I was on Telegraph Avenue walking home from class in Berkeley when I first saw him with his shoulder length straight dark hair and black hat. I can’t remember what we connected about, but after a long chat before veering our separate ways, he asked to meet for coffee.
The next day, I found a table by the coffee shop window and soon he joined me, wearing the same hat. After coffee and chatting, he got up to leave and took off his hat. To my surprise, he was totally bald on the top of his head!
I don’t really care about a guy having a full head of hair, but I felt duped by the long hair and hat cover up. Had he been hatless from the start, it would have been fine and I would have known the truth. Instead I felt like a bait-and-switch victim, like I couldn’t trust him and felt sorry for him at the same time.
This is how your website visitors feel when you post images of your business that are not accurate or honest. It’s a big fail when the home page of your law firm website, for instance, features an image of a happy diverse group of young attorneys (which tend to look cheesy anyway) and your about page shows the real group of frumpy old white guys. Your visitors will feel tricked like I did with the guy and his hat.
Websites need great imagery. From the hero image on the home page to your team photos, your page graphics and blog posts, photography and illustrations will set the tone for the site. The images you choose are very important to how your company will be perceived.
I am going to tell you about five mistakes I commonly see people making with their image selections and then share some of my secret resources for finding great images.
Watch for these common image mistakes:
Mistake 1: Unheroic hero shots. Most people understand the importance of great images for the homepage, the main photos on a website’s homepage are referred to as hero images for a reason. Yet, in many cases the homepage images are not heroic, epic or even good.
Mistake 2: No blog post image (or a poorly-placed one). An image in your blog post is not only decorative but also helps draw the eye of the reader. Many blog formats are designed for readability; an easy format is to use a left-aligned image at the start of the blog post. The image should be about a third of the width of the content area. Because this image position shortens the first line of text by half (300-400 pixels rather than 600 to 750 pixels), the reader is encouraged to start reading. Our eyes prefer the shorter line of text, so the image sets you up for an engaging conversation with your reader. It’s up to your subject and writing style to hold their interest as the text grows to the full width of the column.
Mistake 3: Overused stock photos. Sometimes business owners who aren’t very creative and want to do what everyone else is doing choose some of the most god-awful overused stock business. This makes their sites look cheap. The point of a good website is to set you apart from your competitors. Whether you are a business owner doing content marketing or a web designer creating websites for a company, great images are out there. Take a little time to find images with the right look and feel for your brand. Stock photography, video and graphics are fine if they are carefully chosen to be consistent with your brand and they look authentic.
Mistake 4: Google Images. It’s a bad idea to grab images from Google Images. They don’t belong to you. These images often are from other people’s websites, and they own or made the images, or hopefully got the license to use them. Keep in mind that anyone easily can run a free reverse image search tool such as Tin Eye and find every instance of that particular image on the web. Don’t get busted!
Mistake 5: Underestimating the necessary effort. Often our clients will think they can find an image that will work, but the image is usually not the right orientation, or the area of interest in the image is spread out wrong for the particular space. Good images are even harder to come by if they have people in them. We do use stock image photography or video for our sites but we are very picky about the images we choose. And we always suggest our clients get their head shots taken by a professional photographer. The reason a website rises above the competition is because the owner paid attention to the work needed to make the images look as good as possible.
My favorite resources images
Good but inexpensive images sources:
Dollar Photo Club for photographs and illustrations.
Creative Market for graphics and illustrations.
Video Hive for video clips. (Check out the inexpensive video clips we used for our clients [links?], ABLT and Adore Hair Salon.)
Canva for graphic images, simple enough for non-designers to use. I wrote about Canva last week and how it offers some free image backgrounds and graphic elements for you to create graphics for your blog and social media updates. Others are available for a small fee.
Free image sources:
Unsplash for high-resolution artistic photographs that you can use free of charge and free of attribution. Check out what people have created using images from Unsplash. Amazing images comes from collaborating with Unsplash + Canva.
Pixabay for free high-resolution photography without dealing with copyrights. You can use these images in any way you want, even for commercial purposes without asking permission and without giving attribution. Not bad huh?
Pond Five for more than 65,000 public domain images and some film clips. It is a good source for historical images that are not under copyright any longer.
Public Domain Archive for great copyright-free high-resolution images from wonderful photographers. This site encourages great submissions offered for use with no attribution and no charge. With a $10 monthly subscription, you can download all images in bulk and get many more great perks.
Wikimedia Commons for some high-resolution photographs with Creative Commons licensing, free to use with attribution.
Flickr for images that are available under Creative Commons license. You can embed these images as long as you follow their licensing conditions and give the attribution to the author. You can use Codr to easily create an embed code to place a Flickr image on your site that includes the creative commons attribution link.
There is another way to get great images for your website, especially if you are looking for something very specific. If you find that perfect image on a blog or on Flickr with a copyright, send a request to the photographer and ask to use it. If you let them know what it is for, how it is the perfect image for the purpose, and offer them attribution and a link on your site, most people will give you permission.
That’s how I got the dog to use on the New Tricks logo many years ago. I had been working on an idea for the logo and needed to find the perfect canine image.
One night, while working on a website for a band and looking at other bands’ websites, I discovered The Silos website and a link that said Walter’s Dogs. Being a curious dog person, I checked out his paintings of weird dogs for sale. One was just what I had been seeking.
I wrote Walter requesting to license the use of the image of dog number 537. He told me that painting had been sold. I assured him I only needed the digital art to use for my logo. He said sure—and I could pay whatever I thought would be reasonable. I paid him $250, and that was how the New Tricks dog came to represent us.
Amazing what happens if we ask. And the first question you need to be asking is if your images are doing the work they should be. Your website images need to represent your company as fair, accurate and professional. My list of resources for great images will help you find what you need to ratchet up your content marketing a notch or two!