Of course, knowing those two facts doesn't slow down time or make visual content creation any easier.
Finding quality images to use on social media or in your blog posts can take forever, especially when you're looking for free ones you can legally use. Creating something shareable out of those images is another beast entirely.
However, there are some incredible time (and headache) saving tools out there that can help.
While we can't give you more hours in the day (not yet, at least), we can recommend some resources that will make finding images or creating custom ones much easier and less time consuming.
UnsplashFinding free-to-use, quality images that won't result in a huge lawsuit for your company can be stressful. Unsplash takes the hassle and frustration out of that process entirely. Unsplash posts ten new high-resolution, featured photos every ten days. Plus, for even more photography gems, they post additional images under the "All" tab. Don't forget to check those out too.
The photos are free to use, modify, share, whatever you want, no attribution required and they're usually fantastic images. If that knowledge doesn’t lower your stress levels I don’t know what will. While the site doesn't feature a central theme to the images and they certainly won't all be applicable to your business, they do include a huge variety of images, like nature, animals, roads, cities and more. Need a photo of an Apple Watch? Woman in a cafe? Polar bear hugging a rock? No problem.
Warning: Many of the images on this site feature beautiful, exotic locales and may induce symptoms of wanderlust.
CanvaCanva, a free, easy-to-use graphic design tool, is definitely one of the most useful online tools for content marketers. Since Guy Kawalski joined as their Chief Evangelist, Canva has garnered plenty of attention. Canva's more than 2.4 million users have created over 15 million designs.
They provide specific templates for social media posts and headers, posters, blog graphics, presentations and more. You can also choose custom dimensions for your project. Choose from one of their numerous and beautiful premade designs or create your own using their shapes, banners, icons, and images. They even have a design school with tutorials, guides, and articles to help you get started.
In May, Canva raised $6 million and announced "Canva for Work," to help bridge the gap between high-end design software and free-to-use platforms.
Screenshots can be a useful tool when you’re trying to explain something, give an example, or provide instructions like in a "how to" blog posts. It's fairly easy to take a regular old screenshot, but what if you want to capture the entire page, not just the part you can see? Or you want to annotate? Or include arrows? Or blur out sensitive information?
That’s where Awesome Screenshot comes in. Essentially an all-in-one screenshot tool, Awesome Screenshot is a browser extension that let’s you snap a screenshot, crop, edit, and annotate all in your browser. You also have the incredibly handy option of capturing a selected area of the page, the visible part of the screen, or even an entire webpage. You probably could do all this in Photoshop, but that's neither free nor time efficient unless you're already an expert.
Just last week, we just Awesome Screenshot to capture the Facebook page you see above to use in a blog post.
When I started using PlaceIt over a year ago, I was instantly hooked. Since then, they’ve added so many new features it's unbelievable.
Originally, I used PlaceIt to show webpages on mobile devices, laptops, or desktops. Simply choose the device you want shown, upload an image or insert a website url and PlaceIt will make the graphic perfectly fit the screen size of the device.
For example, you want to show people that your mobile site is user friendly, or encourage people to read your blog on-the-go. Simply go to PlaceIt, choose the stock photo of a smartphone or tablet you like best, and enter the URL of the site you want displayed. PlaceIt will generate an image of the site right in the photo. You won’t have to try taking a screenshot and using photo editing tools.
This alone would make PlaceIt a hugely useful tool, but it seems like every time I visit the site they’ve added something new. Now, they have over 1,300 mockups to use, including iPads, iPhones, Galaxys, laptops, posters, Apple Watches, Kindles, and more. They've also added different "filter stages," which let you choose between still shots, multiple devices, or interactive videos and demos.
Plus, for a limited time they've also added images of people to the mix. If you don't need a device for your image, but want a photo of a person instead, choose one of 250 people and then select a background. Yup, create your own stock photo by mixing and matching people and backgrounds until you get the image that works for you.
The images are only free in the smallest size, and free videos have a PlaceIt watermark, but this is still a great option.
Compfight helps you find quality creative commons photos, and it automatically generates the attribution you need to include. Just copy and paste the HTML provided into your site to give credit. It’s easy to use, just make sure you select the creative commons filter in the left sidebar to weed out unusable photos. This place has endless photos so you're bound to find something that works for you.
However, if you don't find anything you like for free, upgrade to a professional stock photo for only $1.
Let’s say I snag this beautiful photo of flowers form Unsplash and want to include it in a custom image to share on social media. I’m not a designer, or an artist. I wouldn’t inherently know which colors to use in the design. Thanks to Pictalicious I don’t have to. Just upload the image to the site and it provides a recommended color palette with hex codes.
This makes it super simple for non-designers to create professional looking graphics and color combinations.
Hubspot very generously made more than 550 royalty-free images available for download on their site. You can get business-themed photos, holiday images, "expressions," teamwork photos, offices, meetings, high fives, and more.
While it's not as extensive a collection as Unsplash or Compfight, there are some great images here, particularly for office related needs. Plus, you can download just the ones you need, according to theme, or save them to your Dropbox.
There are plenty more tools out there, but these are a few that I use most often. Are there any others you like to use? Share your time-saving secret weapons with us in the comments below!
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in June 2014 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.