I've been blogging for just over 5 years now. Starting this blog in 2010 sparked a chain of events that have lead me to where I am in my life right now; fresh out of University with a degree in PR and Communications and about to embark on a new and exciting freelance venture. There has been much trial and error along the way, and I'm not exactly topping the blog popularity charts myself (yet), but I feel like now might be a great time to start giving something back to the blog-o-sphere and share some of what I've learned along the way. I'm hoping that, by introducing more blogging and social media themed posts to this blog, I might be able to inspire newer bloggers and give them a few hints and tips that I wish I'd had earlier on. In this post, I'm going to be sharing a few tips on how to find, select and use great stock photos on your blog...
Why use a stock photo?
Until recently I very rarely used images on my blogs that weren't taken by myself on my beloved Nikon. Early on it was because I was terrified of getting told off (I'd never heard of Creative Commons at this point and figured that using someone else's image on my site was tantamount to theft) but, latterly, it was more to do with pride. I wanted all of the images on my blog to be my own work. I felt like I'd be cheating by not taking every photo myself and that, somehow, it would make me a lesser blogger. To this day, I still strive to keep my blog photography mostly homegrown, but there are some situations in which I now prefer to use stock photography. As handy as I might like to think I am with a DSLR, I'm certainly no pro.
The most common way I like to use stock photos (not just on this blog) is when I'm making a title image that I will be sharing on social media. With so much emphasis placed on eye-catching imagery, particularly on social media, I find that a solid, great-quality image that captures the essence of the post is most effective when strategically edited and placed in a tweet or pin and really improves my incoming traffic. I'll choose the image based on the mood or topic of the post (see the above title image as an example) and then pop it into PicMonkey or BeFunky and edit it out with some text to make it fit. The images I use are usually either floral, blogging/tech-related or very plain to be used purely as a background for text.
How to use stock images...
Given the appropriate permissions and attributions you can, more or less, do whatever you like with a stock photo. If you're looking to use more stock images to accompany your posts, the first thing I'd suggest to do is to get acquainted with the various Creative Commons Licenses and the correct way attribute them on your blog. Some licenses allow you to do whatever you like to the image in the way of editing and adding text, some only allow you to use the image as it comes and some require you to pay for the right to use the image at all. The great news is that there are plenty of image sites out there that provide free images that require no attribution whatsoever (notice that I haven't cited a source for images used in this post). More on those in a sec...
My Top Sites for Stock Photography...Here are a handful of the sites I rate the highest when finding stock photos. Some are completely attribution free, some are a mixture, but they are the best I've found for the type of images I love to use and a great place to start. I tend to favour lifestyle-oriented images and anything featuring flowers and nature.
Unsplash - All images on Unsplash are free to browse, download, modify and use attribution-free. The images are submitted by the photographers. You can just browse or sign up to get 10 new images delivered to your email inbox every week. This is pure potluck and you don't get to choose which images you get, but they have some great ones. I could spend hours scrolling through them. All of the images in this post came from Unsplash.
Death To The Stock Photo - This site requires a premium membership in order to browse but, as with Unsplash, you can sign up for free to receive weekly images via email. It is run by photographers and is geared towards lifestyle imagery so is great for bloggers in that area.
Pixabay - Free to sign up and browse and many of their images are attribution-free (just be sure to check the permissions on the specific image you want). The search feature makes it really easy and quick to find exactly what you're looking for and the selection is fantastic. I typed in 'vegan food' once and came away with a serious avocado craving.
Homemade Stock PhotographyOf course, it is possible to compile a collection of great stock images of your own. Every so often, usually when I'm visiting my family in Derbyshire (looking forward to moving back next month for this very reason), I love to grab my camera and get out in the garden or walk around in the countryside and take photographs of flowers and landscape. The title image for my 'Happiness Is' post was taken in my dad's garden. If you live near a park or community gardens, I'd highly recommend spending an afternoon there, even if it's just with your phone camera.
I really hope somebody finds this post helpful. I'd really love to start including more posts like this on this blog, alongside the usual beauty and lifestyle ramblings. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I will be moving away from London and back to the countryside in the next few weeks so posting may be a bit sporadic until I can get all this chaos over and done with, but I have a long list of posts I want to write in the meantime. If you have any particular blogging or social media issues you think I might be able to address here, I'd love to hear from you in the comments. I'd be happy to put something together if I can. Similarly, I'd love to know your own favourite sites for stock images. Browsing them is a great way to spend an afternoon.