Image is everything

It is said that a picture paints a thousand words, so why would you use the visual equivalent of slang?

By that I mean poor imagery, particularly on your website where you have less than a handful of seconds to capture someone’s attention – see my article regarding online attention span here for more on that.

A study published by Psychology Today tells us more about the effect taking photos has on future recognition and, therefore, familiarity – something vital when you’re trying to build a brand. Making your website a visually pleasing experience can only be a good thing, plus you’ve already invested in great design, user experience and – of course – your top quality product or service!

Yet time and again we see sites with poor quality or ill-chosen images which really don’t give that warm, fuzzy feeling your dream clients are looking for when they come to your site. Regardless of whether they’re looking for your specific product or have been personally referred to your service, your website is the first port of call for that essential relationship-building that must take place to guide them from being a passer-by to a long-term advocate of what you have to offer.

We know, it’s all about the budget!

However, treated properly, investing in great photos for your website can pay for itself over and again – PLUS you can re-purpose the images (subject to agreement with the photographer), into your other marketing materials, posters, banner, business cards, social posts, etc. With high resolution digital versions you really can “cook once and eat often”!

There are other options for you besides bespoke photographer too. Stock Image libraries have come a looooooong way since the days of flicking through printed brochure, selecting and noting the 12 digit reference numbers and mailing off for a copy of the slide – I’m giving away my age now, aren’t I?

These days, there are hundreds of high quality stock libraries online who will let you login, create an account, pay for credits and download exactly the photo you’ve been looking for, usually at very affordable rates. A word of warning though – always trial the low resolution / watermarked image before you buy as sometimes what looks great on the screen, then just doesn’t work on the printed dummy visual. You want to try before you buy.

It’s not just where you get your images either (though one quick caveat, please don’t “grab” images from Google and imagine they’re copyright free – they almost certainly are not), you need to think about the content and composition too.

Begin by considering:

  • Close-ups – vs – wide-angle shots. The latter can make a small room look larger, the former can emphasise the little added value touches you deliver
  • People – vs – places. You may be very proud of your freshly painted dining room, but do all those empty chairs and tables just make your restaurant look empty? Got some great shots of happy smiling customers? Make sure you have their permission to use these in your marketing or apply some stylised editing to blur faces in a crowd.
  • Sell the sizzle, not the steak! One of my favourite expressions, basically means show the positive outcome of dealing with you, not the issue you address. The current trend of emphasising pain points for your customers can work in text, but in images it can make your site a bit, well, depressing.

The latter is particularly important for charities and non-profits as donators and funding bodies want to see the wonderful, positive impact of what you do – how you’re changing the world through your efforts.

When we worked with one charity tackling homelessness, the first thing we addressed was their imagery. Moving this away from people sleeping on cold streets – whilst handling the sensitivities of their service-users not wishing to be photographed – we instead developed a theme for imagery on their site which reflected the warm and caring welcome given to all. My team then carefully curated the images selected from our vast royalty-free stock libraries, to deliver a serious message in an embracing and collaborative way.

In an age when social media dictates the seemingly “essential” need to look good as individuals, make sure your organisation stands proud online and represents you authentically, elegantly and, above all, with integrity.