So much goes into creating a drool-worthy website. It’s important you hire a web designer who understands your vision and can bring your dream to life. You leave them in charge of some pretty big decisions. But there’s an aspect of your website you can’t hold your designer responsible for. One very important thing you need to take care of first (and trust me they will love you for it!). And that’s your website images.

The images on your website can make or break your site’s design, no matter how talented your designer is. By getting on the ball with high-quality photos you’ll be doing yourself and your business some serious favors.

You’ll look like a professional.

It takes mere seconds to develop a first impression of someone, and your website is no different. Your website is a powerful tool in creating the “image” you would like your business to portray. Fuzzy photos in poor lighting don’t exactly give off a professional vibe – they scream amaturer. Would you buy a product or service from an amatuer? Then you can’t expect others to either. A sharp, bright, styled headshot will help you gain more trust from your audience than a selfie on your couch ever could. It’s not difficult to tell the difference between genuine effort and simply winging it when it comes to photography. Intentional photos with direction and purpose will have you looking like a pro.

You’ll maintain a consistent brand.

Good branding is vital to the life of your business. And the number one component to good branding is consistency. Consumers are much more visual than they’ve ever been. With social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, photos are a must have for your business and your brand. Your website photos are a perfect opportunity to hone in on that “image” of yours. Consistent brand photos require more than just a common subject matter. There’s things like composition, lighting, contrast, and temperature to consider. Say you run a luxury spa resort. You want well lit photos with cool pastel colors and a neat, clean balance to them. Or maybe you’re a rustic, hipster coffee shop in Downtown. So you want a warmer, darker, more textured tone to your images. Maybe have fun with asymmetrical layouts and cropping off-center. Use your images to develop consistency, become recognizable and attract your ideal customer.

Your website dreams are more likely to come true.

There’s no way you can hand your designer small, dark, pixelated pictures and expect the gorgeous full width image slider you’ve been jonesing for. It’s not going to happen. Your web designer is probably a genius, but they’re not a magician. You’re investing hard earned cash into your website with the end goal to attract customers and make money. I’m sure you have a high standard in mind, especially with all the website candy out there inspiring you. The better your images the more your designer has to work with and the more potential greatness your website will have.

A huge trend in web design right now is large imagery as backgrounds. And it’s beautiful. Check out the sites for Polite Provisions or Just Bean. Effective use of good photos can take your site’s design to the next level and your business along with it.  And if you’re selling a product of any kind, you better bet you need to pay attention to photography. Check out apple.com for example. Stunning, right? I bet you want some high-quality photos now- and probably an Apple Watch.

Keys to a High Quality Photo

So how exactly do you know if your images are up to par? There are a few key factors to keep in mind when choosing or taking pictures for your site.

Resolution

Resolution refers to the number of pixels in an image. The more pixels your photo has the higher its “quality”. More pixels make for sharper, more defined and more detailed images. This also means you can increase the size of the photo without it loosing any of its quality and becoming blurry or distorted. Resolution can be measured by the size of the original image or by its DPI. The ideal resolution for web imagery is 72 dpi. (For prints, it’s 300 dpi.)

Lighting

Just as important as resolution is good lighting. Lighting obviously will make your image brighter or darker but it also controls the tone and mood of your shots and can affect the colors and luminosity. Although your designer can probably manipulate lighting effects with Photoshop or other editing tools, it’s a good idea to present them with well lit photos. The better shape your images are in initially, the better they can become with effects. Natural light is by far the best, but artificial lighting can do the trick if you’re using bright white bulbs.

Composition

Composition is the placement of objects and elements in an image. The composition of your photos should be interesting and intentional. Keep in mind the Rule of Thirds, a common rule of thumb with photographers. Instead of centering your subject, try aligning it to one side. Also consider the background of your image and the balance of colors, patterns, and textures. Try different techniques with framing and angels. Cropping can be a powerful way to help focus on your main subject. An overhead angle (like in the oh so popular flatlay) can add a different point of view and interest to the shot.

Aspect Ratio (Size)

Aspect ratio is the size relationship of your image in reference to length and width. An aspect ratio of 1:1 is a square image while an aspect ratio of 16:9 would be more short and wide. This is important to keep in mind when deciding what images you want to use where. Like that gorgeous full width image slider you can’t live without. It’s not going to work with square images. And it’s not going to work with portrait shots. You’re going to need something that is much wider than it is tall, like a 16:9. The actual aspect ratio of your images isn’t really important as long as you understand that sizing and orientation make a difference on how your photos can be used. Best practice: give your designer as many images as you can in various sizes so they have more room to work with.

How to Get High Quality Images

So how do you get your hands of some high-quality photos?

Take them yourself.

You do not need fancy equipment and software to be a decent photographer. Your iPhone camera will work perfectly. Brainstorm ideas for images that will work for your brand and your site and go experiment! Remember to take shots in a naturally, well lit location and consider composition. You can even play around with some editing effects in an easy to use, free app like VSCO or Google Photos if you’re feeling brave.

Hire a Photographer.

This is the most expensive option, but a professional photographer will be well worth the cost. By hiring a photographer you’re guaranteed a high-quality outcome. They can help you in your direction and intention and even come up with some bright ideas you never thought of.

Stock Photography.

Stock photography can be a great option in certain cases. The downside is your images aren’t personal to you and your business – but that’s not always a bad thing. I wouldn’t recommend sticking a stock photo of some rando on your About Me page (that might be identity theft), but if you’re looking more to capture the essence of an industry or a style or a mood then stock photography is an excellent and affordable option.

iStock and Shutterstock each have millions of photos in a ton of different categories and industries. Images range from $10-$30 each and are yours forever. Creative Market is another fabulous resource for stock images. They tend to fall in the same price range but cater to a more creative audience. If you’re looking for styled layouts and flatlays, this is your place. There’s even some free options in the stock photography realm. Sites like Unsplash (my favorite!), IMFree, and Death to the Stock Photo are some great resources.

If you want a killer website, you need high-quality photos. Talk to your designer and collaborate to determine what will work best for your site. Whether it’s your time or money, site photography is an investment you won’t regret.

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