A general critique of photographer’s websites
Your website is most likely the first contact that others have with your work as a photographer. With that in mind, your website is of huge importance in marketing yourself and establishing yourself and your brand. With an ever-proliferating number of websites competing for the attention of any potential visitor, you have a very small opportunity to make an impression and make someone linger a few seconds longer.
Looking at the websites of other photographers (and I am even asked sometimes to do that!), I regularly notice specific problems or areas which can easily be improved. Of course, this is just my opinion. So you might disagree on some of these. But I could still be right.
The general look of the website
1. Don’t design your own website.
This is the irony – as much as photographers want to think they are visual people, and have a handle on design and what looks good, (eg, balance and composition), it rarely works out that way. Don’t design your own website. Get someone professional to do it for you. Or at least get a template site. Have a proper website, and not a website service like PBase or such. A proper website, preferably with your own unique domain. You may as well start immediately with a domain name of your own, rather than building up on a website service.
In a sense I think no website will ever be finished. Web technology and capability keeps changing, and it is necessary to constantly move forward. There are ways to continually improve a website’s content, look and navigation.
2. Website navigation should be obvious.
It may be obvious to *you* because you can read your own mind, but get others to check your website for you. Allow them to be brutal.
Make sure the navigation of your images don’t jump around as the images change in size, or go from horizontal to vertical. It’s annoying to your website’s visitors when they keep on having to find where the forward arrow is now, and move the cursor around.
3. “This page is still under construction”
This should never appear anywhere on your site. Never. Just spend 10 minutes and write something! If you are busy building up a series of pages, keep them out of view on a dev site before half-assedly showing them on your site.
4. Don’t plagiarize!
You will get caught. There are a number of websites dedicated to calling out photo thieves. That is but one of them. I’ve even had my own entire website ripped off. (And yes, it is always the web designer’s doing.)
You are creative. Figure your own stuff out. You are an idiot if you copy someone else’s text and photos. Again, you will be found out!
- To check whether your text has been copied, use Copyscape. My most plagiarized page? My bio! I even mention it in my bio. Seems that some photographers just regarded my old bio as a template. Idiots.
- To find any of your images which have been stolen, use Tineye.
5. Images that are too small or too pixelated.
Screens are getting bigger, and resolution is getting better. Your images need to be large to have impact.
The counterpoint to this is to be sure your images and website scale properly for different sized browsers and mobile devices.
6. Style of photographic post-processing should not be dated.
Stay away from vignetting. Stay away from selective coloring. Don’t get caught up in trendy new looks. They will look dated in a few years.
A general rule – the more you have to tinker with an image in Photoshop to make it look better, the greater the probability it wasn’t particularly good in the first place.
Never post images which are sub-par. You are not doing yourself any favors. Rather post fewer images.
7. Simple clean design wins every time over a cluttered site.
It’s difficult to balance having a website with all the info you need to give to your audience, but still keep it visually appealing and easy to navigate.
Don’t use so much SEO targeting that your website looks ugly. Clients might find you on Google, but they will be repelled by the sheer ugliness of a site that has been over-optimized with keywords.
8. Get rid of Flash elements on your website.
Ever since the iPad became the fastest selling consumer device in history, using Flash on your website makes no sense at all. Get rid of all Flash on your website.
9. Mention clearly where you are located.
State clearly what areas / regions you cover, even if you’re a destination wedding photographer or a photographer that travels. A surprising number of photographers don’t mention specifically where they are located! How do you expect to get clients?
10. Lose the cheese-ball music.
People live their lives to their own soundtrack, or they are at work and don’t want sound blaring suddenly from their computers. Certainly not a diva belting out, “Unforgettaaaaable”. And you may well argue that I am not your potential client, but think about it this way – you won’t lose a potential client because you don’t have music. But you will lose all those potential clients that close the tab with your site when the music starts up.
If you do have music on your site, make it very obvious where the music player’s navigation is. Preferably make the music be an option to switched on, rather than auto-play.
Really, if people truly crave the ambience you provide with music on your site, allow them to select it. They might very well have been surfing the web silently or listening to Pandora or Spotify. Sure, canvas your clients if they like the music on your website. You’ll get people saying they like it. Perhaps because they don’t want to insult you. But there are other reasons why the replies would be skewed – you’re not canvasing the potential clients you had lost.
Your bio on your website
11. “A passion for photography”
Nobody cares that you have a passion for photography. It is assumed that you like what you’re doing and that you have an interest in what you’re doing. So why would your clients care that you have a passion for photography. Rather, find a new and interesting way to describe what you do and who you are. The same goes for “being in love with love”.
12. “I was born with a camera in my hand”
Okay, I’m exaggerating. But it seems there is a competition between photographers to be the youngest kid ever to have had a camera. No one cares whether you had a camera at the age of five … unless there is a cute photo of you as a young child with a camera. Then it counts. But don’t labor the point. To impress people, rather show them your current portfolio.
13. “Internationally renowned award-winning photographer”
This might be the second biggest cliche after having oodles of “passion”. Show your portfolio of kick-ass images instead.
14. Do add a photograph of yourself
Let people know what you look like. Sure, it is all about your art, and therefore your looks shouldn’t matter. Except, it does. Clients want to see who they are dealing with, or at least have an idea of who they are going to meet at the consultation. So, no photograph of a landscape or a photograph of your pug. Just a photo of yourself. That’ll do.
Don’t come across as illiterate because you refuse to distinguish between their / they’re / there. The same goes for your / you’re. Similarly, there is a difference between an isle and an aisle. Take the time to proof-read your site. Even bribe friends to proof-read your site thoroughly. Seriously, this stuff is important.
This started out as a general article regarding photographers’ websites … but it seems to have spiraled into a mini-rant. Oh well. And if anything here aggravated you, it might just mean you have to consider changing a few things up on your website. Ask the opinions of others.
Are there any things that I missed out on? Let’s hear some ideas and opinions.