In a previous column I offered a few ideas on creating Contact pages with built-in spam protection. Littleton, Colorado’s Tim Mosholder (www.mountainviewphoto.com) sent me a tip for WordPress users that lets you use an e-mail link that’s impervious to spambots. CryptX (http://wordpress.org/plugins/cryptx) is a free WordPress plug-in that automatically changes all e-mail links on your site’s pages by adding [at] and [dot]. For example, Tim’s e-mail is “info[at]mountainviewphoto[dot]com” and the link works when your clients click on it but spambots won’t see it.
Leaves haven’t started falling on Daisy Hill, but soon will be, and just as quickly the number of leaves needing to be raked reminds me of the thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of websites I’ve looked at and written about for Web Profiles over the years. The best are presented here but there are almost as many—maybe more—near misses that fail to make the grade because they lack focus. Not the pictures, mind you, but the purpose of having a site in the first place. While it may seem obvious to you it may not be to the person who lands on your homepage. Fall is a good time to reappraise and perhaps redesign your site for the New Year, giving it not just a new look but also a new purpose. Set a goal for your site and make sure that everything from the colors used to the words and images that appear go toward achieving that goal.
Here are a few ABCs of web design to keep in mind when working on your site. A) Add something new each week. This is doubly important for blogs because search engines look for regular activity; the more and regular activity there is, the higher it will move the site in rankings when people look for photographers. B) Bigger is not necessarily better. Large file sizes cause a page to load slowly and, as I mentioned before in this column, the longer it takes, the more likely a person visiting the site will bail. Big file sizes also means it takes longer for a search engine spider to crawl your site. C) Colors should be simple, avoiding a strong graphic or photographic background. What works in print doesn’t always look good on a backlit monitor. A site’s focus should be on your photographs, not its design.<
During the year I look at thousands of websites, selecting the ones that eventually appear here, and one of the most problematic design aspects I see is the Contact page. Believe it or not, some websites don’t have one! More than once this year I found a photographer with huge amounts of talent and no way to contact them about appearing in Web Profiles. Some sites have requirements that all data, including a phone number, must be provided before contacting the photographer. If a potential client wants you to have their number, they will call you. I prefer not to have visitors jump through too many hoops to contact me but had to implement an “enter the text” form—Captcha, a free WordPress plug-in—because spam robots overflowed my mailbox. The bottom line is your bottom line and you should make it easy and convenient for clients to contact you.
A website has more in common with a daily newspaper than a studio brochure and photographers should constantly update it with new images and information about themselves and their services. That’s why having a blog—and updating it regularly—is a must these days. Your site’s overall design must also be reviewed and improved on an ongoing basis to keep it looking fresh. A website is like a living organism that must constantly grow and change in order to survive. When was the last time you updated yours?
Spring will soon be here and I’m looking forward to snow melting and flowers blooming. It’s a good time to appraise your web presence and spruce it up. If you do, I have a suggestion: don’t use Adobe Flash. First, it means millions of people using iPhones, iPads, or iPods can’t view your site.
There are as many different ways to construct a website as there are to make a photograph, just as there are many genres of photography. Yet all have the same goal: to make a photograph that pleases the maker and viewer alike and makes both think about the experience. That’s why I love photography; there’s so much that can be enjoyed by practitioners of all levels, whether carrying a Micro Four Thirds camera or schlepping a large format view camera around the wilderness. We do it because we love to make photographs. May is National Photo Month so remember to have fun with your photography.
Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, reports that a study of online retailing in 2006 found that a third of online shoppers with broadband connections abandoned a site if its pages took 4 seconds or longer to load; two-thirds quit when the delay reached 6 seconds. Recent studies by Google and Microsoft found that people abandon a site with a page loading delay of 250 milliseconds. If, as is becoming common in some photographers’ web design, there is a prelude before your real content launches or your server is slow, it does not bode well for increasing the number of visitors to your site.
I said it last month but it bears repeating: “Never was there a time when it was so easy or inexpensive to create a great-looking website than right now.” Yet one emerging trend is to pack as much text onto the opening screen as possible and if a picture must be used it should be tiny and maybe show a portrait of the photographer. There’s an old joke whose punch line is, “First, you have to get their attention.” That’s true of websites as well. That landing page should be your signature image—that gasp factor—that makes the viewer look, linger, and want to see more. Give it a try.
Never was there a time when it was so easy or inexpensive to create a great-looking website than right now. I created my own site (www.joefarace.com) using a WordPress template from Obox (www.obox-design.com) that’s hosted on GoDaddy.com and the whole magilla cost a little over $100—along with lots of my own time. What about your site? If you read Web Profiles regularly you know that from time to time I like to feature Shutterbug readers and if you would like to see your website or blog featured here, click my site’s Contact button and tell me about it.
The new year is a good time for a creative rebirth, so instead of trotting out all of those same old New Year’s resolutions why not try something to help you grow as a photographer? A few years ago I created an online gallery called “2011 Photo of the Day,” which was one of the hardest things I ever tried yet at the same time was rewarding because the commitment forced me to make a new image every day, even when I didn’t feel like it. Last October I introduced you to four photographers and their individual approaches to producing a photograph-a-day blog. If you missed it, you can read it on Shutterbug’s website. This year, I resolved to try a photo-a-day project in 2012 using the free Tumblr (www.tumblr.com) platform so there’s no excuse that you can’t do the same thing. If you follow me on Tumblr (http://joefarace.tumblr.com), I’ll follow you back so we can see how each of us does during the year.
One of the nicest gifts that anyone can give is a photograph. It can be a portrait of yourself and your loved ones or it can be the gift of a fine art print that you can proudly hang on the wall. Submitted for your approval this month are four photographers whose fine art work spans different genres, but what they have in common is an uncommon vision and a commitment to quality.
Thanksgiving Day is celebrated in the United States and Canada, although up North it’s the second Monday in October. Other places around the world observe Thanksgiving celebrations as well and I’d like to celebrate it here by thanking the people who make this column possible. Big thanks goes to Editorial Director George Schaub and Managing Editor Andrea Keister, who occasionally suggest sites for the column but mostly just make me look good. A big thank you goes out to all of the magazine’s readers for their support over the years. In recent issues I haven’t had as many Shutterbug Reader-of-the-Month sites but I’ll make up for it this month, starting with…
Last year I tried a picture-a-day project and was surprised how difficult it was, but also found that it was a great way to stimulate creativity. In 2013, I’ll begin a similar project, this time using Tumblr (www.tumblr.com) because it’s free and the simplest way I know to create a photoblog. To get you inspired, I’ve rounded up four different photo-a-day blogs to show the diverse ways these talented photographers created their sites and blogs. Give it a try because it forces you to think—every day—about making new photographs. And the best way to improve your skills is to practice, practice, practice.
This month I am privileged to present four of the best fine art photographers working in the country. Bill Schwab’s introspective classical images made on collodion plates, the sweeping majesty of Michael Kahn’s handmade silver gelatin prints, and Lane Wilson’s lush images show why they are masters of monochrome photography. Even Cole Thompson’s Blog-of-the-Month resonates with expertise and vision that is at once traditional yet as new as a sunrise. Join me as we take a look at their websites and blog, and prepare to be inspired.