Taking Your Own Photos
The composition of a photo is very important. Photos that are taken with a good composition can really evoke an emotion or stick in someone's mind and have a lot more visual appeal.
Different projects require different resolutions and sizes of photos. If you plan ahead, you can use your photographs for multiple purposes.
Photos for Print Materials
If you know that you want to use a photo for print purposes, it is best to take it at the highest resolution and size possible. You can always reduce the resolution and size of a photograph, but you can't increase it without losing quality. Some cameras allow you to take .RAW versions of a photo, which allow you the most flexibility when modifying it. RAW photos are extremely large (in terms of file size) and will take up a lot of your disk space. If you don't think you will need to modify the image too much, you can take a photo in TIFF or JPG format. TIFF format is better if you plan on modifying it several times and saving it. JPG's condense the file every time it is saved, thus you may lose a little bit of quality each time. TIFF images are also best for printing because they are in CMYK format, whereas JPG's are in RGB. Most printers use CMYK format, though they can usually print a JPG without much trouble. Talk to you printer or read their file instructions prior to beginning your project. BMP's are also an option, but this isn't something I commonly use.
When placing an image in a document for printing, the resolution usually needs to be 300 dpi (dots per inch), though you can sometimes get away with as little as 150 dpi. Again, discuss this with your printer, as this also depends on project size. If you are printing a large display, something around 10 feet in width and 6 feet in height, and will have a photo that is going to be 3 feet large, you will need a very large size and high resolution photo. Taking a photo that was taken at a size of 1 foot square with a 300 dpi resolution will probably not work very well, but because as you enlarge it to 3 times its normal size, the resolution becomes only 100 dpi. At that size, poor quality will really be visible to viewers of your display.
Photos for Web Use
Images for the web can and should be much lower resolution. The larger the file size and the more dpi, the longer it takes the file to download. I usually recommend putting images on a website that take less than 5 seconds to download. Most people will not wait much longer for a page to load on their browser, and you may lose potential customers if a large part of your website is missing when they look at it. Recommended resolution for web images is 72dpi. Flash and other scripts can pre-load images giving you a little more flexibility on the size of the image, but always check your site on multiple browsers before publishing it. Remember those visitors that are still using a dial-up modem when using images.
Photographs for Multiple Purposes
If you are in doubt of what products you may want to use the photos you are taking for, then always take at the highest resolution and largest file size. You can always reduce the file later for a specific project.
Taking your own photographs allows you to personalize the site with project-specific or business-specific photos, and can save you from having to purchase stock photography. Preparing your list of images, the framing of the image, and always carrying your camera with you can help you take good photographs. Photos that have the subjects at an interesting angle, or photos with the subject in focus and the background blurred, or photos of a subject on a white background are more interesting than those that are not planned and just taken at whim. Browse through photos, go to artist's websites and look at their composition to learn what you like and different ways to compose a photo.
Nowadays, most digital cameras can offer you a variety of options, and even those of us who aren't professional photographers, can use one of the middle-range SLR's without much trouble. I have used two digital cameras to take photos for several projects and I would recommend either one to those looking to take their own photos for marketing materials and websites. Both cameras took high quality photos suitable for print materials. You are able to set up the camera for manual functions or this camera can be used to take really good point and shoot automatic shots, if you aren't big on manipulation. Take a look at the Nikon D300 and Canon EOS 5D and read some reviews to form your own opinion. However, if you are going to take photos for print, something a little higher quality than the smaller pocket digital cameras is necessary. However, if you aren't interested in taking your own photos, but still want to add some visual appeal to your printed and web materials, there are several options for purchasing photos.