5 Online Photography Portfolio Mistakes to Avoid

Curious to know if you’re at fault for one of these common online photography portfolio mistakes? Read on – about loading time, the importance of contact information, the vital presence of passion, and plenty more errors that many otherwise skilled and professional photographers can succumb to. Bear them in mind, when you work on articulating a coherent online presence and business is sure to freely flow in.

Your contact info is not crystal clear

Let’s not beat around the bush about this one – one of the most frequently encountered online photography portfolio mistakes. If your contact information is not literally plastered on each and every single page of your website, portfolio included, then you’re definitely doing something wrong. Think about it: how else are you supposed to attract new business, if your potential clients don’t know how they could reach you? And, no, putting your contact information up on the first page is often not enough since, contrary to what you may think, most visitors to your website don’t start their visit with the main page.

You’re all business and no fun

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We get it: your job is photographing weddings. Or commercial products. Or architecture. But do you actually like what you shoot? Are you passionate about your job, your subjects, and the stories you convey visually? Another one of those dreaded online photography portfolio mistakes that we often run into is that photographers all too often focus on coming across as professional and don’t manage to convince us, their audience, that they’re actually passionate about what they shoot – be it weddings, clothes, or luncheon meats.

You don’t know your audience

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Be honest to yourself: in the day and age of SEO and Google Analytics supremacy, even your grandma would probably be able to take one look at the traffic data your website provides and understand the audience’s profile and needs. Your online photography portfolio needs to speak to actual people. What kind of monitor are they likely to have? What’s their age? Where do they live? What pages do they interact with and how? Are they more likely to browse your site off a PC or a mobile device, like a laptop, tablet, or smartphone? You need to know all these things and make sure your website design responds to them.

You avoid words

Yes, your main occupation is working with images – but you need to remember that one of the biggest online photography portfolio mistakes is to not include any words whatsoever on your page. On the Internet, words are your friend. Not only do they help with SEO, but they also enable you, the artist, to tell a more complete story. If your work ends up featured in a magazine or on a website, chances are your words are going to follow it there. And, most importantly, your potential clients will get a better shot at understanding how you work and what drives you.

The loading time is through the roof

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The one biggest pet peeve, for people who browse photo-heavy websites is a long loading time. A recent buyer survey from Photo Shelter has revealed that absolutely no one likes to be kept waiting around, until the pictures on a website have finished loading. We’re talking load times that need to be far lower than even one second. Otherwise, your visitors are going to perceive a break in the pace at which they’re used to browsing – and simply head elsewhere. There are plenty of website optimization tricks to help speed up loading time, including pre-loading a part of the images, as visitors browse, and so on. Don’t let such a seemingly small issue drag the quality of your whole website down.

5 Tips on Building the Best Photo Portfolio Website

Say what you will, but building the best photo portfolio website is still important, even in 2014 – the day and age of social media, mobile apps and all other great digital trends. Why does a good website still matter? The answer is simple enough and has a lot to do with one of the most basic principles in marketing: a website for your photo brand is the most comprehensive way for a potential client to sample your work and decide whether or not they want to hire you. They’ll be basing their decision on what they see there to a great extent, so it pays off to know how to best represent your brand and showcase your work. That being said, here are five efficient tips on how to build the best photo portfolio website for yourself.

#1 Getting praise for website design? Think again

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There’s nothing inherently wrong with having a website design that gets a lot of compliments… if you’re a website designer. But you’re not; you’re a wedding photographer and that’s what your site should convey. Forget complex Flash animations and other artifices. Keep it simple and clean, let the photos speak for themselves, keep the number of buttons at a bare minimum, and, if possible, even add an option that conceals them when they’re not being used. K-I-S-S, as they say, and you’ll be on your way to building the best photo portfolio website possible.

#2 Reconsider your views on image theft

This point might turn out controversial, but it bears mentioning. As you may or may not have noticed, more and more photographers with a strong online presence choose to put their images up at full-screen size on their website. They’re also keeping the area of the picture that’s taken up by the watermark at a bare minimum (as do major image repositories such as Getty Images). Of course, you want to protect your images from being stolen, but you also want to see them featured, shared, and admired. It’s easy to protect your full-size images from being downloaded with a right-click blocker, for instance; similarly, too big a watermark might deter your visitors from actually looking at the pictures.

