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Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Fotolia © juanjo tugores
A couple weeks ago I was invited to review the stock photo site Fotolia. I was given a limited subscription to use trying out the service. You can see some of the images that I've used on this blog by clicking here. The value of the subscription given to me is approximately $40 per month.

The quality of the images is phenomenal. Each shot is thoroughly professional. Many of the images have a plain white or black background making them ideal for inserting into a presentation. There are many images that have already been edited (like the one appearing to the right for example) to produce some nice effects. I bet you can't guess why I liked this one.

The number of images available is huge. I haven't run out in the short time that I've been searching through the database. It's obvious that the main focus for Fotolia is the business sector. You'll find the majority of the images are people in business suits or other business-type images. It's not bad, but if you want something else you may need to dig a bit deeper to find the right fit.

There is a good selection of religiously themed images available as well as images that appropriate for illustrating Biblical passages. I found the image to the left when searching for images to go with Psalm 23.

I found that searching was tolerable. The images are labeled with tags which then give you keywords to search with the ever-present search box. That's fine and par for the course, but the keywords are applied liberally to pictures so you might get some odd results when searching. One trick I found was to use some search modifiers. So I could search for "happy" but that might bring up to many babies for what I'm wanting so I would add "-babies" to the end then re-search. Using the minus sign and words I wanted to exclude helped. However they don't support wildcards (* and ?) so you will have to exclude each keyword specifically (e.g. "-babies" "-baby").

I'm including this as a separate section from searching since finding the right picture will always require looking at them. Fotolia has a nice feature that allows you to see a thumbnail for the images but then if you hover your mouse over the image for a moment a larger preview will pop up. You can scan to see the pictures that you like then pause on them to get a better view. It makes browsing through lots of pictures much easier. One glitch in this feature shows up in the Google Chrome web browser. If the pop-up goes off the edge of the web browser area to the right then a side-to-side scroll bar will appear at the bottom, but then it doesn't go away when you move on. It doesn't interfere with future previews, but the thumbnails under the scroll bar are obscured. Annoying but not a deal-breaker.

Grabbing the images is a multi-step process. First click the image, then click the download link. If you're not using a subscription you will choose the size of the image here. Then check-out from the next page before you're ready to click the download link to get your photo. I understand the need for all the steps since they serve both subscribers and ala carte customers, but when downloading multiple images the process feels a little clumsy and protracted. Again, a mild annoyance, but nothing the keep you away from the service.

Subscription plans start at $199 a month for one user to download up to 25 images a day. That's not bad if you're grabbing tons of photos. But if you just need one or two images it might be a better deal to buy them one at a time. You can buy the images for as little a $0.75 apiece. That size would be OK for a blog post, but wouldn't be great for a PowerPoint presentation. Grab something in the $3.75 to $7.50 range for projecting. The sizes are labeled with the size in XS - extra small through XXL - double-extra large. Don't drop below a medium (M) for PowerPoint.

Fotolia provides a huge amount of images, videos and illustrations. It may take a while to find them based on the tagging and searching, but when you do find them they will be extremely high quality. To my eye, some of the images were a bit too staged looking. I was looking for a gritty image of a firefighter with dirt and ash on his sweaty face. It wasn't to be found. I had to settle for something a bit less personal, but still very good.

I used the images from Fotolia to put together this presentation, which I could not have done without the excellent images they provided. I would recommend Fotolia as a place to go when you need the perfect image to make your point. It may not be a daily driver for most preachers due to the cost, however.

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