I have previously written about the risk of using free stock photos.

Your readers land on your blog, only to see the same image they clocked on your competitors’ site the day before. Not ideal for delivering a unique customer experience!

The answer?

You should customize free stock photos so that they suit your brand and make your blog stand out!

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Before we begin, here’s a little pro tip from me to you.

There are 2 easy ways to figure out how popular a free stock image is before you use it on your blog…

  1. Do a Reverse Google Image Search
  2. Upload the photo to check on TinEye

If it’s a seriously popular photo and appears on lots of blogs or websites that are similar to yours, then I’d probably just skip it to be honest.

However, if you reeeaallly love the image, you can consider customizing it so that it fits in with your brand and looks somewhat different on your site.

Fear not, this post will show you how!


How to Customize Free Stock Photos

I’ve taken 1 free stock image and I’ve customised it in 5 different ways using my all-time favourite design software, Picmonkey.com.

Seriously, I have all sorts of heart eyes for Picmonkey.

It’s one of the few things I invest in for my blog, but it pays for itself several times over as far as I’m concerned. I use it for all my blog design work – blog graphics, editing photos, creating social media templates, opt ins and much more. I pay for it annually, which means I save 25% on the monthly cost ($5.99 per month vs. $7.99).

It’s well worth trying out for yourself – sign up for a 7 day free trial here.

Back to our stock photos…

I’ve taken this pretty flatlay image from Unsplash and created 5 tutorials in Picmonkey. The longer tutorials are in separate blog posts for ease which I’ve linked to below.

I’ve done a Tineye search and this image is found on 45 other websites – some more relevant than others. While it’s not a crazily overused image, I’d still want to make sure that it looks unique on my blog.

So let’s get customizing…

1. Add a Text Overlay or Border

One of the easiest ways to modify a free image is to add an overlay and some text.

Head to the full tutorial on how to add a text overlay to images to find out how to do this with Picmonkey.

2. Crop a Vertical Shot from a Horizontal Image (or vice versa!)

A great way of really making an image your own is to crop it down to highlight specific details.

In this example, I’ve cropped the photo down to the lefthand side, creating a nice space for me to add some text.

TIP: It’s important that you download the largest size available from the stock photo site so that the photo will still be big enough once you’ve cropped it down!

Use Picmonkey to crop photos down to a size that are ready to be uploaded straight onto your blog. Here’s a quick video showing you how (or scroll down for screenshot instructions!)…

1. Open the ‘Crop’ menu

Head to the ‘Basic Edits’ menu in the left-hand menu (circled). ‘Crop’ is the top option.

2. Enter the dimensions you want to crop to

I’ve opted for 800 pixels x 1200 pixels and entered this in the ‘Actual size’ boxes.

The key is to check the ‘Scale photo’ box – that way you can resize the crop box and it will automatically maintain the aspect ratio set.

I’ve resized and positioned the crop box over the area I want to highlight, then pressed ‘Apply’.

Voila, a lovely cropped image, perfectly sized for my blog!


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3. Create a Detail Vignette or Shape Cutout

Creating a ‘vignette’ of a nice detail is another good way of using just one element of a stock photo to suit your brand message.

Being able to cute a shape out of a photo onto a transparent background is one of my favourite Picmonkey features – I used Picmonkey to create all the shape ‘vignettes’ on my About and Homepages:
Head to my post on how to create image shape cutouts using free stock photos to see how easy it is!

4.  Make it Black & White (or Add a Filter)

Why not change the ‘mood’ of the photo to suit your blog?

Picmonkey has a zillion (well maybe not quite that many, but lots!) of filters that you can choose to make an image look more unique for your site.

Here’s how on Picmonkey:

Head to the ‘Effects’ section on the lefthand menu. Scroll down and choose black and white.  

Simple as that!

Why not spend some time in the ‘Effects’ section and see if any other filters take your fancy?

5. Use Consistent Branding

Adding details to tie in your blog brand is a great way to make stock photos work for your blog and social media.

The featured image at the top of the page is an example of how I do this for Blog On The Side – I use overlays, text and a colour pop triangle for a cohesive look.

Another good example:

Take a look at the Pinterest account for Meera Kothand. I really like how she mixes stock images with colour block text boxes. Plus the cohesive colours really help her brand identity to shine through.


I hope you can see how easy it is to customize free stock photos for your blog.

If you haven’t already started using Picmonkey, then I hope this gives you a push to give it a go (trial it free for 7 days!).

I’d love to see what you’ve created – hit me up in the comments below with your blog url so I can go and have a look!

Need some help finding images for your new blog? Grab my


This 20+ page Ebook points you to dozens of free stock images for your blog niche so you don’t have to spend hours searching!