visual marketing

4 Myths About Stock Photos (And What You Really Need to Know)

4 myths about stock photos - why styled stock photos can be a great affordable photography resource and what you need to know about using stock photos for your brand.

So I know stock photos sometimes get a bad reputation when it comes to using them as images for your business. But I know that 1) not everyone can afford custom images for their business 2) not everyone has the time to take their own photos and 3) even if people have the time, they’d rather spend it on other things (like binge-watching netflix, drinking wine, or actually spending time with their family)!

Stock photos can be great way to create a cohesive visual brand across your marketing channels, especially if you have a new business and want to make the most of your budget!

Unfortunately, not all stock photos are created equal. When you understand some of the myths and misconceptions around using stock photos, you can ensure that you choose the right kind for your business!

Myth #1 – Free Stock Photos Are All Bad

Free stock photos are easily accessible for a wide range of people. While that’s very convenient, it also means that A TON of people are using them. If you want to create a unique visual brand for your business, using free stock photos is probably not the best choice, but free stock photos aren’t necessarily all bad. There are plenty of websites that have free stock photos that could be a good fit for your business. It’s definitely going to take some digging and some research to find great free images… but it might be worth it to convey your brand in a more attractive way. (PS you can grab 10 free feminine stock photos RIGHT HERE!)

Myth #2 – Paid Stock Photos Are Expensive

Stock photos are actually available at a wide range of prices. They certainly don’t have to be free or wildly expensive. Websites like Creative Market and Etsy are full of beautiful stock photos at a reasonable price. They are also a number of sites that offer affordable stock photo memberships where you can download a certain number of stock photos every month. And if you’re looking for a stock photo membership where you have instant access to download an unlimited number of photos, there’s the Styled Stock Society – where you can get instant access to over 1,000 photos for less than $20/month.

Myth #3 – You Don’t Have to Credit the Photographer

The terms of use associated with stock photos differs depending on the photographer and copyright owner. It’s really important to understand how you can and can’t use your stock photos when you’re using them for your business. Some sites come with licenses that allow you to use stock photos for both personal and commercial use, while sometimes they’re just for personal use. Sometimes you have to credit the photographer and other times you don’t. In fact, you may only be able to use images a certain number of times based on the photo license. It’s really important to understand the full terms of use when using stock photos for your business because you want to make sure that you’re using them legally.

(If you’re using my stock photos, credit is never required… but it’s always appreciated!)

Myth #4 – You Can’t Customize Stock Photos To Fit Your Brand

Depending on the terms of use of your stock photos, you may be able to customize them to fit your brand. You could add color overlays, filters, or text in your brand fonts. You might also be able to crop, rotate, or otherwise manipulate the orientation of a stock photo to make it look a little bit different. You might even be able to insert your own product images into stock photos! There are a few different ways you can customize stock photos to be a better fit for your brand – just make sure that the way you use your stock photos isn’t a violation of the terms of use.

Stock photos can be a great way for businesses with a limited budget to create a cohesive visual brand. Just remember that not all stock photos will work for you! It’s really important to find the right stock photos for you that not only represent your brand, but also come with the terms of use that are a good fit for your business.

Are you using stock photos for your business or blog?

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4 Tips for Better Product Photos on Instagram

Tips for better product photos on Instagram - how to attract potential buyers with high quality images and elevate your visual marketing with simple photography tips.

If you sell your products online, having high quality product photos is incredibly important. It’s the only way to convey the quality of your products because customers can’t actually touch or feel them before they make their purchase. The quality of your product photos directly affects the perceived quality of your products… so if you have low quality images, chances are people think your products are low quality as well!

When it comes to marketing your products on Instagram, just because someone sees your product photos doesn’t mean they’ll take the action to click through and buy it. In fact the most of the time / most of the people won’t. Ever. #truth

That’s why it’s SO important to have visually compelling images on Instagram in order to attract potential buyers to STOP and take a look instead of scrolling by. DIYing your product photography? Here are a few tips will help you capture better product photos for Instagram.

Lighting is Everything

Whether you’re using your iPhone or a DSLR camera, lighting is the most important thing when it comes to your product photos. I generally prefer using natural light when possible, but natural light can be a bit tricky since it isn’t something you always have control over. Start by finding the best natural light in your space. When you’re at home or in an office, the best natural is usually by the window or door. If you don’t have natural light in your space, you might need to go outside.

