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The Misfit’s Guide to Finding Interesting Images for Your Blog Post (At Last)

VW bus blue

I say misfit because I’m not exactly orthodox when it comes to the images I publish. It’s complicated, so I’ll need to explain.

But first a word about the headline.

I mulled over several headlines for this post. Nothing new. But this one gave me particular trouble because I came up with three that I really liked. But each one forced the content in interesting, but different directions.

Which one would prevail? Here’s a sampling of my thought process.

Where the “At Last” Part Comes In

First off, I say “At Last” because Henneke asked me to tell her where I find all my images.

That was weeks (maybe even months) ago. And she hasn’t been the only one that’s asked. There have been others.

I’m slow off the cuff because magicians don’t give up their secrets, right?

The Insider’s Guide to Unorthodox Images for Your Blog Posts

Above was another headline I thought about using.

It establishes the same context as the headline above with an emphasis on the “old man on the mountain is about to speak” slant. But I pulled away from this headline because I don’t feel like the emphasis should be placed on the insider portion of finding images.

You’re not stupid, and you could find these images yourself if you tried hard enough. I guess the value I could contribute to your life — your career — is to show you the path. Give you the short cut. Make your life easier.

Fair enough.

The important thing is not that this is a secret I keep close to the vest. The important thing is that these images run across the grain because of their quality and presentation — making me an iconoclast.

A misfit.

Stock art makes most people choke, including me.

Business art, on the other hand (you know, the smartly dressed woman with her briefcase, the foreboding bank building, or the white genderless Gumby puppet … the stuff you might see on Open Forum or Viper Chill),  makes me choke, and not everyone else, it seems.

I don’t want to be like that. It’s not my personality. And I think I should rather die than use it.

Why Iconoclastic Images Are Important

We live in an image based culture. We have since the late 18th century with the invention of the daguerreotype (early camera), which loosened the grip the printed word had held on us since the invention of the press (early 1600s).

You can see this history played out on a small time scale with the invention of the web. Words were the dominate form of communication in the early days. Over time technology changed so images and video became the main vehicles of information.

Yet, the web is still for words, as 37 Signals pointed out with their “Hug Your Copywriter” post.

So, even though its obvious we want to hear stories (obvious from the outpouring of support I got for sharing my writing story), why waste the high resolution, large screens, and pixels on just black lines on white space?

Give me something to look at. And make it double.

Besides, you and I are still competing for attention online, and this lesson was impressed upon me by Robert Scoble years ago. He confessed when blazing through a thousand blog posts a day on his Google Reader the post with the compelling image stopped him in his tracks (and it helped if the posts were brief).

I’ve taken that advice ever since. And gave it my own spin. It’s worked for me.

This Is Where I Let You Down

Now, my sources of images aren’t well-guarded secrets. Like I said above you could do this on your own. Everywhere I find images you have equal access to. The web is an egalitarian vehicle, is it not?

So, let’s pull back the curtain.

  • Tumblr – Search via tags, or better yet, follow some of the cream of the crop. Magnificent Ruin, LIFE.
  • Society6 - Allows artists, graphic designers and illustrators to display their work and sell it. The search is robust and with a lot of depth.
  • Reddit - I won’t find a lot here, but occasionally there is a cream shot that I can’t pass up.
  • Google+ – Like Reddit, not a plentiful source, but a good place to search. And I trust that as Google+ grows, it’s stock of images grows, too.
  • Instagram - Follow some popular photographers, illustrators and designers. This is one network that you need to ask for permission. Or just use your own.
  • Google Images – No brainer here. Use “Advanced Search,” then “usage rights” to find duty-free photos.
  • Flickr - Search the Creative Commons bank of photos. Or find a great photo that’s copyrighted, and ask the creator if you can use it. With link back, of course.
  • Quipsologie – I’ll quote the site: “Chronicling the most curious, creative, and notable projects, stories, and events of the graphic design industry on a daily basis.”

Naturally your style won’t match my style, so you may need to follow different people. But they are out there. Just takes time to find them.

And by the way, ask permission if you are not sure if you can use an image … and don’t forget to give attribution (with a link leading back to the right web page).

I Almost Forgot — Other Tools You’ll Need

You need to doctor the image. Sometimes you’ll find an image that is too small, or you need to crop out everything but the face. Here are the tools I use.

  • Faststone - I’ve yet to break the surface of what Faststone can do–it can do a lot–but I use it mainly to make images bigger.
  • Picasa - Picassa allows you to crop shots and apply filters (my favorite is 1960).
  • Jing - Grab an image of your screen, apply some arrows, boxes, or text, and then save.

All these tools are free. I like free.

P.S. Have you seen my new podcast Rough Draft?


  1. Here’s another great site that designers use:

    Simply search for what you want and then send an email to the owner of the image telling them that if they let you feature the image on your post then you’ll put a link to their portfolio in the captions.

  2. Hey Demian, thanks for writing this. Really useful.

    I think it’s great how your site has a strong identity not just because of your writing, but also because of your images. Most people seem to be either focused on words or images – you do well with both.

    I’m always nervous about infringing copyrights (I think with Tumblr this can be a problem?), but like the idea of emailing people to ask permission. Just need to start looking for images a little earlier ;-)

    PS And thanks for the link :)

    • Henneke, yeah, it can be a problem really with any image on any social media site (Tumblr, Pinterest, Facebook, Google+), which shouldn’t be a problem, however, if you ask for permission, look for non-copyright images. And you are welcome. :D

  3. Yep, you’ve done it again Demian…

    …you’ve somehow drilled a question straight from the copywriting corner of my brain and squirted the answer back through the hole.

    Thank you.

    I’ve never used Jing before but I’m all over TechSmith’s SnagIt – it’s a beasty tool for quick edits:

  4. I can’t thank you enough for sharing this!

    My blog is getting some traction, so I’m changing the design to look as professional & modern (LEGIT) as possible. It was only a matter of time before I had to give up the stock images I’ve been using so far.

    I’m still thinking of my signature look, when I start to edit my post images. But your list of editing tools is a great help.

  5. Thanks for sharing. Most people stop and read a blog if they are captured by the image used so I try and always use one in my blogs. And yes, free is definitely good.

  6. When someone writes an piece of writing he/she retains the
    thought of a user in his/her mind that how a user can understand it.
    So that’s why this article is outstdanding. Thanks!

  7. Great post.

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    Money and freedom is the best way to change, may you be rich and continue to help other people.

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