A Guide To Photography For Your Website + Business
If you’ve ever tried to tackle web design, you know that there’s SO MUCH that goes into designing a beautiful website.
Here are a few common mistakes I see my clients and others around the internet make:
Screenshots….like from phones and computers. Like where instead of saving the original version you hit a couple buttons to create a lower quality version then slap that onto your professional, business website. What. the. heck. 😳
Using images found on the internet or Instagram that aren’t yours to use. That’s stealing!
Using small and/or low res images. Not the biggest deal if it’s for a tiny thumbnail image, but think about how sharply screens display things these days and how most of your images will take up a decent amount of space on those screens.
Not thinking about how website imagery is part of your brand message.
The first three things can easily be taken care of: use the original version of something instead of lazily snapping a screenshot of it, don’t steal images from other people, invest in high quality photography. Boom.
But what about that last one? How do you curate imagery that tells a story…...your story?
Welp, you can’t do that unless you have clarity on what story you want to tell. And today I want to help you figure that out.
01 // A lil’ strategy to get you started
To kick off any design project, I take my clients through a strategy phase that lays out the foundation for all the visual things that will come later. There are specific questions I ask that give me insight into my clients’ visual identity, which helps me create a list of brand buzz words that will influence the visuals.
With paper in hand I take everything I design (literally, everything) and check it against this list. If I feel like the design is up to standard with the list, I show it to my client. If it doesn’t, I try to pinpoint what’s missing and start problem solving from there.
You can easily do this for your brand photography too. All we need to do is figure out your buzz words and determine a photography style that makes sense with those words, then you can start curating imagery for your website that helps tell your story.
02 // Determine your brand buzz words
I find that it’s easiest to organize my thoughts by putting pen to paper during this process, so grab a pen and piece of paper then think about:
What you want your business to stand for
Who your customers are
How you want to make them feel
What do you want them to think of when they interact with your brand?
What are some style characteristics you can associate with your brand (feminine, modern, bright, etc)?
Once you’ve gotten your thoughts on paper, start reviewing your answers and create 5-10 buzz words associated with all of those things.
Are there any words that show up multiple times? Are there 2 words that are kind of similar to each other that you can group together and rename? See if you can edit the final list down to 4-6 words.
When you’ve got your final list, take some time to determine what those words mean to you. What are some things that pop into your head when you think of each individual word? Is it a specific set of colors? A certain environment? Another brand or business that you love?
Be sure to think of visuals that would be the opposite of how you want your business to feel, too.
Once you’ve thought about those things, you’ve officially set parameters for your visual style. You know what you want to stand for and you know exactly what you don’t want to stand for. And, more importantly, you’ve got a direction that's unique to you since you took the time to think of associations that will and won’t be a good fit.
Side note: I created a lil' brand personality quiz to help you work through your buzz words AND guide you through forming your brand voice and visuals. Check it out here.
03 // The art direction phase
Now hop onto Pinterest and start searching for photos and imagery that make sense with your brand buzz words. Save it to a private board so you can see all the images together.
I normally do this in two stages. In the first stage I don't really edit myself, I just focus on the words and save what feels right without thinking much. I try to collect whatever I can for 20-30 minutes then move onto the next stage, which is editing everything down:
Are there certain themes, objects or motifs that appear throughout the board?
Can you tell if there's a photography style you’re drawn to (ex: rustic, black and white photography, bold and colorful, dark and moody, feminine and delicate, etc)?
Is there anything that doesn't make sense in your collection? Are all of your buzz words represented in your final collection?
If you're finding it difficult to pinpoint a consistent theme or style, that’s okay. You’re probably like me and just need to take some time away then come back with fresh eyes and thoughts. Give yourself some space, then come back and repeat the process.
04 // Final thoughts
What’s helped me the most in my own business (in basically all aspects) is just starting with something, even if it’s not perfect.
Tweaking something is much easier than creating or recreating it, so lets just get you going! Apply what you can and experiment, then after some time assess and tighten it up. You'll naturally find that some things feel in alignment while others don't. That's part of the process, but it's worth all the extra clarity and focus you get :)
Here are some options for you:
Use stock photography. There are paid + free sites out there. The important thing here is it needs to align with your message, brand buzz words and style. I also have some collections of free stock photography on Unsplash.
Take your own photos. But dude, don’t half ass this! Only do it if you know you can execute. THIS IS YOUR BUSINESS WE’RE TALKING ABOUT!
Hire a photographer. Do your research and make sure your investment is going to someone who can execute your vision. He/she should have some sort of process to assess the visual direction, but pulling inspiration images (like your Pinterest board from step 2) or consulting a brand strategist beforehand might be helpful, too.
Honestly...if you’re anything like my branding and web design clients you’re going to feel SO much more connected to your business once you see it all come together. The feeling of executing your vision is like none other, my friend.
And remember: the huge, earth shifting stuff doesn’t come to you while you’re just twiddling your thumbs, so get out there and REALLY start thinking about what you want to stand for! Commit yourself to learning how you can use visuals to communicate your message and vision for your biz.
Keeps you looking profesh
Makes sure your visual identity stays cohesive (you can use all of these guides for social media too!)
Helps your audience know they’ve landed in the right place