Skip to content
Blog Home Business Marketer Best Practices: How to Use Stock Photos on Posters
How to Use Stock Photos on Posters

Best Practices: How to Use Stock Photos on Posters

Learn how to find the right print poster size photos on stock image sites to create an asset that wows your target audience.

How do you create a poster that suits your brand guidelines and conveys the right message, especially if you have limited resources? It’s not always easy, but with the right tips and the help of using stock photos on posters, you can speed up the design process and create an effective asset.

In this guide, we’ll explain how to select stock images for your project based on quality and size requirements. Then, we’ll explore top tips to pack your poster with all the right information and visuals, so you can make the largest possible impact. 

Example of art exhibition poster using a stock image template that features a painted human face
License this image via Ardea-studio.

The Power of Stock Photos in Posters

Imagine yourself walking down a busy street. What would make you stop and pay attention? That’s the first question you have to ask yourself after you’ve decided to put together a poster. Once you have a concept, another question often arises: How do you get a unique and striking visual if you don’t have a photographer or designer?

Stock image libraries are a cost-effective solution that gives you access to high-quality photos for print posters.  Whether you’re promoting a business conference or filling the community in about a food drive, you can find exactly what you’re looking for.

Can You Use Stock Photos on Posters?

Is it okay to use stock photos in your poster design? The short answer is “yes” but there’s a bit more to it than that. Stock photos are fair game as long as you read through and fully understand the image licensing terms that come along with your payment. 

Stock poster template set featuring bird illustrations in vibrant colors
License this image via Molibdenis-Studio.

Best Practices for Using Stock Photos on Posters

Ready to start putting your poster design together? Think through these best practices before selecting stock photos and incorporating them into your designs.

Consider Poster Purpose and Orientation

The purpose of your poster and how it will be viewed should significantly influence your choice of stock photo. Depending on your poster’s layout, you might need to adjust the image’s orientation.

For example, a landscape poster with a breathtaking horizon might be the right choice if you want to inspire a sense of freedom and adventure, while a close-up portrait where you can see emotions could create a stronger connection with the audience. 

Found the perfect photo but the wrong orientation? You can experiment with different crops straight from any photo’s licensing page. 

License these images via Sergej Razvodovskij and Si Vo.

Pick the Right Resolution

Selecting the right resolution for stock images is essential. Familiarizing yourself with standard poster size guidelines will help you ensure your photos will maintain clarity and sharpness once printed. Otherwise, images may appear pixelated and blurry. Use this chart to find the right image resolution for posters of different sizes.

Keep in mind that these resolutions assume that your image spans the full poster, so you may have some wiggle room if your photo is only a small portion of the design.

Poster typePoster SizePrint Resolution 
A033-1/8 x 46-13/16 inches9933 x 14043 pixels
A123-3/8 x 33-1/8 inches7016 x 9933 pixels
A216-1/2 x 23-3/8 inches4961 x 7016 pixels
A311-3/4 x 16-1/2 inches3508 x 4961 pixels
A48-1/4 x 11-3/4 inches2480 x 3508 pixels 

Keep It Clear and Relevant

Look for print-resolution photos that directly reflect, enhance, or provide context for the information you’re sharing. If your poster is advertising a book club meeting for science fiction fans, don’t just pick any generic image of a book. Instead, choose stock photos with built-in typography for “book club” or one that features iconic sci-fi imagery (think aliens or time machines). This will make it easier for people to understand what you’re trying to communicate at a quick glance, and make people want to get closer to find out more. 

Think Through the Details

What is the goal of your poster and what will the target audience make of it? Images with intricate details might work wonders for a large print poster, but that same image could lose its charm and impact on a smaller layout.

For example, a large poster promoting a travel destination may have a comprehensive map with points of interest, while a smaller poster may want to stick to a single, well-known landmark. 

License these images via alaver, Maxger, and alaver.

Enhancing Engagement with Stock Photos on Posters

What do you do after you find the perfect stock photo for your poster? Use these tips to encourage people to take a closer look at the design.

