A picture tells a thousand words, according to the oft-quoted phrase from the early 1900s, more than half a century before Instagram and Pinterest made social capital from the idea. But quality images and illustrations cost a fortune, right? Wrong. There are plenty of cost-effective tricks and hacks that’ll get you up and running with stunning images for your project, whether it’s a social campaign, PowerPoint or a beautiful brand site. I built a small tool to help with this but you really need a selection of options depending on your needs. -here are my top ten.
1) Let’s get this out of the way first – you need to pick your battles. Free and low-cost images are awesome, but if you’re in charge of a national billboard campaign, don’t stint and go get in the professionals. There’s a time for budget stretching, and a time to go big or go home.
2) The grandaddy of free images, Pixabay is worth stopping by even if you plan to splash out. Many of the images are easily professional quality, and can be downloaded and used for free with ease. There are illustrations too, handy to pep up presentations or use for placeholders. As with all free image sites, be aware that your competitors may have visited too, so for standout hero images it’s worth using an element of caution. https://pixabay.com/
3) If you’re after something a little more mood-based, a little esoteric maybe, then Unsplash is a brilliant place to hunt for that perfect all-encompassing scene. The images are as a rule stunningly shot and beautifully sharp, so ideal for website use. Commercial use is free. https://unsplash.com/
4) For those who need regular infusions of new images, whether for social campaigns or inspiration, Death To Stock might just be the image source for you. The service sends you regular photo packs to choose from and riff off. There’s a free and a premium service, so something for every budget! https://deathtothestockphoto.com
5) Even if you need an absolutely unique illustration, don’t despair – there are plenty of artists online who’ll take your brief to the next level. A great source of cheap and cheerful offerings is Fiverr, where a basic logo design will set you back…a fiver. Of course, different formats and more complex designs cost more, but it’s a great way to check out designer’s initial work, and you’ll find everything from cartoons to infographics is catered for. https://www.fiverr.com/
6) Beautiful website design resources can be hard to come across, so Squarespace delivers a real shot in the arm for startups and seasoned pros alike. They are excellent. Each is sleek, minimal and designed for big photos and strong typography. Plus there are no cheesy small business templates. https://www.squarespace.com
7) Perhaps you’ve already chosen your visuals, but need to quickly add more impact for social promotion? A full Photoshop approach might seem overly costly and clunky. No problem – perennial social tool creators Buffer have your back, with its ‘Pablo’ image editor. Simply upload your image, pick a font and off you go. Scale the result for your intended platform(s), and save. Simple, free and easy. https://pablo.buffer.com/
8) For the terminally short of time, The Stocks is a wonderful aggregated hunting ground for images, as well as having helpful libraries of fonts and even data visualisations. As a one-stop shop it takes some beating. http://thestocks.im/
9) Another brilliant image editor tool is Canva, ideal for those quick tweaks and edits to create your ideal image. Entirely in-browser, you can edit images on the fly from phones, tablets or a desktops in the office – welcome to the new, flexible digital world! https://www.canva.com
10) Finally, if you’re in need of a longer term professional collaborator for a larger project, then sites such as freelancer.com and Bark.com offer specific areas to hunt down your best design match. Although the initial costs will be higher than the cheaper options above, you might well end up saving overall if a series of deliverables are involved. https://www.bark.com / https://www.freelancer.com