Images are everything these days, and the saying that a picture is worth more than a thousand words is even more true today. Images are used in marketing everywhere – from Medium.com, to Facebook and Twitter, to blogs and of course the image-driven social media sites like Instagram and Pinterest. It’s more important now than ever to have strong images that enhance your marketing message.
There are basically two steps to boosting your marketing image — finding images and then customizing them. But how?
How to find great images
A great image is often customized, which I’ll get into next, but it’s imperative to start with an image that tells your story. Now, you can certainly use solid colored backgrounds with language on front, but some of the most powerful image-driven messages start with a photo. You can always use your own photos, but if your own photos don’t drive your message, you can also find images that work well on a variety of stock photo sites — either paid or free.
Here are some of the top paid stock photo sites, although there are certainly several more out there. These are often purchased on either a subscription or image-by-image basis:
When it comes to free stock photos, make sure you’re downloading images from a reputable source. That is, don’t just download any image you like directly from Google. Instead you can use any number of royalty-free stock image sites that use the Creative Commons License to search for photos that fit your needs. Some of our favorites are:
- Librestock.com (a catalog of dozens of stock photo sites)
How to customize images with your marketing message
Now that you’ve put the time in to find images, it’s time to customize them — even if they are your own photos! At absolute minimum, you’ll want to brand every image so that when that one image goes viral, people can find you. Ideally, you’ll watermark it with your brand name and web address. We’ll go into some suggestions for apps and web-based programs below that offer you several options for adding this simple customization.
But, most of the time, you’ll want to tailor your images even further to fit your marketing needs, especially with stock images. This will really brand the image as your own, even if others are downloading and using the same images. Some popular ways to modify images include:
- Zooming in on a particular area
- Creating a collage
- Adding a quote from someone famous
- Including your marketing message directly on the photo
A word to the wise: if you’re adding a significant amount of text and planning to use the image as an ad on Facebook or Instagram, they are tightening up which images can be used for ads or boosted posts. The rule of thumb is that less than 20% of an image-based ad should be text. If you’re just planning to share the image as a regular post though, then as of now, it’s still OK to have text-heavy images.
Apps and web-based programs to customize images
You’ll find, if you do a Google search, that there are tons of apps out there that you can use to customize your stock image on a mobile device. We’re listing a few of our favorites below — note that some might not be available on both iOS and Android devices. Many also have paid and free versions, and often the free versions are pretty robust, so it’s worth checking the free version out first and seeing if you’ll need the added features in the paid service.
- Adobe Spark Post: This is another great free app that, in their own words, allows you to “turn ideas into impactful social graphics.”
- Typorama: With Typorama, you can create images for a wide variety of social networks, and you can shadow text so it’s easy read against varying backgrounds. You can also easily watermark all of your images
- Wordswag: With lots of great type styles, and the ability to easily swap between styles, and even variations within each style, this is a fun app to use. It also has the option to use a few basic backgrounds, instantly search royalty-free stock images from Pixabay, or use your own photos.
If you’re using your own photos, or downloading stock images and customizing them directly on a mobile device, then it makes a lot of sense to use these apps. That way you’re not trading images back and forth between devices. However, if you’re doing the bulk of the work on a computer, then it’s definitely worthwhile to look into a few web-based image editing programs. Some of the most popular sites are:
- Canva: a web-based design program; the main difference between the free and paid versions are the ability to categorize with folders and collaborate with teammates. Additionally, Canva has its own stock image service — where premium images cost $1 per download. You can save all of your work for future uses and download high-res images for print as well as the web-based resolutions.
- PicMonkey: this is another great option. You can get most of your work done with the free options, but the paid version is ad-free and includes premium overlays and fonts.
The selection of apps and programs may seem daunting, and with good reason — there are lots of great options out there! But, each has their own pros and cons, and everyone has their own preferences. I’m confident that you’ll find one that is a great fit for you. Or you may find that you have a few favorites that you use for different types of images. Regardless of which option(s) you use, take some time to play with the program, and in no time you’ll be creating picture-perfect images to enhance your marketing efforts.