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How to Find On-Brand Stock Photos for Pinterest

I love a good stock photo. I know a lot of them are super cheesy, but when you find good photos, they make all the difference. Trying to find on-brand stock photos to use in your Pinterest pins, on your website, and across social media can present quite the challenge, however.

Luckily, I consider myself somewhat of an archeologist when it comes to stock photos. I’ll dig through the dustiest corners of the internet to find the perfect stock photo, and I’ve got several tricks up my sleeve for finding the best stock photos that I’m sharing with you today!

What are stock photos?

Stock photos are any images that have been created and licensed for commercial use. Most original photography carries the copyright of the photographer, so you wouldn’t be able to freely and legally use those photos however you like.

With stock photos, depending on the specific licensing terms of the photos you’re using, you can use those photos for any purpose — on your website, on flyers, in social media content, for marketing, etc.

For the most part, you know a stock photo when you see one. You can probably picture the overly sterile, corporate, often downright silly poses and scenes “traditional” stock photos portray.

But that isn’t all stock photos. When you’re talking about using stock photos in your marketing or on your website, it essentially means any photo that you haven’t taken or that isn’t one of your brand photos.

By the way, you should definitely have brand photos to use on your website, but that’s another conversation. And one that Sarah Kleist has already had so perfectly on her blog.

When should you use stock photos?

The two primary places I use stock photos in my business is on my website and in my social media graphics. Even though I’ve had two mini brand photoshoots, I like to add additional on-brand imagery through stock photos!

If you don’t have great photos of yourself to use, stock photos can help you create a vibe that matches your brand, whatever that looks like.

Really, you can use stock photos wherever you want, but I would recommend not relying on them too much. Remember, at the end of the day, business is personal and your audience will connect to seeing you on the other side of that screen.

Can I use stock photos for my Pinterest pins?

If the “you can use stock photos wherever you want” didn’t clear it up — yes! This advice will vary depending on your niche, but for the most part there’s nothing wrong with using stock photos on Pinterest.

In fact, I’ll almost always advocate for using stock photos over brand photos or headshots when designing Pinterest graphics.

There are a few caveats to using stock photos in your pin designs, but I promise we’ll cover all of that. The biggest thing I want to clear up is that using stock photos on Pinterest isn’t going to hurt your account or get you flagged as spam.

If you were just posting the stock photo as is and calling it a day, that’s one thing. But using stock imagery as part of your overall pin design is totally fine. Yes, even if other people are using that image.

Pinterest isn’t going to consider your content “unoriginal” or “repetitive” just for using stock photos, I promise.

For some niches — fashion, food, and decor, particularly — I think there is a huge benefit to taking your own photos. These Pinterest niches are all super popular and super image-forward. Having high-quality images is a necessity, and you don’t want to catfish your Pinterest users by using a stock photo that doesn’t at all reflect the quality of the actual content on your website.

Where to Find the Best Stock Photos for Pinterest

Whether you’re looking for free stock photos or are willing to invest for a stock photo membership, there are plenty of options to find good, high-quality stock photos for your Pinterest pins.

I’ve used most of these myself and definitely have some preferences. I actually can’t believe I’m sharing some of these because they’re that good. Don’t go blowing up my spot, now!!!

Free Stock Photo Resources


Everyone’s bestie, Canva. If you haven’t been using Canva to source stock photos, you are missing out. And while a lot of them do require a Pro subscription to use, there are still tons of free stock photos (and videos!) available on Canva.

What I love about Canva’s stock photo library is that it compiles images from lots of different popular stock photography sites in one place. I also love that you can sort the images into folders right within Canva itself.

If you don’t have a Canva Pro subscription, you can sort the photo search results to only show free photos, making this a great free stock photo option!

Unsplash / Pexels / Pixabay

Unsplash, Pexels, and Pixabay are the three most common free stock photo websites, so I’m grouping them together. You’ll find slightly different results on each platform, but they’re pretty much the same. A lot of stock photographers post their work on both sites, so it’s fairly one-to-one.

If you’ve ever looked up “free stock photos,” I guarantee you’ve found one of these and spent a fair amount of time browsing around.

While there isn’t anything wrong with any of these options, there are a lot of stock photos there, so it takes a bit of searching and scrolling to find on-brand stock photos you’ll actually want to use.

Of the three, I gravitate towards Pexels and Unplash the most, but usually as a last resort.


This. This is the one I can’t believe I’m actually sharing with you. Kaboompics is one of the best free stock photo websites I’ve ever found, specifically for creative entrepreneurs.

