Social media platforms like Instagram can be a tricky platform to navigate, especially when you’re developing your personal brand. How can your small business stay ahead when it feels like bigger brands are dominating everyone’s feed? It’s pretty simple, actually—keep your content fresh with dynamic visuals. While that might sound obvious, maybe it isn’t obvious that you should be using stock photos.
Professionally-shot photos are what set brands apart, but there’s no need to panic if your photography skills aren’t up to par—stock photos are current, professional, and they’ll save you a pretty penny.
But sometimes even a fresh photo doesn’t quite cut it—you need to go above and beyond. Instagram is often a source of inspirational content, so you can provide your followers with the motivation that they need for any situation. Inspirational posts allow your followers to form a personal connection to your brand, so don’t shy away from experimenting with messages that might resonate.
Follow this tutorial to see how you can use stock photos to easily create trendy, inspiring Instagram content.
Step 1. Open the File in Photoshop and Resize.
First, determine if your image can be cropped or if it needs to be extended. We recommend picking photos that you can easily crop into a square, but the photo we picked is a little different. Because the top portion of the photo is just grass, we can easily extend the top using the Content Aware cropping feature.
In this case, we first need to open the file in Photoshop. We used this stock photo of a woman lying in the grass.
Tip: If you are simply going to crop your photo into a square, we recommend creating a new Photoshop document with dimensions of 1080 x 1080 pixels and a resolution of 300 pixels/inch.
Once your file is open in Photoshop, go to Image > Image Size.
Since we are going to be extending the top of the image, we will leave the height alone and just set the width to 1080 pixels.
Step 2. Crop.
Now we need to make the photo square. Select the Crop Tool then click and drag the top of the image until the counter near your cursor says “H: 1080 px.”
Make sure that the Content Aware box is checked, then hit Enter on your keyboard.
It may take a second, but Photoshop will fill in that white space according to nearby pixels in the photo. The Content Aware tool is incredibly helpful tool for extending textures like the grass in this image.
Step 3. Add Text.
First, make sure that you have enough blank space for the message or quote that you’ve chosen. We recommend keeping the text on the shorter side—this will increase the likelihood that your followers will read the message. Often, people just keep scrolling if they see a huge chunk of text on an image.
Once you’ve picked your message, decide how you want to break it up. Your image will be more visually striking if the text is broken into pieces, rather than crammed onto one or two lines.
If you’re not sure how to break up the text, first think about the words that you want to emphasize. It’s best to pick one or two words that you want to be your main focus (if you pick too many then the image could look crowded and overwhelming). After picking your focus word(s), try reading the text aloud and see where you pause naturally. These pauses are great places to break up the message.
For this tutorial, we chose a quote from Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. The White Queen, speaking to Alice, says, “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
We decided to emphasize the words “impossible things.” In the images below you can see how we broke up the rest of the quote.
Select the Text Tool and begin typing the first portion of your text. It’s a good idea to put each portion in its own layer so that you can easily move the pieces of text around the canvas.
Step 4. Experiment with Fonts.
Now that you have your text on the canvas, it’s time to spice things up a bit. Even though you’ve broken up the text, the image still might look a little boring.
Select the layer that contains the focus words that you picked earlier. With the Text Tool selected, highlight the focus words and start playing around with fonts. It’s a good idea to stick to a plain font for the rest of the text, but you can go crazy with the font for your focus words.
For the example below, we used Proxima Nova (regular) for the body text and Oxtail OT (black italic) for the focus words.
We also used Oxtail OT (bold italic) for the author’s name but decreased the size of the text to create a more subtle effect.
Step 5. Add Some Style.
Our image is looking pretty good at this point, but we want to make it look a little trendier. To do this, we’ll use shapes to highlight the focus words even more.
Select the Rectangle Tool and draw a rectangle around the focus words. Make sure that the rectangle layer is below the text layer that contains your focus words. Adjust the background color and hit Enter.
Now, adjust the opacity of the rectangle to allow some of the background to show through. Just make sure that the text is still easy to read. You can also adjust the color of the focus words to make the text easier to read. To do this, select the focus words layer, click on the Type Tool and adjust the font color as necessary.
Step 6. #FakeFilter
Our image is looking pretty good, but there’s one more thing that we can do to make it #InstaWorthy. Fake a filter!
You don’t have to add a filter to your image (and the photo that we used actually looks like it already has a filter), but we adjusted the color of the image to make the text stand out a little more.
Select the Rectangle Tool and draw a box around the entire image. The color doesn’t really matter at this point.
Move the rectangle layer below all of the layers except the background layer. Adjust the opacity until the image has a subtle filtered look.
Double click on the colored icon on the rectangle layer. The Color Picker will open and you can experiment with the color of your “filter.” For our photo, we picked a warm, red color because it highlighted the text well and fit with the optimistic tone of the quote.
Once you’re happy with your #fakefilter, your image is complete!
Bonus: Save for Web.
To achieve the best results when you upload your photo to Instagram, we recommend exporting your photo to Save for Web. Simply go to File > Export > Save for Web.
Save the image as a JPEG and set the Quality to 100 (this number matters more for websites than it does for Instagram, so you might as well set it to the highest level). Click “Save…” and you’re all set!
Now your image is ready for Instagram!
Running social media for your brand doesn’t have to be difficult. Just stay true to your voice, know your followers, and keep costs down by using stock photos.
Start prepping for your next #gram by checking out our entire collection of professional stock photos.