May 31, 2012

Tips for creating photos for your website

By Campbell Angus

In a recent article about writing effective Frequently Asked Questions, I commented on how FAQs should be used to establish a connection with your visitors – the web being what it is, electronic and impersonal, you need to make every effort to create an emotional response with your visitor that will result in some form of action: calling you, sending an enquiry, making a purchase, and so forth.  The most effective and powerful way to trigger an immediate emotional response on the internet is through images and photos.

Have you visited what would otherwise be a nice looking site that has poor quality photos? Have you stuck around, or perhaps made a purchase online when the product was badly lit, blurred, or too small? If you’re like me, you’ll keep looking until you find a site that has the right presentation of products or services before you part with your hard earned money.

Ten years ago when people connected to the internet using dial-up, image sizes were small, of poor quality, and were usually kept to a minimum. Today we have broadband internet all around us so we can make extensive use of images:

  • On homepages, using images that rotate
  • Throughout pages of the website, relevant to the page content
  • For products, using multiple images for views from different angles and close-ups

So the use of quality images throughout a site makes for a better user experience. Makes sense right! Good. So how are the images on your site? Are they quality images taken by a professional who charges you by the hour? That may be ok if you only need a handful of images for your site, but if you’re selling online, can you afford to have them come by regularly to take photos of new products for your website? Maybe not.

So what options do you have when it comes to using quality images on your website? Fortunately there are a few:

  • Using an online royalty-free image collection such as www.iStockphoto.com to source your photos for a small cost
  • Getting images from your suppliers and business partners. In the case of product images, often your suppliers will invest in professional product photographs for promoting their products, and may be willing to share them with you
  • Become an amateur photographer and do it yourself

I’ve been asked for advice on the last point countless times, and in cases where you need to be photographing products on an ongoing basis its well worth honing your photography skills and maybe even take a course or two. For starters, here are some basic and inexpensive tips to produce quality photographs that will sell.

  1. Lighting – where possible use natural lighting, and don’t use a flash as it distorts colours and can create unattractive reflections. Even better, use a light tent (see www.digitalcamerawarehouse.com.au) and some inexpensive lights to create the perfect environment for taking great product shots.
  2. Product photography – there is a wealth of information online about how best to take product photographs, but all seem to agree on the following:
    1. Get the lighting right (per previous point)
    2. Remove any distracting elements and place the item on a featureless background
    3. Use depth of field to draw attention to the product

Do a search online for ‘photographing products for website’ and you’ll find a slew of articles on the subject, such as Web Photography ,enhance your photographs in 4 easy steps and DIY Product Photography for your Website.

  1. Editing Photos – now that you have some great photos, you will likely need to touch them up to adjust brightness, contrast and the like, and perhaps remove the background of an image to give it a pure white background. A product like PhotoShop Elements will enable you to:
    1. Remove the background in a photo (make it solid white) – see here for an example tutorial on YouTube
    2. Touch up colours
    3. Remove flaws
    4. Resize the image, and more

There are also a range of tutorials online covering different types of photography. A few good tutorials covering photographing clothing, jewellery, glass, flowers, crystal and the like can be found at: http://www.ezcube.com/step-by-step.html

And if you want to get really serious about improving your photography skills, amateur and professional photographer community sites like photo.net can be a great resource.

Faststore solutions provide a large range of features for utilising images throughout your website, including:

  • inserting images into pages, blog posts, newsletters and news items
  • rotating images on your homepage and feature pages
  • image galleries
  • multiple product images for your online store