I’ve probably said it before… images make or break a website. Your website is more or less just images arranged in a pleasing grid. Without those images, most websites would look pretty plain. In this article I want to highlight the importance of images on your website and provide some guidance on where to source the best images.
Many of our customers have had some kind of experience with a DIY website building platform, such as Wix, where you pick a template and insert your content. The problem with this, as I’ve noted elsewhere, is that most users aren’t trained web designers, so the template looks great to begin with, but as the development of the site continues, it starts to look less and less professional. This is in part because when you choose a template, a large part of your decision was based on the images that were in it. Whether consciously or not, you’ve attributed professionalism and aesthetic appeal to the template based on the quality, colour and content of the images already in it. When you start work on the template, you obviously need to populate it with images that are relevant or personal to you and your business. If these aren’t the same sort of standard – or if they don’t match the website design – they bring the entire presentation of the website down pretty quickly, and what started off looking great, now looks amateur.
So sourcing images is something that a good web designer will help you with, because they know where to go to find them, and how to choose. But if you do have to find images yourself, here are some tips…
Let’s talk about stock photos. There are now a plethora of stock photography websites out there where you can source all kinds of images for your project. Here are a few tips from us on how to choose images from stock photography sites and what to watch out for…
Find the right stock imagery website for you
Not all stock companies are created equal. Some have great quality images, some less so. Some are very expensive, some less so. Some of the bigger players like Shutterstock, Getty Images, iStockPhoto etc are very expensive, but have huge libraries and arguably better images. The trick might be in finding up-and-coming companies that are setting their prices more competitively, for example www.123rf.com.
There are now plenty of FREE stock photography websites, such as www.unsplash.com which contain amazingly good photography at high resolutions, and totally free to download. Photographers donate some of their work to such sites in a bid to get noticed. Often all that is required is an acknowledgement of the photographer when you use their work, but even that’s not always compulsory. Often, the images found on these sites far outshine
Avoid Stock that Looks Like Stock
Avoid cliched and outdated images. You know the kind of thing… the photos that LOOK like stock photos! If it looks like a stock photo… don’t use it. You want visitors to your website to associate the images on your website with you. You want them to believe that what they’re seeing is a photo of something that goes on at YOUR business. If it looks like a bunch of actors stood around with plastic smiles, that doesn’t create the right feel… for anyone. Some examples of horrible cliche stock images are: people pointing/pressing CGI buttons in mid air; 3D stick men climbing stairs; people dressed in business attire lined up in a row but with only one face in focus. You know the kind of thing. Ugh. Natural photography is so much more pleasing and at least looks like it could belong to you and your company.
Gah! Horrid Stock Photos!
Avoid tenuous symbolism, and tacky abstract concept imagery. If it’s proving difficult to find an image for a subject, maybe just don’t use an image! Perhaps think about icons or diagrams instead.
Choose Images that Complement your Colours and Website Style
Search by colour. If you have a colour theme in mind, it definitely pays to find images that compliment that theme. You can often search stock photography websites by colour as part of the search filters.
Select image orientation. Most website images are landscape orientation as it works better with the shape of a screen. Occasionally, square images might work well but you can usually crop any image into a square. Portrait images work less well, but can occasionally be fine. When looking for banner / header images, it’s worth paying attention to where the content/subject of the image is concentrated. If you’re cropping an image to fit a letterbox shaped banner, be aware that some content at the top or bottom of the image may get missed off.
Avoid graphics that contain text where possible. Responsive web design for mobile devices is now the standard, and that means that layouts are more fluid and so are images. Text can often get cropped out of the frame.
Get the right resolution file. If you just need an image to break up some body text, then chances are you don’t need images much bigger than 600-800 pixels wide. But if you’re choosing a header / banner image, be aware that responsive designs mean that images get enlarged to cover the containing area, and on high resolution screens, images that stretched bigger than their original dimensions will start looking fuzzy and pixellated. Use between 1500-2500px wide for banner images.
Image Resolution & Editing
Once you’ve downloaded an image, don’t just fire it straight into your website without a second thought. Chances are you’ll need to do some editing before it goes up…
Rename the file – make it relevant to your business and what the image contains. Avoid spaces; use hyphens to separate words.
Resize the file. Know where your image is going, and resize it accordingly. Some websites will happily plonk your 3MB file into a page and dynamically resize it to fit the desired area, but it will still be 3MB in size, and make your page take forever to load.
Make sure your image format is appropriate. If there’s no transparency in the image, then save it as a JPG. Apply compression (image quality) to anywhere between 60-80% depending on the image. This will make your image download far quicker. The amount of compression you apply may depend on where and how the image is used. For example, a background image with a dark overlay can take more compression than an image that is in full view.
Edit meta data. Many stock images come chock full of meta data that you probably don’t want to add to your website. Replace ALT and Title tag meta data with SEO appropriate terms that are relevant to your page content.
There’s more to be said about stock image websites, but that will do for now. I believe that with websites like unsplash.com, it’s possible to find awesome photography for free. So think twice about the stock website subscription package, and maybe just buy each image as you need it, or a nominal number of credits.
Hire a Professional Photographer
Of course the (mostly) superior choice to stock photography is… bespoke photography. You know, get the camera out. Everyone has a decent camera on their smartphone now, and whilst I’d advise against taking photos on a smartphone in anything other than daylight, they can be used to surprising effect.
To get the best results though, hire a pro photographer. Their gear and know-how, both in the shoot and in post production, is worth the expense. The resulting images will be high quality, fit for purpose, high resolution and will make your website look absolutely top-notch.
Why hire a professional photographer for your website imagery?
It shows when you’ve got professional photographs of your business because it will be ultra-relevant, authentic and proprietary.
You can give them a brief that will detail everything you need. The composition and content of images can be tailored to the space the images will occupy on your website.
Photographers will have equipment that surpasses anything that you have on your phone, and probably any dedicated cameras you may own. The resulting quality is noticeably better.
Their compositional skills and eye will result in images that are interesting, lead the eye, capture emotion, tell a story, excite, entertain, and provoke a response.
For some things, you just can’t rely on stock photography because you need shots of YOUR product, service, event, personnel or premises. Why waste time looking for something in a stock photography site that simply isn’t there?
Let’s not forget Video
Video is on the rise, and in websites too. Video can capture your personality in a way that static images can’t. You can convey things to your audience as though you were there in person. May people who visit a website don’t have the time to read pages of text, and a video can quickly deliver information in a more digestible way than text.
Video can be used for banner backgrounds, or welcome / promo features on a landing page. It can be used as a greeting, advertisement, presentation, training and more. If you really want to bring your business to life, think about how you could incorporate video into your website. If you can find a photographer who also specialises in video, you may be able to save money.
The Ultimate Combo – Web, Photo & Video
Everyone has access to getting a cheap website these days, but getting a website that presents your brand professionally requires more than just a nice template. Informed choice of stock photography, coupled with professional photography and videography can set your website leagues apart from the competition. Hiring a web design company that knows how to source the right images for your website, as well as having in-house photo and video services could be the ideal combination, as the team will collaborate to create the perfect website.
You know what? Deluxe Web specialises in web, photo and video. If you need this ultimate combination of web design, photography and videography, get in touch! We’d love to hear from you.