Invest in the Web: You may be a fantastic photographer, but if no one sees your pictures, how will you ever get noticed? Having a website presents your photography to the world and is easier and more affordable than ever!
Do you have a website? If the answer is no. then the next thing you need to do is book a day off work and dedicate the time to setting one up and uploading your images. Sure, you may have a Facebook account or have images uploaded to Flickr. but if you want people to take you seriously as a photographer worth paying for. then you need to have your own dedicated website. It’s worth pointing out right at the start that having your own website is far easier and much more affordable than you might think. Uploading images from your computer to your website is as easy as downloading from your camera to your computer, while the annual fee for a great-looking website to proudly display them on can cost the same as a couple of memory cards. Why have a website? Along with your camera kit. a website may prove to be the best investment you make for helping you make money from your photos, so you need to build one that reflects the quality of your photography and your brand. As photographers, the main purpose for having a website is to be able to showcase our best images. Before the arrival of the internet, we could only do this by exhibiting work on gallery walls, or in magazines. Now. we have the potential to allow a worldwide audience access to our photos. However, that’s just the start of what a website can offer photographers. Regardless of whether you’re a hobbyist, an enthusiast or a pro.
Invest in the Web
You can set it up so that visitors have the opportunity to buy prints from you. In its most basic form, this could be by providing a contact email address. Better still is a simple automated set-up where visitors choose the size of print they require before ordering and paying online. Of course, if you are serious about wanting to earn money from your photography, you’ll want to have a website that works harder at selling your services as a photographer than just selling images you may have already captured. In other words, you want potential clients to visit your website and having seen the standard of your work, want to book you to take pictures for them. Your website, therefore, should be viewed as the most powerful brand extension that you have to offer, so you need to be sure it sells you as a photographer the best it can. The most sophisticated websites have private areas, accessed via password, that allow clients to log in and view their image galleries and to select their favourite images. Your website also enables you to promote how busy you are and the diversity of your work. While image galleries allow you to do this to some extent, a far better way is to have a blog where you regularly comment on your shoots, allowing clients to add their comments too. It’s also worth having a site that has links to your Twitter and Facebook account and check that it’s iPhone compatible, so prospective clients can look at your site and be updated with your latest work on the go. It’s a brilliant way to reinforce how busy and popular you are’ Setting up your own website Thankfully, you don’t need to construct your own website as there are various options available that leave you time to concentrate on choosing the images you wish to upload and the accompanying text.
Fast and Affordable Websites: Ready made Template
If you want your own website, by far the easiest option is to take advantage of one of the many companies offering ready- made website templates for photographers. With this option, you simply choose your favourite template, pay an annual fee and then upload your favourite images. Depending on the package you opt for. you can add extra options, for instance, more galleries, a shopping basket allowing visitors to order prints, email forwarding, client areas and so on. It’s the easiest option and also the most affordable, making it by far the most desirable choice for amateur and enthusiast photographers. Those looking for a more professional website may need to consider one of the firms that produce bespoke websites. However, that said, many professionals use this option and have done well by it. But remember to check what the technical support services are like and how easy it is to manage the site’s content yourself.
Verdict: This option is affordable and the latest templates in general are attractive and professional looking. It’s definitely the best choice as a first website. Most offer a free trial period too!
Unique but Expensive: Bespoke Website
The template option is one that will suit the needs (and budgets!) of most amateur and enthusiast photographers, but those looking for a one-off design that reflects their individuality and customer appeal, may need to dig a little deeper and pay out for a website to be custom made. The benefit is that you can have a website that looks like no other. As with Ready made Templates, there are a number of firms that can build photographers a bespoke website to suit their needs, but they are considerably more expensive, often ranging from several hundred to thousands of pounds, depending on how elaborate it is. But if you feel that your photographic business will benefit and flourish from a totally unique website, then it could be money well spent. You’ll be dealing with companies that have produced websites for other photographers, so you can expect them to have a good appreciation of your needs and be able to deliver a website with the facilities you require to make it the best possible online shop window for your business. Bear in mind when shopping for a designer that you want one that offers continual technical support once the site has gone live, and a management interface that’s easy for you to use. After all, you don’t want a website that looks fantastic but where you haven’t an idea how to figure out how to update its content.
