So you want to start a photography business?
Part III: Your website.
Do you really need a website?
15-20 years ago the number of businesses with a website was very minimal with many photographers having an actual studio on the local High Street or a car boot full of sample albums to show their potential clients. Today many photographers work from home and don’t have the luxury of a large shop frontage so instead rely on the internet and a website to act as their shop window.
A few things to consider:
A few things to bear in mind when setting up your website. This is not an exhaustive list of things to do but more like some of the essentials that should be considered and taken into account. It also assumes you will be designing and creating your own website and not employing the services of a web designer.
Without stating the obvious, the first step is to buy a domain name and some hosting from one of the many internet service providers there are about. Each one has their good points and there not so good points; prices can also vary so shop around before you buy.
Then you will need to design your website. I personally use WordPress for 9 different websites and think its wonderful, but acknowledge that its not for everyone. (I also run workshops for anyone who would like to create a WordPress website from scratch whilst under guidance).
Once you have the basic structure in place you will need to populate it. This provides you with a great opportunity to give potential clients a glimpse of your work before they contact you. Ideally you will have a portfolio of images you can use, this can be of friends or family to get started and can easily be replaced once your client base increases.
Be very selective over which images you include in your portfolio and resist the temptation to include every single image you have ever taken. Try to be really critical of your work and only the best to show potential client. A small number of quality images is much better than hundreds of images that all look very similar – the client will get bored looking at them and soon move on!
It is a well known fact that if a client doesn’t engage in your website in the first XYZ seconds then they will go and look elsewhere so make the home/landing page count – give it some WOW – you’ll only have one chance so don’t blow it on poor images.
When starting out, it’s very common to book yourself onto workshops. These are very popular and can provide some valuable experience in a controlled environment and be great for putting your photography skills into practise. (More on training in a future blog post in this series.)
You’ll also come away with an array of images and the temptation to use them on your website will be great. However, nothing is more frustrating than looking at a 3 or 4 of websites in a particular area and seeing the same bride on every single one of them, which then begs the questions: How many wedding photographers did she have? Potential clients will notice and look elsewhere.
The same applies to purchasing stock photographs and trying to pass them off as your own. People are more internet savvy and do notice when high quality stock images are used alongside mediocre images. I’m not saying your images are mediocre but I think you know the point I’m trying to make 🙂
It goes without saying that downloading another photographers images and trying to pass them off as your own is a very BIG NO NO!
Believe it or not, the same applies to the copy text you use on your website. Tempting as it is to sound good your clients appreciate honesty as opposed to a polished sales pitch.
And I know this will sound far fetched, especially to those just starting out in the photography business, but copying the WHOLE website word for word AND image for image will not go down well with the other photographer – the only ones to gain will be the solicitors.
I know it sounds incredible but it actually happened in 2012 when a young lady in Brighton decided to copy the entire website of an internationally renowned Scottish wedding photographer. Although she did change the background colour and the phone number it was pretty obvious the images were not hers as some of the images are known to have won major awards. The other glaring mistakes in her choice was that there are not many lochs or castles to be found in Brighton – silly girl!!
What did she do – blame the guy who built her website. Sorry but you are the photographer, web designer or web client so it all comes down to you.
Sorry, I digressed 🙂
Your website does not have to be elaborate or overly fancy but for your client it will be the first point of contact many of them will have with you so it has to look good and reflect you and your personality.
Joining a professional association can provide helpful support and advice. It can also give you a credibility with clients.
Understanding copyright laws surrounding photography can be very confusing. It is important to make sure that you know your rights as a photographer especially as your website will be rich in image content.
Hints and Tips:
Contact details: I know this sounds blindingly obvious but I have seen many websites where there is a contact form but NO OBVIOUS contact details i.e. a telephone number. I agree that a contact form is great for instigating contact between you and the client but there may be occasions where a client has to contact you urgently, say they are running late for a session, for example. If a number is available they are more likely to call rather then assume you will check any email and get their message particularly if the session is on location.
A visible telephone number just makes things easier.
Location: Ensure the location of your photography business easily visible on your website, this could be a mention of the county on the homepage or the town on your about page or the full address on the contact us page. Imagine how frustrating it must be for a potential client who falls in love with your work and wants to book you for their wedding only to find out you are located at the other end of the country or even worse IN another country.
Clients do like to look for local business so make it easy for them to find YOU.
SEO: When you first start up you will hear about SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and the need to be on Page 1 of Google. Yes it would be nice but it takes time and hard work but it can be done. Then there are the people who will ring you constantly telling you they can get you in the Top 10 for £XYZ. Please don’t even think about wasting your money as it can be used to better use elsewhere, particularly in your first few months of business.
I also find it interesting that many of the companies aren’t even in the Top 10 themselves when I do a search … hmm!!
As a photographer your website should be about pictures so keep the text to the bare essentials –
And let your images do the talking
In the next blog post I will be looking at products and pricing.