High-quality website photography is an underappreciated aspect of successful site design. While product descriptions and blogs provide SEO (search engine optimisation) benefits and key information to potential customers, a single image is able to convey detailed sentiments about a site’s ethos and character.
However, despite the immense popularity of visual platforms like Tumblr and Instagram, few of us are naturally talented photographers. Even fewer of us are equipped with the hardware to take dynamic images. Our smartphone cameras lack the wide-angle lenses needed to capture landscape scenery or the flashguns that illuminate small north-facing rooms. And contrary to popular opinion, an iPad and a couple of free graphic editing apps don’t automatically qualify you to capture images suitable for reproduction on a corporate or commercial platform.
If the self-generated route isn’t an option while populating a site with attractive and relevant imagery, there are two main ways to obtain high-quality website photography…
1. Pay for it.
Professional photography is a highly skilled art form. Amateurs often discover this when they attempt to replicate premium images. And like any creative industry, photographers deserve to be paid. Those quality website photography results generated by Google and Bing Images search generally have copyright attached. That means you’d be in breach of the originator’s rights (and open to being sued) if you used them without getting the creator’s permission and/or paying royalties.
A simpler alternative involves visiting a stock photography site like Shutterstock or Getty Images. These sites are populated by dynamic and beautifully composed images, which may be reproduced in any commercial format without incurring ongoing royalty payments. Sadly, they tend to be very expensive to buy. Even a compact 513×336 pixel image on Getty Images is likely to set you back £50, while its 6000×3930 pixel high-res cousin typically costs £375.
The upside of these sites is the extensive choice of premium quality website photography, ready to grace any web page and available to download in a variety of resolutions. The downside is cost – which leads naturally to our second option…
2. Source free images.
If money’s too tight, seek out images distributed under a Creative Commons Zero licence, often abbreviated to CC0. Aside from a few caveats, this generally means a photograph can be republished anywhere (even commercially) without royalties or remuneration being incurred.
Wikimedia is perhaps the centrepiece of free website photography services, though plenty of other sites exist. Some resemble free versions of Getty and Shutterstock, including FreeImages and Stockvault. Others are more specific. Gratisography and Kaboompics focus on the natural world, while FoodiesFeed needs no further explanation. Compfight and VisualHunt act as search engines for Creative Commons images, making them worth saving in your Bookmarks.
With such a broad choice of directories to research, finding a copyright-free image should be straightforward. However, bear in mind that other people may have already published your preferred photo on high-profile sites. Some graphics end up becoming ubiquitous through sheer overuse, so do your research prior to downloading shortlisted graphics.
Finally, don’t dismiss Google and Bing entirely. Both platforms give you the option to seek out images where no copyright restrictions apply. For example, in a Google Images search, go to the Tools button, and on the Usage rights dropdown, tick the (American-spelling) Labeled for Commercial Reuse option. Bear in mind that this may not extend to modifying the image – superimposition or cropping might fall foul of reuse guidelines. When obtaining images in this way, always read the image attribution or copyright guidelines, rather than assuming they’re fine to republish.