Having a web presence is essential for any modern photographer to generate new business, showcase their portfolio and get their images seen by as many people as possible.
However, it’s unfortunate that so many photographers are missing out on the potential of a great business website by getting some fundamental things wrong.
Is your website a real asset to your business or just a waste of webspace? If you’re doing any of the following things with your website, it may be time for an overhaul.
1. Failing To Generate Leads
So many photographer websites are just a pretty online gallery, with no real means of capturing customer details or driving business. Your online portfolio not only needs to look great, it also should be designed to maximize your lead generation and convert site visitors into paying customers.
Simply putting up a website and waiting for the orders to come in isn’t enough. From the very first stages of planning your website you should consider:
- Search engine optimization to help people find your site when they search for photography services in their area.
- Using social media such as Facebook and Pinterest to encourage people to share your images and gain additional business leads.
- Guest blogging for other photography websites, which helps to bring more people back to your site and make your name known as an authority.
- Including an email capture form on your website, as a good way of growing your mailing list and staying at the top of people’s minds.
- Listing your site in directories such as wedding service directories.
Word of mouth is vital for photography businesses and using the internet is a great way of extending your reach. Don’t underestimate the power of social networking and consider offering free downloads such as wallpapers (watermarked with your logo and website address) to encourage your images to be shared further.
Once you’ve driven visitors to your site, you don’t want to lose them again, so make it easy for people to get in touch with a clear contact page including your email, links to social networks you use, physical address and telephone number.
2. Oversizing Images
Keeping image size down is counter-intuitive for most photographers, as photographs almost invariably look better at a large size. The downside of large images is that they can slow down your site which can actually drive people away.
It’s also important to remember that not everyone is viewing your site on a large screen. It’s common for photographers to use large high-resolution monitors for editing but this can give you a false idea of how your website looks to others. Large images that look great to you may well run off the page of the average visitor’s monitor.
As well as making sure your images are physically not too large, make sure you optimize them for the web as much as possible to reduce their file size. The difference between an image saved with medium and high quality compression is often not detectable at the size you’ll be using for the web. Around 80% quality seems to be the sweet spot between file size and quality for website images.
3. Not Optimizing Images For SEO
If you’re uploading your images with the same file name as they have coming off your camera, you’re missing out on the SEO benefit that properly optimized images can give you.
Photographer’s websites typically don’t contain a lot of text so search engines will rely mainly on the image file names and alt and title tags to let them know what the website is about.
Read more about how to optimize your images for the web here.
4. Putting Too Many Images In Slideshows And Galleries
As well as using images that are too big, putting too many images in your galleries and slideshows will also slow down your site. Rather than creating a slideshow with lots of images that’s hard to navigate and has thumbnails too small to view, categorize your photos into smaller slideshows.
It’s also important to keep down the number of photos you include in your portfolio for quality purposes. Quality wins out over quantity every time. Don’t post mediocre photos to your online galleries – be selective and present only your very best work.
5. Adding Too Many Social Buttons
While it’s important to include social networking in your online marketing efforts, adding links to too many social networks looks cluttered and can confuse site visitors.
It’s also extremely difficult to keep more than a few social networks up to date so concentrate on just two or three (maximum), rather than try and keep up with them all. You can always claim your name at the other networks and put up a link directing people to your website.
You may want to experiment a little to see which social networks give you the most return on investment. Facebook is the biggest social network at the current time and has proven to be an effective marketing medium for photographers. Simply tagging your clients in a few photographs and uploading them to Facebook could be enough to bring you an influx of new customers.
The visual nature of Flickr, Instagram and Pinterest also work well for photographers and twitter is useful for making other contacts that can help bring you new business. Not so many people are using Google+ regularly right now but it’s one to keep an eye on. Many SEO gurus predict that Google will use data from its own social network to help decide the importance of a particular web page, if they’re not doing so already.
6. Watermarking Your Images
If you’re worried about people stealing your images, you might be tempted to watermark them but browsing a gallery of images with watermarks plastered all over them can be very intrusive for site visitors.
Using a smaller watermark in the corner or at the bottom of your image is a compromise. This can and will be cropped out if people really want to take your images, but most won’t bother and it can be a good way to advertise your business name and website.
7. Not Editing Copy
If your website copy is full of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, it screams unprofessionalism. At the very least, make sure you proofread your copy and run it through a spell checker before you upload it.
If words aren’t your strong point, you may consider hiring a professional to write your website copy or if that’s out of your budget, reading up on the fundamentals of persuasive sales copy and writing for the web can help a lot.
8. Adding Too Many Navigational Links
When it comes to websites, simpler is almost always better. A confusing navigation system with lots of links will only make it hard for visitors to browse through your site.
Keep your navigation to a few main standard links such as: “About”, “Portfolio”, “Contact” and “Pricing”. Don’t get too creative about naming these links either. Visitors are used to seeing these standard page names and replacing them with something like, “The photographer behind the camera” won’t do you any favors.
It also seems to be a trend with photographer websites to replace the word “pricing” with “investment” as some kind of psychological trick. Don’t do it – “investment” won’t mean anything to the typical website viewer who just wants to know how much you charge for a photo session.
9. Adding Background Music To Your Website
Adding background music that plays while you browse is a trend that died out in the late ‘90s for most websites, but for some reason in the world of photography, the trend continues.
Playing background music that starts up automatically can be incredibly annoying for users and more often than not will cause them to close your website tab immediately in order to silence the music as quickly as possible.
If you’re adamant about using background music, don’t make it start automatically – let the user choose the option to play it if they wish. Also make sure you’re using royalty-free music. Most photographers also don’t own copyright for the music they select, meaning that they are using it illegally.
10. Not Advertising Your Location
Most photographers work in a specific location so unless you’re willing to fly out anywhere in the world to your clients, make sure it’s obvious where you’re based. Include your location in your site title, your website copy and image file names and descriptions.
11. Not Having A Blog
Blogging is a great way to add extra text to your site for SEO purposes and also gives you a chance to express your personality. Working with a photographer is often quite an intimate experience so it’s helpful for clients to get an idea of what your personality is like before they start working with you.
A blog gives you the opportunity to be more informal, talk about how you work and include some extra images that didn’t make it into your main portfolio.
Make The Most Of Your Website For Business Success
Spending a little extra time giving your photography website some attention can really be worth the effort. By getting right what others do wrong, you’ll already be ahead of your competition and well placed for both online and offline success.