Using real photographs on your website instead of headsets and handshakes

I’m often surprised by how many websites don’t display photographs of their workers doing their thing, especially when those photographs might be interesting and help the user connect with what’s going on.

So many businesses choose stock photos (headsets and handshakes) because they’re slick, but users are blind to those photos, and would much rather see something real.

It’s easy to understand why users want to see real photographs. They’re trying to figure out whether to hire you or not.

The banal photo of the smiling, headset-wearing receptionist is useless at best. At worst, it might be considered dishonest, if this super-happy fake customer service rep doesn’t work at your company in any way shape or form, but that’s not really a debate I want to get into or the point I’m trying to make.

I just think it makes sense to show your users something real.  If you are a contractor, let’s see some of your work and some of your folks out on site doing what they do.  Show the user what makes you different, what makes you worth choosing over everybody else.

You might think this would be expensive, and it can be.  But it might not cost as much as you think, and the money spent might be an investment rather than just and expense.  It’s probably worth your time to at least contact some photographers in your area to see what they’d charge.

Another thing to consider is that a lot of web designers are decent photographers. Some are better than decent.  Even if your designer isn’t as good as a true pro photographer, the fact that she is building the site might give her an understanding of what kind of photos are needed and how they’ll fit into the site.  This might allow her to get a really good result out of a day or two of taking photos at some point in the design process.  Paying your web designer to do photography may or may not be cheaper than hiring a dedicated photographer — it all depends on which designer and which photographer you’re talking about.

Finally, here’s an unorthodox method you can try if you’re really on a tight budget: Figure out which one of your staff members has the best eye for photography.  If that person can shake loose from his/her other duties for a time, have him/her take a fairly nice digital camera around and take as many photos as possible.  It’s not like you have to pay for film, and with a lot of photos to choose from, you might end up with some good stuff.  The raw photos themselves don’t have to be perfect, just good enough that a talented graphic designer or web designer can clean them up and crop them up into something that will work on your site.

Photos done this way might not be as slick as stock photos, but they’ll almost certainly make up for it by showing something of interest to the user.  (If you pursue this option, be sure to ask your web designer to shoot straight and let you know if the photos are so bad as to be unusable.)

In some cases, the work a company does is difficult to show in photos.  But that doesn’t mean you have to resort to the headset lady or businessmen shaking hands.  In these cases you might want to try some cool hand-drawn illustrations or some interesting vector graphics.  If done right, these could really make your website stand out.  At the very least, they should be better than fake photos (unless they’re horribly executed, in which case they might be equally lame).

If you really want to use cheesy stock images, knock yourself out.  Just don’t be surprised when people ignore the photos, and your business.

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