There are hundreds of millions of pieces of content created for the internet every day Want to break through the noise? The best writing won't stop someone's thumbs from scrolling through their feed. You have to first nab them with an eye-catching pic. Then you might have a shot to keep their attention long enough to read about your new offer, hear your fundraising pitch, or learn more about whatever you're talking about.
My general go to stock image site for finding high quality, free* photos online is Unsplash. Unsplash refers to itself as "the internet's source of freely-usable images. Powered by creators everywhere." It's a website full of beautiful, interesting and dynamic photos from all over the world. Type in whatever you need in the search bar and get ready to scroll through countless wonderful photos, brilliantly capturing your subject matter.
But representation matters — especially to kids. Early impressions leave an indelible mark that shape what children imagine is possible. Think a picture is worth a thousand words? It’s probably closer to a a few million!
High-quality, representative stock photography is absolutely crucial for any business, whether you’re writing a blog post, creating a graphic or promoting an event.
I use Unsplash all the time. But sometimes I need photos more geared specifically towards diversity, intersectionality or multiculturalism. While scrolling Unsplash will typically get me where I need to be, there are other options out there that focus specifically on representing the under-represented through high-quality stock photography.
Here is a compilation of 10 free (or affordable) stock photo sites that go further than tossing a BIPOC cherry-on-top of a scoop of vanilla. You might even say these collections are pretty much the whole damn sundae.
*Quick caveat: I'm not a lawyer and I'm certainly not your lawyer. While many of these sites offer free stock photos for you to use, I'm not telling you what you can and can't do with them. If you're worried about what's okay or not, talk to a lawyer, read the fine print, or... you know... head to Google and read up.
This Flickr photo stream features hundreds of images of women of color working in tech. Everything is free under a Creative Commons license, so you won’t have to pay a cent.(That said, as is the case throughout this round-up, the above caveat applies.)
2. CreateHER Stock
This authentic stock site is a finely-curated “for-us-by-us” set of lifestyle+business content featuring Black women. A subscription runs ~$10/month, but given that the pics are behind a paywall, you’ll have access to exclusive content (unlike some big box stock photos you see on every 3rd ad in your timeline).
Pexels is a well-known free stock site, granted, but it's included here to point out their solid suggestions engine. Try searching for “Black people” in Pexels and not only do you get accurate results, but Pexels will suggest related tags, making it easy to hone in on exactly who you’re looking for.
Search “coffee” on your standard stock site. While the latte might be brown, the hands holding it rarely are. Nappy refers to itself as providing "Beautiful, high-res photos of black and brown people. For free." I can't really sum it up better than that.
Picnoi is a hand-picked collection teeming with great shots of hip, young Black & Brown folks. You can also browse their co-op's collection directly in Unsplash.
6. Body Liberation Stock
Intersectionality can be particularly difficult to find represented on stock photo sites. Body Liberation Stock is an impressive stash of shots depicting body-positivity in folks from all walks of life.
7. The Gender Spectrum Collection
From Vice, these photos are intended to articulate the complexity of people not necessarily defined by their gender. You’ll find a solid variety of non-binary and trans people at work, school, and off the clock.
8. Disabled And Here
This is a wonderful reclamation for disabled BIPOC. In a unique—and incredibly vulnerable feature—this collection features interviews with each model, engendering a true intimacy rarely felt in stock photos.
Intended for editorial use, TONL feels like an enlightened version of Adobe Stock. If you’re looking for exceptionally high-quality and exclusive imagery, you can pay as you go (~$2/pic). The content curation will save you hours of scrolling those big name free sites.
10. Salam Stock
A lot of stock sites can really miss the mark when trying to depict modern Muslim life. Salam Stock remedies that with a hefty collection that includes free and paid plans.
Those are a few diversity-first stock photo sites I've found helpful over the years. Do you have any to add to the list? I'd love to hear about them. Share them in the comments or slide on over to my DMs.
I'd love to see how you put these new resources to use. Tag me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook when you post your awesome, new, diverse content.
Full Episode Transcript, Along With Links to All Mentioned Free digital tools:
Facebook loves video and really wants you to share videos to the platform. When you do so, they reward you with views. But here’s a scary statistic: around 85% of Facebook video is watched… without sound. So what are you to do? Hone in on your acting skills? Stockpile posters and write out the accompanying text? I won’t tell you NOT to do either of those. But there’s a far simpler option available to you built right into Facebook.
Once you've added your video to Facebook, but before you've posted it, you’ll see a menu on the right side of your post. (This only works on your computer, not on mobile.) You’ll see an option to replace your thumbnail. You can either select another moment from the video or upload something you created. In other word, good news: you'll never again have to start off you video with an awkward open-mouth shot. Then below that, you’ll have the option to add subtitles and captions. Select that, pick your language, and Facebook will auto-create subtitles for your video. Assuming your video isn’t too long, it should only take a few moments for them to do so. Once they've been created, you can go through and edit them to make sure they are perfect. Then you can add them to your video and voila, instead of speaking to the 15% of your audience who DO listen with the sound on, now you can now speak to all 100% of them.
It’s worth mentioning this also works with live videos. But only after the fact. Once your video has been posted to your page, click the top right icon to edit it and you’ll get the same option to customize your thumbnail and to create subtitles.
