Want to Break Away from Stock Photos? A Guide to Taking the Perfect Picture for Your Website

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Stock Photos

Remember the good old days when all your website had to do was catalogue your products and services? Well, those days are well and truly over.

As Joe Shervell mentioned in this article, “The investment for a consumer is much lower online,” making them less likely to tolerate any confusion or frustration that stems from your website and meaning that first impressions are crucial.

And what’s one of the first things a customer sees when they land on your site? Not your content or even your nav bar, but the imagery.

However, this still doesn’t stop the large bulk of sites using clichéd or cringe worthy stock images in place of something with real impact. That’s the thing; stock images have no passion or heart behind them, they’re literal interpretations of common business scenarios that are so widely available there’s every chance another 20 websites are using the very same image that’s on your own home page.

So what can you do instead?

Create your own website imagery using the tips below!

You’ll soon discover that taking the perfect picture isn’t as hard as you might think, and you could save yourself a lot of money on professional photography in the long run.

Step 1: Plan the image

Like writing a great piece of content or embarking on a whole new website design, having a clear idea of what you want your image to say is essential.

While the idea of the ‘perfect picture’ might differ from company to company, the main thing to consider is that it must represent your brand and illustrate to website visitors what kind of standards and ethos you subscribe to.

A bog standard stock image of a woman clinging to a pile of box files certainly won’t suffice if you’re a forward thinking advertising agency!

Instead, make sure that any people featuring in your site imagery are the people who make up your company. After all, it’s them who your clients will be dealing with. Depending on your sector and the webpage your image will feature on you could even get more creative and not feature people at all.

For example, the main image on a ‘Book a Consultation’ page could be some attractively shot cups of tea and biscuits accompanied by documents and notes.

Step 2: Grab a camera

I mentioned earlier that by creating website imagery yourself you can save money you’d otherwise have spent on a professional photographer, and I’m not joking. Nowadays even smartphone cameras are of a good enough quality to take pin sharp pictures and chances are at least one person at your company has one!

While a DSLR camera is going to yield the best results due to their sophistication and lens options, a normal compact camera by Samsung or Panasonic or, as mentioned above, a mobile phone can do just as well, especially with the wealth of photo editing software around.

Step 3: Inform other staff

Even if other members of staff won’t be featuring in your images, it’s best to let them know you’ll be taking them to avoid disturbances at either end. If they’ll be featuring in the images then letting them know in advance ensures they’ll arrive on the day looking their best, and gives you the opportunity to request that they wear camera friendly clothing!

Really vibrant colours and pinstripes can play havoc with a cameras settings and risk the image coming out overexposed, while black clothing can blend into itself and make the camera struggle to pick out other details like buttons and bodily contours that make pictures seem less two dimensional.

Step 4: Set up your lighting

While you can always edit an over or underexposed image to some extent (Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom are two of the best pieces of software), there’s no substitute for getting your lighting right in the first place.

You can pick up lighting lamps relatively cheaply nowadays, but for those on a tighter budget there’s nothing wrong with some strategically placed day-to-day lamps and a white wall or sheet, or a nice spot of natural light.

Either way it’s always best to take your images as close to a window as possible, at a time of day when the sun isn’t glaring but isn’t starting to wane either. For those looking to achieve a softer, more ‘arty’ end result then shooting your subject with the light behind them is great for getting that dreamy backlit effect.

Step 5: Swot up on camera technicalities

You might not know it, but even smartphone cameras now give you the option to play around with some technicalities that are usually only available to DSLR users. You can even choose the area of focus on an iPhone camera instead of it always staying in the center.

While it might be standard practice, the kind of picture you’re shooting could mean that you won’t always want your focal point to be in the centre of the image. Sometimes it’s much more attractive to employ the rule of thirds and have your subject inclined more to the left or the right. Then, if you’re using a camera with more advanced settings, there’s depth of field to consider. 

This basically dictates how much of your subject will be in focus and how much of the images background will be blurred, a setting you can manage by looking for an icon that says f/[x number]. The more of the image you want in focus, the higher this number should be, and vice versa.

While this might all sound like a lot to take in, it’s actually a simple process that’ll come naturally once you get started. All it takes is a good bit of preparation and, if you’re using a less advanced camera, the whole process can be completed in just a couple of hours, saving you time and money in the long run.

At the end of the day it all boils down to being proud of your website and your business, and not settling for second best on something that could change a website visitor’s perception of your brand in seconds. So how do you prefer to source the images for your website? Let me know below!

Image Credit: Hero’s Journey

Article by Charlotte Varela

Charlotte has written 1 articles.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • SEO Company Philadelphia March 30, 2013, 9:17 am

    The main point of your blog is that it must represent your brand and illustrate to website visitors.thanks

  • John Lyons March 31, 2013, 5:09 am

    Whilst it seems so easy with an article of this nature to save hundreds of dollars and “do it yourself”, as a business take some time to think…why do the “big boys” ie people intending to make a lot more money than you, still hiring in professional photographers? Surely they could afford to build their own set, buy their own camera and do it themselves…but they don’t. Professional commercial photography is so much more than “the picture”. The picture has to convey a message defined by the product marketing. I shoot every product considering its “form & Function”

    • Charlotte Varela April 2, 2013, 5:03 am

      Hi John,

      Thanks for reading the article and thanks for sharing your views 🙂

      I think maybe I should have targeted this more towards small businesses who can’t really afford to splash out on a professional service just yet. I totally understand what you mean – if you want to create a real impact and visual representation of your company then there’s no denying that professional photography is the way to go – but for many businesses the funds just aren’t there. In which case I feel an educated, do it yourself approach would be much more accessible 🙂

      • John Lyons April 2, 2013, 8:01 am

        Well, no surprise that I will disagree.

        With the changing economy there is a greater accessibility to professional marketing photography now than there has every been…prices are definately “down” if you shop around. However, the impact of pro-photography over DIY is huge and as all small businesses are about making money, this really should be considered.

        As a “return on investment”…pro-photography is the obvious choice.

        • Charlotte Varela April 2, 2013, 11:59 am

          I fully understand where you’re coming from and I do think that you can never really replace the expertise that comes with a professional photographer (as I can see in your lovely images), but I do still think there’s a place for DIY if it’s carefully considered and well researched rather than shot haphazardly. I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree 🙂

          Best regards,

          Charlotte.

    • ZK April 2, 2013, 12:20 pm

      Hi John,

      Its about the little guys like me , who can’t afford professional photo services but want their website to look as sleek and classic as the big guys 🙂 thanks Charlotte for this awesome post

      • Charlotte Varela April 2, 2013, 12:23 pm

        No problem ZK, I’m so glad you found it useful 🙂

        Best regards, Charlotte.

  • Jasmine April 1, 2013, 4:22 am

    Oh, I didn’t know it involves so many steps and technicalities to take a few photos. For me, just point and click… 🙂

    • Charlotte Varela April 2, 2013, 5:05 am

      Hi Jasmine,

      Thanks for your comment! While the quality of modern cameras does mean that you can sometimes just point and click, I think that taking a few technicalities into account can make the image look that little bit more impactful and professional 🙂

  • alina April 5, 2013, 9:27 am

    Whilst it seems so easy with an article of this nature to save hundreds of dollars and “do it yourself”, as a business take some time to think. Thanks for sharing.

  • Electronic check May 16, 2013, 8:19 am

    The main point of your blog is that it must represent your brand and illustrate to website visitors.thanks..

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