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