Using better stock images for blogs

Estimated read time: 10 minutes



Using images that add to the story can make our blog posts look better and may even make them more consumable. Images after all break things up. And keep in mind that sometimes, when it makes sense, it’s okay to publish written content without an image – especially when that image was going to be lame.

It also comes back to Return on Effort (ROE). Looking for an image for three hours – did that pay off? And especially if the image was bad.

Also, consider what stock images your competitors are using. Audio expert Jodi Krangle and guest discussed on her podcast how competitors were all using the same stock audio clip. That doesn’t look sound good to the market.

Valerie Dennis Craven, an experienced content strategist and account director, reminded me a few years ago  that if you must use a stock image, make an effort to not make it look like a stock image. If that isn’t the truth!

But there are options when it comes to better stock imagery on blogs. Let’s have a look.

Use stock art as a design base

I’ve seen teams use stock as a base for a new design. Be aware of licensing. This seems like a smart idea to me, though I can’t tell you if it’s easier for designers to do this or just start from scratch. It’s certainly easier for me, but I’m also not a designer.

I like to use Canva for this and create most of my cover art this way. Here’s a look at the most recent blog cover images:

Livestream viewers

Basically, I find images that might work, add some text and other elements that have something to do with the story. It’s certainly using stock art images, but usually it doesn’t feel too stock arty to me.

Read next: How original photos can help you rank higher in Google Image Search 



Stock art sites like Shutterstock

That site has been around forever – it seems – and I was impressed how many options are now available. Here’s an example for “natural disaster.”

Overall, it seems Shutterstock has come a long way and it’s worth evaluating for your needs. Just maybe don’t always get the image showing on the top of searches, as others might be doing the same.

Getty Images

Getty Images has a ton of original and awesome photography. Especially helpful during breaking news events if you cover that kind of thing.

Do I need to be spending that kind of money for an image though? It depends. How much did you pay for the article? On here, it’s just me so the cost is low. I would be hard pressed to spend. Some companies pay a couple grand for an article. Then they spend even more for paid promotions. Adding a good image doesn’t seem to be unreasonable.

Related: How a promotions strategy is different from a distribution strategy

Use templates

My livestream and podcast cover arts are just templates. They are the same for every episode, but I swap out the picture of the guest. Here’s how that looks:

If I file a blog posts that is just about that episode, I will also use that as the blog cover image. Easy breezy.

Stock images for blogs

There’s a place for stock images in blog posts and they do add something to the visual appeal. Just make sure they show the uniqueness of your brand and help move closer to your content goals.

Audio extra

Here’s a audio podcast that I recorded on the topic. You can also read the transcript.

I routinely see people use stock photography in their unique and interesting blog posts. Anyone with a few dollars to spend can buy these photos – even the ones you just used. That doesn’t sound extremely unique to me.

I have even seen the same photos being used by competing brands. Of course, I have no idea if either brand was aware.

This podcast discusses the importance of taking unique photos for our blog posts to engage readers on a different level and advance the story. Unique photos can round out an already engaging and relevant read.

Christoph Trappe here with The Authentic Storytelling Project. Today, I want to talk about the importance of photos in our blog posts. Now, obviously, people look at images, right. You know the saying, a picture is worth a thousand words.

So photos are important in our blog posts, but we can’t just pick any kind of photo. We shouldn’t probably just go and buy a stock art photo that’s already been used on who knows how many other blogs. The best photos are the ones that have something to do with the story that we’re sharing that are authentic and that are unique. Now, sometimes people say, “Well, that takes a lot of time.” How do I get a photo for this? Now, I have to write the post. Then, I have to get a photo. Then, I have to do something else. Then, I have to do this, et cetera, et cetera.

We’re just adding steps to the content creation and gathering process, but think about it this way. Adding authentic, unique and relevant photos really adds to the story. It makes you stand out and you can use them in different channels. Of course too, you can use them with a blog post, some social media, maybe get on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter. You can use them in all those places.

