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How to Find Stunning Photos and Images for Your Online Community

Written by Katie Oakes on April 7, 2015 at 8:30 AM

How to Find Stock Photos to Your Online Community

One of the big answers you need when planning to launch an online community is, 'What kind of content do your users want to consume and how do they want to consume it?'

The how refers to the content mediums that you provide in your online community around given topics. There are several options when it comes to sharing content in private customer or member communities, including videos, blog posts, polls and photos. 

Today, we're going to look how to use photos and other visual media in your online community.

Did you know that 90% of the information transmitted to the brain is visual? These visuals can be processed by the brain 60,000 times faster than text (Sources: 3M Corporation and Zabisco). Also, Pinterest generated more referral traffic for businesses than Google+, YouTube, and LinkedIn combined (Source: Shareaholic).These statistics illustrate the importance of photos and graphic images in your customer engagement strategy.

Pictures have a significant impact on both how top of mind your community is with your target audience and the degree to which community members retain information they uncover in your online community.

This research, known as the picture superiority effect, makes a strong statistical case for not going one more day without strong images in your online community. The findings state that if you hear some information, three days later you will remember 10%. If you add an image to that same content, three days later you will remember 65% of the content. Can you afford to keep losing 55% of every message? 

Your online community members have spoken, most of them prefer to consume images (its easier on their brains). So let us help you increase your page views by as much as 94% on all the articles you post in your online community.

Where Can You Use Images in Your Online Community?

A common place you can incorporate images is the general web design of the onine community pages. Here product images are key because as members are exploring they can't escape thinking about the value of the community. However, reseach from the Nielsen group advises against using too many photos of real people as "filler." 

Blog posts and articles are the largest opportunity to engage people with images in your online community. The images used to accompany blog posts should be helpful.The image should have a purpose, like helping to explain a concept, emphasizing a point, translating to an external page or email, or showing personality.

Pro Tip: While images can drive views. It is important to take into account how appropriate the image is to the subject matter.

In most online community software platforms, you can also use images or custom icons to brand specific sub-communities or highlight the different groups in your online community.

When adding images into your online community, don't overdo it. Certainly use the amount of images you feel neccesarry to communicate your concept clearly and effectively. A good rule of thumb is to insert an image every 350 words. 

The Rules of Finding Awesome Images and Photos

When it comes to images on the web, there are rules or more warmly referred to as licensing and copywriting rules. This means that any image that you pull off a quick image search is not available for use on your website. The images that you use in your online community have to be licensed for commercial use by either the photographer or a stock photo agency (like the list below).

There most common categories of image copyrights are creative common and royalty free. 

  • Creative Commons: These images come with restrictions of where the image can be used (i.e personal use or commercial use) as well as how it can be altered. This type of image typically allows you to build upon the image as long as you credit the original image to the creator. 
  • Royalty Free : These imagesare those that you buy the license to once and then can use the work according to the type of license purchased (ie. personal use, commercial use, etc). This is typically the kind of image you would download from a stock photo site. 

This infographic from Curtis Newbold is a great place to start.


Some online community managers find that going through stock photo agencies is the easiest and safest way to obtain photos because if any approvals are overlooked the agency will be held leagally responsible.

You can often pay a small fee to gain access to high quality images that won't send you or your company to the courthouse. Below is a collection of links to sites where you can find quality image downloads.

The Down Low on Downloads


These sites are a collection of more photo-realistic images. Meaning images of actual people, sites and the occasional still frame of and apple.

  • Free Images: This site is a great place to start because in addition to having a large number of photo realistic images they have a blog. Their blog has helpful tips about best practices when it comes to image selection. 
  • Morgue File: There are few prices better than free 99. This is a great collection of high quality photos to choose from.
  • Unsplash: The site releases 10 new high resolution images every ten days. There is no search feature. However, the images are quite breath taking and a little more unique than other stock photos around the web. If you like our header photo you can find it here!
  • Death to Stock Photos: As the name suggests these photos are a little outside the norm of the typical meaning of stock photo. Once you join you can receive a free set of photos to your inbox every month. If you want to receive additional photos just upgrade to a premium account.
  • Pixabay: They offer over 360,000 images available for free download. The site is very searchable and the images are archived for easy image surfing. 

Graphic Tools

These are images that are more illustrations and vectors. Great for making infographics! 

  • Canva: It's alright if you aren't a Photoshop or Ilustrator wizard! Canva is an online graphic design software that makes creating sylized graphics simple.
  • Piktochart : Another simple way to create eye catcing inforgraphics as well as flyers. If you have an event coming up in your community you can quickly build an attractive graphic to spread to your users and get their attention. 
  • Font Awesome : Have you ever wondered how people put those mini-graphics in bulleted lists? Now you can be just like them. This is a great place to get basic CSS code to enhance your posts simply.
  • Glphicons: This is another great place to get those fun little icons that everyone else has on their blogs. It is easy to search and find exactly what you are looking need.
  • Smashing Freebies:This is a great place to gather more of those fun icons that we talked about but a little more stylized. The selection is updated pretty regularly. 
  • Freepick:This is a great place to download vectors. The advantage of a vector file is that you can easily change the shape, size, color etc. to fit your specific needs or brand. 

Online Community Management Takeaway

As more of the blogs, social networks, and consumer sites that your online community members frequent turn to visuals to get their attention, your online community must step up your use of photo and graphics to meet their expectations. 

However, it is important to stay out of legal trouble when finding images. Make sure you understand the different licence options available online and verify the license of the image you are downloading or creating with your image provider,like the ones we've listed for you above.

Lastly, have fun with images. Think outside the box, think big not boring, and use visuals to get keep community members engage and give your online community additional credibility. Even if your community's topics are not the most interesting, you can create helpful infographics or use fun images to get people's attention and denote professionalism of the community's organizers.


Community Roundtable's 2017 State of Community Management Report

Topics: Marketing, Online Community

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