We were raised to believe that a picture is worth a thousand words. We've been taught this since grade school! It's burned into our minds because it's true.
Imagery will speak volumes about who you are and what you stand for. While you might have the best service or the latest must-have products, if your website isn't showing this off, you won't find the customers you need. When you use your website for lead generation, you need to choose the images that support your marketing strategy.
However, many clients don't budget nearly enough for images. In fact, they hardly seem to think about images at all!
Why Are Images So Important?
It takes less than five seconds for a visitor on your website to make a decision on whether you can meet their needs and do it well. Customers are looking for that "feeling," and if your website doesn't offer it in the first five seconds, they flit away to another website.
What is the one thing most likely to create that "feeling"? An image!
It might be several images that rotate, maybe it's a video, or maybe it's just one large image that tells a story about your brand and the services you offer.
Honestly, a visitor probably won't read all the text on your website, making it essential that the image tells the story. In some cases, potential customers make a decision based solely on the images your website offers before deciding to stay or go. Literally, your choice of imagery could have the power to keep people on the website or send them on to a competitor.
What Kind of Imagery Should You Use?
The truth about images and placing them on your website is that they aren't necessarily budget-friendly? In fact, they can be expensive.
However, when you've committed to promoting yourself professionally with your web design and marketing efforts, you also need to commit to images that make sense, represent the quality of your organization, and aren't overused. Literally, this can be the difference between generating a lead and watching a potential customer leave your website because it didn't have that "feeling."
Many times, this type of commitment includes paying to have photos taken, but there are some exceptions.
It's ideal that the images show your products in the best light and at the optimum angle or share the experience your clients have when they choose your company. Your own photo shoot is really the only way to accomplish that, no matter the expense. A photo shoot allows you to create the feeling you want the website visitor to have when they view your products or consider your services.
Here's an example of a specialty medical practice in New York that conducted their own photoshoot for cancer treatment. When you come to this website you'll get the overall feeling that they want you to have about being a patient there.
When a company loses a staff member, we get a call that the client wants to "re-shoot" the images on their website. However, in most cases, it's perfectly acceptable to leave a photo on your website after a staff member pictured changes jobs or leaves the company.
This particular staff member in the New York Oncology Hematology image may move on to a new job in the future, but the picture is still a valid representation of how they care for patients and there's no need to change it unless it's no longer representative of how the practice functions.
Most people think, "We'll use stock photos because it's a lot cheaper than doing our own photoshoot."However, the cost of a high-quality stock photo can range around a few hundred dollars or more per picture. With stock photos, the cheaper the photos are directly related to its quality and frequent usage by other businesses. We see some of the same stock images used over and over again on multiple company websites.
When you opt to use stock imagery, you need to take the time to find images that really represent your brand and products. The photos should help you stand out, express the right feeling, and have the right "look". If you can find this, choose stock images. In many cases, we spend hours sifting through stock photos, and the client is never 100% satisfied with every image on the site.
The example below from Mission Regional Medical Center shows a stock image we found for their website showing a Hispanic doctor speaking to a woman who you can imagine may also be Hispanic. This was a critical requirement for the photo we chose in order to match the demographics of South Texas. We spent time finding quite a few images in this genre that felt similar, and expressed the same type of feeling. This isn't always the easiest thing to do in order to get the result you want.
Pro Tips for Proprietary and Stock Images
Here are some pro tips that can help you decide which type of photos best suits your needs. Ultimately, you want to utilize images that are in line with your brand and marketing strategy, while staying within budget. In some cases, a proprietary shoot can cost less over the years.
Pro Tips for Proprietary Images:
- Before the photo shoot, discuss the types of photos you want with the photographer. You can bring examples of photos you like and explain how you plan to use the photos. Horizontally-oriented photos are great for website usage. The process of finding example photos will give you an idea of how many locations you need to shoot. This information can help you get a realistic quote from the photographer.
- No, it isn't the same thing as a photo shoot if you use a camera or your phone to take pictures. A professional photographer has high-resolution equipment and an eye for composition, lighting, and bringing out the emotion in photos that most people can't duplicate
- Ask the photographer not to zoom in too close to a subject. You want to be able to crop images to suit your needs without the photos looking odd, even though the image was really cool when you could see the whole thing.
Seriously, don't zoom in...
Here's an example:
In the full size image above you see the dentist and the patient and get a feel for the office's surroundings. Now look at the cropped version that could be the approximate dimensions of a home page website banner image below.
When we crop the image you almost can't see the dentist and you may not be able to understand what you're looking at in the background. Because the staff and the state of the art office are often an important part of healthcare marketing, this photo might not work as well because the subject is too close to the camera.
Therefore, just have your photographer take in the surroundings and leave the creative cropping to your website designers.
Pro Tips for Stock Photos:
- When you find an image you like, use Google's Reverse Image Lookup to see where else the photo appears online. This way you can ensure your main competitors aren't already using the image.
- If by some chance, you find the perfect picture on a website for free, such as Wikipedia, you need carefully review the copyright rules. Some pictures can be re-used without credit, others you can use for free but need to credit the source. Typically, Wikipedia doesn't offer photos that meet the criteria of your marketing strategy.
- Don't rely on Photoshop to make a stock photo fit what you need. (Don't get me wrong, we have done some amazing things in the past to pictures that weren't quite right.) But it's not quick, easy, or free to alter images. You can make some changes, but it's hard to keep the photo from looking fake. It's better to start with a photo that matches your needs as closely as possible and requires few modifications.
Budgeting for Website Photography
You need to add a budget for photography to your marketing plan so you can create the pictures you need to represent your company. Whether you hire a photographer or find stock images, the investment will improve your overall brand value. It also improves the way prospective customers view your company.
Photography is just one of many things we help our clients consider, especially in health care, when working on a website redesign.
For more information on things you need when redesigning your website, download our free ebook by clicking below.
*Originally published January 2016. Revised September 2020.