Social Media? Check! Domain Name? Check! Website Hosting? Check! Now what????
Time to put yourself out there and create the website that people will visit to look at your work, learn more about you, contact you and hopefully hire you to photograph their events, their products, their portraits or weddings. In other words, we need to talk about how you should design your website. Do you need a logo? What pages and information do you need to include in your photography website?
Hey gang. Hopefully you have already seen this video about social media and this video about the different social media websites and this video about domain names and website hosting. Here, I’ll be giving you some insight into the concept of branding and we’ll take a good look at what you need to have in your website to attract new clients. I’ll even walk you through my recent rebranding and give you some important tips about working with a graphic designer.
Often photographers make the mistake of thinking that branding is all about their logo and ugly watermarks and the colors and font styles that they use. While all those things are indeed a part of what branding is… for a photographer they are probably the LEAST important part.
In the age of social media and Zombie Photographers, I find so many “photographers” spending money and stressing over logo design long before they even understand how to properly use and control depth of field. Their reason? They are focused on building a brand.
In other words, they plan to start a business without the required skillset and then charge people money to go out and learn on the job. It’s a good thing doctors, plumbers, and electricians don’t work that way.
If you want to be a photographer understand that your brand is NOT your logo. First and foremost, your brand is the quality and consistency of your photography. You can have the coolest logo in the world but if your photography sucks, that logo won’t do much for you. Second in importance to your brand is YOU! As I explained in the first social media video: what value do you bring to your clients? Remember, your clients don’t actually care about the images on your website and they certainly don’t care about your logo. They care about what YOU are going to do for them.
Third, when it comes to your web presence, clients care about convenience. How easy do you make it to work with you? Is your website easy to understand and navigate? Is it intuitive? Not intuitive to YOU, but to someone who knows nothing about you or what you do or what you offer.
So do I need a logo?
Not really. Most importantly, you want people to remember your name and the quality of your work. So, it goes without saying that you better start creating some amazing images. As for a logo, if you don’t have the money to spend for a logo design, don’t stress about that. Pick a simple, easy-to-read font and just type out your name.
An easy-to-read font is usually going to be a sans-serif font. In case you’re wondering… a serif font is one like good old fashioned Times New Roman. It has the little decorative pieces on the ends of the letters. A sans-serif font is one like basic Arial that is clean and easy to read, even when it is very small. This is important, because modern web design displays logos much smaller than in brochures, so you need to be sure that people can read your logo even on a mobile phone.
Now I know a lot of you like those cutesy curlicue decorative fonts, but remember: if you make it hard to read, it will reflect poorly on your photography.
I would encourage you to start out simple. Do a VERY basic logo YOURSELF in Photoshop. Once you begin to build a client base and have people paying you to take pictures, then it makes sense to work with a designer to take your logo to the next level. That’s exactly what I did. I’ve used a self-designed logo for the last 16 years and only recently worked with a designer to liven up the look and feel of the logo. I’ll tell you more about that at the end of this piece.
In my video on website domain names, I suggested that you use your name as your domain name, since people are hiring you and not a big company. The same advice applies to your logo. Your name is your brand. People are connecting with and hiring YOU, so use your name. Certainly, you can add a tagline like the word Photographer or Photography, but avoid being too cute or unusual with your tagline. If you do go with something that is not obvious, do your research to be sure that it is not already in use and protected by a service mark or trademark. The last thing you want is to have to spend money for a lawyer because you have infringed on someone’s intellectual property rights.
Hopefully by now, you know where you’re hosting your website and you’re ready to get down to the important question… what do I need to include in my website?
As always… my advice is keep it simple stupid.
If you take nothing else away from this video, please remember this: the website will not get you work – YOU will get you work. The goal of the website is to introduce you and your photography to potential new clients and get them to reach out to you, so that YOU can then initiate a REAL conversation between two people, not two computers. The business of photography takes place between people. Don’t be lazy and try to avoid dealing with people; you’re not going to get much work that way.
Your website will of course contain your portfolio. Your portfolio should contain ONLY your best photographs. Please remember that if you are just starting out, you can look like a rock star photographer with a dozen awesome images or you can look like a complete hack with 24 less than great pictures.
