How to Create Amazing Images For Your Blog or Website

by | Mar 30, 2015 | 11 comments

Recently we’ve had several people reach out and ask about how we find images to use for our blog, and more specific how we create the images that are featured for each blog post.  So as a result, in this post we will walk through the process that we use to find great images and how we modify them for use in our posts.

How to Find Images

We often find that people new to blogging don’t realize that they can’t just do a Google search for an image and use just any image on their blog.  Most images that come back from Google are actually copyrighted, so you could be breaking the law if you do this.

So you natural question may be, “then how do I find images to use on my website/blog?”  Have no fear, there are many free and low cost options, and with a few steps, you can create some beautiful images for your blog as well.   Below are a few great options.

1. Create Your Own

Whenever we can, we try to use our own images on our blogs and websites.  Not only is this often cheaper/easier (we can snap a picture with our phones or a screenshot of our computer screens), but it also is much more personal than using stock images (which we will get to next).

For example, when we published How to Improve Your Internet Speed & Save Money, we took a picture of the new modem and router that we purchased.

motorola-surfboard-sb6141-asus-rt-n66u-router

Now this picture alone is not too sexy, but you can see with some manipulation (we will show some tools that we use to do this in the next section), it turned into an image that we could use as a banner on the article.

motorola-surfboard-sb6141-asus-rt-n66u-router-banner

Here is another example.  When we published How to Manage All of Your Tasks with a Lean Kanban Board, we used a picture of our board.

kanban-board-description

To make the banner for the article, we blurred the background image and added text on top of it.

kanban-banner

2. Use Royalty-Free & Stock Photography Sites

If you decide not to use your own images, or in addition to using your own images, you can also use royalty free stock images.  What are these you may ask?

Royalty Free – You don’t have to pay a royalty each time you use the image.  You simply pay once then you can use the image as many times as you like.

Stock Photography – A collection of images that can be licensed for a specific use.  Essentially instead of hiring a photographer and potentially models to create images that you need, individuals and companies have created a large collection of images.  These images can then be searched and purchased for use.  Given that the same images can be purchased and used by multiple parties, the cost of these images is much lower than hiring a photographer yourself to create them.

There are several stock photo websites out there.  Below are a few that we have used and recommend.

Dollar Photo Club

logo-dollarphotoclub-261X80

We have used several stock photography websites over the years, but this is currently our favorite.  Given that we use quite a few images, some of the other websites can get expensive.  Dollar Photo Club has a decent selection of images, all of which are only $1.  This allows us to get 10 new photos each month, which works well with the blog.  Additionally, if we don’t download photos this month, they will transfer over to the next month.  Below are the basic prices.

dollar-photo-club-membership

To show some of the quality, here are the first 10 images returned when searching for “real estate”.

dollar-photo-club-real-estate-results

Pros:

– Images are inexpensive ($1 per image)

-Decent selection of images, but not as large or as high of quality as some of the other sites

Cons:

-Selection and quality is less than other sites, but does work well when you find images that you want

iStockPhoto

iStock

iStockPhoto was probably (and may still be) the largest stock photo company on the web.  We used it for several years and it was great.  The prices were reasonable (typically a few dollars per image) and there was a pretty large selection.  Recently they adjusted how they do pricing and many of their images went up to $10+.  We still use this site from time to time, especially if we not high quality and specific images, but the recent changes to pricing makes it to expensive for our blog posts.

iStockPhoto Pricing

To show some of the quality, here are the first 10 images returned when searching for “real estate”.

istockphoto-real-estate-results

Pros:

– Huge selection and very high quality photos

– Great for special projects where quality and selection are important

Cons:

-Price is prohibitive for blogs that require many images

123RF

123RF Logo

A few years ago while looking for alternatives to iStockPhoto we stumbled across 123rf.  What we initially liked was that the price was lower and iStockPhoto and the selection seemed pretty good.  We continue to use 123RF for blog images today.

123rf-pricing

To show some of the quality, here are the first 10 images returned when searching for “real estate”.

123rf-real-estate-results

Deposit Photos

deposit-photo-logo

In the wake of the price increases for iStockPhoto, we began exploring other website options.  What we really like about DepositPhotos is the flexibility of pricing.  Just like on other site, we get the “pay as you go” option, which ends up equating out to ~$1 per image.

depsoit-photo-prices

To show some of the quality, here are the first 10 images returned when searching for “real estate”.

deposit-photo-real-estate-results

Pros:

-Price is cheap

-There is a decent selection of images

Cons:

-Selection is OK but definitely limited

How to Customize Images For Your Blog

Once you have images, whether they are your personal ones or you purchased them from a royalty free website, you may want to customize those images, especially if they are for your blog.  When we first started this blog, our ability to create images was pretty poor.  For example, here is an early blog image that we used.

blog-failed-duplex-plan

That image was created in MS Paint.  Obviously it is not very appealing.  Now compare that to come of our recent images below.

home-theater-banner-resized-final

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These images obviously stand out more, and were not all that more difficult to create as long as you have the right tools.  Below are a few of the tools and options that we use when creating customized images for our blogs.

