Great photos equals a great looking website

As the web matures, the emphasis on photos and imagery is becoming more and more important. This should come as no surprise – the swing towards visual imagery is directly related to improvements in Broadband technology. Whereas once, in the days of dial-up connections, we used to loathe pictures that took forever to download, today the best websites are realising the power of the picture.

If you can’t afford professional photography for your website, there are other options. Stock photos are often high quality and offer a huge variety. However, sometimes you will want photos specific to your business. You can get a good result with your own photography, but start thinking like a professional – put some time and effort into planning your photos.

There are two important considerations when choosing the photos and imagery for your website:
▪ photo quality and
▪ people photos.

In terms of photo quality, obviously it isn’t practical to use professional photo shoots all the time, but we can aim to improve the snap shot. Here are some simple photography tips:

Try getting in closer – get close-up rather than trying to capture the whole product, shop or person. A close up of a couples hands with wedding rings can be more powerful than a photo of a bride and groom.

Try getting down lower or up higher – If you are very tall or very short, you can tell in the photos because of the perspective. Adjusting up or down a little will improve perspective. If you are shooting kids or animals always get down to their level. If you are shooting a big group of people try standing higher than they are so they are looking up at you – it is a sure-fire way to remove their double chins!

Turn on the lights – even in the day. If you are shooting inside a shop or house, lights on may add to the ambience of the photo. This is a trick I learnt from a real estate agent and they should know!

Natural light – again, if you are inside, get as much natural light as possible, even if you are using a flash.

Declutter – another real estate rule. If you are taking a photo of a room, or someone in a room, remove everything that is superfluous to the photo. Remove the ugliest things such as tubes of toothpaste, shampoo etc – they will make your photo look messy. If you are taking a business-like head and shoulders photo of a person, make sure they wear plain coloured clothes and simple jewellery rather than cluttered prints or kitsch bling. Dark colours set off lighter skin tones nicely whereas darker skin tones can look fabulous in white or solid bright colours.

Style – If you are photographing a room that you have done some work on or that you are selling (e.g., trades, interior design or real estate etc) do some basic styling. If you get on well with the customer, ask them to put their best towels out and hide the everyday toiletries. Ideally, kit up with a set of towels, a non-breakable vase & some modern sticks or reeds or even fake flowers (try Target for cheap, modern props) and something with colour – a gorgeous soap or a few quality toiletries or a bowl of red and green apples for a kitchen. Super simple, quick and cheap – this will cost you heaps less than a photo shoot. It should only add one or two minutes to your work (going to the car to get the stuff) and will vastly improve your photos. In terms of the extra time and effort it takes – you only need to do it on a few jobs to get a handful of photos. My interior designer friend taught me about props and swears by Target!

The other important feature of websites today regardless of what industry is the inclusion of people in photos. Studies have shown that people like to see people in marketing media. You can achieve this easily with “stock” photography. Stock photos are royalty free, meaning the photographer and models have signed a release, allowing you to use the photos for a nominal fee rather than the usual expensive royalty fee.

When choosing people photos for your website, the idea is to capture the “essence” of a business or the mood or feeling that you want your customers to feel. For example, a locksmith could use a photo of a happy family to illustrate “secure”, a finance company might use a retirement-aged man on a yacht to convey “financial freedom”. In both cases neither photo is of the product.

So think about what your business does and try to capture the idea in a people photo for inclusion on the home page your website.

Another great tip is to look at the websites of large companies who have large budgets – they will have professional photos on their website. You can’t copy their photos to use on your own website, but you might pick up some ideas that you can apply to your photo shoot.

The photos and images you choose are important – consumers judge a company’s professionalism by the professionalism of their photos. This is something that many of our clients grapple with because obviously professional photography is expensive and can double the cost of a website. Remember, the difference between an ordinary website and a fabulous one can be as simple as the photos rather than the “design”. If professional website photography is outside your budget, aim to take the best amateur photos you possibly can!

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