If you are running a company, you need a website. That is often the first thing you will be told when you are starting out, and it’s absolutely true. But your website will be next to useless if looks like rubbish. The key is good photography. Visiting a website is like viewing a house, you make your mind up in the first 10 seconds of seeing it. That’s when you make the choice whether you want to buy from that company, read that blog, or use them to work on your next project.
Modern sites are incredibly visual. 10 or 15 years ago the received wisdom was to stick as much text on a site as possible, as it was easier to load and people generally were willing to read more. Copy is still important on sites today, but attention spans are shrinking and broadband speeds are rising so now images rule to roost. Because of this, you really need to give some thought to what your photography says about your company.
Firstly, where are you getting the images from? Are you taking them? Are you using stock images? Are you going to hire a professional photographer? Any of these are valid roots, of course, you just need to be aware of the pitfalls that come with each of these.
Taking Images Yourself
I’m going to say something a bit controversial here… using your phone to take photos for your website is fine. A lot of people will tell you that you need to use an expensive, high-end camera to take the best photos. This is true if you want the best of the best; however, it doesn’t mean you cant take great photos on your phone or with a point and shoot camera that are very close to being as good. If you have a new smartphone, then you have a great camera with you wherever you go. What you need to take great photos is to learn how to take great photos. You need to spend some time to learn about lighting, framing, and composition. There are courses out there specifically for smartphone photography (or iphoneography if you insist), or you can trawl YouTube for some really good advice. This video has some great tips on how to get the most from your phone camera when shooting small products.
Of course, if you have a nice camera, use it, but you need to learn the basics of photography to get the results you want.
Stock images have come a long way in the last few years. There are a number of great places to get high quality images for use on websites, in marketing materials and articles. The important things to remember are;
- Everyone else in the world has access to these same photos, so there is a risk of people using the same photos in their marketing.
- You CANNOT just use any image that is on online. You need to buy the rights to use an image from a reputable stock photo site. If you just copy an image from google search, you leave yourself open to being sued for breach of copyright. There are free stock photo sites, but they will usually ask you to credit the photographer in exchange for using the image.
- Obviously, there is a compromise to be made. The images, will probably not be exactly what you wanted and you won’t have any shots of your personal products and services, but using stock photos to bulk out your image library can work well.
Hiring a Professional
This is the way you will get the result you are looking for, but clearly, it will be the most expensive way. It is important to select a photographer that you are comfortable with and whose style reflects that of your business. The results will be great looking headshots, dynamic product shots, and eye-catching photography.
Brand Consistence for Images is Key
The key thing to remember with any of these techniques is what you are trying to present. If you have Brand Guidelines or Brand Bible, there should be a section in that which outlines the sort of image that you should use (if there isn’t, its time to update your brand guidelines!) You need to know why people will want your product or service and then present them accordingly.
As an example, say you run a restaurant, the type of images you will need are:
Outside the restaurant – A well composed shot of the front of the restaurant, either in good weather or at night with the light on. Don’t take a shot on a rainy day, or when its overcast.
Inside the restaurant- Don’t just have an empty restaurant, show full tables, people enjoying the food. If you are looking for a place to eat, you will always go for the place that is already busy.
Close-ups – You probably don’t need shots of every meal that is on offer, but close-ups of a few plates on the table will work well. Also, dynamic shots of the chef preparing the meal, placing the plate on the pass, that sort of thing will show a bit of life.
Other considerations – You will know the tone of your brand voice. In this example, if you are a high-end restaurant, then you may lean towards a more minimal style for your photos, with few people, cleaner lines, and a cooler colour pallet. But if you are a family run Italian restaurant, then your photos will be cosier in tone, more people, more laughter and more food!
Something that is very important to remember is you need peoples permission to use them in your photography. You will need to get everyone in your photos to sign a model release form. Here is a template you can use.
So in summary
- Make sure you nail your brand tone for imagery and include it in your brand guidelines.
- Choose how you are going to generate the imagery, do it yourself, use stock images, or hire a photographer. Once you know that, research and prepare, and learn what makes a good photo.
- Show people in your photos. Show people using your product, eating in your restaurant, drinking in your bar. Full tables attract more customers. But make sure you get a model release form so you can legally use peoples images in your photography
I’m Alex Dyett
I am a freelance Graphic Designer and Photographer, and Flickering Light Studio is my company. I live in York, UK, with my wife and daughter.
Hopefully, this blog post has given you some inspiration to go out and tell your business’s story with great design and eye-catching images. Take a look at the other blog posts to get some more ideas, and if there is anything that you feel I could help you with, please feel free to contact me, and I will be happy to work on a project with you.