By now, we have come to consider
web sites common, but how effective can they be? This question can be
answered by starting with two important concepts. The first is that
your web site is not a stand-alone promotion. It must be integrated
into the entire marketing "mix" of your sales calls, e-mail,
advertising, promo pieces, and direct mail. The second is our recommendation
that the best place to start is by getting professional help!
It is no longer a question of if you need a web presence, but how you
are going to create one that works. In this "new marketplace"
we are all in--both consumer and commercial photographers--it
is a necessity to have a web presence. It is an additional and valuable
marketing tool, but it must be kept as up-to-date as your portfolio
is supposed to be. In addition, it must be mixed with your other tools,
such as a reference for your e-mail and direct mail, as an additional
portfolio, and even (with additional links available only to clients)
as a proofing tool.
Finding A Designer
Finding a web site designer can be a challenge. Some photographers have
had good success with personal referrals or by looking to their own
design clients. If you start a search, try your local chapter of the
Direct Marketing Association or the American Institute of Graphic Arts.
Be sure to look for someone with a lot of experience in web site design.
Look at their work and always talk to their clients before you hire
For some professional advice on this topic, I turned to a design firm
I found by happy accident. I discovered Grafico Design (www.grafico-design.com)
when I was interviewing photographer Coles Hairston (www.coleshairston.com)
and commented on how much I liked his web site's design. I found
it easy to navigate--simple, but classy. He then introduced me
to the designer, Chris Beeler, partner at Grafico Design.
What follows is an interview with Beeler about some of the best ways
for a photographer to get more out of a web site design.
Shutterbug: Does a web site work for a photographer as advertising
or as a portfolio? How can it perform both functions?
Chris Beeler: A web site for a photographer works as both a portfolio
and as advertising. It leans more toward the portfolio function, but
when used with collateral material such as e-mail promotions or mailings
it also works as an advertising tool.
SB: How do you feel about having a web site vs. a web page on
a "portfolio" web site with other photographers?
CB: If you can't afford to have a web site designed for
you, then you should definitely take advantage of the availability of
a "portfolio" site. Even if you do have your own site, being
on a portfolio site can serve a purpose. Ideally, placement on both
is best. That way you can have an avenue that sells only you and another,
that has more traffic, looking at other talent as well as yours. The
more opportunity to be seen the better.
SB: How do you make a web site more effective using keywords
on the HTML meta tag page? What are the fields of description required
when you register a site with the available search engines? Any tips
on submitting a site?
CB: Write a description, (fairly brief, 25-100 words or so) that
describes best what it is that you do. Keep keywords to about 15-25
words. These keywords should be the top words that you think someone
doing a search may enter when looking for your services. Two tips on
submitting to a site would be: 1) Register with every major search engine
and any free ones that you may come across. 2) Do a search yourself
to find ones you think would suit you best.
SB: What free search engines have you come across or can refer
us to and what submission companies have you used or can recommend that
do the submissions for the web site (like Submit It!)?
CB: Check out google.com and yahoo.com. Google is a pretty popular
search engine. Others to check out would be excite.com and goto.com.
If you have a decent host they should also provide you with free search
engine submissions. Did I mention to not register more than once in
30 days or so...search engines tend to think that multiple submissions
SB: Clients often complain about slow or difficult web site navigation.
What should a photographer look for to make sure their web site is easy
for the client to use?
CB: Good, logical, clear navigation is key to any web site. If
the user is confused and/or frustrated, you will lose them in a matter
of seconds. A well planned out site can enhance user ease. Also, take
the typical audience into account. For example, will mostly professional
agencies with fast Internet service and state of the art computers be
the ones you are targeting? Or is your target the average consumer with
a slower system who is looking to book a photographer for a personal
event (e.g., a wedding)? The site needs to be tailored to the speed
and computer capabilities of the audience. Taking those factors into
account as best as you can is just as, if not more, important as designing
the site to the taste of your potential audience.
SB: How do you feel about guest books or contact pages? What
do you recommend a photographer do to get as much as possible in client's
response or reply (even if it is just to get an "opt in"
of the client's e-mail address)?
CB: I am not a big fan of the guest book, but I feel that it
is important to give the viewer a way to contact you. A photographer
could provide a button option for the user to request a newsletter/promo
piece or to be on a physical direct mail list.
SB: Would these buttons be on the toolbar or a contact page or
both? Should clients be able to "contact" the photographer
from any page on the web site?
CB: I feel that the more opportunities you give the viewer to
contact you the better. But not in excess, of course. A location/button
for a link to your e-mail and phone number on each page would be a good
idea. Plus your name of course. I'd put the buttons on both the
"toolbar" (or another area on the page that works well but
is consistently in the same location) and on the contact page.
SB: What thoughts, ideas, or recommendations can you add for
getting a more effective web site designed?
CB: If you can't afford to have a professional help you
design your site I would recommend either signing onto a "portfolio"
site or learning to do it yourself. If you decide to venture into web
design, look at as many web sites as possible and decide what it is
you like or dislike about those sites (e.g., navigation, arrangement,
etc.). Adapt the ideas you liked and thought worked best into your own
site. I'd also recommend getting some good beginner web design
books to help you get started (e.g., Lynda Weinman's Hands on
Training books). There are also several web sites out there that offer
free advice and tips on how to do HTML.
SB: Finally, I forgot to ask, how do you recommend a photographer
find the right web site designer? Also, how did you and Coles find each
CB: Finding the right designer can be like finding the right
dentist or contractor. It has a lot to do with your liking their work,
a bit to do with the chemistry between you (after all, photographers
are creative people, too, and usually have a great eye for visual layout),
and some to do with budget.
Coles and I have worked on print projects (annual reports) together
in the past. I guess he really does like our work after all. Heck, he
hired us to create his online image.
Photography Portfolio Sites
Here are some online photography portfolio web sites.
Note: This is a partial list, if you have any suggestions to
add to this list, please e-mail a link to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Alternative Pick: www.altpick.com
The Black Book: www.blackbook.com
Cosgrove Editions--Northwest Photography: www.cosgroveweb.com
KliK Showcase Photography: www.americanshowcase.com
PhotoSource International: www.photosource.com
Workbook Stock: www.workbookstock.com