So now that you know how to make your photos look great, in this mini class, we’re going to cover where to get photos. But first, I want to take a moment and talk about where to get photos. I see a lot of people who just grab photos they find on the web, download them, or link to them, and slap them up on their website. 99% of the time, this is illegal.
Just because a photo is on the internet does not mean it’s free to use
The photographer owns the copyright and gets to determine who can use it, where, and what the cost will be. I know that might sound outrageous to many of you, but let me use an extreme example: let’s say you have a beautiful picture of your pet cat, we’ll call him Fluffy. Fluffy is looking into the camera and his expressions is, shall we say, an attitude. Now someone finds your picture, and uses it on their website to promote their book “100 ways to kill your neighbor’s cat”. Your photo is now being used to promote something you are very opposed to. It’s not fair, is it?
Well, that photographer may not have wanted their photo associated with your industry and it wouldn’t be fair to use it.
In the worst case scenario, and this has happened to someone I know, they used a photo that was from one of the news outlets. When this particular news outfit found out that the website owner was using their copyrighted material, they had their attorneys contact the web host and file a DMCA takedown notice. The web host took down this person’s entire website. It required attorney’s, fines, and a lot of time to get the issue resolved and get their website restored.
Don’t let this happen to you
So, where do you go for images? There are four main sources for photos for your website.
- hire a professional photographer
- purchase images from a stock photo marketplace
- take your own photos
- use photos that are in the public domain or have a ‘creative commons’ copyright.
I use all of these sources depending on where I’m using them on my website.
You are going to need a headshot, that professional looking photo of you for your about page. Please, please, PLEASE don’t use a cell phone selfie, a bathroom mirror selfie, or that slightly blurry picture of you with your ex cropped out even though we can see his arm around your shoulder. You are a professional and this is the photo that needs to prove it. A professional photographer will set you back about $200. If you’re just too strapped to come up with $200, the local high school has a photography club and I’m sure one of those kids is actually pretty talented.
If you have a product, such as food, jewelry, dog treats, etc, a professional photographer will make that product look great. It requires the right lighting, the right background, and the skill to use them. There are a lot of products for sale on the internet so if the photo of your product looks terrible, no one is going to want to buy it. Do NOT scrimp on this.
Your photographer will provide you with an electronic copy of your photo. Hopefully, she will send you a large size jpeg file. You’ll want to make sure that the version you use for your website is 72 dpi. That will reduce the size of the photo but you might need to make even smaller.
IStockPhoto, Shutterstock, and the like are where professional photographers go to sell their wares. You see stock photos everywhere. When you pay for a stock photo, you are not buying it or paying for exclusive use of it. Others will be able to use that same photo, so try to find one that hasn’t been download 500,000 times already. Also, you are paying for a license to use it. Not to own it. Most of these licenses allow for a limited number of ‘impressions’ (views or uses), but that number is likely around 1 million. If you are getting close to 1 million impressions for an image, you’re likely making enough money to hire a photographer or pay for an extended license.
I’m using a stock photo for my ebook, Your Website is Ugly. The dog. That’s a stock photo. I love that dog.
When buying stock photos, they will already be at 72 dpi, so you won’t need to change that. You probably won’t need the large size, either, unless you are using them for a background. Try to buy the size that is as big or slightly bigger than what you will actually need. I find that the most common size I buy is the small or extra small versions. Those are usually large enough for my purposes.
Your own photos
For blog posts, your cell phone camera will be good enough. You might even get a little artsy with some photo effects. Be daring and go black and white! Cell phones and smaller point and shoot cameras will take good enough pictures for the intimate feel you are shooting for with a blog.
For pictures of your office, treatment room, and the like, go with a better camera. Yes, your cell phone has a kerjillion mega pixels, but it has a lens the size of a bread crumb. Better lens + better camera = less blur and better color accuracy.
If you are taking pictures of your product, you will most likely need a light box and maybe a specialized lens, like a macro lens. There are a bunch tutorials out there on how to build a light box, so if you’re handy, you can do this and not break the bank. A macro lens is going to be spendy, but if your product is small, like jewelry, then a macro lens is going to be the best way to capture it.
Public domain/creative commons photos
These are two very different things, so it’s important to understand the difference.
Public domain means that the copyright on the material has expired. Yes, copyrights expire. When they do, they are available for public use. That’s why you don’t have to pay royalties to perform the works of Shakespeare or Beethoven in public, but you do have to pay royalties to perform the David Mamet plays or Beatles songs. Copyright law varies from country to country, so I can’t give you hard and fast rules here.
Creative Commons is a special type of copyright where the creator of the work specifies how the work may or may not be used. It was setup by Lawrence Lessig (one of my heroes) as an alternative to the ‘all rights reserved’ copyright. For the serious amateur photographer, it gives them an outlet to share their work while keeping some control over how it is used. In many cases, the license asks for public credit (photo by rain dog photography) and a link to their flickr page. They may specify that the work cannot be used for certain purposes, such as pornography or hate groups (most stock photos have the same restrictions), but otherwise, they are free to use and modify as long as you stick to their license. You can read more about this at creativecommons.org.
If you do a google search for “flickr creative commons” you will see that there is an entire section of flickr dedicated to creative commons works. Some of the photographers that contribute are extremely talented and using terrific equipment, although I prefer to use these primarily for blog posts rather than my web pages.
The United States Library of Congress also has a flickr channel with thousands of photos that are in the public domain. Most of these are historical photos, and are scanned from prints. They are complete with spots, scratches and patina and are a wonderful source for posters, postcards, and motivational pictures. I used them in mockups, blog posts, and Facebook posts. You can find them here https://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/
Finding great photos to use on your website doesn’t have to cost you a bundle, but it’s worth the time and effort to make your website and blog posts POP.
If you’ve got a WordPress website that doesn’t look the way you want people to feel about your business, contact me now. We can discuss your site, your needs, and how you can get a website that will knock the socks off your customers.
Did you arrive here by accident? Why not sign up for the free eBook Your Website Is Ugly and get the entire series of bonus articles, too.