9 Ways to Use Stock Photos and Videos on Instagram

By Jordan Dyck

Published March 6, 2019

9 minute read

Using stock photos on Instagram? Isn’t that the opposite of what you’re supposed to post on Instagram? While stock photography may have had a bad reputation not so long ago, the times have changed and using stock photos on Instagram has actually become a big trend! Now stock images, videos, animations, and illustrations are creative,


Stay on top of the biggest social media marketing trends!

Using stock photos on Instagram? Isn’t that the opposite of what you’re supposed to post on Instagram?

While stock photography may have had a bad reputation not so long ago, the times have changed and using stock photos on Instagram has actually become a big trend!

Now stock images, videos, animations, and illustrations are creative, engaging, and an easy way to add more content to your Instagram feed, without the extra work.

Once you find the right style, using stock photos on Instagram is a great strategy for building a strong Instagram aesthetic, posting more often, and showcasing your brand’s message.

To help you get started with using stock photos on Instagram, we’re sharing 9 ways to seamlessly integrate stock content in your feed!

What are Stock Photos and Videos?

Stock photography is professionally shot images, videos, illustrations, and audio tracks that are purchased on a royalty-free basis.

When you purchase a piece of royalty-free content, you can use that content for nearly any commercial project. Most stock photography sites, like Shutterstock, work on a subscription or per-image basis for brands and businesses, so you can purchase as much or as little content as you need for your project!

Note: Usage rights may vary based on different stock sites, so double-check the usage rights for each piece of content before publishing.

When you purchase stock photos and videos, you are purchasing professionally-created content from artists around the world. That means that with a stock site subscription, you have easy access to a ton of creative content that can really help level-up your Instagram feed or next social campaign!

Why Should You Use Stock Photos on Instagram?

Using stock photos and videos on Instagram is a great way to keep your feed filled with high-quality content, even if you don’t have time to create it yourself.

Photography by (from left to right): Naticka,, Alena Mozhjer

But be warned: stock photos, videos, and illustrations cover a wide breadth of genre types and quality levels.

You can find content ranging from high-quality, professional stock agencies to your average amateur photographers starting out with images of their cat.

So while there is heaps of stock photography available for Instagram, you want to spend time pinpointing the right type for your feed.

Whether you are a florist looking for inspirational quotes for the upcoming wedding season, or a fitness studio looking for diverse images of people working out in different environments, there is stock content out there that fits the bill!

Using Stock Photos on Instagram Tip #1: Mix Stock With Custom Content

If you are working on a tight marketing budget, commissioning custom content for your brand each month might be out of reach.

And while you might be sourcing user-generated content to help populate your feed, you can’t just rely on it for every, single post, especially if you want to add text or edit the photo to fit your feed.

Instead, you can pepper your feed with stock photos used alongside your own branded and user-generated content! It’s a great recipe for a diverse and engaging feed for your audience!

For example, Later created this Instagram post by using stock imagery, and editing it with Instagram’s countdown timer.

Using Stock Photos on Instagram Tip #2: Use Illustrations for Instagram Highlights Cover Images

Instagram Stories Highlights are a great place to store your best stories for your audience after the 24-hour time limit lapses on your live posts.

But if you want to guide your audience to your highlights on your profile, you need to make sure your highlights cover icon is clear and makes your audience want to tap to see more.

Sourcing stock illustrations is a great way to create icons for your Instagram highlights. To help your highlights stand out from the rest of your feed, consider using a different illustration for each highlight you save to your Instagram feed, just make sure they’re along a similar theme or design style.

For example, a plane icon can be used for all your travel stories, or an exclamation point for important announcements.

Using Stock Photos on Instagram Tip #3: Find Backgrounds for Quote Posts

There’s no denying that quote posts are still going strong on Instagram. But you still want your text-based posts to stand out from the crowd!

Stock photos are a great way to source backgrounds for your quote posts, inspirational messages or campaign headlines that you want to share on Instagram. 

Unless you have an in-house photographer or graphic designer, it’s hard to find or create a library of on-brand simple background images for your business — that’s where stock photos for Instagram comes in! It’s cost-effective and really easy to get started with.

Using keywords, you can search for the type of background you want, right down to the nitty-gritty details. Want a watercolor background? Marble? Sandpaper texture? Chances are you’ll find it in a stock content library!

