The problem with using stock photos as-is is that you run the risk of having someone else do the same. Then you end up with the same cover as another book. That's a big oh-no. You want your cover to be a stand-out, not blend into the pack.
So your not a big time artist and your not rich enough to hire a big time artist. So what do you do?
You edit your stock photos to make them distinct. But you ask, really how different can a picture look by just editing?
It make make a huge difference. I know, I know...you don't believe me. Sigh. I know.
So I have examples.
In last week's blog post, I created the Girl At The Gate Cover using a girl in a white wedding dress. Today, I've taken the same stock photo of the girl in the white wedding dress and I've edited it into three different pictures.
Wedding Dress Stock Photo
Girl At The Gate Cover
In Gate Photo, I merged two photos, recolored the dress and removed the bun to give her a short hair cut. It's a fantasy cover.
Pregnant Girl in Dress
In this one, I used cloning to remove the volume of the dress, I then used Ogre vision to warp the belly into a pregnant belly. Then I recolored and cropped the photo. I also lengthened her curly hair overall.
I reversed her pose so she stands with her back to the left now. I darkened her hair slightly. I added the ugly patio set in the distance. To fix the weak edges of the edited dress, zoom the picture, take the clone feature and re-color the edges. Since this is just for example, I didn't do the finishing polish.
To be honest, if it were a real cover, I'd get rid of the fake patio set and move the belly up some but it works for a quickie example.
In this one, I lengthened only two curls of her hair to give her trailing long curls. I then cropped the dress short so you only see the bodice. I recolored the bodice but to be honest, I don't much like the color. I can fix that later. I then put a cemetery in the background, made the woman partially translucent.
I also darkened her hair here as well and added seed pearls to it for the wedding without a veil feel.
This is the same stock photo used in three different ways. All it takes is patience and a little imagination to make your stock photo unique. Now none of these are polished final products. I see a dozen things to fix...lol but it makes the point.