Theory and Best Practices

How to Pick the Perfect Stock Photo

The best image to go with your post is one taken or created specifically for it. But a lot of small businesses and individuals don’t have the time, skills, or resources to create (or pay someone to create) an image specifically for every post. Luckily, the second best image to go with your post is a well-chosen stock photo.

Woman in a plaid shirt and denim jacket holding a professional camera

Stock photos are so generic, though – how do you choose a good one? You’ll need a little bit of creativity, a little bit of instinct, and a lot of willingness to sort through stock photo sites!

Consider your tone and subject

The tone and subject of your post will affect what kind of image will go best with it. Is it serious, no-nonsense, or covering a heavy subject? Choose an image that’s down-to-earth and practical and that uses darker colors. Is it light, upbeat, or covering something fun or happy? Go wild on the bold colors or abstract elements.

Be relevant …

Your image should relate to your post in some way. A picture of someone walking their dog probably wouldn’t fit in a post about airplane technology, and a picture of an airplane probably wouldn’t go with a post about a dog-walking service. The image should enhance the post, not make people wonder how it relates.

… But get creative

That’s not to say your only image choice is one that completely matches the topic of your post. Something that’s related but not necessarily your topic can also work. For example, if you’re writing a post about a routine to put you in control of your email inbox, you could use an image of a person at the controls of an airplane to emphasize the “in control” aspect of your post. Or you can use an image that illustrates a story you told in the post.

Use people

People prefer to look at images of other people. If your post’s subject can be illustrated by an image with a person in it, try to choose one with a person!

Get an idea before you search

You can lose hours looking through all the photos on a stock photo site. To cut down on the time you spend searching and browsing, try to get an idea of what you want the subject to be before you start looking. Plus, knowing what subject you want your image to have lets you search and find relevant ones a lot easier.

Go with your gut

It may take some searching through several stock photo sites, or you may find the perfect image on page one of the first site you go to. But in general, you’ll know the right image for your post when  you see it, so try not to overthink it.

Make sure you can legally use the image

Few things are worse than finding the perfect image and then getting sued for copyright infringement. Make sure you can legally use the image before you add it to your post!

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