That Stock Photo? It Doesn't Have To Suck!

That Stock Photo? It Doesn’t Have To Suck!

I often see something about stock photos in one of my social media feeds. It’s usually one of two things:

  1. Lamenting the levels of stock photo suckitude
  2. Sharing links to gather up “the best” freebie stock

With that in mind, it seemed about time to dig a little deeper into this topic.

Stock Photos? They Don’t Have To Suck!

Let me let you in on a little secret. I use stock photos regularly. Not so secret, actually. I’ve always fessed up to this. I don’t have the time, or the inclination – if I’m being honest, right now to head out daily to seek and shoot my own photos for my featured images and social media images, nor do my clients.

Shocker! I’m often complimented on my branded images, even though the base image came from a stock photo site.

Guess what? Some of your other favorite bloggers and designers? They use stock photos, too!

Your brand imagery – even if you need to use stock photos, can be bang-a-langin’, if you just put a little time, effort and energy into ensuring you make the most of the best that stock photography has to offer.

And I’m not going to leave you hanging. I’m going to share some ways to select better stock images and bump up their impact!

Choosing BETTER stock photos? Dig a little deeper than the first page of search results, ding-dang-it!Click To Tweet

Search Smarter & Harder!

Want to know why you often see the same stock photo over and over AND over? Because the people who search for stock images are, for the most part, lazy.

They type in a simple search, like sunset, and then they choose the very first image that shows up in the search. Sort of stymies creativity and exclusivity, huh?

Want to select better stock photos? Spend a little more time and smarts on the search.

Spend more time! Go through more than the first few rows of images. Sometimes that stellar stock photo is back on page six!

Smarten that search! Consider your search term. Say you started out with sunset, but you’re not finding exactly what you want. Consider adding to the search. How about beach sunset? Or lake sunset? Not wanting the water? Consider mountain sunset.

Investing a little extra time, or smartening up rather generic search terms can go a long way when it comes to choosing and using better stock photos.

Pay For Them!

If you pony up a little cash, chances are better that you’ll get a better image.

You don’t have to break the bank. You can purchase stock photos for $1 to $10, which, depending on how often you need to use them, I find quite affordable.

I buy about 50% of the stock photos I use. When my smart searching doesn’t turn up anything smashingly suitable on my chosen free sites, I pull out the credit card and prepare to pay.

While a large population of stock photo users are lazy, there’s an equally large part of the population that’s cheap. Meaning they don’t want to part with a dime. Pair that with lackadaisical searching and you see why there are so many repeats!

Aside: And when I say purchase photos, I mean something that actually works with your brand and business. NOT some “stylized” photo of “your” desk sprinkled with sparkly glitter, opened lipstick (how freaking unsanitary – especially if your cats, office assistants, traipse across it all day), and perfectly balanced thumbtacks (just waiting to embed themselves into your palm or foot – once the aforementioned cats knocks them down).

If it wasn’t immediately obvious. I’m not a fan of this prevailing pretty imagery passion.

Make ‘Em Your Own!

Many stock photo sites allow you to do whatever you want to the images, while some have more strict guidelines regarding use and attribution. It’s important that you read and completely understand the site’s terms of service, and, if necessary, each photographer’s terms of use.

If you’re sure that you’re allowed to edit and alter that stock photo, what’s stopping you? Why would you slap it up on your site without giving it a branded personal stamp?

I have templates (more than one, I’m kind of template happy) for each type of image I create. Be it for my blog posts, Instagram, Pinterest, what have you. With the use of a subtle patterned image overlay, a wash of color, some strategically placed text and the addition of my logo, you know it’s a Mallie design immediately upon viewing.

But how do I do this? Don’t worry, I’m going to be sharing some tutorials soon.

You can do this with free tools like Canva, to a limited degree, or you can decide to invest in your business and your brand and pony up the bank to take it to the next level (that’s my suggestion, BTW).

Show Off Your Awesome Stock Photo Creations!

