graphic design

Top Five Free Stock Photo Websites

 
 
Best Free Stock Photo Sites for Bloggers, Small Businesses and Non-Profits
 

Whether you're a new (or seasoned!) blogger or a entrepreneur with a limited marketing budget, having professional photography done for each campaign, webpage or blog isn't reasonable. That's why I've rounded up my favorite stock photo sites that offer great, high-quality images for free. Yep, that's right: great photos for zero dollars, no strings attached.

PEXELS

Pexels is an incredible resource for free stock photos for bloggers across the board. They have everything from desk flat lays with coffee, notebooks and Apple gear and office shots to open plains and livestock. You won't find corny, posed images on Pexels either. Feminine or masculine themes, holiday photos, food images and everything in between sums up their giant library. They even have a massive fitness section, which in my experience, is hard to come by in the free stock photo world! 

Images are free for personal or commercial use and they even have a handy option to download different sizes of their photo, a feature that's especially great if you don't have access to Photoshop or time to spend resizing image after image.

No account is required to download photos, but if you do sign up, you'll receive 40 exclusive images you won't find on the website.

Here's a rundown of their license from their website:

It's hard to understand complex licenses that is why all photos on Pexels are licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. This means the pictures are completely free to be used for any legal purpose.

•  The pictures are free for personal and even for commercial use.
•  You can modify, copy and distribute the photos.
•  All without asking for permission or setting a link to the source. So, attribution is not required.
•  The only restriction is that identifiable people may not appear in a bad light or in a way that they may find offensive, unless they give their consent.

 

UNSPLASH

Unsplash has a similar aesthetic to Pexels but with a bit more limited library; however, it is a perfect resource for images with consistent style. Nearly any image you download from Unsplash will have the same look and feel in terms of how the image was shot and edited. You'll also find more images of people on Unsplash.

Unsplash's content has a distinct feel, yet offers vivid imagery and a wide range of subjects: lifestyle, fashion, food, offices, tech and outdoors are just a few of the most popular categories.

Like Pexels, an account isn't required to download photos, but by signing up, you'll receive 10 high-quality photos direct to your inbox each week.

Here's a look at Unsplash's licensing policy:

All photos published on Unsplash are licensed under Creative Commons Zero which means you can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos for free, including commercial purposes, without asking permission from or providing attribution to the photographer or Unsplash.

 

 

CREATIVE MARKET

 

While Creative Market isn't a free photo website, per se, they offer weekly freebies, which often include a pack of 20+ images with a different theme each week. And a major bonus: The weekly free goods from Creative Market include fonts, graphics, pre-made logos, Photoshop files and more!

Licensing policies depend on the week and artist, but most of the time they're 100% free for commercial or personal use. And don't forget to check out Creative Market's full library of images for more flexibility starting at as little at $2.

A fun little bonus from this site is the fact that you can sync the files directly to your Dropbox, which makes it easy to either backup your files, share them with clients or even save space on your laptop or computer!

 

BARN IMAGES

Yes, it's called Barn Images. No, they don't have only images of barns. They have a good selection of free images, which you can search directly for a subject or browse the 16+ categories. Barn Images also has a blog with great resources, which also comes up in search terms.

One thing to keep in mind, you'll find more ads on this site than the others, but they're not too intrusive and often closely related to blogging and photography.

Barn Images also has Premium Photo Packs, which gives you access to a library of a dozen or more themed downloads with up to 110+ photos in each pack for a great price. If you're looking for a ton of styled photography images and have a small budget for photography, the photo packs might be for you!

Check out their licensing policy:

You are allowed to use all of the images published in Barn Images collections (both Free Images and Premium Packs) for commercial and non-commercial purposes. You can remix, tweak, and build upon your work, without asking for permission or attributing the photos. However, we would appreciate if you could place a link to our website, or spread the word in social media.

 

835 CREATIVE

Wait, whaaaat? Yes, that's right. 835 Creative is in the process of creating a free stock photo library just for you! Each month, we're creating a photo pack of stock images perfect to promote your blog, Etsy shop or use on social media. We're talking about 10-20 images each month with a specific theme and photo style. You'll find flat-lay images, moody images, holiday images and more with room to pop into InDesign, Photoshop or Canva and add text, your logo and more... at no cost!

