Blog | Photography vs Web Design: The Odd Couple
17th January 2018
The Odd Couple or the Perfect Couple?
The relationship between digital photography and web design is one fraught with inconsistency that can often become problematic. Much like the modern bohemian couple, both share an appreciation for each other’s significance in their respective fields, both work effortlessly as independent entities and both are passionately dedicated to their purpose…but web design leaves the toilet seat up and photography is a vegan coeliac.
To the layman, it may seem like the perfect pairing, and of course carefully-curated photographic content can be an effective tool in establishing the tone of your business and delivering its ethos via web applications; after all, a picture is worth a thousand words, right? And yet, the quality of the medium is all too often overlooked when it comes to web design.
As a developer and designer with a substantial number of years and novelty coffee mugs under their belt, I have seen the impact that photography can have on the production of a website; for better and for worse. I’ve also been exposed to a plethora of excuses as to why businesses choose not to invest in professional photography services, including (but not limited to) the following:
“We do all of our photography in-house…”
Translation: I own a smartphone
“We haven’t allocated a budget for photography…”
Translation: I don’t understand the value of photography…and I own a smartphone
“We source our own photography…”
Translation: I steal stock images
Admittedly, not all websites require the level of context offered by photography to promote their products or services, and each case should be judged by its own merits. In addition, the rising popularity of GIF and SVG animations has opened doors to a number of cost-effective visual alternatives.
In truth, it’s also realistic to consider the financials involved with sourcing and employing any specialised creative, especially with no obvious promise of ROI. Nonetheless, delivering your content in a concise and captivating way is invaluable, especially in the competitive and often murky waters of e-commerce, where compelling product photography is a must.
Context is Key
Recently, I was asked to oversee the creative development of a new web design project. Throughout the process, I was able to focus greater specificity to its visual content and as a result, a small amount of the budget was allocated for photography services. The decision to do so in the early stages of the project had a direct and positive effect on how those involved approached the production process: wireframes and mock-ups were conceived with consideration to how the photography would be applied, provisional time-scales had to account for the photoshoot itself (plus any subsequent editing thereafter) and email marketing campaigns were created to accentuate the photography as a visual selling-point; we were off to a good start.
The client for whom we were providing our services specialises in the wholesale of outdoor activity and sports equipment. Following an initial meeting to determine the workload, it was agreed unanimously that the photography should reflect the environment in which the products would be used, in a bold and unapologetic manner. At the time, we were being subjected to an uncharacteristically hot Summer in Manchester, and so we felt compelled to shoot on location in the woodlands of the nearby Peak District in the hope that this would also provide the appropriate, contextual landscape. Happily, it did not disappoint.
Choosing the Perfect Location
As a frequent visitor to the Snake’s Pass Trail, I had been predisposed to the areas that I felt would be appropriate to shoot (and failed to consider logistical difficulties of reaching them with a horde of outdoor products aloft). Our resident photographer Michael was also on hand to help transport the products over treacherous and rocky terrains.
Over a five-hour period, we were able to capture the majority of the products before natural light began to dwindle. These ranged from single product shots, to ‘family’ shots and wide angle product shots that were able to boast more of the picturesque landscape.
Michael and I emerged from the undergrowth, dangerously low on electrolytes, but happy with the yield of high-quality content we had achieved in that time. A trip to the nearest pub was mandatory to reflect on the day which gave me opportunity to consider the final application of the images as part of the web development.
Despite the usual provisional shots that had been subject to focus and lighting issues (these are often consigned to the trash can during the shoot or following an initial inspection), the content we had secured for the client was perfect. In terms of the photography’s application to the website, some further post-production work was to be completed in order emphasise the brand.
The resolution of the shots leant themselves brilliantly to header backgrounds and hero content.
Crucially, the content we had produced was also versatile and could be repurposed for print, as seen here:
The quality of this product shot meant that very little retouching was required, and the addition of some carefully orchestrated text helps reinforce the brand’s tone and message in an impactful way without drawing focus from the product itself.
Cynics among us may refuse to accept the importance of quality image content and, admittedly, not every website will call for this quasi-professional approach to its conception. However, in a world where the average attention span of the modern consumer is becoming ever-shorter, one would argue that investment in professional photography is an absolute necessity.
Oh, and perhaps more importantly, a smartphone well never be a substitute for a DSLR.