4 rules for using photos to impress your website visitors

The photos you use on your website are key to one very important thing. Whether your visitors know it or not, the photos on your website will make them feel something. And those emotions will play a big factor in whether or not people will trust you enough to work with you or purchase something from you. These 4 rules will help you know what to look for when choosing which photos to include on your website and social media.

Resources mentioned in this post:

woman taking photos with iphone

I want to share a very important and interesting statistic with you before we jump into the meat of this post.


MDG advertising found that 60% of online shoppers rated high-quality images as very important to their purchase decision. In fact, high quality images were more important than product information and the reviews or ratings for that product.


Isn’t that incredible? Images are essential to your websites success. I have four rules for you that will help you nail the images that you put on your website.


Where to find photos for your website


Let’s start by talking about where you can even find images for your website. You can use what are called stock images. These are images that a photographer has taken and put them up on a website for other people to use. These can be free or paid. If they’re free, a lot more people online are going to be using them than if they’re paid, but you can use a stock photo on your website. We’re going to be talking a little bit later about how to be careful when choosing stock photos, but they are an option.


Option number two is custom photography, pictures of you and/or your products and/or your actual customers. 


Where you shouldn’t find photos for your website


Where should you not look for images to use on your website? Well, you shouldn’t look on your competitor’s website. You shouldn’t look on friends’ websites. You shouldn’t steal images from people on Instagram. You should not use a Google image search. Don’t simply go to images.google.com and search for an image. Those images are not stock photos, and if you use them, you’re very, very likely violating copyright and stealing an image. I know most people who do this, don’t realize that they’re stealing an image. Don’t do it. 


Why do the photos I use matter?


So why do the photos on your website really even matter? I already shared with you that 67% of online shoppers say high-quality images are very important to their purchase. Images affect decisions more than the product info or the reviews and ratings.


As I was doing research for this post, over and over and over and over again, I found similar statistics. One trend that I found was that when you take a page that originally did not have an image (ex email list sign up) and then you add a stock image, you are going to significantly increase your conversion rate.


A conversion rate is when you convert somebody from one stage of your business to another stage. So in this case, it would be converting someone from a website visitor into an email subscriber. But the same may be true for a product page.


If you’re selling an e-book and there are no images of that e-book anywhere on your sales page, and then you add an image, you’re going to significantly increase your conversion rate. Depending on the study, it was anywhere from 30%-100% increase in the conversion rate.


The same types of conversion rate increases were seen when you replaced a stock image with a custom image, an image of you or your product or your customers. Crazy. Right?


We’re going to talk a little bit about why this happens later when we get into the dangers of stock photography. But for now, I want to give you the four rules I promised you; four rules for using photos in a way that will actually impress your website visitors.


4 rules for using photos on your website


#1 – Be truthful


A couple of years ago, we were at a restaurant outside of Disneyland. My twin boys had seen pictures of these delicious looking hamburgers. They were huge and they were so excited to get their hamburgers. But, when the server came and brought the hamburgers, they were miniature hamburgers, like the size of a silver dollar. They were tiny little hamburgers and my boys were so disappointed.


This is an example of not being truthful with your photo. The menu didn’t have anything in that image to compare that hamburger to, there was no fork, they were set on a plate, but we didn’t know how big the plate was. There was no fork or knife or spoon or napkin or cup or something else in the picture in order for them to compare the size of the hamburger too. So they felt lied to when they got their hamburgers.


You want to make sure that your images are truthful. You don’t want to create expectations for you or your products that are going to be unmet through the photography that you used on your website.


#2 – Evoke Emotion


People act when they feel an emotion. When they feel a negative emotion that they want to get rid of or a positive emotion that they want more of, that’s when they’re going to be willing to act, to continue reading, to join your email list, to click over to your website from Instagram, to purchase, whatever the action is, they’ll do it when they feel an emotion.


One of the most powerful ways you can convey emotion on your website is through your images. There was a study done (I can’t remember the actual reference), but it teaches an important principle that I want you to understand.


Researchers brought people in and they showed them images that switched so quickly that there was no way that people could actually consciously process what it was that they were seeing. And they showed images to some people that were happy, motivating images, and they showed others depressing and sad images.


When they came out the participants could not name one image that they actually saw, but the people felt the emotions the researchers presented. The happy group felt happy. The people in the angry group, they would come out and say, “I’m frustrated. I’m angry.” People in the sad group would say, “I feel hopeless and down and just sad.” Isn’t that amazing?


Images have so much power to evoke and create emotions in your website visitors. So make sure that you choose images that evoke the emotion you want them to feel.


#3 – Support your point


The second section on your website homepage is what I like to call the FOMO section. It’s a section where we’re trying to evoke some negative emotions in people we’re trying to help them see what their life will be like if they don’t work with you or purchase your product.