So that’s one free digital tool you should DEFINITELY be using, but probably aren’t.
In this episode, I’m going to run through a bunch more. Let’s dig in.
Let me clarify that, per the title of the episode, every tool I am mentioning today is free. But it’s worth noting that many of them have premium versions you can pay for. But not one of these awesome digital tools requires a credit card to start using.
So let’s get into some more free tools you should be using.
In previous episodes of Step Up Your Social, we’ve covered Google Alerts, Facebook Pages to Watch (both in episode 10) and Twitter lists (in episode 2). Those are three killer, free listening tools. Let’s add one more to the list.
Feedly. Feedly is an RSS tool. (RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication.) Instead of having to jump all over the internet, looking at countless news sources and blogs, you can create a free Feedly account and then subscribe to as many publications as you want. You can bundle your publishers by category and then, whenever you are looking to catch up with the news — or importantly, wherever you know you need to share something on social but are not sure what — you can head to Feedly and see all the content that every publication or blog you follow has posted. You can even break down content by category, so you can just see what’s going on in the world of Facebook, or email marketing, or minor league baseball or whatever. Instead of searching the internet for relevant news, use Feedly to create a pipeline to bring all that relevant news directly to you.
Next up, let’s look at two powerful apps owned by Instagram.
There are no shortage of free photo and video apps or tools in the app store. But these two are owned by Instagram, so you know they must be good.
The first is called Layout, and it lets you take multiple pictures and lay them out as you want. You can easily drag and drop to switch pics or to change the size of one image or another. It's very easy to use.
The second is called Hyperlapse. I really love this one. It’s just a simple camera app, but it lets you create videos that can be sped up as desired. You have to take the video in the app for it to work, but once you’re done filming, you can speed up the video from 2x up to 12x speed. So let’s say you stick your phone in a tripod and film you and your team setting up for an event. You can take that footage, speed it up by a factor of 12 and suddenly your 15 minute set-up can be viewed in under a minute. Very powerful storytelling tool for the right situation! Quick caveat: for obvious reasons, it will record video without sound. If you want, you can add sound in after the fact. But the app will not capture any audio accompanying your video.
I don’t refer to many digital tools as magic, but this next one really kinda is. It’s called Remove.bg (as in remove background). And that’s exactly what it does. Caveat: it only works for people, not things.
You can use this tool on your computer or phone by visiting Remove.bg. Upload a photo and then tell it to remove background. It will take about 4 seconds and then, just like that, you'll have the person (or people) in your photo captured against a transparent background. In my experience, they aren’t 100% accurate. They’re only about… 97% or so. Not bad for a free tool and four seconds! You can then erase anything they missed or add back anything you want to keep.
Then you can export that file and upload it somewhere else to edit it, or just add a background to it right through their site. You can upload your own background files, or select from their photo library.
Anyone with any Photoshop experience can do this same thing. But not as quickly as remove.bg. And probably not for free!
Speaking of graphic design, there are a million free tools out there that will help you design better graphics, add logos to your pictures and do plenty of other basic graphic design work without having to invest years into learning Photoshop. But Canva was the originator of the field and they are still the go to for all my “graphic designs for dummies” needs.
They're free to use, but they do offer a premium version that adds perks like letting you store your brand’s colors and create more advanced file storage systems. You should also know that despite having an endless amount of pictures, icons and pre-made templates to pull from, a bunch are free but many are not. So be aware that you aren’t building something you love using a paid pic or icon, unless you are prepared to pull out your credit card. That said, most assets can be bought for just $1, so you don’t have to worry about breaking your budget.
Another great thing about Canva is that it's all web based. So you can login on your computer, start a design. Then head to your Canva app and keep working on the go.
It’s also worth noting that Canva.org offers free premium options for nonprofits.
And since we’re talking about stock photos, my go to stock photo source these days is Unsplash. You can search the site by keyword, find beautiful, high quality photos that you can then use for free. They request, but don’t require, giving credit to the photographer.
I will add that I’m not a lawyer and there are some fine print things that might affect you and your brand. If you have a lawyer, ask them to vet the language per your needs. If you don’t, head to Google and get lots of different takes on what you can and what you can’t do with “free” stock images.
I’m going to close my list with two quick writing assistance tools. The first is Grammarly, a free extension you can add to your browser (and your phone as well, though I’ve stuck with just using it on my computer). It’s essentially spellcheck for everything you do online. It won’t make you a better writer per se, but it will help ensure you don’t embarrass yourself with typos, missing commas or by using the wrong your.
The second one is called Hemingway App. This one may actually make you a better writer.
Copy and paste your text into Hemingway App and it will flag sentences that are hard to read, words that you can simplify, overuse of the passive voice and anything else keeping you from writing more like Ernest Hemingway.
So that’s my list. I’d love to hear any tools that you use that I didn’t include. Share them in the comments, hit me up on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn at Reverbal Communications or tweet at me using the hashtag #StepUpYourSocial.
As always, if this was helpful to you, I’d really appreciate a review wherever you stream podcasts. It will only take you a moment and will go a long way towards helping us reach a larger audience.
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