A Foolproof Recipe for Finding Awesome (and Free) Blog Images
Visual appeal. Emotional response. You know they’re important to your marketing. But how important could they be to your blog’s success?
We’re glad you asked. Consider this: images are fundamental to the way we consume content. According to Buffer, 90% of the information sent to our brains is visual, and as a result, the human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than written text. Perhaps that’s why articles with images get 94% more total views than articles without.
Your traffic, shares, and leads stand to increase exponentially with effective visual content.
But, there’s a catch. You can’t just pick any old image and expect your blog to become an instant hit. Taking time to choose the right image to complement your copy is a fundamental part of improving your blogging efforts. Follow the foolproof recipe here, and you’ll not only know how to use your visual content wisely; you’ll know the best places to find it.
5 Key Ingredients of a Stellar Blog Image
There’s no such thing as the perfect image. There are, however, key ingredients to help you choose the visual content that best fits your style and content.
Ingredient 1: Relevance
Use images that are relevant to the topic you’re discussing. Don’t go for cheap clicks by showcasing an image that excites the reader but is completely irrelevant. If your blog post features an image of a dog doing ballet when the content itself discusses conflict in the workplace, you will leave your reader in one of two ways: confused or pissed off. (You want neither.) In Copyblogger’s video series The Lede, they emphasize the importance of matching the emotion of the image with the copy to better enable your message to resonate with your reader.
Ingredient 2: Fast Loading Time
Ever had to wait for a sluggish webpage to load? Incessantly clicking on the refresh button only to watch in horror as the page reloads slower than before is a fantastic source for anxiety. In fact, unless that slow webpage holds information vital to your readers’ survival, they likely won’t wait. According to Hubspot, a study by Akamai indicates that 47% of viewers expect a two second loading time. Use that as a benchmark, and aim to beat it. Don’t forget: slow loading times are one of those SEO flubs you don’t want to make.
Ingredient 3: Visual Cues
Memorable visual cues should act as periodic signals or reminders to your reader that enhance the content they’re reading. Aim for about one image every 300-400 words. They not only aid with branding your blog; they also help your reader digest the written information to keep them reading longer. Don’t be afraid to feature the same image for several posts, particularly if you are running an ongoing series, and convert content into infographics when you can.
Ingredient 4: High-Resolution Quality
Low-quality images often get poor traffic rankings. How likely are you to share a post with shoddy images? Don’t avoid hi-res images because you’re concerned about slow loading times -- simply reduce the size of your image. Hubspot recommends blog images that are smaller than 100KB.
Ingredient 5: Copyright-Free (or Paid for)
Abide by copyrights. We cannot emphasize this enough. Influential bloggers have written about the legal problems involved with lifting a copyrighted image off the Internet. As Buffer points out, “Nearly every image created in the last 30 years is still protected by copyright.” That means that if you want to use someone else’s work, you have to ask permission or pay for it.
If you’re concerned that awesome, legally acquired hi-res photos will break the bank, worry no more. Under the Creative Commons licenses, many photographers and designers have chosen to share their work with you for free – and we know where to find them.
Where to Find the Best Free Blog Images
You’re already overwhelmed at the thought of keeping up with writing consistent, weekly posts. How are you supposed to find the time to create visually appealing, impactful images to accompany them? Good news: you can have more free, high quality images at your disposal than you know what do with – if you know where to look. We’ve made that process easy for you by providing links to some of our favourite resources. Bookmark this list. It’s your cheat sheet to complete that foolproof recipe.
Here are our top 16 resources where you can likely find any image you’ll ever need, listed alphabetically:
Time travelers: unite. Ancestry Images was originally intended for historians and genealogists, but ends up being an awesome resource for bloggers who want authentic historical prints dating between the 17th and 19th century.
Canva provides a simple, intuitive way for you to search for graphics, fonts and photos, and then modify images according to your brand. Warning: once you begin using Canva, you’ll never want to stop.
Self-proclaimed to be “coffee for the modern creative,” Death to the Stock Photo is run by a group of talented photographers. Subscribe by email, and high-resolution photos of a variety of subject matter will land in your inbox monthly. You can use the images for commercial purposes, blog posts, social accounts and design mock ups.
