While I’m at BlogWorld 2012 in New York City this week, I’m leaving you with a post many of you have asked me to write: where I find my blog post photos and how to find images that don’t break the bank. Enjoy. And please, in the comments, do leave the sources you’ve found to be great ones—ones that didn’t make my list—so we can all learn from your experience and collect even more resources.
Most bloggers recognize that quality images are an important part of their blog content strategy. In fact, post and articles with relevant images garner 94 percent more page views than ones without. If you need more incentive to use quality photos and other graphics to power up your blog content, see Danny Brown’s post at For Bloggers By Bloggers.
As you know, I’m a big fan of finding the just right photo for a blog post.
But, after four years with a phenomenal online stock image company, I am looking elsewhere for my blog photos.
For four years, iStockphoto, with more than 4 million stunning images, was my go-to stock photo agency. I knew I could always find exactly what I was looking for there. And I rarely had to pay more than a buck or two for it.
But things gradually changed. It started in 2006, when Getty Images acquired iStock. You can still buy credits in as little as 12-packs ($19.50 for 12 credits), but the price-per-credit is now $1.63.
But here’s the problem. iStock has drastically reduced the number of images that cost just one or two credits. So the photo I used to be able to find for 1-2 credits ($1.60 to $2.26) suddenly had a 4-credit price tag (sometimes the one I fell in love with was 10 credits).
At a price of four credits, each photo now costs $6.52. Not only am I spending way more time finding a photo in my price range, if I post once a week, my iStock bill is $26.08 a month. And between Bob and I, with three blogs, using only one photo per post, our monthly photo expenses total $78.04. Ouch.
Photographers deserve fair compensation for their work
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a problem with photographers being paid fairly for their work. In fact, I think it’s one of the professions where people tend to take advantage of the skill and talent. The number of people who steal images from the net and don’t give credit, let alone pay the artist for them, s is appalling.
If you are a designer working on a piece you are going to charge your client $750 or $1,000 for, it makes sense to pay those prices. You can either absorb it as the cost of doing business or pass it on to your client.
But if you are running a non-monetized blog—that is, you are not charging for your content—anything you pay to support your blog comes directly out of your own pocket. So when prices take a jump, I tend to look for less expensive options.
Here they are, in alphabetical order: 5 potential stock image sources that my research turned up (there are many more but this will give you a taste of what’s out there):
What I found
As you look at this list, keep in mind that using free images has some drawbacks, mainly being the quality of the images and the time it takes you to wade through the substandard stuff to find what you want. But if you are not too picky, you’ll probably find what you need.
Often with a free photo, you are required to add the photographer’s byline, which for me mars the aesthetic look and feel, but that may not bother you at all. And, of course, with a free image, there is a greater chance that you will see it on many other blogs, too. Because it’s free!
And, unless you are independently wealthy, I strongly advise that you not lift images from the Internet and use them without permission.
A photo management and sharing application, Flickr consistently lands on lists of the top free sites. It lets you explore and upload photos as long as you provide proper attribution under the Creative Commons license. Some photos may not be available for commercial use, so if your blog is monetized, it may not be a good choice.
Upside: Tons of free photos; nice variety.
Downside: Many have use requirements and limitations; time-consuming to search.
Fotolia has both a free and a paid side. Several of my fellow bloggers, including Brankika Underwood of onlineincometsar.com, list them as their favorite site. Brankika has an excellent review of Fotolia on her blog.
Upside: Great selection; good search function; cheaper than iStock.
Downside: Many images are for purchase only.
My friend Tony Hastings of The Top 10 Blog uses this one a lot and I like his photos, so I’ll be looking into it. This site has a great selection and fast and easy download. To see some of the other sites Tony recommends, go here.
Upside: Lots of quality free photos by category; instant download, no registration required.
Downside: No access to lightboxes unless you register; must include photographer credit.
From here on out, I may be save these guys for the times I want an amazingly special photo, but I’m still listing them here because the quality of their images is outstanding.
Upside: Bundled credits; pay-as-you-go; high quality; search by price and subject.
Downside: Not many free photos; recent substantial price increases.
Like iStockphoto, Stock.XCHNG is also now owned by Getty, although images are still free (at least for the time being). Hundreds of thousands of searchable images, categorized by subject.
Upside: Now has advanced search capabilities; images are free
Downside: User is required to rate the image and show the photographer the work they created with it; also, the site “cannot guarantee the legality of the images and cannot be held responsible for any copyright violations.”
What about you?
Have you used any of the above sites for blog post images?
Do you have some favorites of your own that you can share with us?