How I Choose Stock Photos
Choosing the perfect photo for a blog post is harder than it looks.
One of the most important rules of blogging is to always include at least one picture in each post. Photos help flush out a story, draw a reader’s attention, and make it easier to share the posts on social media sites.
Some writers take their own photos or even draw illustrations, but most of us just use stock photos. It’s far easier and still extremely effective. These days, there are even plenty of free stock photo sites, such as Unsplash.
When I first started blogging a couple of years back, I was completely confused by stock photos. I ended up spending longer searching for the perfect photo than I did actually writing. Fortunately, these days I have a much easier time. Here are a few factors that I consider when choosing a photo:
It Doesn’t Have to be Literal
One of the reasons that finding a stock photo used to be so hard for me is that I always tried to find a literal representation of what I had written about. If it was an article about running on trails, I’d look for someone running on trails. If it was an article about depression, I’d look for a picture of someone crying.
Although it’s typically helpful for your photo to be related to the article, it doesn’t have to be such a direct illustration. It’s okay if it’s tangentially related, or even simply evokes a specific feeling. Plenty of great bloggers rely on photos of landscapes and flowers. I prefer to include people most of the time, because I think it makes the photo easier to connect with.
Avoid the Overused
Stock photos, especially free ones, often get used way too often. There are a few specific photos that I feel like I’ve seen a thousand times. I try to avoid using any photos that I already recognize.
Of course, I’m not perfect. Sometimes I can’t find anything fresh, and other times I may simply forget that I’ve already seen a picture. I even caught myself once reusing a photo that I had used a couple of years earlier.
Even so, I try my best to search for photos that people haven’t seen hundreds of times before. These will do a far better job catching attention.
Another consideration is whether the photos I use are reflecting the diversity of the world we live in. It’s easy to get caught in the trap of always using photos of people that look like yourself.
When choosing photos, I try to mix things up each time. I include men and women, and people of different races, body types, and ages. The photos end up being more interesting this way, and I want all of my readers to see images they connect with.
Finding Photos I Like
My final criteria is simply whether I like a photo or not. I don’t know much about photography or design, but I know my taste. If a photo jumps out at me, I trust my gut.
Photos are an essential part of blogging, but they don’t need to be an agonizing decision. I try to think of it as nothing more than a fun way to top off a post.