When you’re looking at a website, what’s one of the first things you notice? Images. Before people scan through any text in social media updates, blog posts, or newsletters, the one thing that will really catch their eyes is well-done images. Whether these are photos you’ve paid for, taken, or images you’ve created, they can make the difference between someone closing the tab that has your website or being intrigued and wanting to read more.
But before you head out and take a random image from a Google search, understand that you legally can’t use images that you don’t have the rights to. That’s right—although people generally view the internet as a free-for-all, images are not simply yours (or anyone’s) to use whenever the desire strikes.
So what does this mean, especially for those of you who aren’t skilled photographers or have zero Adobe Photoshop abilities? You still have plenty of options to incorporate the perfect images into your online marketing strategy! Here’s a guide to getting amazing images for blogging & social media to boost your affiliate marketing business.
Take Photos Yourself
Photography is most certainly a skill, so if you don’t consider yourself that great at it, you can always practice and improve. And since most people have a camera right in their pocket (hint: it’s your phone), it’s easier than ever to improve your photography game. Check out YouTube, online classes, or even community college courses or art school classes that you can take to get better.
Most phones today have relatively decent cameras attached to them. Is it going to be as good as a DSLR? No, of course not. But it’s better than no images at all. And again, photography is a skill—so before you go out and drop big bucks on a swanky camera, make sure you’re skilled enough to use it. But even with a camera phone or point-and-shoot, a little bit of decent lighting (or by shooting during the daytime for natural light), and a little bit of know-how, you can end up with some great photos to use to promote your affiliate business.
Source Photos From Elsewhere
There’s always the option to purchase photos from stock photo websites. The upside to this is that you’ll have a plethora of options to choose from and you don’t have to worry about having photography skills yourself. The downside is, of course, that it’s a business expense. Additionally, stock photos have a bad reputation for being a little bit cheesy or silly-looking, so it might take some hunting to really find something that stands out.
There are some free options when it comes to this as well. Creative Commons are resources that include images you are able to use for free, so long as you credit the original photographer and follow the copyright guidelines. In Flickr Creative Commons, for example, you can use some photos and edit them as much as you want, while others you have to use the original of only. Either way, they’re free photos you can use. There are also sites like Unsplash or Death to the Stock Photo that offer photos you can use for any purposes at all for a low price or for free. Some bloggers may offer a sign-up incentive of free-to-use photo packs when you sign up for their newsletters—a particularly crafty way to get nice, hi-res images that not everyone has seen before.
If you see a photo or image you really like and can’t imagine not using it, reach out to the person who owns the rights to it. This usually involves finding their contact information on social media, their blog, or their website. Ask them if they’re okay with you using their image, and for what purposes you intend to use it. Let them know you will fully credit them and link to the original source.
This is a great way to connect with fellow entrepreneurs and use the images that you feel are absolutely ideal for your posts or updates. The main downside here is that you may have to wait a while to hear a response, or you may never get one at all. With any luck, this person will get back to you in 24 hours or less, but that’s hardly ever the case. So if you’re trying to get permission to use a photo for tomorrow’s blog post, you may not know in time. For this reason, this is a good option but it’s good to have backup options in case it falls through.
Make Them Your Own
So you’ve sourced the perfect photo—now what? Well, sure, you could simply stick it up as the featured image on your blog post or include it in a social media update, but what’s really going to help your online marketing strategy is making the images unique to you. This means, essentially, branding them, either with filters, borders, graphics, or text.
This is actually way easier than you’re probably imagining. It used to be that to edit photos and images you needed to have expensive software and extensive training to use it. Nowadays it’s far simpler.
First of all, there are loads of photo editing apps on iPhone and Android devices. These apps vary widely and can add text, lines, doodles, backgrounds, filters, and you can even do some serious editing like increasing the exposure or upping the saturation. The best part: a lot of these apps are mere dollars, if not completely free. Some good ones are Afterlight, VSCO, Phonto, and ColorStory.
Additionally, you can turn to your computer for editing, no software necessary. Sites like Canva and PicMonkey allow you to edit photos and add graphics with ease. While there is a bit of a learning curve to them, it really only takes a few times to get the hang of it, and there are YouTube videos out there to help you along as well. While you start out with these sites, feel free to play around and explore everything they’re capable of doing. Once you’ve found what you do and don’t like, then decide on a few key elements that you use consistently, and you’ll make your images even more recognizable to your audience.