You don’t need professional formal photographs on your website. You know the type of picture I’m talking about:  the perfectly focused, perfectly lit staged shots that show off the military crease in the pants a model is wearing or depict a manicured office waiting for clients.

That type of professional picture has its place, and a couple of my clients use professional-photographer-created images very effectively.  But, clients on a budget that doesn’t include a photo session don’t need to worry that their site is going to suffer.

Photographs on your web pages should be engaging and tell a story.  That doesn’t mean that they have to be picture perfect.  Use the tricks of professional marketers and emphasize pretty women, cute kids, and adorable puppies if you want to amp up the effectiveness of your informal photos.

One of Sequel's Cow Palace fans

One of Sequel's People

For example, I love this picture taken of one our dog Sequel’s fans at this year at the Cow Palace show. The focus isn’t sharp and there’s too much going on the background.  But, I’d use it in a heartbeat to help tell the story of the crowd-pleasing day at a  dog show. (See more pics in Sequel’s People gallery online.)

San Francisco pro photographer, John Ater, has a two-sided business card.  One side displays a studio shot he spent all day perfecting for a major retailer’s billboard campaign.  The other side is an iPhone picture of people on a bus.  The home page of his website displays an informal shot of kids on the street.  His point is that many types of photographs can be compelling and technical perfection is rarely required.

Mark Rogers is a professional photographer who specializes in non-posed shots.  His forte is pets, but he shoots for businesses and even weddings.  It’s just that when Mark hires on as the wedding photographer, he’s clear that his love is for informal action shots and there are only so many staged “mother-in-law of the bride” wedding party photos he can handle.  He does great work capturing the personality of his subjects and feel of an event.

And, a feel for your business is exactly what you want to show on your web pages.

The best professional photographers — the ones whose work I like best — tell a visual story.  Their equipment, experience, and artistic skill give them an advantage, but the magic is in capturing of the moment, the composition of the scene.

So, take out your point-and-shoot camera or phone, and see what you can do for your website. Perhaps pictures you already have can work for your business!  (My favorite client photographer is estate planning attorney Julia Wald.  Every month she uses her vacation or around town shots for her newsletter.  Check out how she tied the idea of leaving a legacy through estate planning to her trip to Egypt and the legacy of the pyramids — lots of her clients write in with praise!)

Sure, if you’re busy or don’t have a feel for appropriate shots,  you can engage a professional photographer or even your webmaster to take some pictures for you.  But, you need to explain to them the story you want to tell. Talk about out what views, places, or events will tell your business’ story.  Experiment.  Have fun.  And, let me know what happens!