A critical component of many web designs is photography. Photographs are worth a thousand words. They have the power to immediately convey emotions, give a sense of place, describe a feature or product in detail, illustrate a concept and set a tone...all without having to read a word.
While great photography can help tell the story of your brand, poor photography can detract from your professional image. If you decide to use photographs on your website, make sure they are well-lit, in focus, and cropped appropriately. It’s important to make sure they are enhancing your message, instead of using cliches that do not contribute to your brand’s unique story.
Find images with the most quality
Professional photography can help boost your brand, while cheap, poorly shot photos lead to bad viewer impressions. If you cannot afford custom photography, you are probably going to rely on either royalty-free photos or non-professional photos taken by you, your staff or your clients. While both of these options can save you money, it is important to take time to select the best images and present them in a way that will not only add relevance, but also visual interest to your website design.
Avoid cliche, overused images and ideas
Royalty-free photos, by nature, have extremely general concepts behind them: business, teamwork, global networks, etc. Low-cost, royalty free, photo sites are filled with cliche photos that do nothing to distinguish your company, product or service from your competitors. In many cases, these photos can ultimately make you look worse.
Make sure the people look real
Photographing your own team is always a great idea if it’s possible. However, you may not have the budget for a custom shoot, or the set-up to make it ideal. If you must turn to stock and royalty-free photos, make sure they are realistic. Do all of your clients look like models? Do all of your employees dress like fashionistas? Probably not. With enough research, you will be able to find plenty of “every day” looking models that represent your brand more realistically.
Beware of subjects smiling at the camera
Another way to help make things look a little more “real” is to avoid photos where the models in them are looking and smiling at the camera. Once they start smiling for the camera, it takes away from the idea that you’ve caught them acting natural.
Crop images to focus on what’s important
As a web designer, I nearly always end up cropping a photo rather than using it at exactly the size and shape that is provided. Trimming the edges (cropping), allows you to focus on certain areas of the photo that are most relevant. It cuts out any distracting background images, while also creating a unique look at the subject.
Try different shapes: Most photos come in a format that’s around 3:5, a pretty balanced rectangle. By cropping them into something different, these standard photos become more unique. You may want to try photos that are wide and panoramic, tall, skinny or square. You’ll need access to a photo software tool to do this.
Make sure the photos are crisp and in-focusMany small business owners use photographs that they either take with their own camera or use photos supplied by clients. This is a great way to have photos that are truly unique featuring your own products, people and locations. However, it is not going to be successful if the photo is blurry and out of focus. Immediately disregard photos that are out of focus because it’s nearly impossible to fix them properly.
Do basic photo editing to clean up a red eye and brighten if necessary
Poorly lit or dark photos can also be a problem when using non-professional images. These dark photos can cause people to have red eyes. While these can sometimes be fixed with an editing program, you must make sure it completely diminishes the red eye. If not, you should take them out all together.
Make sure images are scaled correctly
There is nothing sillier than looking at a photo on a website and having it look like the people are standing in front of a funhouse mirror. Sometimes, when you add a photo to a design layout, there may already be a predetermined size and ratio for the photo. If the photo does not fit that size and shape, it is either cropped or scaled to fit. If you are working within specific sizes like this, make sure you size and crop outside of your website’s content management system (CMS) for the best results.
Keep the resolution low for faster loading
The CMS for your website, may allow you to upload a very large image file, while scaling it for you. However, the data behind that image is probably still stored within, making it act like an extremely large file, even if you are seeing it small within the site’s design. If you are working with larger images (it can be a good practice to start with high-resolution images), make sure you crop and bring the resolution down to avoid those slow loading graphics.
Realize you can’t fix all photos; start with high-quality images. Many people have the mistaken notion that with digital photography and Photoshop, you can fix just about any image to make it look better.
For example, an image that is too dark or too out-of-focus to begin with, most likely cannot be salvaged because there is just not enough data there. Other times, people want to photoshop out or photoshop in something within an image. While this is not impossible, you need to realize that you’re basically turning a photo editing job into an illustration job: you need to re-create whatever is missing in the photo. While something like some clouds and sky can be done easily, something complex like a hand would take some serious work!
While photography is an important component to any website, it is necessary to understand what not to do when choosing the right images. Poor photography choices lessen the professionalism of any website, leading to a loss in leads, conversions and overall business.