4 (Unusual) Alternative Image Ideas for Blog Posts

Ahh, the age-old question: what image should I use to accompany a blog post? A stock image? A screenshot? Any old thing you find from Google Image Search…? (No, definitely don’t do that last one.)

When people ask me, I usually send them down the Flickr Creative Commons route, as I hate stock imagery and Flickr images often feel more genuine. But sometimes there are some good alternatives you can use that you mightn’t have thought of…

Let’s start with the really obvious one, and work our way to the more… odd.

1) Take your own photo

Ok ok, so this one’s not that unusual (going by the title of this post), but with Google Image Search, Flickr, etc. being so ingrained in our minds as the go-to resources for images, it’s easy to forget that you can always just do it yourself…

Even if you’re not a professional photographer (and if you’ve ever seen any photo I’ve ever taken, you’ll definitely know that I’m not a professional photographer), with smartphones it’s easy to take a good, high quality photo by yourself that can be decent enough to go with a blog post. The question however: what do you take a photo of?

I’ve gone down this route when Flickr Creative Commons – and other avenues – have come up short. Obviously it’s topic-dependent, but I’ve often found something lying around on my desk that I can turn into a half-decent image. When I struggled to find a good photo to go with a post talking about my thoughts on DA (Domain Authority) for example, I grabbed my Roger Mozbot bobblehead figure and artfully positioned it in front of a computer monitor displaying Open Site Explorer data.

Roger Mozbot (before Prisma) photo

Of course, that photo looks dreadful, so I took it one step further…

2) Take your own photo (and run it through Prisma)

Prisma examples
The iPhone app Prisma ‘artifies’ photos. I’ve blogged about it before and used it a stupid amount of times on this blog:

And even guest posts:

In addition to creating a completely unique and aesthetically pleasing image, it’s good at removing the ‘imperfections’ of a photo. So for example, my pic of Roger Mozbot was a little blurry, but you wouldn’t know after I’d applied Prisma to it:

Roger Mozbot via Prisma image
Voilà. From blurry to Dali in a couple of taps.

3) Commission a graphic designer or illustrator to do one

Graphic design/illustrator examples

I’ve done this a few times, when I thought having something custom-made might be a cool alternative.

For the Moz post Panic Stations! A Case Study on How to Handle an Important Page Disappearing from Google, I hadn’t long moved into Welsh ICE (my coworking space) and soon met Hannah Collins (@SpannerX23), who back then was starting out as a graphic designer/illustrator (she now trades as House of Zinthos) – I wrote about the collaboration here. Yes, it costs a bit of money, and I didn’t really have to do it, but I got a lot of feedback and praise for the use of images throughout the post, and I believe that they heavily contributed to the popularity of the post (including getting it promoted from YouMoz/UGC to Moz’s main blog).

I also commissioned an image for a personal blog post I published on Medium titled I Stood Up to a Bully  –  and Won. I had the idea for what I wanted for the accompanying image but couldn’t find anything decent copyright-free, so I went on Fiverr and found asked someone to illustrate what I wanted. I know I’ll probably end up in a special circle of Hell for using Fiverr and not (always) supporting local designers/illustrators, but as a one-off for something that I wasn’t going to make any money from (and therefore anything I paid for would have been an expense), it did the job nicely.

My client TestLodge also make use of an illustrator, in a really good way. Whenever they publish a post, Scott (TestLodge’s CEO) asks a graphic designer to create an image to go with it. He does this with every single post on the blog. Every. Single. Post.

TestLodge illustration examples
And not just on his blog, but also on (most) guest posts, too.

He’s now also created a software testing careers resource site, and has continued the trend on there (albeit of a different style):

ST.C illustration examples
It’s a commitment, but the consistency looks incredibly professional and incredibly cool.

4) Make your own animated GIF

Complimentary Code GIF
And now, if you want to be especially quirky, you can create your own freakin’ GIF!

The above code snippet was used on the post The Best Compliment I Ever Received (Was From A Developer). I took two screenshots of the same snippet of DIY code in a text file (one with the cursor showing, one without), made sure they were the same size, and used a tool called Gifninja (now sadly defunct)* to merge them. So, so simple.

* I’m sure there are other free-to-use tools out there, in Gifninja’s absence.

I’ve also used GIFs on the aforementioned Moz post

Rank Tracker rankings GIF
…a recent post about website interstitials…**

Interstitial closing GIF
…and even a post containing a Tenso-inspired GIF of my dad holding my week-old firstborn, because y’know…

Rory's 1st Tenso GIF
The horror…


** For screencast-style GIFs, you can use tools such as Gyazo and Recordit (both free).

Other ideas for images

Not content within the above? How dare you (only kidding). What about…

  • A time-lapse (which can then be turned into a GIF),
  • A meme,
  • A DIY infographic (using something like Canva), or
  • A panorama?

The possibilities? They are pretty much endless. Go to town.

What images do you use when blogging? Do you use anything different, which hasn’t been mentioned above? Be sure to drop a comment below if so – I’m always on the lookout for something a wee bit unusual…


  • Dan

    June 5, 2017 at 2:09 am Reply

    Lots of original ideas … need these to shake up the posts on my sites … thanks!

  • Roland Millward

    August 8, 2017 at 9:03 pm Reply

    Great ideas! Now to try them out 🙂

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