How photography can make or break your website

by Michelle Wiese

How professional photography can make a difference to your site

When I have nightmares as a designer, I dream of designing the perfect website – everything is well balanced, the colour scheme is impeccable and there is a beautiful big slider in the header. Then suddenly the client gives me low resolution, poorly masked, badly cropped photos to use for the slider! I wake up screaming, but sadly this really happens on an everyday basis…

Your options are

When it comes to sourcing photos for your website, you have two main resources: Stock imagery or having a professional photographer photograph something specific for your project. In my opinion, there shouldn’t be other options because these offer the highest quality. The difference between these two options is quite immense. If your photography experience is based on snapshots taken with an iPhone, stock photography is probably the way to go. However, if you have the resources to set up a professional photo shoot, then why buy photos when you can customise your own and have more control over the content. It might even save you money.

Here are some things to take into account.

Stock photos don’t always resemble the content

Clients will often provide designers with stock photos they purchased a few years ago for past projects. They then expect the designer to make them work with the new project, resulting in a poor visual connection to the content of the website. You want your imagery to reinforce the message you’re communicating. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a construction company’s site featuring photos of a cheerful family with their dog, Rascal, playing in a field.

Buying the Low-Resolution Version of a stock photo ‘because it’s cheaper’

When buying stock photos, you are given several resolution options. The client might be tempted to purchase the cheapest version (smallest size), but this might not be the best choice for the design. Also, chances are good that it might lead to the designer having to enlarge the photo and the result will be a pixelated image that jeopardises the quality of the surrounding elements.

Using Cliché Stock Photos

Ah yes, the old trusties! We’ve all seen a stock photo being used by more than one company. Some financial companies will all use the same stock photo of two multi-racial people having a friendly meeting and shaking hands. You need to be different from your competitors by representing a similar service/concept in a unique and creative way.

A tip to consider >>
When purchasing stock photos, look for real vs. fake smiles, realistic vs. flat lighting, and genuine eye contact vs. blank stares. Avoid anything that looks like a school photo or family portrait and search for something slightly more candid while still remaining high in quality.

Going pro…

Getting a professional photographer to do the job might be the answer if you want something more specific. This will enable you to have full control over the content and you can incorporate the actual product/service. This looks a lot better than a product being photoshopped into an existing photo. Now you also have the rights to these images and your competitors won’t be able to use the same imagery. If you have studio facilities, you can shoot an object/person on a white background. This makes it flexible and easy to cut out and use anywhere on a page. It’s also good to shoot according to the space where the photo will be used – for instance you have a wide rectangle, now you can shoot a landscape image with the composition in mind.

In Conclusion

Photos for your website are the last place to skimp if you want to portray a professional and superior image. A bad photo can break down the entire site, even if the site’s design is perfect. Photos are such an important element on a website and draw most of the attention. If stock photos are the best option for your situation, make sure to consider the above-mentioned issues you might face. It might be high in quality but over-used, cliché photos can still detract from your website. And, do consider hiring a professional photographer if you have the available resources – it might just give you that competitive edge.


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4 Responses to How photography can make or break your website

  1. Andries says:

    This is so true, Michelle! Many companies need to realise that their website or online presence is a first impression to many potential clients. Having a great looking, professional first impression is a must!

    Nothing leaves a bad taste quite like low quality images (or even missing images), links that don’t work and a site layout that makes all the important information extremely difficult to find.

    It’s really not that expensive to have photos taken professionally these days and the payoff is ten-fold! Thanks for the great article

    • Beau says:

      I totally agree with the logic behind your argument Michelle and want to shout “Amen” to the reply of Andries. It makes no sense to buy/use cheap or low budget photos, in order to save some money, but crashing the credibility of your brand in doing so. Buying or shooting good professional photos will have a Return On Investment.

  2. Zandre van Rensburg says:

    Thank you for a very insightful article, Michelle.

    Photography plays a critical role in any design project. I agree that it can make or break the design (digital and print projects).

    If you want to maximize your online presence and reach the correct target market with a clear visual message quality photography is extremely important.

  3. Pingback: 5 Reasons why people don’t stay on your website | Liquid Edge Blog | Premium Web Development; Web design; IT Infrastructure; Mobile development

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