mark your calendars! Our nonprofit website template shop will be launching august 14th!

Sourcing Photography For Your Organization


Visuals play a crucial role in marketing and brand-building. Studies show that posts with images receive more attention and engagement on social media. Images also make content more memorable and easier to digest. For brands, thoughtful use of visuals like photography can shape brand perception and attract your target advocates.

Stock photos provide an affordable way to incorporate high-quality, diverse images into your marketing. But organizations must be strategic in choosing stock photos that align with their identity. Generic, overly posed or recycled stock photos can dilute your brand image. Thoughtfully sourced photos that reflect your values and aesthetics are key.

This guide will cover best practices for sourcing stock photography that strengthens your brand. We’ll explore assessing visual needs, finding reputable stock sites, searching strategically, evaluating photos closely, and maintaining brand alignment over time. With care and effort, stock photos can become a valuable asset for brand-building.

Understand Your Brand Identity

Before searching for stock photos, take time to reflect on your brand identity and visual style guide. What are your organization’s core values, mission and tone of voice? What colors, fonts, and overall aesthetics represent your brand? Having a clear sense of these elements will make it easier to recognize which stock photos align with your brand or feel off-brand.

Create a short brand style guide document if you don’t have one already that highlights your logo, color palette, typography, photographic style, and any other key brand identifiers. Refer back to this while searching for and evaluating stock photography to ensure alignment. If certain photos evoke the wrong emotions or stray from your core visual identity in any way, avoid using them. Stock photos should complement and strengthen your brand, not dilute or distort it. Keep your brand guide handy as you source images so you can consistently make choices that reinforce your desired brand image.

Assess Stock Photo Needs

The first step in sourcing stock photography is to take inventory of your visual needs across platforms. Consider the following:

  • What imagery do you require for your website – program photos, lifestyle images, infographics? Make a list of all the visuals needed to effectively communicate your organization’s story online.
  • What image types work best on social media? Photos tend to perform well on Instagram and Facebook, while short videos can help boost engagement on TikTok and YouTube. Illustrations and graphics also have their place for quotes and statistics.
  • What visual assets are needed for advertising campaigns across search, display, video and other formats? High-quality photos and videos will be needed for ads, including options for different orientations and dimensions.
  • Do you need vectors or illustrations for iconography, diagrams, charts, etc? Vectors can be resized without loss of quality, making them very versatile.
  • How many images do you require in total? Tally up all your needs to determine the scope of visuals required. Stock sites often have credit packages for heavy users.

Clearly defining your visual requirements will make the search and selection process much smoother. Focus on finding quality over quantity, and choose diverse images that align with your brand style and resonate with your target audience.

Choose Reputable Stock Sites

When selecting a stock photo site, you’ll need to weigh factors like the size of the library, quality control, licensing options, and costs.

Large Sites vs Niche Sites

Some of the most well-known stock sites like Getty Images and Shutterstock have massive libraries with millions of photos. This makes them convenient one-stop shops. However, their sheer size means maintaining strict quality control is difficult. You may need to sift through many irrelevant or low-quality photos.

Niche stock sites cater to specific industries or aesthetics. For example, Stocksy focuses on lifestyle photography with a distinctive look. Niche sites have smaller collections, but they are tightly curated. This saves you time finding relevant, high-quality photos.

Licensing Options

Evaluate licensing based on your needs. Stock sites offer options like royalty-free and rights-managed.

Royalty-free is a popular choice for smaller nonprofits and grassroots organizations. You pay once for unlimited use of a photo. Rights-managed offers exclusivity within a defined scope like a territory or time period. It’s more expensive but ensures other organizations won’t use the same photo.

Some sites also provide enhanced licenses. For example, Shutterstock’s editorial subscription allows using photos in a news or editorial context. Compare licenses to choose flexibility within your budget.


Stock photos range from around $10 for basic royalty-free images to over $100 for specialized rights-managed photographs. Consider one-off investments for occasional needs or subscriptions for unlimited downloads with a monthly fee. This saves money if you’re needing to use many photos.

Also look for deals like discounted starter packages or free trial periods to test a stock site. But beware of ultra-cheap sites with questionable licensing terms or image quality. Paying a fair price helps compensate artists and ensures access to better photos.

Search Strategically

When searching for stock photos on sites like Shutterstock or iStock, take advantage of keywords and advanced search tools to find images that align with your brand. Start by listing keywords and visual styles related to your brand identity and target audience. For example, if your brand has a community-minded, innovative approach, search for terms like “community,” “innovative,” and “collaboration.”

Look beyond obvious keywords to find unique concepts and perspectives. An organization providing diapers for mothers, for example, could search “family” or “comfort” rather than just “babies.”

Many stock sites allow searching by image or filtering by color, helping you zero in on the look you want. Searching for a specific hue like “millennial green” or uploading a brand logo to find similar images can yield brand-consistent results.

