Photography speaks. An image can say so much just by the presence on your website. It can say amazing things, but it can also say horrible things, whether you mean it or not. Keep the 5 C’s top-of-mind when thinking about photography for your site: Caliber, Cost, Context, Credibility, and Consistency. If you can mentally check each of these as you design your site, you’ll be in great shape!
Quality matters. You spent all this time mapping out and planning the perfect site—woohoo!—and you need to make sure your photography lives up to that. Imagine this. You have just found an awesome site, and you are scrolling away, the design drew you in, the copy hooked you, and then BAM! A pixelated, blurry photo—hopes dashed, dreams crushed, what just happened?
What makes a high-caliber, excellent quality photo?
Your subjects in your images should be in focus. Make sure your site isn’t making people reach for their reading glasses or rub their eyes, trying to get a clear picture. That’s not to say you can’t have some blur. A well-done depth-of-field draws your viewer’s eye to the subject you want them to see.
Good composition in a photo helps draw the viewer’s eye. Consider how the photo guides the audience around the page. Let’s say you have a photo of a person or even an animal and they are gazing off the page to the left, where will your eye go? Now, what if that same person or animal was looking right at the block of text to the right you want them to see next, where would your eye go then?
The resolution is just measuring the pixels in your photo. You don’t need to know the technical details, but what you should pay attention to is the ability to scale a photo without it getting blurry. Higher resolution photos allow use in larger formats. That small thumbnail profile pic of you on LinkedIn probably isn’t going to cut it; try to use higher-resolution original files when you can as a starting point. Don’t forget, larger file sizes can slow down your site, so optimization is key while still maintaining a high resolution.
You can make the most of photography on your site with any size budget. Whether you’re willing to shell out a chunk of cash or keep it pretty lean, there are options for you.
Check out some stock photo sites like depositphotos.com or even hautestock.co. These are great places to find some affordable photos for any purpose. You can also check out free stock photo sites, but I’d be careful about the licensing and permissions when sourcing your images from free sources. My favorite and trusted free resource is unsplash.com
Middle of the Road
Maybe you want to DIY some of your own photography. This is a great way to get unique images and learn some techniques yourself without investing in a professional photographer. You don’t even need a fancy camera, these days you can get some wonderful images on your phone at fantastic resolutions.
If you have the budget for it, consider hiring a professional photographer to take photos for your site. A photographer can customize photos to your brand and messaging and provide creative images that are unique to only you. This is a huge differentiator for your brand and will make you stand out.
You can have the most amazing photography in the world, but if it’s just slapped on your site all willy nilly with no regard for meaning or significance related to your messaging, people will be lost. Imagine trying to find that one doorbuster sale in the bin of randomness on Black Friday—that’s how your visitors would feel—confused and overwhelmed with random images.
Your photography should enhance your content and design, not work against it. The right balance between photography and text makes all the difference. It’s not just about the layout but the relevance of the photos to your brand. Photography isn’t just decoration. Have a purpose, stay away from fluff, and tell a story. If you’re using a photo just to fill space on your site, it’s of no use to anyone.
When choosing photos, ask yourself these questions:
- What emotion does this photo portray?
- Does it highlight something I want to showcase?
- Is this photo connected to my brand?
- Is it explanatory? Does it help my audience understand something?
- What does the image say? What story does it tell?
Seeing is believing. Good photography on your site grows your credibility. Real and authentic photography related to your brand gives you an element of trustworthiness.
We all love to joke about the rigidness and cheese-factor of stock photos, and to an extent, it’s absolutely true. Even Emilia Clarke, of Game of Thrones, gets in on the action in this delightful spoof on stock photography.
Even if you are using stock photography, try to opt for more natural-looking photos. You can use stock, just make sure you choose wisely! Stock photos should still connect with your overall message. If a photo feels off to you, it will probably feel that way to your potential customers. Spend the time to explore and look for photos that mean something to your brand and your audience! The right photo, stock or not, will magnify your message not muffle it.
Keeping your photos consistent with your brand and with each other gives your audience a sense of cohesiveness. When defining your brand, always think about what type of photography style matches your look and feel. If you keep that in mind upfront, searching for or creating photos, later on, will go more smoothly.
Once you have that style—commit to it! Document your strategy in a brand style guide so you can always refer back to it and share it with your team.
When looking for photography for your site, think about these things to measure consistency with your brand:
- Do the colors match or complement those in my brand color palette? If they don’t, can it be edited to match?
- Is it consistent with photos I’ve already used, or will it stick out like a sore thumb?
- If using product photography, do they have similar composition? Do they feel like a cohesive set?
- Will my audience be able to tell this photo is part of my brand?
Caliber, cost, context, credibility, and consistency help you cultivate trust from your audience, and when people trust you, they buy from you. Superb photography fuels websites that convert.