#3 It’s a website, not a brain puzzle

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Another sure-fire way to create the best photo portfolio website you can is to make sure it’s efficient, in terms of user-friendliness. Keep your number of featured categories at a bare minimum, too. Don’t get too creative with naming them, or the labels, tags, categories, and menu buttons you’re using. It might seem fun at first, but you also risk alienating visitors. It should be simple to get to see the pictures – and this involves a choice of wording that your viewers will understand and that is also typical of your niche.

#4 Go mobile

This is 2014 – everyone and their grandmother is browsing the web off a smartphone, tablet, or another type of mobile device. These devices have smaller screens and they also react differently to usage patterns. As such, make sure you’re investing into the development of a mobile, responsive design version for your website. The best photo portfolio website you can build is definitely not one that looks the same on a computer screen as it does on an iPhone.

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#5 You are your own worst editor

It may sound harsh and it could even be too much to stomach for some photographers, but the truth is that you’re better off hiring an editor, when trying to build a website. They will do a far better job than you at selecting the pictures in the first place, since they’re not as emotionally attached to them as you are. And, as they say, a photographer’s portfolio is only as good as the worst picture in it.

The #1 Thing On Your About Us Page That Prevents Your Photography Clients From Booking You

Yawn.

It’s another website that looks just like everyone else’s.

A few images on the home page.

A gallery of “best of” to show off the three fields of photography.

Music playing in the background.

And an About Us page that says absolutely nothing.

Do the above descriptions sound vaguely familiar?

Does your About Us page sound something like this?

Hi I’m John Doe with John Doe Photography, and I’ve been a photographer since 2001. Photography is my passion. After leaving a career in teaching, I turned to my one love, photography, and have never looked back. I specialize in weddings, babies, families, seniors, special events, and modeling portfolios. Please visit me at my studio or contact me at 555-1212.

If so, you have a problem. You have what I call the “About Us Curse”. And it’s the one thing that’s holding you back from connecting with your prospects on an entirely different level.

Want to know what the “About Us Curse” is? Let me tell you a story first.

There once was a bride who wanted something different for her wedding. She was a born party planner. At 16, she started working for a local event company to put her party planning skills to use. She worked as a party planner throughout college. Martha Stewart was her hero – she poured over every copy of Martha Stewart Weddings she could get her hands on.

Her wedding was at one of the most exclusive country clubs in town. She planned everything – custom invitations, a rehearsal dinner that put some weddings to shame, flowers everywhere, and details to make every guest feel like they were the most important guest in attendance.

With that much thought put into her planning, she didn’t want “snapshots” or a photographer that would provide her with a “best of” series. She wanted a photographer that “got” who she was and what she was doing.

So she poured over the Internet trying to find that photographer.

First photographer:

Hi I’m John Doe with John Doe Photography, and I’ve been a photographer since 2001. Photography is my passion. After leaving a career in teaching, I turned to my one love, photography, and have never looked back. I specialize in weddings, babies, families, seniors, special events, and modeling portfolios. Please visit me at my studio or contact me at 555-1212.

Next:

Hi I’m Sally Smith with Sally Smith Photography, and I’ve been a photographer since 2005. Photography is my passion. After leaving a career in teaching, I turned to my one love, photography, and have never looked back. I specialize in weddings, babies, families, seniors, special events, and modeling portfolios. Please visit me at my studio or contact me at 555-1313.

Next:

Then she found something different.

She found a photographer that told a different story.The #1 Thing On Your About Us Page That Prevents Your Photography Clients From Booking You

She learned the photographer specialized in wedding photography. She learned they approached wedding photography differently – no packages with 250 images here. Instead, this husband and wife team took as many photographs as needed to tell the story. Most weddings had anywhere from 1500 to 2000 images, and were designed into a multi-volume set to tell the story of the day as it unfolded from an artistic viewpoint.

She learned how the husband and wife team found their way to a photography business. She learned why they were passionate about photography. She learned about their goals, dreams and future plans.

She read on and on, and soon thought of these photographers as friends. They were her photographers. And she hadn’t even contacted them yet.

Think that’s “just a story”? Think that can’t happen? Think again. That’s exactly how we found one of our biggest clients ever.

How did we do it?

By stretching waaayyyyyy beyond what most people put on their websites.

The #1 reason people fail with their websites is they think like everyone else.

They throw their “best of” images online, add a little bit of content, and leave it their for months or even years at a time with no thought to how its working.

Instead, the one thing that could change everything around is one simple task …

Adding content.

Yes, your About Us page shouldn’t be two or three paragraphs. It should be two or three PAGES of content. It should have image of you, video of you, slideshows of you, story after story about who you are and why you are doing what you are doing.

