The Secret to Getting Free Styled Images for Your Blog
Photography Via Danielle Moss.
This post is for those of you who are exactly where I was not too long ago, staring lovingly at the absolutely stunning images some blogs use. I was so jealous of their talent, their eye for detail. How do they know which colours go well together? Does everyone have a knack for photography but me?
I really admire bloggers who have the time (and eye) to take stunning styled images for their blogs. I would love to say that I could eventually get to the point where I only use my own photographs but at this stage in my life (running a business, back studying, always hustling and trying to create great content and resources for SPT blog) I just simply don’t have the time (and we have to prioritise based on what gives us the best ROI don’t we?).
For me, my time is best spent on tasks where I can work really efficiently and add value in a big big way and trust me, that’s not photography. I have enough self awareness to know where my weaknesses are and in my day to day that makes me a good business person. I outsource my weaknesses. Always.
I pay to get my work proof read (because no matter how many times I proof a document, I almost always miss one typo and it drives me insane). I work with brilliant designers who know what I need to achieve and don’t rely on an intricate “brief” and while I am able to run all of the digital adverting for my clients, I outsource to ad “specialists” (I was one many years ago before being able to consult on strategy) because I know that it’s difficult to be in an “advertising” head space (where the day to day tasks are so tactical) and also be in a “strategic business” head space where I walk into boardrooms and convince a board to invest in digital.
That being said, I understand that images are such a huge part of creating a beautiful blog aesthetic and I wanted a beautiful blog.
While I absolutely love being able to leverage free stock photography (like Pexels and Kaboompics which are two of my favourites) I began to notice the same images being used not only by other bloggers, but by huge content publishers online. Of course they would right? It’s free stock photography!
I wanted my blog to look unique yet I wasn’t prepared to take the photography myself. What a conundrum right?
Well, not really. I cracked it! I found a fast and easy way to gain access to absolutely stunning photography without having to pay for it and now I want to share my little secret with YOU!
It’s *drumroll please*: Outreach.
Those of you who have been following me for a while will know that I am a big fan of Outreach. Outreach for everything! Additional exposure, guest blogs, working with brands, gaining access to brilliant minds, finding new content and more.
In fact if you’re interested in learning how you can leverage the power of others to achieve mutual goals and take your content to the next level, check out my Introduction to Outreach post where I highlight my top 7 Outreach Strategies.
Well I have no idea why I didn’t think of this before, but the answer to gaining access to a stunning inventory of images is to well… ask for it!
You can of course look into using an Outreach Tool such as BuzzStream if you’re going to be managing a LOT of relationships. BUT you can totally achieve the same thing by using your Gmail account really cleverly (and by installing a few Gmail plugins).
What you’ll need:
- Evercontact Gmail Plugin (or just a little time to add in the contact details of anyone you want to reach out to)
- Boomerang Gmail Plugin
- Enable “Canned Responses” in your Gmail Labs (it should be the first labs option in your account settings)
- About 20 minutes of your time
Ready? Now for the method.
1) Keep a list of photographers you love
Every time I stumble across an Instagram account for a photographer I think is incredible, or I find their work via their blog or website I will note down their name. If you are struggling to find photographers, you can always run a “reverse Google Image Search” with an image that you love to find the original source and track down the contact details of the person who can give you permission to use it.
Photography Via Emma Dime.
Now stalk and find their email address! I have found photographers email addresses on their Instagram/Facebook pages, their LinkedIn profiles or their portfolio websites. If you use Gmail you can Install the Evercontact plugin to easily highlight and “save” this info down to your contact list for easy access later when it comes time to email them!
Photography Via Danielle Moss.
3) Create a “canned response”
If you use Gmail, you can simply “enable” canned responses in your Lab settings. Now get writing!
Create a response that is really simple and easy to customise later. Highlight how you came across them and a few reasons why it will be worth their while.
Photography Via Monike Hibbs.
Here’s the template I use:
4) Customise & send!
Despite the fact that I do create canned responses, I strongly encourage you to customise each email to the individual you’re talking to. I know for a fact that when someone emails me asking for something, and it seems a bit “vague” or like it could have been sent as a bulk email, I’m not nearly as likely to respond!
After all, you’re asking this person if you can leverage off of their hard work! Take a little time to give them a compliment (flattery will get you everywhere).
Photography Via Alice Gao.
5) Boomerang it!
If you use Gmail you simply must install Boomerang. It’s an incredible tool that allows you to schedule email sends and also “boomerangs” emails back to the top of your inbox when you ask it to.
It’s a great tool to use when performing Outreach as you can schedule it to come back to your inbox in 7 days time so that you can “follow up”. Just make sure you don’t follow up with people who have already responded to you!
I shot off 28 emails in only 20 minutes with this method in the evening. By morning, I had 8 photographers who agreed to let me use their photos on my blog in exchange for attribution. By the next day I had another 5 agree. A few days later I had another 3 agree. That’s a conversion rate of 57%. Pretty happy with that.
I know some people think it’s totally fine to use any images you find on the web as long as you attribute that image but I’m afraid that is totally incorrect. Each content creator will have their own set of guidelines and some will allow you to do that, while others won’t.
Either way, like many things, when you take a little time to set things up it really doesn’t take much time at all to ask. Plus, I ended up sparking up a friendship with a few photographers. Many of them asked me to please share the post I created and used their image for so that they could “share” it to their channels which is just so lovely (and results in increased reach for me as well).
It’s all in the art of asking!
Photography Via NBarrettPhotography.
So I encourage you, if you’re really interested in making your blog posts stand out from the crowd and just don’t have the time (like me) to take beautiful styled images for your blog then give this little tip a try.
Sure, it takes a little time to set up but it is much easier on the wallet if you’re in the business of purchasing images!
Did you like this post? I would just love it if you would “pin” it to your Pinterest page or “Tweet” it from the rooftops!
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