Confession first: I’m not a photographer. Sure, I take and post photos with my iPhone, but it’s not even the latest and greatest iPhone model, and they are functional but not amazing. For the most part, when I’m not covering a specific event, person or product, I add visuals to my blog posts and social network posts using stock images.
I know what you’re thinking. Stock photos can look, well, like stock photos – stiff, fake, awkward, even weird. But in this day and age of content marketing, the demand for visual content to get noticed is high and can be a burden to us non-photographers. Not everyone can afford a fancy photo shoot every time an image is needed. Sometimes you just need to go with “fake real” to illustrate your text.
Keeping in mind the challenges of royalty-free stock photography including the struggle to find just the right image that best reflects your brand, here are a few stock photo resources I’ve found that can be helpful when you need a visual for your digital content.
1. Visual Hunt
This site is magic. Gorgeous images, and you get clear attribution instructions and an optional sign in. Sometimes the search results can be a bit random, but you can also uncover some hidden royalty-free gems. Try the not-so-obvious but super helpful color palette search. Images are not only tagged with keywords but also color palettes so when you click on one of the colors under the search field, the tool filters images based on that particular color. Check out VisualHunt.
Photo via Visual hunt
Stock photos can look, well, like stock photos – stiff, fake, awkward, even weird.
This site offers stock photos, vector graphics and other illustrations from international sources so you will find images you won’t see on the U.S.-based sites. Uncover a treasure trove of other people’s high-quality snapshots that “feel real.” You can download images without logging in, but you have to fill in a Captcha over and over again, so it is worth logging in – and donating – to the site. Check out Pixabay.
This site is good for free basic images of scenes and objects, and you are required to sign in to download the various sizes of any image. The photos of people on this site tend to look awkward, but if you need a photo of a flower, a laptop, a landscape, or anything else non-human, this can be a good resource. Getty purchased this resource several years ago, and they tease you with much better fee-based stock photos in every search result linking to their other acquisition, iStock, but you’ll need to pay to use those images if you want them. Check out FreeImages.com.
This site clearly states that “all photos uploaded to the site are released under Creative Commons – CC0 and do not require attribution.” This may be my new favorite royalty-free and attribution-free photo resource. Made by the same folks who offer Snappa for easy graphics for the non-designer. Check out Stocksnap.io.
Whenever you use other people’s images, even from royalty-free sites, make sure to double check the terms and attributions. Attribution-free images are easiest to use because there are less steps involved to provide the proper credit. Sites like Visual Hunt provide a line of HTML you can copy and paste into your website or blog to link back with a credit (see above in #1 and at the bottom of this post).
While social media marketing is first and foremost about the social interactions, content marketing is about attracting attention to hopefully trigger some reactions, interactions and actions. Strong, on-brand and clear visuals can help attract the eye and illustration your point.
Featured Image via Visual hunt