Occasionally I wonder where our industry would be without the internet and the ability to visually show our prospective clients what we do. Just think back, it wasn't much more than 10 years ago that websites for photographers began as a novelty and then rapidly became one of the mainstream methods of marketing our services. Those early iterations were admittedly crude by today's standards. Many were put together without regard to good layout or design techniques. Back then just about anything was acceptable, but not any longer. With such a plethora of competition out there now you have to really stand out. Today, if you don't have a website, you might as well not exist. Everyone is letting their fingers do the walking on the keyboard as they search for goods and services. How does your site measure up? Is it simple to navigate? Is it up to date with fresh content? Does it hold the attention of the viewer and invite them in further? These are important attributes to consider for your online presence because we live in such a fast paced society and people want to get to the information they want quickly so they can go on to their next task.
What are your options today?
An HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) site is still used by a significant number of photographers and will not be going away anytime soon. The advantages are they typically load quickly even with a dial up connection and can readily be indexed by search engines because all of the text is visible to their Bots (automated programs) that view and categorize websites for retrieval and displaying when a relevant keyword search is performed. The drawbacksis that they require more work to make periodic changes and often lack some of the pizzazz our audience has come to expect.
A Flash site can come in two different flavors, hard coded or dynamic. A custom designed site that is created only using Flash can have a very unique appearance but will be very costly to develop because of the amount of time it takes to build or update. A dynamic version however, is usually a much more affordable option since they're often offered in template form and use a CMS (Content Management System) to allow the owner to make changes quickly and easily without the need for complex software. A well designed site can be very dramatic and have tremendous impact. Broadband connections are generally needed for maximum viewing pleasure and the down side is that text isn't read by the search engines, thereby making it more difficult to rank unless Search Engine Optimization can be built into the site.
What's most important?
As mentioned earlier it's imperative that we impress our clients quickly. When I'm meeting with a customer on an initial consultation they often tell me that they looked at 20-25 websites or more when doing their research for a photographer and then narrowed it down to only 4 or 5. What do you think it would take to make their short list? One obvious answer would be to have really good images but more importantly is how the work is presented. You only have about 10 seconds or less to make that first impression, and it's either going to be good or bad. If it's good you go to round 2 and probably get a phone call, if it's bad you get nothing, no call, no booking, no money.
Resist the temptation to go into lengthy details about your education or industry accolades. While you could put everything online so prospects could make an informed decision, most people don't really care about those details. Instead, tell a little bit about yourself from a personal perspective, your family or interests, since we tend to want to work with people we like, and getting to know you is a good thing. Putting your complete price list with all of your packages can hurt more than help. Simply state your price range and invite them to call. Effective marketing isn't supposed to sell anything, merely make the phone ring. If on your site you answer every question that could be asked then why would anyone need to call? Just whet their appetite with an appetizer and invite them to contact you to get the full course meal.
GRANT OAKES (www.grantoakes.com) is a Colorado-based photographer; and owns Tafota, a company that designs websites for photographers. In addition to his photography studio, Oakes is on the board of directors of, and a volunteer photographer for NILMDTS - Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep (www.nilmdts.org).