With an industry as open as a wideout on a post route against the Packers, there’s no better time to get in the (digital signage) game. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or rookie ready to make your mark, Screenfeed’s own Coach Content has your back with another quick tip—How the right stock assets just might save your bacon, and where to find them.

Why Stock Assets? Seriously, why?

If you deal with digital signage content in some capacity, there’s a good chance you’ll need to generate some kind of content either under pressure, or on the barest of budgets. It’s certainly true for designers and creative staff, but the same often applies to you “suits” too. Whether it’s a spur-of-the-moment promotional idea, an impromptu-but-personal morale boost for the office, or low (no)-budget proof of concept, sometimes content needs to come together fast and still look great.

Well, no need to fret here, team—help to pull off your hail Mary might be closer (and cheaper) than you think—stock assets.

If you just threw up in your mouth a little, hang in there and read on.

A Time and a Place

I’ve been pushing pixels for well over a decade, so believe you me, when I hear ‘stock photos’, images of sterile conference rooms packed with oxford shirt-clad, plastic-smiling, office-types definitely come to mind.

And handshakes. Lots of handshakes too.

Although it's time to retire the stock handshake, there's still some good stock stuff out there, team.

But here’s the deal, there is a time and a place for GOOD stock images and footage. (Not the conference room ones though. Don’t ever use those.) And yes, there honestly are GOOD options out there. I’ll show you some below, but first a few examples of where stock assets can genuinely help bridge the gap when you’re under the gun.

1. As a Background

Most of the time, a good background just needs to be ‘good enough’ because it’s...um...in the background. Seriously though, a simple image of a landscape, interior scene or environment with a small amount of color adjustment, and focus blur can set the stage for whatever you really want your audience to look at (text, graphic, or internal visual assets).

A simple stock image might be just the canvas you need to set off your main message!

2. As a Texture

A texture could be a background too, but using stock assets to texture text or other primary visual elements can quickly and easily elevate the style you’re going for. With a little digging, natural textures like grass, leaves, water, skyscapes, wood, sand, dirt, etc. as well as human-made textures like brick, metal, glass, confetti, plastic can all be found as stock imagery. Sometimes for FREE! (See cheat chart below)

With a little searching, there's a good chance you'll find a great stock texture for your project.

3. As Illustrations or Icons

Using stock illustrations can save a ton of time. Only caveat is (and it's a big one) you have to be careful that it fits your brand. Your designers might find them as a useful starting point (shapes, proportion, composition etc.) that they can then customize and manipulate to fit a particular brand and project/application.

An illustrated stock football helmet was the perfect starting point to create our own version.

4. As a Visual Reference

This one’s a little more involved, but in the event that stock imagery just won’t do, and you’re needing to capture your own image or footage, you can save a lot of trial and error trying to compose the shot you’re looking for by first looking for a similar example that’s already been captured. Say you need a group photo of the sales team staged at the coffee shop across the street. First doing a search for ‘group + coffee shop’ or something similar on your favorite stock photo site will probably yield a handful of examples of what you might be looking for. The nice thing is you can narrow down the arrangement, angle, and composition ahead of time instead of trying to figure it out on the fly and hoping for the best. It’s also a very practical in the event that you simply don’t have the resources to capture the subject or scene you need - ie: Thunderstorm, exotic animal, or a faraway location or landmark.

This free* image from Pexels could serve as a helpful visual reference to set up your own candid group shot.

MINI TIP: Stock photos/illustrations are a great way to create a color palette!

Goodies & Gotchas

Before you click the ever-loving battery-power out of your mouse downloading the sources cheat chart below, one thing to keep in mind when it comes to using stock assets for your digital signage content: Before using any stock asset, purchased or ‘free,’ absolutely make sure to read any licensing terms and conditions. You’ll find that while they do vary from source to source, you’ll want to watch out for terms referring to the use of the asset and the rights you’re being granted related to the artist/photographer/videographer, as well as the model(s) if applicable. For example, you’ll find some really sharp photography available for free from sites like Pexels, but if your picture features a person, and your final content piece endorses a product or service, you actually may still need to secure and pay for the model’s release to be used in that fashion. Again, each source details the terms and limits, and usually in terms that are easy to understand, so don't be a lazy bum. Read 'em.

Lastly, when you’re browsing potential stock assets, be sure to look past the immediate piece as-is. As I mentioned above, think of stock assets as a helpful starting point, or half-done canvas. Sometimes, you’ll be able to make that asset look ‘less-stocky’ by adding a color overlay to match your brand. It also helps to choose assets that feature similar lighting as your other branding materials.

As promised, here is a short list of stock asset resources. Coach-evaluated.

Feel free to right-click and download for reference!