How many websites have you visited recently that are 'text only'? I bet there weren't many. Most websites use images or graphics to break up the flow of text and get their message across more easily. There's truth in the old saying that a picture speaks a thousand words.
Even sites that offer services or deal with abstract topics, such as solicitors or accountants or poetry collections, make use of website images to break up their content and improve readability for their visitors.
I had used images on my website before, but until I began building Essentially England I never appreciated how many images I really needed to make the site look inviting! Many more than I'd thought. And unless you're an ace photographer with a huge portfolio, there will come a time when you're looking for website images that you simply don't have.
So what do you do?
You can search for website images online, of course, and there's a good chance you'll get lucky and find something suitable. But chances are that the image will be copyrighted, so you cannot just simply copy it and use it on your site. So how and where can you find images to illustrate your web pages? And how can you do so without breaking the bank or breaking the law?
If you know how to use a camera, then free website images are easily within your reach. Take as many as you can, and keep them organised to help find things easily. Building up a portfolio of useful images takes time and effort, but once you have them they can easily be used more than once.
Keep in mind that sometimes a small detail is enough to illustrate your text, so 'cutting up' photos is a good way to make your collection go further. Ask friends and family for help, too, and don't forget work colleagues. If you write a travel site, then they can be great help.
Flickr, the photo sharing website is a good place to find images for websites. Many images on Flickr can be used under a creative commons license, i.e. you may display the images on your site, but you must acknowledge the copyright of the photographer and you cannot alter the images. There are various levels of a creative commons license, so read them carefully before you use an image. I also tend to contact the photographer and check that they're happy to let me use the image, sometimes in exchange for a link back to their site or portfolio.
Royalty free stock photos are images you can use under a license. The copyright of the image remains with the photographer, and various types of license are available for different types of usage. There's a difference if you just want to display an image on your website, or if you want to use this image on a product that you plan to sell.
There are numerous stock photo sites on the web and their portfolios
vary, so check out several to see which have the best images for your
particular site. I find Dreamstime excellent for food photography. They also have a huge portfolio of England photos. An equally useful site is Fotolia, which I use mainly for business images, landscapes and sport. Finally, there's Depositphotos, which has a good range of business images and is great for interior design and fashion, too.
Most stock photography sites work along similar lines. Usually you create an account before buying credits that you can convert into downloadable images. Images can cost as little as a single credit (approx. £0.30), but if you want an exclusive use license, or want to turn the image into a product, then the costs will go up.
Stock photography sites are also useful if you're a photographer, because you can showcase your work and earn money from your hobby if your images are good and prove popular.