The Secret to Choosing Photos for Websites


Every website needs photos. After all, who wants to look at a site made up of paragraph after paragraph of text? Photos are essential to help engage your audience. And while they may not be the MOST important aspect of web design, they are essential to keep the attention of your visitors. In this video, Eric Spellmann shows you how to choose the perfect photos for your pages. He even gives you his favorite sites to find national-quality (and legal) photos for your use. If you are needing to add some photographic “sizzle” to your site, watch this video!


Note from Eric: Below, you will find a word-for-word transcript of this video. I provide this as an aid for the hearing-impaired and for those who might just want to read it rather than watch the video. This conversational style is not reflective of how I write. Be nice! Hey I’m Eric Spellmann with EricSpellmann.com. And today’s online marketing tip is “The Secret to Choosing Photos for Websites”. That’s right. Whenever people come to us for having their website built, one of the big areas I spend time on are the photos that are going to be on the site.

You can’t just have a site full of text, how boring is that! And remember, everyone on the Internet has A.D.D. and they’re lazy. And if we don’t break that up with a few pictures and some visual reinforcement of what you do, well they’re going to leave. So choosing the right photos is key. And that’s what this video’s about.

There are basically three methods when it comes to using photos on your website. Hire a photographer, do it yourself or buy stock photography. We’re going to take each one of these and talk about the pros and the cons.

Number one, hire a photographer. Folks, in my opinion, this is definitely the only way to guarantee you get the results you want when designing a website. Hiring someone who knows what they’re doing, who knows how to take a picture, who has good equipment and takes really high quality stuff! That’s what you want. Keep in mind one of the advantages of hiring a photographer is that it shows your products and your services unlike stock photography or something else.

I mean it shows you and it puts you in a really, really good light. In addition, the photographers often have a lot of ideas on ways to stage shots so that you show exactly what you’re trying to show. These photos that you then own can be used in other ad channels. And what I mean by that is you can use them in print, you can use them on TV and a lot of different ways, not just the website.

One of the downsides of hiring a photographer however is it can be cost-prohibitive. You may be starting a small business and really can’t hire a really good photographer. And remember guys, good photographers do cost a little bit. And that’s because they’re good. And it’s worth the money in my opinion. But, for you starting out a small business and paying for web design, it may not be the route you have to take. So maybe you decide to do it yourself. So let’s talk about that.

The neat thing about doing it yourself is it only costs you your time. Now time has a value and your time has a value so you need to take that into consideration. If it takes you 3 days to get the 1 perfect shot you need, well maybe it wasn’t worth it. When you are doing it you can take as many shots you want and take as long as you want to do it, that’s one of the advantages. Sometimes you are the only one who has access to certain places to take these shots so it allows you to really work on it.

The downside is that it can look amateurish. Whenever someone sits down with me and says “Eric I want to give you some photos for our website”. Well one of the things I say after looking at them, and I don’t mean to be disrespectful but I say “Hey I don’t want these photos to look like they were taken with Uncle Harold’s handy-cam”.

I mean you’ve seen these kind of photos where the website is national quality and looks beautiful, but the photos look like they were taken with someone’s polaroid or instamatic and they’re dark or they’re too bright, overexposed or the people are… Anyway you now what I mean.

The photos look cheap even though the website looks nice. And when that happens.. Remember “One bad apple spoils the whole pie”! So even a single photo can drag down what people think of your website and hurt web design. And they don’t even realize it was the photo that did it.

The third option is to buy stock photography. For those of you who don’t know, stock photography is collections of pictures that you go and pay in order to use. And that way they’re legal. One of the neat things about stock photography is that it is cheap.

And yes, a picture from stock photography will be cheaper than hiring a photographer. But that’s because it is a picture that has been sold over and over and over and over to multiple people. It is extremely professional. Most stock photography is national quality and if you use it on your website, it will look great.

One of the problems, however, is that stock photography does not show you. Unless you are that guy that comes in the picture frames when you buy them. Stock photography does not show you.

It shows super models, it shows perfect people. Now once again its national quality and you may be going for that. And keep in mind a lot of national sites use stock photography. And what you think are people that they hired are not! They just went and bought a stock photo of what they were looking for. One of the other advantages of stock photography is that they already have pictures taken of just about every kind of thing you can think of. And you can search through them and find them.

My favorite sites, if you are interested in checking out stock photography are bigstockphoto.com which is one of the cheapest and has one of the largest collections of photos. And then if you can’t find something on bigstockphoto.com, check out istockphoto.com.

Now, a couple of considerations on stock photography. I’ll give some other talk on the rest of it in a minute. But when it comes to stock photography, searching is the key. Learning how to search is how you find things.

So I’ll give you some tips. Use the word “isolated” when searching for something. And the reason I say that is because it puts a white matte background, a white clean background behind the product and that way there’s no frame around it.

You know many times when you use a photo it looks like a square. Well if you typed the word “isolated” when you searched for it, you will have white behind it. So if you have a white website and you put that photo on there, it looks very professional and people don’t see the little white square of the photo itself. They just see whatever it is you took a picture of. So, one bit of advice.

Second, only buy the resolution of the photos you want. Don’t buy something too big. The way these stock photography sites charge is the higher resolution of the photo, the more they’re going to charge you. And these rates can go anywhere from 75 cents all the way up to 50 bucks, for one photo! Good web design does not require print-level quality photos.

So, look at the resolution and then decide whether you can work with the small or medium version. When you go for print, you’ll definitely want to buy the higher resolution because it shows more of what we call pixels.

So the key is searching on each of these sites, and you can find what you want. So what are some considerations as it relates to photos on websites. I always tell people if you’re going to choose photos, if you’re going to have someone take photos for you or if you’re going to take your own photos ALWAYS choose photos that show success.

Now you must be wondering what does that mean. Success means what people want. When people go to your website, it’s usually because they have a problem and they want it to be solved. So I don’t want you to show the problem as much as I want you to show the solution. Good example. I have a number of clients who are bug exterminators. And I’m not a fan of showing pictures of bugs. What I am a fan of is showing pictures of happy people in situations that don’t have bugs. So for instance, a family playing with a baby out in their yard or on the floor or on their bedroom floor rolling around on the carpet or playing with the dog. I want to show situations where after the exterminator has come there is success.

Second, I want you to show people who are smiling. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at certain photos on a website and it might even be the website owner’s family and they’re not smiling! Whenever you look at the photo of someone not smiling, it communicates they are either not happy or careless about being there. So, always make sure that whatever photo you are doing people are smiling because people want to see their future selves after using your service.

People, I’ve mentioned this in other videos before. Do not go on the Internet and copy a picture and use it. You will get sued! People will come after you. There are automated programs that search the Internet for photos and if you don’t have a license for it, if you didn’t buy it and they don’t show an account for you for buying that photo, you’re going to get a letter and get sued. A number of unethical web designers use this approach, so be careful!

There’s a lot of lawyers out there who make their living strictly from doing this. So do not go to Google Images and do a search for images and then copy and just put it on your website. That is illegal. Use stock photography, hire someone or take them yourself.

Well as always, I’m Eric Spellmann with EricSpellmann.com. And if you want other online marketing and web design tips, other tips on photos or working with websites check out my website and then click on videos. You can see all of those videos, there are quite a few of them at this point. I hope this was helpful. Once again I am Eric Spellmann with EricSpellmann.com. I’ll see you in cyberspace.