Show and Tell: The Do's and Don'ts of Elevating Your Content With Imagery

By Victor Ayala | Published September 24, 2021 | Categories: Creative Design , Web Development , Digital Marketing

photographer taking pictures of dancers

We’ve talked a lot about content lately. We’ve covered improving your brand tone and voice, streamlining processes with a content governance plan, and why you need to make the change to a proprietary CMS.

But now it’s time to talk about the imagery on your site, namely how to make sure it works in harmony with all the other content elements we’ve discussed so far.

Pictures are worth a thousand words, but we know you’re busy, so we’ll try to tackle this subject in 900 or less! Here are our Do's and Don’ts of website imagery.
photographer taking a picture

DO Use Original Photography 

When prospective students visit your site, they want to see your faculty, your campus, your services. They want to see their potential peers.

To achieve this, you’ll want the high-quality, original imagery that only a professional photographer can provide. Whether you keep them on staff as part of a broader media team or hire freelancers, it pays to find a pro. Not only will they bring you the quality imagery you require, but they will provide it in a consistent format and visual style. This helps build consistency for your brand.

creepy meeting stock photo

DON’T Rely on Stock Images 

Who are these people? Why is there no light in their eyes? Are they even writing anything on any of those notebooks or sticky notes? This doesn’t look anything like your college or university, so why is this on your website?

It can be tempting to take the path of least resistance and fill your institution’s website with stock photography. We get it. There’s so much to do; why not save a little time?

First, it’s inauthentic and erodes visitor trust from the start. Second, your audience can spot inauthenticity from a mile away. 

Your prospective students have grown up with the internet, and they’ve been inundated with imagery and advertising for as long as they can remember. It’s said that Gen Z has an 8-second attention span, but don’t think of it as a weakness. It means they’re incredibly skilled at discerning what is and is not important or helpful to them. Once they sniff out insincerity, you can bet they will tune it out immediately.

DON'T Use Photos You Find on Google

If you absolutely, positively must use stock photography, be careful that you have rights to use the images in question. Not every copyrighted photo sports a watermark, so don’t assume you’re in the clear with any photo you find on a Google search.

Use paid sites like Getty Images or Shutterstock, or free sites that use images on a Creative Commons license, like Pexels.

students sitting together

DO Tell a Story

Let’s say you’ve got all the quality, original photography you could ever want and all that’s left is to use them across your different pages. How do you do it? What image goes where?

Sometimes this is a no-brainer. You’ve got awesome photos of your students coming out to support the team at a game? Great, put them on the appropriate athletics pages. For your homecoming page, use those high-energy photos from this year’s homecoming.

Other times, it can get a little more challenging. You might be asking yourself, “We’ve got nearly one hundred degree programs (or more), so do I just use hundreds of photos of our students sitting in classrooms?” Maybe you’re racking your brain about how to use images for financial aid and academic counseling pages without overusing the same picture of the quad over and over.

Keep your students’ needs in mind when approaching this challenge. Are your prospective students like most Gen-Z youths with a keen focus on developing career skills? Then ditch the students-staring-at-whiteboard photos for something more engaging. For example, use photos of your nursing students at work in a simulation clinic, broadcast students producing the university news program, or art students working in the studio.

If your students come to your institution for the high level of academic rigor, there are other creative ways around the stilted classroom photo. Coordinate with your faculty to determine when interesting projects or assignments will come up. Maybe you’ve got that one professor who loves teaching Shakespeare outside in costume. There are plenty of ways to show students learning in environments that represent your institution’s unique culture and community.

distorted image

DON'T Use Improperly Sized Images

So maybe you’ve got compelling and original photography. Perhaps you’re already nailing it with how your images work with your content to tell your institution’s story.

But what’s wrong with this picture? Your landing pages feature stretched impact images, and your interior images are all over the place in regards to sizing, orientation, and quality.

Establish and enforce strict standards for how images are used on your website. That includes everything from orientation, resolution, and placement on each page type. There is a time and place for cell phone pictures taken by your faculty and staff, but it’s not on a key page for your website.

DO Partner With the Leading Web Design Partner in Higher Education

Taking your college or university website to the next level requires expertise and experience in a number of disciplines, so you'll need a partner. Trust the designers, developers, writers, and higher ed wizards at Beacon to take your website redesign from strategy to launch without a hitch.

Contact us for a free website audit today!

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