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Photography was first to emerge among the "modern arts," those which wouldn't be possible without the technical achievements of the last two centuries.  Now it provides unrivalled creative opportunities when combined with the most recent of all arts, the art of web design.

with the rapid improvements in display devices, full-color photographs are no more "approximated" on computer screens as they once were, but can now be rendered with better quality than even on paper.  This allows photography to take its due position in web design, similar to the position it has occupied in this century in mainstream graphic design

So why does photography attract the eye in such a particular way?  How to best utilize its effect in web design?  This article attempts to answer these questions, as usual, by looking at some well designed sites and by pondering upon the general principles they illustrate. The three parts of the article discuss what photos to use, where to find them, and how to integrate them into the page.

What images to use

The idea that comes to mind immediately is to use a photo to picture the same object that your page describes with words.  I bet you have already thought about it if your site markets some tangible product, such as cars or computers.  (Even a piece of software, although not very tangible by itself, may prove photogenic thanks to its packaging box.)  In these simple cases, design considerations are secondary: You need photos simply because your visitors would like to see the thing before ordering it.

The same reasoning applies to portraits of site maintainers or company staff, shots of corporate office and buildings, etc. 

How to integrate

Although computers can handle photos very well, they, as of yet, cannot produce them.  Photos with their unfalsifiably life-like texture remain external, alien artifacts in the world of computer graphics.  This is why any photo image on a web page design needs integration---you cannot just put it there and forget it.  The key idea here is to avoid the Ugly rectangle syndrome as described in my previous article.

In general, using blurring at the edges of a photo (making "soft edges") is a fairly common practice, justified by the texture characteristics of photos similar to those of blurs and soft gradients.  This makes an image much more receptive and neighborly towards the rest of design elements, and its rectangular nature becomes less of an obstacle.  This technique can be applied even to standalone images surrounded by body text.

Where to find photos

The last question to discuss here is, where can one find photo imagery for spicing up web pages?  There are lots of convenient sources, and overall the process of getting a photo for your page is likely to prove easier than you might think.


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