Published: 24 November 2014
Every year the use of strong photography in web design seems to be more relevant. With the release of Shutterstock’s latest venture Offset, which delivers more themed filtered photography for creative use rather than studio based stock imagery, I believe this web trend is to continue and grow stronger.

I now spend a significant amount of time sourcing, editing and buying the most appropriate and eye-catching photography to support my designs but there are a variety of different attributes I look for when finding that perfect image.  

Especially with the rise of flat design, colour palettes have changed and now focus more on monochromatic features within a specific hue. Bearing this in mind, I now focus on matching the photography with the palette. This acts complimentary rather than contrasting, which I find keeps consistency throughout the site and can be used to reinforce the brand.  

There has to be a fine balance between too studio/ stock based imagery and too aspirational imagery. Often clients can be drawn to the accessibility of stock photography but this can come across as cold and lack legitimacy.
Recently, we have seen designers using metaphorical imagery to over come this however, I feel some take this too far and the relevance of the photography is often lost. For example, as beautiful as that sunset beach in Australia is, it holds no relevance representing a recruitment agency - so don’t use it.

If you are not familiar with the phrase Pareidolia then here is a brief google definition: ‘Pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant.’  To break this down, Pareidolia is the reason why we all see faces in everything we look at. It’s why we look at a front of a car and say ‘that looks mean’ when it actually doesn’t but we give that car a personality. Web designers can use this phenomenon within their design work. Studies have shown using faces in your web design can improve the user experience, as people naturally want to relate to other people.

Using images to support content is a good way of breaking up content however; you can actually get people to read specific parts of content based on the photography choice. Eye-Tracking is a process of measuring the point of gaze when someone is viewing a website. It takes into account the amount of attention valued to a particular part on a page and is generally measured using hot spots. Eye-tracking studies have shown people naturally follow the gaze of other people even in photographs, simply out of human curiosity. The ‘what are they looking at?’ sensation can really be utilised effectively, especially in Ecommerce web design. So when using photography we must try and use photos that push the user towards the content you want them to see and avoid faces looking in the opposite direction.

So, next time you are scrolling through thousands of images for your site, bare a few of these factors in mind to help improve your image selection! 


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