Can We Please Permanently Retire This Image? Please?

I can hear this woman gnawing on her pencil in my sleep

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

There is not a day that goes by that I do not see this image on here. It is absolutely, positively, without a doubt the most overused image on Medium.

Look. I get it. This is a platform for writers. Therefore, there are many stories about writing and editing. And this photo just screams “editing.” It’s a great photo. If there were an Unsplash Hall of Fame, this would undoubtedly be among the first class of inductees.

But it’s overused.

It’s like if you turned on the classic rock station on Pandora and “Stairway to Heaven” was every fifth song played. You’d get tired of it. You’d wonder what great music you were missing out on because someone chose to play “Stairway” once again.


Casey Botticello compiled a list of free stock photo websites that are alternatives to Unsplash, the source of the photo above.

To get photos that are royalty-free on Google Images: Search for whatever keyword or phrase you choose, then look for the menu atop the images that are your search results. Click on Tools and a submenu appears. Click on Usage Rights from the submenu. Click Creative Commons licenses from the submenu under Usage Rights and the photos under those licenses will be filtered.

It takes a little more work to properly attribute your photo in the caption — unlike Unsplash, Google Images doesn’t create a convenient attribution link for you. However, you have so many more photos from which to choose that it’s worth the trouble.

Wikimedia Commons is another site with a huge array of photos that are free to use. Like Google Images, you have to create the attribution links yourself. Commons is your best bet if you need to find a historical photo or a photo of a celebrity.

Another option is to create your own blog banner using Canva. They have free and Pro versions, but the free version is plenty good to create something original and eye-catching. It’s a way you can use images to develop your own personal brand. Casey has a good how-to guide for Canva.

Or use one of these Unsplash alternatives:

  • Pexels
  • Pixabay
  • Freepik
  • Pixycareful with this one, though! Some of their “free” images are not licensed for commercial use. Check the lower right corner of an image’s information page to see what the license allows.

In summary…

Now we’ve reached the part of the post where I’m supposed to supply an actionable takeaway for you, my reader. The actionable takeaway is this: Stop using this image! You can design your own images with Canva, choose from a massive assortment of images with filtered Google Images or Wikimedia Commons (if you don’t mind a bit more work attributing the photos), or you can use one of several Unsplash alternatives.

Right as I was about to hit Publish, I noticed that Esat Artug wrote about images this week as well. His article about differentiating your images is well worth a read, with a lot of quality information about the psychology of using images to attract and retain the attention of your readers.

Thanks for reading! If you want to be notified of my future posts, you can sign up for my email list.

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Beliefs | Intuition | Dreams | Journaling | Connector | Inspirer | Former College Teacher | Twitter: @paulryburn

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