Stock Images are a great way to liven up your online material. However, to many people they’re synonymous with cheesy and inauthentic photos…
…well maybe except this one.
A good stock image has the power to significantly improve the aesthetic appeal (and conversion rate) of your content. It can reinforce a message, help form a connection with users or even just add a bit of excitement to what is normally a bland or text-heavy page.
The power of a high quality image is something we can all agree on, after all they do say that a picture is worth 1000 words. Something else we can all agree on is that we don’t want to have to break the bank in order to get access to these pictures (which has been the case for many years cough iStockPhoto cough).
Well, we’ve got good news right here in this post. Over the last few years a large range of sites have popped up that provide free stock images for commercial use, and we’ve put together a guide that will help you find the one that’s right for you.
Plus some growth tips on putting the pictures you find to good use, so lets jump in!
If you’re looking for a large selection of high quality free stock images then Pexels may be the place for you. The site is laid out beautifully and boasts thousands of gloriously high definition photos for you to download in a size of your choice. Pexels makes finding the photos you want a breeze, as you can search for photos by keyword, or you can browse through galleries of photos organised by category, photographer, and even colour (which is a great way to find photos matching the tone of your page).
All photos on Pexels are licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) Licence, so any photo you find can be used personally or commercially for any legal purpose without any attribution required.
Pexels also offer a range of free stock videos which gives their service an extra edge.
Burst is a terrific stock image service which has just erupted onto the scene. The site was developed by Shopify with entrepreneurs and bloggers in mind. It offers a wealth of artsitic high-definition photos that cover a broad range of subject matter.
Like Pexels, all of their photos are licensed under a CC0 licence, so you can essentially use them for any purpose. Although attribution isn’t required when you use photos from Burst, they do provide the details of the photographer behind each image, so if you wish to credit your images (or check out more photos from the same photographer) the option is there.
For more stock image options you can check out Picjumbo. This site offers an enormous gallery of high definition stock photos for free and with no attribution requirements. The only thing you can’t use these pictures for is redistribution, meaning you can’t resell or reshare their images. This is because Picjumbo is an ad-funded website, so their success is contingent on their images being downloaded from their website.
As long as you follow this simple rule you have access to outstanding photos covering a wide range of topics for business or personal use. A strong point of Picjumbo is the abundance of tantalising food pictures they provide, so if you’re looking for food imagery then this site may be ideal for you.
Another highlight of Picjumbo is the information they provide about their photos, which includes the width of the image, the focal length, the shutter speed, and other technical specifications.
Unsplash’s photos are high in quality, and quantity. You’ll be able to find high-resolution images covering an array of topics and themes, but Unsplash’s speciality is their nature photos. You can find a huge selection of stunning, high-definition landscape photographs on Unsplash, so if that’s an area that peaks your interest then this may well be the stock image source you’re looking for.
Another massive database of photos that you can use free of cost and attribution comes from StockSnap. On StockSnap you’ll find photos of anything from natural landscapes to food and people and just about everything in between. StockSnap helps you navigate the array of photos using search tools and galleries devoted to popular searches and trending photos.
A useful feature of StockSnap is the prominent way they display the dimensions, file size, and photographer of every image. This lets you find an image with the perfect specs and allows you to easily take a look at more pictures from a photographer you may like.
Pixabay houses close to a million free to use CC0 licensed images, as well as a selection of videos. The photos you’ll find on Pixabay are all exceptionally high in quality and can be categorised in numerous ways. You can browse photos by topic, photographer, colour, or popularity (which will unsurprisingly expose you to more than a few cat photos).
The site also prominently features a search tool which will help you find the perfect photo. However, when you search for a photo, the first row of options will be sponsored images from Shutterstock. These images are often more relevant to your search than the free photos available, but they require payment for use. This can be a little bit irritating, but if you don’t mind moving past the sponsored pictures you’ll be rewarded with one of the largest free selections of stock images out there.
Another smaller offering of no-cost, high-definition, attribution free photos comes from Gratisography. The site doesn’t feature a search function, but it does have a sleek design and a quality selection of unique and quirky photos.
The quirky nature of Gratisography’s photos means it probably isn’t the best option for a primary source of stock images, but if you’re looking to add a bit of whimsy and humour to a webpage then Gratisography is well worth a look.
Between these websites you should be able to find just about any photo you need, free of charge and with a licence that will allow you to use it for commercial or personal use, but if you want to avoid the hassle of jumping back and forward between all these sites then you may want to check out…
The Stocks is a website that allows you to search through free stock images from a wide range of sites including Pexels, Unsplash, Pixabay, Magdeleine and Gratisography.
The Stocks essentially houses each website’s interface within its website, so all of the features offered by individual stock image sites are readily available through The Stocks.
This website is a fantastic tool if you find yourself constantly jumping between stock image websites to find the perfect photo, and to make things even better, The Stocks also provides a similar service for fonts, colours, icons, videos and mockups.
So now you know where to find the best stock images, but you may not be entirely aware of how you should use them. Well, once again, we’ve got you covered with these 7 tips on what you should do with your stock photos to improve the way you engage with your audience.
Using Stock Images to Drive Growth
1. Use Emotional Images in Targeted Ads
We’ve found that our ads perform better when we include some emotional stock imagery that allows users to visualise the outcome of the message.
In the case below, we’re making users feel that growing your business gives you more downtime to enjoy yourself in the great outdoors. It’s a very subtle but important connection.
This is one of the most engaging (based on Facebook metrics) ads we’ve ever pushed out.
2. Create Beautiful Opt-in Forms
Do you Capture emails on your website? Then you want to make the form look as professional as possible.
The we discussed in the last point still works in this context by drawing users attention to your form.
Check out the form above, this one converts at a whopping 8% for us and took less than 5 minutes to setup.
3. Create Feature Images For Blog Posts
Have you ever read a blog post that’s just text and no images? It looks stale and boring. The best way to avoid this is to add a stunning Feature image to the top of your post (WordPress itself actually has a feature image option built into every post).
Topping your page with a simply text title is fine, but if you can combine your page’s heading with an eye-catching photo then you will be able to instantly engage your audience and make your entire webpage seem more well-thought-out and reputable. Making a title image can be as simple as using a program like Canva or Snappa, both of which have loads of pre-built templates you can use.
These images work particularly well on blogs. This is because they jump out at people scrolling through your posts, and if your image properly encapsulates the essence of your post then you’ll catch a users attention, prompting them to read more than 1 of your posts.
4. Illustrate a Point
A feature image will get your page off to a great start, but in order to fully utilize the power of stock images you’ll need to use them throughout the entirety of your content. One great way to use stock images is to help illustrate a point.
A lot of people respond to visuals better than words, so it’s a smart idea to give your writing some visual support. Sometimes this will require a photo taken specifically for a unique purpose, but in many cases a stock image will do the trick.
If you’re writing about healthy eating then you can use a stock photo of a tantalising healthy meal.
Or if you’re discussing the great outdoors you can add a wanderlust inducing stock photos of a stunning landscape.
You can find stock images of just about anything on the sites we’ve discussed, so whatever it is you’re writing about you should be able to find an image to reinforce just about any point you may make.
5. Drive More Social Share Clicks
A stock image of a laughing group of friends can make your reader feel comfortable, a picture of a parent and their child can invoke feelings of paternal love, and a well shot photo of somebody looking sad can prompt sympathetic feelings of sadness.
This is why you need to ensure that when users share your content the end result promotes the page in a way that’s deserving of the content itself.
Take this post below that we promote regularly, not only does it perform well on Facebook but when shared it averages a high number of clickthroughs and engagement on Twitter also.
6. Make Your Case Studies Rock
Most case studies are boring, when is the last time you read a good one?
Stock images are an incredible way to add context and emotion to a case study when users are reading it. We do this by adding ~5 growth tips that the users can take away for their own business.
So if you ever find yourself with a case study that is too text-heavy, just find a stock photo from one of the sources we’ve given you and add it in. As long as the image is relevant and engaging it doesn’t need to have a profound impact on the reader. Sometimes giving readers something interesting to look at between paragraphs is enough to significantly boost their engagement.
7. Improve Your Landing Pages
We’ve seen great conversion improvements on landing pages when we use stock images as a background cover in the header. You can do this by adding:
To the image container div.
8. Add Sub-Headers to Break up Blog Posts
If you’re writing a particularly long piece of content then you might have more than 1 theme. You can use feature images in each sub-heading to help give some context to that section.
The image above is from our creating a YouTube contest post in which we have a section that gives users ideas on how to set goals for the campaigns.
Just keep in mind that while each of the websites we discussed are fantastic in their own right, some of them will be a better fit for you than others. So take a look around each site, see what works for you, and get to work finding all the photos you need to take your content game to the next level 😎
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