So, how do you get to getting a good photo. The best and easiest way to do it in my opinion is to think about the photo while you’re writing and sometimes as you’re reporting the story that you are writing. Now, if it’s a first person story, obviously, you don’t really go out and interview people or something like that or if it’s from your own experience, but as you’re thinking about a topic, think about the photo. So, for example, I walk my six years old who used to have a tech blogs. I walk her to school, right. So, if I were to do a blog post about her walking to school, I would take some kind of photo that shows us walking to school. Now, if I don’t want to show her face, I could take a picture of our feet. I could take a picture of her down the way, a little way and just show her from behind. So, you really can’t tell who it is. I can show a picture of her school if I didn’t mind showing where her school is or what the name of the school is, but there all kinds of different ways. I’ll give you another example.

On my previous fitness blog, I did a blog post where I talked about Exercise Tips for the Traveling Gym Rat, and that is not really that difficult to get a photo, right. If you work out in the gym at the hotel. Take a picture of the gym. I mentioned that I take the steps, instead of the elevator. I took a picture of the steps shooting up the stairway. So, there are all kinds of different ways to illustrate the story that we are trying to share.

Another tool, that might come in handy is Adobe Voice. Now, I’m recording this podcast on the Mobile Podcaster App for WordPress, but a new app is available for the iPad is Adobe Voice and on there, you can tell a story, just like I’m doing it on here that you hold the iPad in front of your mouth and you just talk.

Now, Adobe Voice is a little more structured. Here, I just talk and when I’m done saying everything that come to mind, I’m done. Adobe Voice actually gives you an outline for specific topics, and then you talk for a few seconds, and then you push stop, and then you offer another thought. Stop recording, another thought, et cetera, et cetera and so forth. So, then you go back and you actually add photos to the specific thoughts. So, every few seconds, there should be a new photo. What I have found and I have done video production, which is a very similar concept for a number of years now. I have found it’s a very good tool to think about the visuals for your story in a very structured way.

When you look at some of the Adobe Voice podcasts that I have done, it’s hard. It’s hard to do. Depending on the topic, getting pictures takes time, but they are important. They make our stories better. They make them more visual. People can look at the photo. Sometimes, it is as simple as taking a photo of something that’s right there. So, for example, I did an Adobe Voice podcast about how I used to used to cook eggs on the stove, right. So, I took a picture of a pod on the stove. Now, that picture is not going to win me any award. It’s not anything special, but it still kind of gets the point across. If I wanted it to be a little more artsy, I could add a filter, something like that to make it look a little different.

The point is how do we make it unique? Even a photo like that is better, it’s more unique to me, more relevant and it still kind of tell us a story than a photo I would buy for $5 or whatever the cost is on a stock photo site. So, something to keep in mind. As you’re advancing, your storytelling career, your storytelling site, how do you get unique photos?

Behind the scenes photos work great. I give you an example, I recorded an Internet Marketing Association webinar here in early 2014 and as I was recording and I didn’t take a photo of this. So, here’s a good example that we have to think about these things. I was recording it and the person I was recording with, he was out on the West Coast. I’m in Iowa and I put the slides on the top of my fridge. I was in the kitchen, top of the fridge, I had my phone in my hand. I was on the phone, phone in front of my mouth. Talking to it like a microphone and I was advancing these slides on the top of my fridge. So, think standing desk, but the fridge. Good, It would’ve been a good photo to show how the podcast was produced, right. Just, it would’ve been kind of nice. It would of made me look human. It would’ve made me look, look, this is how we do it. I got a kitchen like many others and this is how I did it. Just put it on top of the fridge, wasn’t an official studio. In fact, most Podcast, you don’t need a studio for anymore. You can just use your iPhone and it works just fine, but it’s a behind the scenes photo I didn’t take. I wish I would have, could have asked my wife. Say, “Hey, could you just take a quick photo of what I’m doing? I want to post this to promote the podcast or talk about how you can record podcast, not podcast, webinars.” Just about anywhere, nowadays, I probably will do a podcast, a webinar at one point here while I’m traveling. So, I can probably take a photo of me sitting on that patio or something, somewhere in a warmy, warm climate and still show something behind the scenes.

So, that’s nothing to think about behind the scenes. What illustrates the story. If it’s a story you actually sharing that happened, remembered to take a photo while it happened. I remembered when I was participating in a Fresh Produce Drive. We took pictures of all the fresh produce and how people were carrying around. So, easy enough with our phones. Phones do a nice job. They’re good storytelling tool and they will help us share authentic stories.

Let’s use the tools we have.