I try to visit other photographers’ websites on a regular basis, so I can keep current with the latest trends in photography, and not end up being one of those guys who’s still using the wicker fan back chair and thinks it’s “cool.” But as I search for photographers and take a look at their sites, I gotta tell ya…some of the stuff I see drives me to drink! Let’s make a list, shall we?
#1 – NO WEBSITES
Oh for the love of everything holy, it’s 2018…what do you mean you don’t have a website? The guy that cuts the grass at your studio probably has a website, and you–the person who is in the IMAGE BUSINESS–does NOT have a website? Someone should go upside your head with a 2×4. It is not unusual today for photographers to have MULTIPLE websites, and you don’t even have one? Shame on you.
#2 – NO EMAIL ADDRESS
“Oh, I don’t put my email address on there because I want to avoid spam–I have one of those really cool forms I make somebody fill out. It’s better and looks more professional.” No, it isn’t. It’s a pain in the posterior. If you are that afraid of a little spam, ya big baby, then put your address on your site as “theheadguy at photography4profit dot com.” Then email scrapers won’t grab it and your visitors can still send you an email. If they aren’t smart enough to figure out your email address from that, then they probably aren’t smart enough to have their portrait made. I always just put my email address on the site…didn’t see that much spam. If you do, learn how to set up a spam filter in your email program. Websites without an easy way for the visitor to contact you just are not a good idea.
#3 – STILL USING FLASH ON WEBSITES
OMG…this is 2018. Flash sites are so 1999. I never used Flash on my sites…ever! Before there was Broadband, Flash sites loaded very, very slowly. After Broadband, Flash sites they just loaded slowly, instead of very, very slowly. And the same person who is worried about security and getting spam puts Flash on their site. Really, are you brain damaged? Look: Flash is slow and not secure. Most computers sold today do not have Flash loaded on them. Several browsers make it tough to even use Flash as an extension. And Adobe has already pitched in the towel and they are going to dump it in 2020 since they never did find a way to keep it from being a major chink in your security armor. The “oh gee” factor is long gone–I’d say just about the same time Free Willy was on movie screens. We are all begging you, move on. If you INSIST on having a Flash website, do your customers (and yourself) a favor: have a link to an HTML version of your site. You will find you get FAR more page views by doing so. Or do you want your customers to see the screen below?
#4 – USING VIDEO ON WEBSITES
I know you hear some people say, “VIDEO TURNS VISITORS INTO BUYERS!” Yeah, you know who says that? People who are selling software so you can post videoes on websites. Studies by reputable sources have found video rarely increases traffic or conversions. Yes, I know they can be cool. But just remember how successful Senior Promotions on DVD were. “What?” you say? Exactly my point. If you MUST use a video, make it SHORT, INTERESTING, and SHORT (get it? don’t make it long!). If you post it on your homepage, be willing to suffer the consequences of poor SEO.
#5 – SELLING THINGS ON YOUR WEBSITES THAT HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH PHOTOGRAPHY
Folks, I can NOT believe that I have seen this on WAY too many websites. If you want to sell an antique quilt, put that sucker on eBay, or Etsy, or Craigslist, BUT NOT ON YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY WEBSITES!! You might as well have have your granny knit mittens and booties and put them on the counter at your studio. Oh, you already are doing that? And you wonder why you don’t have the business you want. Listen, as you travel around, stop by other studios. Check out Gary Box in Oklahoma, or John Hartman in Wisconsin, or other well-known photographers. I’m willing to bet they don’t have mittens, quilts, popcorn, or candy sitting on the desk of the receptionist. There’s a reason…
#6 – USING WORN-OUT, TIRED, OUTDATED THEMES
I can’t believe the number of websites I visit that say, “Last updated October 2005.” Or they are still using HTML themes that were sold in cheap packages from 2001…or earlier! Come on boys and girls, that is inexcusable. If you don’t know how to code using HTML, you can take a class at your local community college or for way less money on UDEMY. Don’t want to learn how to code in HTML? I don’t blame you. I used to work with it a lot, and I always thought it was a pain. So unless building websites is like a hobby for you, I think you can use your time more productively than building websites. If you don’t WANT to code, here are your choices:
- Overpay some local design firm to do your site.
- Overpay Marathon Press to do your site. Yes, you’ll overpay, but it will be a quality job.
- Find a code monkey on Fiverr, Craigslist, or at your local college…heck, at your local HIGH SCHOOL these days!
- Switch your site to WordPress. WordPress sites are normally much less expensive than HTML sites, or you can learn to do it yourself. It’s fun, it’s easy, and there are many cool themes with more being added every day. Many of them are free. Once again, go over to UDEMY and you can take a class. They often have classes discounted to around ten bucks. Sign up with UDEMY here, OR you can sign up for a FREE 7 day WordPress class with WPZoom. Just to let you know up front, WPZoom makes WordPress themes, and they hope you’ll buy one…or the whole set–but there’s no hard sell. As this is being written, you can get ALL 41 of their themes for just $99…that’s less than $2.50 each! They also offer plugins. Plugins offer additional functionality or customization of a theme. While I currently do not use any of their themes or plugins (and don’t get paid if you buy from them), they are known to have good quality offerings.
#7 – OUTDATED NOTICES AND ANNOUNCEMENTS
I know we all get busy. But yesterday as I was looking at photography websites, fully 25% of them had old, expired, outdated offers or notices on them. It’s June 1, 2018. Why do you still have the announcement: “NEW POSES AND BACKGROUNDS FOR THE CLASS OF 2012?” on your website? Or why is, “Call us NOW for your Valentine’s Day Portraits!” still posted? Or the very worst one I saw yesterday: “WATCH FOR OUR NEW WEBSITE REDESIGN – COMING MAY, 2001!” If you can’t keep up with it, hire someone to help.
