What is a blogger?
The first description that comes to my mind is that a blogger is a writer. Which, of course, makes sense. We're writing posts for people to read and enjoy… maybe even learn something from.
But posts without pictures are hard, if not impossible, to read.
So, a blogger is also an image sourcer/low-level designer as well.
And, as such, the blogger needs access to images and a working familiarity with one or two image editors.
A blogger can spend just as much time finding and editing photos as they do writing their post, which on the surface, seems ridiculous. But when you think about it, it makes sense. The images are often the first (sometimes only) thing readers see, so we work hard to make them compelling.
So, it makes sense, then, that we're not just writers using digital ink.
We need more tools.
Specifically, we need stock images and image editing.
So, let's dig into what makes a stock image site good, better, and best.
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Stock Images: Good, Better, Best
Good: This List of Free, No Attribution Required Stock Images
You can't beat free when it comes to stock images. The most popular post on this site (by a long shot!) is a compilation of sites that provide free and royalty-free stock images that people have put together to make the internet a more beautiful place. The upside of this list is that everything is free, and you don't have to link to the person who took the photo. The downside? Your perfect photo might be on one of these sites, but it'll take you forever to find it.
Everyday posts, quotes that need a background, posts that need an image but not necessarily an image that correlates with the post
Better: $99/Year GraphicStock
The next level up from free in my opinion is a service that costs about $100 a year. That's GraphicStock. Their images are fine but not great, their search is difficult to figure out (especially when you search something and come up empty), and the images that download are the biggest images on the planet (which is fine if you're printing a billboard, but less necessary for a blog post), but they are cheap. This is a “get what you pay for” service. That's not to be disparaging because I use it, but it does lack some of the things iStock (which we'll get to in a minute) has.
Posts that need a specific image, those times you need vectors instead of photos, when you just need a woman laughing alone eating salad
Here's the thing: if you're selling something, you should spend money on a stock image. I can't tell you how many times I've seen Facebook ads or ebook covers or course covers or anything selling something premium that is using a free image I recognize (and often, have on my blog somewhere!). It's off-putting, and makes me think if you're not going to spend a few dollars making your product stand out, why should I spend my money on your product?
iStock is the gold standard for stock images. It's what I used when I was a blog manager in my last job, and it's a subscription I can almost justify now. In fact, they're offering a 20% discount on monthly subscriptions (use coupon code 2RGPC46N during checkout), which would make a 25-image-a-month subscription $52 a month for their essentials package.
If you don't want to commit to a monthly fee, they have a credit system as well. Buy some credits, and use them when you're creating premium products. iStock has 9 million images that no other stock image site has, so when you buy credits, you're investing in creating a unique, high-quality look for your products.
High-impact stuff, client work (if you're a freelancer), any advertising, ebook covers, anything with a premium price tag
Image Editing: Good, Better, Best
Good: PicMonkey Free
I can't remember what I did before PicMonkey existed, but I can say, with certainty, it wasn't pretty. PicMonkey helps make the internet a more beautiful place. Or rather, it helps us make the internet a more beautiful place, which is kind of our job since we're out there pushing content into the internet.
You can edit photos to your heart's desire in PicMonkey. You can create shapes (which I like to do for photos of people); you can create right-sized pins and right-sized social media images. You can add a watermark. You can add text (in any font you desire!).
There are ads in the free version. Sometimes fussing with different fonts can drive you crazy. But really, the downsides are small compared to the fact that you can do some high-quality editing without having to download software.
Creating a pin to go along with your post, photo collages, etc.
Better: PicMonkey Royale ($36/year)
See, PicMonkey is so good that it gets to go on the good and better list of image editing. The paid version is cheap (so cheap, you won't even be mad when it auto renews on you) and there are a ton of things you can do using PicMonkey. I still use PicMonkey (and I still pay for the premium version) even though I have Illustrator (more on that below) because when it comes to some things, especially creating eye-catching collages, PicMonkey simply has Illustrator beat.
You're tired of seeing ads on regular PicMonkey, you want to enhance your photos in a new way, or you just keep seeing the “crown” and want to access it
Best: Adobe Illustrator ($29/month)
I love Illustrator. If I could travel back in time and tell the 2006 version of myself that one day I would write those words so anyone on the internet could see them, I would laugh (and ask about winning Powerball numbers). See, Illustrator (along with the other members of the Adobe family) has a steep learning curve. I'm talking hockey-stick curve. But I had to use it in my last job, so I fought with it. It usually won. But every time I fought through a problem, or watched someone on YouTube walk through a similar problem with ease and grace, I learned. I got better.
I use it every single day my computer is on. It's usually hanging out over on my second monitor. I created a social media image template (one for Pinterest, one for the others) with my logo, my fonts, and my colors, all ready to go. When I created pins using PicMonkey, I would be futzing with said pin for 20 minutes, minimum. But now, using Illustrator, the time it takes me to create a pin is about two minutes longer than the time it takes to find the image I want.
Creating a reusable template for your pins and Facebook images, creating logos, unpacking .EPS files you've downloaded, and learning more about graphic design