In 1911, the Syracuse Advertising Men's Club held a banquet to discuss journalism and publicity. One of its members (Arthur Brisbane) was quoted in the paper saying, “Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words.”
Not Confusious, King Solomon, Einstein, or Aristotle, but an advertising man. (Tell that to your parents.)
Fast forward 100+ years and Arthur’s proverbial words still ring true—especially when it comes to landing pages.
Enter: the landing page hero shot.
If your headline and subheading communicate your value proposition, your landing page hero shot brings it to life in a way only an image can. This is why a strong hero shot is a mainstay of landing page design.
Get it wrong, and watch your conversion rates plummet.
Get it right (like Arthur knew from experience), and watch your conversion rates skyrocket.
In the name of getting it right, we’re going to make Arthur proud by exploring the different types of hero images, the steps required to create your own, and examples of good, bad, and bogus ones.
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What is a landing page hero shot?
Your landing page hero shot refers to the primary image or video used to communicate the value of your offer, and it’s the first image your visitors will encounter upon arriving.
For example, notice how Divvy’s hero image features a credit card and a mobile app, both of which add context to their headline that states: “The credit & software your business needs to thrive.”
Is a hero image going to seduce someone into buying?
Not by itself.
But together with your headline, subheading, offer, and call-to-action (CTA), your hero shot can provide the context, emotion, and clarity needed to push your visitors across the finish line.
That means a high-quality hero shot doesn’t just fill space; it brings your offer to life in a way that words alone never could, and it creates an indelible first impression.
Hero shot vs. hero section
Don’t confuse a hero shot with a hero section.
The hero section of your landing page refers to the “above-the-fold” section, or the section of the landing page your visitors first encounter before they start scrolling down.
Your hero section includes your hero shot, headline, subheading, and CTA (at a minimum), but the hero shot and hero section refer to two separate elements of your entire landing page.
Types of landing page hero images
Whether animated, custom photography, a video, or some other style, landing page hero shots fall into five main categories:
- “promised land”
Let’s explore examples from each.
1. Product-focused landing page hero shots
Product-focused landing pages spotlight the product in action. Surprise, surprise.
For a new or complicated product, a product-focused hero shot can help demystify your offer by making the abstract feel concrete.
For example, Editor X’s hero shot features their actual visual editor interface:
2. Metaphoric landing page hero shots
Metaphoric hero shots use images that represent or symbolize the value of the offer, just not in a literal sense.
3. “Promised land” landing page hero shot
Promised land hero shots portray the desired outcome of using your product or service, either by spotlighting a successful customer or a desirable future state.
For example, Keeps subscription hair loss medicine showcases a satisfied and smiling customer, presumably after using their hair loss medicine:
4. Process-focused landing page hero shot
You typically see process-focused hero shots for services or software where illustrating the product might not be possible. Instead, you visualize the process that’s responsible for the service's value or effectiveness.
For example, GatherContent uses a custom graphic to illustrate its software’s content management process:
5. Abstract landing page hero shot
Our least favorite hero shot: abstract hero images (or hero images composed of visual elements like shapes or patterns).
Why are they our least favorite? Because they just fill space. Not much else.
For example, Semrush features two abstract shapes as their primary visual element, nothing else. Missed opportunity.
How to create a landing page hero shot and increase conversions
A high-quality hero shot doesn’t just fill space; it adds context, communicates relevance, evokes emotion, and enriches the user experience. And it does so using a combination of
Let’s explore each.
1. Prioritize clarity and concreteness
Abstract hero shots do two things well: 1) absolutely nothing, and 2) increase cognitive load (the time it takes for visitors to comprehend your offer).
High-quality landing page hero shots should portray your product, service, desired outcome, or value proposition in action, in the real world, or as close to reality as possible. Simple.
Don’t make your visitors think too hard. Avoid art for the sake of art. And keep your visuals concrete.
For example, Dollar Shave Club uses their hero image to illustrate the products included in their $5 Razor Starter Set. Simple yet effective.
2. Make it relevant for some, irrelevant for others
A high-quality landing page hero shot should resonate immediately with your target audience while simultaneously signaling “This is not for me” to anyone else.
Your visitors make split-second decisions mainly influenced by their unconscious minds. If your hero shot doesn’t immediately bring clarity to who it’s for and who it’s not for, try again.
That also means matching your landing page hero shot with the messaging and creative that sent people there (i.e., message match).
For example, when you look at Allure’s Beauty Box hero shot, is there any question that it’s for people specifically interested in beauty?
3. Use it to add context
Your landing page hero shot lives to support your headline and subheading. Period.
Better yet, think of it as the visual representation of your value proposition.
That means your hero shot needs to bring to life the promise you make in your headline, not some promise you make elsewhere on the page.
For example, Canva adds context to their “creativity and productivity” headline with a product-focused hero shot that illustrates collaboration, templates, and design on the go (mobile app):
4. Imbue it with emotion
When we say emotional, we don’t mean moving someone to tears; we mean creating a positive feeling about your brand and offer.
A lot of it boils down to the quality of your graphic design—quality web design builds trust and establishes credibility.
But you can evoke positive feelings like trust, safety, happiness, and confidence directly from your hero shot by using choice imagery.
For example, Namogoo features a variety of happy-go-lucky “buyers,” as if to say, “This is what your customers will feel like after you start using Namogoo.”
By mirroring positive emotions associated with their value proposition’s “promised land,” Namogoo elicits positive emotions from its potential customers.
Or you can feature social proof, like customer testimonials, star ratings, or awards, directly within your hero shot to evoke feelings of trust and confidence.
5. Customize it to your brand
No. Stock. Photography.
