First Impressions: Finding the Right Stock Art for Your Articles

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By Zebley Foster


When searching for imagery to accompany your articles, keep this old English adage in mind, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” It’s important to remember because the wrong photo will say a lot about your article before anyone starts to read it.


Images should complement your work, not distract from it.


There are hundreds of sites out there for choosing stock art and millions upon millions of images to choose from — making finding the right one that much harder.


Perhaps the best stock art isn’t a photo, but an art piece. Whichever you decide to go with, it should end up in your portfolio for potential future uses. It doesn’t need to be complicated.


When you’re looking for art for your articles, always consider the content and subject of the piece. Look for recurring themes, these will give you clues for what you should be searching for.


For feature-length pieces, keep the art relevant to the content of the piece. Consider the rule, “show, don’t tell,” when choosing the featured art.


Good featured art can grab a reader’s attention before a headline. If the image combined with the headline pique their curiosity it will pull them into the article. Unfortunately, the inverse is true as well. If the image isn’t very good quality or it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the topic of the article, it will drive readers away.


Here are some great sites for finding stock art for your articles:

• Adobe Stock

• Getty Images 
• iStock 
• Shutterstock 
• Old Book Illustrations 
• Flickr Commons 
• Ikon 
• Pexels

Don’t be afraid to take risks. During my time at the Federal Bar Association, I managed The Federal Lawyer — a magazine for and by federal attorneys and judges. Regularly, the art for our articles would feature cliche legal images: scales, lady justice, generic courthouses, and the gavel.


After my first year, I worked with our design team at LTD to replace those generic legal stock images, with line and digital art. Not only did no one miss the old cliches, they loved the new art.


Building a portfolio of images is like building a house: You need to have a good foundation. In your portfolio, the foundation is images and artwork that are true to your brand. These images might feature people who work in the field you represent (i.e. your members) and the places where they practice.


Artwork should feature your brand standards, such as typography and color palette. Items like this are evergreen, and will be useful no matter the occasion.


Before you acquire images to add to your portfolio, you should refer back to your company’s brand standards. With each image ask yourself if it fits into your brand. This can stop you from spending the time and money getting images that might not get used.


It also helps to know what initiatives are happening within your association. Are you marketing for an upcoming conference? Select a couple of images that you can rotate through, to keep things fresh during your campaign.


Ultimately, the image portfolio is a summary of the work your association does. This is why choosing the right art to accompany your articles, marketing campaigns, and communications efforts is essential. Your association should be easily identifiable by the story your images tell.


Just don’t forget to take risks and surprise readers and members!

Zebley Foster is is managing editor of Health Education & Behavior and editorial and communications manager at the Society for Public Health Education. She can be reached at, on twitter at @ZebleySophe, or on LinkedIn.