Yesterday I spent most of the day updating my website. No big deal you might think but I never thought that such a simple task would end up being so challenging. Going through all of my recent work and picking what makes it to the website was a very painful yet enlighting process in many ways, so I thought I could share my findings with you on how to make your website stronger.
I’m sure most of you understand that your website is the front window to your work and the online version of yourself. If you share this view, then you want it to look as shiny, tidy and striking as possible so people stay interested and decide to contact you.
A messy, confusing, outdated, hard to navigate and scruffy looking website is your worse enemy even if you are the most gifted photographer out there. Ultimately, your website will attract the kind of people that feel identified with your visuals.
1. Sweep your shop
My grandfather swept his Harley-Davidson workshop every single morning before lining all the motorcycles in perfect order on the pavement. He wouldn’t allow his mechanics to turn up in dirty overalls and if there was nothing else to do he would be tidying up and re-stocking. Makes sense why important figures like Che Guevara visited his shop on a regular basis. I apply this principle to my website, I try to update it every 6 weeks and move things around to get the message loud and clear and attract the customers I’d like to work with.
2. Tag and label your pictures
If you are not doing it yet, what are you waiting for? Adobe Bridge, Lightroom and Photoshop give you the option to add tags, labels and even your contact details to the EXIF data of your pictures. Make sure you tag them all with the relevant information of your business like location, the field of speciality and keywords related to what you do. This will boost your SEO and therefore your website will be higher up in search results.
3. Show only your best shots
This should be the only point in this post really. I can’t emphasize enough on how important it is to be extremely selective on what you show on your website. This is also the hardest thing to do as you have to detach emotionally from your pictures. The more you do this, the easier it gets and the more you know yourself as a photographer as well. Yesterday I was struggling because I wanted to put just that ONE picture that I love but is not strong enough when you put it against other commercial shots.
The best way is to understand that nobody knows the backstory of your images so your message has to be very clear from the beginning. This is why is so important to learn how to become a picture editor and select your best work.
4. Tell your story through your photographs
Something I’ve learned from camera clubs is the way to present a panel of pictures for a distinction. Among many of their guidelines, what I picked was that the pictures selected have to be cohesive, need to have a certain flow; for example, the first picture should be facing to the inside (to the right), the last one to the left and everything in between has to sit nicely and have some sort of narrative. Try not to put similar colours next to each other, same with similar compositions and angles. It does make sense and does make your work look stronger but take this with a pinch of salt as sometimes repetition adds character. Most important, show variety and trust your gut.
5. Ask for second opinions
Choose wisely who your best critic is because they will tell you what you don’t want to hear. In my case, I had this Machiavelic idea of putting up my portfolio online and then invite my competitors for a coffee and a chat and ask their opinion. This is just too complex so instead, I rely on my most difficult and toughest critic… my wife! She knows nothing about photography but knows me, my style and my capabilities very well. She’ll tell me when my work is shite, and will just say it’s ok when a picture is epic. Find someone honest who will help you keep your feet on the ground but most important DO NOT ask for opinions on social media groups. Aim high if you want to reach high.
6. Trust Analytics
Visit Google Analytics religiously at least every other week. The information and feedback you get from it are invaluable. It’s like being behind the counter of your shop and looking at what’s going on in it: How many people walk through the door, how long are they there for, which items they pick up, where do they come from… everything!
A piece of advice here, don’t change things too often like website descriptions and avatars, this will make you go lower on the ratings.
7. Less is more
I keep seeing this phrase in every blog post and article I read on how to improve your website. How many galleries do you have? How many sections? How many forms? On average, people will spend no more than 3 minutes on your website on a good day. Do they really have time to go through so many drop-down menus, pictures and sections? Think about it. Instead, use social media channels for those sections.
8. Who are you?
No matter what, have an about section. People work with people and if they don’t know who you are and what drives you to do what you do, it’s gonna be very difficult for them to identify with your work. It doesn’t matter much how you do it, it can be a simple “Hello I take very good pictures of dogs because I love dogs more than kids” to a poem on why your insomnia makes you shoot sunrises and it’s written in third person. What matters is to have something about you and try to put a NICE photo of you in there. Also, don’t be afraid to show your awards or recognition and the people or companies you work with.
Adding to this, have at least a visible email address or contact number where potential clients can reach you.
Pricing is a very personal thing, some photographers put their full rates on their website which is valid if they do weddings or portrait sessions by the hour. In my case, I have a standard rate for half and whole days plus social media packages but this may change depending on the project, the client and their budget. If you think your rates are decisive for a client to get in touch, go ahead and place them on your website but personally, I prefer to get an inquiry and start a conversation than a potential client leaving my website before even asking.
Your host, their services and their functionality can make or break your website. If for example, you are afraid of updating your site because every time you upload a picture it gets resized, or something is moved, or you need coding, you are using the wrong host. Analyze if your host’s services are right for your needs and if they’re not, get one that does.
I’ve been with Format for about 3 years now and have no reason to even try something else. Their customer service is outstanding, they keep developing new useful features, the interface is extremely simple and intuitive and the website looks epic!. All I need to do is fill in the blanks and everything is fully customizable… no, they didn’t pay me to write this. It’s all true!
11. It’s your website.
And it represents what you do so it should reflect your work at its best. Know what works best for you and don’t do stuff just because your friend or your competitor does it. What works for them most likely won’t work for you. Keep it professional if you are a pro photographer but keep it matching your personality. Be unique!
Keep these simple steps in mind and let me know if I missed something or you do something differently. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Also, if you’re struggling with something or need a second opinion, I’m more than happy o help. No fees, no charges only goodwill and photographic camaraderie.
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Until next time! X.