If you're signed up for the Resource Library, you'll get instant access each month, plus access to previous months' photo packs. Want December's free holiday-themed photo pack? Click here! And don't forget to visit the Resource Library to sign up for access to free templates, checklists and photos for your blog and website.


Looking for more recommendations for products and resources for your blog or website? Check out my top picks for online tools here!

 

Pinterest Tips: How I got 20,000+ Saves on a Single Pin

 
 
Pinterest Tips for Bloggers and Entrepreneurs: How I got 20,000 saves on one Pin!
 

Pinterest is, by far, my bigger referral source to my website. In fact, the growth since I essentially "re-branded" by Pinterest has been incredible. We're talking a nearly 1000% increase in my page views per month and the main source of how I receive my email subscribers. In fact, 60% of my referral traffic comes from social media and... wait for it... more than 90% of my social media traffic comes from Pinterest.

You're probably thinking "Wait a minute, back up. You re-branded your Pinterest?" Oh yeah.

Folks, if you are using your Pinterest account for both your business AND personal pins, you might want to rethink your strategy.

I started out on Pinterest as a casual, right-in-target-audience user. Female. Twenties. Saves recipes, outfits, occasionally hobby-related Pins. For the first six months after I started my full-time design and marketing business, I didn't even consider using Pinterest to post my own work or from my blog (I know, I had no idea what I was doing).

I thought I didn't have enough personal content.

I thought people would just show up on my website and blog and pin it themselves.

Boy, was I wrong!

After doing a bit of research, I started implementing strategies I had read from fellow bloggers and small business owners. Here were the key things I learned:

Stay on-brand

Pinterest, like any social media outlet for your business, should remain on-brand. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is my mission?
  • What is my niche?
  • Who is my audience?
  • What information do I want to provide my audience?

Your niche can't be a stylish tips, recipes and workouts for women ages 18-99. You have to narrow it down. Your mama probably told you that you can't make everybody happy. And you can't! You need to focus on your niche, your business and providing information relevant to your business. That's your ideal audience, that's who will buy your product and that's who will save your Pins and grow your reach.

Limit personal pins

Take a look at Melyssa Griffin's Pinterest: She focuses almost solely on business tips. The majority of her pins are related to providing information for her visitors and key audience. There are a few boards that aren't strictly business tips, but they're related: Home Office, Color, etc.

Going back to the tip before of staying on-brand, you'll want to stay on-subject, too. Would you watch a TV show touted as "the best home renovation show of 2016" if they talk about the newest discoveries in space 99% of time? Gotta stay on-subject and on-brand or you'll lose followers.

Does that mean I need to delete all of my boards?

No! Absolutely not. When researching my own Pinterest - hello, Analytics! - I looked at which boards were performing the best. Those were my business and creative tips, first and foremost, then photography inspiration, color theory and strangely enough, a "Tried and True Pinterest Recipes" board.

When I focused on "re-branding" my Pinterest, I went from more than 70 boards - I know! I had a problem... and liked for each board to be very specific - to about 20, not counting group boards or client collaboration boards.

Did I delete the unrelated boards? No. I made them private! I can still have my archive of favorite gluten-free recipes, my outfit ideas, DIY home repair boards all right there and easy to pin without logging in and out, but the majority of my followers, who are there for the biz tips, won't have to flip through pins that don't relate to their interests.

Make your pins pinnable

But if it is on Pinterest, doesn't that automatically make it "pinnable?" Nope! Sorry, Charlie. It isn't just a popular profile that can make a single pin explode and arrive on the popular page. Here are a few tips when creating your pins, speaking specifically for small business owners:

  • Do not use horizontal (landscape) images
  • Always include text on your image - yes, even for recipes!
  • The longer the Pin, the more room it takes up on the feed
  • Always create alt-text for your images (Tips on this coming soon!)
  • Link your original pins to your blog post - not your general blog URL or website

Want more tips like this? Download the Pinterest checklist for bloggers and entrepreneurs!

