Unless they’re very scary:
When used correctly, good imagery can make a website, especially in the increasingly popular flat design trend. The layout matters, of course. Our centre-aligning days are behind us. Everyone prefers pictures to walls of text, as long as they’re high quality and appropriate. I’ve drawn a handy diagram to illustrate the preferences for your website imagery:
First and foremost, if it makes any sense to your business consider hiring a photographer (We can suggest a particularly wonderful photographer Caterina, based in Galway). If you sell an object, or a service that’s heavily image based (hairdresser, clay pot maker, dog groomer) your own high quality images of hair, pots or dogs are the best possible way to advertise yourself. Your website will be unique and attractive – especially if you fill it with cute dogs (not advised if you are a hair dresser).
Sometimes a photographer isn’t feasible, or makes no sense for your business. You might sell an IT service, for instance. Pictures of you using a computer are fine, but not really worth paying a photographer for. In this case, don’t disregard stock imagery. Many people, quite fairly, don’t want images that aren’t their own on their site. They feel disingenuous, or at worst cheesy. How many corporate sites have you seen with 2 suited up men shaking hands? Or a blackboard with ‘Ideas’ written on it? These generic stock images are popular for a reason. They convey something about the business and stop you having to write “We’re the sort of company where professional looking people are amicable to each other so we’re to be trusted”. You open the site and you instantly have an impression. It’s both a down and upside that these images are so broadly used, because while you might not stand out, you will be instantly recognised for what you do. There is nothing worse than clicking on a website and trying to figure out what they offer. That person is leaving your website, and hiring the IT guy who paid for the image of complicated computer stuff.
The point is, you might shudder at the idea of a head scratching light bulb image on your own site, but do you really shudder when you see it on someone else’s?
Personally, we try to stay away from the instantly recognisably generic, unless it’s actually requested. A good test of generic-ness is to go to a stock imagery site (our favourite is Photodune, but any large reputable one will do) and type in a description of the image you’re testing, i.e. “corporate men shaking hands”. If the image is in the top five results, that’s a little lazy.
The thing you’re selling is wonderful, so do it justice. If you can’t get photos of it, open your mind to stock imagery.
Most importantly, it’s better to have no images, than bad ones. The picture you took on your phone, at night, with your friend Steve in the background fiddling with the remote, won’t do. And contrary to belief, there’s no amount of ‘enhancing in Photoshop’ that will make it work. One day maybe we’ll have CSI tools that can zoom in and increase quality but not yet.
Here are some of our favourite image-based sites:
But let’s calm down a minute. Sometimes clients won’t have a photographer, and will refuse stock images. And that’s fine. I fully understand the dislike. But what then? Well there are still lovely alternatives, they’re just a little trickier to pull off:
And finally, we may not be there yet, but we can dream: