A colleague of mine coined the word “iStockian” to describe stock images that were so ridiculous and cheesy, they came back around to being good again.
The PR people of Vince Vaughn’s new movie clearly had iStockian imagery in mind when they released these amazing Photoshopped stock-style images of Vince Vaughn, Dave Franco and Tom Wilkinson to promote Unfinished Business.
But these images bring up a good point: Where in the world do you find decent imagery that doesn’t look like it was staged in a parallel universe of cliches?
I’ve developed the list of tools below to help you find and create images with personality and avoid those stiff and sterile stock images — plus I’ve included examples of where we used the tool in a blog post ourselves.
I know this one seems obvious, but too many people don’t see their own photos as an option.
However, in order for your photos to do you any favors, you need a solid camera — the latest smartphone technology totally counts. If you use Instagram, all the better, because those filters and edit tools are a great way to correct and spice up your imagery quickly.
Just make sure the image looks as good large in your blog post as it did smaller on your phone. The size of Instagram photos on your phone has been known to conceal blurriness that’s obvious when it’s a larger size.
Example: Are Selfies Good for Small Business?
Most social platforms give you the ability to embed social posts. This is especially helpful if you’d like to use someone else’s social content in your post. This way, you’re giving them credit, and the embedded post automatically links back to their original content.
It’s a good way to use celebrity photos without having to shell out the big bucks for a current stock photo of them.
Screenshots are especially useful if you want to reference something you see online. You can take a screenshot of it, so readers can see it in the same context you do. It’s especially helpful if you write how-to instruction pieces, like we often do here.
We’re accustomed to going to Wikipedia for information, but it’s a great source for imagery too. Click on any image on a Wikipedia post, and you’ll find detailed information on the photo, including permissions and licensing.
You can go to Wikimedia Commons to straight-up search for images.
Because Wikipedia is a free service, many of the images (but not all) that appear on their site are also free and open to public use.
Building your own infographics is a time-consuming process that requires skill. Thankfully, others out there have that skill and like to share their infographics! Many infographics have an embed code that enables you to place their infographic in your blog post.
Visually, in particular, is a treasure trove of infographics that they want you to use on your site!
While infographics may be time-consuming, text graphics, where you overlay some text over an image, are not. It can be as simple as copy and pasting the title of your blog post over a photo or even a plain background.
Example: Outsource Your Marketing Like a Boss
The great thing about really old photos — think before 1923 — is that they’re typically in the public domain, so they can be used free of charge. Older imagery tends to grab readers’ attention as well because it’s different than the typical imagery we see day to day.
New Old Stock, National Archives and the Library of Congress Prints and Photos Online Catalog specialize in old imagery, but double-check to make what you use is in the public domain.
No example for this one because we haven’t yet used these tools yet, but Lessons to Learn From Vintage Small Business Signs does make use of vintage imagery!
Just to be clear: The point of this post isn’t that you should always avoid stock imagery. It’s that you should avoid lame stock imagery. The great thing about stock houses is that they have so many images. It’s easier to find what you’re looking for.
Example: Why, this post you’re reading! These Vince Vaughn and Dave Franco images are even free of charge as part of the Unfinished Business movie promotion.