#8 – MUSIC
Look, I LOVE music. But far too many websites have music that is downright annoying or inappropriate. If you are going to use music:
- Make sure you have not stolen the music.
- Give the user the option to turn it down or off, and make it easy to find.
- And for the love of God, don’t make it the same tune that drones on, and on, and on, and on…
#9 – “MYSTERY MEAT” NAVIGATION
“Mystery Meat Navigation” is when a home page or landing page comes up on websites…and it just sits there. No information exists on how to visit another page. Maybe, just maybe after scrolling your mouse all over the #@$!!* page, you find a hidden link or menu. Or sometimes, nothing! Why do you do this? “Well, it’s mysterious, it’s cool, it’s hip, it’s happening, it’s now!” No, it’s not. It’s stupid, stupid, and stupid…just like the designer who created it. Leaving your viewer to hunt for how to find what they want is just about as stupid as you can get. Trust me, your viewer isn’t thinking it’s cool…s/he is thinking, “This photographer is a dumb _ _ _,” and moves on. Your websites should evoke an emotional response from your viewer. Frustration is NOT the emotion you should be going for. Stop building websites to impress other photographers and build them to impress your prospective clients.
#10 – WEBSITES WITHOUT SSL OR CELL PHONE OPTIMIZATION
What’s your problem, exactly? Do you think you are an artist, and so you don’t “follow the crowd?” Or do you fancy yourself a maverick, a non-conformist, a person who wants to “go rogue?” Well, you can do whatever you want with your business, just as long as you are willing to suffer the consequences. “Oh, it’s too expensive to buy an https certificate!” It is if you want to buy it from one of the old-line providers! Do some research and you will find that they are stupid cheap. Or you can do like I do: get your websites hosted at Lifetime Hosting. Their price is great, you only pay one time (no monthly or annual recurring fees), and I have NEVER had any downtime. They provide https certificates on every site I host with them FREE! Please note: this is an affiliate link. I don’t get paid if you click it, but I get paid a little if you get your hosting from them. By doing so, you do not pay any more for their services, and may even end up paying less.
#11 – OUT OF FOCUS, POOR RESOLUTION, OR JUST PLAIN POOR IMAGES
Really? I cannot understand how someone who is in the business of IMAGES can post anything besides their best work. And if this IS your best work: Lucy, you got some ‘splainin’ to do! If your only image is a small image, just don’t blow it up in Photoshop. At the very least use a software package that lets you enlarge small images and retain reasonable quality. And when you CROP and/or RESIZE an image, PLEASE retain the original perspective. If you don’t, the images look squat, squashed, squeezed, or stretched. Don’t think customers can’t see the difference, because they can. Websites should only show your best. Not sure how you measure up? Take a look at this website. I do not know these photographers, they are not friends of mine, I just know their work. See if they have put any images on their site that shouldn’t belong there. If I was being REALLY picky, I might not have included the image of the man outdoors with two dogs, but that’s if I was being FORCED to find fault if pressed by one of those people who insist on saying, “Well, NOTHING’S perfect, you know!” This is what your sample images should look like. OK, so you aren’t as good as these guys…not many people are! I know I’m not! But that doesn’t mean that you can use that as an excuse to put up poor, sloppy, just plan bad images. At least put up YOUR best work.
Do you feel like you don’t measure up? DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! Practice more! Photograph more! Ask if you can go out with a photographer you admire and have him or her show you some pointers. I’m sorry to say there are more than a few photographers who think they are too superior to take the time to share with a fellow photographer. But if your first choice doesn’t say yes, don’t be angry and don’t badmouth him or her. Some people really ARE too busy to help at certain times of the year. So again, just say, “Hey, thanks, I understand!” and move on to choice #2. You may find a photographer more willing to help if s/he is not in your market area. So you may have to drive 50-100 miles…so what? And never go empty-handed: even if the photographer has agreed to do it free, always take some token of your appreciation. This person has freely offered their time and expertise. The very least you can do is take a gift card to a local restaurant. I’d make it for at least $50. And if the photographer you admire holds paid classes, don’t be a doofus and ask him or her to teach you for free…that’s not very couth.
A NOTE FOR THOSE PHOTOGRAPHERS WHO ARE ASKED TO DO THIS: look, you started somewhere once, too. If you are asked by a fellow photographer, it’s ok to say no. But you don’t have to stick your nose in the air while you do “the superior dance” and be a pompous ass. Politely say, “Gosh, I’d like to, but right now I’m just too busy…my schedule is full. But you might try Mary Jones…she LOVES teaching new photographers!”
I was lucky enough to have friends like David Humphrey, Barry Rankin, Ron Nichols, Bob Ashmun, and others who shared their techniques. I was never as good as any of these photographers, but it gave me something to aspire to. I took classes from a lot of other photographers and paid a lot of money for the privilege: the late Bill Stockwell, Larry Peters, the late Monte Zucker, Wah Lui. The list is too long to print here.
I started at age 19 in my parents’ living room. At age 27, I was operating a $150,000 a year business from a space only 700 square feet in size. By age 32, I had two locations in two cities. By age 39, I had 3 locations and was the silent partner in another. You can do it, too. I was nobody special, but I was willing to listen to people who had the business I wanted (thanks to Gary Jentoff, Larry Peters and especially to the late Lisle Ramsey). More importantly, I was willing to work harder than anyone else in my area to get what I wanted. But that’s a story for another time.
Keep working hard, keep improving, and you will find that you can do photography4profit! Till next time.