A little backstory. Some time ago I was working on product marketing for an analytics tool, one of my tasks was overseeing a content marketing department. I’ve seen a lot of articles related to analytics, and almost every article had a cover image, often taken from free photo stocks, such as Unsplash or Pexels.
One day I was driving and saw a billboard with a forex advert, which used this image as a background:
I’ve seen this image used as a cover god knows how many times (you may have seen it as well, it’s on every other article about analytics), and it hit me – there are content marketers who are looking for free cover images and their requirements are simple: image must be relevant, free and look good.
Why should they use this Google Analytics picture when we can create a similar image with our analytics tool on the screen and give them an option. Which we did, and some of those images have been downloaded thousands of times.
End of backstory.
Step one: research
Go to any website with free stock photos and search for keywords related to your product. Don’t be scared if you see a high number of search results because most of them will either be irrelevant or over-used (which content marketers are aware of).
Out of almost 4,000 results for “electric bike” on Unsplash, only 2 are actually electric bikes, other images are irrelevant (various electric equipment), so if your product is an electric bike keep reading.
If search results seem too competitive, alter your search query and repeat.
Step two: take pictures
Put your phone back in your pocket and start looking for a professional photographer. You won’t need more than 5 pictures so invest some money to make those pictures look good.
Here’s a difference between a great picture (left) and a good picture (right), based on my subjective opinion:
Aim for great.
Types of pictures
Keep in mind that these images are often used as background images for covers.
- A monotone dark picture, so you can put white text over it
- A monotone light picture for black text
- A picture focusing on your product
- A picture where your product is just a part of the composition
Do not make it too obvious what kind of product is shown in the picture. People aren’t looking for your brand and may ignore your picture if it looks like an ad for your brand, all they need is a relevant object. Your picture is not product marketing that I mention in the title, we’ll get to this part soon.
Step three: post-processing
Some websites don’t allow pictures with logos at all, so ask your photographer to make two versions of each picture – with and without a logo.
This means any logo, not just your. So if you’re taking a picture of a computer screen with your product on it, make sure to remove branding from the computer as well.
Step four: upload pictures
Step five: product marketing
Once your pictures are up and start getting some downloads, start looking for them. You can use Tineye or Google’s reverse image search to see where your pictures have been used.
Let’s say you find an article about electric bikes with your picture as a cover image, there are at least two things you can do:
- Ask for some credit
- Leave a comment asking “what is that bike on the cover?” and reply to that comment, explaining that it’s a [brand] bike and how great it is.
- Take cool pictures of your product
- Upload said pictures to free photo stocks
- Wait till someone uses your picture in their content
- Ask for a credit or leave a comment praising the product in the picture