It’s no secret that visual content is highly important in establishing your brand’s identity online. When landing on a business website, much of the information that we take in is visual, and first impressions are formed almost instantly. To stand out as a credible and professional company, high quality design and top notch visual content are a must. So, whether you’re building it yourself or working with a designer, you will need to get high quality pictures for your website. In this post we’ll go over some common questions business owners have about website imagery as well as options available to you for obtaining quality images.
Should I Use Stock Photography for My Website?
Many websites utilize stock photography. Stock images are appealing to the eye, easy to obtain, and there are enough of them out there for you to find the right fit for your purpose. There are lots of free stock photo sites for small business use, and plenty of places on your business website where stock photography is a perfectly acceptable option. However, there three major instances where stock photography does not work on your business website. These are: portraits of your staff, interior and exterior pictures of the business premises, and product photography.While stock photography meets the requirement for high quality pictures, it does not facilitate the personal connection with your business that your website should provide to your audience.
Should I Hire a Professional Photographer to Take Pictures for My Website?
If you have a budget, you should consider hiring a professional photographer to get high quality pictures for your website. A professional will have both the ability and the tools to take the highest quality photographs. However, professional photographers can be expensive. That being said, you can always get creative! Consider proposing some kind of trade for your own products or services in exchange for a photo session. Another option to consider is posting a job listing at a local photography school and booking someone at a more reasonable rate.
Sometimes there just isn’t a budget to hire a photographer at all, especially if you are just launching your business and have lots of other expenses. Have no fear! You can still get high quality pictures for your website. With a little bit of guidance and some free marketing tools to promote your business, custom photography is definitely an option.
How to Take Professional Looking Pictures for Your Website
If you decide to take your own pictures for your website, it is important to make sure that you are still producing high quality photos that reflect a high standard for your business. Don’t hold yourself to a lower standard than a professional photographer, because your website viewers won’t! People expect high quality visual content, even if they are just pictures around your office. So, whether you opt for a digital camera or use a smartphone to take photography for your website, there are a few smartphone photography tips to help ensure that you take professional looking pictures when you decide to take your own photography for your business’ website.
1. Use Natural (and Bright) Light
Turn off your flash! The flash on your smartphone is still just an LED light, and it can emit a strange hue onto your photographs. Instead, try shooting with natural light sources to take professional looking pictures. Even if you are taking photos indoors, consider using natural lighting. Perhaps you can find a bright spot by a window, but don’t forget about shadows! Keep light sources in front of you to avoid getting shadows casts across your shot. If you are shooting outdoors, mid-morning and late afternoon are typically the best times for optimal lighting to take professional looking pictures.
2. Invest in a Tripod
Some basic equipment can make a big difference when embarking on your own journey into photography. To take professional looking pictures, your camera (or smartphone, whichever you are using) needs to stay completely still during the entire exposure. Otherwise, your shots can come out with a “smeared” look to them. A tripod will keep your camera or smartphone perfectly still during shots and can be purchased online for a minimal cost.
3. Invest in a Lightbox for Product Photography
Like a tripod, a lightbox is another basic piece of equipment that will aid in your quest for professional looking pictures. If you are going to be taking your own product photography, a basic lightbox is absolutely essential. A lightbox (which is often sold in a set with high powered LED lamps) is a square contraption with translucent sides that diffuses light coming in from multiple sides. Lightboxes allow for bright, shadow-less lighting against a simple or solid background and crisp product photography that is e-commerce site worthy!
4. Make Sure Subject is in Focus
Whether it’s a person or one of your products, professional looking pictures require the subject of your photograph to be in focus. With this in mind, make sure that you are close enough to see details but not too close that the photo looks out of context or cannot be cropped later on. On most digital camera and smartphones, you should be able to tap on the viewfinder screen to use the focus box. On an iPhone, hold down a spot on your viewfinder to lock focus. Do this by tapping and holding on your subject until you see the yellow lock alert. This yellow box means that the automatic exposure and focus metering have been locked on your subject.
5. Keep Composition in Mind
A really basic composition rule to follow to take professional looking pictures is called the “rule of thirds.” To follow this rule, imagine a tic-tac-toe board, placed on your phone’s viewfinder, with two vertical lines dissecting your view into 3 even columns. This photography rule says that you should place the subject of the photo (whatever is the most interesting or eye-catching) on the intersection of those lines. Note for iPhone users: your smartphone has a grid option available. You can turn on this option by visiting Settings – Photos & Camera and enabling the Grid function.
Another simple composition rule to follow to take professional looking pictures is to make sure that you are always zoomed in enough on the people in your pictures (if/when they are the focus of your shot). When taking pictures of individuals or people in a group, it is a good rule to follow that you never need to be zoomed out enough to see their feet.
6. Make Sure You Have the Proper Resolution
The resolution of your pictures needs to be high enough to look good on both large and small screens, i.e. on both smartphone, tablet, and desktop screens. 72dpi is a good standard to follow. Usually, the bigger the better (unless you are taking your photographs on a high resolution digital camera). If you are using a smartphone, don’t resize or over crop the original image. The standard size of a smartphone photograph is fine. If you are using a professional digital camera, you may need to resize it. Don’t hesitate to reach out and talk to your web designer if you have questions about the sizes of your imagery. Often, your web designer can resize if the size of your files if they are taken on a high resolution digital camera and are too large.
7. Use Some Basic Editing Tools
Fortunately, if you take your photographs on your smartphone (or even upload your digital camera shots onto your computer), there are a lot of basic photography editing tools that come standard on camera or photo library apps. These are a great resource to clean up your pictures. But, unless you have advanced knowledge of such photo editing tools, it is best to stick with only making minor adjustments like light and exposure. Avoid filters of any kind. Also, consider checking out some free third party photo editing tools, like Canva.
8. While You’re At It, Plan Ahead for Future Photography Needs
When you take time to do a photoshoot, consider planning ahead to take pictures for future photography needs as well. Think about future blog and social media posts, upcoming product or service launches that will need promotion, and any seasonal photography needs. If you are taking pictures of your staff conducting business services, consider asking them to bring a change of clothes. One photo shoot could turn into multiple pieces of material that you could spread out use over the course of the year. If you can build up your own photo library of custom images that are ready to be used in across your website, within blog posts and across social media, you can save time down the road when you go to create these new posts.