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Selecting Photos for Your Site: 5 Foolproof Tips

by Gina Armstrong, Lead Designer

Photo by Patrick Fore via Unsplash

Great photography can take a website from pretty good to great.

However, not every organization has the budget or ability to create a library of high-quality, custom photography. Luckily, there are plenty of stock photo options available, including some royalty-free sites such as Unsplash and Pexels.

In order to get the most out of stock photography — and to avoid the stale or overly corporate look that can sometimes come along with it — you’ll want to follow a few guidelines:

1. Select High Quality Images

Photo by Datingjungle via Unsplash

Be sure that the subject of your photo is in focus and the image isn’t grainy or pixelated. Additionally, look for images that have good tonal contrast.

A good rule of thumb is that if the image were viewed in grayscale, the shades included should range from white to true black. Lastly, opt for images that include a variety of colors, rather than a monotone look.

While you can adjust for color and contrast in a photo editor, it’s always best to start with a good foundation.

2. Pay Attention to the Background

Photo by Jamie Street via Unsplash

Since you want to keep the focus on the subject of your photo, you’ll want to avoid any distracting elements or clutter in the background.

Be sure to crop out any portion that doesn’t fit your brand or add to the overall photo composition. Remember, the image should be something that resonates with your audience and helps reinforce your message.

3. Look for People in Natural Settings

Photo by Sam Lion via Pexels

If you’re using images of people, opt for a natural setting.

For example, if your organization focuses on creating community, look for images of people gathering at an event or having a conversation. You want imagery that feels authentic and is relatable for your audience – and lifestyle images feel less stiff than smiling directly at the camera or standing in an unnatural pose.

4. Be Consistent and Stay on Brand

Photo by Noah Buscher via Unsplash

The overall look and feel of your imagery should be consistent throughout the site.

Additionally, any of the images used should be ones you’d be happy to associate with your brand. If you strive to appear approachable and friendly, don’t choose overly artsy or moody imagery.

When in doubt, try creating a mood board or style guide that include brand assets and inspiration photos. From there, you can better determine if the stock images fit in with the overall vision.

5. Incorporate Custom Photography

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez via Unsplash

While you may not have a full catalog of custom photography, even a few non-stock images can make a big impact on your site.

Sprinkling in photos from events or staff retreats can be a meaningful way to build connection (and trust) with users by showing real examples of who you are and the work that you do.

Ultimately, your site should feel like an authentic representation of your organization and any imagery you use should help your audience connect with your mission. Stock photos are a great tool to fill in the gaps and bring your site to life as long as you know what to look for and what to avoid.

If you ever need help, you can reach out to us.

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About Gina Armstrong

Gina is the Lead Designer at Digital Ink. Gina has explored design while serving various roles in the non-profit sector, developing a passion for branding and digital design. Digital Ink tells stories for forward-thinking businesses, mission-driven organizations, and marketing and technology agencies in need of a creative and digital partner.

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