Finding the perfect stock image is a huge time suck.
Finding a good stock or free image takes time. You are at the mercy of how the photographer and the site has arranged them and which words have been used to tag them.
To find stock photography, you’ll be searching terms, sifting through pages of images, trying to find one that fits your post and your budget, trying to ignore the temptation to just grab anything and dump it in your post so you can publish.
Far too often, stock photography is about you making your content fit the image. More than once have I struggled to find the “perfect” image and grabbed something that I’ve clumsily referenced in my post so it made some kind of sense to my reader. It’s even worse when I have to find an image for a post someone else wrote. What were they thinking when the wrote the post? Does this image best capture what they intended?
What To Use Instead Of Stock Or Free Images
At this point, you’re wondering what in the world you’re going to do if you can’t use stock images for your blog posts.
Use your own art or photography.
Before you tell me that you can’t draw, hold on. You don’t have to be a to make this happen.
Recently, on my personal blog, I made the decision that I wanted all imagery to either be my own art or photography, and that the only exception was if I was talking about a specific thing which would need to be illustrated otherwise. This makes my blog distinctly mine and it also showcases my art. It gives readers a taste of my personality and who I am beyond what I can write with words (this is good). On occasion, I draw an image for posts on this blog, too.
But maybe you don’t draw.
Even if you’re not an artist, you can still keep your eyes open every day for opportunities to take photos with your smart phone (though you should avoid getting people in your photos unless you have their written permission). First into the movie theater? Take a photo of the empty seats and use it the next time you write a blog post about knowing your audience. Take photos of what I call “standards”, things like traffic lights and fast-moving cars on the freeway, gear mechanisms or silhouetted trees–images that can stand in for other topics (e.g. traffic lights for a post about web traffic, trees for a post about growing your readership).
Essentially, you’re creating your own stock imagery, whether as a photo or as art. The difference is that it’s coming from you, your life, and your viewpoint. And you’ll better know the images and how they should fit with a blog post.
Hire a designer to create a set of standards.
Hire a designer (or artist, or photographer) to create a set of images that you can use repeatedly as your featured image.