We’re also trying to help them feel understood. We’re trying to teach them them, in that section, that we get them. We know what it feels like to be where they are. We understand these negative emotions that they’re currently feeling that they would like to get rid of.


So many times, as I’ve designed websites for people, I’ll pick a picture for that section that evokes a negative emotion. It’s not a happy picture.  I don’t go way overboard and create something super spammy, but if I’m looking through pictures that the person has given me of them, I’ll choose one of the more serious pictures. Or even a picture where they look slightly sad or frustrated or confused. That’s the picture I’ll choose to put there.


And always, every single time, my clients will say, “I don’t like that picture of me. Please put a happy one. Please choose this one.” It’s always a happy picture. But now we have a fight for the emotions that we’re trying to get people to feel.


We have a picture of somebody looking too happy and inviting and excited, and we have these emotions that we’re talking about and it creates almost a feeling of mistrust. “Why do you look so happy when you’re talking about how sad or frustrated I am?”


You want to avoid this on your website, make sure that your images match the point that you’re trying to make. And not just the emotion of your images, but the images themselves. 


My assistant, Audra, picks all the images for each one of these posts that I create. I’m looking at some of the images that she has chosen. Episode #88, ‘How to impress people by giving up on sounding smart and dumbing it down instead,’ and she chose an image of books stacked with glasses on top. It makes you think of being smart, right?


Another example, ‘8 simple tips to increase your email open rates,’ which is episode #50, she has a picture of somebody opening a gift. On episode #38 of The Goodness Squad podcast, ‘7 ways to fight imposter syndrome,’ she has a picture of a mask. If you’re an imposter, you might be wearing a mask. You want your images to match whatever it is you’re talking about.


#4 – Image of you or your product


Why would this rule be so important? Why not just use stock photos that you can find on the website or that you could find online for free?


When you use custom photography, you are building the know, like, and trust factor. I like to call this your KLAT. This is what will get people to take action with you. We talked about how emotion will do that, but they actually need more than just emotion – they need to know, like, and trust you and feel an emotion.


When they feel an emotion and the KLAT factor is there, that’s when they are going to move forward with you and join your email list or go over to your website or purchase from you. If you don’t have images of yourself and your products and your people on your website, then you could actually be damaging that KLAT factor.


When you get custom images, they become extremely specific. Instead of just showing someone reading the scriptures or reading the Bible, you’re showing someone reading with an actual quad – Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price – and maybe your own scripture study guide. That is a more truthful image.


In addition, at a stock photo site it’s going to be really hard to find the exact image you need. And even if you find it, it can sometimes take you hours to search through these huge sites and find an image that really conveys the emotion that you want to convey. But when you have your own custom photography, you can create the exact images you need.


As a review, my four tips for images on your website are:

  1. be truthful with your images
  2. make sure your images evoke emotions
  3. your images should support the point you’re trying to make
  4. as often as possible, your images should be of you, your products or your customers.


How to take brand photos for your website


So how do we go about getting these fancy schmancy custom photos? Well, there are a lot of courses out there that will teach you how to use your smartphone to get amazing pictures. 


Even in just the last five years, the cameras on our phones have come so far and you can get pretty high-quality photos if you simply know the basics of how to use your phone’s camera. Combine that with a ring light and a remote for your phone, and you can take some great pictures of yourself all on your own.


You could also hire a photographer. Have them come to your home or to your favorite outdoor space to take pictures. Or you could rent a space. Look for a natural light studio, Google natural light studio in your city and see if you can find a studio, that you can rent for an hour or two, where you can go and take pictures with a professional photographer.


If you feel like you can’t afford that, think through if you could trade with them. Could you give them some of your product, even your digital products for free in return for photos for your website and Instagram? This is actually how I very first started.


My first counselor in the Primary presidency was a photographer and I asked her, “Hey, can I trade food storage for photos with you?” And she said, “absolutely.” I gave her free food storage and she would come over and she would take pictures of me for my website and for my recipe book.


Another option is to come to The Get Stuff Done workshop. This is an event that happens twice a year, every six months or so, where we get together for six full days and we work on our businesses for 12 hours a day. I am there. My assistant Audra is there. My designer Jamie is there. We walk around helping you get stuff done for your business.


One of the things that we get done are a whole bunch of photos for your website. In fact, we rent an Airbnb so that you can get the exact type of photos that you need. Need grass? We’ve got a backyard. Need a kitchen? We’ve got one. Need a bathroom or a laundry room? It’s there.


What about stock photos?


Let’s move on to stock photography. What if you need to use stock photography? I understand that on occasion, that is a need. I will occasionally use stock photography, both for my website and for my client’s website. But what’s the problem? What are the dangers of stock photography?


#1 – Waste of Time


You can go spend a few hours on a photo shoot and get a hundred photos that you can use for a long time on your website and on Instagram. If you have to spend an hour, every single time you need one photo, in order to search through a stock photography site, that is a waste of your time.


