As a skilled designer, stock photo libraries are an indispensable tool of the trade. They’re cost-effective and cover a wide range of topics for your image search. Through Shutterstock for instance, you can download almost anything – vectors, graphic elements, illustrations, 3D images, photos, videos… you get the drift.

Digital designers initiated into the world of stock imagery have lesser things to worry about: call-times, shoots, location recces, casting models, and the list goes on. Hooray for designers! They are now able to craft ads effectively, without having to leave the confines of the studio! They’ve got everything covered at their fingertips… or so they think.

Manoeuvring through the world of stock imagery is not as easy as it sounds. At the start of your design process, you’d need to find the right images. So begins the endless scrolling and testing of keywords to nail your search and eventually, the frustration. Even with Shutterstock’s keyword and title best practices, the struggle is real.

We’d like to save you from the frustration you’re bound to encounter! We’ve asked our Creative Director, Carlo Victoriano to compile these powerful keywords to help you tame the stock image search field. They have been tried, tested and proven to work!

(Note: These keywords are not placed in order of rank.)

1. Isolate/Isolated

Add “isolated” to your query to save hours keying out backgrounds. It consists of everything you can find sans background.
Examples: “woman isolated”, “car isolated”


“woman isolated” by


“car isolated” by


2. Mock/Mock-Ups

Design mock-ups help to make your presentation stand out. Save time by adding “mock-up” to your search query to get beautiful pitch-worthy visuals.
Examples: “poster mock-up”, “desk mock-up”, “chalkboard mock-up”


“poster mockups” by


3. Interior and Exterior

If you’re looking to compose collages or better backgrounds for your isolated images, add “interior” or “exterior” to your search query. These keywords are perfect for themes related to retail, architecture, real estate or when you’re designing for spaces.

Examples: “kitchen interior”, “house exterior”


“kitchen interior” by


“house exterior” by


4. Wall and Floor

Add “wall” or “floor” to your search query to compose room visuals. You can also throw in “table isolated” or “sofa isolated” to create a complete living room.

Examples: “concrete wall”, “wooden floor”


“concrete wall” by


“wooden floor” by


5. Indoor and Outdoor

When working with human elements within your search interest, you can create a different feel through indoor and outdoor shots. Add “indoor” or “outdoor” to your query and see the difference.

Examples: “happy indoor”, “jump outdoor”, “read outdoor”, “cycling indoor”


“jump indoor” by


“jump outdoor” by


6. Group

This one’s a no-brainer but we simply couldn’t leave it out of the list. Add “group” to your query and watch the results deliver images with 3-4 individuals in a shot.

Examples: “students group”, “business group”, “girl group”


“business group” by


“students group” by


7. Asian/East Asian/Pan-Asian/Western

Add these keywords to your search interest when you need to be precise with the types of models in your visuals.

Examples: “mom daughter asian”, “family asian”, “western model”


“mom asian” by


8. Stylish, Casual and Business

Looking to find hipster cyclists on Shutterstock? Getting the right feel can be tricky. Use these keywords to get the right expression, clothes or even posture in your subjects.

Examples: “girl stylish”, “friends stylish”


“girl stylish” by

cafe business

“cafe business” by


9. Icons and Interface

For themes related to user Interface (UI) and web designs, add this to your query and start amassing your arsenal for your next app project.

Examples: “outline icons”, “game interface”


“game interface” by


“outline icons” by


10. 3D

Designing for games? Simply add 3D to your query and start building your game scenes.

Examples: “spaceship 3D”, “warrior 3D”


“warrior 3D” by


11. Patterns/Texture/Abstract

Trying to create a cutting-edge, modern, Scandinavian, or Bauhaus cover look? Add “pattern”, “texture” or “abstract” to your query.

Examples: “half-tone pattern”, “geometry abstract”, “lines pattern”, “grunge texture”


“geometry abstract” by


“line pattern” by


As you spend more time experimenting with stock image libraries, you’d naturally widen your keyword bank. Don’t forget to share it with us! If you’ve got any great keywords of your own, drop a comment below. We’d love to hear from you.

Carlo Victoriano, Creative Director
Nadiah Nanni, Copywriter/Social Media Editor