Photography and Web Design

Graham Carroll15th April 2014 - Graham Carroll

Photography and Web Design

Visual impact can not be underestimated – it’s the very essence of creativity. Creative media; photography, video, websites – they’re the best way to experience life without actually ‘being there’. In your business, whatever it is that you do or work with, how important is it for you to quickly and effectively communicate what you do in a way that connects with your audience?

Photography and Web Design

When you add a quality photograph to your website you are consciously (and subconsciously) giving potential customers an insight into your product or service and how that offering can help them. By choosing the right photography that’s relevant to your business, you can take a high quality, usable website design and perfect it.


Good use of photography also makes good content shine, especially when matched up with non-visual content like copy or sound. This helps in situations including drawing attention, breaking up text-heavy content and bringing context to a page or editorial.

Stock vs Royalty Free vs Custom

People often think stock and royalty free photography are the same thing but there is an important difference as I’ll explain below. Choosing the best photography option for your needs is key to getting your project right.

Stock Photography

Stock photography is typically billed in a similar way to a custom shoot; the cost is usually based on how the photography is used. Obviously with stock images, there are no direct costs of getting the shot made. The fee is determined on where the photo will be used (print, web, TV etc) and for how long.

Royalty Free

Royalty free photography lets you use an image as much as you like for a single flat fee. Where cost varies it is usually down to the resolution size you need – the larger the image, the more it will cost. Once you have paid for the image you can use it anywhere and as many times as you like. however the visual quality of royalty free tends to be considerably lower than stock.

Custom Photography

Custom photography from a professional photographer is almost always the best option. While it’s certainly more expensive than royalty free and often stock but the short term cost is fair when compared to the long term win.

With custom photography, you have control over what thoughts and emotions your website conveys. From a marketing perspective, when potential customers are making a decision to work with you this is crucial.

With stock or royalty free, you will always be using someone else’s vision for an idea or concept that you’re trying to convey.

If a picture is really worth 1000 words, you will want those words to be yours and not someone else’s.


A more recent trend sees photography and imagery are used to define and form web design by use of ‘hero’ or ‘take over’ shots. Take the example of Shopify’s home page below.


They’re using a custom photo to appeal to a target audience, a girl in a store with a tablet device, working in a traditional retail store and using Shopify’s platform to sell online. The text overlay is simple, to the point and clear.

Squarespace also use photography to good effect to showcase their product and convey a sense of quality and easy of use.


MailChimp currently use a highly visual home page with quality custom photography to get straight into showcasing their email marketing software, also shouting out how easy it is to use.


The photography on the Friday website was planned and taken around our new office, and around our office in Dublin city. It gives a sense of us, our personality and our creativity.

Good photography should be used for the following 3 reasons:

  • to connect with your target audience.
  • to set the tone.
  • to showcase products and services and sell effectively.

We always recommend that quality photography be high on the list of consideration for any project and it’s important to understand the benefits from each approach.

Graham Carroll
Graham Carroll

Graham is a co-Founder and Head of Strategy at Friday Agency. He writes mostly about Strategy, Content and UX here, and he talks, lectures and sometimes shouts about these things too.

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