Another mistake that I frequently see new photographers make is setting up a website for portraits and weddings and then including galleries with their landscape and astrophotography pictures. Don’t be a jack of all trades and a master of none. Focus on what you want people to hire you for. If you want to be able to sell gallery prints of your landscapes, build a second website focused on that purpose and market it separately.
Aside from your portfolio, the next MOST important page of your website is the About Page. Unfortunately, this is usually the worst page of a photographer’s website and almost always the most overlooked. I get it, we all hate having to write about ourselves because it feels like bragging, yada, yada, yada. Suck it up and deal with it – hire a writer if you need to – but you need to make yourself seem interesting.
Don’t tell people about your cameras. Don’t tell people you started shooting for the first time 2 years ago, like that’s gonna make somebody feel confident about your skill set. Do tell people about YOU! Your family, your pets. Tell them WHY you like shooting portraits or weddings. Make yourself seem interesting. I know – for some of you this may be a work of fiction – so if that’s the case, be creative, but understand that people read this page. They want to get a sense of who they are going to be dealing with and what the experience will be like. Your About Page should contain a minimum of three hundred words and should be written in the first person. Use words like “I” as opposed to speaking about yourself as if you were a Wikipedia entry.
Be sure to include a profile photo on your About page. In fact, it should be the exact same profile photo that you use on EVERY social media website that you participate in. You want people to be able to easily recognize you. So that profile photo… it’s part of your brand. That means don’t change it every two weeks. Put the effort into getting a great profile shot and leave it up for at least a year or even more if you still look like it. This is an important element to building your online brand identity.
If I were you, I would get into the habit of taking fun selfies with all your clients. Post those images to social media, but also include some on your About Page. What a great way to convince people that you are actually fun to work with.
Next on the list of must have pages is the Contact Page. There is no need to get fancy here – keep it simple stupid. You should have three ways for people to contact you on a simple form. Don’t make people tell you their life story to ask you for information. Remember, if they fill out the form you are going to CALL them on the phone and have a real conversation with them. So all you need is their name, city or town, phone number, email address and a message box. Your contact page should also give people the option to email you directly and to call you. If you are photographing teenagers – in other words high school senior portraits – you should use a mobile number and tell them that they are welcome to text as well. The idea with these options is to eliminate barriers and make it easy for people to communicate in whichever way they are most comfortable.
That’s all you NEED!
Now some of you are thinking, what about a Services Page? Or an FAQ Page? And what about Prices? A Services Page and FAQ page are completely optional and you should only consider using them if every other photographer in your area has similar pages. If your competition doesn’t use these pages, make sure you aren’t either. You want to stand out for the quality of your photos – not how much information you post on your website.
All too often these two pages become negatives instead of positives. You don’t need to tell people that you require a deposit before they have even talked to you about hiring you. You don’t need to tell people what they can and can’t do with their photos when they are still browsing, so leave it out of your marketing. Remember the website is an introduction, a brochure. We all hate fine print so don’t do it.
What about prices?
Prices are another really bad idea. By posting your prices on your website you are allowing people to make a buying decision without ever actually speaking to or interacting with you. That is a horrible plan. Remember, people aren’t hiring your photos, they are hiring YOU. Don’t let a website do the talking and DON’T give people so much information that they don’t need to contact you.
Now that I told you not to post a Services or FAQ or especially a Prices page, understand that there is one exception to the rule. Be sure to check the competition in the area that you are going to service. I am referring to the best high-end shooters, not the bottom feeders. If there are five other wedding photographers in your town and they ALL post their prices, then unfortunately it is a good idea to have a Prices Page. BUT… don’t post your actual prices… post your starting prices and encourage people to contact you for more information.
The same goes for Services and FAQs. Don’t create long heavily worded pages. Make a page with some basic info and encourage people to contact you to learn more.
The challenge is to create a balance. From the creative side, you don’t want to be just like your competition. That’s why you work to excel at your photography. From the marketing side, you don’t want to stand out because your website is different and potentially harder to understand. Remember, people will usually look at a few photographers, so you want to make your site to be easy to understand and then stand out for your creative abilities with a camera.
What about a blog?
