Why Photography is an Essential Element of Website Design

Written by Wholegrain Team - May 26, 2016

Getting your business online is one of the most effective elements of your marketing strategy, even if you have a bricks-and-mortar store. Your website is the key to attracting new and potential customers, as it’s a place to showcase your products and services and help people to find your physical store. It’s your shop front on the high street, your calling card.

However, getting people to your website is one thing, but keeping them there is another, much harder, task. You have one chance to make a first impression. And that chance is fleeting – the general rule is that if people don’t like what they see within the first 3 seconds of landing on a website, they will immediately navigate away.

So how can you make the most of those precious 3 seconds? You’ve all heard the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words, but that saying is trotted out repeatedly for one reason – because it’s true.

Here are just a few of the reasons why photography is such an essential element of website design.

1. First Impressions Count

When a visitor lands on your site for the first time and sees a crisp, professional and relevant photograph, it will immediately influence how they see you and your business. For a start, our brains process visual images 60,000 times faster than they can process text, so using images will tell your visitors, in a snapshot, exactly what you do, and can help to convey your ideas and beliefs. It breaks through the overwhelming clutter of online content and saves them from having to plough through a load of text to find out more about you.

What’s more, a professional image will create a good first impression. You will come across as a trustworthy, professional organisation, which means your new visitors will be much more likely to stick around and see what you have to say.

2. A Visual Age

There can be little doubt that we live in a visual age. We surround ourselves with stunning images – on our walls, our computer desktops, etc. Nowhere is this trend more prevalent than online. People are obsessed with Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. which simply proves that photography is an integral part of any website.

Pictures help to engage your audience, add personality, and give your business a more human, accessible feel. Choosing good, engaging photos will naturally lead to more traction on your site – it will help to increase, and sustain, both interest and user engagement.


3. Increase Sales & Conversions

Stunning visuals help to draw people in, so by including a small number of relevant photographs you can entice people to stay on your site for longer, which naturally leads to more sales and conversions. Even better, if you sell physical products, adding clear, detailed photographs of them on your website will carry more weight than a lengthy product description or customer review. Quite simply, in our busy, hurried world, this is far preferable to wading through a long description to find out whether something is suitable for our needs. Of course, if people like what they see, they are more likely to read on to find out more.

And that isn’t the only reason why photographs can have a dramatic effect on your sales and conversions. Photographs also have the power to affect our emotions, so using positive images will conjure up positive emotions. And emotions play a huge part in driving people to make a purchase.


4. Social Media Friendly

In an era dominated by social media, photography is a very important weapon. Visual content is easy to digest and easy to share so by including professional photographs on your website you will instantly make your content more shareable. Not only will your visitors be more likely to share pages with photography that they like, but you can use these pages as part of your social media strategy to reach a wider audience. Photos are fast becoming a universal language and it’s no surprise that Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram are the world’s fastest growing social media platforms.

As an added bonus, social engagement is really good for your website’s SEO.

5. Provide Validation

TV commercials work for two main reasons: they show a product being used, and feature other people praising its benefits and proclaiming how it has made a difference to their lives. This is because people like a third opinion before they buy something, whether it’s an expensive household item, new car or a new item of clothing.

Similarly, including photos on your website of your products being used or worn will help your visitors to visualise what owning those products would be like for them and it will show them what a difference they could make to their lives. Moreover, including photographs of your happy customers will help to provide validation of just how brilliant your product or service is – you can even encourage your customers to send in their own photographs of themselves using or wearing your products.


6. Draw Attention to Your Most Important Messages

Finally, photographs can act as a useful signpost to draw your visitors’ attention to the most important messages you’re trying to convey. As social creatures, we naturally follow another person’s gaze so if you want to emphasise a particular message or encourage your visitors to follow a certain path, including a photo of a human face looking towards the message or call to action, will entice your visitors to follow suit.

This is especially useful as many people browse the internet reflexively, scanning pages to find the parts that interest them, so it’s very easy for them to miss something important.

Stock Photography

These are just a few of the reasons why you can’t afford to leave photographs off your website. But before we sign off, a quick mention of stock photography.

Stock photography once had its place, but people are much more aware of cheesy stock photographs now and they’ll be able to tell in an instant if you’re trying to fob them off with a generic image of people in an office shaking hands. Your visitors want to know who they are doing business with, and they won’t be impressed if you hide behind a mask. Professional pictures of you and your team will help your visitors to connect with you and it will personalise their web experience.

Having said that, high-quality stock photography still has its place if used correctly, and we’ve detailed our favourite stock photography resources here.

Do you agree that photography is an essential part of a website? How has photography made an impact on your website? Join in the discussion below.