Yet if you’re like many people I speak with every week, you’re cringing right about now.

“I don’t have anything to say.”

“My story isn’t important.”

“I don’t want to bore them to death.”

Trust me, you won’t.

People want to know who they are doing business with. They want to know you are a person. They want to know your story. And the only way they can do that is if you tell them.

Still thinking “I can’t do that”? Maybe its time for a little help.

I’ve just released my About Us Action Guide. It’s an easy step by step program that walks you through your About Us creation process. No thinking about “what should I include?” or “I don’t know what to say”. I help you find the stories that are perfect to include in your About Us Page, help you put it all together, and finalize it to include on your website.

If you’ve ever thought “nobody reads my About Us page anyway”, think again. About Us Pages are the second most read page on your site. Why?  Because your prospects want to get to know you before they do business with you.

Content matters. What you say impacts how you connect with your future clients. If you haven’t changed your site in a while, or thought about exactly what you have to say, maybe now is the time.

It really can bring you in the best client of your life.

Check out my About Us Action Guide

5 Signs Your Website Has A Flawed Design and How To Fix It

Photographers love graphics. And when it comes to your website, your images should be the central theme. However, people come to your site over and over again to see what’s new. If you had the “design it and leave it” mentality when you originally put your website online, you’re missing some very crucial pieces to the online world.

While all websites are not created equal – just like all business niches are not created equal – there are some design rules that flow from industry to industry. Are you breaking any of these rules?

Mistake #1: No Action, No Changes

Why do you visit a site over and over again? It’s because when you visit, you find something new.

Why don’t photographers use that same concept on their own sites? Photographers prefer to create a dynamic site with bells and whistles and images that rotate round and round. The problem is when you head to a site like this, it takes seconds for the images to load and the “show to begin”. Once it does – once a person has been to the site – they’ve seen it all before. Why return? People want new. They want action. They want a reason to return.

With a site that offers a lot of different options – from content, to news stories, to new images, to extras like video content – there’s a reason to come back and check things out. When you predominantly place things on the home page and change them out regularly, people will happily come back to see what you have been up to. [Read more...]

Photography Is Personal and So Are Websites

Guest Post by Scott Wyden Kivowitz

Photography is a beautiful thing. It can inspire, bring laughter or anger, and even change the view on life in people.

Creating a photograph is not (usually) just one click. It takes time, vision and thought. Photographs will typically have a deep meaning to the person who went through effort to capture a still image.

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So when it comes to displaying these meaningful photographs on a website, each photographer should have a similar experience. What I mean is, a photography website is extremely personal. A photographer won’t use a dark color scheme if they prefer lighter colors. Or rounded corners if they prefer sharp edges.

With that said, here is some advice for a photographer looking to find the perfect look.

There is such a wide range of photography website templates available, so the first thing to do is some searches using your favorite search engine. As you can see, the process already starts off as a personal choice, because you must use a search engine of your choosing. When you find directories of website templates, you can sometimes browse by popularity, color, features, etc. Sometimes the directories will only list the best out there, and that is okay.

Here is some advice on what to look for in a template:

  • Make sure it has the gallery sizes you want. (i.e., full screen, lightbox, responsive, grid and/or slideshows
  • If you need to sell your work, does it have eCommerce options?
  • Are you looking to provide proofing galleries to clients? If so, can the template help with that?
  • Does the template provide social media features?
  • How easy is it to customize? Not all photographers understand HTML, so hopefully you find a template that can be adjusted without it.

That’s a pretty good list to start with, but ideally each photographer should make a bullet list of every feature they would want. So create your list, and put the priorities at the top so you look for those features first.

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In the eBook, 10 Tips To Supercharge Your Photography Website, Jodi Friedman (of MCP Actions) talks about consistency across a portfolio. Her advice is a very strategic, and important, idea for enhancing something so personal to a photographer. For more great tips like this, I recommend downloading the free photography website eBook.

Once you have completed your priority list, I’d love to see them. Please comment below and share the top 3 features on your list.

Thanks for reading,

Scott

Make A Word Cloud From Your Photography Blog or Website

Looking for an interesting graphic to make your blog posts a little less white? Why not make a word cloud from Wordle.

Simply type in words that you want included. Or submit your URL from your blog or website. Wordle will take over and make an interesting word cloud for you.

From there you can turn your words horizontal, vertical, or mix it all up. Change the colors, and you’re ready to go.

