The truth is you can't be in business today without a website. While most of you have a site, you've let it go like a garden that started out beautiful and today is loaded with weeds. Everyone has their own opinion on what makes an effective website, but here are the only things that matter: When people find your website, do they stay and look around or, are they gone in a flash, moving on to one of your competitors?
Here are some good tips to help raise the bar on the quality of your website:
1. Is your site working? Pay attention to your site and check in at least twice a day to make sure it’s loading fast and working the way it should. Enlist the help of a few friends or employees, if your business is big enough, and make sure you check a couple of different pages each time you go on line. Regarding the most popular browser at present, it's Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari, and Firefox. You should always check your site on at least two browsers.
2. How are your galleries? Technology today will allow you to display a lot of images without lengthy load times, but don’t compromise quality for quantity! If you don’t have enough outstanding images for your site and then put up an “under construction” sign and spend the next few days creating outstanding examples of your best work. Every image should be a "wow" image - meaning it's so good you'd only have to show that one image to get hired.
Here are some tips to consider on your galleries:
- Theme your galleries with the obvious choices of your target audience. If your target is wedding clients, then theme your galleries with great examples of bridal portraiture, wedding details, the ceremony, and reception. Let your images tell the story. If your target is family photography or children, then show traditional portraiture, Day-in-the-Life type themes with children, indoor, outdoor and themed events. Give your clients lots to look at, but don't go overboard. Personally, I believe you can tell the story of your work with no more than 8-10 outstanding images under any one category.
- Show diversity in your skill set by including color, black and white and a few special techniques, but don’t bury them in dozens of special effects. Remember this where that line about "less is more" applies.
- Make your galleries easy to load and give people a way to manually go through the images. Most people view images faster than the slide show tool you might put on the site, and give them the option to shut off the music! Not everybody has your taste.
- If you’re putting a slide show on the site, then check out Photodex and ProShow Web. Their can give you the ability to present a fast-paced presentation of your skills, but keep it to no more than 3 minutes. This is a tease of your work, NOT a full-length feature film.
- It’s one of my pet peeves, but pay attention to flesh tones and the quality of each image. Photographers who don’t pay attention to these seemingly little details will leave their clients wondering, “Which of these images represent the photographer I’m going to hire?” It becomes especially evident when you show a series of the same bride, but with exposures all over the place.
- Show actual album pages. Showing a completed album gives your potential clients a chance to see the finished product you’re capable of creating. Showing album pages isn't just for bridal clients. Consider the idea for children and family portraiture as well. The point is to demonstrate your ability as a storyteller!
- Pay attention to the continuity of images you use for graphic design elements throughout the site. If you're using images in headers and footers, for example, be consistent with your specialty. I was on a site a few years ago and the photographer was using beautiful landscape images. The problem was his target audience for the site was bridal clients.
3. Testimonials: Unless you were just written up in a major magazine or even the local newspaper don't waste space on your site with testimonials. It's like checking references. There's no such thing as a bad reference! Personally, they're not believable, unless it's from a publication or a noted member of the community.
4. Policy Statements: I keep visiting sites where photographers list all the major components of their policies, including copyright issues, deposits, cancellation penalties, etc. Save all of that for your contract discussion. Some of you have written policy statements that could have been authored by an IRS agent, and there's a good chance they'll scare people away.
5. Diversification: Don't create galleries of different specialties if you don't have any depth in experience or images to show. I was on a site recently where the photographer listed landscape, but only had two images to show. And, keep your galleries related to your core specialty.
6. Pricing: There's always a big discussion on pricing. My personal feeling is photographers should NOT put prices on their site, but instead say, "Packages starting at __________". This gives you a starting point. There's a lot of information out there on pricing including my own Lynda.com class. Just click on the image to the right for more information - it's not rocket science, but it is important for you to understand all your costs and your target audience.
7. Packages: Price your work in packages. In fact, one of the very best opinions on pricing comes from good buddy Sal Cincotta. His video about pricing is on the site and worth the time to listen to what he has to say.
8. Contact Information: Give people every possible way to contact you. I understand if you work out of your home and don't want to list an address, but there's no excuse for not giving people a phone number and an email address. Make yourself accessible!
9. Your Head Shot: On your about page, include a shot or two of you working with clients. One might be a shot of you with a camera in your hand, the other talking with clients or in the process of capturing their portrait. Don't waste the space on a cheesy head shot of you.
10. Remember the difference between your website and your blog. Your website is all about what you sell. Your blog is about what's in your heart. Keep them separate and work to make your site habit-forming. The greatest thing for a photographer is to have people talking about your images and sharing the link to your site.
There are ten tried and true tips to make your website stronger, but check it every day to make sure it's working correctly and pay attention to the quality of your galleries.
Remember, quality ALWAYS trumps quantity in the eyes of most consumers looking at your work! And sorry, but I don't buy into the idea that most clients don't know good work from bad, so why bother to spend the time to show only your best work!
It's an education process and up to you to help them see the difference!