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Content Marketing | 4 min read

How Free Stock Photos Can Help Your Content Marketing Campaign

Digital Media Stream
09 February 2016 Written by Digital Media Stream

A picture speaks a thousand words, as they say. It’s a common (and practically exhausted) term applied to multiple realms of art, but can the same be said when adding imagery to your digital marketing content? Adding imagery is important. No content marketing campaign should be without visual stimuli peppered throughout, as this will help break up your text into manageable chunks.

Imagine you’ve been asked to proofread a blog post as part of your busy work day. Sadly, the writer hasn’t included any images to break up the walls of text blocking the path between you and productivity. This is hardly a great way to start the day, and if you’re not engaged in the proofread phase, then what chance does a reader have once it’s out in the wild? It’s imperative to support your content with relevant images.

We’ve all seen blog posts like this and the lack of images can put a strain on the eyes. Remember, consumers don’t want to read a novel; they likely don’t have much spare time during the week. The use of images in your blog posts can break up walls of text and make it appear more manageable to read. (Queue this nicely timed image to break up your read!)

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See what I did there!! Now the big problem with finding said images is always licensing, you can’t necessarily pull any old image from a Google search as many images are protected by usage rights. They could even be branded with a company watermark, which would no doubt look silly in your campaign. If you’re serious about creating visually interesting content marketing campaigns, without landing yourself in any legal trouble, then free stock photos can be your best friend.

Think about the core principles of inbound marketing. By definition, it’s more interactive and less rigid than traditional cold call sales. Think of the leap between Web 1.0 and 2.0; how everything was suddenly more interactive, more shareable and more eye-catching. Sites like YouTube, WordPress, Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook gave users new, inventive ways to create and share content. If your target audience wanted to read blocks of text, they’d read a broadsheet newspaper. This is the internet, where attention spans are significantly shorter, so keeping that attention in one place will be vital to your campaign’s success.

Stock images are great when writing about a specific topic. The best sites to start looking on include Getty Images, Shutterstock and 123rf, which combined offer millions of images to support your campaign. However, if you want to download these stock photos in high quality, and free from the very obvious watermarking, be prepared to pay a fee. And these images aren’t necessarily cheap. License fees aren’t necessarily something to worry about if you’re a large corporation, but SMEs may want to consider more cost effective routes.

If you’re just about to set up a content marketing campaign, consider some sites that offer free, high quality stock images. We’ll get you started with a few websites that boast free imagery that range rather nicely from formal to fun, uniform to strikingly vivid.

Unsplash: Unsplash attracts a range of beautiful photography, from close ups of food to vast natural landscapes. Images are completely free to download and use however you like. Their license states that all images are under the Creative Commons Zero license, meaning you’re free to use and/or modify any image on the site without requiring permission from Unsplash or the creator.

Pexels: This site has well over 5,000 unique stock photos available for download. Like Unsplash, the images  operate on the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. The imagery found on Pexels can be described as intimate, with many having an obvious focal point to draw your attention to. Pexels also supports portrait photos, ideal for making your campaign mobile friendly. Pexels is great if you’re after something a bit more specific.

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StockSnap: If your content marketing campaign features the subjects of travel, tech or even office work, we recommend StockSnap. Much like Pexels, many photos featured on StockSnap have a very obvious focal point, many of which can relate perfectly with your campaign. Like our other examples, StockSnap uses the CC0 license too.

All this talk of licensing might be giving you a headache, in which case we recommend to sticking with the examples we’ve listed above. Unless you use the images for malicious reasons then you’re completely free to use images on those sites precisely however you want. But if you’re not satisfied with simply taking an image from a website for your own use, you can always get creative with a graphic designing app.

Consider Snappa, that comes by way of StockSnap. It’s a free online tool that allows you to edit your images with various graphics, text and overlays. Think of it as a simpler, but potentially more campaign-friendly version of PhotoShop. It takes less time to get to grips with and is great for creating call-to-action buttons or visual titles and feature images.

Despite being free, such stock photos will do nothing to diminish your content marketing campaign. If anything, the often vivid, intimate imagery that’s available can give you an edge over the corporate stylings of licensed photos. If you’re not prepared to pay a fee for stock photos, our examples will give your campaign an eye-pleasing boost that will lower your bounce rates, generate interest and even get people sharing your content.

Guide to content marketing

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