Verdict: An option for those photographers who want to emphasize their unique style and provide the impression they’re successful and at the top of their game. It’s expensive, so you’ll need to be confident that it’s an investment that will reap rewards.
Most Involved Option: Website Creation Software
The other option of course, is to create your own website. It’s obviously by far the most time intensive and we’d only recommend considering it if the template option doesn’t appeal or you don’t fancy paying out a large amount to another company to create it for you. While it’s possible to build a website using Photoshop, there are a number of software packages available designed specifically for this purpose. They vary in features, flexibility, the amount of web hosting space provided and. of course, price, but all will demand your time, so think long and hard before you choose this option.
Verdict: While the initial cost may be attractive, you’ll need to dedicate considerable time and need a high level of expertise to understand the fundamentals of web creation. The exception is Apple’s iWeb. a superb, attractive and easy to use package.
Top ten do’s & don’ts
However you create your website, here are our golden rules to follow:
- Display a selection of stunning images rather than lots of average ones. Always choose quality over quantity,
- Flash animation and slideshows may look great, but HTML loads faster and is handled better by Google.
- Do what you can to improve your SEO – see panel opposite.
- Keep the site’s design simple and professional; avoid texturized and busy backgrounds
- Make the navigation simple, visible and all thumbnail images clickable. Functionality is key to keeping viewers on your site.
- Make sure it’s easy for people to contact you.
- Choose an obvious domain name – your name followed by ‘photography’ for instance.
- Add elements that make people want to return, such as a blog.
- Make money from your site by adding a shopping basket.
- Add links to Facebook, Twitter and RSS.
- Domain name: The web address people will type in, eg: www.joebloggsphotography.com.
- Email forwarding: A facility that allows any messages typed into your website to be forwarded by email to you.
- Flash: Software used to create sophisticated animated graphics for websites.
- Hosting: Your website and all the elements within it, such as the images, will need to be stored on a computer known as the ‘host’. If you’re uploading lots of high-res images, ensure your website host offers a package with a suitably large capacity – 2GB should be the minimum.
- HTML: The code used to construct websites.
- SEO(Search Engine Optimisation): A mechanism that raises your website up in Google’s rankings – vital if your business relies on your website being seen
- Template: The core design of your website, although it’s often customisable.
Make sure your website is seen by all the right people by following these simple steps…
Domain name and hosting
Two important considerations when preparing to have your own website are what it will be called (domain name) and who you have to host it (web hosting company). Think carefully about what name you give your website. Most photographers use their name, with the word photography or something similar after it. Spend a little time working out some options. As well as what comes before the dot, you need to think about what comes after: do you want .co.uk. .org, .com or one of several other options? We’d suggest you buy both .co.uk and .com for your website. You can discover if your choice of domain name is free using one of the web hosting websites listed below. Expect to pay around £5 a year for a .co.uk domain and £11 per year for a .com. You’ll need a company to host your website and while you may opt to go with the same company that designed your website, make sure you can take your domain name with you when you leave. Most hosting companies provide you with options to choose the amount of web space you require, a number of email addresses, decent mailbox capacity and 24/7 web support.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
If you want your website to be seen by as many people as possible, you need to spend time improving your SEO. It’s a mechanism that can help your website appear higher up the rankings I of Google and other search engines. You can pay firms specialising in SEO. but we’d suggest you give it a go yourself firs! by following our tips: Use keywords (words that people might use when searching for your site or images) to each page. Check their scare liability on Google Adwords. And use the most important words first. Install Google Analytics on your site so you can track how it is performing in searches, monitor your website’s traffic and where viewers are coming from. It can be particularly useful if you want to know how effective your marketing is. Add your business to Google Places. Make sure you include descriptive text on your website about your services and products for search engines to index. Use descriptive page titles for the top of your web browser using keywords you’d expect people to search with, along with your name. Eg: Beautiful portrait photography. Peterborough | Joe Bloggs. Use HTML on your site rather than Flash – Google is much better at recognising HTML – or at least have a HTML mirror site. Maintain a blog regularly to generate traffic to your site and new searchable content. Get as many reputable websites to post links back to your website to improve traffic.
