Have you seen some new bloggers take off like a rocket while some bloggers have been at it for years and can’t seem to get any traction? It can be due to many factors like niche, timing, content etc., but the one thing that can set bloggers apart from their competition and attract oodles of readers/clients is a visually appealing blog and consistent brand experience across all social media platforms. If you are trying to create a brand for your blog using free stock photos, I’ve got a few simple tips and tricks that will make the images you use get noticed, look customized and get shared on social media.
In my previous post, 25+ Amazing Sites For Beautiful, High Resolution Free Stock Photos, I shared my favourite places to find great images for your blog. These sites are great resources for those of us that don’t have time to add “expert photographer” to our never-ending list of blogging duties. But with a growing number of bloggers tapping these sites for images, it isn’t unusual to come across other blogs using the exact same images in their posts and on their pins. And that can really suck.
There are a few things that you can do to try and avoid that duplication when initially choosing your photos:
- Dig Deep-Try not to choose photos that appear at the beginning of an image word search. Scroll through a few pages and pick something further down. The most downloaded images always appear at the front.
- Choose Older Photos-If the site does not have a search feature and lists their photos with the most recent appearing at the top, scroll down to reach the older photos that may not be used as much anymore.
- Use Less Known Sites-Though this is not ideal and may take much more research on your part, the sites with smaller libraries also have a smaller number of users. The bonus is that you can find some really unique photos on the smaller sites that do not appear on the larger sites at all.
- Choose Your Style-Determine right up front what kinds of photos will best fit the overall message of your blog. For example, flat lays, nature, people, objects, modern, vintage, etc. Always choose those types of photos for every single post, pin and image you will use for social media.
- Explore A Variety Of Search Terms-When trying to find an image for a particular post, it is best to do many different word searches to find the right photo. Don’t be set on one search term. I have found the best images by using alternative word searches. You should also create a log of the search terms that have brought up the most desirable results. Experience with free stock photo sites will increase your success with search words.
Do you have beautiful, full resolution free stock photos picked out? Great, now let’s have some fun with branding!
Before I move forward on how to alter free stock photos, I want to remind you that YOU are responsible for checking the license/copyright of every photo you use. Just because another blogger told you a certain site was free to use or a blog post listed free stock photo sites, doesn’t relieve you of your own due diligence and ignorance of an infringement of copyright is not a defence if you get sued. Rules vary and change even within sites. Always, always double check before you use and alter any photo you download from the web. Use photo attribution when required. All the following images were altered using Canva.com.
How To Brand Free Stock Photos For Your Blog
1. TRANSPARENT COLOUR OVERLAY
This is by far the easiest way to create images for your blog using your colours and fonts to create a totally cohesive colour palette. All you have to do is put a transparent element box over top of the stock photo and voila!
2. BACKGROUND, FRAMES, BORDERS, TEXT AND FONTS
Canva is so awesome and has so many features you can choose from that can make your stock photo look unique and different but cohesive to your blog. Make sure you have your hex colour code and font type before you begin. Remember to choose the same elements every time you create a new image for a branded look.
3. FILTERS AND TEXTURES
Any photo editor you use will have a variety of filters and effects to choose from. Use filters to get the right colour palette. In the third photo below, I chose to have the focus on the car and blur out the rest of the photo. Be sure to follow through and be consistent with colour and effects for all of your images for a branded look and feel.
4. SATURATION OR BLACK AND WHITE
Sometimes there is a photo that you really love but the colours are so bright and do not fit your brand. Try using filters first to adjust the colours and if that doesn’t work, try reducing the colour saturation. See how in the second image below the colours are muted. Once you do that, you can increase the tint of the colour that best suits your branded colours. Still doesn’t fit? Then why not go all the way to black and white. Black and white fits almost any blog and the image won’t compete with the post or any other colour scheme on the page.
5. ZOOM AND CROP
The best thing about zoom and crop is that it can bring an average stock photo to a whole new level. You emphasize the parts of the photo that fit your brand and cut out the elements you don’t want. You can literally make a stock photo completely different. In the middle image below, I chose to have a flower pot front and centre whereas in the third photo, the patio set is the focus. Be careful not to over zoom or your image will become grainy and pixelated.
6. MAKE A COLLAGE OF PHOTOS
Can’t find one photo that fits your needs? Why not make a collage from many stock photos. Crop and zoom each to get exactly the look you are after. This is great for foodies and fashionista’s because you can pull together many elements and make them into one image.
7. FLIP IT!
Found a pic you like but the highlight of the photo is on the wrong side? You can always flip images horizontally and vertically. You can rotate the image to any degree you want. For a really cool mirrored effect like the one below, use the same image flipped horizontally in the middle to create a wide image perfect for social sharing on Facebook and Twitter.
8. WHAT’S MORE BRANDED THAN YOU!
Are you using a photo that has a phone, ipad or laptop in it? Why not add you blog logo? That’s the ultimate way to brand!
9. OVERLAP PHOTOS
How cool is this? I love the photo of the woman walking down the beach but it is missing something. Make it transparent and overlap a photo that is more in tune with your blog colours and you have made an original!
Ok, so now that you have some ideas on how to brand your free stock photos, you can use several of the tips and tricks above together but try not to go overboard. It is so easy to do when there are so many options and you are having fun discovering all the different features of Canva. There are also many apps available that will give you many more filters and textures. And don’t forget that you can also brand the images you use on Instagram using the above methods.