Instagram users are familiar with the app’s various visual clichés and notice when certain images come up again and again. Eventually, even the best begin to blend together.

Similarly, small businesses face a similar dilemma when choosing images for marketing communications. How do you stay visually relevant in a world saturated with sameness?

Thankfully, iStock offers some help. Here are some of the most commonly seen kinds of images on Instagram, along with ideas for how to step beyond the trends and get noticed when choosing imagery for your own communications.

1. #IceCream

By now, we’ve scrolled through enough ice cream flavors on mobile to open our own shop. More often than not, they’re set atop a waffle cone held by a manicured hand against a background of some noteworthy texture, pattern or detail. To change things up, consider images that offer different angles, creative cropping, and unexpected color – as well as those that go beyond photography altogether.

Search tip: What does the treat look like? Pair “ice cream” with modifiers such as “melting,” “smashed,” or “sprinkles.” Feeling nostalgic? Add “truck” or “sign” to “ice cream.”

2. #Coffee

The aerial view of latte art is another Instagram standard. Visually appealing for sure, but at some point, people are ready to see something new. Consider providing some context for your viewers. Who’s drinking the coffee? How was it poured? Where was it roasted? Finding ways to go behind-the-scenes is a great way to liven things up after the cup goes cold.

Search tip: How was the coffee prepared? French press? Pour over? Espresso machine? Add these details to your search. Include the color of the mug or the background to surface images that pop.

3. #OnMyTable

If you insist on the from-above-plate shot, think about zooming out. Keep in mind that more color and detail make for a more eye-catching composition. Or, forget the plate completely and focus on the food with images of ingredients or a finished dish micro-zoom. Another option? Get a little meta and poke some fun at the trend.

Search tip: Be descriptive about the type of food and the angle, for example, “chicken dinner from above.” Add the type of table and the number of people to refine the results.

4. #OntheRoad

The image of the open road has long been in circulation, a symbol for freedom, adventure and the wild blue yonder. But it’s possible to express those things with more than just a two-lane highway tapering off into the distance. What happens when our focus shifts to the movement of light? When the path gets windy, or comes to a crossroads? Look out for visuals that might make your viewers feel like they’re part of the ride.

Search tip: Imagine the road you’d like to travel. Where is it? What does it look like? Include modifiers such as “winding,” “lights” or “empty.” In what other ways can you invoke a journey without showing a road? Try “bridge,” “passage,” “trail” or “river.”

5. #Sunset

The sun sets everyday, and even when it might be overcast, there’s still somebody, somewhere sharing a photo of that blazing ball in the sky. Among the most ubiquitous of sights, adding some unexpected elements like an atypical focal point, reflections on glass, or a cast of characters can be especially effective.

Search tip: For a different perspective, add “reflection” or “glass building” to “sunset.” Is there anything in the photo? Search for silhouettes by adding “horse,” “tree” or “person” or specific monuments. “Twilight” also surfaces colorful images with major stopping power.

6. #WingShot

The sky will always find ways to stun us, but some people have had enough of that out-the-airplane-window wing-with-clouds view. After all, there’s much more that remains to be seen. Pull back a bit and allow for some context. Show the framework, the feeling of watching the world go by from so high above (or down below) and the concept of endless possibilities which air travel represents.

Search tip: The search term “aerial” returns images that conjure the feeling of flying without showing a plane. Additionally, adding “cabin” to “airline travel” offers realistic perspectives on in-flight services.

7. #BeachFeet

Every summer, it starts: the parade of portraits featuring a set of happy toes against a body of water. Anyone with a smartphone has taken at least one photo of his or her feet, which might just be one million too many. Mix it up by showing us a different view of those tootsies – covered in sand, submerged in water, or dangling from a dock with a few more pairs.

Search tip: For a different take on toes, try adding “underwater” or “pier” to your searches. If you aren’t feeling tropical, skip the beach altogether and opt for a lake, river, stream or pool.

8. #Cityscapes

Tourists and locals alike love to share images of cityscapes. If you want in on the action, try something besides the straight-on skyline. Incorporating an iconic intersection or zoomed-out expanse, wide-angle shots or view-bending devices are all ways to revisit a familiar place or scene with fresh eyes.

Search tip: To avoid the straight-on shot, look for different perspectives: from above, from below or from an expected location. Search for city-specific skylines (New York, Chicago, London, Paris, etc.) or landmark buildings with the search term “aerial.” Additionally, selecting images that highlight architectural details is a great way to invoke similar feelings while avoiding the standard shots.


9. #Workspace

Bird’s-eye view shots offer a popular perspective on Instagram, but not everyone works at the same kind of desk, with every item styled just so. Real-life tends to be a little more hectic, which the bigger picture often reveals. Still, minimalism in the work place is on the rise and, nowadays, collaboration in the office is key. Let your visuals reflect that.

Search tip: Match words like “minimal” or “open office” with “startup.” Searching for “entrepreneurship” and “office” is also a great way to surface images that portray modern workplaces.

10. #Petstagram

We may never tire of seeing photo after photo of devil-may-care cats and man’s best furry friends, but there’s definitely room to get a little more creative. Humor goes a long way with pets, as does the element of surprise. A dog in a backpack or a cat perched on someone’s shoulder is bound to get noticed – though animal lovers make for an enthusiastic audience no matter what.

Search tip: Pairing “cat” or “dog” and with “Instagram” yields incredibly cute and candid images.

Find more images that inspire on Getty Images and iStock by Getty Images