The Ten Biggest Website Mistakes by Photographers (Tough Love for Some Photographers)
Like most photographers, I am constantly tweaking and trying to improve upon my website. It is my calling card and brings me over 90% of my professional photography business. In my never-ending pursuit of a perfect website, I have come across many highs and lows over the years. Clearly there are more than ten things that can hurt a website, but in general, this list touches on the things I come across often when viewing a new photographer’s site. I don’t profess to have the perfect website, nor do I know anyone who does. But looking at it from the consumer’s point of view, there are some basic things you’ll want to avoid if you want to attract quality clients. Here’s some “tough love.”
1. About me page.
Who are you and why should I give you my hard earned cash?
One of the biggest mistakes that I see photographers making is creating a Pollyanna style About Me page without a lot of relevant information that a consumer would want to know. About Me pages that proclaim, “I love taking pictures” or “My passion for photography began with the birth of my child” tells me absolutely nothing about your skills and qualifications as a photographer. Would you go to a dentist whose website states that they “Have always loved brushing their teeth and enjoy scraping plaque out of children’s mouths?” Not me. How about a builder whose only qualification is that he is “passionate about hammering nails into wood.” I don’t think I’d hire that guy to build my house, how about you? So why should someone trust you to take professional photos of their family just because you “…love chasing children through cornfields and capturing those precious moments.” At the very minimum, include your qualifications as a photographer. Don’t call into question your sincerity and professionalism by insulting your audience’s intelligence. It’s wonderful to tell the world that you are passionate and love what you do, but if you want someone to respect you as a professional, give them something tangible to use to make an informed decision. You’ll likely find that people will take you more seriously as a photographer, and the quality of your clientele will improve.
2. Out of focus, badly exposed images or images not sized correctly for site.
Did you mean to do that?
This should be a given yet so many photographers continue do this. And no, adding a little Gaussian blur or a texture over the image isn’t going to fool anyone. That shot may have been beautifully composed, but if you missed focus it has no place on your website. In addition, be sure to size your images appropriately for the space on your site. Nothing screams “I have no technical knowledge” like a 400×600 pixel image stretched to fit a 500 x 875 pixel space.
3. No real clients.
Little Joey in fall…Little Joey in the spring…Little Joey appears on everything…
All of the images on your site are of the same child (sorry, but most people are keen enough to realize that the pretty toddler in the fall leaves is also the girl on the beach and again in the snow.) This is not to say don’t include photos of your own children or friend’s children on your website. The very first image that pops up on my site is a picture I took of my three children. I include it because I think it is a powerful image and a good example of my work and what I have to offer. I have a few other images of my kids here and there for that same reason. But if the only photography work you have done thus far is of your own children or your friends’ children, then you really have no business calling yourself a business.
4. Illegal music.
Just don’t do it.
I happen to be one of those people who enjoys beautiful music on photography websites. But if you don’t have permission to use a musicians’ song on your site, then you are violating their copyright. Period. You wouldn’t stand for a musician copying your image for free and using it on their CD cover, so why would you take their music and use it on your site? There is plenty of royalty free music available for a reasonable cost as well as up-and-coming musicians who would love to give you a license to promote their music on your website. Meanwhile, try to resist the temptation to “borrow” that perfect Lisa Loeb or Sarah McLaughlin song for your online portfolio. If you do, I hope you have a good lawyer because that the song’s owner may find out about it eventually and they will have more money to fight you in court than you have. Even if they don’t, it’s tacky and it’s a violation of Copyright Law and just plain wrong.
5. Not revealing a little bit about your pricing.
What the heck do I have to pay ya anyway?
Let’s face it, many of us (including yours truly) are afraid to publicly disclose our complete price list for fear that the person next door is going to take our well-thought out packages and prices and undercut them. But at the very least, you should always give people a starting point. What is your lowest session fee, your lowest print price? Do you have a minimum purchase requirement? That is enough for anyone to know whether or not they want to know more or if you are out of their budget. Offering absolutely nothing about price on your site gives the impression that you are going to be too expensive, and people will move on. Think about those real estate listings that read: “Call for price.” Everyone knows that’s code for “You can’t afford it” and that is exactly what people will think if you don’t provide at least something in terms of cost.
6. Where are you?
Location, location, location.
So many times I’ve come across a really good photographer’s website, only to hunt and search endlessly to try and determine WHERE they are located? What state? What city? Are they on planet earth? Wow, that’s a lot of work to put into a website, only to fall into a black hole. If a potential client has to hunt for basic information such as how far you are from their home or if you service their area, they are going to give up and move on. Just a mention of your city on your splash page is enough to say “HEY! Yoo Hoo! I’m over here!”
7. Copying verbiage from other photographer’s websites.
What’s mine is not yours.
Sadly, this has happened to me and other photographers I know. I have had the unfortunate experience of coming across a site where someone has stolen carefully worded text from my site to use on theirs. Writing for your site not rocket science. If you are not a good writer, ask someone who is to create some good material for you. If you have nothing original to say about yourself or photography, then don’t say anything. And by the way, Google doesn’t look kindly on that sort of thing either, so you could be setting yourself up for a drop in your SEO results in addition to a call from an angry photographer if you lift text from another person’s site.
8. What makes you different?
The clone photographer.
This is what I feel is the most important part of your site as well as your reputation and identity as a photographer. If you randomly Google “child photographer,” you easily come up with five or more websites that virtually offer the same poses, ideas and trends that are virtually indistinguishable from one another. We all have photographers we admire and follow, but jumping onto the latest fad bandwagon to try and get your images to look like Photographer X is going to do nothing to get you noticed. All photographic genres overlap and there is always going to be someone doing something similar to what you are doing. But what makes YOU unique? What is your niche? Is it that you like to photograph newborns in bowls? Zzzzz… We all do that. What else you got? You like putting babies in cute hats and resting their heads on their arms? Next. Every photographer right now, including myself, is doing those things. Instead of showcasing the latest trends on your website, figure out what is special about you and your work. You’re an artist and you should have your own unique point of view. If you don’t, you need to ask yourself why that is. But hopefully you do have a perspective all your own. Whatever that special thing is, your gestalt if you will, that should be the focus of your site (either in words or in images.) If there is nothing special to distinguish you from the lady in the next town over, then no one will have any reason to choose you over her other than price (and you don’t want that…ever!) There is nothing that is going to kill your business quicker than being generic and providing generic examples of your work.
9. Using other photographer’s images to pad your site.
The thief photographer.
Self explanatory. What goes around comes around. And the fact that I even need to bring this up is very sad.
Work or play?
I am still somewhat squeamish about blogging. I’m never exactly sure how much to write, how much of my work to showcase, etc. When looking at other photographer’s blogs, one of the things that turns me off as a reader is too much personal blogging mixed in with their professional work. I love seeing glimpses into other photographer’s lives, but when it becomes a big mish-mash of client images interspersed with grandmother’s famous pumpkin pie recipe or the big move to the new house, I lose interest fast. My preference, as a reader, would be to have one blog for business and one for personal use, then offer links to one another. It also makes me suspicious that any photographer who has the time to document all of the details of their personal life, might not really have much of a business going on.
Just food for thought.