Not your average stock images : The Photo Forest

I’m SO excited to announce that my ridiculously talented friend Nora is launching a wonderful new not-your-average stock photo site – The Photo Forest.




Nora first came up with the idea when searching around for good stock photos and yet again being disheartened by the lack of quality, REAL-looking photos. Stock photos seemed to be always too slick, or too bland, or… something. And the good ones were being used by EVERYONE.

Nora is a photographer herself (besides being a totally kick-ass graphic designer at, and went out in search of real scenes and real people doing real things to fill that gap. But as many photos as she could take herself, she wanted to build something bigger and create a community at the same time.  So, she dreamed up the fab idea of creating a membership site where other photographers could contribute, and visitors could put in requests for whatever photo they wanted! So, if you want a picture of a teddy bear sipping a pina colada next to a swimming pool – request it, and someone will take that photo for you. How good is that!? It’s a fantastic concept, and nothing like it anywhere else.




Here’s what Nora has to say –

“I’m on a mission to revolutionize the stock photography industry by providing custom on demand stock photos to lifestyle, wellness and smaller niche businesses that are underrepresented in big name stock photo sites.

At The Photo Forest we are about DIVERSITY -in all forms of the word! Race, size, economics and more! Our aim is to provide Real Life Stock Photos through our platform so that every business can have beautiful imagery to market themselves with.

The other important aspect of The Photo Forest is the community that I want to build and engage with – there will be a members only community where we can share what we are looking for, how we have used the stock photos, ask for advice and also talk to me and my team on how to make The Photo Forest better in terms of design, functionality and usability! I will be open and honest with all members about the inner workings of The Photo Forest so that everyone can understand how it works and feel included in some big decisions. It’s totally going to be community over competition.

So far there is no other stock photography site like this out there and that makes it even more exciting as I and all our members get to decided on how we want this to work!

What started your interest in photography?

I have a passion for photography – when I lived in India I used to do real life situational photoshoots for travelling yoga teachers and I really loved that – but that was location dependent and I have since moved to Cape Town in South Africa – so for the last year I have been trying to come up with a way to still be a photographer but be able to work from anywhere. Yep a total digital nomad 🙂

I started making some photo packs and sold them through my website As part of that I did some market research into what type of photos people where looking for and couldn’t find. I called it #RealLifePhotography as that was my style – shooting situations as they were in life. – When I  started to get more and more feedback from my market research about the struggles people were having finding niche photos or photos that represented diversity like coloured women, or women over 50, or photos of plus size people – I knew I was onto something.

How does it work?

The whole idea of the platform is that members get to request the themes of the photos they really need and can’t find anywhere else. Since this has never been done before I can’t say exactly how long it will take from request till download of the photo to your computer- however I am estimating that it can take anywhere between a week to three weeks – it really depends on the photographers and how many photographers pick up the request! Each photographer can choose which request they want to go out and photograph and every photograph is reviewed before it is released to the members. As much as possible will be automated but we will still be reviewing each photo submission form the photographers to make sure they align with what we represent  – reality and diversity!

How soon are you launching and what have you got already?

Keep in mind though that there will already be more than 1000 photos ready to be downloaded when we do launch in October, and this number will be increasing as the requests come in and the photos get taken. It will be a continuous cycle of new content on a monthly basis, likely even a weekly basis depending on the amount of request that come in and the amount of photographs our carefully selected photographers submit to the platform.

Overall it’s going to be one juicy platform!”




Want to find out more? Check out The Photo Forest here! ->


Free stock images? Here’s a roundup.
boring stock photos are boring


There are soooo many places to grab free stock images for your blog/site/social media these days that the choice is almost overwhelming. And people STILL get it wrong!


You’re boring.

Firstly, remember that if it’s free, there’s probably going to be a heap of other folk using exactly the same photo. Secondly, like any of the places that you can find free stuff, there’s a ton of junk to sift through before you get to the good stuff.

Also, what you use on your website and social media says a lot about you and your brand. What mood are you trying to convey with those images? Are they projecting your true business personality? Are they interesting to your ideal audience? Or are they just there to fill a gap?

NOTHING says ‘bland’ quite so much as a website full of sterile stock photos.

It’s those manicured hands hovering over a white keyboard, it’s those artificial smiles. It’s all the equipment on the desk arranged in a unbelievably neat grid. Seriously – whose desk is like that??

Yeah, I know not everyone’s a photographer, and we all use stock photos from time to time. But please choose wisely.


Get outside of your box

It’s a big wide world out there, and the number of Public Domain image providers is growing exponentially. Like many ‘free’ versions of things, they make their money through advertising, and/or links to a paid, higher quality version of what they do. Some sites have a subscription service where they’ll send you new photos every week; some are bit overwhelming in the amount of advertising that they have – have a look around and bookmark a collection of sites that suit you best.

Also, just a time tip – you will most likely spend a heap of time trying to find photos you like, so start up a new folder on your computer now, and set aside an hour or two to find and download a bunch that you like (10-20 at a time) so that you always have a stockpile of photos that you can dig into when you need something in a hurry.