Photography by (from left to right):, Evgeniya Porechenskaya, DODOMO. Available on Shutterstock. Images created with Canva.

Using Stock Photos on Instagram Tip #4: Use Backgrounds for Product Images

Out with the boring white background, and in with colors and textures!

A super simple way to bring life to your product images is by finding background colors, graphics, and textures that match your brand. Then, you can overlay your product front and center with a bang.

It may take a bit of extra time and effort to edit your product shot with software like Shutterstock Editor or Adobe Lightroom to add a background, but it can make a real difference to your engagement levels!

You have a better chance of matching your Instagram feed aesthetic while engaging new followers that come across your image on the Explore page. A fun, eye-catching background on a product shot will stand out for all the right reasons!  Check out how we used a stock image to promote our Instagram Stories for Business in 2019 ebook on Instagram this year: 

Using Stock Photos on Instagram Tip #5: Avoid Only Posting Stock Content

Remember: Instagram is a place for creativity and personality! So while you can 100% mix in stock content to your feed to enhance it, you don’t want to dilute your own personal style and vibe by posting only stock content.

Your followers follow you on Instagram because they like you — so you want to make sure you’re posting content that resonates with them and reflects more of your brand messaging.

If you are only posting stock content, you risk losing your audience’s interest and loyalty to your brand, and your Instagram feed could end up looking very generic.

Using Stock Photos on Instagram Tip #6: Tell Stories With Carousel Posts

Ever since Instagram launched the ability to post more than one image in a single post, brands have really stepped up their storytelling game with carousel posts!

But if you’re running low on original content, you can use stock photos on Instagram to create carousels that tell your brand’s story too.

A good way to start a carousel post is to bring people in with a really impactful image that captures a viewer’s attention.

Next, use the following posts to keep them engaged. You may want to intro your carousel with a landscape or scenic image, then follow with a quote or a product shot. Even with just 3 posts, you have a gallery that tells a stronger story than using a single image.

Ready to get posting? You can schedule your carousel posts with Later! It’s available on all Later paid plans, starting at $9/month.

Using Stock Videos on Instagram Tip #7: Add Backgrounds to  Promo Videos

Promotional videos do not have to be dull and sales-y!

If you have something you want to tell your audience, make your video message as interesting and engaging as possible!

You can use stock videos on Instagram as a background or as b-roll for your video. For example, if you were a travel company announcing a sale, you may want to deliver your video message with info on the sale and discount, plus stock footage of a family packing their luggage, boarding the flight and arriving at their destination!

Stock videos cover a wide range of genres, so you’ll definitely be able to find footage that suits your promotion!

Using Stock Photos on Instagram Tip #8: Try Color Blocking on Your Feed

You might have spotted the color blocking trend on Instagram — a series of similarly toned images all posted alongside each other for a particular campaign or product launch. And it looks awesome right?

Later jumped on the trend earlier this year, but unless you have a dedicated social media editor or graphic designer, creating all that content can be a challenge. 

To speed up the process and get on board with the color blocking trend, you can find stock images, illustrations, and videos all in the same color palette – and it super easy!

On Shutterstock, you can use the color selector tool to search by the color you need and find the inspirational images quicker than ever! It’s an instant color palette and mood board to choose from!

Using Stock on Instagram Tip #9: Find Vectors for Instagram Stories

Vectors are a fantastic way to put engaging design elements into your Instagram Stories.

Whether you’re looking for cute lightning bolts, cool lines and arrows, or text boxes to highlight your subtitles, vectors can be used to amplify your message on each Instagram Stories post.

If you’re new to editing graphics, with Shutterstock Editor, you can take these vectors and add multiple together to create Instagram Stories that fit for your individual brand or business style and tone!

The images, videos, and illustrations you choose for your Instagram account can make or break it’s growth and success.

Using stock photos on your Instagram could be the answer to crafting a strong feed that tells the story of your business, without having to spend the budget on commissioned artwork and content!

It’s a simple solution to help you create an Instagram feed that shows people who you are as a brand or business.

Plan your Instagram feed in advance and create a gorgeous aesthetic with Later! Sign up for free to plan and schedule Instagram posts:

Stay on top of the biggest social media marketing trends!


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