How To Keep Your Photography Business Online In The Post PC Era

I was sitting around my local coffee shop the other day waiting for a client and started to look around. Remember the days when everyone had a laptop? Not any more. As I sat there, I did notice a couple of laptops. But most people sat there with their mobile phones and tablets putting in a little work time while they met with clients or enjoyed their coffees. Me included.

Yep, I doubt it will take too much longer before those heavy laptops all but disappear. And sitting down to a desktop … they’ll be gone too before you know it. Why do you need something big, heavy and tethered to one location when you can move freely with mobile devices?

Creating a site that is optimized for mobile doesn’t just mean moving off a Flash platform. It means thinking a whole new way about the experience you wish to portray to your clients who are finding you via their mobile devices.

Yes, it may be a low percentage today. But that’s increasing every day. Stats are showing that mobile could be in the high majority in as little as two years. The last thing you want to be is the last photographer focusing in on why your old, archaic website doesn’t work. Here are some things to start considering now as you make your move.

It’s The Internet, Not Two Separate Tools

When mobile technology first made its appearance, many photographers had a major problem. Flash doesn’t work on iPhones or iPads, which means your Flash site isn’t viewable on those devices. While many photographers said “So what?”, to do so ignored a huge population that may be potential clients. Likewise, many retail store thought of their retail and online stores as two separate units. I remember trying to return something I purchased online to a local retail store in the early days of the Internet, and they simply couldn’t take the item back.

Today, many people think the same way when it comes to a website and a mobile website. They are two separate units – build one for traditional online users, and have another for mobile technology. Again, that’s the wrong way to think. A prospect is a prospect. Some will want limited information – your phone number for instance. Others will want to pour over your site and spend hours doing so. You don’t know who your visitors are and what they desire. So you should always be giving them the optimal experience, no matter where they access it from. One site; one purpose. [Read more...]

4 Steps To Turn Prospects Into Clients With Your Website

As a photographer, what is the one thing that motivates your prospects to convert to clients? Your photographs?

Nope.

It’s actually your words.

Don’t believe me?

Head out and Google random photographers’ websites. You’ll quickly find the majority of photographers online today create a site driven by their photography.

Sure they say, “welcome to my site”. And they have a bio – very small that doesn’t really say much. And they may list their services with pricing and inclusions.

But then it’s on to the gallery. And it becomes a “best of” festival, showcasing whatever the photographer deems to be representative of their finest photography. 50, 100, 200 images – they take a few best shots from each clients’ file and upload them to a gallery.

No matter how beautiful the photography, the value of it starts getting lost as people go from one site to another, and they all pretty much look the same.

And its’ not just the photography. Even the website designs begin to look the same. It’s enough to leave any potential customer confused.

Which is where your words become more important than ever. Take a look at these two examples.

Example 1:

In this example, all your prospect sees when visiting your site is an image. They build their opinions strictly from the image you provide.

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Example 2:

Instead of choosing a “best of” image, you put a selection of images from a past shoot and talk about the shoot:

Brent and Amanda’s Engagement

I was so excited when I booked Brent and Amanda’s wedding. I knew right away they were going to be a fun couple to work with. They wanted something different for their engagement setting, so I started asking them what was important to them. Amanda started telling me about the picnic lunch they shared right before Brent popped the question – all down by city park. I knew then where we had to photograph their engagement.

 

I met them there and instant magic started happening. With a little direction, they began having fun, and the photographs turned out exquisite.

They wanted a series of images to display at their reception site, so we didn’t take the standard images – instead we had some fun. Here are a couple of my favorites.

I’m SOOOO looking forward to their wedding in October up at the Ritz!

As a prospect, the first image is nice. But there is nothing that allows you to get “inside” what the clients were feeling; what the photographer’s intentions were.

With the second, the story unfolds. Even if you don’t know “Brent and Amanda”, you feel like you do. You get this happy feeling just by reading what transpired.

So ultimately, its in your words. Which is why I always recommend blogging. With every post you make, you can get into the details of what your last shoot was. It doesn’t take a novel or hundreds of words. Just a simple story like the one I wrote above. It’s 142 words.

If you HATE writing – I have a lot of people tell me that – here is a quick way to get your story out and on to your blog.

Outline

Pick your favorite images from the shoot. Not a ton, just 2 or 3. Why do you want to share them? What makes them special? Write down on a piece of paper three reasons why these mean something to you and how they best represent your client.