So here are some of my fave sites (there’s a ton more – just google “Public Domain images”, you’ll come up with a big list of sites for you to investigate. Some of these sites are searchable, although many of them are not and require a LOT of scrolling. But there are still some gems in there, so it can be worth your time). The Stocks is a collator of sorts, linking around 15 of the most popular Public Domain and CC sites, including Pixabay, Unsplash, and New Old Stock. It also gives you a preview of what images are on each site. Because it’s a collator, it’s popular and tons of people tend to look here often – which means that you’ll find most of the images you like on lots of other blogs and websites too 🙁 StockSnap has a bit of personality to it, with contributors adding everything from their own travel photos to highly styled food photos, and it’s searchable by tag and by popularity too. PicJumbo is another searchable site with some great images, especially of architecture and food (although there is a LOT of advertising on the site). PublicDomainArchive has a big collection of both vintage and modern Public Domain pics. They’re not searchable, but the images are lovely, often featuring gorgeous symmetry. New Old Stock is an absolutely fascinating collection of vintage photos, sourced from public archives throughout Europe and around the world. There’s lots of photos of the US space program, as well as Victorian-era images of buildings and people, old maps, and a bunch more things. Be prepared to spend some time scrolling – and not only because it’s not searchable. is great for textures that you can add as an overlay to your image to give it age, or grunt, or sass etc – just adjust the transparency. Brick walls, greenery, concrete, rust, graffiti… and are both sites I came across recently, and both are searchable. They appear to be fairly typical subject matter (people in landscapes, flowers, flatlays of office setups etc), although they do both seem to have a bit more personality.

Keep searching, there’s plenty more!

(Psssst…. you might even like to try some of my small collection… 😉 )



But there’s still more to watch out for…

Free stock images can still have strings attached. They might be free, but if they’re licensed under Creative Commons, then you might be obligated to credit the image’s author at the very least.

Creative Commons is great for both makers of work (because you can get your work out into a huge audience, and it grows as users spread it around) and users of work (so much more beautiful work to access!). CC has a range of different licences, which range from CC-BY (basically, you can use and edit/manipulate the work in any way you want for both commercial and private use, as long as you credit the original author), right throught to CC BY-NC-ND (you must attribute the author, you can’t use it for commercial purposes, and you can’t alter the work in ANY way).

Public Domain pics on the other hand require no attribution, and you do whatever you like with them!!

Now it IS tricky, because in a global marketplace the thing is that different jurisdictions have different laws around copyright… and so what might be considered Public Domain in one jurisdiction may still be under copyright in another… and so Creative Commons (a wonderful organisation AND search tool – you can find them at has created a kind of ‘anti’-licence – CC0 – so that authors can choose to waive all rights to their work. Because whenever you create a work, basic copyrights around intellectual property exist automatically (in most jurisdictions). CC0 is a way of stating that you waive your rights and place your work into the public domain completely for people to do whatever they like with. So that’s part of what Creative Commons is for as well – to try and make things a bit simpler for us creative folk.



Google is NOT the place to go searching for images. Google simply collects and archives what’s out there – it doesn’t check the validity of any licensing or credits or image attachments or ANYTHING. Right now, if I put up an image of the Mona Lisa and put my name on it, that’s the information that Google would archive. So, do your own research, and find images in reputable places – for instance, you can also find lots of CC0 images in Flickr too, direct from the original photographers.

If you get caught using an image (or other work) incorrectly, it can be a big headache – even a financial one, if the owner of the work chooses to come down hard on you. At the very least, they’ll ask you to remove the image – and you’ll have to find another one anyway, so why not choose a Public Domain image in the first place!?

Don’t get caught out – always check.


Have you heard any gruesome stories about people getting in trouble for using images that weren’t theirs? Share it here! It’s important to let others know that this is SERIOUS.
Because the upshot is, we want our artists to get paid AND acknowledged for all their beautiful, amazing contributions to the world. Don’t we!?

Julie x

The new Canva app for iPhone – is it worth the effort?


The new Canva app for iPhone was released a few weeks back – so have you all tried it yet? Probably not -it’s only available on iOS at the moment. That shortcoming aside, it appears to have most of the same features that are available on the full-blown version.

It’s great in many ways – you log into your on account so you can access to everything that you’ve already made. It’s still the same kind of easy-to-use thing you expect from Canva, and it comes with a variety of preloaded formats, so you can choose the right size and go.

Like most app versions of a full desktop program, it has its shortcomings too. A biggie is that there’s not the full range of pre-formatted sizes (although it does include the most popular), and you can’t create a new canvas with your own custom dimensions. Another big thing is that I can’t use any of my own photos that I’ve uploaded to Canva before (although I can upload new ones from my phone’s camera, or search through Canva’s imagebank). And I also can’t layer up photos to create my own overlays, or even have more than one photo in a canvas. You can’t use any of the backgrounds either – so only text, elements, and layouts. The image on screen won’t shift when you tilt your phone sideways, so you can’t make it larger that way. You CAN zoom in with the two-finger spread though.

On the plus side, there’s an expanded range of preset filters (and some different ones too) that pop up when you tap on an image that you’re using. However, I couldn’t seem to change the intensity of the filter, or access advanced image settings (even though the option showed on my screen. But I’ve got an iPhone4 – maybe I just need a new phone?).

Lastly (on my phone at least), it appears a bit temperamental and it’s thrown me out twice without warning.

I don’t have a paid account, so there are some Canva For Work things I can’t test, but I do wonder about. Can I still create an image with a transparent background? What about the one-touch resizing to suit every occasion? Is any of the functionality that’s missing on the free version above, available on the paid version (especially being able to access your own uploads)? And I would imagine that you can’t use your own fonts either (because they’re all stored on your computer, aren’t they?).

So yep, not quite the full quid. Overall though, it’s a handy thing to have on the go if you need something quick for Instagram or Facebook, but I wouldn’t be relying on it for producing all your graphics.


I would LOVE to hear your experiences with it! Have you had any glitchy moments, or has it been smooth sailing? Do you use it as your image editor of choice on your phone? Or have you figured out some greats hacks and workarounds on its shortcomings? Let me know!

Julie x