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The pros and cons of using free images online

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User browing free stock image library Pexels.com
Founded in 2014, Pexels today has over 1 million free images available | Photo: @cottonbro

Everyone likes getting something for free and when it comes to images it is no different.

Free images can help small business to scale content production. They can also enhance reach when used to illustrate a blog post. In fact, more and more people are using free images that are widely available on digital platforms such as Canva.com, an Australian design app which, in 2020, doubled its valuation to $6 billion.

If it is beautiful and up for grabs, what harm can free images cause?

Here digital creators, businesses owners and publicists weigh in on the pros and cons of using free images that are available on the internet.

 

Limited range of free images can slow you down

“I use a mixture of paid subscription stock images (Envato Elements) and free stock images (Pixabay, Unsplash) for both my own and my clients’ websites and social media.
Free sites are absolutely amazing for providing some really appealing-looking visuals for people who are designing content on a budget. But, on the downside, free images are available to the many. This means you will start to see the same content cropping up in multiple locations. This repetition won’t be as obvious to the regular internet user, as they don’t spend their days trawling these image libraries – but once you know, you know! Another downside of free stock images is the range available. It can be a lot trickier to find the right image to suit your content when compared with their paid counterparts.”

Jessica Bents – Digital Specialist at www.pbjwebdesign.com

 

You will spend more time finding images

I still haven’t made the decision to pay for a stock photo subscription, I use the free photos that are available online on sites like Pexels. I love these photos as they are high quality and free, but I also know two things that makes me want to stop using them: they are not unique and I don’t always have time to find the right photos that match my site colour theme. If I decide to take out a subscription, I am sure it will be easier and less time consuming to find images based on my needs.”

Ekta Swarnkar  – Blogger at www.tiasays.com

 

Paid doesn’t always mean better

“Having used (and still in use of) both free and subscription-based image services for our website, the free services were an excellent way to initially bootstrap the business when in its infancy while also keeping running costs low. And although our subscription to Shutterstock comes in very handy for uniqueness, a large negative of using a service such as this is that the vast majority of images are highly staged and often appear very fake. The images that Unsplash (a free service) provides, for example, are taken by independent photographers in very natural and bespoke scenarios with often much greater care taken to portray legitimacy. This for the most part produces a far better and more usable photograph.”

Chris Michael – Architect & Founder at online learning platform for architecture students www.archisoup.com

 

Make a plan to stop depending solely on image banks

“Free imagery can be high quality but the amateur photographers creating them don’t generate many images for B2B use. Particularly for niche markets like ours (voice-over) it can be very difficult to find suitable images in free libraries. This is why we mainly use paid images for posts we intend to boost on Twitter or Instagram. We do use free images for standard posts and it’s always worth checking in both free and paid libraries to find images that work best for the specific post. If you intend to boost the post, it’s almost always worth paying for the best image. Occasionally you will find a gem for free but in most cases the paid libraries have better quality images covering a wider variety of topics. As our business grows, we anticipate gravitating away from image libraries toward using more user generated content in our posts.”

Al Black – Production Director at www.voquent.com

 

You could be using a copyrighted image without realising

“We have Canva Pro, which gives us access to lots more images than the free version of the graphic design platform. But we also use free libraries to add to our content.
There are negatives of using free online images, such as the images not being uploaded by the copyright owner themself. Sites such as Unsplash and Pexels make it easy for any photo to be uploaded, even if there is no permission from the copyright owner to do so. As a result, you could be using a copyrighted image without realising.

Rhiannon Moore – CMO at www.evopure.co.uk

 

Free and stock photos make your projects look ordinary

“Anyone can sniff a stock photo out from a mile away. Imagine you worked really hard on your website or a presentation and it is original and innovative. Even with this originality, by using stock photos you make it look ordinary. If you are devoted to your projects and put a lot of time into their creation, you want to finish them with style based on some original pictures. Standard photos do not help to build your brand image, as people will not associate them in the context of your particular business.

Instead, it’s worth investing in a photographer that takes a bunch of unique and beautiful photos of your employees, the company, or photos presenting what your company has to offer.”

Nina Król – Outreach and PR Specialist at career blog www.zety.com

 

Photographer taking a picture of staged food

Free images can help you to scale content

“A few years back, Lionbridge underwent a full digital transformation and rebrand. Leveraging gorgeous, free images from sites like Pexels was crucial to rebuilding our global image library quickly and affordably. We did reserve a sizable budget for some knockout, centerpiece imagery that we purchased exclusive rights to and that are some of our most frequently used images even today. That said, we would never have been able to launch and scale as quickly as we did without free images.

One con that we weighed up against the pros was that we never wanted the brand to be basic, boring, or unrecognizable. This can be a frequent trap of certain stock photography. To combat that, we were very prescriptive in choosing imagery that aligned with our new brand and would help build the foundation of our look and feel. Each free image was carefully chosen by our brand team before use, and we continue that practice with our brand imagery today. That level of careful governance ensures our brand remains solid and distinctive.”

