Good photos on your website are essential to draw in users, to keep them clicking and interested in your business. People can easily spot amateurish photos and be put off by how unprofessional it makes your website look, prompting them to look elsewhere. Better photos that look professionally shot can make your website more attractive and make your business look more competent. Whether they're photos of your products, your place of work or your staff members, competently shot photos make a big difference.
You don't have to become or hire a professional photographer or to buy expensive equipment to shoot professional-looking photos. Most modern smartphone cameras are capable of capturing high-quality photos that are more than good enough to publish on your website. Keep a few basic techniques in mind while just using your smartphone or point-and-shoot camera to make huge improvements to your photos.
Professionals will tell you one of the most important parts of composing a good photo is lighting. Those same professionals will also tell you to turn your camera's flash off, as it creates harsh light and glares. Natural light or window light is preferable. Placing your subject in a shaded spot to ensure it's not overexposed but still well lit can make all the difference. If you need more light, there are lots of inexpensive light sources you can use, such as a simple runner's light or a small, mountable LED. This will eliminate shadows and make your pictures come out cleaner and crisper. Your camera likely has an exposure slider, so tamper with it until your subject is clear and not overlit.
In the same realm as lighting is white balance. This is a feature that most digital cameras have to accurately capture colors in different lighting situations. The easiest way to tell if a photo's white balance is off is if something white appears yellowish or the same hue as the light. Digital cameras and phones may have presets for shooting in different lighting situations such as fluorescent, tungsten, daylight or overcast. You can manually adjust your white balance by placing a white sheet of paper directly in front of the camera so it can tell what's supposed to be white and compensate for other colors from there.
What's behind your subject can be just as important as what it is. A photo taken in the middle of a cluttered room can distract from the subject and just look sloppy. There are a few things to remedy this, depending on the context of your photo. Simple backgrounds that contrast with your subject are best and make your subjects pop out. If you don't have a good-looking plain wall, this is where your cardstock or sheets come in handy. If you want to add a bit more style to your photos, then it's best to take a photo of your subject in their natural environment. Pictures of your outdoor gear will look best in an outdoors setting. A staff photo of your IT team might be best taken in the server room.
Rule of thirds
Imagine a 3-by-3 grid overlaid on your camera's viewfinder. You may not need to imagine this, because there's usually an option to turn that on. This is because the rule of thirds is a basic principle of photography. It means that, if you want to take dynamic and interesting photos, then you don't want your subject dead center of your photo. Instead, frame your subject to the side, taking up two-thirds of the space, leaving the remaining space empty. Another technique is putting your subject on one of the points where the grid intersects. This works because it makes the photo a bit more natural to look at, due to the way we look at photos, than something centered.
Time to get up close and personal with your subject – and not with your camera's digital zoom, which diminishes the quality of your photo. Every camera comes with a built-in zoom function: It's called your legs. Depending on what you're shooting, get in close so you can capture the textures and details of your subject in high quality.
Time to familiarize yourself with photo-editing software. These programs may seem intimidating, but they're essential for putting the final touches on your photos. One basic thing you can do is crop the photo to better apply the rule of thirds. You can adjust brightness and contrast to make your photos pop a bit more. Also, it's important to resize the photos to better fit on your website. There are plenty of free or inexpensive programs for your computer, including GIMP and Pixlr, and mobile apps such as Afterlight. [Related: Read our best picks for photo-editing apps.]
Other quick tips
- Shoot a lot: Don't ever take just one photo and think it's just "good enough." Change up your angle, framing and lighting. You can choose the winning photo afterward.
- Find lines and frames: A bit of an advanced photo technique, finding natural lines and frames that will lead the viewer's eyes to your subject takes a practiced eye.
- SEO: Don't forget about your photos' metadata. Your photo's title and caption will affect your website's standing on search engines, so don't just go with the default title of IMG_482951.
- Break the rules: The basic rules laid out above aren't set in stone. If you want to take a creative, different approach to your photos, don't be afraid to do it if you think it visually looks better.
Use cases for business
You likely need some specific types of photos for your website. Most of the rules above apply; however, here are a few use cases to help you get the most out of your photos.
There are several ways to take photos of your products, and it all depends on where you're posting them. For straightforward product photos you plan to post to online stores such as Amazon, a white backdrop works best, since those sites' backgrounds are usually white. A white light box combined with a decent light makes this easy. However, on your own website, you'll likely want to show off your product in more depth with multiple candid photos. A variety of shots of the product against a plain backdrop, as well as ones that show the product being used or in its regular environment, all with ideal lighting and framing, will come off much more professional than just a quick snapshot.
In the same vein as product photos, restaurants, cafes and bars will want to take shots of their food and drink offerings where they're served – at the table. Garnish your plates for the best presentation, but don't exaggerate what the actual plate is. Sometimes overhead shots can be good to fully capture what comes on a plate.
Profile shots of you and your team puts a face to your company and services, so think of marking a staff picture day on the calendar. Framing for headshots is especially important, as is the rule of thirds. A good rule of thumb is to make sure your subject's eyes are right on the line between the top and middle thirds of the frame. A profile with the head right in the middle makes for a lot of empty space above their head.
Photos of your business
Putting a photo of your storefront online can help customers find and recognize your location. When you're taking photos outdoors, remember the best time for natural lighting is one hour after sunrise or one hour before sunset. When the sun is directly overhead around noon, outdoor photos tend to be overexposed with prominent shadows. Taking photos of the inside of your business will give customers a sneak peek of what you do and how you do it. Candid photos of your team doing their jobs are easy to capture as long as your lighting is well set up and you follow the other basic rules.