Image isn’t everything online, but it’s most things.
We’ve been in the business of ‘making the interwebs’ for 18 years and we’ve seen things change. Right now, if you don’t have a great selection of photographic or graphic images to work with, you may be left in the wake of businesses with beautiful shots representing their business to the world.
It used to be all about text. Images were relegated to tiny thumbnail images at the side of blocks of text. Just glorified icons, really. Small images were all that was needed, now they are used as a major design elements. They might stretch across the full width of a web page as a background. So if you’re looking to build a new website, we’re going to need to talk images. Even though there is some great editing software that can do pretty miraculous things with a pixelated, blurry or too-dark photograph, you’re going to be working with less-than-the-best photo resources.
So, what are your options:
I love a good stock photo and we have a pretty comprehensive list here of free and paid stock photos. The free ones are usually choc-full of travel photos so if scenery and people enjoying the great outdoors is your schtick, you will be able to find lots of free options. If you’re niche is a little more, well… niche (dentist, skin care, craft, etc) – you’ll need to scour the paid stock photos as they’re more likely to hold what you’re after. But a word of warning; choose carefully. While stock photos come with many pros, you can also risk having really generic images on your site. Some stock images can look very ‘canned’ and won’t have the specific feeling you’re after.
Use this tip with caution. As I mentioned earlier, image editing software can do amazing things to photographs, but if the original is really not much chop to begin with, you’re not going to be putting your business’ best foot forward. Shoot your own if you have a good camera (put the smart phone away) and know how to use it well but, be honest with yourself about your abilities as a photographer. Remember, most of the time a shot that looks great on a smartphone after it’s been through all the filters on Instagram will not cut the mustard on your slick new website.
Paying a professional is the ultimate option and of course I’d be advocating for this one. However, I understand that this can also be cost prohibitive. Depending on your product or service, paying for a shoot may also mean models, studio, etc, meaning additional costs. Yet, there are some remarkably good options. Work out what you’re prepared to spend and then go to a professional photographer with your budget. Maybe you can’t afford a four hour photo shoot but you can afford five processed images. Selected carefully, those five images might be able to be used alongside stock photos and help to produce a stunning website and you can showcase your business in the best way.
Another thing to consider, a student photographer. Approach a local university and have a student do a shoot for you. They’ll be thankful for the experience, the extra cash and you might be surprised at what you get for a more affordable amount. There is always a trade-off when not using a professional: a student’s skills may not be as refined, they may be slower to produce the work and you’ll undoubtedly get a different result. But if you can be flexible, you may be surprised at what they will produce for you.
Now go forth and make good image selections!