Stephanie Carone – Senior Manager, Global Brand & Social at www.lionbridge.com

 

Free libraries will require you to be flexible with your search

“We use both Shutterstock as a paid subscription, and Unsplash as unpaid, to go with our written articles.

Free imagery can be better than stock images as the photographs often look more authentic. Some are more artistic and more beautiful as well. On the other hand, with free images it can be difficult to find photographs showing exactly what you want for a particular article topic. You may have to be more flexible with the subject of the photograph.”

Sophia Nomicos – Founder at parenting and lifestyle website www.masandpas.com

 

Remember to give credit when using something for free

“As a publicist who does a ton of content development and social media, the free image sites are a godsend. But we need to make sure we give credit to the photographers when use someone’s free image.

There is so much talent on these free image sites and to not include a photo credit is a huge disservice to the photographers who are likely struggling to make a living, especially during the pandemic when bread and butter jobs like weddings are all but gone.
When I’m posting on social media I always try to tag them whenever possible.”

Kimberly Hathaway – President at www.hathawaypr.com

 

Business

What is credit invisibility and how can it affect your finances?

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A woman paying groceries with cash
Only paying in cash will make it difficult to build a credit history and may make you may be credit invisible

If you’ve never taken out a loan or owned a credit card, you may be credit invisible. This means that financial institutions have no records to show that you’ve borrowed money responsibly in the past, which lenders largely rely on to approve you for financial products.

Everybody starts off with invisible credit. However, it can affect you in more ways than one, so it’s important to seek ways to build your credit history as early as you can. Here, we look at some of the effects of credit invisibility on your finances, and offer a few tips to start becoming credit visible.

Access to financial products

Before being approved for any kind of financial product in which you borrow an amount of money, a lender will run a credit check to ensure you have a good credit history. Usually, they’ll be looking to see that you have a high credit score – this would prove that you’ve borrowed money responsibly in the past, and have been able to continuously keep up with repayment obligations.

When you have no credit history for lenders to look at, it can make it harder to qualify for financial products. Your lender will know that you have no prior experience managing borrowed money, and therefore can’t for certain know that you’ll pay any amount back that you borrow. This can be true of all kinds of borrowing options, such as credit cards and loans.

Low limits, high fees

Ultimately, everyone starts off with limited or invisible credit history. So, there will always be a restricted number of financial products available to those looking to borrow for the first time.

However, you may not be offered the best deal if you’re credit invisible. For example, you might be offered a lower limit on a credit card you apply for, or a smaller sum of money on a loan. Plus, you’re likely to face higher interest fees than those who have a visible credit history.

Stagnated progression

Most people will need to borrow money from a lender at some point or another. Usually this will be to pay for a big life expense – you may be buying a house with a mortgage, or purchasing a car on finance. Having limited access to credit options can make goals like these much harder to work towards and obtain. Unfortunately, this could have a knock on effect on your overall quality of life.

Limited access to financial products means that you’ll largely have to rely on your own savings to make any big purchases – this could set you back years when it comes to owning a property.

How can you become credit visible?

Luckily, credit invisibility impacting your quality of life in the long-term is a worst-case scenario. As long as you take a proactive approach towards your finances, you can easily remedy your credit invisibility.

There are plenty of simple steps you can take to become credit visible – you can get on the electoral roll, link your current account to a credit reference agency, or take out a monthly mobile phone contract. These tasks won’t necessarily prove that you can borrow money responsibly, but they’re a good place to start.

Next, you’ll want to look into credit options. Taking out a credit card or loan with a low limit and a high interest rate can seem like an unappealing option, but as long as you can cope with the financial responsibility, it’ll be worth it in the long run. By sticking to your limit and repayment commitments, you’ll prove to your lender that you are a responsible borrower. In turn, this will be reflected on your credit report, and your credit history will begin to take shape. Using such a product responsibly is likely to boost your credit score rather swiftly, which can qualify you for further credit options. You may even find that after a set period of time, your lender is willing to increase your limit and offer a lower rate of interest on your product.

Getting started

Keen to start building your credit history? Do plenty of research on the products available to you before making any long-term commitment. To ensure that you can keep up with the financial responsibility, create a detailed financial plan for the best results.

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Extreme tourism market to reach $91 Billion

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Extreme Tourism Market to Reach $91.0 Billion
Mountain climbing held the highest extreme tourism market share in 2022 | Photo: Connor Moynihan

A recent report published by Allied Market Research forecasts that the global extreme tourism market, valued at $24.2 billion in 2022, could reach $91.0 billion by 2032.

The growing influence of social media is a powerful force surging demand in the extreme tourism market, which attracts travellers those leaving their comfort zones to engage in activities that are considered high-risk, adventurous, or unconventional, such as skydiving, bungee jumping, and rock climbing. Thanks to platforms such as Instagram and YouTube, serving visuals and tutorials breathtaking adventures,

Travelers, inspired by visually appealing content on platforms such as Instagram and YouTube, are actively seeking out thrilling experiences to share on their own social networks, driving a sense of Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) among younger demographics, compelling them to actively participate in adrenaline-pumping activities to create their shareable moments.

