How To Choose Photos for Your Website that Work Like a Charm

Image by terriana.

“Pictures could not be accessories to the story ― evidence ― they had to contain the story within the frame; the best picture contained a whole war within one frame.” Tatjana Soli, The Lotus Eaters

Big quality photos are one of the current web design trends. HD photos are eye-catching, they work like magnets for visitors making the websites look modern, professional and expensive.

Here is a great example of theme for design & photography websites with impressive imagery:

theme for design & photography websites

As you see, beautiful photos serve not only for the aesthetic purposes, they help you present your brand and your products/services.

Shopping Bag Design Template for Fast Food and Restaurant Company

Shopping Bag Design Template for Fast Food and Restaurant Company


Side note:

Photos are not the only graphic elements designers use at site creation. Today vector graphics dominate the web. It’s quite natural as the SVG, EPS, and PDF graphics file formats are completely different than raster graphics file formats of JPEG, PNG, and MPEG4. SVG is completely independent of the resolution of the rendering device, which is a must today.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standard for vector graphics is Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG). In recent years, SVG has become a significant format. Serious sites, like Wikipedia, for instance, prefer SVG for images such as simple maps, line illustrations, coats of arms, and flags, which generally are not like photographs or other continuous-tone images. Rendering SVG requires conversion to raster format at a resolution appropriate for the current task. SVG is also a format for animated graphics.

There is also a version of SVG for mobile phones (SVGT - SVG Tiny version). These images can count links and also exploit anti-aliasing. They can also be displayed as wallpaper.


How to choose attractive photos for your site

If you ask any web professional how to pick out really stunning photos for your project, most likely you’ll hear something like that: “The best way to get terrific pictures is to take them yourself!” Yes, that’s the truth. The photos will be unique, top-quality, and relevant for your particular project.

However, not all of us can take decent photos or have time/desire to study photography. Of course, we can hire a photographer, but services of a good one are rather expensive. This may be an option if you are building a website for your own business and are not too tight on budget.

But if you are a designer developing website templates, it’s not cost-efficient to hire a photographer for each and every project. That’s why most savvy developers, as well as site owners, prefer free photos. Down below you will find a list of most credible photo repositories that are worth to bookmark in order to save time and efforts when you need the next portion of fresh images.

Here go a few tips that might help you choose the most appropriate picture for your site:

1. Try to be unique

We have already discussed above that many companies and designers search for images for their sites on stock photo resources. These websites really offer a huge selection of images. The downside of stock photography is that they are not unique. Anyone can act like you: visit the same stock photo site and download the same image for further usage. This is the reason why we often see the same photo or models on different websites. All those images came from the same resource.

You can try to minimize the recognizability of your photo by picking out the ones that are not on the first page of results. Chances are that the images on the first page are going to be the most frequently used. Dig deeper into search results and reduce the chances of choosing an overused image. You can also see how many times an image has been downloaded if the website shows the info. This is another way to avoid using most frequently downloaded or mega-popular images.

2. Consider using custom images

This is a surefire way to ensure that the images you use are unique. Consider hiring a professional photographer to take custom shots just for you. We know that it’s not practical in most cases. For instance, from a cost or logistical standpoint. But it is the tip to consider as custom shot images can help your design stand out.

3. Beware of licensing

Mind the licensing under which images you download from stock photo sites are offered. You will encounter with three common licenses: Creative Commons, Royalty Free, and Rights Managed. Each of these licensing models has different requirements and restrictions. You need to understand how this or that licensing works to ensure that it fits your plans and budget. It is an important factor to consider during the process of selection. BTW, we will cover this matter a bit soon, just read on.

4. Image size matters

Image size is important. Just agree that you can always make a smaller image from a larger one and retain its quality. But it’s impossible to increase the size of an image and retain its quality and crispness. So, you’d better determine what image size you need and search for files that will work within your specifications and across various devices and screen sizes.

You will also surely want to prepare the selected images for web delivery and optimize them for download performance.

5. Photos of people: will they help or will they hurt?

People’s images stir emotions. A close up of a person’s face is a well-known attention grabber. But you need to be careful with faces you post to your web page. Photos of other people can affect the success of your business. For instance, if you use a photo of a person/people who has/have a trustworthy and welcoming image, then these qualities will be automatically translated to your site and company. On the flip side, if you select an image with someone who seems shady to your customers, your customers will associate you and your company with same poor qualities.

When you choose images showing people in them, search for photos that reflect your viewers. If site visitors will recognize something of themselves in an image of a person, it will help them feel more comfortable and can become a kind of bridge in building trust between your site/company and your customers.

6. Use metaphors to your favor, not on the contrary

Some people look for images that are metaphorical to the message they are trying to deliver instead of people’s photos. This is a challenging task as not everyone will understand your metaphor. Remember that metaphors common for one culture make no sense for another. This means that your message will be clear for some people but confuse others.

What you need to do is make sure that any metaphorical images you use are understandable to the most of your site visitors.

The best option here is to test your images showing them to real people and watching their reaction. If the image and the message are obscure to your test group, then no matter how smart the design and metaphor is, it will not work well for your website.

Please take a look at the following text in order to avoid issues with visuals’ copyrights.

Let’s imagine that you found a beautiful photo on Flickr. You downloaded it, posted on your site and put a photo credit. Do you think that you’re free from copyright infringement? You must ask the photographer’s permission and be ready to pay him/her some money.

Search online for ‘free stock photo’. But even those pictures won’t be fully ‘open source’.

You’ll need to read the license terms before using them. If you have an e-Commerce site (your website is earning money for you), some ‘free’ images may not be available for you.

Copyright law is different in various countries. For instance, in UK photos from before WW2 are considered to be out of copyright. And if your photographer has been dead for 70 years, then their work is out of copyright either.

Take into consideration that if you use images online without permission, it is now possible and pretty easy for photographers to track you down. Images can now be searched similar to the word phrases.

If you are not making money out of your site, then all that may happen is a request to take the images down. Or you may receive an invoice. The invoice could be large if you are making big money from the use of someone else’s images.

So what should you do to avoid such unexpected situations? It’s simple, get free photos with a license or terms that allows you to do whatever you want with them.

Start with CC0 licensed photos

The Creative Commons or CC0 allows commercial use of photos. But even with CC0 licensed photos, double check to see if credit is required.

Attribution or credit to the photographer is rarely required under a CC0 but sometimes it is.

Make sure you understand copyright and trademarks

Just because a photo is under a CC0 license doesn’t mean that you can use the photo if it infringes someone else’s trademark or copyright. Learn what you shouldn’t do in your free photo’s terms.


If people are portrayed in the free photo you need a release from them to use the photo commercially.

Once you find photos you like on a CC0 site and there are no copyright / trademark issues, identify the photographer. When you identify the photographer you will be able to confirm the license is what you think it is.

Track your photos

Create a tracking sheet to prevent problems in the future. Here is a recap of info that you may wish to include:

  • the article used in
  • original name of the photo
  • screenshot of the photo’s original location with the URL and photographer’s name (use “Snipping Tool” or a similar one to figure this out)
  • the final name of the photo (edit it for size and SE0)
  • screenshot of the license and date it

Best free resources for quality photos


Free tools for working with photos


Well, now you have a bunch of tools that will help to make your photos absolutely irresistible. One thing that is left to do is SEO optimize them.

Google is smart, but not enough to guess what’s on your photo. You need to tell her. We are talking about photo titles and alt attributes. They should look like this “photo of a red rose”. A lot of people start to search for the product/service/info they need browsing images. You surely want them to find the images from your site and lead them to your web page, don’t you?

And don’t forget to optimize the size of your photos. They shouldn’t slow down your website. Nobody is going to wait until your content is loading for ages. All you have is 2-3 seconds. All images on your website should be responsive as well in order to look flawless on all popular mobile devices. You can use relevant plugins and extensions for the purpose. For instance, you can use Yoast SEO plugin if you are running a WordPress site.

Wrapping up

We are sure that you knew that cheezy photos will never add a popularity to your site even without reading this article. However, we hope that now you feel inspired by our examples of website templates with pretty photos, know that the images for your resource must be quality, optimized for fast loading, optimized for SEO, and be responsive.

Moreover, all graphics on your site must be SVG. You also got useful lists of free images resources as well as photo editors. We believe you are ready to choose and process photos for your site.

Have any further questions/additions on the topic? Throw them in the comments

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