One of the most important and attractive parts of your website is the photos that you use. Photos can separate a well-designed website from one that blends into the crowd and is easily forgotten. From blog photos to photos of your product to even photos of your product or service in action, the images on your website make a huge difference.
For some, a collection of stock photos or those found on Google will work for a while, but eventually, you are going to need to move up to something more professional. What follows are your choices for finding great photos, and some of the pros and cons of each.
As mentioned before you can get stock images a number of ways. The first is by far the simplest: you can simply use Google Image Search and filter your results by usage rights. The screenshot below shows you how.
The drop down for usage is under the tools tab. You can select labeled for reuse if you just want to use the photo as is, and labeled for reuse with modification if you intend to add a logo or otherwise modify the photograph before you put it on your site.
You can also find free stock images on sites like Flickr, Pixabay, and more. Also, any photos that are used in Wikipedia or Wikimedia posts are necessarily royalty-free, and you can use those as well.
There are two caveats about some of these images. Even if they are royalty-free, many require attribution, or that you give credit to the photographer. Just as you would like to get credit for things that are shared from the domain name you have registered, so would that photographer.
Secondly, you need to look at both the dimensions and resolution on the photos you download. If they are too small or the resolution is poor, they will look blurry, and that will reflect on the quality of your site.
The primary issue with stock photos is that there are a limited number of them, and they are used frequently by bloggers, so if you post something or create a page on a specific topic, you may see the same photo used elsewhere for the same thing.
Sometimes the excitement of finding that perfect domain name, fine-tuning a template, and taking your first steps in becoming an online success can cloud your better judgment. Before you get too far in your site development or content marketing, you will need to consider some better options.
Paying for Images
Once you have exhausted the free images on the stock image sites, or you just want to move up to more professional looks on your site, the same services that offer free images also offer images for sale. These stock images are used much less often than the free ones, as site owners are often reluctant to pay for graphics.
This opens up another realm of possibility when populating your website with content. These photos are less likely to be used by others in the same niche, but they still come with one quite significant drawback.
The primary issue with any stock image is that is it not, in fact, your product. If you are using an “action shot” it is not actually a photo of your product in action. While these photos often work well for content like blog posts and web pages, they do not work the same way for product pages or your homepage, where you want to showcase what you do.
In order to do that, you need to step up one more level and create your own images.
Creating Your Own Images
Since cell phone cameras can be used to take excellent photos now, it is possible to get some great shots without an expensive camera setup or hiring a professional photographer. However, this does not mean you don’t need to pay attention to some key factors even if you take photos yourself.
- Background: What is behind your product? You can purchase light boxes and other simple tools from Amazon or other vendors to provide a green screen type backdrop or at least one that is not the desk in your office, your kitchen table, or your living room.
- Lighting: Is the item you are taking a picture of the lit well from all angles? Are there odd shadows? Again, light boxes or careful lighting adjustments can make sure that your photos look great. The editing and lighting effects on your camera, photo or physical, or post-production with a photo editing program can help a great deal.
- The Rules: There are rules for great photography, and perhaps the most well-known is the rule of thirds. If you are not familiar with these rules, there are free community classes that will teach you about them, and how to take better photos.
Taking your own photos can product challenges, and you need to make sure you are highlighting your products and services in the best way possible. If you are unable to take great photos yourself, the best option may be to hire a professional.
The Danger of Copyright Infringement
While it is often tempting to simply do an unfiltered Google Image search, right click on the photo you want, and download it, this is unwise for a number of reasons. The same applies to news photos or photos on another website.
The reason is simple. You may be unknowingly violating copyright laws, or in some cases knowingly doing so. Don’t think because your blog audience is small or you are only a tiny company that the photo creator will not come after you.
These violations are serious. The owner can not only make you take any offending photos down, but you can be fined, sued, and even have your site removed from Google’s listings entirely. This can force you to change your domain name, and start over with any SEO or content creation work you have done.
Also, Google and other search engines will be watching you to make sure you do not violate copyright again. This can seriously impact everything from your Google ranking and organic traffic to your company reputation. The damage done to customer trust can be huge.
Creating and finding images for your website can be a challenge, but if done properly it can have a huge impact on your business and the user’s experience when they visit you online. Whether you are looking for great nature stock photos, business-themed images, or general photos for blog posts, you should be able to find what you need thanks to the numerous resources available online today. You need to pay attention to copyright; find royalty free images or pay for them, or you can take photos yourself or hire a professional to do so.
Paying attention to these details early on can save you headaches later on and actually increase your organic reach, helping your business to thrive.