When you realize you need a stock photo for your project, it can be hard to know how to find it. Your search strategy will partly depend on what you already know about what you want.
If you have a clear idea of the objects or people you want in the photo, you will approach this search differently to a search for an abstract concept. Here’s some pointers for each of these situations.
How to Find a Stock Photo you can Describe
You can try searching using most of these terms on stock photo websites: 20 year old Japanese woman exercising park. You’ll probably find that because this search uses so many terms, it either brings back no results or a far larger variety of results than you wanted.
Try searching on Shutterstock using the terms: Japanese woman exercising park. Shutterstock allows you to narrow results by variables such as ethnicity, gender, age and number of people in the photo. This means you can keep refining your results until you see the photos you need.
Here, you can go to the “People” section on the left and choose:
- Gender: Female
- Age: Age 20-29
- Ethnicity: Japanese
- Number of People: 1 Person
Then search again. Not many photos left and none of them quite right? It’s possible that if you refine your search by several variables, you will get too few or no results.
Why is this? It could be that the photos did not have enough keywords, for example not including details such as the person’s age. Not all photos are given keywords in exactly the same way.
You can remove any of the variables you used to make your search broader again.
Try removing the age variable and search again. Now you have far more results. One of these is exactly what you’re looking for. You can now click on it, choose the size you need and download it as part of your subscription.
How to Find a Stock Photo to Illustrate a Concept
When you realize you need to illustrate a conceptual idea like “excitement” but you’re not sure what would work best, it can be hard to know how you’re going to find something. You’ll want to approach this search very differently to when you already know exactly what you need in a photo.
If you’re looking for a photo that shows “excitement”, you’ll probably want to browse through several stock photo websites for inspiration or until you find the photo you need. You may find that searching for “excitement” doesn’t bring back the selection of results you had in mind.
Click on the photo in the search results that best matches your idea of the concept. On the page for this photo, there should be a list of keywords associated with it. On most stock photo websites, you can choose one (or often a combination) of these keywords for a further search.
As an example, if you search for “excitement” on iStockphoto then you might find a photo of a crowd cheering on the first page of results which is closest to how you see the concept but not quite right. If you click on it, you will see a few keywords which you can expand into a full list.
You might want to check the boxes next to “fun”, “anticipation” and “excitement”, if these best match your idea of the concept. Search again and this time, there is a photo of a rollercoaster. Although this is a vector image and so not exactly what you need, you’re now fairly sure you want to use a rollercoaster photo to illustrate your concept.
Now you just need to search for “rollercoaster” and choose from the available photos. You want a clear blue sky behind the rollercoaster and people on the ride. There’s one photo that seems to be exactly what you’re looking for. You can now simply click on it, choose the size you need, make sure you have enough credits and then download it.