When I looked into the owner, I wasn’t surprised that I loved it so much, because Kaboompics was actually created by one of my favorite stock photographers — Karolina Grabowska. Karolina’s photos are the perfect mix of lifestyle and business, and it’s no surprise that her stock photo site is full of the most perfect pictures I’ve ever seen.

I know you think I’m being dramatic, but my jaw literally dropped the first time I scrolled through the Business & Office category.

Like… are you kidding me???

Okay, I’ll stop drooling now, but seriously — Kaboompics is a golden treasure trove of free, on-brand stock images for creative entrepreneurs, especially if you love the more neutral, editorial vibe like I do.

Dupe Photos

Friends and foes, we have a late entry! (JK, she’s not late, she’s just the newest discovery on this list.)

I was first introduced to Dupe Photos by Sarah Kleist, and it changed the game.

The concept: connecting content creators to marketers and brands who need not-cringe, UGC-style photos.

The execution: A perfectly curated, natural-feeling resource of royalty-free images that’s more fun than scrolling through Pinterest.

The ~vibe curator~ in me is kicking her feet in joy at the searchable aesthetics. Dupe isn’t your typical stock photo resource. You’re not going to (necessarily) find the perfectly styled shots and meticulous flat lays.

But that’s a good thing. Sometimes you need to switch up your stock look, sometimes you want a more “in-the-moment” feel, and sometimes you just need a good background for your Instagram stories. Dupe is your girl for those times.

You can add photos to collections, find new creators to follow within your vibe, and just enjoy looking at all the pretty pictures other people have taken.

P.S. They recently released the app version of their site and I’m not being dramatic when I tell you I’d rather scroll on there than any social media platform.

Should I f around and submit some photos of my own???

Paid Stock Photo Resources

If you told high-school Sarah I was ever paying for stock photos, she would’ve slapped you. Then she would’ve traveled forward in time to slap me and tell me to save my money because we have stock photos at home for free.

But sometimes the free stock photos just aren’t hitting the right way and you can’t find what you want. That’s exactly why paid stock photo libraries exist, and I’m sharing my favorites with you.

Canva (Pro)

That’s right, she’s back! I wanted to include Canva as both a free stock photo resource and a paid stock photo site, because you can find both. Most business owners I know already have Canva Pro, so while technically the paid stock photos on Canva aren’t “free,” they feel free.

Most of my favorite stock photos and stock photographers are only available to use with Canva Pro, so I’m a bit biased, but I think it’s totally worth it.

Haute Stock

I jumped on the Haute Stock train early in my business, and I’m probably one of their biggest fans. (Unverifiable, but I do tell almost everyone I know about them and do a happy dance every time they release a new collection.)

Haute Stock is a stock photo membership that shares modern stock photos for creative entrepreneurs, but it’s also so much more than that. While stock photos are their bread and butter, Haute Stock also has incredible templates and resources included in the membership.

I don’t know any way to say it other than to just come right out with it — Haute Stock’s templates rival Tonic’s Canva templates.

That’s it! I’m dropping the mic! I’m walking off stage! Don’t come after me Tonic fans! I love them both!!!

Beyond the extensive library of beautifully curated stock photos, what I particularly love about Haute Stock is the way they respond to their community’s requests. Need more body diversity? You got it! Want more motherhood content? Here’s a whole collection! UGC-style videos are becoming popular? Have some b-roll videos!

Oh yeah, did I mention they also have stock videos that match their stock photos?

If you want to give Haute Stock a try, I do have a discount code for you! If you use the code “SARAHB” when signing up, you’ll get 15% off your Haute Stock photo membership FOREVER.

You can also get 21 free stock photos to see what it’s all about before making your decision.

I’ll save you the rest of my Haute Stock gushing; that’s what this blog post is for.

MOYO Studio

I was first introduced to MOYO Studio through Haute Stock, actually, when they shared a few collections with Haute Stock’s members! I haven’t purchased any of MOYO’s products for myself outside of this, but from the quality I’ve experienced, I would highly recommend.

MOYO Studio isn’t technically an exclusive stock photo website, but they still deserve to be mentioned. They offer stock photo and mockup bundles that help creatives show off their work in exquisite style.

If you work with any sort of branding or website design, you know that finding a good mockup can be a challenge. Every single one of MOYO’s mockups I see is absolutely stunning and so versatile. Even if you didn’t use the mockups to mockup your own work, many of the photos can stand alone as perfect stock photos!

Other Paid Stock Photo Sites

I haven’t used these myself, but I wanted to include them if you were still looking for some other stock photo options!