Skitch

skitch

Skitch is a lightweight screen capture and image manipulation tool from Evernote.  On a side note, if you’ve never used Evernote, I would highly recommend that you check it out and use the Evernote Essentials guide to help you maximize use.  Evernote is great at being a place to capture, organize and search all types of content, from pictures to website to thoughts and todo lists.

Anyways, back to Skitch.  Screen allows you to capture your screen, then do some quick edits on the image.  You can crop the image, add text, draw boxes, highlight or add arrows to focus on specific things.

skitch2

You will often see us using images on the site and adding arrows, such as below.  We do this using Skitch.

niche-launch-effect-sub-header

We also sometimes will use it to create out banners.  For example, the banner below we used Skitch to add the main text “How to Organize Your Office with Lean 5S”.

organize-office-banner3

PicMonkey

picmonkey-logo

PicMonkey is another tool that we use quite a lot when creating images.  You can use it for free, but some of the features are limited.  They also have an upgrade plan of either $4.99/month or $33/year ($2.75/month).  We use currently doing the annual plan.  For a while we used the free plan, but we really wanted access to all of the features and customizations.

picmonkey-royale-free-trial

 

Whether you use the free version or the “Royale” version, you can access PicMonkey from any web browser.  You can start by uploading your image (either a picture you took or one that you found on the one the stock photo websites).  Once your image is uploaded, you have a bunch of options in their online editor.  You can add text, adjust the coloring, add an overlay, etc.  PicMoneky mkes it very easy to make these adjustments.  We can usually create one of the photos to feature on a blog post within 5-10 minutes.

picmonkey-sample

 

Here are a few of the photos that we created/edited in PicMonkey.

 

domain-name-search-banner-resized-final

manage-store-banner

ariana-and-tom-healthy-marraige

 

As you can see, there are a variety of options for editing the pictures and you can get very different looks.  If you are not a graphic designer and don’t want to spend a few hundred dollars for Adobe Photoshop, but want it to look like you are, we recommend PicMonkey.

Fiverr

fiverr-logo

The above options all require you to do work. Even though both Skitch and PicMonkey are low cost or free and pretty easy to use, sometimes it just make sense to have someone else do the work of cresting graphics for your blog, website or business.
Fiverr is a simply amazing website and one that we highly recommend. The concept behind Fiverr is that it is a marketplace for people to offer a variety of services, from graphic editing to logo creation to video introduction and many more items. The best part about Fiverr is that all of these services are $5 (although some sellers do offer “premium” addons for an additional fee).
For example, we were able to get this introduction video created for our real estate business (Sylvester Enterprises) so that it could play before our apartment walk-through videos for only $5, and the guy who created it turned it around in 1 day.

With Fiverr, each freelancer has a description, rating/reviews and samples of their portfolio. This is great as it allows you too look around and find a freelancer that has a good review and has items in their portfolio that are similar to what you are looking for.
fiverr-freelancer-example

Now as much as we love Fiverr, there are a few things to watch out for:

  • In many cases, you get what you pay for. Although we have had great success with Fiverr, some people have had bad experiences based on what they were looking for. For example, you are not going to get an amazing logo created for your company from Fiverr. Yes, you can get a logo, but remember that you are only paying $5.
  • We recommend using Fiverr for very specific one-off tasks, such as creating a specific image, which is what we often use it for. You will want to look at 99 Designs, oDesk or eLance (see below) if you are looking for a longer term gig, such as hiring a Virtual Assistant.
  • Be sure to read the ratings/reviews for the person you are looking to work with.

The above options all require you to do work. Even tho

99 Designs Tasks
99-designs-banner

99 Designs is typically used for logo creation and other more in depth work, but they do have a service called 99 Design Tasks. These are smaller tasks and typically are completed within an hour for $19. This may not be feasible to use all the time for graphic creation, but it is good for a quick job and without fussing around.
99-designs-tasks

oDesk & eLance

odesk-logo
elance-logo
Both of these websites are marketplaces for freelancers (similar to Fiverr), except that their prices are not limited to $5. We recommend using one of these websites if you are looking for a more involved task. Since these options will cost you more, they are probably not the best option for creating your everyday blog images, but they can come in handy if you need a specific job done and want something a little higher quality than Fiverr. Just like on Fiverr, you get what you pay for, so be sure to check out the ratings and reviews for the people you want to work with.
odesk-profile-example1
elance-profile-example

Summary

There are lots of options out there for finding and creating great images for your blog/website/business. Depending on how much time/money you have, you may do more of the legwork yourself, or you may end up hiring pieces or the entire thing out.
What has your experience been with finding and creating great images?