Not so long ago, when content was everything – really, truly, everything that was needed for a great blog, untold number of visitors and a host of buyers, visual presentation wasn’t something to worry too much about. Nifty little plug-ins that let you display your photos in neat orderly rows were all the craze, and an occasional witty Photoshop collage found somewhere on the Internet was sufficient to propel your posts into Google stratosphere.

Make no mistake, content is still king. The only difference is that King nowadays must have all his gear with him, ermine fur and scepter included, if he wants to be recognized as such and paraded around the social media sites.

Several of the world’s most popular social media sites, like Pinterest and Instagram, are entirely based on images and image exchanges. In a climate where visual appeal has actually replaced untold thousands of words, relying solely on textual content to reach visitors and potential buyers is quickly becoming an experiment in futility.

Savvy bloggers and e-marketers are nowadays fully aware of the fact that presentation is the other half of the battle, to be ignored at one’s own peril.

Regal Robes: Styled Stock Images

Hero images, hero headers and styled stock images are the easiest way to display your work in style. No special knowledge is required, they make your site and store beautiful in minutes, without having to become Photoshop/Illustrator pro and spend hours each day designing your own displays. They can be hand drawn or realistic, sketchy, vintage, cartoon-style, grungy or very modern and pristine.

Most of the styled stock photos and images available on the web are sold anywhere from $15 to a whooping $70 a piece. Here at Vector Zine, we offer a choice selection of styled stock images for only $5 each, giving you the best value for the least amount of money.

Whether you decide you simply must have an image for more, or much, much more than $5, remember that a single image, however (in)expensive, can be stretched further, each providing a hidden set of perfectly useful, beautiful images.

Follow these simple steps to make your styled stock photos work a bit harder for you.

Virtual Snapshots – Photoshop

Styled stock image crop

Section of a large styled stock image

Let’s use one of Vector Zine styled stock images as an example. This stylish black and white hero image is available for download as a package of 2 raster files, PSD file with Smart Object layer over the photographic background, and 3000×2000 px JPEG file.

Say you would like to use this image to show some of your work on Instagram. Instagram uses 1080×1080 px files, so:

1. Create a new Photoshop file, size 1080×1080 px

2. Open your VectorZine PSD file separately in Photoshop and, for now, turn off the Smart Object layer (the top one, marked “Your Work”), by clicking on the eye icon next to it

3. Go to Select > All

4. With the entire image selected, go to File > Copy Merged

5. Switch over to your Instagram-size file in Photoshop, once there, click on File > Paste

6. Using the move tool (black arrow), move the image around to find the part you would like to save as separate image

7. Once you are happy with your selection, add text and/or your work in the new layer(s), on top

8. Then simply go to File > Save for web and devices, and save this cutout of the image as JPEG, under a new name (preferably, in a separate folder, so your original files never get messed up or lost)

That’s it! Rinse and repeat.

Keep in mind you don’t actually need to crop the image. The segment visible on Photoshop canvas will be the only one saved for web.

Styled stock image crops

Same image, different snapshot, with smart object layer turned on

After you are done taking virtual snapshots of the image without the smart object layer, turn that layer back on, use the smart object layer to place your work, then copy-paste the whole thing again into your designated-size file to get several more angles and snapshots of the same image.

This way, you can have a whole set of 5-8 images out of a single styled stock photo, getting your cost-per-image down to ¢60-70.

Of course, you can always use the whole image too, by simply resizing it to match desired width (or height) and cropping the rest off.

Adobe Illustrator Snapshots

Styled stock image crops

Another snapshot of the same image

In case you are more familiar with Illustrator workspace, even though AI doesn’t handle raster images nearly as well as Photoshop, you can still achieve the same.

1. Create new file in Illustrator, defining the artboard size in the New Document window to fit desired size (in our Instagram example, you would enter 1080 px for both width and height)

2. Go to File > Place, navigate to Vector Zine styled stock JPEG file and click Place

3. Use Illustrator Selection Tool (black arrow) or shortcut V to move the image around the artboard, until you find the section you would like to have as a separate image

4. Once you are happy with the segment outlined by the AI artboard, go to File > Save for web

5. Make sure Clip to Artboard is checked in the new Save for Web window, and save as JPEG, under a new file name

If, instead of using Adobe software, you would like to have another way to stretch your styled stock photos further, you can download free of charge handy raster editing software Paint.net and start from there.

In case you prefer online options for cropping your styled stock, check out this informative guide by Anne, a pro in using styled stock images for her gorgeous Love the Here and Now blog.