We reached out to some of our favorite designers (both web and graphic) with an SOS: “What is the one tip, experience, etc. that you want people to know about photography in relation to design?” Their responses were immediate and comprehensive. These opinions are indicative of years of experience and wisdom.
The original concept was to have a short blog post with a few key points. Instead, these designers blew our minds with information, and we had a hard time editing this down.
So forgive the length.
It’s too good to cut.
Teamwork is Key
Photography, in some cases, is one piece of a marketing puzzle that also involves writing (voice, messaging) and graphic design (layout, format, typography). The strongest, most effective projects are the result of early collaboration between the writer, designer, and photographer to devise a concept that will achieve a certain business goal.
If the writing, design, and photography all support the concept, the piece will be more successful. Don’t make the mistake of taking pictures first and figuring out how to use them later! Knowing ahead of time, how your photographs will be used not only saves time and money, but greatly increases the chance that your marketing project will be successful.
Emily Goldstein, m design
Using professionally shot images of your staff and products will always be more impactful than stock images. Budget for strong, eye catching photography you can use in multiple media. Have your photographer work hand-in-hand with your web designer to achieve the best results. For example, your design may need a horizontal image, but if your photographer isn’t working closely with your designer the shots may be taken vertically. A reshoot might be necessary to avoid awkwardly cropped images.
Katrina Wagner, Graphic Beans
Photography is a First Step, Not the Last
Custom Photography should be the first step in the web design process. Too many designers construct a wireframe and have a design comp sketched before receiving the photography. This speeds up the design process as it allows the photos to simply be dropped in. However, this backwards practice undermines the reason behind the custom photography: to ignite a genuine connection with the viewer.
To maximize the ROI from the custom photography, the designer must be committed to identify and build this engagement with the viewer. The process starts by reviewing the composition of the photography for inspiration; what photos are going to best tell the story? Which photos are most persuasive? Maximum effect is achieved through the seamless application of the photography throughout the design process. Can/should the photography influence the design’s color palette? Are there lines/shapes that standout in the photography that should be reflected in the design? How can the layout and design be crafted to best utilize the persuasive elements of the photography?
This is the difference between using photos that are pretty and photos that leverage the story-telling power of photography to craft a design that is supportive of the project’s objectives.
Lisa Vaughn, Gladiator Law Marketing
Win in Your Branding
All web designers (at least the ones worth their salt) know that original photography is preferred. The majority of web users gravitate toward realism over stock imagery. The challenge on the agency side is that web development is commoditized. Web designers/developers often have to educate and convince customers of the value of spending the extra money on original artwork for the website. Unfortunately, in a commoditized market, it’s not always worth the effort. The result is that the brand and user experience suffer.
Interestingly enough, designers that work for brands – that care about the brand – don’t have this challenge. The reality is, the brands that are winning afford their designers the artistic freedom to deliver a brand experience that measure up to customer expectations.
Steve Navarro, Right Source Marketing
Tell Your Story
From our perspective, we’d like to beg marketers out there to stop using stock images to do the heavy lifting on the website. This means, in places where a visual is being used to communicate the brand message, more so than the services, etc., you need to use original images. Otherwise, your entire site can end up looking like a picture frame you bought at the mall that still has the fake photo in it.
Rebecca Lombardo, Sutter Group
Custom photography, shot by a professional who understand composition, lighting and can help visually capture the personality, mood and culture of your company or client you represent, can be a true differentiator that goes beyond the trendy bells and whistles in web design. Whether it is showcasing your people, products, process or otherwise, professional photography has the power to deliver a succinct yet powerful message that can mean the difference between a “click through” and a “check out.”
At the end of the day, it’s all about driving traffic to convert to sales. So ask, “Does this feel or sound sincere? Would I believe this?” If not, you may want to take a closer look at the effectiveness of your images as well as your overarching brand message.
Dina Wasmer, Incite Creative, Inc.
Photography is a powerful way to quickly tell a story and engage your audience in any medium. With internet speeds continually increasing and audience’s attention spans decreasing, high quality photography, along with moving images like gifs and cinemagraphs are taking a more prominent roll on the web. In a fast paced world where Internet users have grown accustomed to short blurbs, quick status updates and headlines, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
Eric Bach, A Bright Idea
Bad Photography Can Render a Site Useless
Photography is probably the single most noticeable influence on web design to the untrained eye. In the case of most businesses, perhaps 1% of end users would qualify as formally trained in the way of graphic design and programming. That makes it an incredibly important consideration for stakeholders. Good photography can cover up fundamental flaws with respect to technical functionality, creative treatments, and narratives. Bad photography can render even the most competently programmed and beautifully designed sites useless to the people viewing…and more importantly, those paying for the sites.
Tim Bojanowski, Zest Social Media Solutions
People can immediately see through stock images. When users go to a website, they want to see you and get to know your business. If you aren’t interested in your photography, then the web design will look bad. Good photography not only has a great impact, but a high ROI.
Hire a professional – Do it. You may not think you need it, but you can use the images past the website. Images can be used on LinkedIn, in marketing materials, within interview pieces, and on social media. If you’re taking the time to build a new site, then why wouldn’t you want it to look good? You may as well not use any images than use stock (or bad) photos.
Brian Singer, Foxtrot Media, Inc