Taking Great Pictures for the Web

Nearly every website has some photos on it, and a photo can do more to improve your site than the fanciest design. But the inverse is also true. If you have a bad photo or image on your site, especially if it’s the logo or a product photo, you can damage your site’s credibility and lose customers and sales. The following tips should help you make sure that your photos work well for your website.

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What Is the Subject of Your Photo?

Close up snowy owl
Domepitipat / Getty Images

People and animals are a popular photo subject on web pages. And if you have photos of people or animals you should make sure of the following:

  • Make sure the eyes are visible. Eyes are what people look at when they look at photographs, so a photo where the eyes are hard to see or in shadow is going to be less effective than one with clear visible eyes.
  • Zoom in on faces. Just like with the eyes, faces are more interesting than the entire body in most cases.
  • Get in tight on the subject. Especially with animals, you want to get as much of the subject in your frame as possible.
  • People like action. Action photos of animals or people bring your viewers into the scene.
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Photographing Products Is a Little Different

Ankleboot product image

spera.de / CC BY 2.0

If you’re photographing products for your website, you want to make sure that they stand out. Many people rely on photos to make their purchasing decisions, so having a good product photo could make the sale.

  • Zoom in on the product. If you can’t zoom in, then crop the photo down to just the product you’re highlighting.
  • Light your product well. People won’t want to buy it if they can’t see it.
  • Provide multiple angles. If you can, take photos of the product from multiple sides. This gives your customers more information.
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What Is in the Background of Your Photo?

Siblings taking selfie during football game

Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

So you’ve zoomed in on the face of your dog or taken a full-body shot of your son playing in the sand, but what’s in the background? If the background has too much clutter or noise, the photo will be hard to look at. If you can’t get a good background from where you’re standing you should move or have your subjects move.

Be aware of more than just clutter. Does the background look messy? Are there other things in the frame taking the focus off your subject? And don’t forget mirrors, unless you want to be in the photo yourself.

Always photograph products on a white background. This makes the product stand ​out and makes shadows more effective. If you want to use a colored background, make sure that it’s a solid color. When you can’t get a solid color background on your product image, use photo editing software to blur the background slightly. This will make your product stand out more even with a less than ideal background.

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Don't Forget Lighting

Portrait playful women friends drinking beer and cheering at party

Hero Images / Getty Images

Often what makes a professional photograph stand out from a novice’s is the lighting. Be aware of where the sun is if you’re shooting outdoors. You don’t want to take photos with your subjects directly facing the sun. Yes, they’ll be well lit, but they’ll almost certainly be squinting and that doesn’t look good either. Diffused light is the best for most animal and people shots, because the subjects aren’t called out in harsh relief and shadows are muted.

Fill flashes are a really useful tool. With a fill flash, you can photograph subjects with the light source behind them and their faces won’t be in shadow. And on days when the sunlight is filtered by clouds, a fill flash can highlight things that the more muted sunlight would miss.

Product shots should have good strong lighting. If you want the effect of shadows in your image, using a strong light source on your subject will help develop them. It is always possible to add them in later with Photoshop, but that can look unnatural unless you’re very careful. Besides, the less post-processing that you have to do the better — if only because it’s less work.

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Legal Details

Marble columns and stairs, New York
ozgurdonmaz / Getty Images

Photos of people with recognizable faces should always have a model release. Editorial use of a person’s photo is usually okay, but getting a model release protects you from legal liabilities.

In most countries, it is okay to take photos of architecture without permission if you are on publicly accessible land when you take the shot. But be sure you know your rights and the rights of the building owners before you publish the photograph.