6 Ways to Find On-Brand Stock Photos for Pinterest

Whether you’re using free stock photos or browsing a paid stock photo library, you still have to be able to find and choose the right stock photos to fit your brand. It’s not always an easy task! With the huge amount of stock photo options out there, you need some pro tips to sort through them all and find on-brand stock photos to use for your Pinterest graphics.

That’s where I come in! Not every Pinterest management client comes to me with tons of stock-like brand photos or a stock photo membership. That means I spend a lot of time searching free stock photo resources to find the right images to use in their graphics.

It also means I’ve learned a lot of time-saving tips and tricks to help you find on-brand photos with ease.

1. Use the right keywords

The irony of talking about keywords when I spend so much of my Pinterest marketing education also talking about keywords is not lost on me. But what can I say, they matter!

Skip over whatever brain overwhelm starts panicking thinking we’re about to dive into SEO or something more technical. To find on-brand stock photos, you just have to know the right things to search (ahem, keywords).

Wherever you’re looking for your stock photos, these are some good keywords to search if you’re looking for classic online business owner stock photos:

  • Aesthetic
  • Shadows
  • Texture
  • Laptop
  • Writing
  • Home office
  • Desk
  • Flat lay

But maybe you’re looking for something super specific. Here’s where you’re going to put on your detective hat and start investigating.

First, find at least one stock photo that you like and that fits the vibe you’re looking for.

Then, most stock photo libraries will have some information about the image — a title, maybe a description, and probably some keywords or tags that the photographer has given it.

Scan that information for words and phrases that describe what you’re looking for in more stock photos and then use those words to keep searching! Sometimes what we think an image would be described as isn’t quite what the photographer would use, so it takes a bit of reverse engineering.

2. Find your favorite stock photographers

Similar to checking stock photos you like for keywords to search, you can also see who the stock photographer is for the photos you like! Usually, stock photographers will have several images from the same photoshoot uploaded to the platform, and they tend to have a signature style.

Maybe the photographer edits mostly cool tones vs warm. Maybe the photographer does a lot of home office content. Maybe you’re looking for stock photos of a particular place and the photographer is from there.

Whatever it is, finding and noticing your favorite stock photographers will help you find more on-brand stock photos to use.

On most stock photo sites, you can navigate to the photographer’s personal page to see all the photos they have available, different galleries they’ve uploaded, and more.

On Canva, the interface is a bit different, as you’re mostly searching for photos to use within a design, rather than downloading a collection of stock photos. But you can still use this method to find more stock photos from the same photographer! You just have to get a bit clever with it…

When you find a stock photo on Canva that you like, click on the 3 dots in the upper righthand corner of the image. That will show you more details about the photo, including the creator/photographer.

You can click on the “View more by [CREATOR]” link and Canva will navigate to just that creator’s assets so you can see all photos by that creator. You can even search within the elements themselves, which is super helpful if the photographer has a huge library of stock photos!

3. Search by color

One way to make sure you’re using on-brand stock photos is to use stock photos that fit your brand color palette. Depending on what your brand colors are, this might be easier or a bit more difficult. But with almost all of the stock photo resources I’ve shared, you can search and filter the stock photos by color!

Whether that’s general color categories or specific hex codes, you can quickly find which stock photos match your brand colors.

Something else to consider when you’re trying to find on-brand stock photos is to look at the overall warmth of the image. If most of your brand photos or stock photos you’ve already collected have a warm-tone edit to them, a cooler-toned photo is going to stand out and not feel as on-brand, even if it technically has the same colors in it.

4. Limit the use of stock photos with people in them

I think the worst stock photo offenders are the ones with blatantly cheesy stock photo models in them. Using stock photos that don’t include people helps avoid most of that.

You don’t have to completely ignore stock photos with people, though! The most important part is making it clear that you aren’t the person in the photos. We’re not trying to impersonate anyone here. Essentially, the people shouldn’t be the focus of the image.

5. Scroll more than you think you need to

The reason most people think stock photos are awful and should be avoided at all costs when it comes to using stock photos on Pinterest pins is that we’re all tired of seeing the same ones 100 times a day.

You know the ones. I’ve used the ones. (Not anymore, thankfully.)

So if you’re using stock photos, don’t just grab the first one you see and like. Because it’s probably overused or on its way there. Put some time and effort into curating a variety of on-brand stock photos that you haven’t already seen a dozen times. Future you and your audience will thank you.

6. Save your favorite stock photos in one location

Once you’ve found your on-brand stock photos, save and organize them! You didn’t put in all that effort for nothing!