By adventure type, the mountain climbing segment held the highest market share in 2022, accounting for more the two-fifths of the global extreme tourism market revenue and is estimated to maintain its leadership status throughout the forecast period. However, the skydiving segment is projected to manifest the highest CAGR of 15.2% from 2023 to 2032.

25 to 45 years is the age group holding the highest market share since 2022, according to the report, accounting for more than two-fifths of the global extreme tourism market revenue. The segment is estimated to maintain its leadership status throughout the forecast period. However, by 2032 it will be below 25 years segment that is projected to have the highest CAGR: 15.3%.

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Petrol up 6p a litre so far this year in the UK

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Increase in the cost of wholesale petrol has squeezed the average retailer margin which has now reduced to 8p a litre | Photo: Engin Akyurt

Petrol went up nearly 2p (1.86p) a litre in March from 144.62p to 146.48p meaning the average price at the pumps has increased almost 6p since the start of the year, data from RAC Fuel Watch reveals.

Diesel rose by more than a penny from 154.68p to 155.99p (1.31p), making for three consecutive months of rises. A full 55-litre tank of petrol now costs £80.56 – up by £1 – and diesel £85.79, up 72p.

While the increase in forecourt prices was driven by a 5% rise in the cost of a barrel of oil (from $83.55 to $87.48) in March, a surge in demand for petrol in the United States ahead of the summer has caused the wholesale price of unleaded to rise to match that of diesel. This meant that by the end of March, a litre of unleaded cost 113.3p on the wholesale market, only a penny or so less than diesel at 114.69p. If this remains the case, the gap between the two fuels at the pumps should close from its current 7p in the next few weeks.

RAC Fuel Watch data shows the increase in the cost of wholesale petrol has squeezed the average retailer margin which has now reduced to 8p a litre, in contrast to 10.5p at the beginning of the month. The average margin on diesel is 11p, up by a penny over the same period.

Looking at the big four supermarkets which dominate UK fuel retailing, Tesco had the cheapest unleaded on 31 March at an average of 142.7p across its 511 forecourts, while Asda had the most expensive at 145p. Asda, which for many years prided itself on selling the lowest-priced supermarket fuel, also had a whopping 33p price difference between its cheapest and most expensive petrol. The grocer charged 139.7p at nine forecourts, four of which are in Northern Ireland, and 172.9p at junction 29A of the M1 near Sheffield – a Shell-branded site operated by Asda. Comparatively, Tesco had the smallest difference between its lowest and highest prices at just 6p (138.9p v 144.9p).

At the end of March Sainsbury’s sold the cheapest unleaded at 136.9p at two sites – one in Wolverhampton and one at Dungannon in Northern Ireland. Tesco, however, was charging its lowest price – 138.9p – at 30 separate forecourts. Asda, on the other hand, was only charging its lowest petrol price of 139.7p at nine of its 658 forecourts.

Sainsbury’s and Tesco were tied for the lowest average diesel price across their portfolios at 151.7p and 151.8p. Asda’s gap between its cheapest and most expensive diesel was 35.2p (147.7p at Torquay and two in Northern Ireland v 182.9p at the Shell-branded site it runs near junction 29 of the M1).

Tesco had the smallest gap of just 6p between diesel at its forecourts (148.9p v 154.9p) while Morrisons was also under 10p (145.7p v 154.9p) Sainsbury’s had the cheapest diesel at 142.9p, but this was only available at Andersonstown, near Belfast, in Northern Ireland. Tesco’s lowest price of 148.9p was, however, on offer at 45 of its forecourts.

BP and Shell-operated forecourts also have very large differences between their cheapest and highest fuel prices. For unleaded BP has a gap of 27p (142.9p v 169.9p) and Shell 26p (143.9p v 169.9p) across their 287 and 536 forecourts. For diesel, it is 30p for BP (149.9p v 179.9p) and 26p for Shell (153.9p v 179.9p).

“The rising cost of oil, combined with the pound still only being worth a meagre $1.3, has led to another month of misery at the pumps with the price of petrol going up 2p a litre. Sadly, this means the average price of petrol has gone up nearly 6p so far this year,” says RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams.

“The data also reveals that Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons only offer their cheapest prices at one or two stores whereas Tesco offers it at around 30 forecourts, albeit at a slightly higher cost. Its customers also have the comfort of knowing that there’s only 6p difference between its lowest and highest prices.

“Sadly, Asda appears not to be the force it once was in fuel retailing. Gone are the days when it used to announce big headline-grabbing pump price cuts when wholesale prices fell, along with a promise at the time that drivers would never pay more than a certain low price at any of its forecourts.

“On a more positive note, it’s good to see the average retailer margin on petrol come down from 10.5p a litre at the start of March to under 8p. While the cause is most likely to be the increase in the wholesale price of petrol, it could also be due to the CMA again raising concerns about higher retailer margins very publicly just last week.”

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