In 2009 I left California to start my own business. At that point I had lived on the west side of Los Angeles for seven years. It's the world of "nip and tuck," and it makes a great theme for today's post. Living in LA, you never say, "I've seen it all," because sure enough an hour later you'll see something more bizarre.
It's great to look young, but so often in LA, you see women (and men too) who have just pushed the envelope, chasing their youth a little too far. Personally, I don't want my gray hair died back to what I looked like in high school. And, I earned those bags I get under my eyes, why would I want to give them up? The list could go on and on, but here's my point:
The slow season for most of you is right around the corner, and it's time to look at your website. For a tiny percentage of you everything is great, but for most, you need a facelift, or you've overdosed with busy designs, too many images, too much text and clutter. You've got the equivalent of photographic Botox!
First, all of you can focus your camera, but you can't focus on your specialty. You have all kinds of images on your website - some of them might be great, others are mediocre, even bad. They were included to fill up space. Too many of you put up almost everything you shoot.
Pretend you're a potential client and you're looking through your galleries. Let's assume you're guilty of inconsistent quality, with a few great images, in the beginning, tapering off to average and weak later on. Look at the pictures on your website through the eyes of your client.
For me, the first question I'd worry about as a client, is who am I going to get if I hire this photographer? Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde? While one image might be spectacular, a minute later you're sharing terrible images no better than Uncle Harry's. The gap between great images and everything else might be huge, leaving a client wondering which persona will they be hiring.
Second, at the other extreme are photographers who get tired of their images before they need to be changed. They're always changing images, tired of the selection before potential clients have seen them. I've seen photographers do the same with their logo. In fact, years ago I worked with a photographer who changed her logo three times in two years!
Third, are your images in sync with today's styles and trends? So often I've seen images on websites I know were taken years ago. You need to keep your site fresh! Personally, I love it when photographers use their images in a blog style with a little copy that describes when and where the images were taken and especially demonstrates their enthusiasm.
Fourth, pay attention to the design of your site. Since we already know women make 98% of the purchase decisions to hire a photographer in the portrait/social categories, your site needs to have a softer appeal. Is your site too masculine looking? (Note: This isn't a "guy thing!" I've seen plenty of female photographers with websites needing a softer more artistic appeal.)
Fifth, Is your site easy to navigate? Think about your favorite retail store and how it feels when you walk in. Make your website an experience - just like the difference between shopping at Macy's versus Nordstrom's, make your site easy to find your galleries first, followed by your About page and your other tabs. Don't make potential clients work to find what's most important on your site.
Last but not least, limit your copy! If a picture is worth a thousand words, then don't bury people in paragraph after paragraph about yourself - give them images demonstrating quality and consistency. It's outdated terminology, but your goal is to create "sticky pages". Sticky pages means your audience literally won't want to leave your site. They share your images with their friends, and they come back to look at more of your images at other times.
In the end, we're right back to needing a facelift! Your website is your storefront - it's who your future client sees before they ever pick up the phone or meet you. Show images created from the heart, and you'll be able to pull at people's heartstrings! Then talk about some of them on your blog. As I've written many times before, your website is about what you sell, while your blog is about what's in your heart. The two together work to define you as an artist and a retail entity.
Check out "Why?" one of the most popular features on the SCU Blog. It's a very simple concept - one image, one artist and one short sound bite. Each artist shares what makes the image one of their most favorite. We're over 100 artists featured since the project started. Click on the link above and you can scroll through all of the episodes to date.