A single image has the power to tell a story, grab your audience’s interest or make a statement. The photography you choose for your web designs sets your work apart from every other designer out there. You’ve heard that a picture is worth a thousand words — but it’s also important to think through exactly what a photo says.
People tend to skim past the content they see online, only reading around 20 percent of the words. Visual elements have a much stronger impact for this reason alone. Photography’s impact on visual-heavy media, such as web design, is far-reaching.
Here are seven ways photography impacts web design and what it means for your efforts.
You’ve probably noticed the trend in recent years toward hero images, or a large image above the fold that fills most of the screen and tells a story about the brand or product offered. The first thing a visitor sees when landing on the page is the hero image, so the photo needs to be startling, vivid or impactful in some way.
Relevant and unique photos show site visitors that real people maintain your site. Highly specific photos add a level of authenticity you won’t get using only stock photos. Not only should your photos be customized to your products and services, but you also want them to reflect the overall personality of your brand. Think about the composition and even the lighting of the photos when taking pictures. If you can afford it, invest in a professional photographer.
Although stock photos still have a place in design work, more and more brands see the value in using images that are highly relevant to their products. Pictures of people using the product, close-up views, and 360-degree videos all play essential roles in creating an e-commerce experience that mimics what the consumer would see in a brick-and-mortar store.
The last thing you want is a site that features the same stock photography as your competitors. Using unique photographs creates an opportunity for your brand to stand out.
Rather than photography changing web design, mobile devices changed the way we use photographs. Because so many more people access the internet via their mobile devices these days, it’s vital that photos are optimized for mobile usage. Images should respond to different screen sizes and adapt so they have the same scale as they do on a bigger screen.
Photos offer the opportunity to provide consistency throughout your design. Think about the composition of the photos and even the sizing. For example, if you want all your photos to be used in landscape orientation, that will make a difference in the framing of the images. Think about the different places you’ll use your photos — elements that can remain the same throughout all photos and what unique factors you’d like to add.
It takes the average person less than a second to form a first impression of your website, and they base their opinion mainly on the look of the design and whether or not it pleases them visually. Beautiful photographs add a modern feel to your website and allow you to generate emotion in the viewer from the moment they land on your page. A photo used as the background ties together other elements on your page and pulls everything together as a symmetrical whole.
A great image can be used to help draw a consumer’s focus where you want it to go. What is the number-one goal of your landing page? If it’s to convert a site visitor into a newsletter subscriber, then utilize a sharp image to pull interest to where your newsletter signup form resides.
The image should tap into the most likely emotion of the person visiting your site. If you sell baby gates, then the mom’s pain point is fear for her child’s safety. Show a safe, cozy family scene with a baby gate protecting the child, and you’ve tapped into a powerful emotion.
Highly branded photography allows you to express who you are through your designs. Figuring out ways to brand your company using photographs is a challenge worth tackling. The right photographic elements change the way you design and the impact your visual marketing has on your target audience.
Lexie Lu is a writer and coffee lover. She enjoys covering topics related to UX design, web design, social media and branding. Lexie is a contributor to Marketo, Website Magazine and Business.com. Feel free to subscribe to her design blog, Design Roast, or follow her on Twitter @lexielude