A few more things to consider…
Your brand is important, so ensure you have a decent logo design and place it in the top left corner of your screen. Make sure you use a well-known font and that its legible. We recommend Verdana. Georgia and Times New Roman, in that order. Flash technology doesn’t display correctly on many devices, and there is very little content for search engines to find. The use of Flash also means that the site takes too long to load, which often discourages users from staying on the site (on average, a user will wait ten seconds for content to load before moving on). Alternate the home page image so every time someone revisits, they see a different image, and don’t have the same image visible when they click through to the site to avoid repetition. Try showing a selection of your images on your homepage, but avoid introductory Flash slideshows; viewers are likely to lose interest if they have to sit through it. If you’ve not completed certain pages, ensure they’re removed from the website’s navigation. Avoid using music on your website as it can prove distracting, repetitive and intrusive. Alternatively, turn the music off as default, giving the user the option to switch it on. Finally, pick your strongest images that reflect your talent, brand and services and have them fill as much of the web page as possible for maximum impact.
Boost Business With Social Media
Understanding social networking and using it to your advantage can be of huge benefit to your business. So love it or loathe it, online social networking is here to stay and we say if you can’t beat it- why not join it? A few years ago websites were the new thing everyone had to have and few people knew how to get one. Now websites are an essential commodity for anyone wanting to run a successful business and especially for photographers who want to promote their work. Making phone calls and submitting images on disk has become outdated as the world of emails. FTPs and websites have revolutionized the way we interact. Now there’s a new revolution: social media. It’s become the way we share news, develop relationships with strangers, conduct debates and promote our products and services, to name just a few. Of course, there’s no substitute for face-to-face communication for building valuable relationships, but the inception of social media has made it far easier to connect with more people globally than ever before. Social media gives you the scope for reaching more people, particularly potential clients, without necessarily having to leave your office. Most consumers or industry professionals such as photo editors expect you to have an online presence in the form of at least a website. It used to be that when someone made a referral it would be followed up with a phone call, but now it’s usually with a web search. And it’s highly likely if you’ve no web presence a potential client will doubt the validity, professionalism and quality of your business, perhaps enough not to take the enquiry any further. Working with social media sites is a daunting prospect, especially if you’re not that computer literate or web savvy, as for many it’s difficult to know where to start, let alone how to make a productive marketing tool out of it. There are three main social networking sites you should be getting involved with: Twitter. Facebook and Linkedln – but the most important resource for building an online presence is your blog. which in many respects is what you’re trying to drive traffic to via those other social sites In this section, we’ll try to help you get your head around why you should be using social media, how to use it to grow your business and the pitfalls you should avoid. Swiftly followed by invaluable information about how to create and manage perhaps the most important aspect of your social media empire: your blog.
If you thought twitter was for celebrities and their stalkers you’re not entirely wrong. It’s also used by the likes of politicians, who want to effectively communicate their campaign messages, magazines that want a quick way to connect with an audience and photographers looking to promote their work. As a marketing tool. Twitter’s wide social net has the potential to explode a business. It’s an extremely powerful way to connect with people and share information, to build new relationships and stimulate interest in your photography and services. You can use Twitter to keep abreast of trends, what your industry peers are up to. equipment launches and discussions on topics you care about. You can also use it to drive new traffic to your website and blog. build relationships with potential clients, announce achievements and generally generate interest in you. Joining Twitter is easy and takes minutes. Simply go to www.twitter.com and click “sign up now’, follow the instructions and you’re ready to tweet OK, there’s a little bit more consideration needed than that but that’s basically it. When you come to choose your username. make it memorable, use keywords you think people will use when searching for you on Google, for instance your business name, and keep it short Enter your profile information, such as your website and blog URL. a short biography and then upload a photo to personalise your profile and to put a face to your business. Start out by finding people you’d like to follow, such as friends and family members, photographers you admire and publications you enjoy reading. If you want to find topics that interest you. type the topic in to the Twitter search box. If you want to tweet, write a message into the box at the top of the Twitter page and if you want to comment on a post by a user simply post the message the same way but add the username. While it’s good to have followers, opt for quality over quantity: people who you can contribute to and can contribute to you and your business. The best way of doing this is to target your tweets to a specific audience so you know the content you’re posting will be of interest to the majority of your followers and that they’re likely to retweet to their followers, building your database of contacts. You’ll find it easier to attract and retain these followers if your voice is clear and simple – not muddled with content that doesn’t relate to them. If you need to target multiple audiences, say you do fashion and lifestyle photography, consider running separate Twitter accounts.
