10 Tips for Searching Budget Stock Photography

At some point most designers will have a need to search for quality budget stock photography. Here are 10 Top Tips to help designers find what they are looking for – fast and on budget thereby saving money and time.

1. View maximum images per page

Click on the maximum number of images displayed on the page. The defaults are set to the lower numbers. A maximum display is normally around 100 images per page.  Why do this? It speeds up looking at the maximum number of images, particularly when there is a big selection.

To have the best viewing experience on a big screen, it is great to have the stock site fit the page with the most images that it is comfortable for you to view. Most people set to the maximum number of images per page. It basically means you can see more imagery without having to scroll through as many pages. Why do this? It saves a lot of time and effort.

The best sites even allow you to use keyboard arrows to flip pages which is great for experienced searchers.

2. Use ‘Downloads’ as well as ‘best match’

Try looking at ‘downloads’ instead of ‘best match’ (Downloads refers to the amount of times an image has been purchased, whereas Best Match relates to images best matching the keywords)  – Why do this? It will give you a different selection of images – ‘Downloads’ also represents what the market is purchasing i.e. the most popular images. This is a useful monitoring tool to find out was is “in” stylistically.

3. Use search for similar images

Use stock sites that have Visual Similarity. Why do this? It gives you more creative alternatives in the same colours, moods etc. This is probably the No. 1 feature that people who regularly search for stock really like. You can see how it works here.

4. Add additional keywords

A good tip is to come up with additional keywords and add them to refine your search i.e. ‘portrait man(by the way – a space implies the word ‘and’). To refine your search further – add another keyword –  for example portrait man senior’.  Extra helpfully also,  ‘nobody’ is a good keyword if you don’t want anybody in the picture e.g. ‘nobody beach.’  Why do this? Over time people who search a lot become experts at using different keyword combination’s to help find the best content.

5. Use ‘boolean’ search

Use something called ‘boolean’ search – its basically typing ‘and’, ‘or’ and ‘not’ between keywords e.g. woman not man’ will show only images without a man in them. Why do this? It helps to narrow down or broaden searches to get more or less results. Here’s a short tutorial around the subject that you may find useful.

6. Advanced search features

Try out stock sites ‘Advanced search’ (on Pixmac its called ‘Power Search’). There are some useful tools on here – like selecting only portrait images when you know horizontal won’t work for that use., or if you are just searching for Vector art for another example. Why do this? It can save a lot of time and really help you to find the content you are looking for.

7.  Use lightboxes

Use stock sites lightbox features. This is a tool which is often overlooked but it helps to put images together and keep them for later reference or to send to other people. Why do this? It helps organize the pictures and makes it easier to share and find them later on. Check out this selection of Garden Gnomes in this example lightbox!

8. Buy credits

If you are planning on buying more images later – do buy a credit pack. Why do this? It works out cheaper sometimes by as much as 76%.

9. Get someone else to search

Searching for stock imagery can take a long time, particularly if there is a very wide choice  of images to look at. It is quite addictive and fun, and relaxing if you have had a busy day in meetings or driving.

But if you are running out of time or have another deadline to meet, do see if you can get someone else to search for you… receptionist, grandmother, teenage son etc. (but give them this list to read first!) Why do this? Save yourself some time. You will still be able to make the final choice. So be sure to get your helper(s) to jot down the reference numbers to the images they selected or show them how to assemble the pictures in a lightbox.

10.  Search late at night!

Some people like to search late at night and drink malt whiskey (or coffee if you are a teetotaler). Why do this? It’s quiet at night when the kids are in bed and it can be quite therapeutic! Turn on your iPod and listen to Mozart, Cold Play, Diana Kroll or Michael Buble. That’s what I do.  

We’d recommend you to try Pixmac if you source budget stock photography, as well as other main players like iStock and  shutterstock.

Good picture hunting.