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Using photographs on your website

Photos are a great way to brighten up your website. Apart from anything else, a good picture will break up the copy and make the pages look more interesting.

Obviously, if you sell products, having photographs is essential. Your customers won’t buy unless they can see what you’re selling. But if you have a service company, photos can be a little more difficult. For example, what sort of picture would an accountant use? Pictures of spreadsheets and tax returns would be pretty dull! Service companies often use abstract images or sometimes landscapes of the area where they’re based.

Plagiarism is a crime!

Many people don’t realise you can’t copy any picture that takes your fancy. Just because something is online, it doesn’t mean you’re allowed to use it. This is plagiarism – theft of someone else’s ‘intellectual property’. You can’t copy pictures from other people’s websites, from Instagram or Facebook … or anywhere else online.

Plagiarism is rife. Some people have no conscience and really don’t care. They don’t think they will be found out and, if they are, what does it matter? Others simply copy pictures they’ve found online because they don’t know any better. Copying anything online without permission will get you into trouble. When you’re caught (and the likelihood is, you will be), you could face legal action.

So now we’ve established the legalities, how do you source pictures for your website?

Hire a professional photographer

In an ideal world, the best photographs are ones which are exclusive to you and have been taken by a professional photographer. They will be appropriate to your company and good quality. But the cost of hiring a professional photographer is often out of reach for a small business. So what else can you do to (legally) source pictures for your website?

Taking photos yourself

If you’re going to take photos yourself, don’t just take one or two – be prepared to take dozens! These days with digital photography, you don’t have to just settle for a couple of pictures, so keep snapping away. That way you can delete the ones you don’t want and you have a better chance of getting some really good photos.

Look at the BIGGER picture

This is vitally important and something that is often forgotten. Before you take the photos, take a long, hard look at the background. What else is in that photograph? What shouldn’t be there? Mugs of coffee, waste paper bins, unfinished sandwiches, etc, can ruin the effect, and the chances are you won’t spot them. A lot of otherwise good pictures are spoilt by things in the background that shouldn’t be there.

Take a few pictures first and download them. Don’t look at the subject – look at the background. It’s often easier to see things in the photograph that you haven’t spotted before. If there are mirrors or windows in the shot, look to see if there are any reflections. While that rogue object might not be in the photo itself, its reflection might be and undo all your hard work.

If you’re getting a lot of light reflection, try closing the blinds or curtains, and putting on the lights. While you might not have a professional photographer’s lighting equipment, there is a lot you can do to improve the quality of your pictures.

Rig up a backcloth

If you’re taking pictures of people for staff photos, for example, it’s quite easy to rig up a backdrop. All you need is a large sheet and hang it over a wall. It doesn’t have to be white. If you can, experiment with different colour backgrounds. A man with grey hair wearing a white shirt can get completely lost against a white backdrop with an amateur photographer in charge!

Product photography

If you’re selling products, ask your suppliers if they have photos you can use. The chances are they will be professionally done and of good quality. However, if you make or assemble your own products, you will need to photograph them yourself. Consider investing in a pop-up light box. They are low cost and collapse down when not in use. You’ll find good sized light boxes on eBay for as little as £20.00. Typically, the light boxes you buy online come with different colour backdrops, but these tend to be in primary colours, which can be harsh. The light boxes have velcro tabs inside, so all it needs is a bit of fabric to create your own backgrounds.

Edit your photographs

There is quite a lot of free editing software available. If nothing else, you should easily be able to crop your photographs to show the subject and cut out the surplus background.

Using an image library

If all that seems like a lot of hard work, there are countless image libraries online where you can buy photographs to use on your website. Most image libraries charge for downloads, based on the size of the image. Although you ‘buy’ the images from the library, you don’t actually ‘own’ them. Instead, you pay to use them under license. The license is specific to you, so you can’t give the images to other people.

If you do some research, you will probably find some sites which allow you to download pictures, free of charge. Currently, a good one is Pixabay. There is no charge for pictures on Pixabay, although you can support the photographers by ‘buying them a cup of coffee’. And be sure to buy yourself one at the same time. Taking photographs for your website can be thirsty work!

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