In the internet-era, content may be ‘king’ but the imagery you choose can make or break the success of your website. But how do you find great imagery for your website, and where do you start?
This guide will help you determine what style of imagery will suit your product or service, where to find it, and how to give it a unique touch.
Let’s get started.
Work out what kind of imagery is right for your website
If you sell a physical product, it’s worth spending money on a professional photographer to take high quality photos of the product. You’ll want studio photos with plain backgrounds, as well as photos of the product in context – i.e being used by your target customer, as seen on this website.
Browse the internet and stock image libraries to find examples of the style you like, which you can show to your photographer.
Fun fact: consumers are more likely to engage with a photo that includes people. If you’re selling holiday accommodation, use photos of guests relaxing on the couch rather than empty property shots. If you sell business telephones, get photos of business people using your products to help bring them to life.
Aspirational imagery may at the core of marketing, but try to use people that reflect your target customer in your choice of photos. A decade ago, using stock images of models to sell anything was the norm, but recently there has been a shift to more natural, relatable imagery across all industries. This website does a great job of blending photos of normal-looking people with the physical products they sell.
If customers purchase your product based on its features rather than its looks, find images that show those features. A laptop is basically just a black square of plastic, but a photo of a customer using that laptop to work remotely in a cosy cafe will highlight the product’s benefits and entice the viewer.
If you’re selling software or applications, take screenshots of the product in use and then ask a graphic designer to create mockups on different devices (or do it yourself).
What if I don’t sell a physical product?
Not all products and services can be accurately represented in an image.
Sometimes it’s better to show the benefits of your service, rather than the thing itself. If your service helps the customer to save time, you could feature a photo of a person smiling and looking relaxed while walking down a sunny street to emphasise this particular benefit.
I like to think outside of the box when finding imagery for customer websites. Many of the companies I work with sell unusual services that can’t easily be conveyed in a photograph. It’s ok to be different and use images that don’t perfectly encapsulate what you do, as long as they’re engaging and visually-appealing. If you’re a consultant providing employee wellbeing services, you could use photos of people looking happy and relaxed in an office environment, for example.
The image below is one I found to represent the concept of ‘personal data’ in a blog post. ‘Data’ isn’t something that can be easily (or interestingly) portrayed, but the image was striking and the blur of passing car headlights gave the impression of data being transferred around a city. I then added a duotone (two-colour effect) to fit the brand identity of the company in question.
The key thing is to remember that you don’t have to be literal – it’s ok to get creative.
Identify a style
Whatever type of imagery you opt for, remember to stick to the same style throughout your website for a consistent look.
If you’re struggling to find the right photography, consider illustrations instead. ‘Flat’ illustration is a trend that has exploded in recent years, particularly on the websites of tech and Software-as-a-Service companies. I can guarantee you’ve come across the ubiquitous Humaaans illustrations before, and it’s obvious why: their bold colours and appealing simplicity makes them suitable for a host of different contexts.
Illustrations make it easier to represent complex products and services in a clear, engaging way. Not only that, but you can adjust the colours to fit your brand identity, or even create your own unique characters or ‘brand mascots’ (a la Mailchimp).
Working together with an illustrator, this could be a simpler and more cost-effective way to convey tricky concepts.
There are plenty of other ways to add a creative edge to your imagery:
- go bold with black and white photography
- have fun with colour, like on these duotone images
- overlay subtle graphics over your images, or add texture, or gradients…
- give your images subtle animations
- who even needs photos when you can opt for crazy colours and shapes instead
Why not talk to your graphic designer for more ideas on making your imagery stand out?
Where to find great imagery for your website
Free stock images.
When your budget won’t stretch to hiring a photographer, the good news is there’s a tonne of free image resources out there.
- Pixabay – this website has it all, from photos and illustrations to vectors, videos and music
- Freepik – a huge resource of photography as well as illustrations and vectors, although the good stuff is largely available on the Premium plan
- Pexels – specialising in photos and videos, Pexels excels at stylish, on-trend photography that’s perfect for lifestyle brands
- Isorepublic and Unsplash are also well worth a look
Remember that ‘free’ and ‘royalty-free’ stock images are not the same thing. Royalty free images are sold by agencies (such as Shutterstock) and give you permission – for a flat, one-time fee – to use an image in many ways, such as on your website, a billboard etc. Don’t get caught out!
Premium stock images.
If you have the budget or you can’t find what you need on a free image site, it’s worth taking a look at the premium options. Expect to pay upwards of £5 an image if you opt for a bundle deal.
Premium image libraries have a much wider range of choice and a higher standard of photography. Another major benefit is that you’re less likely to see the images you choose on other websites. If originality is important, go premium.
Whatever kind of imagery you opt for on your website, make sure:
- it fits with your wider brand identity
- it’s consistent with the rest of your marketing materials
- review it every year or two to make sure it’s still relevant and up-to-date
- that you have permission to use it commercially
If you have any questions about finding great imagery for your website, or need help or inspiration, you know where to find me.