How to Search for the Right Stock Image


Finding the right image from a stock image website is like searching for a book at your local library. The more specific you are about what you’re looking for, the better your results. Choosing keywords to narrow your search is the key to finding suitable images.

The folks over at the Getty Images site have put together a great Keyword Guide. You can use the guide online or download a PDF of the guide, which contains their helpful tips.

To find keywords for your image search, choose one of their eight categories:

  1. People – Find keywords by these sub-categories: characteristics, generations, relationships, or combinations.
  2. Concepts – Find keywords related to emotions, moods and ideas.
  3. Age – Find keywords related to age ranges, milestones and stages of life.
  4. Human emotions – Find keywords related to feelings, attitudes and frames of mind.
  5. Editorial-specific terms – Find keywords by these sub-categories: archival, news, sports, entertainment, location
  6. Image and footage styles – Find keywords by these sub-categories related to styles, techniques and industry-standard terms.
  7. Topics – Find keywords related to events, issues and interests.
  8. Sayings – Find keywords related to common expressions, catch phrases and clichés.

Once you have identified keywords, you can try them in a search on one of the stock image sites. If you want free images, make sure you search on Royalty Free and check the usage. You can find out more about photo licensing here.

Watch this video from Pearson Communications on how to find free images for a blog or website. Another resource to find Creative Commons images is Photo Pin.

Once you’ve found photos that match your search criteria, you’ll need to choose the best one. Here are some points to consider:

  • Image quality – a poor resolution image will appear grainy
  • Area of focus – zero in on a single main subject (avoid crowds)
  • Story-specific – relevant to the story you are telling
  • Bright is best – choose the brightest coloured image
  • Faces and emotions- readers respond to people with emotions
  • Think like the reader – put yourself in the shoes of a reader



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