There’s a Stock Photo for Everything… Literally.

Stock photos are a great resource in the creative world. With a simple search, you are given pages and pages of images to choose from. No matter the project, I can always count on stock photos for the images I need, inspiration and sometimes, a laugh. While looking for a shot of a businessman recently, I stumbled across this image.

Yep, you read that right; this is a “young vampire businessman.” I had to wonder, what possible use could this photo have? Up and coming teen romance novel? Who knows!

Or what about this futuristic gal cradling an ear of corn? Beats me.

Even though some of these images are pretty wacky, there is a tremendous amount of work that goes into setting up, shooting and editing a photograph. Thanks to all of the hard work, there are a huge amount of stock photos available, and when it comes to finding exactly what you need, wading through page after page can be overwhelming.

To help make your search easier and more efficient, here are some tips for navigating the sea of photos out there.

1: Don’t be afraid of keywords

Stock photo websites such as iStockPhoto, Shutterstock and Getty Images all have search functions where you can type in what you are looking for. What many people don’t realize is that you can be incredibly specific with what you type into these search bars.

Use any descriptive term that you feel applies to what you are looking for, such as “overhead” to find a photo shot from above, or “isolated” to find a photo on a blank background that would be easy to cut out and integrate into a design.

Don’t be afraid to get specific. The more detailed you are, the more refined your results are.

2: Use advanced search tools

If you can’t quite think of the right words to use in your search bar, this other great tool can help you refine your results.

Advanced search tools offer filters for you to select from such as showing only horizontal or vertical photos, choosing one, two or no people in the photo, and even the gender and age group of those people.

Even if you find an image that you like but isn’t quite what you need, you have the option to search for similar images or to see other images taken by that particular photographer.

There are also options that narrow your search down by image context and stylistic choices such as “silhouette,” “close-up,” or “grunge.” These filters are an excellent way to help you hone in on exactly what look and feel you are trying to achieve with the photo.

3: Stash “maybes” in lightboxes

So let’s say you have now refined your search and found the perfect photo along with a couple of options that you may want to use later. A great way to save these photos without using up all of your allotted downloads is to organize them into lightboxes.

A lightbox is essentially a folder that your stock photo website keeps for you in your account. These folders can be named however you would like; you can name them after a project, or even after the content of the photo to make it easy for you to find at a later date.

Setting up a lightbox does not mean that you have to download every photo, so they are also a great way to narrow down your photos and save those precious download credits for the perfect photo.

Every stock photo website is different, so take a moment to explore all of the features each site has. Hopefully in your search process, you can use these tools to also find some of the bizarre and funny photos that I have been so fortunate to find.