I have worked on a few websites recently and whilst I usually position myself as being “all about the words”, I have come to appreciate the absolute importance of good images. As I try to expand my offering to cover all content, I have taken some time to learn a bit more about imagery and wanted to share some early insights to help you out.
The first piece of advice I have to give is to make sure the images you select are relevant! Just because you love an image, please don’t shoehorn it into your website. It just confuses the website visitor! When you are looking for images have a strategy. Think about what type of images you want for each page of your website, what you want the images to communicate and how they will fit with your overall ‘story’ for the page itself, and the website as a whole. These images will become part of your brand, so consider if you want to have similarities in colour to your logo, for example, or similarities in style. Are you going to have all abstract images, or photographs, rather than illustrations? You know me, I love a bit of consistency. It makes for much stronger content.
Whichever images you use on your website, ensure they are good quality. I am not necessarily talking about overly high resolution, but consider what is in the photograph and that the setting and presentation look modern and appealing to suit your business and your brand.
On websites, photographs don’t need to be huge in terms resolution to look good. In fact for a photograph spanning a webpage, 1300 pixels wide is proficient according to the little research I have done. This might not be the ‘golden rule’ but it seems to work. In fact, if a picture is too high in resolution (contains lots more pixels!), it can take longer to appear/load which makes your website look slow and cumbersome.
On the other hand, make sure your images are ‘high enough’ in resolution so that they don’t look pixelated (jagged and poor, rather than clear and defined), as this doesn’t give a good impression either. Make sure you check how images look not just on a mobile or tablet, but also on a laptop and good-sized computer screen.
Sizing and placement
As well as quality, consider the size and placement of your images. If you have a stunning (and suitable!) image, consider being bold and having it front and centre on your homepage…after all, there is the saying that a ‘picture is worth a 1000 words’!
Consider consistency of size and placement too – are you going to have a ‘banner’ type picture on each page of your website? If so, consider what pictures you are going to use. Are they going to have a theme?
Once again, make sure you check the look of each image on more than one device. A big picture may look a little large on a PC, but then completely obliterate written content on a mobile, for example.
DO NOT STEAL IMAGES! I mean it, seriously, if you right click on a picture you have found online and ‘save as’ and think that’s ok to use…it is not!!! You must check the terms and conditions of the site that the image was originally on. It will most likely state that the website’s owners have full copyright over all images on their site and this means you CANNOT use the images without permission (and most often payment). If the image you found is absolutely the only one you can possibly use, then your next job is to email the copyright holder and ask their express permission to use the image on your site. You need to state clearly how and where you will use the image and if you are going to offer a credit. You can then only use the image if you get a reply in writing confirming permission for use in the way you described and when you have made the payment, if this is requested.
Stock image sites
One of the easiest places to find images is from online ‘stock image’ sites. These are websites where photographers upload photographs for anyone to use There are primarily two types. There are those offering completely copyright free images, such as Unsplash and Stocksnap. These allow you to download images for free and use them even without credit.
There are also bigger stock image sites such as Getty and Shutterstock. These offer a much broader library of images (and even though some might say ‘royalty free’) but you generally have to pay for use and to download a non-watermarked, high resolution version.
Check any sites’ terms and conditions and make sure you know exactly what you can do with the image and pay for exactly what you are going to use the image for (for example, there may be an option for non-commercial use, which is likely to be cheaper, but if you are a business you cannot then use this on your website).
Do be careful when using stock images that you are not using the same as everyone else. Nearly all of these sites only offer ‘non-exclusive use’, so this means you and your competitor can download and use the same image. Do a bit of research and make sure your images are different from the others.
Commission your own images
Whilst stock images might seem the easier and, perhaps, cheaper option, do consider having your own photographs taken, particularly if your business is very ‘photographable’ (I am not sure that is a word!). This will guarantee they are unique and you can have exclusive use.
I am sure there are many amazing photographers in your local area who are keen to help small businesses. You may even know a friend or family member who is a keen photographer, with a good camera and a good eye for detail, who can help you out. Consider contacting your local photography club or even the local colleges. You never know who may be keen to grow their portfolio.
At the very least, have some headshots done. Your business is about you and most people like to put a face to a name. You want pictures that you are proud to share on your ‘About page’.
If you have any questions about images or copyright concerns, do let me know and I will do my best to help (or point you in the direction of some very fine people who I know will be able to answer your questions).