In the world of Web 2.0 one of the most important aspects of a web site is the images you portray. A site that contains just word content is rare, and when seen, is pretty boring and unattractive. However, in this economy everyone is cutting corners, and perhaps you have decided to opt out of hiring a professional photographer. Instead, you may want to snap your own pictures or peruse one of the many free stock photo web sites, such as morgue file and stock exchange. The good news is that with a little bit of research, and a little extra time put into improving your photography, you will find that just because you are cutting corners financially, doesn’t mean you are cutting corners in quality.
If you choose to get pictures from an online stock source, just remember that everyone else has the same opportunity to use these photographs. This means you will have to use some creativity on your end to make sure the pictures stand out as being original to your company. One way to accomplish this is to find images that are as specific to your content, company, and identity as possible. Instead of displaying the stereotypical “shaking hands” business picture, find photographs that relate directly to the type of business you are in. Sometimes it can be worth it to pay a few dollars to get a picture from a source like Getty Images. Paying a little extra up front can help ensure and guarantee the picture will only be used on your site.
Another way to make sure your stock pictures are distinctive is to edit them in a software program like Photoshop. You can cut out elements that don’t match your brand and identity or mesh together aspects of several images to create the perfect picture for your web site. You can also team up with a local photographer trying to build up their portfolio. You will help them gain additional professional experience for their book, and in return they will let you use the pictures on your web site at a discounted rate or even free of charge.
If anyone at your company has some pretty decent camera equipment, you may choose to take pictures yourself. However, if you are not a professional you may get in trouble by making classic amateur mistakes. This can be avoided by putting in extra initial research and following some basic photography techniques. First of all, you should, just like with stock photos, try to avoid cheesy set ups. Candid shots often make for a more interesting picture than the group photo with every company employee barely visible on the small image. There is also a technique commonly used by photographers called “the rule of thirds.” This is a concept in which the main subject or focus is not centered in the picture, but rather positioned slightly to the left or right. Humans should be looking “in to” the picture. For example, a person looking to the left should be positioned on the right side of the image. This allows you to avoid having people who are looking off the picture into “nothing.”
If you struggle with the technical aspects of your camera, or are borrowing an SLR to take higher-end pictures, there are plenty of online resources that will guide you through the controls and settings. If possible, use a shallow depth of field when taking a portrait. Most SLRs have this ability and have a preset mode for photographing people. A shallow depth of field will focus strictly on the subject and blur out their surroundings. Landscape and environmental pictures (such as photographs of your company building) should be taken with a deep depth of field so everything in your picture is in focus. Typically, SLRs and point and shoot cameras are automatically in this mode in the “program” setting.
Improving the photographs on your web page could make the difference between a good site and a great site. A picture really does say a thousand words, and so even if you are not financially able to spend extra money on a professional photographer, it is more than worth your time to learn a few extra tips to make sure your pictures provide a strong visual foundation for your company web site.