A Guide to Images

A Guide to Images

Never underestimate the need for quality images that sell for you. When considering what images to use on your site, you need to work out what will help your customers to decide to contact you or buy from you.

Remember the images on your website are likely to be the first thing a viewer scans through before they start to read the text. You need impact and clarity from your images.

This is where some competitor analysis and secret shopping is helpful. Go and look at how your competitors are presenting themselves and make sure that you choose a set of images that compete effectively, but do not simply copy them.

It might be that they have just one image per product. You might consider having a 'full shot' of your item and then a few close-up shots of details. Images sell! It seems obvious, but remember; there is more work involved in taking three shots of an item. People are tempted to shy away from hard work but the work you put into constructing your website better than your competitors will repay you time and time again. Do not be lazy; this is too important.

Every Shot A Hero Shot!
Every image needs to earn its place. You have to spend money or time on them, so make sure they are focused on delivering your message. A hero shot is an image that tells a story at a glance. They don't always have to be taken by a professional photographer with a studio full of equipment , but they do need to be effective.

This is not to say that you cannot use images from your mobile phone, you can; but you need to ensure the image content and composition is correct and right for the place you are going to use it.

The simple basics of photography apply. A steady camera, good effective lighting and composing your image.

You can buy tripods for your camera or your phone for less than $100; these are good items that will last you years. Using a tripod gives your camera a solid base from which to capture more light, with less chance of blurring. If you want to borrow one, we have several in the office, just ask!

If you are taking product shots, using a tripod set up allows you to position items, in a uniform way, to give a solid, consistant feel to your site.

You need to have good lighting to help compose you images. If you have an ongoing need to take images you should invest in a couple of photo lights. They will improve your photography. Lighting doesn't always mean flash photography. Using video lights that use LED bulbs are often just as good for digital photography as they give an even light.

Supplier Images
If you are selling a supplier’s products, you should ask them if they have images to help and support you. Most will have had professional photographers take very good images of their items and most are happy to help you. After all, it is in their best interest to help you sell more of their product.

Self-Taken Images
Make sure when you take your images that you compose the shot correctly. This might be as simple as getting people to tidy their work area to create a good impression or setting up an area to allow you to take uniform product images. Whatever image you are taking remember, it costs you money to take that image, and it is an investment that you want to repay you many fold, so make sure every shot is a hero shot.

With digital cameras and mobile phones readily available, people often dismiss the idea of getting a professional photographer to take images. It is seen as a cost as opposed to an investment. Good photographers are more than just people with big cameras; they are artists. They take images all day and every day; they know how to compose an image and make sure it has an impact. If you do not know any photographers, we do and are happy to recommend them to you.

Image Composition
When considering your images, you need to remember where on the website they will be used. Do you need a portrait or landscape image for the area of the site you are designing?
For example, for the front-page image rotator the images need to be wide, but also quite shallow, so a portrait image will not do. If you are taking images for the staff page, a set of images taken in portrait is the right orientation. Elsewhere on your site the shape and orientation of your images are up to you.

Make sure you remove either physically (or digitally) any spurious items or distractions from the image. Consider the interest the image will generate and how it will attract and focus the eye of the viewer.

Image Libraries
There are also many websites from where images can be sourced. These are image libraries from which you can buy an image and the right to use it on your website. Amongst these are Istock, Dreamstime and our current favourite 123rf.com. On these sites, you can search for the 'theme' of an image, for example 'customer service' and you will be presented with hundreds, if not thousands of images to represent this theme.

It is good once you find an image you like, to also look at the portfolio of the photographer that took it. Often you will find a range of similar shots in the same style that will give your site a uniform feel with regards to its photos. Do not be tempted to simply use any old image from the Internet. There are copyright laws to protect the intellectual property rights of the photographers and site owners and if you steal images from websites you may be prosecuted or sued.

Image Preparation
There are very few images you will be able to put on your site without preparing them in some way first. This may be as simple as cropping out extraneous parts of the image to refocus its subject of the image, through to full Photoshop manipulation.
There are many simple software packages available that allow you to crop images and make simple edits. Please ask us for advice and guidance if you do not have one.
Adobe offers a product called Photoshop Elements that is a baby brother to their market-dominating flagship product Photoshop. Elements costs around $200 to buy and if you are planning to do a lot of images, it is a wise investment.

There are also online editing tools to which you upload your image, edit it and then save the edited copy. Most are free and of good enough quality for basic editing. We recommend pixlr.com.

Tracking Your Images
Images are a precious resource. You need to be organised with your storage of them to ensure you maintain the integrity of the ones you pay for or create yourself. It is essential that you keep master copies of your original images and store them in a safe place. With it being so easy to overwrite files by accident, you need to have a 'master' directory and an 'edited' directory. By keeping the original images in their original format and unedited size, you will have them to return to if, for example, you need them to be used in a printed brochure (you cannot use images from your website in printed material, they are simply too poor in quality).

Within your 'edited' directory it is often helpful to have a document that tracks the use you have put the various images to. It can be a simple spreadsheet that lists which image was used on which page of your site or in which printed brochure. A little housekeeping on your images will help you in the long run.

The quality of the images you add to your website has a dramatic impact on its effectiveness as a sales tool. If you need any help or guidance on choosing images, please talk to us, we have many years’ experience in selecting images for websites.

Too many times we have seen clients simply take information or images from other websites and use it on their own. In most cases, this is against the law. Although the law is rarely enforced, it can be, and it has power.

Just because something is on the internet doesn’t mean you are free to use it on your site to promote your business. In simple terms, if you did not write the text or take the image you want to use on your website, then the chances are you risk breaching copyright law if you just use it without seeking permission.

Competitors Information and Content
Do not in any way shape or form steal either text content or images from competitor’s sites (or any websites for that matter). This will leave you open to being sued. I will repeat that in case you missed it, it leaves you open to being sued.

Supplier Text and Images
If you sell products from another manufacturer/distributor, you will probably find they are happy to supply high-quality images to you to help you sell more of their products. If not, then you need to take your own images. Do not be tempted to take the images from other websites, even if they are selling the same products.

The same is true for the text to describe your products. Most suppliers have standard text that they have spent money to write that they might make available for you to use. All you need to do is email and ask them.

Theft of Images – Do Not 'Save Image As'
As there are many low-cost image libraries from which you (we) can get great images and because most suppliers are happy to give you high-quality images to help you sell their products, there is no justifiable reason why you would ever need to steal an image from another website.

That almost ends the desk banging lecture about copyright but if you need a mental image think about this. Imagine you have spent money getting an image taken of each of your product, the photographer cost a lot, but the results were worth it. The images make your products sell. Now imagine that someone has copied those images from your site and is using them to sell their versions of the same thing. How would you feel?

Intellectual Property rights (IP) are being debated all over the internet, and everyone has their own opinion of it. We like to keep it simple, no grey areas. Do not steal the work of other people.

There is a government website about this, it is very complex, but take a look at this page, and you will understand why people are confused by what is and isn't allowed to be used. http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1994/0143/latest/DLM345914.html

Please Note: If you ignore the above warning (which we will repeat several times during the website building process) then you are the one who will be responsible for facing the fines and public scrutiny. Various countries have laws that can force us to turn sites off if there is suspected IP theft, not just take down the material, but turn off the website.

Our (and your) responsibility under the law of copyright is also covered here: http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1994/0143/latest/DLM1704693.html
The last words to say on the issue of copyright are - be cautious, be prudent and be responsible – Don’t Steal.