If you don’t have the budget for bespoke blog imagery (or don’t have the talent or time for photography!) then royalty free stock photos for blogging are a great option.
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But… the Problem With Using Free Stock Photos for Blogging?
You most definitely won’t be the only one using them!
We’ve all seen those stock images that seem to follow you around the web.
Like the business man running with a suitcase. Or the blogger working in bed with a coffee and a laptop (we bloggers love to laze around with laptops in bed, right?!)
It’s never a good thing when you go to a website and your first thought is ‘Oh, I recognise that photo‘
The good news is that it’s totally possible to use free stock photos and still have a unique blog that’s on brand.
The bad news?
In my view, there are 5 main mistakes people make when using free stock photos for blogging.
Read on to see if you’re guilty of these and, more importantly, what you can do to fix them!
Mistake #1 – Not checking the license for the photo you’re using
Let’s get legal for a second.
It is CRUCIAL that you always check the license for the free photos you’re using. You need to check for 2 things – usage restrictions and attribution.
In terms of usage, you’ll want to check that commercial use is allowable.
It’s also worth bearing in mind here that many free stock photo sites will have restrictions about using free stock photos that depict people in a way which would be deemed “unsavoury”.
In terms of attribution, you need to check if you’re required to provide attribution to the photographer – i.e. do you need to quote the source of the photo on your blog?
Every free stock photo site differs in where this information is shown.
Mistake #2 – Using only one or two sites to find free stock photos for blogging
But, there are sooooo many other sources of royalty free images that you can hit up for your blog. Yes, many of them will vary in quality but you can dig deep to find some real gems.
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Mistake #3 – Not being creative with the types of free stock images you use
This blog is about, well, blogging.
The photos I use, however, have absolutely nothing to do with online biz (cocktail anyone?), but they work for my brand where I largely write for women and I don’t take myself too seriously.
Plus, I do really like cocktails (mine’s a mojito, cheers).
You don’t always have to be super ‘literal’ with the images you use for your blog posts.
Not every article about time management needs a photo with a cheesy watch or a clock.
It’s incredibly freeing to realise that you can cast your net pretty wide when it comes to image subjects.
This also ensures that your blog is instantly more unique than the thousands of others in your niche that are all using very similar photo types.
An example of someone who does this well is Michelle Knight at BrandMerry.
Her blog images are primarily photos of plants and flowers overlaid with text for a cohesive look. Her blog looks unique and it’s very clear that her business is brand coaching.
Mistake #4 – Not being consistent with the photos you use
Before I’d even written my first blog post I’d found over 80 free stock photos which fit my brand identity.
My tip is to download as many free stock photos as you think are broadly suitable for your blog.
Then, open up your downloads folder and look at all the images together.
You can instantly see which pictures work as part of your brand ideal and which really don’t. Only the best ones make the cut!
You’re far more likely to end up with blog imagery that looks consistent if you avoid the trap of finding free photos one by one over time.
Mistake #5 – Not modifying free stock photos to suit your blog aesthetic & brand
In order to stand out from the crowd, especially if you’re blogging in a popular niche, I’d strongly suggest that you personalise the free stock photos you choose for your blog.
You can create something unique by altering stock images, allowing them to speak better for your brand.
Taking Michelle Knight’s blog as an example again, not only has she chosen blog imagery which is unique to her site, she’s also stamped her blog aesthetic and brand all over the photos.
They’re all varying hues of green and brown and the overlay and text used is extremely consistent. This makes them instantly recognisable and her blog page is very pleasing to the eye.
And finally let’s take a look at byRegina.com.
She uses free stock images, but boy does she do an amazing job at making them look uniquely hers.
I’m loving how she uses text in this blog graphic (plus, have a look at the photo on her site itself – the text blinks! I have absolutely no idea how that works but it looks awesome!)
Wondering how you can pull this off on your blog?
There’s no reason at all why you can’t use popular free stock photos and just modify them so that they look like they’ve been made for your brand.
Pop on over to my post on How to Customize Free Stock Photos for your Blog to see how I took one free stock photo and made 5 unique images (all using easy peasy design software, Picmonkey.com)
So there you have it. You’d be mad not to consider free stock photos for blogging – particularly when you’re on a budget.
BUT it definitely pays to spend a little extra time to find the perfect (and legal!) images and to modify them to suit your brand.
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