I’m not sure about you, but it’s only been in the past two years that I’ve been actively thinking about and advising clients on photography. (1) What the images ideally should contain and (2) what it ideally should look like.

So in this blog post, I’ll discuss two things that might help you with the above.

  1. Why it’s essential to think more about photography (if you already know this, skip to the second chapter).
  2. Where to find amazing images that bring your design to the next level (spoiler: It’s not Unsplash or Pexels).

Why is it crucial to think more about photography in our designs

From a UX perspective 

I wrote about photography from a user experience perspective last year. That blogpost is based on the book “The Usability of Web Photos” by James Chudley, which is about photography and how it considerably increases the usability of a page. A quick example and quote from that blog post to demonstrate the main point so we can close this chapter 🙂 

“There is a company that delivers frozen meals to elderly people, but those people don’t always order those products themself, so they are not the target group. The actual target group (often children of the elderly) adds great value to trust. They want to be sure they can trust the delivery guy and be certain that the food will actually be delivered. The idea was to take photos of the delivery man for their homepage. But by coincidence, they had a terrible winter, and there was snow all over the place. The image now communicated: “Our people will go through whatever it takes to deliver the food on time to the people you care about, no matter what.”, instead of just “hello, we deliver food.”

From a creative and visual perspective

  1. Not every brand is the same, and each brand has their own brand values. Based on this argument, it makes sense that every brand should also have their own photography guidelines. Should it energize? Should it be focussed and straightforward? Should it be bright and natural? Or a little more blue and dramatic? If you’re able to find something that matches the brand values, surely clients will value this. Think about the recent ad from Nike “You Can’t Stop Us” before the logo is shown it’s obviously made by Nike. Any of the free photography sites like Unsplash are unable to provide this unique look & feel.
  2. People look at photography more often and longer than you think, clients involved. Designers can often look passed temporary images, clients can’t. They start asking questions about it. So do users. And if it’s not good, it can break your design. 
  3. Using a good, well-considered, and a creative photograph shows your broad skill-set. Making it clear you’re not just a designer but also someone who can think along with photography. 
  4. Quality images increase trust and, on some occasions, conversion. Consider the example in the chapter above about the delivery man. That was actually a real example. Imagine if you’re looking at a company’s website, but their images are stocky, not sharp, a little blurry and meaningless; would you trust them? Rationally, it doesn’t make sense to not trust a company based on terrible photos, but we do for some reason. 
  5. I’ll end this blogpost with some resources. What all these resources have in common is that it stands out from conventional photography direction. Therefore photography is one of the ways to stand out from the crowd. 

Invest in good photo shoots: a great photographer can add a fortune to your website’s business value.

Quote by Jakob Nielsen from NNGroup.com. 

Where to find good images (spoiler: it’s not Pexels or Unsplash)

This part was actually the reason I wrote this blog post. But I needed the introduction above to address the importance of good photography first. 

Before, I tended to open Pexels or Unsplash to fill my designs with some decent images. But, as you might know, these images lack originality and creativity. 

Until I realized there’s tons of companies that have gone through this process, and have amazing photography hand made by themselves. I started collecting these sites and made a bookmark folder especially for this called “Photography Directions”. With this collection, I can quickly go through different directions with clients or colleges.

Below you find a list of some websites that contain some awesome photos. (Naming the site correctly in your bookmarks folder is essential here to find it back later 😉 

Example 1: Shopify

I like their imagery, high quality and often not a stocky feeling. Good material for when you’re designing for a hardware brand

Example 2: Behance — Grashopper Restaurant

Obviously set in scene, but different from what we usually see. It’s a creative and unique approach to food design, and that’s what you’re often looking for. Good placeholders for when you’re designing for a restaurant.

Images for webdesign
Image owned by Equal Parts Studio

Example 3: Mazda 3

Personally I love the design of the new Mazda 3. Photography is on point and great when you need some cat or interior shots for a concept design.

Example 4: Victoria Lord

I mean, the name is already amazing. Victoria Lord is specialized in the post-processing of photography, and a good source for creative photography.

Images for webdesign
Image owned by Victoria Lord

Example 5: King & Partners

Designing for a shoe brand? Use this to inspire your client how shoes can be photographed as well.

Images for webdesign
Image owned by M. Gemi

Example 6: 99u

You might 99u as an inspiring and motivational blog. But I used this a while back to find some good portrait/people images. Most portraits on Unsplash look very stocky and too fake. 99u has an interview section filled with great people photography.

Images for webdesign
Images owned by 99u

Example 7: Bureau Oberhauser

I do like their people images (often the harders to find). Some are a little cliche, but most of the look real and give a good impression of the people that work there. Good source if you need to fill an conceptual About Page for one of your pitch or Dribbble designs.

Images for webdesign
Image owned by Bureau Oberhaeuser

Example 8: Open Colony

Designers always need little portrait images, most often a circle that represents someones profile. The photo’s on this website look real, but with a happy creative vibe.

Images for webdesign
Image owned by Open Colony

Example 9: Food Photography on Behance

I personally hate it when restaurants which provide delivery service don’t have images in their online menu. Looking for food shots? These look pretty great.

Great images for webdesign
Image owned by Anatoly Vasiliev

How to create this collection for yourself? I advise keeping your eyes open. See a great picture on the street? Visit their website and bookmark it. See something great on Behance or on Awwwwards (two sources I often use): bookmark it.

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