Your Website Imagery: The Case For Homegrown Photography
Rather than battling copyright issues or paying extortionate fees for stock imagery, you should consider shooting your own website images.
Every great website requires high-caliber images; the days are long gone when text and hyperlinks provided sufficient content for a website. Dynamic images are essential for promoting products and services, as well as capturing the attention of potential customers.
Unfortunately, sourcing high-quality copyright-free images is surprisingly difficult. Google Images search results usually display copyrighted or watermarked images, which can’t be republished without permission. Photography providers like Shutterstock hold rights to thousands of professional images, but corporate accounts can be prohibitively expensive. Other sites like Getty Images calculate usage fees based on a wealth of information about which page of a website an image will be used on, and what industries the company is involved in. As an illustration, it might cost north of $2,000 to acquire the rights to use one high-res image of Houston on a sub-page of a corporate electronics website over a five-year period.
For that price, it’s possible to buy a mid-range SLR camera with a bag full of accessories and attend a two-day photography course. Digital cameras have eliminated the darkrooms and solvents of yesteryear in favor of instant high-quality images. Photo-editing software is also surprisingly affordable, and even a beginner can easily remove red eye or crop out backgrounds. Taking your own photography circumvents any copyright or usage restrictions, and organic images allow websites to stand out from the competition. It’s also easy to acquire images that perfectly match your exact requirements, dovetailing with homepage text or product descriptions.
So how do you snap the perfect images for your website?
This blog can only scratch the surface of such a complex and technical topic as photography. Nonetheless, a few points deserve mention:
- Good photography isn’t just about what you see – it’s about what you don’t see. It’s crucial to minimize clutter and background distractions, which is why product photography often takes place against a plain monochrome background.
- Don’t rely on sunshine for effective lighting. Sunshine creates shadows, the enemy of digital camera lenses. Take photos in controlled indoor conditions wherever possible, using a flash gun to generate brightness without flooding the shot with light.
- Don’t take your photos at an angle. If the camera is even slightly off-vertical, objects may look like they’re falling over or sloping to one side. Be prepared to crouch down or use a spirit level-equipped tripod to take images with neat vertical lines.
- Remember the core message. Photos for a website should ideally be stylish, but it’s more important that they fit the site’s content. If you’re designing an IT repair firm’s website, shop signage and keyboard close-ups would be ideal accompanying visuals.
Uploading digital photos is usually as straightforward as connecting the camera to a computer via USB, turning it on, and then dragging the digital images (typically in a folder marked DCIM) onto your desktop. Camera manufacturers often provide proprietary software CDs with iTunes-style directories, but these are best avoided in favor of simple drag-and-drop navigation. Always take care to name image folders, because you won’t necessarily remember that the homepage photo you took a month ago has the file name DSC_2321.
In terms of image quality, professional photographers often shoot in RAW format. This is ideal for editing, though amateurs can generally stick to high-resolution JPG files. Even free software like Windows Paint can resize and crop photos, while packages like Corel PaintShop Pro represent affordable alternatives to the industry-leading Adobe Photoshop. Advanced editing features include fisheye distortion correction and kaleidoscopic reflection effects, although simple tools like airbrushing and brightness adjustment should be sufficient to create dynamic visuals for a new website.
Finally, remember that it’s now possible to acquire a wide variety of website domain suffixes to reflect what your company does. For instance, a budding photographer could choose a web address ending in .pics, .photography, .photo or .photos. These website suffixes underline the nature of your business, which can be useful for standing out in a congested online marketplace.