Tips for Selecting the Perfect Images for Your Website

Subject matter and other considerations for your site images

We've all heard the saying that "a picture is worth a thousand words." This is absolutely true when it comes to website design and the images that you select to include on a site.

Choosing images to use on your website can be a challenging task. Besides being important to the impression that the site conveys and the overall success of that site, there are also technical considerations to understand online image selection.

First, you need to know where you can find images to use, including sites where you can download images for free as well as resources where you will pay to license photos for your use. Next, you need to understand which file formats are best used on websites so you know which versions to download. As important as these first two steps are, the third step in this image selection process is even more challenging—making a decision on the subject matter of the photos.

Determining where to find images and which formats to use are logistic and technical considerations, but selecting the best subject matter is a design decision, which means it is nowhere near as cut and dry as those first two. Thankfully, there are some simple tips that you can follow to help you make the best choices for your particular project.

Woman with binoculars

The Value of Uniqueness

Many companies and designers turn to stock photo sites when they are searching for images to use on websites. The benefit of these websites is that they have an impressive selection of images to choose from and the pricing on those images is usually very reasonable. The downside to stock photos is that they are in no way unique to your site. Anyone else can visit that same stock photo site to download and use the same image that you have selected. This is why you often see the same photo or models on lots of different websites—all those images came from stock photo sites.

When conducting a search on stock photo sites, be cautious of selecting an image from that first page of results. Many people make a choice from those initial images that are shown, which means that first handful of images are going to be the most frequently used. By digging a bit deeper into those search results, you lower the chances of an image being overused. You can also look to see how many times an image has been downloaded (most stock photo sites will tell you this) as another way to avoid using substantially downloaded or overly popular images.

Custom Images

Of course, a surefire way to ensure that the images you use your site are unique is to hire a professional photographer to take custom shots just for you. In some cases, this may not be practical, either from a cost or logistical standpoint, but it is absolutely something to consider and, if you can make it work, custom shot images can really help your design stand out!

Be Aware of Licensing

When downloading images from stock photo sites, one thing to be mindful of is the licensing under which those images are offered. Three common licenses you will encounter are Creative Commons, Royalty Free, and Rights Managed. Each of these licensing models comes with different requirements and restrictions, so understanding how that licensing works, and ensuring that it fits your plans and budget, is an important factor to consider during your selection process.

Image Size

The size of an image is also important. You can always make a large image smaller and retain its quality (although using images that are too large will have a negative impact on website performance), but you cannot increase the size of an image and retain its quality and crispness. Because of this, it is important to determine what size you need an image to be so that you can find files that will work within those specifications and which will also work well across various devices and screen sizes. You will also want to prepare any images that you select for web delivery and optimize them for download performance.

Photos of People Can Help You or Hurt You

People respond well to photos of other people. An image of a face is guaranteed to get someone’s attention, but you need to be careful in terms of which faces you add to your site. Photos of other people can help or hurt your overall success. If you use a photo of someone who has an image that people view as trustworthy and welcoming, then those qualities will be translated to your site and company. On the flip side, if you select an image with someone who your customers view as shady, those poor qualities will be how they also feel about your company.

When choosing images that show people in them, also work to find images of people who reflect the audience that will be using your site. When someone can see something of themselves in an image of a person, it helps them to feel more comfortable and it can be an important step in building trust between your site/company and your customers.

Metaphors Are Also Tricky

Instead of photos of people, many companies look for images that are metaphorical to the message that they are trying to deliver. The challenge with this approach is that not everyone will understand your metaphor. In fact, metaphors that are common for one culture may make no sense for another, which means your message will connect with some people but simply confuse others.

Be sure that any metaphorical images that you use make sense to the wide range of people who will be visiting your site. Test your image choices and show that image/message to actual people and get their reaction. If they do not understand the connection or the message, then no matter how clever the design and metaphor may be, it will not work well for your website.

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Your Citation
Girard, Jeremy. "Tips for Selecting the Perfect Images for Your Website." ThoughtCo, Jul. 31, 2021, Girard, Jeremy. (2021, July 31). Tips for Selecting the Perfect Images for Your Website. Retrieved from Girard, Jeremy. "Tips for Selecting the Perfect Images for Your Website." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 7, 2023).