How to find the perfect image to sell your words

Shireen Bawnlavery of Quiet Lion

I think I'd rather watch paint dry than spend ten hours scraping image grids for The Perfect Picture. At least while wall gazing, I can meditate my way to an epiphany or fantasize about my next trip to the desert.

You've done it, right? Fallen down the iStock rabbit hole until your eyes glaze over... until so many hours have passed you have no idea what you were even looking for?

But you can't give up, can you? Because without images, your words better be filled with caramel fudge to grab my attention.

So here's what to do first... 

1. Define main purpose of your page / post.

Example: I'm selling a solution for depression and anxiety.

2. Define the feeling you’re tapping into to sell your offer.

Example: relief, the strength to let go and move forward.

3. Decide what kind of image would evoke that feeling.

Example: One that says "I’m ready to take on the world!" (see my example image above)

Now that you're clear on what you're looking for, you can bypass the thousands of beautiful images that catch your eye, but don't serve your purpose.

How to get lots of original and FREE images

Create your own. Seriously.

Don't give me that look (I saw you). I'm not saying rush out right now, find a path with trees, throw your arms out, smile and say Bring It On. 

This is an ongoing project. But it’s really easy and it’s fun. Your phone is always with you, right? (Your phone is a great place to start, but if you get really serious, consider having a good camera on hand.) Then take pictures of anything that catches your eye. It could be anywhere, in the park, at a coffee shop, even in your own home. (If it’s in a public place, it’s yours for the taking, with obvious discretion in mind. Like faces of individuals are off limits, but crowds are ok.)

Look for shots that capture a feeling

Most of the time, when we're selling something, we're speaking to emotions. So look for scenes that make you feel something. A puppy bouncing over waves, a steaming cup of coffee beside your notebook, a busy downtown intersection. The subject is irrelevant. You never know what might be The Perfect Picture one day.

Snap like a pro

Easy tips for taking professional pictures, for non-techies: from Hubspot

Setting up an easy search

When you upload them to your computer, give them names (happy-life, relief-freedom, sunset-meditate, inspirational-birds, etc.) to make future searches easy. (I wish someone had told me this a long time ago. We took 4000 pictures on our last trip alone. I know!)

Soon you’ll have a library of free, easily searchable, 100% original images. How cool is that?

Until you build your library

It's worth paying for a good stock photo if it's going to live on your website for a while. The trick is to choose something that doesn’t look like a stock photo. How? Ask yourself if it looks authentic, like something you could have taken. Another trick is to crop it and use only part of it. This is also a great way to save money. You might get two or three images from one purchase.

If you spent all your money on gourmet cat food and your next tropical vacation (you totally have my blessing), you can get free images at Pexel or Morguefile. (Morgue? I mean, really?) The selection is limited, but they’re 100% free. And if you're lucky, you might find just what you need.

Bonus Tips

  1. Always keep dimension in mind. What space will the image be displayed in? For example, banner images at the top of the page need to be wider than they are tall (landscape orientation).

  2. Choose images that are consistent with the look and feel of your website. Consider colours, style (whimsical, sophisticated, bold, etc.) and overall feel.

  3. 0056.jpg doesn't mean much to you does it? Search engines won't think much of it either. So take 10 seconds and rename your image before you upload it to your website. For example: "cure-anxiety-woman.jpg".

  4. Fill out the 'alt text'. It tells search engines what your image is, as well as blind people. Keep your key words (words people type to find you) in mind. For example, "happy woman who found holistic help for depression".

  5. Most website building platforms like Wordpress and Squarespace will automatically reduce image file size when you upload your pictures (unless it’s HUGE, like 6000+ pixels wide). But if your platform doesn't, don't assume your visitors will jump on the chance to do twenty sit ups while they wait for your page to load. (Check the pixel size. 2000 pixels wide is ok for large, full screen images. Smaller post images need only be 600 - 1000 px wide.)

Just experiment and have fun!