You know how important it is to use images in your social media posts to catch your audience’s attention, increase engagement, and drive up conversion rates. Even if you have the most up-to-date posting software and know exactly what time of day to post on social media, actually finding relevant high-quality pictures for your niche can be a tedious chore that eats up your valuable time.
Not only do you have to find great content, you also have to find content that your business can legally use. Almost every image made in the last 30 years is protected by copyright laws that give the creator the exclusive right to use and publish their content. Even if you repost an Instagram picture and give credit to the author, you still might be breaking copyright law.
If you want to post what other users have shared
When you post your own content and use paid image directories like iStockphoto you’re paying for the rights to use those images without attributing the creators. Fortunately, you don’t always have to pay to get high-quality images for your brand.
Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that allows creators to give up those rights so you can use their work, but not all creative commons licenses are the same. Always make sure you read the license information when you’re sourcing images. Some require you to credit the author and some don’t allow businesses to use them. The Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license lets you use images for business reasons for free without credit.
Specifically, it “enables owners of copyright-protected content to place them as completely as possible in the public domain, so that others may freely build upon, enhance and reuse the works for any purposes without restriction under copyright law.”
Where can I find high-quality pictures for my social media?
So where do you go to actually get these pictures? I’ve got three quality resources for you.
Morguefile began in 1996 for professionals to upload and exchange high-quality pictures. Their images are completely free for you to download. They like it when you upload your own photos for others to use to pay it forward, but it isn’t a requirement.
If you don’t alter the images in any way you are required to give credit to the original author. However you are free (and encouraged) to alter, change, or remix the images you download however you want without having to give credit for using them.
Fancy Crave got their start in 2015 giving away free high quality images. They wanted to get away from the cheesy paradise-style stock photos and offer gritty, emotionally-driven images. Their photos tell a story; stories are what sell in business.
Every day they release 2 new photos under CC0. You’re not allowed to claim yourself as the owner of the photos, but you also don’t have to give credit. When you download an image a payment box will pop up – just name your price or enter $0 and a download button will appear for free.
PicJumbo falls under CC0. It’s totally free and doesn’t even require you to make an account. It was started by Viktor Hanacek from the Czech Republic in 2013 as a way to share his photography with web designers. Since he launched Viktor’s images have had more than 5.4 million downloads.
Viktor has a background in web design, so he understands that you need high resolution images that speak to your audience. All of his shots are carefully framed with your advertising and sharing needs in mind. You can download images one at a time for free or you can grab the all-in-one pack to save yourself some time for a one-time donation.
There are tons of other sites you can use to source your images for your social media accounts. Buffer published a list of more than 53 free stock photo sites so you’ll never run out of content again. Now that you know where to get high quality pictures, you still need to know which pictures to choose.
How do I pick the right pictures for my brand?
You should always have a goal in mind when you’re searching for an image to represent your brand. Think about how it is going to be viewed. Will it be by itself next to your post? Or will it have text or a logo on top of it? That will make a difference in the picture you download.
Let’s say you want to add a nice text quote over your image. You should find a photo with low contrast and an even open background that isn’t too busy or distracting. Too much going on will make it hard to read your quote or too hard to see what’s actually going on.
Good vs Bad Stock Photos via SlideShare
The colors of the picture you post has a bigger impact on your viewers than you think. The way colors are spread through an image has been proven to control the emotions we feel when we see them. Pink, purple, and red are all tied to visceral emotions in our central nervous system. Vibrant and highly contrasted images are the most shareable because of the unconscious response we have to them.
Georgia Tech studied more than 1 million Pinterest images based on their colors. It’s no surprise that they found the colors pink, purple and red had the highest shares while black, blue, green and yellow all stopped people from sharing as much.
Most stock photos are abstract or generic, so they grab the attention of your audience without taking their focus off of your message. But there are images that will distract from your message.
Avoid pictures that are:
- Overly colorful, loud or gaudy
- Controversial images that will break trust with your audience
- Recognizable pictures that everyone is already using
There are a lot of different ways you can include pictures of people. There has been a lot of interesting research on the use of people in marketing images. Human photos increase the trustworthiness of websites, and smiling faces can increase conversions.
We can’t help but follow the eyes of the people in photos psychologically. Use your subject’s gaze as a directional cue towards your call to action, sign up button, or your message to increase your engagement rate.
Experiment with subjects looking away from the camera or at the camera, the back of their head instead of the face, with shadowed pictures of silhouettes, and of arms or legs or bodies. Body language can go a long way towards conveying emotions that entice your audience and grab their attention.
Harvard published research findings on the most shared emotions on social media. They found that the highest shared emotions are:
There is no magic formula that will force an image to go viral, but knowing what drives social behavior can increase your success.
How can I edit stock photos to create shareable social media posts?
You don’t have to shell out hundreds of dollars for Photoshop or even have any experience at all to create your own designs. There are plenty tools and apps that help you edit images, and even the free versions are simple and easy to use.
Stencil is a graphic design app that allows you to create up to 10 graphics a month for free. They have more than 34 custom image sizes optimized for social networks, ads and blog posts. Stencil has tons of pictures under CC0 that you can use or you can upload your own images that you found on other sites. My favorite feature is the chrome extension that lets you edit images anywhere online.
Canva is a free design software. You can use tons of different templates optimized for shareability on social media. They also have a free design school with comprehensive lessons that take you from total beginner to pro designer. Their design tool is really intuitive and easy to use. It makes it create quality professional designs in minutes. More than 10 million users can’t be wrong.
Take control of your social media accounts. Use three of the best high-quality picture directories, a simple and effective design editor, and the knowledge of what makes your audience want to click the share button. You can post effective and professional content consistently without spending all day looking for pictures and quotes.
Kat Tierney has been developing business online since 2008. She follows the latest trends and algorithms of search engines and social media services to ensure businesses can optimize their visibility.