The importance of visual appealing is “web design 101” at this point. Even if you are not a web designer and you’ve never owned a site, it’s very likely that you instinctively feel a good website has to be visually beautiful. And you’re absolutely right.
Photography is an inseparable element for visual impact in website design, but one that many might think is out of their reach, cost-wise. Plus, it is not enough with throwing a photo here or there in your layout: there are several tips to achieve powerful sites using images.
We will show you not only the super cost-efficient resource of royalty-free stock photos but also the top expert tips to use them in a truly eye-catching, engaging and successful website.
Photos in Websites: Yes, Always
We mentioned the visual aspect of a website is very important, and that most of you already know or sense this. This is well-documented and verified by nearly all of the latest and most advanced researches that include eye-tracking technology and consumer behavior analysis.
Cross-field, experts agree that while we were always very visual a species, such a trace is ever so increased today thanks to the latest technological developments of our times. From digital imagery to Internet access for the masses, from smartphone photography to omnipresent social media networks, the web 2.0 and the mobile platforms with which we now interact on a minute basis are turning into a highly visual realm, not only in quantity but also in quality.
And this is not just to please the potential viewer from an aesthetic POV --though it’s not one to be overlooked-- but because in the practice it is undeniable that web pages with high resolution, strategically chosen and placed photos perform a lot better than the rest.
In today’s online world, anything you want to say to your audience will be said better, louder and clearer through compelling photos. They can help you capture your visitor’s attention and deliver your intended message successfully, serving to both reach your site’s goals and keep the feared bouncing rate low.
This is why using photos on websites should not even be a question. The answer will always be yes.
Royalty-Free Stock Photos: A Round & Sound Resource for Web Design
We are at knowing a powerful website needs high-res photos that are beautiful and professional. At this point, those under restrictive budgets might start growing concerned as professional photography is a considerable cost that not all can cover.
Those working with a short deadline might feel uneasy too, knowing to commission a photo shoot can take up to weeks from the moment you contact the photographer to the time the final files are delivered.
But there is no reason to stress: royalty-free stock photography efficiently solves both the money and time constraints at once. At very affordable rates that go from $30 to as little as less than $0.50 per photo (and they’re one-time-fees!) when buying in bulk, Royalty Free stock photos are ready to download and use, legally and honoring artist’s work.
If such low prices are still out of your possibilities --or if you simply love a chance to save your bucks--, there is also free stock photos. Now, these can be trickier, as you must find good quality photos and make sure they are safe to use. But that won’t be a problem if you keep this great list of the best stock photo sites for websites at hand - it includes advice on the best stock photo agencies to buy cheap royalty-free images too!
Stock photos are professionally shot, with superb technical quality and commercial value, in high resolution that suits all kind of uses. Furthermore, the Royalty Free license they come with gives you multi-purpose rights: you pay for the photo once, and get to use it forever and not only on your website but also in any other projects you wish - marketing campaigns, social media posts, ads, for example.
This is what makes royalty-free stock photography such a valuable resource for web design, one that should be in every designer’s toolkit.
The Right Kind of Images for Websites: Authentic & High Quality
Mobile phones with cameras and massive social media platforms not only flooded us with millions of photos to see every day, but they also influenced photography trends across all fields. We now constantly crave the kind of photos we see in social media (and our phone’s media libraries) all the time: intimate, spontaneous, natural.
These kind of photos are quintessential of relatability and that’s why viewers connect with them more: they can see themselves in such images. The hottest photography trend for websites (and nearly all purposes really) at the moment is that of authentic, realistic and intimate images.
Photos of people will always be the most evergreen topic, as it’s proven they can evoke and provoke emotions in viewers like no other image can. What you want is photos of real, good looking and interesting people, doing everyday things in a realistic way - No more photos of perfect women cringeworthily smiling as they eat their greens. And definitely make sure to include people of diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, genders and styles! You want people that look great, but the kind of people you can walk by on the street.
Of course, always go for high-resolution photos, shot and edited by skilled professionals. The key is for images to feel realistic and effortless… but still be technically and aesthetically on point.
Royalty-free photos, as we just told you, cover all of these needs and more. You will find millions of very high-res, beautiful and authentic stock photos ready to brighten up your site in the blink of an eye.
Efficient Use of Images in Websites: Optimize or Else
A visually beautiful site that is slow and takes too long to load is a complete waste: your visitors are very much likely to bounce back from it as quickly as they would if it was poorly designed. Load speed and sleek functionality must merge with powerful visuals, not submit to them.
This is the immediate catch in using photos for websites: the bigger the photos are and the more of them you add to your page, the heavier and slower it will be.
Luckily technology is there to save the day (and your website), in a very simple way: image optimization software tools compress your image files making them lighter and significantly improving your site’s load speed, making possible to use very high-res photos in websites without any negative impact in the user experience.
There are both free and premium options to choose from. See some of the best along with pro practices to optimize your images in this list of the best image optimization tips for SEO.
The Precise Use for Images in Websites: Purpose & Connection
The most beautiful and trendier high-resolution photos won’t do the trick on your site if you don’t use them strategically, though. A wise use of photos in websites implies finding the right spot between where it makes sense to add a photo in the design, and where --and how-- it can serve an important function in it.
The connection of photos with your goals is a good start point. Select images with a direct liaison with your brand, your company and the targets your site is set to hit. The purpose of each part of the design also helps in finding the best possible placement for photos, as well as picking the ideal image for each location.
Think of what you want the user to do in that part of the page - to know what you’re offering? To understand something? To buy what you’re selling? And how you want them to do it - just by seeing an image? Reading a bit of copy? Clicking on a button? With that info, you can expertly reap the benefits of a photo for your site.
Photos can actually lead your visitors' eyes to where you want them to go. For this, the orientation of the eyes, the hands and the body of people in your photo should more or less evidently point to where you want them to look.
Plus, “one picture is worth a thousand words” line couldn’t be truer: one single photo with the perfect composition can explain your product or service better than any chunk of copy. This is not limited to what you show in the image but includes how you show it.
Remember our image style tips: people pictures convey and trigger emotions, one of the most powerful user engagement keys. So make sure to select a photo where the model/s are exhibiting the ideal expression and feel you want to communicate.
A fictional scenario for a bit of visual help: Let’s say you’re designing a website to promote a brand of organic edibles, and you want customers to click on a call to action that leads to your product gallery. A flat-lay shot of fresh colourful veggies on a rustic wood table, overlaying the call to action phrase would be cool… A photo of a person joyfully choosing veggies in a farmer’s market, with their eyes looking at and their hand casually reaching out to where your actionable button is placed, that would be perfection.
Conclusion: Low Cost, Visually Powerful Sites are Possible Using Images Wisely
As we said in the beginning, it’s not enough with throwing photos --no matter how lovely or sharp-- on your site to make it visually appealing or efficiently performing. That is done by using photos on your website in the smartest possible ways, that you just learned.
A cost-beneficial and accessible method to source the beautiful and professional photography you will need to lift your site’s appeal is to use royalty-free stock photos that, being low cost or free, cover all your image needs elegantly and quickly without threatening your budget.
Armed with these resources, you will soon see that visually powerful websites are right at your reach!