Human beings are visual creatures. Our brains love pictures and respond to them with remarkable speed. Research indicates that images improve recall and that our brains process them in milliseconds.
We have only to look at platforms like Instagram and Pinterest to understand that photos, diagrams, and other images are powerful tools for conveying information in the digital age. Some even claim that pages and posts with images get over 90% more views.
So it only makes sense that a great website needs great pictures. The tricky part is choosing where to get them and finding the perfect images for your small business.
There are three major ways to acquire images for your website. You can hire a professional photographer, you can take photos yourself, or you can use stock images. Each avenue has pros and cons.
No doubt about it, professional photographs look fantastic. They can also be expensive. There will be times when hiring a professional is worth the cost.
If you run an e-commerce business great images of your products are essential. To achieve proper lighting and represent your products both accurately and attractively you may want to turn to a professional.
You also may want to hire a professional if your business in any way involves pictures of prepared food. Even though there are pictures of food everywhere you turn on the internet, only a small percentage of them actually make the food seem appetizing.
Restaurants, caterers, and other food service professionals will be well served by a photographer who specializes in taking great photos of food. There are tricks and methods to this special type of photography so you may not want to trust these pictures to a friend or family member.
Professional photographers are also valuable if your business wants to use uniform photos for your Employee, Team, or About Us page. The photographer can give your team advice on clothing and make sure that the photos remain cohesive.
Take Your Own Photos
Taking pictures yourself, or having a friend or family member take them, can be a great option. Not only is it as close to free as you can get, but it’s also a way of bringing your customers into your world.
The availability of high-quality cell phone cameras gives amateur photographers excellent tools that work in many settings. Sharing pictures of yourself in your workshop, your employees at work or a particular project in progress all make an online business feel local and accessible.
The authenticity of candid or historical photos works particularly well on About Us pages.
There are downsides to taking photos yourself. The first is that it takes time, which most small business owners do not have in abundance. Not just taking the photos but picking through and choosing the best ones and doing any necessary editing requires time and a little bit of skill.
This leads us to the second downside. Your website needs high-quality photos. Clear, well-composed, properly exposed, and well-edited. If you run an e-commerce business with stock that changes frequently, it will be hard to get the quality you need unless you have some photography training.
If your business uses photos less formally, to highlight copy or diagrams, it may turn out that the handful of terrific images you capture can do the trick.
Stock photos are professionally photographed images that are available for purchase. You don’t get exclusive use of stock imagery and it may well show up on other websites.
At first glance, this seems like a terrible idea for a small business. Stock photos certainly don’t work for e-commerce product images. And who wants a photo that can show up all over the internet?
But don’t rule out stock imagery. There are places on every website that can benefit from an image that you simply have no way to acquire. Illustrations, travel photos, even pictures of famous art or architecture can be found on stock photo sites.
While you may not want to use stock photos exclusively for your small business website, the selection alone makes them worth considering. They can also be far less expensive than a professional photographer.
In fact, you can find a good selection of stock photos on free sites like Pixabay and Unsplash.
The other benefit of stock photography is quality. High resolution, good composition, and other benefits of professional photography can be found for a fraction of the price. Or, as noted above, for free.
Another approach to acquiring photographs for your small business website is to combine all three sources.
You can minimize your professional photography expenses by only having a photographer take the pictures you absolutely need (like food and product images). You can take your own pictures for About Us pages and add personality, warmth, and a local feel to the entire site.
You can use stock images for the remainder.
The biggest challenge with this approach will be maintaining consistency throughout the site. Consider using the same frame or outline for all of your images to keep them cohesive. Also, be mindful of your color scheme and try to choose photos that complement and utilize your main colors.
No matter where you decide to get the photos for your website, don’t try to choose them all by yourself. Ask family or friends which images they like. Have the professional photographer weigh in on their top choices.
This is also an area where a website developer or marketing professional will be of great service. They are objective participants in the process, looking for how well the image serves the site. Their experience is a valuable asset, one that you should make use of if you’re using any of their other services.
There is little doubt that pictures can make or break a website. Knowing that you have options for where to find good images makes the task of acquiring them a little less daunting.