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You’ll want to hire professional (or semi-professional!) photographers to give your site the best edge over your competition, whether you’re building a new website or refreshing an old one. Why do you need photography? To introduce your audience to you, your team, your products, your service… if a “picture speaks a thousand words,” then you have to make sure you’re using the best words-or photos in this case-that you possibly can. Here’s some tips we advise clients to share with their photographer to make the most of their skills, and to give your website that pro look.

1. Tell photographers to shoot in “landscape”

Unless you’re on a smartphone, your monitor is wider than it is taller. Even your smartphone can be turned on its side for the same effect. Why are computer monitors, televisions, and movie screens wide instead of tall? Take a look in the mirror! Your eyes are side by side, not vertically arranged! Your field of vision is wide. So are all your screens. In order to fill the width of your website browser, you’ll want photos shot in the same orientation. You would be surprised to learn the amount of photos we reject for use in a website (without massive cropping and editing) simply because of their orientation!
Vertical example of an image -- photographers love shooting vertically -- don't let them!

Vertical Example

Why not a tall shot? Your eyes aren’t on top of one another. They’re side by side. Your visual field is more wide than tall. Further, you have more room to play with in a wider shot.
Horizontal example of an image

Horizontal Example

Wide shot—much better! You can always crop a photo with more room on its sides than a vertically shot photo.

2. Whatever the subject is, don’t crop with the lens

Most traditional photographers are used to shooting like they would for print. They are making a pretty picture look like it should for framing. But with web design, there is more often than not the desire to isolate the subject—a person or product usually—in order to give it either prominence, give it a new background, or give it greater focus.

For example, take this fellow here:

Look ma—half of my arms are gone!

The photo looks good, but the photographer framed the subject in the lens of the camera, not afterward in a photo editing program. “So what?” you ask. If you wanted to use this photo in a more creative way, say putting this gent in a forest, you’ll get something that looks like this:
What’s missing? Look at the sides of his arms! So we’re limited to what we can do with this head shot. We can only really use it as the photographer shot it, and nothing more. The photographer should have shot this instead:
Now we have the full upper torso, including the arms! Mask out the white background, and put him in the forest. You’ll see a much better effect:
The same holds true for products. If the photographer uses the lens to crop the photo, you wind up with this:
If the photographer provides more room around the product instead, you can see everything, including the corner of the phone!

3. If you need people photos, be sure the subject is relaxed!

There are reasons that models get a lot of work: They know how to look relaxed and confident in front of a camera. Most of us are used to birthday party shots where someone says, “Say CHEEEESE!!”. We’re not used to smiling on command, and when we do, we look forced, stiff, and a little maniacal.

Scary, right? Not a great look. Your photographer should be able to get you to be at ease. Try opening your eyes as much as possible just before the shot and then relax. Think of something funny, like a joke or a movie. The more you’re able to think of something that makes you smile the less forced the smile will look.

Much better!

4. If you’re working with a web designer, let them give you some direction

Art direction is quite subjective, but if you’re working with a good website designer, you’ll want to follow his/her lead. And remember, you’re not advertising to yourself, but to an audience that’s learning about you. It might seem to you quite obvious that you need pictures of your office and staff, but how they’re posed and shot can make a big difference. And unless you’re a photographer yourself, you might not see the photographic potential that’s right under your nose. Bottom line: Don’t only listen to photographers when it comes to the kinds of photos you need for your site. They’re thinking like photographers. Effective websites benefit from some best practices like those mentioned above, and photographers don’t usually think like website designers.