Posts in Design
How to Pick Great Stock Photos for Your Content

We've all seen them.

You know, the websites that have gloriously awful stock photos (woman smiling eating garden salad, anyone?), stock photos so bad that you can't look past them to what might be great written content. Worse yet? People actually pay for these abominations. 

As bloggers and business owners who want to produce great content, attract your dream readers and clients, and of course build a successful brand and business, the last thing you want to be doing is scaring away your future audience with off-putting and off-brand graphics.

The good news? These days there are some really quality stock photos out there that look nothing like the awkward corporate robots grimacing at the camera that we're used to seeing. With determination and a little know-how, you can get gorgeous stock photos for your content and use them in a way that helps build your brand and enchant your audience— without spending a cent. Here's how.



There are lots and lots of places out there that will charge you good money for good stock photos, and lots of places out there that will charge you good money for bad ones. Spending money on good stock photos isn't a bad idea, but it's not always feasible when you're just starting out— in fact, I still publish a digital quarterly magazine using all free stock photos, and it's gorgeous





So here's the important thing: not all stock photos are created equal. In fact, the vast majority of them are awful, and scream stock photo. When you're picking a stock photo, one of the main things you want to keep in mind is that you don't want your stock photo looking like a stock photo. What does this mean?

  • your photo doesn't look overly staged
  • your lighting is natural, over artificial
  • you're avoiding too many bland smiles, or unnatural emotions


Which one Of these would you rather see?

Yes, all stock photos are staged, but the one on the right does a much better job of capturing an authentic moment, of showing a scene how it may have actually played out. Your goal? Seek out stock photos that look as though they're giving you a snapshot into a real moment, a window into a real scene playing out somewhere in the world— a great candid photo that was taken by accident, rather that a posed photo where everyone was told smile.



So you're writing a post about money, specifically, finding money for your blog or business why it seems like you have none. Your first instinct might be to find a stock photo of money, right? Because you're writing about money. That's when you often end up with this.

This image, while portraying a delicious suitcase of cash, does nothing for your post. It doesn't put the image in context, it does nothing to humanize the content, and it's cheesy as hell. Instead, take a step back from the most literal interpretation of your topic, and think of some related concepts that you might be able to capture in a stock photo. What else comes to mind when you think of money? Stress, papers, notebooks, spreadsheets, calculators/general desk imagery, etc. So rather than a boring suitcase of money (okay, it's the image that's boring, not the concept. A suitcase of money would be anything but boring), you have a realistic image that helps place your reader in the scenario about which you're writing.



When you're sourcing photos from many different websites, it's important that the general style and mood of your photos remains the same, creating a consistent brand feel. It's helpful to think of your brand as a season.

Your photos might be bright and colourful (spring)


They might be muted and romantic (summer)


Earthy, dark and mysterious (autumn)


Or dramatic and crisp (winter)



Alright, so it's just part of the bargain when using stock photos, especially free ones: they're not unique. Every day I run across another blog or even published book that has some photo that I've used before. However, that doesn't mean that you have to look exactly like everyone else!

Most reputable stock photo sources give you images with a high resolution, often as much as 4000x6000 pixels. This means you have a decent amount of wiggle room when it comes to cropping the image uniquely.


For example: this photo? Shows up everywhere.


But this one? Helps disguise the original just enough to keep things interesting.

DIY Design Basics For Bloggers & Online Business Owners

One of the most important parts of what you do online...

... is your website. No surprise there.

It's the place where your readers and potential customers or clients first get their first impression of you. It's how they come to realize that you have something that can help them.

But being able to share those messages and resources with your community depends on having a website that does the heavy lifting for you— a website that is clean, appealing, easy to navigate, and purposeful.

A website that is slow to load, confusing, and a cluttered eyesore is going to have your potential readers running no matter how great your writing or services are.

Luckily,  you don't have to be a design genius to implement a few simple tips that make your visitors' experience a wonderful one.



When it comes to the design of your website, less really is more. There are a ton of tempting widgets out there— especially if you're using Wordpress, but when you really understand your focus and your audience, they're not necessary.

Before adding any feature to your website, ask yourself: is this helping my audience? Is it making their experience easier or telling them something about your brand?



There's really no quicker way to frustrate your reader than by slapping a too-pale font over a light background (I've made this mistake), a text colour only slightly different from the background, or miles of white text on a black background.

Although it might feel boring, your best bet is almost always very dark font (dark charcoal grey is actually better than pure black) on a white background. Coloured text works much better in your logo, or in headers.



You may have noticed the trend lately towards cursive, flowery fonts— and there is nothing inherently wrong with them.