Pay attention to how the light changes throughout the day. You might want to avoid direct sunlight because it can create harsh shadows. If you don’t have access to natural light, you can obviously use studio lighting. There are a range of lighting options from basic and cheap to super professional (this is a great set for less than $200).

Background Basics

For easy and affordable white backgrounds, you can buy foam boards at a craft store or Amazon. These are a great hack for flat lays when you don’t have a white table or desk (and they are super cheap)! If you need a seamless background for any sort of vertical product shots where you don’t want to see the wall in the background, seamless photo backdrop paper is the best option. You can find a range of sizes and color options to fit your brand but if you really want your products to stand out I recommend using a neutral white or gray background for basic product photos. Savage Paper is the seamless backdrop paper that I use (it’s nice and thick!) and it comes in a ton of different colors and sizes to fit your space.

Styled and Lifestyle Combinations

One thing that gets a little confusing for people is the difference between styled and lifestyle images. Styled photos are products photos that you plan with intentionally placed props in order to highlight or “accessorize” your main product. This is what you might think of when you see food photography or desktop photos where things look almost too perfect. Lifestyle photos are photos that look more like they are taken of things happening naturally in everyday life. These might show your product actually being used by a person the way it would on a daily basis.

Having a combination of the two types of photos can be ideal for product based businesses. Lifestyle photos can be more relatable for your audience because when people see other people using / wearing products, they can envision the product in their own lives. On the other hand, styled photos can be a more focused and clean way of showcasing a product so that the focus is really on the product’s features. You may notice that your audience responds better to certain types of photos in comparison to others so pay attention to which photos get higher engagement as well as which ones drive more sales!

Consistent Style

Having a set of photography tools you use on a regular basis will streamline your product photography. Using consistent lighting, consistent editing, and consistent colors, and consistent props will help you create a consistent style that makes your brand more memorable. Consistency breeds credibility.

You want all of your product photos to have a cohesive look, and using consistent colors and props is an easy way to visually tie things together. I recommend having a “prop box” on hand with small items you can use to style with your products. I have an overflowing closet full of props for my various clients and customers, but even if you start with a few items that you use on a consistent basis, that will help to create a more consistent look to your images!

Are you ready to up-level your own product photos?

If you need additional props to bring your photos to life, Shopbop (one of my go-to shops for Instagram props!) is currently having their event of the season sale and you can use the code EOTS17 to get up to 25% off! It’s a great time to stock up on chic office supplies, jewelry organizers / trays, coffee table books, mugs, candles, and other small home decor items to incorporate into your photos. Or just add to your fall wardrobe… I’ll be doing that as well :)

Shop some of my picks here:

How to Optimize Your Images for SEO

How to optimize your images for SEO - tips on how to save, name, and upload images to maximize the SEO benefits for your blog or online business.

Having images on your website is a big deal.

Humans process images 60,000x faster than text.

As online business owners, we know that a picture is worth a thousand words.

We know we have to invest in high-quality images to help take our website and online presence to the next level… which is why we take spend time and money to find the perfect images to reflect our brand, right?

But when it comes to optimizing those images, we usually drop the ball.

 “According to Raven Tools, 78% of SEO issues are related to images.” — That’s a BIG percentage. 

Learning how to optimize your images for SEO is a win-win.

Search engine bots can’t “read” images, so if they can’t “read” an image, they have no way of knowing what the image…is an image of.

When you start optimizing your images for SEO, you make it easier for those search engine bots to know what your images are.

When they know what your images are, they can show them in Google Image search results, as well as help reinforce the overall topic of your content so Google can better show it to your ideal audience.

So how do we avoid being part of that percentage and start optimizing images to HELP our SEO instead of hurt it?

Here are 5 ways to optimize your images for SEO:

  1. Reduce the Size of Your Images:

If you’re uploading your high-resolution images to your website, you’re not only hurting your image SEO, you’re making your website slower.

When you upload a 3000 pixel wide image to your blog post, you’re making the browser work 2x harder. The browser has to first upload the original 3000 pixel wide image, THEN it has to re-load the image sized down to fit the area that it’s uploaded too.

