The other day, I was shopping online for a new bedding set. As you can probably imagine, finding bedding sets is not hard to do. There are hundreds of choices coming from big stores like Walmart and Amazon and small stores like locally owned boutiques. How did I make my decision? As everyone else does – I looked at the photos.

Visuals are extremely important for online businesses. In this purchase alone, I used pictures to compare the color, style, fit, quality and attention to detail of each product. The only thing I relied on words for was the dimensions. I even paid most attention to the reviews with pictures! Products that didn’t have decent images, I passed over. Got to narrow things down somehow, right?

As you consider just how important photos are for your website, keep these four tips in mind.

1. Always Aim for Authenticity

I’ll never knock stock photos because they are a great solution when you’re hard pressed for time and money. However, authenticity always rules. It’s a good feeling when you know that the images on your website are truly unique to your brand.

Not only are original photos entirely yours, but also they give you complete control over how you showcase your brand. Is your brand playful and fun? Is it serious and sophisticated? As you capture photographs that represent your brand, you can select the background, the colors and the facial expressions of your team.

2. Include Creative Action

When choosing which photos should go on your website, include people engaging in various actions. These actions should be tied to your business in some way, such as selecting ingredients and/or materials, helping customers or contributing to your community.

People enjoy seeing creative action because it brings them closer to the product. Consumers feel more comfortable buying from brands that are open and honest about what goes into their products. Plus, these types of photos are unique to each brand, making them effective at capturing people’s attention.

3. Use White Space Strategically

I love white space. It allows images to relax and breathe, which transcends to the user. When I come across images that use white space strategically, I feel that I can relax and absorb what the picture is trying to tell me. Do the same for your photos. Share your message but don’t overburden your audience.

4. Rely on Stock Photos When Needed

Stock photos are great in a pinch. Maybe you need one more photo to complete your site, or perhaps you’re low on budget and need to be more creative with your content. Either way, there are plenty of great stock photo sites that give you access to high quality photos for free. Just be sure to read the licensing rules because each site is different.

To make stock photos your own, take a few minutes to edit them. You can crop out the backgrounds and add your own, change the color scheme or use filters. These simple edits can make a stock photo look like a true original.

Visuals are powerful, but it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Keep your photos simple – each one should serve a purpose in your overall design.