Web Tips for Pros

As you can imagine I’m typing up lists of potential students to invite to my photography workshops during 2010. We’re going to have a full schedule of workshops here in Oakville and maybe in a second prestige location yet to be announced (I’m working on a downtown site which will be more convenient to so many of my former students who live in the GTA.) and once I know more I’ll be letting you know.

BTW unlike some of those big retail store classes, I feed you. Cold drinks and coffee are always available. We take the time to treat you like family and not like customers 🙂

So today as I’m going through hundreds of websites put up by professional photographers from across North America I’d like to offer a big bunch of observations.

What doesn’t work:

  1. Most pro photography websites are pretty horrible. Why? They’re really, really slow to open (and my cable download speed is just under 20 megs/second which is pretty good by any standard).
  2. Too many sites are homemade which wouldn’t be so bad if they were kept simple.
  3. There’s nothing to differentiate many sites from the competition. They all look the same. Few stand out from the crowd.
  4. Many many sites make it really difficult to find the contact information. Some don’t have an email contact. In this day of instant connectivity that’s a really poor business decision. And using a form to fill out is a sure-fire way to turn off potential clients.
  5. Some designers used dark (It’s usually purple. I think that’s this year’s “in” colour.) backgrounds and then the web designer picked a dark grey coloured typeface which makes the words impossible to read.
  6. Around 50 per cent of sites I’ve seen so far do not include the proper name of the actual photographer. Makes it hard to relate to you. And, almost none include a photo of the photographer.
  7. Some photographers are better than others. Can’t help that but why, oh why, put your worst images in your opening page?
  8. If you do decide to write a blog, please don’t make it too self serving. Talk a little about how much you enjoyed shooting this wedding and less about what a great shooter you are.
  9. If you do blog then do so weekly. Nothing says nothing’s happening faster than a blog whose last update was sometime in 2007.
  10. I’m not against adding music but please make it pleasant to listen to and don’t recycle the same song over and over and over and over and over again…

Okay so what does a great site look like?

  1. My number one favourite site starts off with this statement: “I’m booked up for 2010.” Every criticism I could offer pales to insignificance. I might think this was a poor marketing ploy except this particular photographer’s  images are excellent. She’s also shooting big weddings and I bet her word-of-mouth vibe is all the marketing she needs. Smart and talented. Says it all.*
  2. My favourite sites are the ones that open up instantly. Once they’ve got me, the galleries can open a little slower but the first image on the opening page and some contact info should jump up immediately.
  3. The best sites are what I call “one-banana” sites. The photographer is selling one type of photography. We don’t see a mix of his pro shots and the stuff he did on vacation.
  4. Great sites hold great images. The images standout. Period! The clients (or models) either look good (sorry about this but it is about the image) or the photographer takes hot images of ordinary people (which is so much harder to do).
  5. * I wasn’t going to point out my favourite site so far in my wanderings on the Internet (I’ve seen a couple of hundred sites so far this morning and I’m getting a little bleary-eyed) but after spending 20 minutes on Impulse Photography located in Toronto I’ve changed my mind. Now the site isn’t perfect. Silvana Frammartino, I couldn’t find your name any where on your site. I finally found it on your blog posting under your announcement about speaking at WPPI in Las Vegas in 2010. And the only photo of you on site has your face hidden behind your camera. Let’s not be too shy or modest. When it comes to laying down $10K or so for a shooter I want to see who I’m hiring. Anyway it’s your choice and as I said anybody who is booked up for 2010 in 2009 is more than okay in my book. (I’ll even forgive the image of the cat in one of your galleries but I do so reluctantly.)

Folks, you can learn a lot about how to take better images by looking at other photographer’s work. If you see an image you really like then go out and try to duplicate it. Photographer is very much more a craft than a profession. As craftspeople we learn from our peers. And if you’re just getting started contact me about taking one of my courses in 2010 at peterwestphoto@gmail.com

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