Where to find pretty, on-brand stock photos for your salon
I wrote this blog post because I’m so tired of seeing awful stock photography on salon websites and social media every day!
You know the kind of stock photos I mean? The classic photoshopped model with pounds of makeup that’s supposed to represent your business to the world?
Yeah, this model doesn’t exist and she’s making your business seem fake and inauthentic.
I’m sorry, I had to say it!
There are so many options out there for stock photos (paid photos to use for your business) that you can use on Instagram, your printed materials, your website…anywhere and everywhere!
But before I continue, I just want to say something important: If given a choice, you should ALWAYS try to take your own pictures. They make your brand relatable and genuine and just REAL.
However, if you need extra posts for Instagram, if you’re in a bind and need a photo fast, or just can’t find the right one, feel free to use stock photos! The good ones!
In this blog post I show you my favourite websites for hair, nail, beauty, and spa stock photos - both for free and paid (but obviously very reasonable prices). I’ll also show you exactly which terms to search for to find natural, on-brand pictures that make your salon look great.
Stock photos done right and wrong
I’m sure you’ve seen those stock photos that scream “2004 called and they want their model back”:
What is it about these photos that is such a turn-off?
Well first of all, they just don’t look like you took them yourself.
Who hires a model that pretty, spends hours photoshopping out the imperfections, and adding in extra lights and sparkles where they weren’t before?
The best stock photos are ones that look real, natural, and stylish. They look like you might have taken them yourself, with the help of good lighting and a decent camera. Like this one:
Be very picky in choosing your stock photos!
How to choose the best photos for your brand
There are certain kinds of stock photos you can feel safe using that will definitely add a certain level of charm and professionally. Here are some guidelines of photos that will enhance your brand:
Closeups of details
Photos of signs and text
“Candid” style photos that don’t look like a stock photo
Minimal photography with lots of blank space
Solid background photos
Pastels and pinks
Okay, now that we've figured out the hottest trends for stock photos, here are 3 of the best websites to find them!
#1: Unsplash - Free!
Unsplash is my personal go-to website for stock photos. There are hundreds of thousands of high-quality, free photos to download.
The downside? The search feature is very broad and not specific. For example, if you search “brows”, you’ll often find unrelated photos.
The upside is that the Unsplash team vets all of the photos to make sure that they’re beautiful and not your typical “cheesy” stock photos.
Here are some ideas of searches you can do on Unsplash that will give you gorgeous results:
If you want a specific color to match with your branding, try searching “Pink” for example:
Stock photos that match your brand color palette are a great way to reinforce your brand and avoid looking like you’re using stock photos (check out my blog post here that will show you exactly how to create a beautiful colour palette)
If you want to “say” something on Instagram but still use a photo, search for a quote:
Social media, especially Instagram, is all about the photos. But once in a while, you do want to “say” something with some text. How about getting creative and posting a quirky photo with a quote?
And if you want more ideas of creative posts for your salon’s Instagram, check out my blog post here!
If you want natural photos of hair, simply search “hair”:
Sometimes you can’t find that perfect photo of long silky hair to use on your website. Unsplash has lots of beautiful photos of women and their hair, that absolutely don’t look like stock photos.
My advice for a stylish hair shot? Use photos that don’t show a full face and instead focus on the hair. Or, you can crop a photo to cut out the model’s face like the “bride hairstyle” shot above.
#2: Twenty20 - $17/month for unlimited photo downloads
Twenty20 is such a genius idea for a website! People submit their gorgeous Instagram photos and they’re put up for sale for other people to use for a small monthly fee. These photos aren’t just any Instagram pics however, they’re hand selected and put into super fun categories! Here are some things you can search on Twenty20.
If you want stylish shots of beauty products, search “Beauty Care”:
See how amazing these photos on Twenty20 are? I love these photos under the “Beauty Care” category because they range from skin products to organic beauty to feet to eyelashes. And they all look stunning.
If you’re wondering why these photos above all have a certain “je ne sais quois”, it’s because they all have a lot of negative space. Notice that they’re not crowded - if you choose photos that have a lot of a single color or a lot of white, you’ll get a pretty result.
If you have a “poppy” brand aesthetic, search “Bright and colourful”:
Your salon’s visual brand is not just about your color and font palette, it’s also about using a consistent style of images.
If that style happens to be cheery, bright and colourful, Twenty20 has a category for that!
Tip: Want to learn more about creating a consistent visual theme on Instagram? Check out my blog post all about it here.
If your brand colors are pastel, they have a category for that, too!
Pastels are so hot this season! It’s true, just look at how pretty these light purples, pinks and beiges are when mixed together.
Want stylish, moody photos your clients will go crazy for? Search “spa day”:
The categories in Twenty20 are pretty broad, so don’t worry if your business isn’t actually a spa! You’ll still find gorgeous photos of wellness, beauty, and pretty women!
#3: Creative Market - $5-$10 per photo download
Creative Market is a marketplace with sooo many options for high quality photos.
Yes, the photos do cost a little bit more, and you have to pay for each one. But if you’re looking for something super specific like “lash extensions”, “pedicures” or “balayage”, it’s probably you’re best option.
If you do brow and lash services, see what comes up when you search “brows”:
Whether it’s closeups or photos of working with clients, there are so many gorgeous options here!
Are you an esthetician and looking for gorgeous pics? Search “spa”:
Whether you’re looking for photos of facial services or high-quality skin products, Creative Market has your back!
Just search the “spa” category and drool over these pretty photos.
If you’re a nail tech or own a nail salon, you’ll love the options under “nails”:
These aren’t your average nail photos! I love these colourful, bright photos of nail polish, manicures and pedicures!
BONUS FREE WEBSITE - Burst
Because I always like to put in little bonuses and extras, here is one last option for you: Burst by Shopify! There isn’t a huge selection of photos, but look what I found in these categories for you:
Now that you’ve seen how many beautiful stock photos there are out there, you will never (I hope!) go back to those terrible early 2000s pics again.
Be sure to check out some of the websites above next time you’re looking for a pretty photo, and I’m sure you’ll find the perfect one.
Last thing, if you want to build a beautiful salon brand, photos are one part. You also need a killer logo, amazing colour palettes, and on-brand fonts.
Download “The Ultimate Guide To Salon Branding” and learn how to do it all yourself. For free!