Ever noticed how stock photos make you feel a little “meh?” There’s a good reason for that. While they’re meant to show a slice of life, they are so posed and unrealistic that you may be better off not having a photo at all.

But what are the options apart from using Canva’s stock photo library, Unsplash or Pixabay?

If you want to create a more warm and authentic feeling, you have three main ways to do it:

  1. Add photos of yourself to your content
  2. Use an AI image generator
  3. Build your own stock photo collection

Let’s take a closer look at these options.

Photos of yourself encourage connection

It’s long been known that faces connect better than landscapes when it comes to online content that has a goal of brand awareness or conversions.


It’s hardwired into us as humans to relate better to faces than objects. And this starts from the early experiences we have as babies with our parents.

The love substance oxytocin helps us to form a bond with our parents and loved ones from birth to death. And a familiar face won’t just spark comfort, but affection. And those are feelings that you want with your customers.

With this in mind, it’s well worth taking the time to take photos of yourself or have someone take photos of you.

While I’m not a big fan of hyper-posed and heavily made-up or edited photos of people, I do see a place for a few types of photos that I feel do connect.

First, there’s the headshot. It’s an important initial connection tool that is used across bios, social profiles and even resumés. And this is the best kind of photo for those purposes because it’s focused on your face, which brings about that oxytocin connection.

Second is the “at work” type of photo. While not good as a profile photo, it’s great as an illustrative photo of who you are and what you do. You may already write about what you do, but showing someone what you do is even more powerful.

Third is the “lifestyle” shot. This is where you show your human side. This is important because a trust connection isn’t only built on what you do. Today’s customer wants to know who you are. For younger demographics, particularly, there is an interest in what your business and personal values are.

These are the three most common and important photos of yourself in your brand kit.

Let AI be your photo friend

This idea can produce some very mixed results. But I’ve found that certain styles of AI-generated images can lift your content.


Recently I’ve been using a couple of generators, Mid Journey and Photosonic.

My favourite use of AI image generators is in using them as non-photographic image generators. This is because these generators are still not great at reproducing faces that don’t look like something out of your worst nightmares.

I tend to use them to generate images of scenes, workplaces and interactions between people. But I avoid that creepy face replication tendency by asking the tools to generate watercolour paintings, oil paintings, sketches and cartoons, rather than photorealistic representations of the world around us.

In fact, by using a particular style (I prefer the watercolour painting) you can develop a particular look for your brand that is consistent and recognisable.

I also like to ask my AI generators to add some diversity to my images. Adding instructions such as “multicultural” or “mixed races” or “mixed genders” can make your images look a lot less generic and homogenous.

Do your own stock photos

As you’re going about your day, you tend to have a powerful and highly capable camera sitting in your pocket or handbag. Your smartphone is a useful tool for building your very own stock photo library.

Tropical Scene

Instead of those cheesy staged shots of people in the street or shopping at a mall, take your own photos. This works for landscapes and structures too. Take your own photos of your laptop at a café. Get tonnes of shots of streetscapes, interesting walls, gardens, trees, the sky, signs and interiors by simply getting out your phone and snapping away.

The best use is where you can show parts of your workday. When working on something general, take a photo of what you’re doing.

When you’re walking down the street, take a photo of your shoes on the pavement. Show what you see in your daily life.

Then store all your photos in folders online where they are categorised into what they are. Labels like “Shop Interiors” or “Café Scenes” will make it easier to find them later.

The advantage of using your own photos is that both Google and social platforms prefer original content rather than reused content. And that especially applies to your photos and graphics.

The Bottom Line

These days there is no reason to use stock photos in your content.

Using a mix of photos of yourself, generated images from AI tools and building up your own library of images, you’ll always have something new, fresh and original to add to your content.

Dante St James is the founder of Clickstarter, a Meta Certified Lead Trainer, a Community Trainer with Meta Australia, a digital advisor with Business Station, an accredited Digital Solutions advisor and presenter, and the editor at The Small Marketer. You can watch free 1-hour webinars and grow your digital skills at Dante’s YouTube Channel.

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