The Ten Biggest Website Mistakes by Photographers

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The Ten Biggest Website Mistakes by Photographers

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 bowlsZzzzz… We all do that.  What else you got?  You like putting babies in cute hats and resting their heads on their armsNext.  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.

10.  Blog.
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.

Lauren Fitzgerald is a professional writer and maternity/newborn photographer in central Maryland.  Her website is always a work in progress.

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75 Comments

  1. February 17, 2011 at 11:30 am —

    I agree with Wayfaring Wanderer…it does sound like this post was written with a bit of negative energy. Nonetheless some very good points are included.

  2. February 17, 2011 at 11:17 am —

    Some very helpful tips. I will be updating my “about me” section soon.

  3. Carlita
    February 17, 2011 at 11:06 am —

    All great points, except that seriously….music on websites starting by itself and forcing you to scroll madly down the page to stop the player….that, to me, is one of the most annoying things anyone could do to their site. Also, videos that play by themselves – kind of a shock sometimes, when you’re not expecting them (and especially if you can’t find them quickly to stop them.)

  4. Lisa
    February 17, 2011 at 11:02 am —

    Honestly, I think you were a bit pissed when you wrote this post. Kind of makes it sound like you wanted to put photographers just starting out in their place and let them know that professional photographers know everything and have always known everything. really biting way to tell people they suck actually.

  5. February 17, 2011 at 10:55 am —

    very good info. thanks for taking the time to write the article.

  6. February 17, 2011 at 10:54 am —

    Amen sister! I see all these people cropping up and setting out signs and I look at their work and wonder what the heck? I am no professional, barely an amateur, but wanting so badly to learn more, but my point is, even I know some of these people are not professionals. And taking other peoples work, whether it’s pictures or music is a as basic as not taking each other’s crayons in kindergarten. It’s a shame we have to tell that to other adults. I love your blog. Keep up the good work. The ONLY place I don’t agree with you is when you say you are not a professional….I challenge that one! Have a great day!

  7. February 17, 2011 at 10:50 am —

    I enjoyed the article. I totally agree with it. One thing that I’ve noticed with several websites is the same people being in all the pictures. This makes me a little hesitant about posting pictures of my repeat customers. This is where I try to use the blog. I have one family that has family pictures sometimes twice a year. I always try to put in my blog where/when I met the family and how much a I enjoy their business. I’m always afraid people will think they are a family member and I have no “real” clients. hehe I want everyone who visits the site to know that they are loyal customers.

  8. February 17, 2011 at 10:27 am —

    This post sort of sounds like it was written while you were perturbed about something, although it does offer some very useful tips to a fledgling photographer who doesn’t have a site yet.

  9. Crystal ~ momaziggy
    February 17, 2011 at 10:19 am —

    GREAT Jodi and I couldn’t agree more…with all of it!

  10. February 17, 2011 at 9:56 am —

    I agree with the points. I’m not a full fledged professional photographer but most of my clients comes thru my blog which is linked separately 🙂

  11. February 17, 2011 at 9:52 am —

    very good points! i do agree with them, however, they’re also a little contradictory. you pointed out that these are things you often see on a new photographer’s website – and they definitely are things worth mentioning, but it would be helpful if you offered alternatives for these common mistakes.

    for example, on the “about me” page point; there are a ton of new photographers these days that *did* start because of their children. you know, momtographers. they didn’t go to school, etc. maybe they haven’t got a large portfolio. so then what are you supposed to put in the about me section? and if they’re new, they haven’t shot 215 weddings, etc. that they can mention as experience.

    another one is the website with no real images (same subjects over and over). again, i do agree, but – how else do photographers get started? sure you can shoot for free until you build up a large enough portfolio – but if you really can take great photos (of your own kid or otherwise), many would argue that it’s unwise to charge nothing at all. but if you *do* charge, and you aren’t a business, then you’re doing business illegally.

    just thought i would point out that if you’re addressing new photographers, alternatives to these mistakes would be a little more helpful than just criticism. i’m definitely not a professional, and i didn’t go to school for photography, but i would someday like to get a little photography business going.