Spend time refining searches and scrolling through pages of options. Stock sites have millions of photos, so dig deeper to uncover ones that perfectly match your brand vision. Analyze not just subject matter but composition, color palette, lighting, and more. The right photo can visually encapsulate your brand’s style and emotions.

Evaluate Photos Closely

When evaluating potential stock photos, carefully consider how well each aligns with your brand identity and content needs. Relevance is key – the imagery should directly relate to your brand, products, services or subject matter. Dig deeper than just assessing if the photo seems applicable on a surface level.

Examine the quality and composition of photos under consideration. Images should have good resolution, be in focus, have proper lighting, and utilize compositional techniques like the rule of thirds. Pay attention to small details that could detract – awkward expressions, props that seem out of place, unattractive color tones, etc. Higher quality photos lend more credibility and professionalism to your content.

It’s also important to evaluate visual representation and diversity within stock photos. Choose images that authentically reflect your target demographic and broader audiences. Stock photos should showcase diversity in race, ethnicity, age, ability, gender identity and more. When images feel inclusive, a wider range of audiences will connect with your brand. If existing options fall short, provide feedback to stock sites requesting more diversity.

Thoughtfully evaluating potential stock photos takes more time upfront, but prevents poor choices that could inadvertently go against your brand values. The imagery you ultimately select and align with your content sets the tone for how audiences perceive your brand.

Mind the Details

When sourcing stock photos, it’s important to pay close attention to the details to ensure the images align with your brand identity and meet your needs. Two key details to focus on are resolution requirements and image editing options.

Resolution Requirements

Resolution, measured in pixels or dots per inch (DPI), determines how clear and detailed an image is. For stock photos, aim for high-resolution images suitable for both web and print use. Web images should be at least 72 DPI at the size they’ll be displayed. Print images need a minimum of 300 DPI at the intended print size.

Review the resolution specifications on stock sites to ensure images meet your needs. Pay extra close attention to resolution for photos used in branding, posters, brochures, and other high-visibility materials where quality is critical.

Image Editing Options

Look for stock sites that allow basic image editing like cropping, resizing, color correction, and text overlays. This allows customizing stock photos to better suit your specific needs.

Some sites also offer more advanced editing options like background removal, color filtering, and special effects. While you can edit images yourself later, having flexible built-in editing saves time and effort.

Consider if you’ll need model releases allowing editing faces. Some sites charge extra for this. Also check if you can edit branded products and logos.

Leveraging stock sites’ editing tools allows tailoring stock photos to perfectly align with your brand identity. Carefully evaluate the editing options before purchasing.

Manage Photos Efficiently

Properly managing your stock photo library is crucial for maintaining brand consistency over time. Here are some tips:

  • Organize photos in a logical system. Set up a folder structure on your computer or cloud storage to keep photos organized by category, campaign, theme, etc. Make it easy to find the right photo when you need it again.
  • Add metadata and captions. Include important info like photographer name, date, location, subject matter, etc. Making photos searchable will save you time later.
  • Track photo usage. Note each time a photo is used in your records. This helps ensure you don’t over-use the same images.
  • Follow attribution rules. Many stock sites require photos to be attributed to the photographer/provider. Carefully follow any rules for crediting photos when publishing them.
  • Remove unused photos periodically. Delete old stock images that haven’t been used to keep your library clean and current. Archive photos that you may use again.

With a thoughtful system for managing your growing stock photo collection, you’ll be able to maintain consistent visual branding over the long-term.

Measure Performance

It’s important to connect your stock photos to organization goals and measure how they impact those goals. After publishing content with new stock images, track metrics like engagement, conversions, and other KPIs that indicate if the photos are effective.

For example, if you added new lifestyle photos to a landing page to increase conversions, monitor the conversion rate over time to see if the images make an impact. Run A/B tests of pages with old vs. new photos. Use analytics to view interactions with content containing specific images.

Evaluating performance will inform your future stock photo choices. Photos that generate more engagement and conversions are ones that resonate with your audience. Focus on sourcing similar high-performing photos moving forward.

Continuously optimizing your visuals based on data will help ensure your stock photos align with your brand identity and meet nonprofit objectives. Measuring image performance provides valuable insights into what resonates with your advocates visually.

Maintain Brand Consistency

Maintaining brand consistency with stock photos requires ongoing diligence. As your brand and marketing strategies evolve over time, the stock photos you use will also need to shift. Conduct periodic audits of your photo library to identify any images that no longer align with your brand identity or visual style. Look for photos that feel outdated, don’t match current color palettes or fonts, portray inaccurate messaging, or have poor resolution. Remove or replace these photos.

Also develop guidelines to inform future stock photo choices. Include details on ideal photo styles, recommended color palettes, common brand elements to incorporate, preferred camera angles, suggestions for lighting and image composition, descriptive keywords to search, prohibited content, and required image resolutions. Distribute these guidelines to anyone on your team involved in sourcing and selecting stock photos. Update the guidelines as your brand evolves so you always have a reference point for choosing photos aligned with your organization’s look and feel.