How to Choose Great Images for Your Business Website
Well-chosen images are a must for your business’ website. Some customers know exactly what they want from the get-go and don’t need any help from you. But most customers love to shop around or could use some encouragement to move from one item or catalog page to another. This is where images can play an important role.
Even if you use only some basic clip art, such as placing spheres or arrows next to sale items, your customer is likely to thank you by buying more. A much better approach, though, is to scan or take digital images of your sale items and provide compact, clear images of them on your site. Here’s a quick step-by-step guide to get you started:
Choose the right image to capture.
The original quality of an image is just as important as how you scan or retouch it. Images that are murky or fuzzy in print are even worse when viewed on a computer screen.
Preview the image.
Digital cameras let you preview images so that you can decide whether to keep or delete individual pictures before downloading to your computer. If you’re working with a scanner, some scanning programs let you make a quick preview scan of an image so that you can get an idea of what it looks like before you do the actual scan.
When you click the Preview button, the optical device in the scanner captures the image. A preview image appears onscreen, surrounded by a marquee box (a rectangle made up of dashes).
Crop the image.
Cropping means that you resize the box around the image to select the portion of the image that you want to keep and leave out the parts of the image that aren’t essential. Cropping an image is a good idea because it highlights the most important contents and reduces the file size. The smaller the image, the quicker it appears in someone’s browser window.
Most scanning and graphics programs offer separate options for cropping an image and reducing the image size. By cropping the image, you eliminate parts of the image you don’t want, and reduce the image size. But it doesn’t reduce the size of the objects within the image. Resizing the overall image size is a separate step, which enables you to change the dimensions of the entire image without eliminating content.
Select an input mode.
Tell the scanner or graphics program how you want it to save the visual data — as color, line art (used for black-and-white drawings), or grayscale (used for black-and-white photos).
Set the resolution.
Digital images are made up of little bits (dots) of computerized information called pixels. The more pixels per inch, the higher the level of detail. When you scan an image, you can tell the scanner to make the dots smaller (creating a smoother image) or larger (resulting in a more jagged image). This adjustment is called setting the resolution of the image.
When you’re scanning for the web, your images appear primarily on computer screens. Because many computer monitors can display resolutions only up to 72 dpi, 72 dpi is an adequate resolution for a web image. Using this coarse resolution has the advantage of keeping the image’s file size small. Remember, the smaller the file size, the more quickly an image appears when your customers load your page.
Adjust contrast and brightness.
Virtually all scanning programs and graphics editing programs provide brightness and contrast controls that you can adjust with your mouse to improve the image. If you’re happy with the image as is, leave the brightness and contrast set where they are.
You can also leave the image as is and adjust brightness and contrast later in a separate graphics program, such as Paint Shop Pro X5, which you can try out by downloading it from the Corel website. Or if you’re working on the iPhone, check out the Clarity app, which dramatically improves so-so images.
Reduce the image size.
The old phrase “Good things come in small packages” is never more true than when you’re improving your digital image. If you’re scanning an image that is 8″ x 10″ and you’re sure that it needs to be about 4″ x 5″ when it appears on your web page, scan it at 50 percent of the original size.
This step reduces the file size and makes the file easier to transport, whether it’s from your camera to your computer or your computer to your hosting service. Even more important, it appears more quickly in someone’s web browser.
Your scanner makes a beautiful whirring sound as it turns those colors into pixels. Because you’re scanning only at 72 dpi, the process shouldn’t take too long.
Save the file.
Now you can save your image to disk. Most programs let you do this by choosing File→Save. In the dialog box that appears, enter a name for your file and select a file format. (Because you’re working with images to be published on the web, remember to save either in GIF or JPEG format.)
Be sure to add the correct filename extension. web browsers recognize only image files with extensions such as .gif, .jpg, or .jpeg. If you name your image product and save it in GIF format, call it product.gif. If you save it in JPEG format and you’re using a PC, call it product.jpg. On a Mac, call it product.jpeg.