Images for your website. How to make your website sparkle with some digital magic. Part 1.
Dumbledore, Merlin, Gandalf, Paul Daniels. All wizards of the highest magnitude. With the help of this series of blog posts you can join their ranks, learning new powers that will ensure your website stands out from the crowd as a shining spectacle. This series of posts will cover the sourcing, editing and uploading of images to your website, giving you the edge on your competition, lifting the web design to new heights as though Hermione Granger had cast a "wingardium leviosa" spell upon it.
With this opening post we'll cover finding images to go on your website. I can't stress this enough. Sorcer-ing your images is the most important step. You can get everything else right, but if your original image stock is bad to begin with, there's no magic powerful enough to sort them out. Listed below are some suggestions for finding some images as well as some common traps and pitfalls to avoid.
Option 1: Pay a photography wizard
This is the best way to ensure that you get great images. By trade photographers are trained to do all the little things that make photos look good, they'll know how to frame a shot and may even provide editing services to make images more vibrant and engaging. Best of all, you can tell a photographer what to take photos of, allowing you to showcase your business premises, take those glossy glamour shots you've always wanted for the "meet the team page" or showcase your products in all their glory.
Finding a photographer is pretty easy, we have partners local to Sheffield, Rotherham and South Yorkshire that we can recommend, or there are many freelancers available on sites such as Gumtree and People Per Hour. It's true that this option is the most expensive option, however the value of a photographer shouldn't be underestimated, at the end of the process you'll have unique high quality images, produced with top of the range equipment.
Option 2: Stock photography (done right)
Like Paul and Debbie's most famous trick, stock photography is a subject that splits people down the middle. Get it right and your website will look bang on, get it wrong and you'll end up paying lots of money for cheesy images that cheapen the look of your website.
When choosing stock imagery we recommend finding image lead photographs, as opposed to text heavy graphics or even worse - word clouds. If you're wand-ering where to find them, we recommend using Unsplash as a starting place because they have a huge selection of beautiful images from aspiring photographers all available for free.
Another great place for free images is Google Images. You can narrow search results down to images tagged with various levels of licensing using the lesser known "Usage rights" drop down in the tools menu.
If the free options are failing you, there are a number of great search sites that will allow you to search through millions of proprietary images available for purchase, however pay attention to the pricing on these websites because often photos have to be bought in groups of 5 or more which can lead to a single image costing an arm and a leg. A few of our favourites are Adobe Stock, Shutterstock, and Photofolio.
Option 3: Take some yourself (with caution!)
Phone cameras are getting better, and decent cameras are getting cheaper so it would be wrong not to include this as an option. Be aware that images you take yourself are never going to be as good as those taken by a professional with all the top kit. With this in mind feel free to hocus pocus your own lens on a subject of your choice, but exercise caution over where you use your self taken images, they're more likely to be appropriate for a blog post than as the main focal image on your homepage for example. Avoid uploading anything that's blurry, grainy, too bright or too dark. Avoid getting too attached to an image just because you've taken it, run it past some friends or family first if you're unsure!
Things to avoid:
It's fair to say that some stock images can be fairly weird. Take a look at this article from Buzzfeed that showcases some of the more unusual offerings out there. If you're going with stock photos avoid anything that's too strange or cheesy. Go with something that's relevant and if possible ties in with the content on the page.
Ensure that the images you choose come in high resolution. If you're using a photographer this will definitely be the case, but be careful with photos from websites because often they'll charge more for higher resolution options. If you're unsure about what size you need, give us as a shout and we'll be able to point you in the right direction.
Check out what your competitors are doing, and avoid images too similar. With the stock photo websites and sorting images by popularity it's not uncommon to see competitors with the same photos on their homepage, which lessens the impact for any visitor who's shopping around.
Next in the series...
Next in the series we'll be covering the basics of image editing. Stay tuned.