Author: Tom Frederick
When the web was born it was essentially a text only environment, even if you could have included images, your dial-up modem would have died of old age before it downloaded anything.
As speeds increased so did the feasibility of including images on web pages. Suddenly it was possible to include your company logo, pictures of your products and even nice looking images for buttons and backgrounds.
Today's Web has its own challenges in the form of the multitude of devices we use to access information. It used to be that a web designer had a few different screen sizes to deal with, now we have tiny mobile phones, giant interactive TVs, tablets, phablets and wablets. OK I made the last one up but you see my point.
However we access the Web, as users, we demand quick-loading and good-looking pages. This article explains:
What different images mean and how best to use them
The software and methods involved in creating and altering images
How take good photos and where to find good stock imagery
Links to tutorials for common tasks
You work hard at your job, right? You get in on time, you work all day, sometimes you even skip lunch because of that important deadline!
Then how come your smarmy co-worker in the snazzy suit just got promoted instead of you? The trouble is, he just exudes success, professionalism and charisma, and you, well, you didn’t even shave this morning.
This guy may not be as good at his job as you are, but he knows a secret;
People buy ideas, not products
This guy dressed himself to look great, people look at his high quality clothes and confident demeanor and think that his work will be high quality too. Your boss bought into the idea of this guy, not the reality. We can dress our words up with imagery to the same effect. Of course our words will already be of high quality, but the imagery can reinforce that or contradict it.
If our images say poor quality, it doesn't matter what our words say. So let's look at how to create an idea with images.
A nice image is a welcome break from a block of text; it excites our imagination and provides variety. At its simplest, any vaguely relevant image will improve your big block of text.
Want to go a step further than providing a bit of excitement? Then welcome to the world of semiotics – or what images mean.
The study of the meanings of images and symbols is complex and fascinating, I will now insult every designer I know by summarising the whole topic with a few simple rules:
Everyone associates certain imagery with certain emotions, so a picture of delicious food makes us feel hungry, a monster makes us feel scared etc.
We love to look at pictures of people
We love attractive people the best
We particularly enjoy facesIf something looks expensive we are willing to pay more for it
If something looks cheap it looses all credibility
A picture which makes us feel a certain way, put next to some text, makes us feel that certain way about the text too
One final word...Context! Yes we love attractive people, so if you are selling suncream, by all means have some sexy types slathering themselves in the stuff, ticks a lot of boxes.
If you are advertising funeral care or nursery schools, keep the clothes on. Context alters meaning.
If it looks good, we believe it to be good
We like to look at images, it will help the user to engage with your page
Use a brilliant image to make users associate your page with brilliance
Context is king, don't let it kill your content
So you have loads of photos, you bought them online, took them yourself or whatever (we will look at sourcing imagery at the end). Now you need to make them ready for the web. This means:
Red-eye and touch-ups
Fixing the colours
There are three programs I suggest but you only need one of them:
It is the program the professionals use, it does all the clever stuff you want plus loads of clever stuff only a graphic designer would ever use. It costs a small fortune and you probably don't need a tenth of its features.
Cost: £8.79 Per Month
Pretty similar to Photoshop except it is free. It is complicated to use but easy to learn thanks to a wealth of online tutorials. Many professionals use GIMP, and as it is free, I would recommend giving it a try.
This is another free program. The main appeal of Photo.NET is that it is much more simple than the other two programs. If you just want to crop your images and resize them for your web site, then you can do this with only a gentle learning curve.
Small images load quicker
Learning a good photo editing program will make all the difference
Spending a little time can turn a happy snap into a David Bailey (sorry Dave)
Did you know he's not really the head of the company? He is just some actor they hired!
Some handsome guy puffing smoke into the camera just had to say “Mmmmm” and we were hooked on whatever cigarettes he was pushing. But these days we are more skeptical of the products we buy.
We are all working on the assumption we are being scammed, but deep down, we want someone to trust. Which is why...
Honesty means not hiring an actor to be the head of the company. People want to see the real guy, the fat balding guy with the awkward smile. Why? Because they know they can trust him.
With that in mind, the best images are the most truthful, take photos of your actual employees, your genuine premises, your real products. Stop pretending you are a multinational if you are just a one man band. Let people in on your real world.
Of course real doesn’t mean bad, so clean the office, have a shower, and hire a good photographer.
If you have to use stock photography, then take time to get good quality stuff.
If you take a photo, you own the rights to it. If someone uses your photo without permission then you can (and people do) take them to court. If you use a photo you didn't take, make sure you have permission to use it. If the photo doesn't come with any rules on its use, then do not use it.
The same goes for people's faces, people own their faces, you need to get written permission to use a photo of your employees, customers, models etc.
Here is a list of good free sources.
Truth makes people trust you
Choose stock images carefully
Never use an image from the net without permission
Editing photos can be a daunting prospect, here are some great tutorials which walk you through the most used tools: