Your Image Matters, Literally.

Recently, my husband and I started house hunting. Where did we start looking? Why, online of course. Funny thing is, online all you have to go off of is a set of pictures and a few key sentences. Granted, people don’t buy houses online, they have to go in person and see them and then go through all the rest of that jazz, but to even want to see them in person, the pictures have to convince you online first.

It’s amazing that with today’s technology, people will still try to sell you something worth thousands of dollars off of a few dark or blurry pictures. The house may be great, but if you have to squint to figure that out, it’s much less likely to compete with the dozens of other listings with beautiful, professional photography. Some people can see through bad photography, but some people won’t even bother.

If you have a business, you may not be selling houses, but you still are trying to entice people to come to you verses somebody else. The impact of the pictures you choose to represent you online cannot be underestimated. The rules of thumb for house pictures are much the same as the rules of thumb for your website pictures, so don’t fall behind by putting your pictures as your lowest priority.

1. Everybody likes light

People want their house looking open and welcoming, not like a dungeon. When putting up pictures of your product, your team, your office, or anything else, you want to make sure it is well-lit and appealing. Light is incredibly important in pictures for many reason, the most basic of which is that without good lighting, you can’t tell what you’re looking at. While this may seem like a “well duh” piece of advice, it is still consistently ignored. Having glaring lights in the background or dark shadows that cannot be digitally lightened without washing out another part of the image is another common problem to avoid.

2. People want to see the real thing

For houses, obviously you can’t put up stock images of other houses. But for many websites, stock images may be all you find. Stock images have their place, and are nice to use as they have fairly consistent quality. However, people want to see the real thing when it comes to your business. For some businesses, personalized photography may be more crucial than others. If you aren’t product-based, a picture of your team would be great to have on your website. Stock images don’t need to be eradicated entirely from your site, but they shouldn’t exclusively be used either.

3. Don’t hide your basement

Everything looks great, the pictures are well-lit, the house looks great, but something’s missing. When flipping through house pictures, people are going to notice if basement pictures are excluded. Often the exclusion is assumed to be purposeful, and for negative reasons. If there’s something that makes sense there would be pictures of on your website, and there’s not, people may think you’re hiding things too. This is part of the reasons websites should never exclusively have stock photography. Don’t act like you’re hiding something. If you want people to come into your office, show your office. If you want people to meet your team, show your team. If you want people to buy your product online, make sure you show it from every angle. The more you show, the more people will believe you are upfront and trustworthy.

4. When in doubt, hire a professional

If you’re a professional photographer, great. If you’re not, you may want to find one. The cameras included in phones now are much better than they used to be, or you might own a nice camera, but knowing how to properly set up lighting and everything else needed for a great shot goes far beyond clicking the shutter. Some photos merit professional photography more than others. If you’re posting a picture from your office party on Facebook, you’ll be fine taking on that one on your own. But if you need product shots or header images for your website, you’ll want to put your best foot forward.

Your image online may be all someone sees

You may know that your business is great, but others don’t. People are increasingly looking things up online before they see them in person, and even if they’re planning to look you up in person, they’ll probably pull up directions online first. Every time someone looks you up through a search engine, a social media network, or even on their Maps app, they will see an image representing you. What do you want that image to communicate?

Your website is the first and easiest place online to assess your picture quality. If it seems lacking, talk to your web developer about how to you can start updating them, and what size of pictures you need to provide for them.

The way people intake information online is driven by images, from the smallest of posts to trying to buy a house. Your business needs great images to get people’s attention, but in the end it needs a solid foundation to keep it.