Choosing and composing images for use on a website is one of the more challenging issues my charity and NFP clients face, but with some basic knowledge, it can easily be demystified. We’ll cover what makes a great photo for editorial use, choice of imagery and what sizes you need to make sure your images look their best.

What is a banner image anyway?

A banner or “hero" image is the big picture that you often find at the top of your website. It might be in a “carousel” of images that progressively replace each other. They’re often characterised by having text laid over the top, which takes them into the realm of editorial use. It’s this crucial addition that changes the entire use of the image, from being simply pictorial to being part of the wider story you’re trying to convey. The traditional use is as a large image at the top of a page with a headline overlaid.

Once you’ve added that text, the image, while important, is now in a supporting role, and this is an important point because it’s no longer just a great photo where the object is to display the subject perfectly. Instead, the image is now there to support the narrative you’re trying to achieve, and therefore some compromises can be made to make text more legible.

It’s also part of a wider design scheme, and so can be manipulated to achieve the correct tone of voice.

Once you’ve made this mental shift away from “this is a great photo” to “this is a great photo to support my narrative”, you’re halfway there.

How to choose an image

Something that usefully supports your story

Imagery should enhance your narrative, and especially for fundraising campaigns, you need to choose one with impact and emotion.

As importantly, you should also look for something that’s authentic. In other words, not stock photography, which almost always feels fake, and which everyone can sense instinctively a mile off. Better to have an image that genuinely reflects your organisation, even if it’s technically less than perfect. This is all about cultivating trust among your audiences.

Read the rest on Simon's personal blog