How to Build Your Own Stock Photo Library for Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram

Editor’s Note:  Amanda Jensen is a summer intern at  She’s a student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. 

You've probably heard about the importance of adding images to your Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook posts. Large companies are able to hire professional photographers to take photos for their websites, and still others subscribe to stock photo libraries.

The bad news? As a small business owner, these options may not work for you or your wallet.

The amazing news? You and your team can take your own photos for free, without a fancy camera or professional training! Here are four steps that you can use to start building your own stock photo library:

1. What Do I Need?

Professional photographers use fancy cameras with multiple lenses. Fortunately, you don't need a fancy camera or lots of equipment to take great photos.

If you already have one of these fancy DSLR cameras, that's great! If not, don't worry, any point-and-shoot digital camera will work wonderfully. If you don't already own a camera, you can find one at a reasonable price from places like Target and Wal Mart.

For the best photo quality, I recommend a digital camera that is at least 10 megapixels. You can find this information on the outside of the box your camera came in, or in the owner's manual.

Last, but certainly not least, make sure you have a removable SD card to store your photos on. Some cameras come with one included in the box, but be sure to double check that you have one!

2. What Do I Photograph?

Now that you have the right equipment, it's time to start taking pictures. Here are a few suggestions of WHAT to photograph:

  • Your products - If your business sells things like food, quilts, or other physical objects, take photos of them! It will show people what you offer.
  • Your staff - You've invested in a great team, so make them the stars of your Facebook page.
  • Related images - Photos of keyboards, houses for sale, or blank tax forms are great. Anything that has to do with your business. (Hint: Use the macro setting on your camera to take close-ups, and use a photo editing site to add cool effects).
  • Nature - Leaves, trees, sunsets, etc. are all great options that will brighten up your business page! (Hint: Use a photo editing site to blur the images and add text to them. Inspirational quotes are great)!

3. Rule of Thirds

When you're taking photos, always use the Rule of Thirds. It's an important guideline to follow, and will ensure that your clips and images will be as visually appealing as possible.

Simply put, the Rule of Thirds divides an image into nine squares. (It's basically like putting a  Tic-Tac-Toe board over an image.) Many digital cameras will show you the grid on the screen as you're taking the photo, but if not, it will appear in any photo editor when you try to crop an image.

This photo is a great example of Rule Of Thirds. Notice the grid on the photo.

​The subject of a photo should ALWAYS be located at one of the four places where the lines on the grid cross, instead of in the middle of the frame. It will make your photo look more balanced.

​Notice how the flower is located at one of the intersections, not the middle of the frame.​

4. Editing Tools

Now that you have your photos taken, it's time to edit them.

There are TONS of different programs that you can use to edit your photos. Some, such as Adobe Photoshop, are  expensive and complicated. Others, such as Pixelmator, are more reasonably priced but still a little difficult to master.

For beginners, I recommend using a free website called Ribbet. Creating an account is easy, and you won't have to download any special programs for your computer. Also, the site will store your 100 most recent photos in your online library.

​Aside from basic edits like cropping and photo rotation, Ribbet also offers lots of fun filters that are easy to use. It's any easy way to turn your photos into a work of art for you business pages.

MEMBER BONUS: Who Should Build Your Library?

SMOC members: login to see exclusive members-only secrets about who should build your library and how to turn it into a huge content asset.

Not a member? Start learning today by becoming a Socialmediaonlineclasses member.  CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE.

MEMBER BONUS: Who Should Build Your Library and a Peek Over Our Shoulder

You barely have enough time to run your business, let alone take photos and edit them. So who should you hire?

An intern.

Specifically, a Journalism or Art major who loves photography.  Amanda Jensen, our summer intern, is a freshman at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.  She loves photography, so I asked her to build a stock photo library by taking images we can use and repurpose for our website and social media.

What's our workflow? Amanda takes the photos, uploads them to a shared Dropbox folder, and everyone on our team has access to them.  We can open the images, edit them, and save them to a new file for a specific purpose.

For example, here's an original photo Amanda took:

​Here's my edited version for Facebook:

I made the photo a bit transparent, added a shadow quote and our logo.
I'll probably reuse this photo again with a different effect and a different quote, as well as use it for a blog post.
See where I'm going with this?
Online marketing requires a lot of content, but our memories are short. So even if you've used an image before, it's unlikely any of your fans will remember it.

Want to Learn More?

Now that you've learned how to build your own stock photo library, it's time to take the next step. Your photos can be uploaded to any social media sites, but Facebook is a great place to start.

Not sure how to post a photo to Facebook?  Still wondering why images are so important to a successful social media campaign?



Maria Peagler is the founder of Maria Peagler Digital, a serial entrepreneur, and award-winning author/publisher of nine books. She is an award-winning artist in both watercolor and quilting. She is married to her husband of 30 years, mom to two adult sons, and enjoys hiking in the north Georgia mountains.

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