The photos and images on your website are the first impressions someone forms of your business, service or organization. As website designers and developers, our goal is to make sure that the impression is positive and compelling. While we know our websites perform really well – we like our websites to look great as well. This can be a real challenge if we do not have the photography to support it.

When working with a rental property recently I explained to them that a website it the new “hotel lobby”. Let me explain. When you first walk into a hotel lobby – you get an immediate impression of what the rooms may be like. If the lobby is a mess and has a strange smell – you would probably turn around and look for another hotel.

The same is true for websites. If a future client or guest comes to your website and it looks out of date, has shoddy photography (or worse none at all), fake people a.k.a. stock photo models or doesn’t render well on mobile devices – odds are they will go to the next website in their search results.

There are several ways that your company can go about photography. Each of these options come with their own costs and benefits.

  • Use stock photography
  • Take your own photos
  • Hire a professional photographer

Use stock photography

Stock photos can be a very cost effective option for businesses that don’t have a large budget for their website. Because the services are inexpensive, many firms are probably using the exact same images. So, stock photography may not have the impact you would like and may not be the most effective way to make your website stand out from the pack.

Customers are often “put off” by the use of fake people, I mean who smiles that much while talking on a headset or dresses in a three-piece suite as a hotel receptionist? We have found that common objects such as office supplies, computer equipment, uncommon animals, kitchen items, etc. are excellent use for stock photography.

Take your own photos

Just like using stock photography, taking your own photographs can be a cost-effective option, however, the right equipment, prior photography knowledge, and experience is a must.

Lighting, angles, and composition are all key to producing a good image. In addition, you will need to purchase photo editing tools such as Photoshop and attain the knowledge and experience of how to use it. Just because your nephew is great at creating cat memes and has Photoshop does not mean they know how to prepare and present a photo for a website.

We encourage our clients to take their own photos when they are blogging and for social media. The fact that the images are not the same quality as their core website stands out – and that can be helpful to the end-user who gets the impression that the blog images are a “true” depiction of the story you are trying to tell or product you are trying to sell. They like the personal touch – but want to be wowed with your website presentation.

It can be more inexpensive to take your own photos, but if you don’t have someone who knows what they are doing, the photos could end up hurting your website instead of helping it.

Hire a professional photographer

This is probably the most expensive option but will reap the most benefits. Photography can be custom-tailored to showcase your business’s best attributes through real and authentic images. On a website, images tell the story – and by using a professional photographer you can direct the story you want to tell. The options are endless and a professional photographer will know exactly how to take the best photos to highlight the property, service or product that will speak to the viewer without reading a single word.

We never recommend taking an image that is over-staged or gives a false impression. Using the hotel analogy again; if you take a photograph of a room and make it look like something it is not by adding items and enhancements that are not usually there, or showing only the finest room while all the others are not nearly as nice is a common mistake. This will result in a disappointed guest or customer. If you take photos of an image for sale don’t try to make it look greater than it actually is – certainly show it at it’s best and highlight the features that are important to sell a product but do not set your customer up for disappointment.

A professional photographer will show up at the time of the day when the light is the best, put your products in front of the right backgrounds with the correct light. We have seen good photographers climb, crawl and scramble to get just the right shot.

We highly recommend that you speak with your website designer about what photographs they would like to tell your story, sell your product and inspire a future customer. Websites are often developed around photographs. When we build a site for a client one of the first things we do is look at the quality of their photography as that will often dictate how we will showcase your business.