Looking for an Alternative to Boring, Overused Stock Photos?
To say a picture is worth a thousand words is so cliche it was hard to even type the sentence. But cliches are overused for a reason: they ring true. No one can deny the impact of a well chosen image. In a matter of seconds, a picture can evoke emotion, tell a story and ignite the imagination.
Not only can your website photos set the tone and direct the aesthetic of your brand, pictures are a fantastic way to highlight your product in action or show the benefits a client reaps from your service. So, where do you find fresh, engaging images for your website?
There are a ton of stock photo sites out there, and finding free images is pretty easy. Finding free images that are unique and compelling? Not so easy. If you’re looking for the perfect (free) picture to capture the essence of your brand on your website, here are 5 places to start.
Unsplash boasts “over 200,000 free (do whatever you want) high-resolution photos brought to you by the world’s most generous community of photographers.” They’re well organized, easily searchable and the site is updated daily so there’s plenty of fresh content to choose. They give their photographers - over 41,872 of ‘em - props. Not only do they include links to the photographer’s social media accounts, but they’ve created The Unsplash Awards to celebrate the artists who donate their work. Maybe that’s why they have so many unusual, stunning pictures. A few things that make them as unique as their images? You can created your own library by saving photographs you like in a collections tab, and they have curated content from influencers and businesses like Spotify and Kickstarter.
Visualhunt.com is a solid, go-to source for high quality images. You can browse popular categories or use their search bar to field more specific queries. Most of their photos are Creative Commons or CC0, meaning the owner of the image has waived all rights to the work. Anyone can copy, modify, and distribute the photos without seeking permission first. So browse away, and feel free to use a CC0 however you choose. Crop it, flip it, manipulate it anyway you want. Have you ever played with apps that turn photos into paintings? With Creative Commons photos, you can truly make any image your own.
The British Library
Will vintage ever go out of fashion? Probably not. One good thing about older art is that copyrights have a shelf life. The British Library has released over a million antique images that are free for public use. The vibe of these certainly won’t work for everyone. If your site has a minimalist, modern design, you should probably just skip this one all together. But if your brand is inline with old comics, children’s book illustrations or formal lettering, check out what’s available.
Why yes, that is a Chicken Bike.
This is the place to look for inspiration and outside-the-box concepts. Unlike other photo libraries, all of these were shot by the same artist. Ryan McGuire, a creative visual artist from Iowa has released this collection of whimsical, quirky images free of copyright restrictions. These are the photos you probably didn’t even know you needed. Like the Chicken Bike featured here. Now, I’m not saying this whole blog was written to have an excuse to use a picture of a Chicken Bike, but c’mon. Chicken Bike!
You won’t find your standard stock photo of a smiling customer service agent on Gratisography. And even if you did, would you really want to use that? Or do you think a thought provoking, conversation starting, slightly weird image like, say, a Chicken Bike, creates more engagement? (Okay, okay. We’ll stop with the Chicken Bike thing.) But seriously, remember that people can spot an overused stock photo a mile away. With its fresh take on visual storytelling, Gratisography is great site for brainstorming ideas.
No, that’s not a hot, new website so fresh you just haven’t heard of it yet. It’s a reminder to consider what materials you might already have at your fingertips. Sometimes we ignore what’s literally right in front of us. Peruse your iphoto library, break out the old family albums and look at your artwork with new eyes. As long as you can get a good resolution on your pictures, anything is fair game. Do you know how many album covers were launched by an almost discarded photo? The now famous image of The Clash bassist Paul Simonon smashing his Fender on the cover of London Calling almost got thrown out because the photographer thought it was too blurry. Aren’t we all glad she changed her mind?
Point, Click, Post
Now that you have some leads on where to find free, quality images, the tough - but really fun - part is to narrow down your choices. If you’ve done your homework and cemented the vision and concept of your design, it should be pretty easy to spot the photos that best convey the message of your company. There are too many cool, original pictures out there to settle for recycling boring, tired stock photos. Make sure your images speak to your audience and align with your brand, but have some fun with them. Remember, don’t be afraid to think outside the box a little.
Like a Chicken Bike.
Sorry. (not really.)