Here's an example of my best-performing pin - as long as we can ignore the old, original 835 Creative branding. As of November 2016, this Pin has more than 22,000 saves and has been my largest referrer of traffic:

 

Why this pin works:

  • Vertical image
  • Clear text - title, subheads
  • Contrast in colors
  • Address common problem
  • Helpful content for a specific niche
  • Gives enough content to save, but can click through for more information
  • Call to action to direct Pinners to website at the bottom, which will push them to click on the pin and visit the website for the full blog post

The proof is in the pudding

Let's take a look at what these small changes did for my Pinterest account.

In my first few months as a full-time business owner, I thought I was doing pretty good. After all, I was just getting into the analytics, verifying my Pinterest business account (learn how here!) and checking in every few weeks. I was posting everything publicly, not focusing on a real strategy. I would average anywhere from 1,000 people reached per month to at one point, 15,000.

Then I rebranded, made most of my unrelated board secret and posted my own original content more often and posted content that is in my niche (digital marketing and design tips) from fellow blogs:

Pinterest growth for creatives, small business owners and entrepreneurs

You can see exactly where I made that change: May 2016. It wasn't an overnight explosion in my reach, but day-by-day, as I posted more relevant content to my business, I noticed that people were pinning my original content (rich pins, leading to my website) more.

After going from an average of 1,000 reached one year ago, I now have an average reach between 350,000 to 435,000 (an all-time record for me!).

And bonus: I did it all without a single ad.

Pinterest strategy and marketing for small business owners, bloggers and entrepreneurs.

Getting lots of saves on your Pins isn't just about saying you have gotten thousands of saves on a single Pin. It does wonders for your blog, your website, your business or non-profit. For me, the traffic from Pinterest has made my email list explode. For you, it could bring you new leads for your services or products, whether you're selling e-books and e-courses or using affiliate marketing on your blog.

In addition to the tips above, I have a great checklist for those of you who are just starting out in Pinterest for your business or blog... for free! Sign up below to get the checklist on what to look for when you are revamping your Pinterest profile and creating a cohesive collection of content online.

Gain access to the Pinterest Checklist through the Resource Library!

 
 
 

Why You Need a Brand Style Guide ASAP

 
Why You Need A Brand Style Guide for Your Blog, Business or Organization.

As part of my design services, I create one piece of collateral for my clients that's oh-so-important: A brand style guide. Different from a mood board, which often features images pulled from Pinterest, a color scheme and typography (font) ideas, the brand style guide is the be-all, end-all of your brand. The real deal.

While my style guides for clients vary from a one-sheet to a comprehensive ten-page style guide, it's important as a blogger, small business or organization to have a piece of material that sums up your brand at a quick glance both for a variety of reasons.

 

Who does a brand style guide benefit?

You! The business owner, head honcho, founder, creative director.

Whoever you are at the top of your business or organization, this is what sums up the face of your brand identity. If you're not design-savvy, your brand style guide is a quick and easy way to access your colors, your logos and fonts, whether you're creating a Facebook cover photo in InDesign or a blog post graphic in Canva.

Your employees.

If you're working with contractors for your social media or design projects or bringing on full-time employees, it's important to have a style guide to bring your brand style into the forefront of your employees' minds. Plus, it makes it a cinch for your employees to know your exact colors and other elements that help market and promote your blog or business. Because "light blue" just isn't going to cut it as a color description when you're dealing with designers or printing companies. Bonus: Have Pantone colors on your style guide.

The outside world.

I say outside world since it depends on your niche. At some point, you're going to be working with someone outside of your business or blog.

A brand style guide lets advertisers, sponsors, collaborators, fellow bloggers and the media know which logos are appropriate to use in print, on television or online, plus it will give them a quick idea of your style - both visually and your voice. You'll be surprised at how often even larger organizations can stretch your logo, recolor your logo or even call you by the wrong name! Providing a brand style guide nips it in the bud and makes it easier to approach any oops! that may come up when promoting your blog or business.

Style guide for MaggieGentry from 835 Creative

What should I include in a brand style guide?

As I mentioned earlier, a brand style guide can be as simple as a one sheet or be ten, twenty or even fifty pages long and go into specifics of your brand's voice, imagery and more; however, let's be real: the only ones with fifty-page style guides are massive corporations with many entities (Think: FedEx, Mars, Coca-Cola, etc.)

