4 Tips for Finding the Right Image in a World of Billions

It’s past midnight, you’re struck with a burst of creative inspiration, and you’re working furiously to meet your noon deadline.

Photo: © Joel Robinson

All of a sudden, you hit a roadblock — you’re searching everywhere for the perfect image but can’t find something that really stands out. You’re drowning in piles of awkward stock photos, and you’re not quite sure where to turn.

You’re not alone — almost every creative has been there. That’s why new technologies like visual image recognition and reverse image search are gaining momentum among art directors. With new technologies, however, comes new challenges: a learning curve, option overload, and ambiguity regarding what works and what doesn’t.

Interested in how brand managers, art directors, and other visual creatives are saving time, we searched for a roundup of time-saving ‘tips and tricks.’ Realizing that this blog post didn’t yet exist, we decided to create one — we asked four creatives to nominate their best strategies for saving time and finding awesome images. Here’s what they shared:

Time saver #1: Work with a photo researcher

Photo: © D.A. Wagner

Tip inspired by: Beverly Solomon, founder at Musee-Solomon

For experienced, high-demand creatives, time is finite — but there are plenty of rising stars who are looking to follow in your footsteps and learn how you think. Consider hiring these individuals as interns or freelancers and ask them to help research photos for particular campaigns.

“We are lucky enough to be able to call on a team of very creative people to help us find the right photos.”

As Beverly Solomon points out, there is “no substitute for dedicated, focused effort.” You should expect the photo search to take significant time and attention. What you can do, however, is build a team to help you execute your goals faster.

“My co-founder and I are good photographers and design artists,” says Solomon. “We are lucky enough to be able to call on a team of very creative people to help us find the right photos.” Solomon explains that to start, you’ll need to create a clear set of goals that you can communicate to your intern, researcher, or team. “You need to have a strong idea of what you can present to clients to meet their needs.”

Keep in mind that your photography platforms can also provide image researching services. ImageBrief curates brand libraries for its clients by utilizing our network of photographers to retrieve hundreds of photos that are then curated by a photo editor. This feature combines the benefit of a photo researcher with crowd-sourcing technology.

Time saver #2: Think like a data scientist

Photo: © George Atsametakis

Tip inspired by: Spiros Drakatos, co-founder at Sereal Designers

A data scientist’s job is to find stories in data. As you can imagine, this process takes a lot of time, energy, and number-crunching. Rather than doing research manually, data scientists rely on tools, algorithms, and technologies to find exactly what they need.

While art directors won’t be writing complex queries, they can use technology to guide their searches. Here are two suggestions to get started.

  • Use a reverse image searching tool like TinEye to find an image that is similar to a visual that you like.
  • Use advanced boolean search functionalities to find images that match precise keyword expressions. Check out this resource for basic boolean search tips.

As Drakatos points out, however, technology won’t solve all of your image search challenges. “Although technology does help, the fact remains that most stock images still look staged, and may make the information they are meant to illustrate look fake too,” says Drakos. “So, I believe that it is very important to have an experienced art director who will choose the photo based on not only how good it looks, but on the message it conveys to the client’s audience.”

One way to circumvent this issue of ‘fake looking’ images is to only work with high quality photography platforms.

Time saver #3: Tap into existing communities

Photo: © Chris Schoenbohm

Tip inspired by: Jamie Falkowski, Marketing Director at Alldayeveryday

When it comes to finding inspiration, there’s nothing more empowering than your community of fellow creatives. Keep tabs on industry blogs and fellow artist’s moodboards, for example.

“I’ve added more than 300 blogs and use their search tool to find subjects and ideas across sites that I already like and trust.”

“One of my favorite tools is Feedly,” says Falkowski. “I’ve added more than 300 blogs and use their search tool to find subjects and ideas across sites that I already like and trust.” This technique helps Falkowski discover new looks, styles and approaches. “I could be searching for a technique like a cut paper art approach, and a site could pop up with the perfect visual to build upon,” says Falkowski.

The best way to learn is from each other. Stay plugged in.

Time saver #4: Be a collector

Photo: © Allan Stone

Tip inspired by: Rasheed Sulaiman, Creative Director at Lockerdome

“Usually, after I look at the collection of photos, I am able to find a pattern that my subconscious recognized — that I was initially unable to identify.”

You can’t control when you’ll find great images. That’s why it’s important to collect great finds on an ongoing basis. Use a resource like FFFOUND to bookmark striking images you stumble upon, or consider creating an inspiration folder or mood board using a tool like Niice. Identify a handful of photography providers (using a tool like ImageBrief’s ‘add to network’ feature, for instance) that can help you track artists or photographers over time.

“My inspiration folder helps me gather my thoughts, remember what I like or dislike about each photo, and see what each image has in common,” says Sulaiman. “Usually, after I look at the collection of photos, I am able to find a pattern that my subconscious recognized — that I was initially unable to identify.”

When it comes to choosing awesome images, procrastination doesn’t cut it. As you’re well-aware — inspiration can strike anytime.


This post originally appeared on the ImageBrief Blog and was written by Avril Delaney, Content Editor at ImageBrief.

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