Once the purview of teenagers with emotional issues, blogging has long since shed its negative connotations and, most marketing experts agree, is an essential element to any brand who’s looking to further their online presence. Even if you’re a sole proprietor or a small business, you need a blog. A blog can help prospective clients find you, it can improve your search results, it can be a place to highlight your work (or the work of others who you admire), and it can give the world a glimpse into who you are and what you do. But just slapping words onto a website doesn’t really achieve all of that; for your blog to be a success, you also need images.
“Visuals are a must,” says creative business consultant April Bowles-Olin, “high-quality images are expected. They reflect your brand.”
Blurry, low-resolution, poorly-cropped, or other problematic photos give potential clients a less-than-desirable first impression, says April.
“People see pieces that are unprofessional, and they wonder what else is unprofessional.”
But if you, yourself, are not a photographer, that can be tricky, because just nabbing photos off Google’s image search functionality is not only illegal, it’s also not a very nice thing to do to fellow creatives. You need to ensure that you’re using images that are fair use, or that photographers have given permission for you to use. So how do you get photos for your blog?
You have a few options, says April. You can hire someone specifically to take photos for you, which can be expensive but ensures that you get the look you want. This is a good option if you have a product you’re selling, or if you need professional-looking headshots or other photos of you.
Stock photos are another option, but they tend to look extremely, well, stock.
“They can be a decent option, especially if you’re pressed for time,” says April, “however, it doesn’t usually match your branding. And some of them feel very stiff.”
A better option, says April, is to search through sites which offer free, high-quality images that photographers have agreed to let people use in exchange for an image credit.
“Death to Stock Photo is the only stock photography option that I’ve ever really loved, and it’s free,” April says. Other great websites that provide beautiful, artistic, free photos for bloggers to use include Little Visuals, Unsplash, and Gratisography. These websites offer pretty options for bloggers that are useful and less static than stock photos, and are free to use as long as you credit the source.
Another way to find photos for your blog is to search Creative Commons. Creative Commons is a way that photographers allow their photos to be used, but, again, you need to credit them. You can search through Google or Flickr for the kind of photo you want, and, if you use the Creative Commons search, you’ll only get images that are certified for commercial use. It takes a little more time and effort than stock photos, and it can definitely be harder to find images that are on-brand, but going this route offers a lot more options.
Of course, the best option really is taking your own photos, says April — which really isn’t that hard, even if you’re just shooting with your cell phone. The iPhone is one of the most-used cameras in the world at this point, and comes with a pretty impressive ability to take clear, beautiful images that are right in line with your brand.
To learn how to take your own photos for your block, check out April’s class, Build a Successful Creative Blog.