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Master the Art of Stock Photo Searching


It’s amazing how many stock photos are available on the modern internet. There are millions of images available to consider when you start searching, and while that bounty can be exciting, it can also be a bit overwhelming. With so many pictures available, how are you ever going to find exactly what you need for your project? All of the stock photo sites offer a search function, but you need to use it correctly to find what you need, and that isn’t always easy.

Fortunately, this is a skill that you can expect to get better at with time. At first, it might take you quite a while to find the right image, but as your searching skills improve, that time will be gradually cut down and you’ll be more and more comfortable sorting through the countless options to settle on the perfect image.

To help you shorten that learning curve a bit, we are going to offer some tips below on how to properly search for stock images. There is still going to be some time required to find your ideal photo, but these tips should help you streamline the process.

Start with a General Search

When you first set out to search for a specific image, it’s a good idea to keep your search as general as possible, just to see what is out there. If you get too specific from the start, you might find that there are no results available – so you wind up needing to go back to widen your search and find some options. Rather than wasting time going in this direction, start with a general search and then use the results to inform your next steps.

For example, imagine that you are looking for a stock photo that features a computer. If you were being particularly specific, with an image in mind of what you want, you could start your search with this query – “laptop computer on a desk with a web browser open”. That’s a very specific search. Is it possible that you could find this precise image when you do the search? Sure, it’s possible, but you are severely limiting your possibilities and the images that you find under such a search might not wind up being exactly what you want to use.

As an alternative search, you could just go with “computer”, or “laptop computer”. These searches are going to return far more results, most likely, and you’ll have a lot of options to scroll through when the results page pops up. That’s okay, because this will quickly give you an insight into what is available, and you can start to decide what you like and what you don’t. Without seeing this broad results page at the start of the search, you wouldn’t have a good feel for what is available, and you might settle for something that isn’t quite ideal.

Drilling Down One More Level

Now that you’ve done your general search, you should have a good idea of what types of images are available in this category. In some cases, you won’t actually need to go any further – you’ll see something right away that catches your attention and you’ll be all set. If that doesn’t happen, simply add a single modifier to your search and try again.

Continuing the example we used above, imagine that you first searched for the phrase “laptop computer”. You were presented with plenty of pictures of laptops, but they were in various settings that weren’t quite right for your vision. For instance, there might be pictures of laptops being used by people sitting on a couch, or even in bed. If you add the word “desk” to your search, suddenly you should get results that have laptop computers being used on a desk. That single addition, without getting too specific, will likely lead you to precisely the right images for your project.

Another Advantage of Being General

When you search a stock photo site, the search engine that the site uses to deliver results is going to be relying on the written descriptions provided for each image. If the description doesn’t include certain words, it won’t be able to match up the picture with the search you have performed.

This is another reason why you should favor general searches rather than more specific queries. Let’s go back to the “computer” search again to highlight this line of thinking. Imagine you want to find an image of a person using their laptop computer in a coffee shop. Given that goal, you might search for “laptop computer coffee shop”, or something similar. Even if that picture exists within the photo site that you are using, it might not be returned if the description of the picture isn’t quite right. It could be that the photo is described as “laptop computer café” instead of coffee shop, and you’d miss out on finding that image.

Keeping your search wide at the start will open up many possibilities and you can learn from the results you find. For instance, if you notice that many of the photos are tagged as being in a “café” rather than a “coffee shop”, you might choose to do a search that specifies “café” to get all of the relevant results. When you go for too specific of a search right off the bat, you might find that no results are returned for what you searched, so you’ll just assume that the site doesn’t have any relevant photos.

You don’t want to waste too much of your time sorting through the seemingly endless piles of stock photos available on the internet today. Instead, you should be able to find your ideal photo quickly, so you can get back to the task and hand and complete the project that is on your to-do list. Planet Stock Photo will make it easy to do just that, so use some of the tips we highlighted above and start searching right away!

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