Here are a few ideas of what to include in your brand style guide:

  • Primary logo
  • Alternative logo(s)
  • One-color logo(s)
  • Brandmarks or icons
  • Colors - RGB, HEX, CMYK, Pantone
  • Patterns
  • Textures
  • Typefaces (fonts)
  • Tagline
  • Logo restrictions
  • Mission statement
  • Vision statement
  • Collateral examples
  • Catchphrases
  • Images & image style
  • Hashtags
  • Website URL & details
  • About/Biography/History
  • Partners or members

Are you just starting out and want to create your own brand style guide? Download the free template in the Resource Library!

Template includes InDesign files for Creative Cloud and .idml for
older versions of InDesign, plus a Quickstart Guide.

 

Font Roundup: The Best Free Script Fonts

It's time for a font roundup! And what are the best kinds of fonts for creatives and bloggers on a budget? Free ones! Check out my current favorites below that go beyond the script fonts you see every day. You'll find some grunge fonts, some girly fonts, some proper fonts and even some great fonts for branding your next project - or your own business!

Font Roundup_Free Script Fonts - 835 Creative.jpg
 

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Pop in your email below to join the 835 Creative party!

 

When should I use Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign? An Adobe Creative Cloud rulebook.

 
When should I use Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign? Tips on when to use Adobe Creative Suites for different tasks for graphic designers, bloggers and small business owners.
 

Every profession has their tools of the trade. Chefs all have a favorite knife, nurses a stethoscope and photographers have a favorite lens for the job at hand.

You wouldn’t use Microsoft Word to create a 10-page spreadsheet, would you? While it is entirely possible, it isn’t exactly effective. The same goes for your favorite Adobe Creative Suite (now known as Creative Cloud) programs.

One of the biggest questions I get as an instructor and designer is, "When should I use Photoshop, InDesign or Illustrator?" Here we’re going to talk about the difference between a designer’s crown jewels of the Creative Suite: Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign and the best uses for each program for designers, non-designers and bloggers alike.

Before we break down into the digital goodness, I’ll be upfront: You’ll hear opinions on the best program for each design job from people all across the world wide web. Everyone has an opinion! Some programs may work better for others due to their knowledge of each, but here’s what works best for me as a graphic designer and how I’ve guided my students in the past.

Let’s start off simply: Photoshop is for images. Illustrator is for creating vector-based logos and illustrations. InDesign is for text-heavy documents and merging the worlds of images, graphics and text.

 
 

photoshop

Ah, Photoshop. My old friend. I’ll be honest: before I got heavy into graphic design, I held on tightly to my good buddy Photoshop. In fact, I started out with Photoshop in 2000. I created everything from photo manipulations (yes) and tacky teenage filters on said photos (sure, why not?) to graphics for zines and logos for friends’ imaginary businesses (noooo!). Those are things you’ll never see in a #ThrowbackThursday. Sorry, world!

But in all seriousness, being a photographer who morphed into a graphic designer over the years, I’ve used Photoshop for just about everything. Then I realized that Photoshop is so, so perfect for editing images and not so ideal for creating graphics and laying out text.

Let’s take a look at generally what happens when you bring our text friend into Photoshop:

 
When should I use Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign?
 

 

Not gorgeous, is it? I know. So sad. So pixilated. Let’s go over a few of Photoshop’s best uses:

  • General photo editing
  • Photo manipulation
  • Animated gifs
  • Banner ads
  • Mock ups of products or print work

Photoshop is a pixel-based program,* so for photographers, Photoshop is your jam when it comes to advanced image editing like color balance, curves/levels, brightness/contrast and so on. 

Want to blur out a background, add a dinosaur in the clouds, slim your legs, create a gif of your cat walking on its hind legs? Fire up the ol’ PS to manipulate your photos to the moon and back. You can even bring in some of your designs in Illustrator to create a 3D mockup of your latest book on swamp people. The world is your manipulative oyster.

*Yes, you can bring vectors in! It’s not ideal nor as easy to work with as it is in Illustrator or InDesign. We’ll talk about that later. But hey, what are pixels and why does it matter? We’ll be doing a post about pixels and your most common design phrases in the next few weeks!

illustrator

For anyone who is jumping into Illustrator for the first time (or third or tenth and you’re still confused): you’re not alone. The pen tool can be intimidating. What in the world is a blob brush, anyway? However, once you’ve mastered the basics, Illustrator can be a wonderful tool to let your creativity seep out of your brain, through your hands and onto your screen.

