Back to parent page how to use photography


Use high quality photos

Poor quality photos reduce the chance of visitors engaging with the site.


Focus on faces

People respond to faces, so try to use photos of one person facing the camera.


Choose appropriate images

Use a photo which helps you to communicate the message.


Take lots of photos

Take 5 or 10 photos, not just one; then you can pick the best one later.


Prepare photos for the best results

Cropping and preparing images with professional software gets the best results

A picture is worth a thousand words

It's a cliche, but it's true. People respond to photography, and using photographs effectively can make a huge difference to how users respond to your website.

This blog shares a few tips about how to choose photographs to support your site. Of course it's not ideal for every purpose, but it will show you how to make the most of every photograph.

Don't just use any old photo. Clear, bright photographs with a lots of contrast and colour can make people feel good about your organisation. Crowded, dark, blurry, dull photographs give a very different impression.

You don't need to be a professional photographer or a designer to follow this guide. You just need a digital camera (or camera-phone) and an understanding of best practice.

Make sure the photo you choose supports the story you want to tell

For example, you might wish to tell a positive story about the great work you are doing for young people. If so, it's better to choose a photo of a younger person, even if you don't think the photo is as "nice" as the one of the older person shown.

Make sure your photo fits with the context of the story you are telling.

Avoid uploading small photos

Treeline CMS makes a copy of each photograph in all of the sizes you need for the site. So you don't need to worry about scaling photos.

Shrinking a large original photo down retains as much detail as possible, and produces good results.

But scaling a small original photograph up produces bad results, as you can see in the example below.

The photo on the left is what happens when you make a small photo (inset) bigger. Compare it to a sharper, crisper version of the same image on the right - look at the amount of detail in the face. So always start from a large photograph, at least 800 pixels across.

Focus on faces

People respond to faces. So if you have the choice between a busy photo showing a lot of people, and a simple photo which shows one face, choose the one which shows one face.

Both of the photos above show people doing crafts. But the photo on the right is better, because it has more focus and a clearer composition. The photo on the left has too much going on, and nothing that really draws the eye.

A human face will always draw the eye and help to engage your audience.

The only good reason to choose the photo of four people is if you are creating a story about working as a team or specifically about the project these people are working on.

Advanced: Editing images

Treeline will automatically shrink and crop images to the sizes required by the website design.

But it's not able to choose which parts of the photo to focus on. If it needs to crop an image down it will simply cut pixels off each side equally, even if that means cutting the head off a person in the photo.

For the best results we recommend you buy a photo editing software package, such as Adobe Photoshop Elements ( which costs £79 at the time of writing. You may also try the free GIMP photo editing software ( Others are available, and there are free websites which let you crop images, such as However, the websites save the images at a lower quality, and the results aren't quite as good as Photoshop (although they may be fine in many cases).

Cropping images yourself will allow you to focus on the area you think is best, as shown in the example below.

The photo on the left is fine - it's a nice photo. But if you upload it to Treeline, it will simply scale the photos. If you want to focus on the man's face and hands, you will need to do that manually before uploading the photo. Treeline will still resize the photo to all of the sizes you need, but it will do it based on the composition of the photo that you think is best.

Focusing on the important areas of the image gets better results, because if you make things too small (as in the photo on the left, above) details such as the man's expression are harder to see.

The rule of thirds

If you decide to manually crop images, remember the rule of thirds.

The rule of thirds is a theory that photos are more interesting to look at if you put the area of focus in 1/3 of the frame, either vertically, horizontally, or both.

There is science behind this; it's not just a matter of opinion. People find it threatening to be stared at, and unless you know somebody very well you will naturally tend to stand slightly to one side of them so that you can make eye-contact, but don't stare directly at them. So framing a photo slightly off-centre makes people more comfortable when you look at the face, because it replicates the way we naturally behave around strangers.

The photo on the left places the man's face in the centre of the image. But the photo on the right places the man's face in the top, left corner. It is in the top 1/3, and in the left 1/3 of the photo. It looks more interesting, warmer, and most people would feel more comfortable looking at it. This is a good, simple way to give your photos a composition which is interesting and successful.

Once you're aware of the rule of thirds you will see it in the composition of most advertising photos, and in the way movies and television programmes are filmed.

What to do if you don't have a good photo

Digital cameras are relatively inexpensive, and many mobile phones include a good camera.

You should be able to take lots of photos, and choose the best ones for the website.

Remember to take photos in a high resolution - you can always crop them down later if the original photo is large enough, and at a high resolution. If you take a lot of photos you have more chance of getting one great image.

But if you can't take a photo, or if you need a photo which is impractical for you to take (for example a photograph of Sydney Opera House) there are other sources.

  • In Treeline CMS there is an option to share photos with other websites that your organisation might use. So look in the shared photo gallery to see if another site has shared a suitable photo.
  • Search Google images, although be wary of using images which have a copyright. There is always a risk that you will be subject to legal action. So be cautious.
  • Try searching on, the free photo-sharing website. Check on Flickr that the photo you use is subject to Creative Commons, which means you're allowed to use the photo as long as you display a credit on the site.
  • Visit a website like, which is a commercial photo library. However, they do have a number of images which are copyright free, and you may be able to find one which is suitable.


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blog by Russ

creative lead