Royalty free, stock photos have become a staple these days due to the huge proliferation of suppliers and relatively low cost. Searching the huge databases has never been easier or more effective. Almost all stock sites offer search engines with advanced filtering capabilities that can get you to the photos or art you are looking for.
A Search is a Search is a Search, unless…
Specific subject searches are by far the easiest and often nothing else will suffice. If you need a picture of an eagle or a cell phone (or whatever) thats what you search for and you are presented with clear choices. No sweat! But what if your content is conceptual in nature and not centered around a definable visual subject. Using conceptual search terms are often productive. Terms like “hot”, “focused”, “professional”, or “skilled” for example. Or, when illustrating those concepts, you may throw in a little more metaphorical free association to widen the search: “hot” = fire or coals; “focused” = lens or optical instruments; “professional” = confident expression or executive; “skilled” = hand crafted or artisan; and so forth.
Why Not Try a Color
Conceptual search terms can work just fine, but if you’re still coming up short try a color.
All photos were obtained from 123rf.com
Granted this doesn’t always apply, but if the gist of your content is conceptual ask yourself if it can be associated with a color. Or, if you are looking for a creative theme as a jumping off point, color could be the search you need to jar your brain. There are three ways I can think of to do this right off the top of my head. You may think of more:
1) Filter by color – If you already have a current selection of images before you, but you want to narrow it down, most stock site search engines allow you to filter your current search by a color and thus narrow your subjects for additional thematic impact, or simply to match a graphic color theme.
2) Simply use a color in your search term – Couple a color with another concept term or use the color term by itself. If you’re writing about the next “hot” trend in some field, search not only by “hot” and “fire” but also try “red” or “orange” or “blue”. What other associations can you make? Will “chartreuse” give you an image that illustrates being outlandish, eccentric, loud, or unique? Sometimes the results can be totally unrelated but sometimes they can surprise you and send you in a new direction you hadn’t thought of.
3) Let color suggest a content theme in advance – In other words, do your photo search before any writing and use a particular color term to present you with theme ideas. The series of photos above show the variety that can come from one simple color search “blue”. I expected to find the blue sky and the water splash but the rest were surprises. What sort of conceptual theme can be incorporated into your writing around the idea of a butterfly or balloons or a blue ribbon. Interesting … see? Now you’re brainstorming and thinking conceptually. Your content will be more interesting and “colorful” as a result.
Finding stock photos or art to illustrate a concept or a theme can be a blast, so be colorful and have fun with it.