Where do brands source their social media images?

Updated: May 20, 2020

Beautiful boxes filled with stunning images cascade down your screen like a virtual waterfall as you scroll through your favourite brands’ Instagram feed.

I mean, you know the big guys probably have a team on board to make things look pretty … but how, you wonder, do they make their page so gorgeous? And, more importantly, how can you replicate this effect on your page?

After eight years as the head designer for a bridal and women’s magazine, and five years' working with my own clients, I am grateful to be privy to some insider-only secrets of the styling and wedding industries, one of which is … brands don't always post their own photos on Instagram.

To supplement their feeds (and ensure they’re posting regularly), they use other people’s photos.

But wait! Before you dash off to share that cute image you found on Pinterest, please know that you can’t just use any old picture you find online.

Can I share this image I’ve found online? 

This is one of the most common questions I get asked by my clients, and the short answer is: maybe.

I know. Vague. But the truth is that copyright laws protect images, irrespective of how – and where – they’re sourced. In fact, photographers can take legal action against anyone that uses their work without permission.

Now, you’re probably thinking: but who will know? It’s not like you have a million followers (yet, anyway).

But trust me when I say that you can’t get away with stealing an image. People do get caught and fined. Yes, it is a real thing.

So, how can I make my social media pages pretty … legally? 

Okay, so you have three options:

  • Use an image you’ve taken yourself.

  • Purchase an image online.

  • Use an image you have permission to use.

I’m going to walk you through the last two options in more detail now.

Paid image websites 

If you’re unable to take your own images, you can always buy images from paid image websites. There are usually a wide variety of images available, they are guaranteed to be high-quality and they’re not too expensive either (on average around $10 an image). However, make sure you double check the image rights as sometimes you might need to pay more if you’re using the image in specific way (for example if you’ll profit from the image itself).

Some of my favourite paid image sites are:




Free image websites 

Next up, there are websites out there with images available on Creative Commons licenses, which means the author has given people the right to share and use an image they have taken.  

Some of my favourites are:


Kaboom Pics


Also check out allthefreestock.com — it has a listing of over 50 image websites (as well as videos, sound effects, fonts, mockups and more).

OR … you can repost and tag gorgeous images 

If you find an image on Instagram you would like to use, the good news is that most people are thrilled to have their image shared (and in turn, reach more people!) To repost an image, make sure you tag where the original image came from.

By the way: Photographers are your new best friend 

Most stylists have a photographer (or photographers) that they work with on an ongoing basis. You can stalk their social media to see if they have used anything you can repost.

Or if you are in the wedding industry, check out your brides’ photographers – they usually share images of their weddings and some will even put up blog posts. You can repost the images they share on social media, but if you find images on their website you love, you will need to contact them and ask for permission to share them.

And when all else fails … do it yourself! 

Yep. Seriously. You can create a beautiful Instagram feed yourself! Join my stress-free four-week ecourse The Insta Studio - for mastering the art of stylish Instagram content that captivates and converts! Click here to find out more

#design #socialmedia #images #socialmediaimages #stylist #socialmediagraphics