Images are used on practically every website on the Internet. Even websites like this one that focus on content use images for a multitude of reasons. They are used for everything from product illustrations on Amazon to article icons on Sitepoint.
When it comes to acquiring an image the three main options you have are:
Stock images can be either free or paid for. Either way each image will have certain usgae restrictions so it is important to check whether you can use the image you want for the purpose you need.
Stock images are a popular choice for a lot of website developers. Not only are they free, but they are easy to acquire as there are plenty of good quality websites that provide them. The major drawbacks of using stock images is that all the good ones will have been used over and over again. This will make them unacceptable for any corporate sites and a lot of e-commerce sites. The other drawback is that free images may have quite restrictive usage rights. Most will be fine to use on personal websites or blogs. You will have trouble finding free images for online businesses, however.
These are some of my favourite free stock image sites:
Some of the best paid for stock image sites are:
Some of the terms used in the stock image industry are not very intuitive. It is important to understand what your rights are when purchasing an image or downloading it for free.
The first term used is royalty-free. A royalty free image may either be free or paid for. You pay a signle up front price for the image. The same image can be sold to many people over and over again.
The other term used is Rights-managed. These images tend to be more expensive and you pay a price depending on how many people will be exposed to the image and how long you will be using it for. It is more complicated to acquire a rights-managed image as the fees are often not fixed. You can also add exclusivity into the agreement, so you know that nobody else can use the image while the agreement is in effect. This type of licencing is essential for professional use.
Many photographers specialise in the sort of photography that is required for the web. For example, if you are selling products on your website you need the images to be perfect. For this situation a professional is essential as they will have experience on how to make the products look appealing.
Hiring a professional is the expensive option and you have to be careful about the agreements you make and how much you offer to pay. A contract is essential as you need to make clear the exact terms you require for the images. You also need to decide if you want exclusive use of the images that are taken. In most cases this would be an obvious yes, but you need to make this clear in your contract. Some photgraphers will also require credit if the images are published.
As well as understanding where you should acquire your images from, it is just as important to know where you should avoid getting your images.
The web used to be full of these cheesy, often animated little graphic icons back in the 1990s. Thankfully now designers are moving away from them. They give an amatuer impression and should be avoided by most. They are suitable for a memo on an intranet site or a funny email but should be kept well away from anything that is viewable by customers.
This is not as much a problem on the Internet as it was but is still a concern for a lot of web developers. You probably know what hot linking is, but if you dont here is a brief recap.
Hotlinking is when you link to an image that is located on a different server from your own website. It is essentially the same as stealing an image from somebody’s website and using it on your own (see the article on Internet plaigirism) with the extra kick in the teeth being that it uses up your bandwidth.
Doing this to somebody else is a very selfish thing to do. It also means that the image could be removed or replaced with a different one at any time. You have no control over the image as it is not on your server. There are also stories all over the web about people replacing hotlinked images with very inapporpriate alternatives in an attempt to enact revenge.
Now you have read this article you should have an idea where to start looking for images for your website. Be sure to check out our article about finding templates, themes and stock images.