Full Service Digital Agency

Selecting high quality imagery for your content

In this article:
  • What's in an image?
  • What is beautiful?
  • What does it take to find good imagery?
  • Understanding the physical space you have
  • What are the elements that make a good image?
  • Breaking down some examples
No doubt, if you are in digital marketing and marketing in general you will need to make a choice or have some input into imagery selection.You may not have an eye for design, but there is some quick theory and tips you can use to make sure you can provide directed and specific feedback (your designer will love you), or you will be more capable of producing a higher quality imagery selection to help reinforce the quality of your other content.

What's in an image?

An image can make or break how good or bad an image look. Which is why we at Lamb can spend a considerable amount of time looking for quality imagery to use in our websites.We see imagery as being the work horse of the website interface.Why? Because it takes up a large portion of the visual real estate on the page, and it's generally the most interesting and engaging part of the website.

What does it take to find good imagery?

1. TimeIn some instances, we can spend an entire hour looking for single simple image. If you want a great image, you are going to have to spend time.2. MoneyThe money you spend will influence the quality of shots It also takes money (or a lot more time if you can't spend the money)
  • If you don't have any money to spend - you could try Pexels
  • If you had some money to spend - Shutter Stock and iStock Photos are good.
  • If getting the perfect shot is the most important thing - you could try Getty.
Failing that, you could always hire someone to take a shot for you. But for the most part, we work with what has been done before.3. Creativity with search keywordsBeing really creative with keywords can really make the difference. It's common if you are searching for an image on a common topic to get a result set that are all the common stockey images that you see every day.By being creative, you can try and get images that present a different perspective of what you are trying to achieve.Remember, the image doesn't always need to be a literal or direct conceptual representation of what you are trying to communicate.

So, what is a good image?

There is general consensus of what could be considered 'aesthetically pleasing' from a low to medium high rated website.However, at higher levels of rated aesthetic('I love this'), things can become a bit more subjective and based on individual thematic tastes, emotions and story, rather than technical photography and communication ability.We tend to look at a balance between the technical composition of the shot in addition to communication ability rather than trying to reach for un-quantifiable 'somethingness' about the perfect image.Aesthetic attributesWe look for images that have been composed well, that have a good use of colour and subject matter.CommunicationUnderstand what the point of the image needs to be. If it to add some visual texture to the page, then don't feel you need to be too bound to the subject matter.For example, if you were build a website around the airline industry you look look at:
  • Planes - taking off, in the sky
  • Radar systems
  • Sky / clouds, weather
  • Macro shots of air plan (macro shots are up close shots of something)
The more you can try and find additional connective ideas for your concept, the more interesting the site will look.

Understanding the physical space you have

One of the biggest issues we find when we are supporting customers with imagery is an understanding of what the implications of cross device compatibility are.This complicates an already difficult subject of aspect ratio.Fixed aspect ratioIf you have an image with a fixed aspect ratio, then you need to choose an image that will match the exact shape of the image as it presents on the front end. You don't need to worry about how the image will present with the vastly different heights and widths of a responsive image.Responsive aspect ratioThis is very common in will width banners, particularly on your home page. These can present a serious issue when trying to find something that will work on an iPhone through to a full sized desktop machine.Ideally, you would be able to define two images a landscape image for desktop, and a near square version for mobile. This means the landscape version of image doesn't need to cater to for such a broad range of device sizes.If you have the one image version used across all devices. Find an image where the subject is placed near the center of the image will mean that the communication of the image will survive having 1/3 of the image clipped on the left and right hand. Ideally the image wont have too much happening on the extreme left or right of the image.Important note: And text in your images on desktop tends to be completely unreadable on mobile screens.

What are the elements that make a good image?

  1. Clarity of subject
  2. Lighting
  3. Depth of field
  4. Palette matching
Clarity of subjectHas the shot been composed in a way that correctly positions the subject in the frame. This doesn't mean your subject is dead center in the image. There is some interesting theory about the golden ratio and image composition. We also like to think that the placement of the subject 1/3 into the top, bottom, left or right can be interesting.LightingPerfect lighting is the hallmark of bad stock-ey imagery. You will often see it with a group of perfect looking people sitting in business clothes at a board room table smiling at a pie chart.Perfect lighting looks cheap.Try and find images that have lighting that is more real, and interesting.Depth of fieldDepth of field is the effect where part of the image is out of focus by way of the effort of the photographer to bring attention to the subject. This will often result parts of the foreground or background being largely incomprehensible.The problem if there is no depth of field is that there can be too much to look at, and it doesn't bring our attention to the subject - which we want.Palette matchingIf your site is full of red branding, and you put in a green image. Unless you are going for a Christmas vibe, that may not be what you are trying to achieve.Images have context. So understanding whether you want to be bringing life the page, or needing something more understated

Quick demonstration of images

Look at the following images, what is worth noting?Here are our thoughts:
Image 1
  • Interesting shot, but it's not quite working.
  • But there is no depth of field. We can see detail from the grass at the front to the mountains behind.
  • Lighting is flat an uninteresting.
Image 2
  • Perfect lighting - it it's too artificial.
  • Avoid imagery with perfect lighting unless it is to demonstrate a product
Image 3
  • An overall poorly composed shot.
  • There is no focus or feature about this photo.
  • A happy snap of a bunch of lambs.
Image 4
  • Looks promising.
  • Clear photo subject.
  • Interesting lighting.
  • Depth of field (the background is blurred out)
  • Possible vacant space that could allow for some content.

Additional Resources for image selection

There are zillions of resources online that can help you improve your creative and design capability.  Tell us what you think! If you would like to talk to us about this article, drop us a line on [email protected].