How to find appealing images on photo stocks

4 tips for fast and effective search
An appealing illustration will attract a target audience, set up the right atmosphere, and help translate the main message of the text. How does one find a great image quickly? You don't need to browse stock photos for hours or desperately search for free pics on Tumblr.
In this article, we are gonna talk about effective search techniques and visual content strategies that will help you to do the following:

  • Quickly find images you need
  • Develop a visual content strategy for your website or brand
  • Stand out in the information stream and engage your audience
The importance of visual content
If you consider the search for illustrations for your article or website to be a last priority that doesn't require much time, you put your whole project at risk. Visual content is just as important as text, as numerous researches and stats claim:

If you prefer images over text (pun intended), take a look at these two cover photo options for the post "How to give up fast food" and consider which one you would rather click on.

The first photo is the first search result for the keywords "fast food". The second photo is a result of 4-minute effective search, with the use of the keywords "hamburger, unhealthy, sad" and included the categories filter search.
Where do I find images?
Photo stocks
Photo banks like Depositphotos are the most convenient place to find any kind of photo or vector for your projects. The large database has millions of images, efficient search algorithms with numerous filters and specially selected collections. To download an image, usually one is required to purchase a monthly subscription worth $50-$100. However, there are also much more affordable options, like $1 images. If you're buying images from stocks, you can be sure there will not be any legal issues about licensing. All stock images are royalty-free, which means you can use them for media, print or commercial promotions.

Tip: Most stocks have a weekly delivery of free files, which is a good resource for anyone on the creative pursuit.
Free photo stocks
Free stock photo banks have smaller file libraries which decreases your chances of finding the right images. The big advantage is that you don't have to pay for them. Before using these images, make sure the website, blog or microstock doesn't violate copyrights. Creative Commons is the most frequently used license type on free image sites.
Contact photographers
This is the most costly method in terms of time and money, yet it has its advantages. On the one hand, it will take a lot of time and efforts to find a photographer and to produce the photo shoot, but on the other hand you will receive unique, high-quality photos.
How do I find the images I need?
To make sure your image search is efficient and fast, define 3-4 keywords that describe the main concept of the ideal portrayal. Also, don't forget to use search categories on stock websites.
Regardless of the stock platform you use, your image search will always start with keywords. Don't confuse text keywords with the keywords that describe an image's concept: they could be slightly or very different.

For example, if you are looking for a cover image for your long read article "pet transportation guide", you will probably use keywords like "dog, car, transport". As a result, you will get a photo like this:
It is a good image and it illustrates just what you are writing about. But could it be a little more original and fun? If we try a different search using the keywords "dog, helmet, posing", we will get a perfect illustration that drives positive emotions and helps translate the text message:
One more efficient way to define the right keywords is to concentrate on associations you have with the main subject of the text. For example, to illustrate an article about multitasking and distractions, one can search for the keywords "smartphone, laptop, tablet, work" and get a photo of typical working people in action:
Search by image
If you prefer to show and not to tell, or you have a good image reference, use the search by image option. Most big photo stocks have this option built into the search bar:
It's pretty simple! You can find any image you like online or one that you have on your computer and upload it to the search bar with the URL or simply by dragging the file. A search algorithm will find identical or lookalike images that you can use right away:
Search by author/series
Here's one more efficient search method that will make your life easier. If you like a photo, but want to find something slightly different, check the section "In the Same Series". You will find several images of the same style and subject but with different angles and additional details.
You can also check other photos by the same author:
It's a good way to find a series of photos for a promotional campaign or article illustrations and build up a consistent visual content strategy.
What does a good illustration look like?
It's relatively easy to find an illustration when you have a defined project topic or theme. However, when there are no strict requirements, your image hunt gets tricky. What image do you choose for a background, a promo banner or a website header? How do you define a theme, a style and an object?
Avoid common cliches
Stock photography has certain stereotypical images that have been around for years. You have seen such photos on media and in ads: the laughing salad lady, the smiling businessmen shaking heads, a happy family dinner or a smiling romantic couple. One can recognize cliche images by certain features - bright studio light, models looking directly at the camera, fake emotions and smiles. Try to avoid these photos.
Get inspired by others
Steal like an artist. There is nothing wrong in following industry leaders and getting ideas from those who use authentic and appealing visuals. You don't have to make a copy of someone else's work, just take the main idea and use it for inspiration. For example, Racked magazine used bold and funny illustrations for hackneyed "online shopping" topic.
You can use the bright pop art concept and find an image like this:
Setting the mood
The object of the image could be of secondary importance. The most crucial task of the illustration is to outline the main idea of the text, set up an atmosphere or add a little bit of irony. The text will be transformed with a witty, metaphoric illustration. For example, for an article on major career decisions, one can use a cover photo of overpass roads to imply crossing career paths.
Follow trends
There are certain trends in visual culture, photography and design that appear and die out every year. Just a couple of years ago, we saw a lot of smoke grenade photos, landscapes with people standing with their back to the camera and urban geometry images.
Fast forward to today, the most demanded photos are people in daily routines and movement, minimalistic Iceland landscapes and bold still life images.
How do I develop a consistent visual style?
If you aim to illustrate more than one article, like a series of posts in a blog or want to implement an SMM strategy, it is better to set up a specific visual style from the start. It is especially important for brand marketing campaigns, when visuals should support brand colors and style.
Today there are numerous apps and software programs that help customize and process photos. Pick the one that works for you and use it to add film filters, color effects or trending Duotone effects. Don't get too carried away with processing a photo and be consistent with your filters choices.
Add some text
Photo with an overlay of text may work even better than just a photo. People react well to this combination. First of all, this format is easy to process on social media newsfeeds. Secondly, memes are just more evidence that image and text is the perfect union. And lastly, the human brain loves illustrations. People follow instructions 323% better if they are backed up with pictures. Text also helps to keep up a consistent style for visuals. For example, we used text to make headers for our series of blog posts:
Let's sum it all up
Stock photo sites are the best place to find images if you need to do it quickly and are on a budget.
It is better to come up with an image concept from the start and use 2-3 main keywords for your search. Associations with the main text can also help you find an image.
In order to develop a consistent visuals style, stick to high-quality images and follow guidelines you've chosen from the start.
If you still have some questions about stock photography or image search, feel free to contact the Depositphotos team - We're always happy to help!

Text: Eugine Dychko
Illustrations and design: Julia Zass
Photo: Depositephotos
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