The Total Hierarchy of Website Photospdtcseo
Website photos come in a hierarchy as far as how well they serve you (and, you know, bring in business). A lot of companies find it easier to purchase (or even download free) stock photos on their website. However, we’re going to plead a case for why every company should upload their own, quality photos whenever possible.
Consumers Want Real
Consumers are increasingly sophisticated and are often not “fooled” by stock photos. Almost every carpet cleaner out there uses the same stock photo of the man in the nasty white sneakers pushing a carpet cleaner. Consumers know it’s not real. They want to see your real employees, with real before and after pictures to showcase your work.
A photo of a woman with hot stones on her back with lotus and a waterfall in the background is beautiful on your spa website. However, if you don’t even offer a hot stone treatment, customers feel misled. They will notice if your spa looks nothing like the photos (nary a lotus OR a waterfall to be found!?) They may be put off by it if they feel like it’s a misrepresentation. Consumers want pictures (including before and afters) of your actual services. For example, if you provide lash extensions, they would like to see a portfolio of your actual work. An airbrushed stock photo of someone with huge (possibly photoshopped) lashes doesn’t give them what they want.
The same applies to restaurants. Customers are super visual and want to actually see if what they’re ordering literally “looks good.” If they order the smokehouse burger with crispy onion rings, they want the burger in front of them to look like the photo that was presented.
In fact, in all of the above examples, clients would prefer a lower-quality photo showcasing something real over a stock photo that is, frankly, a false representation of who you are and what you do.
A Quick Note: SEO Matters
From an SEO (search engine optimization) standpoint, photos taken by you, of you, at your location, offer valuable metadata uploaded to your website. Personalized photos that have this metadata are prioritized by Google over stock photos. This means real photos will help your site rank above similar websites who are not using their own photography. This alone is a viable argument for not using stock photos.
However, using stock photos is better than having no photos on your website/blog/social media. And within those photos, not all photos are created equally. We’ll break down the website photo hierarchy for you.
Best: Professional Photos
Hiring a photographer to take beautiful photos of your spa/food/product/location is obviously best. Food photography and product photography especially are surprisingly tough to get right on your own. Your photographer will understand the lighting and angles needed to show off the product without distracting shadows or exposure problems. A professional photographer can also help pose your models and bring out the best of each subject – even if that subject is just your building.
Good: Taking Your Own Photos
Understandably, it may not be feasible to keep a photographer on staff every time you need a photo or to spend thousands of dollars on expensive shoots upfront.
You may not be a professional, but maybe you know your way around a camera and have a basic understanding of lighting. If you don’t, maybe you’re willing to learn. Uploading your own photos of your work is the next best option to hiring a professional photographer.
Have you ever been on Pinterest and skipped over a recipe because the photo quality made it look less appetizing? The quality of photos matters, and food bloggers know this better than anyone. Many bloggers take photography courses to capture their food in ways that make people want to open those recipes.
Obviously a blogger can’t hire a photographer every time they upload a recipe, so they invest in becoming their own photographer.
These courses come in a variety of price points and are worth investing in so you can showcase your company on a budget.
Passable: Cell Phone Photos
Professional photographers understandably knock on ‘iPhone-ography’ but cell phones have some pretty incredible capabilities these days. Invest in a ring light and take photos of your location, staff, and products/services. A lightbox is great for product photos to eliminate shadows. You can edit them if need be to adjust lighting levels or focus points. These are the next best case scenario when it comes to your website photos.
Last Resort: Stock Photos
Stock photos are beautiful. That’s why they’re available. If you are at a point where it would do your brand harm to upload your own photos, stock photos will work.
Stock photos also make a great placeholder if you’re just getting started. There is absolutely nothing stopping you from replacing them with your own website photos once you’re able to.
Along those same lines, you can work your way up this hierarchy at every step to eventually work your way up to professional photos.
Unacceptable: Low Quality, Grainy Photos
If the only photos available look like they were taken in a windowless basement on a 2012 smart phone, it would behoove you to use stock photos. While people want an honest representation, they will also correlate your photo quality with your quality of work. Dark shadows, over- or under-exposure, blurry, or grainy photos have no place on your website. Poor photos will not convert. They will not excite customers. And they do not breed trust in your brand. You can always upgrade to more personalized photos at a later date (in fact, we encourage you to).
Worst: No Photos
People frankly don’t trust websites, or menus, or shops, that have no photos and rely strictly on text. Google cares about their referrals to websites, and prioritizes user experience. Therefore they prefer websites that have photos and your search engine ranking will reflect that.
Website Photos Set You Apart
Your website photos are one of the easiest ways to set yourself apart from the competition. It’s such a low-risk way to really showcase the work you do. If you show quality (and honest) photos of your food, products, or services, proper expectations will be set. Proper expectations being met or exceeded mean conversions increase and your reviews will improve.
Your clients will not be fooled by the perfectly edited and airbrushed stock photos. They WILL know that the work you’re presenting on your site isn’t your own. Today’s consumers prefer a less polished (but still quality) and more honest representation of businesses when choosing who to work with. Because of this, small businesses may be surprised that even cell phone photos are better than stock photography.
Website Photos Bottom Line
Obviously we are not professional photographers, and that isn’t a service we offer. However, we know a good, conversion-making photo when we see one. We’re happy to consult with you when choosing photos. We’ve also built relationships with neighboring businesses, so we can refer photographers who specialize in the niche you need. We can even recommend a good ring light if you’d like to take your own. You know where to find us.