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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

How to write better emails in 2022

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Write better emails. It’s as simple as that. Love them or hate them (let’s be honest, most people hate them), they are the lifeblood of your business. They give your business visibility in a way that no other platform can.

They’re the chips to your burger.

The gin to your tonic.

The strawberries to your cream.

The aisle seat to that flight you take when you have food poisoning and you spend 5 hours running up and down to the toilet on your way from Johannesburg to New York. (True story)

So, how do you write banging emails, that are clear, juicy, and convert the reader into a fan who can’t get enough of you? Let’s explore, shall we?

gif of man throwing glitter - humour

What’s in an email?

Well, hopefully, you. Hopefully your style, your personality, your vibe, your weirdness, your humour. Emails are the single most powerful way to connect with your community. They’re personal. They’re intimate. And they’re something that your subscriber has asked to receive. So, best you make it count.

One of the best ways to do this is to clearly define your brand voice in a way that is authentic and memorable.

1. Subject lines

You’ve got to be creative because the competition in your inbox is stiff. I get dozens of emails every single day. Most of them end up unopened, in the trash. The ones that pique my interest are the ones that have a subject line that stands out. You can do this in a number of ways:

  • Use emojis to grab attention
  • Miss-spell a word (sekshual, kerr-azy, ecks-perience)
  • Offer something for free

Mostly, though, you want your subject line to introduce an idea in a way that drives curiosity.

‘Here’s what no one is telling you about X.’

‘That time I saved Madonna’

‘Meh…’

2. Write to a friend

A lot of my clients tell me that when they sit down to write the email, they go blank. This is normal. Don’t be afraid. The best way to write an email to your list is to think of your best friend and write to them. Seriously. Imagine you’re writing to your bestie. It’ll make your email personal, real, truthful, easy-to-read. And those are the best kinds of emails.

3. The rule of ONE

As much as you possibly can, keep the focus of your email to one thing. If you have a million things going on in your business, and you feel you need to share it all, do it on your social platforms. When it comes to emails, though, you want that baby to be focused and clear. The reader should have no doubt as to what you’re writing about or what action you want them to take.

One focus.

One call to action.

One. Singular sensation.

4. Length

This really is a personal preference. Your email can be as long or as short as you want it to be. It’s true, a lot of people don’t have the time to sit and read through a looooooong email, and might skim through it. But, some readers love sitting down with a cup of tea or coffee and reading something substantial. The trick is to know your audience. And write an email that is well-crafted and interesting. If the email is good, people will read it.

5. The scanners

A lot of people will scan your emails. There’s a lot going on in people’s lives and they don’t have time to read everything. So, make this easy for them.

Bold the important bits.

Use italics.

Introduce colour. 🎉💋✨

Make it as easy to consume as possible.

And put a PS on the end with the important stuff. If people skip to the end, make sure they can grab everything they need in the PS.

6. Images

Use images like they’re your bestie. Don’t put them in for the sake of it. Make them speak. I LOVE gifs. I put them in all my emails. They are fun, and they can illustrate a point in a single moment. Images are fantastic and people love them.

7. Give value

Your emails should give value to the reader. Of course we need to sell. We’re in business. It’s vital that we sell. But if every single one of your emails is selling something, your people will unsubscribe quicker than you can build your list.

Finally…

Building your email list and writing banging emails is one of the most powerful ways you can build your business. It gives your business credibility, it allows you to do valuable market research, and it allows you to convert leads into clients. Write better emails, and watch your business soar.

 

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Dating app narrows gender pay gap with £60,000 minimum salary for all employees

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Woman using a dating app
Feeld, a location-based online dating application for couples and singles users, was launched in 2014. | Photo: Andrea Piacquadio

A dating app with over 20 sexuality and gender options has announced that all employees across the globe will be receiving a minimum salary of £60,000 ($80,000) from January 2022.

The new salary announcement, which will impact close to 40% of Feeld‘s full time staff, comes as the leadership team continues to be as transparent and accountable as possible whilst challenging the industry benchmarks.

The independently-run company, launched in 2014, aims to provide enough compensation so that all employees can live a meaningful and fulfilling life while rethinking existing systems on compensation and working towards a human-centered future of work.

“When reviewing salaries for 2022, we realised that none of the benchmarks or data sets from the job market represented the impact of the work of certain roles within our organisation. They were simply highly undercompensated in the wider job market.” – says Ana Kirova, CEO at Feeld. “We created the Baseline Freedom Salary to compensate for our team’s hard work and ensure unfair gaps in compensation don’t creep in as we grow. We feel it’s crucial all of our employees live meaningful and fulfilling life and fair compensation is key. Hopefully, initiatives like this could serve as examples to spark positive change in other companies, especially in these times of drastic change to the workplace.”

Since being appointed CEO in April 2020, Ana has made crucial changes across the business, which includes forming a leadership team of 60% female-identifying members, over 50% female-identifying newly hired engineers, closing the male-female gender pay gap within the company from 6% to 1%.

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First Centurion Lounge in Europe opens at London Heathrow Airport

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American Express VIP Lounge at Heathrow
The lounge at LHR is the first Centurion to partially utilize renewable energy through newly installed solar panels

For those already taking advantage of travel restrictions coming to an end in several holiday hotspots, American Express has opened its first Centurion Lounge in Europe as part of its signature airport lounge program, at London Heathrow Airport (LHR).

Located in Terminal 3, the exclusive space is American Express’ third Centurion Lounge to open this year.

With over 650 square metres, the new lounge features local custom-made design elements and unique amenities, including dedicated workspaces, power outlets, private phone areas, wireless mobile charging, high-speed Wi-Fi, and access to American Express Member Services. Other perks include a curated Global Menu by Michelin-Star Chef Assaf Granit as well as a British-Inspired tea cart with hot and cold beverage selections.

“We are thrilled to introduce the Centurion Lounge experience to our Card Members traveling through London’s Heathrow Airport and make their return to travel even more special,” – says Pablo Rivero, Vice President & General Manager of Global Lounge Experiences. “From bespoke interior design to signature bites from a Michelin-Star chef, we continue to raise the bar for airport lounges by providing truly unique, top-notch premium experiences.”

To welcome guests, the lounge’s design taps into British culture. Features include a moss wall that nods to London’s famous Hyde Park and a series of architectural pencil artwork by Minty Sainsbury, allowing the lounge interior to transport visitors on a journey to discover London through design. Custom furniture sourced from UK-based producers Konk, Naughtone and Deadgood, and an art gallery curated by Art Story, including Norman Parkinson’s fashion photography and original pieces by Carne Griffiths and Stephen Marshall, are also part of the project’s décor. Each artwork contains a QR code, so Card Members can digitally engage with it and learn more about the piece and artist. The lounge will also feature luxury and modern lighting designs by Lee Broom and Tom Dixon, two of the UK’s leading product designers in lighting design.

“We are delighted to be the first major hub airport in Europe to host an American Express Centurion Lounge. As travel restrictions continue to ease and key markets open back up, the new Centurion Lounge in Terminal 3 will be a most welcome addition for passengers in need of a quiet place to relax before setting off on their journeys,” says Fraser Brown, Director of Retail and Property at Heathrow.

The Centurion Lounge at LHR is also be the first Centurion Lounge to partially utilize renewable energy through newly installed solar panels. The environmentally-conscious design is in line with American Express’s 2025 environmental goals to reduce energy use across its managed facilities and its recent announcement to commit to net-zero emissions globally by 2035.

Eligible Card Members can find a lounge at the Global Lounge Collection website or by using the American Express® App. They can also check into select Centurion Lounges through the mobile check-in tool within the American Express® App.

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