My favorite way to organize stock photos is in Canva folders. For stock photos on Canva, I can save them directly to the folders without downloading them first, and I can upload any other ones I find from my computer!

Most stock photo resources also have their own collection or saving functionality. One business I’ve seen use this really well is Duo Collective. They don’t just have one folder for their on-brand stock photos, they have several folders with different types of images they might want to use — cocktails, coffee, workspaces, etc. It’s absolutely brilliant!

Best Practices for Using Stock Photos on Pinterest

You’re not just here to learn how to find on-brand stock photos though. Or at least I assume you aren’t. You want to know how to find stock photos to use on Pinterest. Alright, strap in! Let’s talk about some do’s, don’t’s, and best practices for using stock photos in your Pinterest graphics.

Make them relevant to the pin content

The biggest problem with using stock photos for Pinterest pins is when the photo doesn’t match the content of the pin. Cue the warning bells and alarm sirens because that is one sure-fire way to confuse the Pinterest algorithm.

Pinterest is a visual search engine, emphasis on the VISUAL. Its algorithm scans the visual appearance of your pin and compares it against other pins with similar descriptions to see if it “fits.”

If you’ve ever looked up something home decor or fashion-related on Pinterest, you’ve experienced this effect in action. You search for “old brick floor kitchen” one time and then for the next 6 months half of your feed is kitchens with brick floors.

The same algorithmic principle applies to other niches, too, which is where the stock photo game on Pinterest can get a little dicey.

Let’s say you’re creating a pin all about how to plan a tropical honeymoon, but the stock photo you use is a boho office scene. *ERROR: CANNOT COMPUTE*

Well, it can, but you’re not doing the Pinterest robots any favors.

That’s why, despite popular belief, there can actually be some benefit to using the more popular stock photos in your pin designs, particularly in the marketing and business niche.

If you look at the search results for “how to start an Etsy shop” on Pinterest, you’ll notice that all the images used in the pin graphics are quite similar — people typing on a laptop, styled desk flat lays, overhead working shots, etc.

Pinterest has “learned” that pins for the keyword “how to start an Etsy shop” look like this. It’ll be checking any newly created pins that use that phrase against its model of what a pin in that category looks like. Thus, the benefit of using stock photos when it’s relevant to the pin content.

Avoid overly busy stock photos

Some stock photos, particularly stock photos from the early 2010s, are packed full of little decorative items and flowers and branded paperclips and on and on…

It’s cute, sure, but it’s also busy, which can detract from the main content of the pin. If you’re using stock photos on Pinterest as backgrounds for your pin graphic, try to keep them more simple.

Even if you’re covering up most of the image with different elements, text blocks, or designs, having lots of different colors or visual textures makes for a distracting and overwhelming pin design.

Double check the licensing terms

Not every stock photo resource is created equally, and some may have different terms of how you can use the stock photos. While generally, most stock photos are licensed for a variety of uses, it’s important to not assume.

Depending on the end intent and form of whatever you’re creating with the stock photos, your legal ability to use them may vary, so tread carefully!

And on a similar train of thought, remember that Pinterest is not a stock photo site. You can’t just download an image from Pinterest and call it a day. Content theft and copyright infringement is, unfortunately, rampant on Pinterest, so even if one account says an image is free to use, there’s no guarantee that they’re the original owner of that image.

And no, crediting “Pinterest” isn’t good enough. Just use one of the many stock photo resources I’ve shared here to find something you can actually use legally.

Don’t use the same photo repeatedly

Hopefully, with these tips, you will have been able to find plenty of on-brand stock photos to use in your Pinterest content, so you don’t have to reuse the same 5 photos.

If you’re following my recommended Pinterest best practice to pin at least once a day, that’s a lot of content you’re putting out, and you don’t want it to all look the same!

I suggest using a variety of different stock photos in your Pinterest pins, even for pins linking back to the same blog post!

Need some help finding on-brand stock photos for Pinterest?

I love a challenge and a reason to research! If you truly can’t find stock photos you love, slide into my DMs @thesarahburk and let me know what you’re looking for!

If your stumbling block is moreso actually using those stock photos to create beautiful, branded, click-worthy pins, here’s how I can help:

>> Hire me to manage your Pinterest account. I’ll take care of your entire Pinterest marketing strategy and implementation, including finding those on-brand stock photos and whipping them up into gorgeous pin graphics.

>> Book an account audit and add on custom pin templates. We can review what’s working and what’s not, and you’ll walk away with a shiny new Canva template full of different pin graphics you can plug your content into!

>> Shop my Pinterest templates for creative entrepreneurs. COMING SOON! Subscribe to The Thursday Press to get first access!