  12. Kate
    February 17, 2011 at 9:52 am —

    Definitely an eye-opening article. I am glad to hear some tough love, but wow. Pretty harsh words for a new mom trying to start a photography business. What did you start out with on your first website when you started? Oh right-pictures of your own or friends’ kiddos. Everybody has to start somewhere. Saying you don’t have a business until you have a full portfolio is pretty harsh. I found it making me feel discouraged, and then I stopped and said no- you can do this. It doesn’t matter what anyone else says. Thank you for the tips though. It is good to know some “what not to do” before I make any of those mistakes.

  13. Veronica Krammer
    February 17, 2011 at 9:49 am —

    Fantastic observation! I’m a hobbyist photographer who dreams of starting a small photography business once my 3 small kids are in school (approx 3 yrs). I believe in shooting for the stars, only after well thought planning. Some are gifted enough to ‘go pro’ w/ minimal formal ed. Professionally, I’ve been a Speech/Lang Therapist and a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor. Both required extensive education, training and practicums. I’ve approached photography with the same model for education. I hope this helps determine my success. Like with the NBA or NFL, only a few of millions are blessed/gifted w/ the ability to ‘make it big’. Others simply have to put in the time and effort w/ additional training, etc.. then there are the dreamers who never even make the cut. With sincere passion, many of us can ‘make it’ in photography, however it seems like so many people jump in head first with nothing to back their play. Their choice, I suppose.

  14. February 17, 2011 at 9:47 am —

    I agree with most of the points on this article, and it was definitely some tough love in regards to my “About Me” page! I’ll be changing that today! The only thing I didn’t fully agree with is not mixing the personal stuff with the business stuff. As a client, I do want to know my photographer’s personality. If they shouldn’t be sharing their personality with me on their About Me page, they should sure as heck do it somewhere. Why not the blog? I agree that too many overpost their personal stuff, but for the most part it gives me an immediate sense of the chemistry that person will have with me and my family.

  15. February 17, 2011 at 9:44 am —

    you nailed that one!
    Loved it! I have been in biz for 10 years successfully now.
    Truly have stuck to what I do. My look. Not changing with the times other than some actions from Mcp to make them look just a bit better!
    I just needed that reminder. Thanks!

  16. Krystal
    February 17, 2011 at 9:43 am —

    On the topic of blogging… I like to see a blog with a little personal and posts from sessions. But I don’t like to see ALL the details or even lots of details. I don’t have time to read it and ya, who has time to write all that. But a little bit seems to give me an idea of what you are like and all about. And if they are on two blog, not together, I wouldn’t bother to look at it. When they are together I think it draws people in. Just my take.

  17. February 17, 2011 at 9:33 am —

    I agree with some but not other parts. The blog is imperative.. but one must keep it business so in my case, it all about things photography related. I dont go into politics, religion etc. I dont agree with posting pricing either. There is not any pricing on my site. If you like my stuff, you will call. If you dont call, you are not serious about my style so you are probably not my client anyways. No, it’s not an original thought, I learned it at a shop that managed to expand and increase biz in the middle of a recession. I’m not Walmart with low prices and I’m not a Chevy dealer with my “deals” splashed across the front door. When you walk through my doors, you already know it’s not cheap but you know you want it regardless and I have the opportunity to sell you and work within your budget if I can.

    Never been a fan of music on the site anyways but it’s a good point.

    Overall it’s nice piece.

  18. February 17, 2011 at 9:25 am —

    Well said…very well said!!!!! Agree 100%.

  19. February 17, 2011 at 9:20 am —

    Love these tips! I’ve been struggling with the question, “do I need a website AND a blog (which has the capability for fixed landing pages). Another thought, flash sites don’t work on the apple i-lines. They look great, but not always technology friendly.

  20. February 17, 2011 at 9:17 am —

    Whhheeww…do you feel better? People actually use other photographers images on their site? I’ve never heard of that, that’s sad! Well said on everything!

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The Ten Biggest Website Mistakes by Photographers