You know the expression: A picture is worth a thousand words. This basic tenet of graphic design has become somewhat of a cliche, but it’s repeated so often because it’s true. The right image can say more about a company, a product, or a service than an entire page of the most brilliant prose can ever do — yet so many companies fail to put forth the required time and effort to choose the best images for their websites. The result? Images that are bland and uninspiring at best, or harmful to your business at worse.
So what is a novice Web designer to do? Even if you are using a free website builder template, you can still add images that grab users’ attention and spur them to want to know more about your company. All you need to do is remember these important photo selection basics.
1. Quality Counts
Quality refers to two separate aspects of photo selection: The actual composition of the photo itself, and the technical specifications of the photo on the site.
Look for photos with crisp details, a defined focal point, and an attractive composition. Sometimes, a bit of creative editing can take a mediocre photo to spectacular, so if you find an image that you think would work, play with it a bit to make it work. In terms of technical specifications, large high-resolution images are the best. Don’t sacrifice quality and choose lower resolution photos to avoid slowing the site down, but instead compress photos so they load faster.
2. Be Relevant
It might seem like a “no-brainer,” but website photos should be relevant to your business and reflect the unique purpose and brand identity of your site. If you are a furniture company, focus on your furniture. If you sell clothing, focus on the clothing. This doesn’t mean you have to include nothing but static product images, but make the product the center of the photo.
For example, show a family relaxing on your high-quality furniture or children playing happily while wearing the durable children’s clothing you sell. Remember, though, that your photos speak to your brand, so choose images that convey your company’s overall brand message, whether that is professionalism, whimsy, or something in between.
3. Photos Should Spur Users to Action
Great website photos increase conversions, so look at your photos as a call to action. Do they inspire site visitors to make a purchase? After all, this should be the purpose of the images on your site, not just to fill space. Work on making your images as enticing as possible so people can’t help but what you are selling.
4. People Matter
Studies show that photos that contain people also increase conversions, so try to include people in as many photos as you can. However, be careful to avoid using the same stock photos of people that everyone else is using.
People will notice when the same “distinguished man” shows up in websites for everything from banks to pet sitting, so choose photos that are unique, preferably those that feature your actual employees or customers. If commissioning your own photography isn’t possible, use a paid stock photo service, (most free images appear repeatedly) and look for photos that aren’t used all that often. You’re site will feel more authentic and build a better connection with users.
5. Consider Emotion
Speaking of connecting with users, look for website photos that project emotion, or spark an emotional response with site visitors. Consider the goals of your site — do you want to convey serious work? A sense of belonging? Spur people to take action? The right image can help your site reach its goals.
However, just because a photo appears to convey a particular emotion doesn’t mean it’s right for your site. Look at the entire image objectively. A professionally dressed woman with slightly messy hair and a forced smile isn’t going to project the image of confidence and capability you’re going for. Take time to look at every aspect of the photo and rule out those that aren’t 100 perfect for your site.
6. Photos Should Be Informative
Finally, the images on your website should provide information to users. Showing products in context allows users to visualize them in their own lives. Don’t be afraid to add text or other information to a photo to highlight key points. If you are using charts and graphs, be sure that they present accurate information; sometimes, the wrong image can create misconceptions that harm your authority.
Choosing photos for your website isn’t always easy, but it’s worth putting in the extra time and effort. Keep these guidelines in mind, and your site is more likely to achieve the goals you’ve set for it.