Freewrite

Take those three points and write. If you hate writing, speak. Dragon Software has a great product that allows you to talk while it takes notes. Or if you have a Mac with the new operating system, Mountain Lion, it has a dictation program that allows you to do the same. Just let yourself go without editing or concerning yourself with your language.

Read Aloud

Now start at the beginning and read it aloud. Things sound different when you speak them and it will help you discover hidden errors. Correct things as you go along to make it sound better.

Post

When you’re comfortable with your message, post it with your images. Don’t overthink this. Just do it. Your first try won’t be as good as your tenth. And that’s okay. The important thing is to let people see your work and your personality.

Nobody Looks For A Photographer That Way Anymore

Have you seen the movie 21 Jump Street? We rented it over the weekend and had to laugh at the generational differences facing the police officers as they went back into the high school environment. Channing Tatum’s character kept shaking his head, wondering what kind of parallel universe he entered where the cool kids completely changed the way they act and think. And Jonah Hill’s character was upset because if he had been born 10 years later, he would have been “cool”.

And while there were many hilarious lines throughout the movie, I loved the one where Jonah Hill called and talked to the main girl he was pursuing, asking her to his party. She stared at the phone ringing, answered it kind of awkwardly, and told him “nobody calls me except old relatives once in awhile – we text”.

Yep, that’s right here in the US. Things have changed fast over the past few years. And they will continue to change just as fast here and around the world in the coming few years.

If you head over to different parts of China, they use smart technology even more than we do.

If you head to other parts of the world, they may be lagging behind. We noticed more smart phones and similar mobile behavior when we were in Spain, yet in Italy, most people were still using standard cell phones for talking only – no smart technology yet.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t coming. We had a lively discussion with our cousins when we were in Lucca, Italy one night. It’s a generational thing. The 70-somethings and the 40-somethings were amazed at the smartphone concept and what we were currently doing here in the US. The teenagers pretty much knew it even though they didn’t have the technology in their hands. They’ve been online and have a friend or two with enough knowledge that they understood it – and had it on their “gift” lists from mom and dad.

So even though certain places and people may not be using technology at lightening speed now, they will. Very quickly.

It’s easy to stay with old technology – an old website – because your clientele is older and isn’t accessing things through mobile technology. It’s easy to tell yourself that. But it simply may not be true. [Read more...]

7 Ways To Create Trust On Your Site and Increase Your Image Sales

What makes you buy from a company? You can probably think of a variety of reasons you shop with the companies you do. Yet if you look at all of them together to find a common thread, chances are you’ll come up with the term “trust”. You would never invest your time or your money in a company you didn’t trust first.

As a photographer, many of your connections will come from your online presence. Your prospects may see your work for the very first time online; their friends and family may order photographs from you without ever stepping foot in your office.

Trust can be earned in a variety of ways. Yet here are the easiest and most effective ways to get started today.

1. Be clear and concise

When I was in college, a teacher had us write up a step-by-step blueprint to help an “alien” start a car. The “alien” would be someone not from this planet, someone that had no idea what a car was or how it worked. Then she read some of them aloud.

Those instructions were amazing. Some people would say things like “put key in and turn”. What is a key? And where does it go? It taught me a valuable lesson: never assume the person reading your information knows what you know. Don’t leave anything out.

Your site is designed to provide information, and without knowing who might be reading it, the more information the better. I’ve chatted with people who want to include a paragraph or two on every page they create, leaving them to view images instead. But if you don’t explain what you want or what they should do next, they really may overlook it.

2. Testimonials

Never brag about your own products and services – let others do it for you. In today’s world, you can get testimonials in a variety of ways – in person, in video, email, Facebook and Twitter. Combine a quote with a photograph, a name, a company, a web address, or some other identifying information. The more the better.

Also, make the testimonial match your content rather than putting them all on one page. If someone is reading about wedding photography, a testimonial from a recent bride is the perfect addition to that page.

3. Verification signs

Anyone can put up a “Voted Best Photographer 2010” banner. What matters is where its from and how it connects to you. Don’t just add erroneous banners; link them to showcase what the award means. Also add in other signs you are a legitimate business – security, credit card acceptance, VeriSign and more.

4. Photographs

Photographers love showcasing their work – yet have a much harder time showcasing themselves. On your about us page and sprinkled through your site, show people how you work by using photographs of you. Whether you hire a professional, use an assistant, or trade services with another professional, its just as important and easy for you to have great photographs as it is for other business owners. [Read more...]