If you’re operating on a zero budget and using free stock photos, guess what!? So are hundreds of thousands of other bloggers! And guess what else?! Word has gotten out about all of those free stock photo sites. So chances are, people will start seeing those photos you’re using on other websites, especially if they follow multiple websites in the same genre. And I’m guessing you want your content to be unique and fresh and on point.
How do you stand out in the crowd when you’re all “drawing your water from the same well”? Lucky for you, I’ve got some ideas!
To get started, go find a picture you love from one of these sites: My Favorite 21 Free Stock Photo Resources.
Isn’t it gorgeous? Yep! It oozes October mornings and glowy light and a rustic atmosphere with a contemplative woman as its focal point. Perfection. Before I get going, just a note to let you know I’ll be using PicMonkey, a free photo editor, to do my edits so that you can follow along. I normally work in PhotoShop, but know not everyone has access to that and I want to keep it simple.
The first thing to consider before cropping is what social media platform I would like to crop this for. I’m going to say…Pinterest. That’s where I’m focusing my energies right now, so I might as well optimize this graphic to pin there. That means it needs to be tall, not wide.
First…a few screen shots to show the process…
And the finished product…
So how did I do that? Here’s the process breakdown:
- Select your photo from a free stock photo site. If you need to include attribution, be sure to save that info for when you create your post. (This is why I use sites like Stocksnap.io and Pixabay because I don’t have to worry about that!)
- Open your photo in Picmonkey.
- Choose “Pinterest Pin” or “Facebook Timeline” or whatever crop will work best for where you want the photo to go.
- Have you heard of the Rule of Thirds? On Picmonkey when you’re in the crop mode, you’ll see a grid that looks like a tic tac toe board. The Rule of Thirds says to put your focal points at the intersections of those lines, not directly in the center of the photo. Horizons should line up with the top or bottom line, unless you have a decided focal point and the horizon doesn’t matter in your photo. In other words…you can break the rule and still create a stunning shot. For more info, click here: Rule of Thirds.
- You’ll notice that the original photo had high contrast and saturation of color. I wanted to give it a more “Instagram Filtered” kind of feel so that it wouldn’t look exactly like the original image. First I changed the settings in the “Exposure” under the “Basic Edits” Tab. I decreased the contrast and increased the brightness. Then I clicked “Apply.”
- Next I opened the “Colors” option and decreased the saturation and increased the temperature of the photo just a tad. Even small adjustments can change the photo significantly. Play around with these until you’re happy with the way the photo looks. Don’t forget to click “Apply” when you’re satisfied with your changes.
- Lastly, I adjusted the “Sharpness” of the image. This one only takes the tiniest nudge, otherwise your photo will end up looking too fake or harsh.
If you don’t want to play with all of those settings, you can open up the “Effects” tab on Picmonkey and try out the various filters that they have premade. One of my favorites is the “Tranquil.” These are rather like applying Instagram filters.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Why fit in when you were born to stand out…with your free stock photos? #socialmedia” quote=”Why fit in when you were born to stand out…with your free stock photos?”]
Let’s try a couple more…
Wondering why I cut off part of her face? Pinterest users have consistently pinned more images that do not show the entire face!
and a side-by-side of that first one…
Practice! If you use stock photos, especially the free variety, and you’ve never taken the time to edit them and make them your own, work through this process and see how you can create unique content for your site without paying big bucks for expensive images.