Feel like creating a graphic for a 12 foot tall banner sliding down the side of building? Branding for a new product? A logo to pop onto your business cards and network with the world? Illustrator is here, ready for action.

Illustrator is vector-based, which means you can create artwork which will remain crisp and clear no matter how large or small you scale it - the complete opposite of pixel- or raster-based artwork. Illustrator has countless tools to help you manipulate text and shapes, making it perfect for posters and strong visual illustrations.

When it comes to images, step away from the AI. When placing images in Illustrator, it’s difficult to crop - compared to InDesign and Photoshop - within your Artboard. I like to think of Illustrator as the abstract, artsy-fartsy sibling of InDesign. InDesign can easily create creative works of art, but Illustrator feels its essence. Too weird? I thought so. Let’s move on.

indesign

As a designer, I consider InDesign my absolute go-to. My always-there-for-you-in-times-of-need pal. In my previous life employed as a full-time designer, InDesign was never not open on my computer. Drop photos in, crop, create simple illustrations and shapes and upload to social media or your website. In my opinion, InDesign can do it all as long as you’re not looking for the advanced options from the other two programs.

InDesign is the best of both worlds in terms of vector and pixel-based images, text and shapes. For bloggers or small business owners, InDesign is your best best for creating media kits, e-books, brochures and other print and digital files that require several pages. You won’t find page options in Illustrator or Photoshop.

It works seamlessly with Illustrator and Photoshop. Place an illustration for Illustrator and you can make minor edits to the color or shape. Need to edit an image you’ve placed in the document to be a little bit brighter? Right click > "Edit… WIth". Once the edit is complete, InDesign will update the image to its newest version without a second thought.

Here is a quick list of InDesign’s strengths:

  • Type-heavy documents
  • Brochures
  • Social media graphics
  • Flyers
  • Posters
  • Multiple-page documents (page automation)
  • Print files
  • Text wrapping

And, of course, with strengths, come weaknesses: Vector drawing capabilities aren’t as strong as Illustrator’s. While you can create simple line drawings and shapes, you’re better off hopping over to InDesign’s sibling, Illustrator to knock out that logo from scratch. Another weakness of InDesign is with its image manipulation: you can easily crop and resize images and there are a few image editing filters, but not too many. Jump on over to Photoshop!

what's next?

From here, the jury is split. Personally, I’ll create any vectors, logos, icons or brandmarks in Illustrator and drop them into my InDesign file to lay out surrounding text and export from InDesign for things like social media graphics, business cards and media kits. Some lay text over images in Photoshop, but I would rather have the ability to make the graphic larger at a later date without worrying about pixilation. Some create their web graphics solely in Illustrator. From here, it’s your choice!

A question I’m asked a lot is which single program in the Creative Cloud should someone invest in. As someone who uses all three in tandem to create graphics, branding, illustrations and marketing materials, it’s difficult to say. It depends on the person. If you never plan on using illustrations, you could get by with only Photoshop. Never plan to make major changes to images, but lay out lots of texts for e-books, brochures and more? InDesign may be your best investment. If your main business is creating family illustrations for holiday greeting cards, Illustrator could be the program you’ll benefit most from.

Comment below and let me know which programs you use the most for your daily tasks! Have questions about how to use the programs? Shout it out below! I’ll include your questions in future blog posts about some of each programs’ FAQs for small business owners and bloggers.

Get access to Adobe Creative Cloud by clicking here.

Interested in just one of the programs? Follow the links below:
Photoshop (Lightroom included!) | InDesignIllustrator

 

Download the free, four-page guide to Adobe Creative Suite through the Resource Library!

Thanksgiving sanity-saving printable + holiday freebie

Thanksgiving sanity-saving printable + holiday freebie

Anyone who knows me know that I am a bit of a planner. In fact, half of the fun of vacations and trips is planning where we'll go, what I'll pack and of course, what we'll eat. That theory slides ride into holidays, which is why I dreamed up the ideal Thanksgiving planner for scatterbrained folks like me.

Not too detailed so as not to get overwhelmed, but not so simple that I have to do all of the thinking. Without a shopping list, you can find me in the baking aisle with glazed-over eyes trying to find salad dressing.