Dec 13, 2018

Choosing the right image for your website

There are so many great sources for stock photography that finding an image for your Digital Designs might seem like a daunting task, but fear not – we’ve got a few handy tips to ensure you choose the right image for your website. Remember, as the saying goes: A picture is worth a thousand words!

1. Where will the photo appear?

Before even beginning your search for an image, it’s important to consider where said image will appear. There’s often a handful of places that you might find an image on a website, these might be: A full width hero, right/left aligned images alongside text, or the accompanying image to a blog post.

In each of the examples above, it’s possible that a different type of stock photo could be considered an ideal fit, let’s begin with the image accompanying a blog post. Remember a large majority of blog posts are shared through social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – which will display your image as a thumbnail alongside the title, before users click through to your article. There’s an argument here that a stronger, more vibrant image could encourage further user engagement, rather than a dull or irrelevant image to the subject matter – so ensure you choose an image with this in mind.

The placement of the image can make all the difference when it comes to choosing a photo or illustration for your website, especially alongside accompanying body text. This usually means the image will be placed within a confined space, so you’ll want to pick an image that has plenty of breathing room built in. The last thing you’ll want is to have a crowded design. Make sure that there is plenty of space around the edges of the image - this will give you room to scale and crop the image without having to worry about everything fitting in the design, this way you can move your image around without losing focus on the subject. There’s nothing worse than choosing a stock photo, downloading it, and then you just can’t get it to fit with the content. Once you figure out where your image is going and how it will be used, you’re certain to have a greater sense of the right stock photo for your project.

The most popular use of imagery on websites is usually the oversized, full-width hero image approach. This is a great way to establish a brand, highlight promotions, and bring products to life just to name a few. You can usually see this example used to introduce apps, publications, portfolios, and E-commerce stores. If this is the case for you, there’s a couple of things to keep in mind. A successful hero area combines three elements: a striking, high-quality image; clear, concise copy; and a persuasive call-to-action. Most importantly, ensure you choose an image which is meaningful and says something about your project and the experience you want your customers to have. This example is your websites most coveted piece of real estate, so it’s hard to overstate the impact a good image can have on the message you are trying to bring to your user, which brings us nicely onto our next top tip…

2. Ensure good contrast

An important tip to bear in mind in your search for the perfect stock image, especially if you plan on adding text or a call-to-action like in the example of a full width hero image, is to identify areas of low contrast in a photo. Let’s say you want to add an overlay onto your image, the ideal stock photo will have darker areas of low contrast so that your text and graphics have an even and consistent back drop. If this is the case for you, choose text-friendly photos that will provide you with adequate space (ideally, to the left or right) to place your text appropriately. Legibility and clarity are the idea here. Typically, when you create an image with text, chose something that has the right contrast to make your added elements pop for a more powerful message. The last thing you want is difficult to read text if you’re placing it over contrasting colours. White text could disappear over the white parts of the image yet look fine over the darker colours, and vice-versa for instance. Sometimes, despite all of your efforts, you end up finding the perfect image for your design, but it just doesn’t have enough negative space to make your overlaying text easily readable.

3. Avoid clichéd imagery

There’s nothing worse than cliché stock imagery, and the internet is full of it. There seems to be an infinite supply of stock photos of larger than life smiles, firm handshakes and blindingly white teeth – none of which are the ideal imagery for your website. These images create a false perception of your brand or project and any message you are trying to get across is undermined by cheesy imagery and a lack of unique content, so avoid these at all costs! Fortunately, it’s also possible to find beautiful, uncontrived stock photography - you just need to know where to look. If possible, try to pick images and photography that supports your message. In most cases, stock photos are generic and abstract enough that they can grab the user’s attention without diverting too much focus from. There are, however, exceptions: Typically, distracting images would be those that have one or more of these qualities; Controversial, loud or garish and maybe most importantly - irrelevant. Choose an image which compliments your website rather than something which detracts from it.

4. Consider your source and narrow your search

When choosing an image, the last thing you want is to be trawling through page after page of irrelevant images. That’s why it’s important to pick a stock image provider with a varied range of content and robust search tools – some of our favourites? iStock, Stocksy and Shutterstock to name a few. There are also a few alternatives which provide non-cliché high-resolution photography from generous photographers all for free – like Unsplash or Pexels. Sometimes there can be a bit of an art to finding what you’re after. If you need an image related to the business management, for example, it could be difficult to know which terms to use in your search; if you were to search for “business” or “management,” the image results might be a bit off-topic. Instead use search terms such as “leader” or “success” to return a range of different results. Additionally, most stock photo sites enable you to filter results, which is a great way to sort through thousands of images by adjusting the search parameters. You can filter by certain colours or number of people in the image for example, which is a great way to help you find the perfect image for your needs. Of course, as an alternative, no one’s saying you have to use stock photography for your website. If you have the time and the budget, shooting your own images is certainly worth considering. You might be surprised at how easily and inexpensively it can be done, even just with your mobile phone.

5. Special consideration for others

Our final tip may not apply to everyone, but is essential for anyone who’s website may be viewed by countries and cultures outside of and other than their own. Every aspect of an image, particularly with a person in it, needs to be considered. This includes, for example, their facial expressions, their clothing, and objects they are interacting with. When localising your website for the Middle-eastern market, for example, it’s important to choose and image which would not be considered offensive or distasteful to others. Another example of this – an image with strong tones of red would resonate as danger or anger with a user in the western hemisphere, but for the Chinese market it maybe symbolize good luck.

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