We humans are visual creatures: We like to see the impact of an idea rather than just hearing about it, which might help to explain our present fascination with YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram. Images, as it turns out, define an idea far better than rhetoric alone.
When it comes to building a website to show the world your own idea, images tend to be the most important – and the most difficult – aspect of site construction. While it’s always best to use your own images on your own site, stock photos are a great way to help to fill in the gaps. Finding, choosing, and using online photos can be tricky, though, and questions abound: What’s the deal with image copyrights, anyway? Where can I find free stock photos online (that don’t look terrible)? And how do I know my images will pop out at visitors? Not to worry, we’ve got answers to your questions below:
Question #1: Where can I find free stock photos online (that don’t look terrible) to use on my website?
Last year, PopPhoto published some jaw-dropping numbers: Every minute of every day, 27,800 photos are uploaded to Instagram, 208,300 photos are uploaded to Facebook, and more than 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube. What’s more, Yahoo! recently reported that, if we continue photo-binging like we did in 2013, we will put over 880 billion photos online in 2014 alone.
Out of the billions and billions of photos available to internet users, there’s surely one you can use to illustrate an idea or decorate your page, right? Not exactly.
Finding free, relevant images can be a hell of a task, but there are a couple of guiding lights:
IM Free: Along with our free website-building platform, IM Creator has gone the extra mile to curate a catalogue of beautiful, professional, and useful images – that are all free for commercial use. There are plenty of categories and subcategories of hand-picked photos to choose from, from “fashion & beauty” (41 photos), to “people” (928 photos) to “business” (74 photos). When you find an image that fits your criteria, IM Creator Free will take you to a Flickr page where you can choose the size you want to download.
IM Creator Free can be thought of as a “boutique” image database; there aren’t 50,000,000 images to choose from, but for each category you’re sure to find what you’re really looking for.
Google Image Search Criteria: Google Image Search is probably the most comprehensive image database on the web, but until recently it was a pain to try to filter through all possible options. With Google’s “Search Tools”, though, you can specify the colour, size, type, and even the usage rights associated with an image.
Wikipedia Commons: For every Wiki page, there exists illustrative photos, and more often than not, these photos are part of Wikipedia Commons, an expansive database of over 20,000,000 images for public use.
Question #2…So wait, I can’t just take any image I find on the web and use it on my own website?
Nope. Image copyrights are a big deal on the Internet, and the consequences are real for those who flaunt them. The reason is simple: Millions of people put images of their work online, and if you’re not paying for an image, chances are they are missing out on being properly compensated. That’s why the good folks at Creative Commons decided make things plain and simple. Creative Commons allows users to license, search, and read up on all things copyright. Tools like IM Creator Free and Google Search Tools make finding images that are free for all kinds of uses easy. If, however, you’re unsure of the copyright status on an image, it’s best to err on the side of caution, or consult Creative Commons.
Question #3: How do I choose images that will catch my visitors’ attention?
Ah, visual attention: the age-old pursuit of trying to get stuff noticed by other people. Designers and marketers have spent years trying to understand what will get our attention, and often the best they can come up with is a hot babe in a bikini, or a puppy in a bucket. As it turns out, the way to a person’s eyes has more to do with contrasts and shapes than babes and buckets. This is because we first process simple shapes and changes in light and shadow more quickly than we recognize the meaning of those shapes.
When you’re choosing images for your website that will catch your visitors’ eyes, look for ones with plenty of contrast, in which the element you most want people to pay attention has plenty of space around it.