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07/032012

Stock Photo Resources for Web Designers in China


Part of the process of web design is looking for solid images to support your website and company's goals.

Custom photography is ideal, but not always an option. This is where stock photography resources enter the web design process. Once you define what kind of images you're looking for to support your website's look and feel, you can begin your search for the perfect photograph.

 

Stock Photography Sites

A useful free stock photography site is Stock.XCHNG. All photographs are free, but be sure to read the usage conditions under the "Availability" section below the stock image. While none of the photos require monetary payment, some require that you notify and/or credit the photographer when you use the image.

Two paid stock photography sites are Fotolia and iStockPhoto. Both of these sites provide sample comp images: iStockPhoto provides comps with a light X through the image and a single watermark in the middle. Fotolia provides comps with a high amount of pixelation and artifacts with several small watermarks across the image. iStockPhoto comp images are generally much easier to use in website drafts, as Fotolia's low quality comps can be distracting when making visual decisions about a website draft.

Another stock photography site with a completely different model is foap. Instead of purchasing a package of credits then using those credits to purchase photos like Fotolia or iStockphoto, each photo can be purchased at a set price of 10 USD. You can also request a specific photo in a specific location that one of the many contributors to the site can go out and photograph.

 

Stock Photography Search Hints

In your search results, click on a photo that is a fairly good match for your requirements and look at the Keywords assigned to that image for ideas of what search terms to use to narrow down your selection of images.

Fotolia and iStockPhoto both provide Advanced Search filter options to the left of the image search results that allow you to filter by file type, orientation, color and category.

iStockphoto's search is generally more visually friendly and intuitive: you can easily delete keywords from your search, and if a keyword has multiple meanings, the keyword will have a small orange question mark next to it. When clicked, a pop up box appears with "Did you mean…" suggestions. For example, when searching for "phone ring," iStockphoto asks if we mean Ring (Jewelry), Ring (Non-moving Activity), Boxing Ring (Sports Venue), or Circle (Two-dimensional Shape).

Fotolia's advantage is their geolocalization. For example, visiting fotolia.com from our Shanghai office immediately directs us to their site that's geared towards those in China (cn.fotolia.com). Searching for "phone" on the Chinese site results in images with Asian rather than Western faces. The same search on Fotolia's sites for France or the USA contains models specific to each location. This localization feature is particularly useful when building websites geared towards the Chinese market. For example, your customer service can be illustrated with friendly faces from the same region as your target customer base.

 

Case Studies

The French restaurant Odelice! based in Shangha wanted a warm home-like feel to their website and a menu navigation that visually reflected the key ingredients in their crepes. We designed the shelf in Photoshop and Illustrator, but for the individual items on the shelf, we turned to stock photography sites.

We found the perfect image for each ingredient, then used Photoshop to isolate each image from their original backgrounds and write the menu title on each menu item in both English and Chinese. For the English menu items, we made sure that the menu title text matched the original ingredient's visual identity as closely as possible. (For example, the nutella jar uses the same typography for the word "location".)

For the car company Peugeot's Chinese site Europauto, we blended stock photos of Paris and Rome to create a custom image highlighting Peugeot's car lease flexibility.

 

Conclusion

Fotolia makes designing websites for companies doing business in China even more convenient due to their separate specific sites for various countries, including China. Stock.XCHNG provides wallet-friendly options for the budding web designer. iStockPhoto provides excellent search refinement options. Foap is an alternate model for finding the perfect image.

Stock photography sites are excellent resources for the web design process.



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