How to Select the Best Images for Your Website

Web Design
Mikel Bruce
1/14/2020

Website images introduce visitors to your brand. Follow these steps to make sure your website's images are high-quality, relevant, and helpful to new and repeat website users.

It’s been said that a good picture is worth 1,000 words. On the web, however, a good picture seems to be worth 10,000 words. Images elicit an immediate emotional, subconscious response that sets the tone for your website, and influences whether your web visitors choose to stay on the site. 

Images play a critical role in website design. Every aspect of your website’s design either supports your business’ brand and messaging or undermines it. Selecting the wrong type of images on your website creates a disconnect in the design, sowing distrust in web visitors. 

From stock image licensing to custom photography, here are 5 tips to use the best images for your site: 

How to Select the Best Images for Your Website

  • Always select high-quality images
  • Be authentic to your brand
  • Use stock images wisely
  • Respect image rights
  • Focus on critical web pages

1. Always Select High-Quality Images

Whether you are selecting stock images or using photos of your own, always opt for high-quality images. As a rule of thumb, start with the largest size image possible and then reduce the size or crop it.

If you try to enlarge a smaller image, it will look grainy or blurry. Choose images that have large pixels and are high-resolution in order to keep your site looking its best. 

Remember that when you select an image for a large banner or the hero section of the website, you’ll need an even larger image file size.

After a website project, your web designer should provide a style guide, which outlines the color palette and fonts used on the site. The style guide typically includes dimensions for the major banners and images.

website style guide example

Sizing images for the web is different from sizing and cropping images for printed material. Most websites are mobile responsive, which means the content and images will automatically adjust for the device size. That means a low-quality image will look worse on larger desktop screens that have extremely high resolution. 

It’s important to seek a balance between quality and resolution on a website because very large image files take a long time to load. A skilled web designer and web development team can help you optimize the images on your site to reduce performance issues while still retaining beautiful images.

2. Be Authentic to Your Brand

When designing your website, a skilled web designer will integrate your branding into every aspect of the site design, from the color scheme to the image selection. 

Consistency is a major aspect of brand equity. Customers won’t recognize your brand if they see a different logo or mixed messages every time they come across it. 

Consistency is also important when it comes to your web design; it’s very easy for a web visitor to spot the images that don’t belong. Seeing a few images that don’t match the style of the rest of the site can distract a visitor from really engaging with the site.

When choosing images, you also want to be authentic. For example, try to include photos of your team on the “About” page of the website, if possible. A web visitor will often see these images as a sign of trust that the business is credible. 

If you sell or display physical products on the website, you also need to be very careful about the product images. Customers expect that the product image they see on the website to match the product that they are purchasing. Using stock images that don’t match your actual products can lead to customer dissatisfaction and distrust in your brand. 

3. Use Stock Images Wisely 

You may have a negative reaction when you hear the term “stock images,” but the truth is that almost all websites need to use some stock photos. And rest assured, there is a way to use stock images in a professional and engaging way on your website.

Before you look at either free or paid stock images, think about your product or service. If you are a B2B business and your product or service is very abstract, such as consulting or biotechnology, it can be difficult to depict it with images of people without those images looking very cliché. 

Instead, a skilled web designer might opt for stock icons and illustrations in B2B website design. If stock images are needed, it’s better to select a vague, lifestyle image with a design filter.

There are numerous free stock image websites out there, but these sites tend to have a smaller inventory and the photos are often used on many sites. Consider investing in five to 10 paid stock images from professional sites like Shutterstock or Getty/iStock. These sites each have millions of images to search through and the quality tends to be much higher compared to the free images.

4. Respect Image Rights

When selecting images for your website, it’s essential to respect image licensing and image rights. You cannot just search for an image on Google, save it, and then use it on your website. That would be considered copyright infringement. 

As a general guideline, if you want to use an image that you didn’t take yourself, then you need to purchase the rights to it or get the photographer’s permission. This is why stock images are so valuable. 

Stock image websites have already negotiated licensing agreements with photographers. Before downloading and using an image, make sure you understand the licensing option. 

The two most common licensing options are "royalty-free" and "rights-managed." A royalty-free image license means that you only need to pay for the image download once to use the image for as long as you like.

A rights managed license is typically stricter; the license only covers certain uses of the image for a certain period of time. Since you most likely want to keep the images on your website for a long time, royalty-free licensing is the better option.

You also need to be very careful to only use a Shutterstock or Getty Image if you’ve purchased it. Stock image companies and copyright attorneys have been filing lawsuits for years against websites and businesses for misuse of images. 

5. Focus on Critical Web Pages

Your website home page is one of the most critical pages of your entire site because the majority of web visitors will see this page before any others. The top section of the home page design will greatly influence whether a web visitor decides to stay on the site or leaves. 

select high-quality images for your website home page

If the first impression of your website is a low-quality and grainy image, you can expect web visitors to leave the site quickly. Invest in a high-quality image or video for this part of the site and consult a skilled web designer when making any changes to the image. 

You’ll typically need to upload a very large image for the top section of the hero image, so remember to start with a larger, high-resolution image.

When making changes to your site, invest more time and cost on critical pages such as your home page, “About” page and service pages. High-quality design on these pages can impact your overall site engagement and conversions.

After your website launches, it’s normal to make improvements over the years. However, be very careful about replacing the hero images and featured images on the critical web pages without the help of a web designer. 

Select the Best Images for Your Website

Images are crucial to your website’s success. Remember to select high-quality images that are authentic to your brand and focus on your site’s most critical pages.

By following these guidelines, a range of users will visit your website.