Twitter top tips
- Follow the top Twitter users or big names in photography to watch how they use Twitter and the type of content they post.
- To get the most from Twitter you need to be an active member. The more people you help, the more interesting resources you post for your followers and the more you contribute to conversations, the more other members will help you. Before you bombard followers with updates about your latest shoots and expect them to take notice, establish yourself as a valued member.
- Join Google Analytics for free to monitor your success at driving traffic from Twitter to your blog or website. You could also join TwitterCounter (at a cost) to keep track of how many new followers you get daily.
Useful Twitter resources
Bit Jy: Lets you shorten your URLs (links) to cut down the characters for your tweets.
TweetPhoto.com or TwitPic.com: Use these to share your photos on Twitter.
TweetReach.com: See how many Twitter members saw your post and shared it.
Twitterffeed.com: Feed Twitter with posts from your blog, Facebook page or any other networking site with an RSS feed.
WeFollow.com: Find out the top people to follow in photography in terms of influence and their number of followers.
Chances are if you don’t already have a Facebook account, you’ve at least heard of it. even if you’re not entirely sure what it is Facebook is more than a fad. There’s even been a movie made about Its founding and now over 700 million people are active members, using it to connect with friends, family and business contacts. Most people use Facebook to post pictures, promote events, broadcast details about their lives and keep tabs on just about everything and anything from their Facebook ‘friends’ to companies and organizations. 50% of users log on to Facebook daily, making it a great marketing venue for businesses and easy to maintain regular channels of communication with people who love your work and can help to develop your fan base. There are several similarities between Facebook and Twitter, but Facebook blurs that line between personal and professional as customers often share much more information about their everyday lives on Facebook Not everybody is a member of Twitter, or actively tweets, but many more people are members on Facebook. Which means more customers – especially if your photography business mainly deals with the public. It has huge referral potential too. As now more than ever people refer to their social networks for recommendations, and clients share your work and their experiences with their online network, which is usually full of local people – ideal if you photograph is portraits or lifestyle images, local sports or local landscape photography. As well as being able to promote your work via your personal Facebook page, there are infinite numbers of groups on Facebook that act as platforms for discussing topics, exchanging advice, critiquing images and to generally generate a buzz about your work and if you can’t find the right group for you create your own. When getting established, you can’t rely on editors to publish your work or for big commissions to come your way. So you need to find ways to self-publishing your work Facebook is one way of doing this and can act as an avenue that sends people to your blog There have also been instances when photographers, pros and amateurs alike, have found that by posting their images of newsworthy events on sites like Facebook or Flickr. The press can pick them up because they’ve gone viral. As with Twitter, the key to promoting your work via Facebook is to understand the community you’re targeting and what motivates them to connect with you Once you know that, you can work on engaging with them and building relationships and an awareness of your work While you could do this from your personal profile page, eventually you might start to struggle as you attract more business contacts and it becomes difficult to maintain relationships with friends while still appearing professional In 2010. Facebook launched a page for businesses called Fan Page specifically so that brands could promote themselves for free. It was a fortunate move for photographers as it meant you could try to distance the personal from the professional. You can customize your business page with content to target prospective clients, such as adding photographs and behind-the-scenes videos to your shoots, linking to your blog or Twitter, hosting photography-related discussions or even launching studio promotions and offering exclusive discounts It’s quite simple to create a Fan Page go to www.facebook.com/pages/treate php and you’ll be faced with different options for your business, but the three you want to choose from depending on your set-up are: Local Business or Race’. Artist. Band or Public Figure’ or Company. Organization or Institution’ and follow the step-by-step instructions You need to upload a profile picture, but unlike your personal page, this doesn’t have to be a picture of you It could be the image you use on your promotional material and business cards, or just a beautiful image you’ve taken that you hope will catch someone’s eye It’s an opportunity to promote your business’s brand. Setting a page up won’t be enough to entice people to join you. You need to market your page by mentioning it everywhere possible: post updates on your blog and your other social networking sites. It’s even worth adding a note to your business cards or other promotional material inviting people to join you on Facebook and follow you on Twitter. This should help to get the people you do know on board but how do you access those other 700.000.000 members waiting for an invitation? Word of mouth. I’m sure we can agree, is the most powerful way to gain new business, so the benefits of connecting with a small fraction of these members are huge. The best way to do this is to give your current members something to talk about, something of value that interests them, because as soon as they click the Like button for your post, it shows up on their newsfeed where every one of their followers can read it. Another way is to target a broad audience by joining discussions m various groups or communities. If you’re an outdoor photographer, for instance, instead of lust trying to find those elusive editors. National Trust big wigs or tourist board contacts, link in with nature photography groups, landscape appreciation groups and even local groups who like to photograph the same locations as you. It’s these places that your potential clients are likely to search if they’re looking for new talent. If you’re a portrait photographer, it’s a similar situation: loin communities for portrait photography and contribute to local groups not specific to portraits, such as those for new mums or mother and toddler groups, as this is where you might pick up customers who live in your area. Most photographic associations like the MPA, magazines and photography companies have Facebook pages where you can contribute to the community and learn from their members. Like Twitter, depending on what type of photography you do and whom you want to target, it’s a good idea to set up different Fan Pages. While Facebook and Twitter are the mayor workers when it comes to building your posse of dedicated followers, there are a few others to consider too. LinkedIn. Which launched in 2003. Is a dedicated networking site for professionals to connect with colleagues and professional contacts. Similarly to Facebook’s Fan Page, you can create a company page, join professional groups and make yourself known to potential business contacts in the trade and clients It’s a great method for marketing and to expand your contact and client base. Unlike Twitter and Facebook. It’s invitation-only so you control who you connect with by accepting their invitation It’s something worth considering if you want to connect with magazine editors, photo editors or art buyers, not to mention any of the 23.325 members in the Photography Industry Professionals networking. Canon EOS or Nikon photography group. Posting status updates here can be a very effective way to keep in touch with editors you’ve worked with in the past, especially if they move companies, and for new editors to find you. Other websites you might want to consider include Flickr. Which is fantastic for building up contacts with photographers and improving your Google rating and is increasingly the place where publications go to find great pictures. Google is also currently launching Google. Which is designed to rival Facebook. So that’s worth keeping an eye on there’s also YouTube for posting behind-the-scenes videos or tutorials. Forums are also brilliant as you can contribute to conversations, get advice from fellow photographers and invite more people to follow you on Twitter. Facebook and to read your blog. Once you’ve built a strong online network of contacts, you’ll be amazed at what you pick up and who gets in touch. You’ll have access to new ideas, current trends and contacts to help develop your business, and be able to connect with people around the world who you wouldn’t otherwise have been able to. You’ll not only have a network of people marketing your business for you. You’ll have a global support group ready to help answer any photography or business-related questions. Social networking sites are fantastic learning platforms, places you can watch and learn from your favorite photographers, view their latest work, read their opinions, and even ask them questions Do we have you convinced yet? If you’re new to social media, hopefully it all seems a little less daunting than before you started reading this article, but it’s worth remembering too that all the strings to your online presence have to tie in together for maximum benefit. Social networking sites are primarily used to drive traffic to your website and blog. So more people can see your images. It’s therefore crucial that your website, and the photography featured on it. Is good enough to clinch the deal that your online networking has been selling. It’s no easy task and takes daily maintenance to stay on top of it and to develop relationships, but in many ways it’s made building and expanding your business easier than ever.
How Do I get a Custom URL?
By default, Facebook assigns a long, complicated string of numbers and letters to your Fan Page URL, which isn’t ideal if you want to direct traffic to your site. To get around this you can create a custom, or branded, URL for your page such as facebook.com/your business name. Firstly verify your account. Then you need to get 25 different fans to click like on your page, and you will be eligible for a branded URL. This should be fairly easy to do, especially if you’ve got a profile page, as you could get 25 friends and family members to do it for you. Now go to www.facebook.com/ username and apply for your URL.
