Skip to main content

Picture perfect

I’m making a cover for my next book, A Wolf of Her Own, so I’ve spent quite a lot of time on various stock photo sites trying to find the perfect photos to use. Since I’m not a Photoshop expert – or GIMP, the free equivalent that I use – perfect means pictures that are both suitable for the cover and something I can work with relatively painlessly. It took some searching and studying the wares of more than one site, but I found what I needed. Come back next Monday to see what I made of them.


In the meanwhile, here’s a list of my favourite stock photo sites.

They all have a nice selection of quality photos for many different purposes. All photos are royalty free, meaning you don’t have to pay for their use. There may be some limits to their use though, such as how many copies you can make of a photo. It’s usually quite a huge number so you don’t have to worry about it. However, make sure to read the terms of use before buying.

They all let you buy pictures with credits – you can spend as little as $10/£10/€10 on them – so that you don’t have to commit to expensive subscriptions when you only need one picture. iStockphoto even lets you buy individual pictures without buying their credits.

All sites are relatively easy to use, but they have differences in their search functions. The more you can narrow a search, the more effective a site is finding accurate pictures. When it’s a difference between going through 10,000 pictures or 1000, you tend to value effectiveness. Fotolia has perhaps the best search functions, but since the photographers add the search words themselves, it’s not always optimal either. I tend to use loser parameters for that reason.

The credits cost approximately the same in each, but the photo sizes and how much they charge for the largest photos vary a lot. Fotolia is occasionally more expensive when you’re buying larger pictures, but not every time. And the fact is that when you find the perfect picture, you’re willing to pay a little extra.

All sites allow you to store your favourite images to light boxes for easier comparison. Dreamstime has made it easiest to sort the pictures to different files even as you save them.

All three sites offer some free photos too, but their range and quality aren’t great. However, there are a couple of sites that offer photos for free. The photos tend to be smaller and not suitable for book covers, but they’re great for illustrating your content on blogs or G+ for example. I’ve mostly used these three:
Of these three, I like morgueFile the best. They have beautiful photos for almost every possible purpose that work especially well as illustration. And unlike the first two that exist to drive traffic to paying sites – they only show a few free pictures and then suggest paying ones – they show their own stock first. Many pictures on this blog are from there. They’re large enough to work as book covers too, should you find something suitable. However, the paying sites are infinitely better for that purpose.

These six sites should get you started. If nothing else, you can spend hours on them, looking at beautiful photos. Sometimes that’s valuable too. Just don’t get lost.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

My #worldcon75 experience

Here’s the long overdue report from my day at the WorldCon 75, my first ever time attending. The event was held on August 9-13 in my home country, Finland, so it was a once in a life-time chance to experience it with a minimum trouble. I originally thought to attend the entire five days, but life intervened in the form of work, and so I could only attend on Saturday. I tried to make the most of it by planning a full day.

I arrived at the conference centre about fifteen minutes after the doors opened at nine in the morning, and the queue was already at least fifty metres long. It caused me a few palpitations until I figured it was the line for people who hadn’t purchased their day passes in advance. I had, so I just walked past, trying not to look gleeful. Half an hour later I felt bad for all those people when it was announced that the day was sold out, which left most of them outside. The queue for pre-purchased passes was three persons long, the shortest line for me the entire day. I…

Reading recap: August

August was my worst reading month so far and I only managed to finish two books. I have no excuses other than that I was busy working. I did start two more books, but I didn’t manage to finish them in August. And even though I read eight books in July, I’m now two books behind the schedule in my reading challenge of fifty-five books. I’ll have to step up. As has been my habit throughout the year, one book was from my reading list and the other wasn’t.
First book was Ride the Storm by Karen Chance, the long-awaited next chapter in her Cassandra Palmer urban fantasy series of time-travelling Pythia and her entourage of vampires, demons and mages. One vampire and one mage in particular. As always, it was a wild romp through space and time – at times a bit too wild. The first part of the book was constant tumbling from crisis to battle and back with no breathers or plot development in between, as if the author was afraid that the reader will get bored if something earth-shattering isn’t co…

Working with the editor: a case study

Editing has been on my mind lately, as I’ve been preparing Tracy Hayes, P.I. with the Eye for publishing. As a happy coincidence, Delilah S. Dawson had a lengthytweet chain about the topic too, prompted by her annoyance with aspiring authors unwilling to make changes that editors suggest to their books. Her response, in short, was that no author escapes the changes, so you’d better get used to them from the start. Her notes are useful to read in full.

She was speaking from the point of view of a traditionally published author who has more than one set of editors making suggestions and demands, all of which strive to make the book as good as possible. She doesn’t claim it’s easy to let other people to have their say, but that it’s necessary.
Listening to one’s editor is even more crucial for self-publishing authors, as we lack the gatekeepers of traditional publishing. If you’re lucky, you find one who understands your writing, and who isn’t afraid to tell you how you can improve it. If …