Secrets to Smarter Image Search

Guest post by Alisa Steck

Hooray, the graphic design is completed & you’re ready to replace the holder image with the real deal. Now comes the challenge of finding the perfect image that will fit the bill, fast. There are several tricks that could help narrow down your stock photo image search to quickly hone in on the ideal shot.

1. Composition:

If your design is web based, you might only need to view horizontal, panoramic or vertical shots that can be cropped horizontally. One way to search for vertical images that can be cropped horizontally is to use the term ‘small’. An example would be to search by ‘Hiker and small’ to find a large landscape with a person occupying a tiny bit of the frame. If you’re looking for an image for a brochure cover, you might need a vertical with room for copy. Most stock sites have ‘Copy Space’ as an option within their search function options. If they don’t, try typing ‘Copy Space’ along with your search, such as ‘Hiker and Copy Space”, as they may have it as a keyword.

© Alisa SteckRocketroom, LLC.

2. Keyword Search:

After searching through 10 pages of images, you might be thinking, ‘this shot must exist, where the heck is it?’. An image might be lurking just under your radar, but you’ll need to apply the right set of keywords to find it. Say you’re searching for a simple shot of breakfast. Remember, breakfast foods vary by region, so you’ll end up with thousands of image returns by just searching ‘Breakfast’. It helps to think about exactly what you’re looking for. You can try searching ‘English Breakfast’, ‘Comfort Food’ or by specific food ingredients such as ‘Fried Eggs’. Or, you might want to focus on farm fresh eggs and search by ‘Hand holding eggs’.

© Alisa Steck/Rocketroom, LLC.

3. Color Palette:

Keep your color palette in mind to help narrow down your search. Luckily, a few stock sites have the option of searching with a color picker. For example, if your are looking for an image that conveys Autumn, you can choose an orange color or even type a HEX number that is within your palette. Istockphoto has a very precise color tool for this purpose.  Corbis has a tool as well, although it’s more limited in it’s color selection. If the site you’re using does not have a color picker tool, try using the color as a keyword.

© Alisa Steck/Rocketroom, LLC.

4. Cost:

By knowing your budget limitations, you will be able to narrow down images to only the ones which will come within your price range. Royalty Free and Microstock are licensed by size, while Rights Managed is by usage. This comes in super handy for managing budgets where there will be multiple images used, such as on a website. The purse strings can be tightened on smaller sized contextual images, while you splurge on images for the more important header pages.

5. Rights:

Determine how unique an image needs to be. When selecting an image for an
important usage, such as a magazine cover or website home page, consider going with a Rights Managed Image. Rights Managed images tend to have a higher production value and thus a higher price point, reducing visual over saturation in the market. The images are licensed by usage (such as web, print, etc.), size, placement and duration.  If uniqueness of the image and usage history is not critical, Royalty Free and Microstock might be the way to go. They offer professional quality imagery at an affordable price point. Both Royalty Free and Microstock are priced by file size with a one-time fee.

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