Go spend a few hundred dollars to get the professional photography because that time will be better spent creating products and supporting your customers and your website visitors. I promise that will be far more profitable.


#2 – Misuse


Another danger is accidentally misunderstanding the license for your photos and then misusing it and using your photos in a way that is not legal.


#3 – Too Vague


How many times have you gone to the contact us page for a website and you see a woman there, she’s smiling and she has a little headset on and she’s looking all happy, but you know that that’s not the person you’re actually going to talk to?They’re just very vague again, when I mentioned earlier, you could find a picture of somebody reading scriptures, like the Bible, but that’s far more vague than somebody who is actually using a quad and your personal scripture study guide.


#4 – Giving Credit


So you have to add text underneath it and a link back to their website and this can be distracting from what it is you’re actually trying to get your website visitors to do. Anytime there’s a link, or somewhere else that they can click, it’s distracting, it’s information overload and we want to keep your website as simple as possible.


#5 – Not Memorable


In fact, they can sometimes make you memorable in the wrong way. Stock photos are going to be used on websites other than your own. And if someone happens to have seen that image on someone else’s website, and then they come to yours, it can create some confusion and a little bit of distrust because they’re like, “oh, Okay. Did they copy them or did they copy them? Where did this photo originate from?”


Most of your website visitors aren’t going to have any idea about stock photos and it’s going to just make them wonder. Worst case scenario, they had a really bad experience with that other website and they bring that emotion with them to your website because they see the same image there.


#6 – Often used on Spam sites and emails


If people have a negative experience with that photograph, they’ll remember it.


5 tips if you need to use stock photos


There is some real danger to your business from using stock photos. But I understand that sometimes it’s needed. I want to give you five tips for using stock photos on your website.


#1 – Always use paid stock photos.


This will mean that it’s far less likely that that photo was used on a spam website. It also means that it will be used far less frequently. So if you go to a free  stock photography site, and you just happen to pick one of the top photos, well, it’s probably been used by a lot of people.


But if you go to a paid photo site and you carefully and conscientiously search for the exact photo that will work well where you need it on your website or in your social media, there’s going to be a far lower chance that image has been used in a spammy way. And it will have been used less often simply because people had to pay for it.


#2 – You can also use a website called Tineye.com.


And if you drag the URL of an image in there or upload the actual image there, it will tell you how often that image has been used. So if you pull it in and it’s been used hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of times, you should probably avoid that image. If it’s been used just a handful of times, maybe click over to some of the websites where it’s being used and make sure that they’re not your direct competitor. 


#3 – If you are going to use stock photos, do not show faces.


This is a huge way to create some mistrust. If you have a stock photo of somebody on your website and they think that person is you and then they meet you or they see you somewhere else on social media or a video, it is going to create mistrust. Avoid using faces.


In addition, you want to avoid using faces when you’re showing a group of people that are supposedly using your product. If it’s a stock photo, it’s not your real product and this again is going to create some mistrust.


#4 – Don’t use the first images that pop up.


So if you go to a stock photo site and they have filters there where you can search for it by most popular, or oftentimes even when you search for something, it will just automatically pull up the most often used images, the most popular images. I want you to avoid those because that means more people are using them.


On some stock photo sites, you can actually filter by least used, least downloaded. That’s what I want you to do.


#5 – Make it your own.


If you know how to recolor it in Photoshop, I want you to do that. Audra does that for my photos, any stock photos that we use, which are typically what we use for my blog post images. She will recolor them so that they are now in my brand colors. Crop it, add text to it, remove the background, change the background, do whatever you can to make that image your own. As long as the licensing allows for it.


I get all of my stock images from Ivory Mix, we’ll put a link to them in the show notes. But the reason I love Ivory Mix is because first, they’re paid. Second, she rarely shows faces.  And third, she allows me to do whatever I want with that image. I can color it, crop it, change it, and truly make it mine.


I highly recommend Ivory Mix. She has a membership that I think you can purchase quarterly or yearly. Well worth it. Not only does she have images in there, she has Canva templates, she has a few videos now, short little video clips that you can use. She does an excellent job creating stock photos that will work well on your website.


So let’s go back and review the four rules for the photos on your website:

  1. Be truthful
  2. Evoke emotion
  3. Support the point you’re trying to make
  4. Whenever possible, make sure the picture is of you, your products or your customer. If you must use stock photos instead, make sure you use paid stock photos Use Tineye.com to check how often it’s been used elsewhere.
  5. Don’t show faces, filter by those that are most seldom used
  6. Make it your own

Now that you have all of that information, do you need to go make some changes to the photos on your website?

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Listen Here

This post originally aired as an episode of The Goodness Squad podcast. New episodes are no longer being created, but you can listen to past episodes in your favorite podcast app.

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