Good-looking photographs are beyond important for modern websites, no matter your industry, specialty, or niche. If your brand has a website, you’re going to need photos at some point. Whether as visual spice for your blog, informational aid for your products, or even illustrations for customer guides, good photos can mean the difference between having a vibrant page and one that’s read as bland and uninteresting.
With all those benefits in mind, it can undoubtedly be a challenge to locate a well-priced, skilled photographer or stock photoshop. However, you can’t just leave your pages blank! Thankfully, technology offers us an incredible solution again: our smartphones. The cameras included in most modern smartphones are so good that professional photographers can use them just like they would a studio camera (at least for certain types of photographs.) What this means is that you, too, can benefit from having a top-notch photo camera in your back pocket. All you need is to learn a few best practices, and you’ll never find yourself worrying about photos ever again. In this piece, we’ll explore what you can do to get your own high-quality photos.
If you’ve never taken the time to delve into the sheer power that lighting has over our perception of people, places, and things, we’d recommend exploring that before anything else. A simple change in the position of a light can change an otherwise unflattering photo into a headshot worthy of a newspaper profile piece.
Here’s the secret: you don’t need to be a lighting ace to get photos that will make your site look great. You just need some soft lighting.
Most general-use photographs are not technically complex. Glossy-print nature photos, sports snapshots, magazine covers, and modeling photosets are the sort of pictures that only a professional could ever really nail, but product photos, landscapes, profiles, and portraits are all totally manageable with simple, affordable solutions you can buy online for a few dozen bucks. In fact, most photography stores sell studio-lighting starter kits for cheap, which contain indirect lighting setups that are as easy to use as can be.
Indirect, soft lighting prevents the harsh shadows that characterize lower-quality photographs (except when used skillfully by professionals!) The result of moving to soft lighting for photos is clear, clean images in which the subject of the photo is the focus with no unsightly distractions.
The framing of a photo is another example of simple-to-apply techniques that can really make a major impact in the quality of your photo. Here are a few general rules:
For portraits, try to keep the subject’s head front and center. Don’t leave too much space at the top of the image, but don’t cut off the top of their head with the edge of the photo either. Avoid lower angles, and if you must have an angle, have it be a higher one.
For group photos, the key is symmetry. Keep that soft lighting, and ensure you don’t have too many people on one side of the photo, since it can give the illusion that the picture is “crooked” or sloppy.
If you’re taking product photos, you can either frame the photo such that the product is balanced in the center of the image, or you can set the box in the top-left corner with the pieces spread out in the center of the photo (if it has more than one piece.) The key with product photos is to make the product as attractive as possible without compromising the ability to identify what the product actually is!
One of the worst things you can do to your website photos is to apply automatic color or style filters to them. While photo filters can be fun on social media, they look terribly amateur. If you need more color on your site, do it through your camera. If you’re using a smartphone, most have built-in color correction tools. If you have a DSLR camera (studio camera,) the manual will likely indicate how to access pre-made color profiles.
Color is one of the most powerful ways to express a message. Think about the difference in color choices between, say, a Harley-Davidson advertisement and an Old Navy ad. Without even thinking of specifics, you can probably immediately and vividly picture the difference. The same rules of color that dictate the difference in mood between a motorcycle ad and a family clothing ad apply to your website (and, therefore, your brand.)
Think about color when you’re creating your photos, and don’t be afraid to experiment a little bit. Of all the rules of photography, color is probably the easiest to follow your gut on. If you look at an image and you feel like you’re staring at an alien planet, tone down the color saturation. On the other hand, if your photo looks drab and gray, a little increase to the color balance could make all the difference.
While professional photographers are always going to get you the best photos possible, not every company can or should pursue magazine-level photographs. For many companies, a do-it-yourself solution is totally feasible without much time sink, and you might even discover a new love for photography yourself.
Entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of the business world, and there’s nothing more entrepreneurial than setting out to come up with a better solution than the ones immediately advertised to you. Even a medium-tier photography setup can be cheaper than subscribing to a stock photo service, and you’ll have the added benefit of completely unique photos not seen anywhere else on the web.
If you spend a lot of time online (who doesn’t these days,) you’ve probably done a double take after seeing an image you were sure you’d seen just minutes ago on a totally different site. Even with the massive photo banks that stock image sellers hold, it’s inevitable that some images will be popular and, therefore, used on many sites. If you take your own, you can rest easy knowing your website’s images are yours and yours alone.