If a picture tells a thousand words, a well-chosen photograph is perfect for quickly conveying key information. Given today’s limited attention spans, compelling visuals stick in people’s minds long after blog posts and bullet-point lists have been forgotten.
However, photography is a misunderstood art form, and high-quality copyright-free website photos are surprisingly difficult to acquire. These are ten important tips to consider regarding website photos, starting with one which has the potential to cause legal disputes…
1. Only ever use copyright-free images.
Commercial photographers are entitled to payment whenever their work is reproduced. Although Google and Bing display thousands of pictures in Images searches, the vast majority will be copyrighted. Look for files with Creative Commons Zero licences, which can be commercially reproduced without incurring royalties. Or alternatively…
2. Take your own photos.
You don’t need to be David Bailey to take successful website photos. Indeed, small business sites and hobby portals often benefit from self-taken images. There are loads of books and online guides outlining effective photography. Plus, taking your own images ensures they dovetail with content in a way third-party shots rarely will.
3. Favour quality over quantity.
Low-quality images infer an amateurish approach. Use visuals sparingly but effectively, choosing high-quality shots which are fully in focus and instantly identifiable. Product images may benefit from bokeh background blurring, and people shots are also generally improved by understated or blurred backgrounds.
4. Position images in the right place.
Visuals should complement a web page, rather than detract or distract from it. Break up blocks of text with images, rather than dumping graphics randomly within HTML code. Ask friends and colleagues to review page designs prior to publishing them, confirming that each picture improves the overall aesthetic.
5. Compress photos to reduce loading times.
Page loading times are a key factor in website SEO performance, and images often comprise the majority of data. Always choose JPGs over inefficient file formats like BMPs. Batch compression software ensures file sizes are minimised, but check they still display without pixellation on desktop monitors.
6. Never use the same picture twice.
If you’re buying professional pictures through a platform like Getty or Shutterstock, it may be tempting to get your money’s worth by re-using a file. Don’t. This implies that the company either didn’t notice the repetition, or is penny-pinching. Neither of these are positive brand connotations for customers.
7. Product photos should be galleried.
Because site loading times matter, product pages require just one primary (hero) image. It’s crucial to publish other photos, giving prospective customers maximum information about their next purchase. However, these should either rotate in a gallery or be displayed as expandable thumbnails.
8. Media files offer plentiful scope for SEO.
Every photo requires a caption, which should be written to incorporate keywords or long tails (keyword phrases of three or more words). Images may also be published with descriptions, captions, tags, and other search engine-friendly additions. These collectively boost SEO rankings.
9. Ensure visuals have relevance to on-page content.
For website photos to be really effective, they must correlate to other on-page content. A stock oak tree photo makes sense on an environmental statement web page but might seem incongruous on an About Us or FAQs page. Don’t assume that audiences will make subtle or obscure associations.
10. Consider social media opportunities.
If a picture accompanying your latest blog post is especially striking – a shot of new machinery or a staff selfie celebrating someone’s retirement – republish it on social media. Different social channels have distinct audiences, so many will not have seen it elsewhere. This also justifies the costs of image acquisition or employing a freelance photographer.