How to Find the Perfect Image for Your Story
Every story you post on Medium should include a featured image. But you can’t just copy and paste any image you see without permission. Thar could be copyright infringement, and is unfair to the photographer or artist.
Instead, select an image you have permission to use. This could be free photos from sites like Unsplash or Pixabay, purchased stock photos or art, or your own artwork or photos.
You can embed easily…
Medium makes it a snap to include photos from Unsplash. When you’re typing your story, click the plus sign that appears on your story and select the magnifying glass. Then you can use keywords and search for photos. Select a photo, and Medium will automatically insert it into your story, with attribution.
… but there are other options.
It’s tempting to use keywords to search Unsplash and call it a day. But searching for collections is how you find the treasure troves.
Collections are curated by Unsplash users, and are grouped by subject, composition, or theme. This is great when you have an idea about what kind of photo you want. Need a photo of a sign or dark, moody photos? There’s a collection for that.
Starting your own collection is useful for when you see a great photo but don’t have a story in mind for it. I used to save the links to Google Keep, but the app is great for saving text and links, not images.
I made an account on Unsplash and curate my own private “collection” of photos. These are photos I like, but haven’t matched to a story yet. When I start a new story, I can look through the collection and usually find a suitable image.
If you download the photo, Unsplash will prompt you to credit the photographer. Crediting the photographer is a good practice, and I always make sure to do it.
Pixabay and Reshot are also good sources of free images. They aren’t as simple to use on Medium as Unsplash, but they offer a variety of images.
You can buy images…
Unsplash is popular on Medium, but is controversial in the photography community. People who submit photos aren’t paid for them.
I’ll admit, I do use a lot of Unsplash images. But I’m looking at all the alternatives.
DIY Photography noted an important drawback of Unsplash:
“With such limited selection and high engagement, the Unsplash collection will very quickly be picked over.”
If you use an Unsplash image, a lot of other people probably are, too. Your story won’t stand out if 100 other people use the same photo.
You can avoid this by buying stock photos. That way, you’re more likely to get an image no one else is using. It’ll cost you a few dollars per image, but you can save money by buying credits or a subscription for the stock photo site. You’re also supporting content creators. Stock photo sites include Stocksy, Can Stock Photo, Dreamstime, and Shutterstock.
If sifting through a stock photo site doesn’t sound appealing to you, or you need an illustration, you could reach out to an artist and offer to pay for a commission. This guarantees a unique image.
…or use your own.
This is the road I’m trying to go down. Using your own photos or art makes your piece unique. It can also help you with branding.
I’m not the best at drawing, so I’ve been taking photos. It takes time, quality equipment, and practice to take good photos. But I’ve used my own photos in a few of my pieces, and I plan to use many more in the future.
There’s no one right answer for where to source your photos. It depends on what kind of image will work with your story.
But no matter what, make sure you only use images if you have permission, and attribute them appropriately. As writers, we want to be respected and remembered for our work. Photographers want to be, too.