Choosing photos for your website

Putting your best foot forward and building trust with your customers are two concepts that go hand in hand, particularly when it comes to designing a great website. The very first thing that potential customers will notice when they visit your website are your photographs. So how do you go about choosing photos for your website? Here are our top three tips to help you out.

1. Hire A Professional Photographer

Having professional quality photographs on your site is a must. Have you ever visited a website for a small business, seen some dodgy looking snaps on there and decided against a purchase? I know I certainly have – the consequences of using bad shots for your website can be a very quick loss of sale. In website terms we call this a ‘bounce’ – a visit to a site which results in an immediate exit from your site. So our first piece of advice is to pay for a professional photographer to come and takes some photos for you to use on your website. Makes sure that you can see some samples of their work before you hire them to ensure that they are a good fit for your business. An edgy fashion photographer might not be ideal for your antique furniture business – although this could depend largely on your branding.

A professional photographer can help when choosing photos for your website

A Professional Photographer can prove great value for money

Once you’ve had a look at some portfolios and decided who to use it’s time to formulate a plan. If you are half way through setting up your website, or are looking to change some existing photographs on a standing site, you may already have some idea of what shots you need. If not it is definitely worth planning out what kind pages you are going to be using on your site, and what concepts need illustrating with your new pictures. Once you’ve got this planned out it can still be worth taking a broad range of extra shots whilst the photographer is on your premises that can be used for future promotions and marketing materials to maximise your budget. One important thing to remember before you start is to ensure you know exactly what you are getting for your money – some photographers may charge per ‘developed’ shot, whilst others will hand over the entire digital reel. Whilst having all the photographs may seem appealing (and cost effective) in the first instance, it can lead to ‘information overload’ sucking up your time having to choose the best shots from the thousands of snaps handed over. A good photographer may well choose to develop (digitally process to ensure highest quality) only the best shots saving you a lot of time in the long run.

2. Using Stock Photo Sites

Let’s face it – whilst hiring a professional photographer is the best way to get your photos, not everybody has the time, budget or inclination to hire a photographer. So the fall back plan when choosing photos for your website has got to be using stock shots from one of the royalty free photograph websites. There are numerous sites to choose from, but you will find there is quite a lot of duplication across the sites. If you have bought a Webwalrus site you’ll receive some images included in your plan, the quantity depends on which tier you went for. If you are making your own site you’ll want to make sure you are getting best value for money with your images, so here is one thing to watch out for: always download the correct size image for your purpose. Some of the sites which charge much higher fees for large ‘print ready’ photographs. These for the most part will be unnecessary for the online world and may slow down your website load times. Don’t fall into the trap of downloading the largest file size possible in case of future use. Most licensed photograph purchases will only cover you for a single use case anyway, unless you plump for the most expensive ‘multi-seat’ options. If unsure on your legal status, always check the details of the license you are buying.

There are many sites to choose from that will supply stock photographs, but the ones we generally go for are either: (very reasonable prices for their lower resolution downloads) or (a great range of high quality photos). There are also some free stock photo websites out there but beware, the quality can be low and search facilities bad or non existent. The time it takes to search out a good photo from all the dross will have to be measured against the cost of just buying from a decent site in the first place. If you’re going to try these out we’d recommend this one in the first instance – as it is long established, has a good range of photographs and a decent search facility.

When choosing photos for your website a stock photo can sometimes seem a little 'staged'

Stock photos can sometimes seem a little ‘staged’

3. Keep It Real

Being believable and trust worthy is a major aim for any web design project. So ensuring that any images you use fall into this category is a must. Whether you are using a professional photographer, taking the photographs yourself, or falling back on the stock photo websites we need the images to be as reassuring as possible. Here are a couple of things to watch out for:

Using staged ‘scenes’ to illustrate concepts. It can be really easy to spot a set up scene so if you are going to try this it is often best to invite your photographer to a real event rather than setting up the scene for a specific shoot.

Photographs that contain unusual cultural elements.  When you use photographs from a stock photo website there may well be clues in there that this shot wasn’t really taken locally to the business you are trying to illustrate. In outdoor scenes things like telephone boxes, fire hydrants, trams, even the type of clothing may all give away the fact that this isn’t a local photograph. Indoor shots (particularly for retail) often carry shots of people handing over money – so make sure they are using the correct currency for your area.

The Beautiful People. It’s tempting to choose photographs which feature a parade of shiny happy models having a great time. But it turns out that a constant stream of the beautiful people will almost certainly reduce customer trust in your products, as people can easily tell your not living in the real world. Using real people and real customers in your photographs is the perfect way to build customer trust.

Follow these guidelines and you will be well on your way to having some great looking shots on your website. Next steps include making sure they are of correct size and shape for your site, and ensuring that they are carefully tagged and named to improve your onsite SEO. We’ll discuss this in full in a post coming soon. In the mean time let us know how you get on with your photography in the comments below.

Joe Hewes

Joe is head honcho at Webwalrus web design. An avid internet enthusiast he has been building websites since 10 B.C. (Before Chrome).

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