Tea and a slice of budget anyone?

It seems to be a firmly-held view among some web designers that the cost of photography for a website is going to compete directly with the site’s design and construction budget. In other words, the designer’s precious fee.

A designer might fear that bringing a commercial photographer into the project will wipe out their profit. This belief, coupled with the line drilled into them at web design skool, “my clients don’t have a budget for photography” really is quite bizarre since photography for a website should also be incorporated into other marketing devices such as printed brochures, press releases, leaflets and other electronic media.

In other words, the photography shouldn’t come entirely out of the web budget, if at all. Of course the photography will be used in the website, and the client will need to factor in the cost of any additional photography required for the site, but the cost should be largely coming out of the wider marketing budget. Unlike the web design, photographs can be translated easily from one medium to another. Try turning a website directly into a printed brochure, and you’ll start to get an idea of the limitations on uses for a web design.

The other benefit of using commissioned photography is that the images will help maintain consistency of look and message between web and printed media. The client won’t have such a mish-mash of imagery, so their customers won’t be confused about what they’re looking at or who they’re dealing with.

graphic of photographic budget

I have no budget for designers, so made this myself. Isn’t it kool?

What the above graphic is trying to show you is that if a client is sourcing images from a proper commercial photographer, rather than letting the designer spend hours trawling the microstock photography sites, they will get quality images which will be used in the wider marketing context, not just the website.

It’s also worth remembering that when a designer or client buys a royalty-free stock image they are only buying a licence for one media. In other words, buy a web image from iStockphoto and you can only use that image in the client website and nothing else. Buy an image for print media, and you won’t be licensed to use it in web media. If you want to use the same images for web and print, you have to buy each image twice – one licence for each use, which can start to get complicated and expensive.

Other benefits of buying directly from the photographer; the client gets better, more personal service and photos more directly matched to their requirements without hours of trawling stock sites (time which either the client pays for, or the designer has to swallow as a cost to themselves), and the client gets more flexible use of the images. Of course copyright still resides with the photographer, but negotiating a flexible licence with the photographer is much simpler than trying to haggle with a faceless giant of a stock library, plus the chances of being sued for breach of copyright are much reduced when dealing direct.

Bear in mind that if the client is considering having a new brochure or annual report done around the same time as giving their website a facelift, the cost of photography can be spread across all these different media and uses. So it’s clear that the photography budget isn’t coming entirely out of the designer’s slice of the money pie, but the designer can still influence the look, feel and content of the images. Now, doesn’t that sound sweet? Time for tea…

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  • Richard Kenward August 31, 2010  

    Sound reasoning. Quality photography produced specifically for the client is usually far more effective and will directly improve the client’s bottom line, whereas the cheapskate approach of buying from Royalty Free sites or DIY will most likely adversely effect the bottom line. Cheap usually looks cheap!



    • Glass Eye August 31, 2010  

      Or as someone more intelligent than I once said, “buy cheap, buy twice.”

  • Andrew September 1, 2010  

    I think clients have gotten very good at spotting what looks like stock photography-they may not know exactly what it is, but they know it indicates cheap. I actually just did a shoot of a company’s facility for their new website, but they continued to use stock shots of a handshake, guy in hardhat, etc. for the site headers, and it looks a bit cheap.

    • Glass Eye September 1, 2010  

      Some clients I’ve spoken to are even starting to understand what it is they don’t like about micro stock. They use words like fake, boring, sterile and cheesy. Stock, and even microstock are here to stay, and I must begrudgingly concede that it does have a place. Generally speaking though, it’s not suitable for the corporate/commercial web and print uses it tries to aim for. Some smaller charities, schools, clubs and personal sites are fine, and that was microstock’s original stated market. But then the agencies got greedy.

      By the way, Andrew, many thanks for all your comments and thank you for taking the trouble to read so many of my articles.

  • JadedSnapper September 2, 2010  

    WebMan: I’m sorry there’s no budget for photography, can we just credit the use?
    TG: Did you not expect to have pictures on the website?
    WebMan: Erm.. no, just that I could fob you off on paying for them
    TG: Oh, sounds reasonable

    A little exclusive for you Mr Timothy

    • Glass Eye September 2, 2010  

      Is that a free exclusive? I promise I’ll credit you *promptly forgets*

      In many cases, I really do believe the subject of photography gets brushed aside at the planning stage as the designer fears the client will say “that’s a good idea, but it’ll have to come out of your design fee,” at which point the designer needs to know how to explain what I’ve said in this article.

      Thank you for your comment, oh masked crusader.

  • Ken September 2, 2010  

    I good designer worth their salt would be across the whole program of marketing and advertising for a particular business to help that business produce a classy and consistent image/look/feel across all disciplines of promotion, thus knowing what photography, design, video etc. would be required for all mediums

    Then I cam back to reality.