenever possible. (Try to pay that forward whenever you can.) Their collections are well-curated, consistent in quality, and incredibly beautiful.
Similar to Unsplash, Pixabay is a clean and intuitive site, packed with well over a million public domain images (also vectors and illustrations, if you ever have the need). The main search bar even lets you filter your query down by factors like media type, orientation, color, and minimum dimensions.
Burst is a resource from Shopify that provides free stock photos for entrepreneurs. Most of the photos are original images that were taken in-house and are themed around trending business niches. You can find more general photos as well.
STOCK PHOTOS FOR PURCHASE
Need more than just digital photos for your content? Stocksy provides film photography and video as well, and the smallest file size is usually plenty large for most digital purposes (adding up to about $15/per image). I love the editorial feel of this site. More lifestyle, less “stock.”
If you are looking to DIY some of your creative content, then this is an incredible resource for just about anything you may need to market your business. Offers a vast selection of everything from photos and templates to beautiful fonts, fonts, and more fonts (can you tell I’m obsessed?).
HOW TO SEARCH FOR STOCK PHOTOS
Trust me, I know it can be confusing to sift through huge photo banks without wasting valuable time or feeling overwhelmed. Here are a few tips help boost the efficiency of your search:
- Use the “similar images” feature. If you stumble across an image that is close to what you are looking for, most stock accounts will offer a list of “similar images” at the bottom that could lead you to just the right photo.
- Try searching by color themes, rather than specific objects. This is especially helpful if you are curating your Instagram to evoke a certain aesthetic or support the specific color palette of your brand strategy.
- Batch your photo search. If you know in advance that you’ll need a handful of photos within a certain category, set aside time to find just those photos. For instance, farmhouse-style living room photos, or modern kitchen photos. Avoid spending excess time looking for images of different types, and batch your stock photos so they are easily accessible for your next post or project.
- Commit to creativity + quality. Stock photography has gained a poor reputation because so much of it relies on cliches and awkward metaphors to convey concepts. But the sites listed above do contain images that are a “cut above” the average stock photo, if you look hard enough. Search for interesting details and scenes that convey a message in a more imaginative way. Also remember that resolution is key: avoid shots that are even slightly out of focus, or images that reveal noise when sized up to larger scales.
(Pics above HERE!)
FINALLY…ALWAYS PLAY BY THE RULES
Once again, this is so important. I see agents snagging “quick filler” photos of home interiors or, you know, the random front door shot from Google images and other protected “photo sources” all the time. Remember that Instagram, Pinterest, and Google are not free stock photo resources. Each of these platforms host images protected by copyright. Tread lightly, do your homework, and learn how to properly share someone else’s photos on social media.
BLUEPRINT Brand Studio is a boutique design studio for real estate professionals. Offering custom + refined branding services, I help real estate agents and teams elevate their presentation and tell visual stories that matter. Want to work together? Shoot me an inquiry at firstname.lastname@example.org.