Under the Creative Commons license Flickr users have chosen to make their images available to users. If you’re looking for a vast of array of styles and techniques and you don’t mind browsing (conveniently by keyword), this is a great resource.
FreeImages is an online community of photographers who have offered their works free of charge. Create an account, and download at your leisure.
Gratisography provides quirky and awesome high-resolution photos for use on personal and commercial projects. Ryan McGuire of Bells Design captures all the photos featured on the site – check back regularly for the latest shots.
7. IM Creator
IM Creator offers a massive collection of free resources – from image templates to button makers to photographs – for commercial use. If you’re looking for photographs and a whole lot more, check this resource out
Little Visuals will send you seven stunning, high-resolution photos once a week when you register your email on their site (you can also download individually off the site). Their promise? You can “use them anyway you want.”
morgueFile is a free photo archive designed to provide resources for creative pursuits. Don’t let the name creep you out -- there’s a wide selection of images to choose from, and you can search by keyword or category.
10. New Old Stock
Vintage at heart? Here’s your new home for photos. New Old Stock posts cool vintage photos from public library archives, free of known copyright restrictions.
Picjumbo offers a wide selection of images, free for personal or commercial works. The website is well organized and super easy to browse by category or tag.
12. Snapwire Snaps
Snapwire Snaps is a free photo blog that’ll feed you seven high-quality, royalty-free photos each week when you subscribe. Images are also posted on the blog for you to download individually or in bundles.
“Made with love in Italy,” Splitshire offers free stock photos for your personal or commercial use. Images are updated regularly and are captured by web designer Daniel Nanescu.
Sick of trying to figure out the perfect ratio for your Twitter photos? Spruce is the answer. The site allows you to customize their free photos (or your own) quickly and easily for Twitter, without having to wonder if it’ll display nicely in the ol’ feed.
Unsplash features works by a range of talented artists, and will send you 10 free “do whatever you want” high-resolution photos every 10 days when you subscribe by email. Photos can also be downloaded directly on the site.
UsersThink isn't the most likely place to go to search for awesome, free blog images, but CEO John has curated a collection of 99 CC0 photos that you can download for free and use time and time again.
Now that you’ve got the resources to find awesome images that won’t cost you a dime, it’s time to whet your palate with a few inspirational examples before you dig in. Let’s take a look at some of the Head Chefs of start-up blogging.
Start-up Bloggers that Visually Delight
These start-up blogs not only have kickass copy, but they also have fun and original images that reinforce their messaging in all their posts.
Unbounce offers landing page optimization software, and its blog focuses on instructing its customer base about the latest in marketing trends.
Why we love their blog’s visual content: It’s weird – and well, it’s memorable. Unbounce has messed around with traditional stock photos to come up with something funny and original. Their visual content not only leaves a valuable impression on the reader, but also reinforces their company’s quirky personality. Check out the main page of the Unbounce blog, where you’ll see hilarious little images that are framed within their own design.
Freshbooks’ blog makes cloud accounting software cool. And that’s no easy task. Their blog hits home on key issues that their audience cares about.
Why do we love their blog’s visual content: Consistency. All of the blogs feature unique icons or images on the left side of the main blog page. The images are quirky, appropriately sized, and relevant. The Freshbooks’ team has even chosen (or designed) icons that correlate with specific topics they cover. That way, their readers know when they are returning to an ongoing topic or discussion.
Readwrite’s blog gives its readers tips for the latest in web apps, tech trends, social networking and social media.
Why do we love their blog’s visual content: It’s built into the user experience. Readwrite’s main blog page uses an image grid so readers can easily scroll and skim article titles, making it easy to check out different topics without a lot of jumping around. They’ve got crisp, clean photos that help visitors digest the information faster. There’s also a nifty red category button in the corner of every post, so if you’d prefer to search by category, you can do that too.
Put the foolproof recipe to the test
Your audience wants -- and needs -- visual aids. With a plethora of quality, free resources out there, there’s no longer an excuse for not having images in your blog.
Master the recipe of relevant written and visual content that resonates with your readers, and your blog will be absolutely delicious.
Where do you get your best blog images? What blogs inspire you? Leave us a comment telling us about your go-to resources.
Photo credit: Didriks