With a little time, care and effort – and possibly a few bucks, you can create stunning graphics for your blog and social media accounts, even if you use stock photos.

Stop using and abusing the same old sad stock photos and you’ll stand out from the crowd!

Design Discussion Keeps Projects On Track!

Design Discussion Keeps Projects On Track!

Calling all speakers and speaker consultants! I’d like you to take a minute to think about what consistently derails your design projects (from website to branding, business card design to one-sheets). My guess is that it’s often a failure to deliver exactly what’s needed in order to get the project done in a timely manner. But, if we dig a little deeper, I think we might find that it’s actually a failure in the way we go about the design discussion.

Smart and consistent design discussions with your designer are the BEST way to keep projects on track, on time and on budget!

If you don’t know what you want, how can your designer?

Let me share a little-known fact. No matter how savvy your chosen design or social business consultant, and some of us are pretty ding-danged savvy, we are not omniscient or omnipotent.

[om-nish-uh nt]

1. having complete or unlimited knowledge, awareness, or understanding; perceiving all things.

[om-nip-uh-tuh nt]

1. almighty or infinite in power, as God.
2.having very great or unlimited authority or power.

We can’t create something from nothing. We can’t read your mind. Your ideas aren’t shared via osmosis.Click To Tweet

Just as any web or graphic designer has to go into a proposed project with a plan, a detailed accounting of proposed costs, products, services and expected outcomes, you – the prospective client, need to do some prep and planning before any designer can tackle your project.

Though we designers consider ourselves fairly awesome and amazing, we can’t pluck your favorite color out of thin air. And, believe it or not, unless you tell us we aren’t going to know about your aversion to small-caps font families.

Design Discussion Must: Content First, Then Create!

It’s the client’s job (that’s you) to provide the designer with the necessary bits of information and needed files/documents/images. Though it’s not often talked about, few designers can deliver on a design without access to all the content said design will house.

Design without content CANNOT showcase what it is that makes your brand or business stand out!Click To Tweet

Filler programs like lorem ipsum will work in a pinch for a paragraph here or there, but delivery of the content the design is meant to surround is key to a project going as planned.

Providing your designer with the following helps ensure your design projects don’t derail:

  1. Your logo – don’t expect them to scrape it off your existing website or scan it off your business card. Provide a high-resolution copy, preferably in its native format.

  2. Your company fonts. Don’t make your designer guess or find the closest match. Send them the correct files to work with from the get-go, or, at the very least, the name of the typeface. And expect to reimburse your designer if they have to purchase it.

  3. Examples of designs you like and don’t like, along with the why. Again, your designer isn’t a mind reader. You don’t want him/her to imitate a type treatment when the design element you liked was actually the color scheme, do you?

  4. Any special considerations. Do you need to incorporate audio files, video, an extensive PDF collection? Do you have custom scripts? Do you need a blog?

  5. Any and all EXISTING content. This includes images, video, audio files, or the links to these files on platforms like Youtube, Vimeo, SoundCloud, etc. Don’t make your designer reinvent the wheel and don’t make them search for links and accounts. If you’re in the midst of a redesign, consider sprucing up your existing content and deliver it in a timely fashion.

  6. Feedback. Don’t let your designer keep on keeping on if you’re not satisfied or you feel like the direction is no longer correct. Better to make changes/adjustments early in the project than to have to make major adjustments at project conclusion.

Design Discussion: Converse, Collaborate & Commiserate …

All projects are a two-way street. And design discussions aren’t always full of unicorns and candy-coated cupcakes. Sometimes the discussion will have to point out what’s not working.

The design discussion will only go smoothly if you have the same end destination in mind. If design projects are undertaken with two different end goals, you are setting yourself up for mistakes, ineffective use of time and an end project that doesn’t meet your needs. And you’re setting your designer up to fail when it comes to delivering their best work.

A good designer listens, chimes in when he/she feels you might be missing a vital point, and works with you. For the relationship to produce the best results, you need to be a proactive part of the project.