Free stock images - where to find them and how to make them better

As the saying goes a picture tells a thousand words.  Visuals make us all better learners, help to retain our attention and makes the information we are reading more persuasive. 

The images you choose for your brand, visually tell your story – whether yours is a story of creativeness, authenticity, excellence, freshness, trailblazing...  

Your visual content marketing should be included in all your branding, messaging and advertising. Using the relevant images can also complement your content, draw attention to it and break up long text.  

Using relevant images in your social media posts, blogs, websites and marketing campaigns can be a never-ending demand on your budget and time - how do you find quality photos to use?

Hiring a photographer for the bulk of your images is a great idea.  
An expert photographer adds a professional touch to your business.  Their prowess with the camera can portray your company message, your style, and personality.  It gives your customers a view into your world and the personality of the company they are dealing with. 

Hiring a photographer can be a costly exercise but well worth its value especially when using the images on your website and for social media profiles and bios.

Stock images can be used but in moderation.  
Stock photos are an inexpensive way to use imagery and the available range is huge. Altogether, their library, reaching in the millions of images, can be a time-consuming search for the right one.  Most have sophisticated search engines to help with the task.  They work well when you are telling a specific message or trying to convey an emotion.

Stock image from istock

Or you can take your own photos!
Smart phones now have great cameras, use them and practice – it is amazing what you can do! Taking your photos from different angles will advance your photography.  There are courses you can take to improve your skills or look for the budding photographer in the team, there is always one! 

There is much debate over the use of free stock photos
Sometimes a marketing campaign with a very limited budget or time frame may call for the use of free stock images.  Even though they are free, you should still use them with caution.

Here is a list of websites that I have used that offer free stock photos – 

Rating - Check this one out

I love the quality of the images, they are artistic, modern, imaginative and fresh.  You can find people images here which are usually hard to find in the world of free stock photos.   The images are easy to download, and are high resolution.  They sometimes copy across as very large images but it probably has more to do with my technical skills than their website.  

They also have a section for landing page images.  Now you can add strategically placed copy to your image.

Free stock photo from Unsplash - a little cropping and its a perfect image for my blog

Free stock photo from Unsplash - a little cropping and its a perfect image for my blog
Rating - be careful!

Generally these are poor quality – use when you need an image of a physical thing, like a fountain, watch, toys or a flower. Most of the photos are old fashioned and some of the quality of the images themselves can vary so use with caution.

If I find an image I could use, I will usually crop it.  I find this significantly improves the image and its message.

Hubspot – 
Rating - Newbie on the block

This is a recent entrant in the free images industry.  They have some good images of people and faces.  The people used in the images are mostly the same faces just in different positions. The quality is not bad but still not of the quality of paid images.    

There is a wide range of categories but a lot of the images use the same props just from a different angle.

Given the popularity of Hubspot and their marketing prowess, I suspect you will see these images used in the market place, so use with caution.  

Rating – wide range, more than stock photos

Pixabay not only has free stock images, but also has a select range of vector graphics, videos, and illustrations.  The limited range has high-quality images.  There is a link to shutterstock on the right side of the screen, so you can see the wide range available if you were to purchase a stock image.

If you search by category (and there are quite a number), images as well as illustrations and vector graphics will appear.  This website also gives you several options for searching images – you can search by image size (important if looking to use for large production), colour of an image, orientation or clear filters.

A vector graphic from Pixabay

A vector graphic from Pixabay

The short videos can be added to your video marketing to add depth and interest to the story.  
When you download an image, the photographer and his/her details are available.  There is the opportunity to buy the photographer a coffee through PayPal, to say thanks.  Love this touch!

Photo-sharing sites
Photo-sharing sites such as morguefile and Flickr have an endless supply of good quality photos.  Before you use any photos, check with the owner that you have the authority to use it.

Go Explore
Still can’t find the perfect image you need, here are a lot more – just call if you need me to pull you out of the labyrinth!

Stock photos do have a place in marketing.  
Once you have found the perfect stock photo, you can personalise it.  Each photo can be modified to match your content, brand and message.  

Here are some quick tips to enhance your stock photos - 

•    Use the crop feature – get rid of the part of the image that does not add to your message, use crop to sharpen your message.
•    Turn them into black and white – this can change the look of the image from staid to edgy.
•    Build a collage – using a theme, bring several photos together to add interest to your content.
•    Experiment – play with the images, become best friends with your photo editor, it is amazing what you can do.
•    Edit them, play around with colour – use filters to change the look of the photo, use fade for a dreamy look, highlight a colour to match your brand.
•    Add text or drawings – this gives the image a unique look and can add to your content, drawing interest not just from the image.

Hint – use Instagram photo editor to edit and crop your photos, then enhance using the different filters. 

There are lots of places to get photos and images to use in your marketing and advertising. Search for the right message that suits your business.  I would love to hear if you have found other websites that provide free stock photos or tell me what you do to images to personalise them – shoot through an email or comment below.