So, for example, if the width of your website content is 800 pixels, your visitors browser has to load the 3000 pixel image AND the 800 pixel image. Now multiply that process by the number of images you have on that webpage…..see how that can turn into a pretty monstrous problem?

Before you upload ANY image to your website, double check to see what size you’re going to need. If it’s going to be in your main content area, maybe you only need it to be 600 pixels wide. If you’re uploading it to your sidebar, maybe you only need it to be 300 pixels wide.

  1. Use Descriptive File Names:

By default, WordPress and Squarespace use your image file name as the Title of your image when you upload it to your website. So instead of having to go back every-single-time you upload an image, to adjust the image title, get in the habit of naming your images descriptively.

Typical file names are a jumbled mix of letters and numbers, like “DSC00829.jpg”. If you don’t change that file name OR the image title when you upload that photo, you’re not giving search engine robots ANY indication of what that image is showing.

Google can’t “read” images so it uses the file name and other data to be able to tell what the image is all about.

Image titles use hyphens-in-between-the-words-to-tell-search-bots-where-spaces-are-supposed-to-be. So when you’re naming your images, use hyphens, not underscores_like_this.

If you don’t remember to save your image with a descriptive file name BEFORE you upload it to your website, make sure you’re changing the “Title” before you leave that image upload page.

  1. Run the Image Through an Optimizer:

Image optimizers strip the image of unnecessary information like camera details, metadata, color profiles, embedded thumbnails, etc . By doing this it decreases the size of your image, without affecting the quality of it.

You can use a WordPress plugin like WP Smush It to bulk compress or automatically compress images when you upload them to your website.

If you have a Mac, you can download this app that’s a super easy drag-and-drop: ImageOptim (this is the one I personally use).

Or you can take advantage of a free online image compressor like TinyPNG or Optimizilla.

  1. Add Unique ALT Text:

ALT stands for “Alternative Text”. This ALT text will appear on your website in place of the image if for some reason the image cannot be loaded. It helps explain the image in a text format. ALT text is insanely useful for search engine bots and people with screen readers to help them understand what your image is all about.

By default, WordPress will NOT include ALT text when you upload an image, so it’s your job to take the time and manually add this information.

Be as descriptive as possible and add in the keywords and key phrases for the page that the image is going to display on (since the image and content should be related, this shouldn’t pose an issue. More on that next!)

Google even admitted they put a higher SEO importance on ALT text (Google rarely admits to SEO rules and importance, so I’d take this one pretty seriously!)

Don’t keyword stuff… Google hates that, and it could end up flagging your content, instead of helping it. For example, if you’re writing a piece of content about a new pizza your restaurant is serving, you’ll want to add an image of the pizza and give it an ALT text like this: “new gluten free pepperoni pizza Buffalo BY by Mariahs Pizzeria” – It’s SUPER descriptive and even includes local keywords.

Don’t do this: “Gluten free pizza pepperoni pizza Buffalo NY best pizza pizza pizza pizza pizza”

Also, you don’t have to add hyphens to the ALT text.

  1. Make Sure Your Image is Relevant:

When you’re choosing images for your website or blog post, make sure they’re relevant to the content they’re sharing a page with. I mentioned in the introduction that you’ll up the odds of Google knowing what your page content is about if your using related images.

Being the most popular search engine on the internet, Google keeps it real.

They don’t want to show their user’s misguided or irrelevant information.

They want people to find solutions and answers to their problems as quickly, and accurately as possible.

If you’re using images and visuals to help emphasize the point of your content, Google loves that.. what they don’t love is random images and visuals that end up confusing users.

Search engine optimization can be quite tedious, especially when you’re getting started, but once you have the foundation of it down, all it takes is the right habits to keep it moving in the right direction.

Learn about the 7 Types of Content that Increase Website Traffic & Improve SEO.

 

About the Author:
Mariah Magazine is web designer and developer that focuses on helping clients improve their website and online presence. Since the internet world is such an elaborate tool, especially for online businesses, she specializes in helping people relate to their target audience and getting their website to work smarter, not harder.

Website: https://mariahmagazine.com

Find Mariah on Pinterest | YouTube | Instagram | LinkedIn

 

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