Social media: Useful resources
TweetDeck.com: If you work with more than one site, this tool will help organize your activity on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc to make it easier to handle.
Twitter App: Automatically loads your tweets to your Facebook status.
Seesmic.com: Make your life easier by managing all your social networking from one place, your desktop or mobile device.
Beware: Protect your images!
There’s always a down side to every up side and while social media has its benefits, posting your images to these sites isn’t without risks. Most predominantly it’s the potential for misuse of your photos. The best way to limit this risk is to resize them to 72dpi and 700 pixels on the longest side, with a watermark logo. It might not stop someone stealing them, but it’s an effective deterrent and it means you know that even if the image was stolen it could never end up on a billboard. Another option is to link the images in your post directly to your own website instead of uploading photos to the Facebook or Twitter site.
BLOGS: STEPS TO SUCCESS
Learn the basics of blogging to give your business the best chance of success by providing yourself with a platform to be loud and proud about your latest news and images.
It should be at the centre of your network, it’s the destination you want to drive all traffic to. The place you can showcase your brand and personality, and clinch those clients. It’s the ever so powerful, inexpensive – yet priceless – new media champion: The Blog. If you’re asking: ‘What’s a
blog?’ we’re wondering where you’ve been hiding and you obviously didn’t read our article on social networking for your business. If you did read it. However, you’ll have an idea how the whole social media monster operates and the key role a blog plays. The next step is to learn how to create one. The guidelines to maintaining it and to using it efficiently for building your profile and traffic to your website. The beauty of blogs is that they enable you to self-publish. No longer do you have to wait for that magazine commission or book deal to raise your profile. Blogs can help grow your audience by connecting with current and potential clients. One way it does this is by turbo charging your Search Engine Optimization (SEO): your ranking when someone searches for you online, for instance via Google. Even without the blog being read, search engines index new content to help people find you if they search for content you’ve written about. Aside from this, a blog can boost your profile by offering viewers a deeper insight into your work and your brand – you can use it as your marketing mouthpiece. Ultimately, a blog helps you to build an audience who shares your content by back-linking (posting links to your blog on their site one of the most powerful ways to boost SEO). Increasing the visibility of your brand. To do any of this successfully, you need to provide content that’s compelling for your clients, whether that’s via inspiring or cutting-edge imagery, humor fuelled tales about your shoots or practical advice: it’s for you to decide what best fits your brand. While images are an essential commodity for a photo blog. They shouldn’t be the only commodity: which is usually the pitfall of most portfolio websites Giving your audience content of value or a resource that they will want to share with their contacts will help with your SEO and expand your reach. You can use a blog to disseminate thought-provoking commentary on the industry and pose questions to your audience, inviting them to comment as another way to get them connected to your brand. It’s the same with product reviews. A well-written review of new photo gear can generate interest, especially if you accompany it with images taken on a shoot while using the kit – or, even better, a behind-the-scene video that’s linked to YouTube. People want to hear from people who know what they’re talking about but, to sustain interest, it’s something you have to do quite regularly. ‘How-to’ articles and lists are another effective way of delivering useful content. For example. ‘How to pose for your wedding pictures’. ’20 portrait ideas’ or a list of your top photographers compels readers to post links to your blog.
A blog is great for delivering information and showcasing your latest photography, but you’re relying on your audience to take the time to visit your blog or to react to your updates on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn to see it. One way around this is to invest in email marketing, which enables you to send the content directly to your contacts. By packaging up your blog posts and sending them via email, you can keep old clients abreast of your new work and push yourself in front of potential new clients, too. It’s often not a free service, and takes time to construct, so it’s worth doing right, otherwise you risk your investment heading to the trash. It sounds obvious, but the best way to get someone to read it is to give him or her something they want to read by tailoring the content to their interests.
Our tips for email marketing
- Keep your marketing message consistent by designing the newsletter the same as your website and other branded material.
- Use your business name in the ‘Subject’ field so it’s easily identifiable.
- Avoid sending the email Mondays or Fridays as it’s likely to be given less attention than if it was sent midweek.
- Send the email monthly or bi-monthly to keep your audience engaged.
- Have someone proofread your newsletter and test all the links before sending it – you don’t want your first impression to be poor.