Turn Up the Emotion

Posters are out in the world for the public to see—this means a wide and diverse public will be viewing your message. For this reason, you’ll want to select photos that will appeal to the widest audience possible.

Think about how different people will perceive the image and the way it could make them feel before you select your stock photo. An image of a puppy on an adoption drive poster could encourage people to take action more than simple symbols like a dog bone or bowl. 

License these images via Cast Of Thousands and cosmic_pony.

Maintain Visual Consistency

If your poster includes a webpage, remember a viewer may never make their way there, so focus on the must-haves when providing context.

For those that do visit your webpage, make sure the brand experience is seamless from print to digital. Don’t veer too far from your general look and message in the name of grabbing attention.

When you’re creating posters for a brand, maintaining visual consistency is key. Use your brand guidelines or a brand kit to set the foundation for design inspiration. Stock photos can help achieve this through similar themes and colors. 

Example of using stock photos for posters: This poster for a vet clinic shows portraits of a pug, a border collie, a lizard, and a gray cat with a QR code in the corner
License these images via 220 Selfmade studio, MirasWonderland, Eric Isselee, plutmaverick, and cosmic_pony.

Be Smart with Typography

Legibility is especially critical for posters. Your readers won’t stop to read if they can’t easily see the message.

Make sure the text stands out by choosing eye-catching, easy-to-read fonts (you might want to avoid fancy scripts, as an example) and selecting a font size that’s large enough to be legible from a distance.

Also, focus on creating a balance between text and images. While grabbing attention is the goal for both, you want your words to complement the visuals without overpowering them.

Example of using stock photos for posters: This poster shows a man holding his brown dachshund and smiling while the dog looks forlornly into the camera
License these images via Roman Samborskyi and cosmic_pony.

Use a Call-to-Action (CTA)

Encourage your audience to attend your event or interact with your brand by including a CTA. Imagine your bar or small restaurant is hosting a cooking class.

You may opt for a vibrant, mouth-watering stock image of a dish that attendees may learn to cook with a compelling call-to-action like: “Sign Up Now and Unleash Your Inner Chef!”

Example of using stock photos for posters advertising discounts on specialized pet food: This poster shows gray kitty paws reaching from offscreen and resting on the rim of a full bowl of kibble
License these images via kholywood and cosmic_pony.

Ready to Power Up Your Posters with Stock Photos?

Now that you know where to find stock photos for posters and how to use them, the possibilities are endless. Put your creative skills and these tips to the test to create a poster design to wow your target audience.

If you found this post helpful, stay tuned for our next post in this series about using stock photography in PowerPoint presentations. We’ll help you perfect your slides and put them together in a memorable deck that’s designed to impress.

Got a poster design in mind? It’s never been easier to access everything you need in a single subscription.

With Shutterstock Flex, you’ll have all-in-one access to our massive library, plus the FLEXibility you need to select the perfect mix of assets every time.

Tap into even more creative inspiration:

How to Legally Use Your Stock Photos Across Multiple Platforms

How to Legally Use Your Stock Photos Across Multiple Platforms

Learn the ins and outs of using stock content across multiple platforms and for multiple purposes. We interviewed one of Shutterstock’s experts in licensing legalities to learn more. 

The Complete Guide to Timing in Photography

The Complete Guide to Timing in Photography

Learn about the importance of timing in photography in order to optimize for light, exposure, color, and detail in your images.

PNG vs PDF vs JPG: Which File Format Should You Use?

PNG vs PDF vs JPG: Which File Format Should You Use?

With so many image formats, how do you know the difference between PNG vs JPG vs PDF (and more)? We’re here to guide you.

5 Folk-Inspired Color Palettes

5 Folk-Inspired Color Palettes

Consumers are drawn to the simplicity of the past, to designs that have a timeless character. Here are five palettes that speak to that trend.

License this cover image via kholywood and cosmic_pony.

Recently viewed

Share this post

Recently viewed