Beyond stock photos: Simple tips for better visual marketing

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Hands up, how often have you spent hours on a blog post, only to spend 30 seconds picking a stock image before publishing the post? We’re all guilty of it - we spend so much time thinking about written content that we don’t even consider the images we use to be important.

But in reality, we are all enticed by visuals. 83 per cent of learning is done visually, and as a result, blog posts with images get 94 per cent more views than those without. And let’s face it, when we’re scrolling through our social media feed, we’re much more likely to notice a stand-out image amongst an endless stream of text - it’s no wonder posts with images get 53 per cent more "likes" on social media.

But you’re busy. Resource is tight. You don’t have hours of time to design images and you definitely don’t have the money to hire a designer. Stock images are easy, quick and they’re usually okay, right?

Why stock images aren't enough

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Are you inspired by this photo?


Sure, stock images are okay. Just fine, in fact. But how often have you been inspired by a stock photo? Stock photos are boring and too obvious. At best, they're off-brand and uninspiring. At worst, they can perpetuate stereotypes and be distracting.

But what if we had tools and tips for creating and finding better images without the need for designers, complicated software or hours of time? And what if they were also simple enough for anyone to use? 

Well then you’d have no excuse. Here are our top tips and tools for images that are as good as your content.

It doesn't have to be Thinkstock

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You love Thinkstock, I love Thinkstock, we all love Thinkstock. But it isn’t the only option for stock photography. Here are eight other stock photography sites that we love:

splitshire.com

jaymantri.com

lifeofpix.com

picjumbo.com

shutterphoto.com

magdeleine.co

pexels.com

unsplash.com

Cartoons aren’t just for kids

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Cartoons can give a whole new feel to your content, and are perfect if you want to do something funny, light-hearted or creative. We also love Marketoonist for cartoons that only marketers will find funny.

Very meme. Much visual

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Love them or hate them, memes are going nowhere. They’re a great way to connect with younger audiences and many of them are instantly recognisable. You can also make your own with memegenerator.com or quickmeme.

Infographics

I know, we’re always going on about infographics - but that’s because they’re so effective at relaying information and much more engaging than text-only. These are a little more complicated to make on your own, but one infographic can be repurposed in countless different ways, so they’re always worth the resource.

Video

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video must be worth millions. A video of someone talking about a subject they’re passionate about is much more engaging than reading about it, and a video demonstration is much easier to understand that complicated instructions. Plus video content is set to overtake written content in 2015 on social media, so the time for video really is now. You don’t need an entire video team (although take advantage of them if you can!) - you can film excellent videos just with a webcam or on your mobile phone.

GIFs

Like cartoons, GIFs are only a good idea if you know your audience! A serious post on property law might not be helped by hilarious GIFs, but a Buzzfeed-style list or fun post would be perfectly suited. We love to use Giphy, but you can now make your own gifs from any video on Youtube.

Canva

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Want to create something great in 5 minutes with no design skills? Canva is for you. An excellent tool for beautifully simple, instant graphics.

Recite This

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We’ve all got boards of Pinterest full of inspirational quotes on beautiful backgrounds (just me?) and with Recite This you can visualise quotes in just a few clicks. This is perfect for posts where you can’t quite find the right image, or if you have a particular piece of text you want to stand out.

User generated content

Do you have a particularly visual product? Do you create something physical? Get users to send you photos of them using your product or service and use them for your content! An easy way to do this is to create a dedicated Instagram or Twitter hashtag and host a photo competition. User-generated content not only gives you endless free images, but also builds your credibility and customer relationships - so long as you ask for permission!

One final thing...

If you're not using images from royalty-free stock photo sites, make sure you check the copyright of the images you're using. Make sure you leave credit and a link back to the site where you find them. Remember, pretty pictures are nice, lawsuits are not.

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