I have a confession to make: when I post on the Hue & Tone Instagram, I don't actually reach out to snap a photo of the office supplies (in branded colors) already artfully arranged on my desk. Those are stock photos -- at least in the sense that I shot them all in one batch and stockpiled them for later. But I didn't have to spend a ton of money on them, since I took them myself.
If you want to keep your business photography on-brand and avoid spending a ton of $$ on stock photos, here are a few tips I've picked up from trial-and-error experience.
Buy props that match your brand.
This doesn't have to be expensive -- if you go with office props like we did, check out the dollar section at Target and the clearance sections of office supply stores. And, in my case, none of these are solely a prop...I just kept an eye out, when I was buying functional office supplies, for a few that matched Hue & Tone's bright look.
Unless you have professional lighting equipment or a ton of well-placed windows, heading outdoors is your best bet for well-lit, appealing photos that don't require a lot of editing. Wait for a sunny day, pack up your supplies, pick a spot without too much shade and head out for a photoshoot.
Use a solid background.
Keep it clean and sharp by shooting props arranged on a solid-color background. I used a sheet of white posterboard and it worked out great -- just make sure to use the matte side so you don't wind up with a glare in your photos.
Bring a bunch of different props and shoot them in every angle and combination you can dream up. Write something out. Try neat lineups and jumbled-up piles. You'll want variety, and you'll have to take a ton of photos for every one you'll actually like, so give yourself options!
Keep it simple + make minimal edits.
For me, at least, clean, uncomplicated photos were easier to shoot on the front end, and easier to use in a variety of projects. This meant staying away from over-complicated setups and keeping the post-shoot Photoshop party to a minimum -- just brightening and sharpening where it was needed.
If this isn't for you, there are some good places to find royalty-free, non-cheesy stock photography. But, personally, I find that creating my own on-brand, simple stock photography is the way to go. If you decide to try it out, I'd love to know how it goes! firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment below.