Remember what your Mama taught you… don’t use four letter words! BLOG is a four-letter word. Five years ago, the consensus was that you had to have a blog if you wanted to show up in search engines and find new customers. Fortunately, the web is growing up and social media is maturing so the good news is that you don’t NEED to blog. In fact, the worst thing you can do is start a blog and then not update it for months at a time. That just makes you look lazy or not busy which certainly does not impress potential customers.
If you are going to blog, the most important thing to remember is … Frequency. At least one new post every two weeks. Also, a post should not be just one photo with no words or worse yet 20 photos from the same wedding or portrait session. In fact, if you want search engine benefits from your blog you need at least 300 to 2,000 words per post. That’s a lot of work. Google doesn’t care about the photos – they only look at the words.
So why do a blog at all? If you have the discipline to maintain it and if you are shooting enough to be able to add new images regularly, go for it! A blog that consists of photos and short write-ups about your experience with your subjects is a great marketing tool. Blog posts that talk about how much fun you had shooting a couple’s engagement portrait accompanied by a great image with lots of happy personality is very powerful. Or a post that talks about how beautiful a couple’s wedding was and how you felt privileged to be able to spend the most important day of their lives with them. Or a post about the high school senior and all their hobbies and accomplishments and the cool things that you did together to create their photos. These kind of blog posts will make new customers fall in love with you. That is, if you post consistently and your photographs are AWESOME!
If you do blog, be sure to stay on point. If you are a wedding and portrait photographer, don’t start adding blog posts about camera reviews or your Photoshop techniques. If you want to teach workshops and be a YouTuber, create a separate website for that and link to it from your main website. A bride to be does not want to read your Photoshop tutorial.
Ok, I promised to tell you about my recent rebranding. Below is my logo as it looked 17 years ago.
I designed it in Photoshop – just simple text – just like I recommended you do. Below, you can see how the logo evolved over the years, each of them designed by me and each using simple text and fonts. I even briefly changed the icon – BAD IDEA. And last year, I added the frames around the bullseye.
Then came YouTube early last year and things got a little crazy. Last August, YouTube picked my channel as part of the NextUp class of 2016 which is a group of fast growing YouTube channels that YouTube identifies and works closely with to help them grow and improve. That was a great experience that led me to doing my live TogChat shows and, suddenly, the need for new logos and a more interesting design. The important word there was NEED.
That’s when I found an awesome designer by the name of Roberto Pinto of Pinto Art Studios. I have worked with lots of designers over the years on numerous client projects, but I knew immediately that Roberto was different and definitely the designer for me. With very little input, Roberto watched my videos to get a sense of my personality and delivery, and he took the time to look at my photographs and existing logo and website design. His first pass at the new look was almost flawless. He gave the logo and icon some much needed personality and best of all: he added a catchlight to the letter “o”. Considering that I photograph people and portraits of all kinds; this was an awesome touch. Then Roberto set out to create the logos for my TogChat Live streams as well as the animated logo intro that you see in the beginning of my videos.
The moral to the story is that a great logo can help boost your brand… but DON’T put style before substance. Just like I did, build your business with a focus on the quality of your work. Once you reach a point where you have established your name and built a client base, then it is definitely worth the investment to work with a designer.
If you want to check out more of Roberto’s work, click here.
When you are ready to work with a designer, be sure to take a good look at their work. Understand what you get for the price that they quote you. You are going to want the logo designed in Adobe Illustrator as a vector design so that it can be resized and used for almost any purpose. That also means that when your designer delivers the Illustrator files to you, make sure they are going to provide you with the font files. If you don’t have the proper fonts installed on your computer, you won’t be able to work with the logo in Illustrator or Photoshop.
So, there you have it. We have covered social media; we have talked about domain names and naming your business. We’ve reviewed website hosting options and talked about what should be included on your website.
Now it’s time for you to get to work and for me to get back to making photography videos.
If you still have more questions about marketing, social media or websites, be sure to check out TogChat Live on Thursday nights at 6:30pm ET – that’s UTC-5.
We have spent a lot of time talking about marketing. It is a lot of work, and it is the necessary evil if you want to make money as a photographer, but please don’t forget to pick up that camera and practice. Remember that your BEST shot, it’s your next shot! So keep learning, keep thinking and keep shooting, Adios!