But when it comes to putting together a website that is super easy to read and understand, simple fonts are key— especially in the body of each blog post, the main portion of text. While you might be able to get away with a very neat cursive font for headings, my advice is to keep these kinds of display fonts to logos or page headers only.



Pop-ups get a lot of debate, and it's up to you whether or not you chose to use them on your website.

But let me just say this: there is nothing that will make me leave a website faster than a) an obnoxious popup that is hard to close, b) a pop-up that covers part of the text, or c) a website that has a popup, an exit popup, an opt-in banner at the top, and a slider in the bottom right corner.

If you're going to use a pop-up opt-in form, be smart about it— I recommend placing a sign up form on exit, for minimum annoyance.



When you only have a few seconds to make a good impression with your website, it's imperative that the important content is above the fold.

What the hell does that mean? "The fold" is a term that comes from the newspaper industry, and refers to all the content on the front cover of the newspaper, well, above the fold.

On a website, this refers to all the content you see without scrolling. When you're designing your website, make sure the thing you most want your audience to do is the first thing they see— like an opt-in at the very top of your blog.



Great graphics are an important part of every website— we process visual information way faster than text, and so graphic content like diagrams, photos, and infographics are super-appealing.

What's not super appealing are images that are a) not the right size or b) so big that they obliterate your computer.

Make sure your images are the right size for your blog, and run your images through an image compressor like JPEGmini.

Your readers will thank you for it.



It's no longer enough just to have a website that looks great and functions beautifully on a desktop— it has to be ready for screens of all sizes, especially smart phones.

Even Google takes into consideration the mobile-responsiveness of your website when ranking it.

For this reason, I recommend folks just starting out use Squarespace— it's super easy to create a website, and it's always mobile responsive. Yes!


DesignDanna Rowan
8 Things Your Website Must Have As A Coach


One of the biggest obstacles and sources of stress for a new coach or a coach launching an online business is— you got it— the website.

I've seen a lot of awesome people will really exciting, big ideas get stuck trying to put together their website.

  • What does it need?
  • How do I get clients to book me?
  • What is most important?
  • Should I start a newsletter
  • Do I need advertising?

And then the whole launch process grinds to a halt. So many people get bogged down in the details, scared of making mistakes, and their blossoming businesses get put on hold as the overwhelm gains the upper hand.

Since the best thing for a new coach is to get started, get learning, and secure those first clients, I'm going to give you the essentials for your coaching website.



The lack of directionality and clarity that comes with not having a mission statement is one of the flaws I see the most in the websites of coaches and heart-centred business owners of all kinds. Right from the beginning, before they've even had a chance to scroll, you want to be telling your visitors who you are, what you do, and who you do it for.



The next thing your website must have is a call to action, directing your visitors to what is most important and asking them to take action. When I do my Free Three sessions, I ask all applicants what the number one thing is they want their readers to be doing. Nine times out of ten (yes, seriously), it's not the focus of their website.



Another common problem I run into is sales or services pages that literally have no way for me to hire the coach— except bouncing over to the contact page. When you only have a few seconds to really capture their attention and get your reader to make the sale, any barrier to their booking you is losing you clients.

Once you've shared a bit about your different packages, make sure there is a button your readers can click to either hire you outright, or to book a discovery call with you.

Like this:



If your potential clients aren't able to book right away or have a few questions, you want to make sure they have a very clear way to contact you. I also recommend having a few FAQ on this page to field repetitive emails, and also to give your readers a bit of information they may not have already come across.



Especially as a new coach, testimonials are incredibly important to have on your website in order to build trust between your and your potential client. When you aren't resting on a golden reputation, your future clients need to see for themselves how much other people have really loved your services. 

I recommend putting testimonials on your home page, as well as your sales pages and any onboarding packages you might have.


Clients will hesitate to book you when they don't know what to expect, and what you expect from them in the process. Be sure to outline very clearly what each step of working with you will look like (or include it in an easy-to-download package), and answer any of the common questions they might have along the way.



If someone isn't booking you right away, you definitely want them to be able to follow you on social media, get to know you a little bit better. This way, you stay at the front of their minds for when they are looking to book you, and you can give them tons of extra value in the meantime.



This is a big one that many people forget, or don't take quite as seriously as they should. When someone is buying your coaching services, really, they're buying you. They're buying your time, because they like you, and they trust you. But it's hard for someone to come to trust you when they have never seen your face. Including a photo, or even a short video if you really want to go all out, is essential to starting that relationship with you, and building your brand.


See? How much better is that. It's like we're best friends already.