Keep your landing page hero shots custom to your brand.
If you need help from stock photography due to resources, at the very least, work stock photography into a custom graphic so that it fits the style and feel of your brand.
For example, Monday.com uses various stock photographs of people, but they edit them into their landing page hero shot in a way that feels original and unique.
6. Don’t let it get in the way of your copy
For example, notice how Apostrophe features a dermatologist looking toward the headline and CTA?
Directing her body and gaze to the right creates a subtle visual cue that draws the attention of the visitor in the same direction—right toward the headline and CTA.
Now juxtapose that with VanMoof’s landing page hero shot. It doesn’t make the headline and CTA standout; it buries them.
18 Landing page hero shot examples
Now for the fun part: landing page hero shot examples.
We broke up this section into three distinct categories:
- The Good (10 examples)
- The Bad (4 examples)
- The Bogus (4 examples)
Because not all hero shots are superheroes, and learning what not to do is just as important as learning what to do.
Bookmark them. Add them to your swipe file. Tell all your friends.
- Canva Pro
- Adobe Creative Cloud
1. Canva Pro
What we love: Product-focused hero shot that adds context to the headline, doesn’t distract from the CTA, and evokes positive emotions.
What we love: Doo shows real screenshots from their reminder app. Simple, concrete, contextual, custom, effective.
What we love: Public features a looping video that showcases screenshots from their app along with real, authentic users. This video marries product-focused with promised land to artfully capture its ease-of-use, target market, and mobile-friendliness.
4. Adobe Creative Cloud
What we love: No better way to demonstrate the power of your design software than by showcasing the actual designs it facilitated. Well, maybe one way: by making your logo the subject of the design. Bravo, Adobe.
What we love: We LOVE metaphoric landing page hero shots at KlientBoost. Mainly because we’ve grown an entire family of brand mascots that need their 15-minutes of fame, but also because they illustrate our value propositions in a distinct and fun way. Who doesn’t love smiling landing pages and raining money?
What we love: Squarespace prioritizes design, always. So no surprise that their landing page hero images look more like modern art than most modern art. But like we mentioned earlier, art for the sake of art doesn’t cut it when it comes to landing page hero shots. Not unless you’ve captured your product in real life within that art. And that’s exactly what Squarespace does here.
What we love: It’s a bit hard to tell from this image (I suggest you visit their webpage), but Spline’s 3D hero shot moves when you click and drag your mouse over it. Pretty neat, considering that they sell collaborative 3D design tools.
What we love: SnapCall uses their hero shot to illustrate a common use case (or pain point) their target market might find valuable (like interacting with your customers remotely). Makes sense, considering their subheading promises to “deliver a groundbreaking customer experience with one-click video calls.”
What we love: Talk about product-focused. Typeform uses a real-life embedded Typeform form as their hero image. Visitors can actually click on the “Try me out” button and experience the form for themselves. Brilliant.
What we love: Metaphor alert. An armadillo wrapping its body around a house as if it were protecting it like it was its own baby. Is it even possible to communicate their brand promise and value proposition in a better way? No chance.
We’ve seen worse, but these landing page hero shots still don’t make the cut.
What we don’t like: Here’s what happens when metaphors fail. Semrush uses a toolbox, presumably to highlight their “Tools for any SEO challenge” value proposition. Only the toolbox is filled with a ruler, magnifying glass, and cog. Are you selling plumbing tools? Or SEO tools?
What we don’t like: And this is what happens when the abstract fails. We get it, though, since this landing page promotes InVision’s new “Freehand” software. But why just show a woman “freehanding” on a wall? Yeah, no. Missed opportunity. People want to see the software in real life, especially when it’s a new type of software.
What we don’t like: It’s overloaded. What do we even focus on? MURAL attempts to use a product-focused hero shot, but they’ve squeezed too much in it, making it hard to discern what each feature does. I can see it now: too many people want too many features represented, so the designer said, “Eff it, we’ll throw them all in there.”
What we don’t like: What’s most disturbing about this abstract design is that it looks like a sound wave of sorts. But PocketGuard is a personal finance app. The lesson? Ensure your hero shot doesn’t look like a different service at first glance, even if by accident.
Yep, we can’t forget about the bogus. These hero shots straight up waste the most valuable piece of landing page real estate.
What we hate: A woman blowing up a balloon? That’s how you’re going to illustrate your “Convert more website visitors into paying customers” value proposition? Swing and a miss.
What we hate: Landing pages don’t always need hero shots to convert. So don’t squeeze them in just because you “need something visual.” Say no to space fillers (ahem, SurveyMonkey).
What we hate: It’s a funnel, I suppose. But it looks more like a lightbulb. In a text-heavy landing page that could benefit from a strong visual, Act-On misses the point. Not to mention they don’t even include their logo on this landing page.
What we hate: Is that an Amazon drone delivering my new extension cord? Yikes. Not to mention the placement (top right) pulls your attention away from the CTA at the bottom, not toward it.
Closing thoughts: the landing page hero shot test
Though landing page hero shots come in all shapes and types, the best ones incorporate a combination of
Whether you’re a small business or a global organization, prioritize these elements to nail your landing page hero shot.
Want to know if your hero shot hits the mark?
Try the hero shot test.
Find a friend or colleague (preferably someone who has never encountered the product your landing page promotes), load the landing page, and give them five to ten seconds to review the hero shot.
If they can’t accurately describe your value proposition and the accompanying hero shot in two sentences, it’s time to start A/B testing different variations.
Now go forth and make Arthur (and us) proud.
Just don’t forget to master your landing page headlines while you’re at it. Read all about how to do that in our next blog here.