Your website is the lynchpin around which your marketing revolves, and for photographers it is our shop window to the world. Jasmine Star calls it your handshake, or the most professional version of you, so where do you start to craft this online hub for you business? In this blog I share how to create a website to attract not just any client, but your ideal client.
If you are starting out you may decide to opt for a low cost template website or you can invest in a bespoke website design. There are a variety of amazing options now available for low cost, highly effective template websites. You can often customise the template to match your vision and brand, but you may encounter other photographers with very similar designs who have purchased the same design.
Melissa Love, who has specialised in working with creative businesses for over 5 years, heads up The Design Space. She is well known for her unique brand process and creative approach to building memorable websites for some of the photography industry’s best-known photographers around the world. She developed The Design Space as a one-stop shop for great design. Modern, clean aesthetics combined with easy-to-use web and print designs, give you the power to create the brand you’ve always dreamed of. Using a template website like the Design Space is perfect for small creative businesses who wish to achieve a consistent look on every platform.
Great Template Websites For Photographers
• The Design Space
• Pro Photo
• Site House
• Square Space
• Blu Domain
A Bespoke Website Design
In previous articles I discussed the process I went through with Melissa, who developed a bespoke brand and website for my business. Creating something unique costs exponentially more than choosing a template design, but it does give you freedom to customise the design around you and your brand.
I knew I wanted my design to be bespoke from the get go as I wanted it to be like nothing else out there and to really stand out. Since launching the website I used the design to influence my marketing collateral to ensure my brand experience is unique, consistent and compelling.
My website was designed on drag and drop website builder, Showit (www.showitfast.com) which among other benefits has a fantastic content management (CMS) so it’s really easy for me to make any changes to the site. Make sure you website is content managed with a content management system (CMS) that gives you the power to update your website and update your galleries when you want to. Having to go back and forth to your designer for amendments is time consuming and costly.
While I use Showit for my website, my blog is on WordPress (www.donaldohertyblog.com). Many are now opting to develop their websites on WordPress and coupled with the Pro Photo plugin the possibilities for an engaging design are endless.
Zero Moment of Truth
The online decision-making moment is called the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT). Coined by Google, the ZMOT describes a revolution in the way consumers search for information online and make decisions about brands. Think about the impression you are making to your potential customer when they interact with your brand. Whether that zero moment of truth is on your website or on social media, make sure you put your best foot forward.
With so many users now browsing the web on their mobile phone and tablets, it has never been more important to provide a responsive web design. This will ensure users have an optimal viewing experience including easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning and scrolling. Your visitors should have a great experience, no matter which device they use to access your website.
Think about how intuitive the design of your website is. I once spent a summer interning at a management consultancy in London. Large blue chip companies paid the consultancy tens of thousands of pounds to improve the user experience of their websites. Recognize the value in making your website easy to navigate and SEO friendly. Ask a few friends to visit your website and to give you their opinion as you may have a case of not seeing the wood through the trees. When you’ve been staring at a design for a long time it is easy to miss something really basic. A number of photographers I know have created quirky websites with hidden features, which make you work for the information you’d like. They can be really fun and while they would frustrate some others will love the experience.
A Beautiful Web Experience
As image-makers the look and feel of your design should be consistent with your brand and should be visually appealing to your target market. Think about your colour scheme. For wedding photographers a light, bright design may be more appealing to brides-to-be than a black background. I try to incorporate a fashion aesthetic into my brand and so my website gives the feel of a fashion magazine. Typography plays a part too and again on my website the mix of serif and sans serif fonts give a distinctly editorial feel.
Your About Page
While you may have worked hard to achieve qualifications, potential clients are often less concerned about this information than trying to get a feel for who you are as a person. Many photographers about pages are very similar and they talk about picking up a camera at a young age. I would suggest sharing information which will make your about page stand out and that will connect with people on a personal level.
Make sure to have a photo of yourself on your about page. People want to connect with you, so include a friendly looking photo. We all have photographer friends we can call on to shoot an image or mini session of us.
I share a lot of information on my ‘About’ page and have a section dedicated towards helping people to get to know me. This includes a section on how I feel about my relationship with my fiancé, to my views on photography, a video showing me shooting behind the scenes (more on that next issue), and a section on ten things I love. These range from Coldplay to Starbucks and New York.
Before I developed my new website and started sharing so much personal information I found I had to meet with 95% of potential clients before they booked. Now as they get such a distinct impression of what I am like online, I meet with less than 5%. You can imagine how much time this saves me over a year!
A portfolio is a collection of your best work that showcases your talent. It is an essential sales tool for any photography business and a chance to engage with potential customers. Your portfolio needs to be killer as it is often the first port of call for consumers and can make a massive difference between them choosing you over a competitor.
Curating your portfolio is really important, as weaker images will drag the stronger images down. It is imperative that you only showcase truly outstanding work and that which is of a consistently high standard. Less is definitely more when selecting images for your portfolio. Only showcase the work you wish to shoot and target that particular audience. For example my portfolio mainly consists of all wedding photography as that is my area of expertise and the clients I wish to attract to do business with. That said I have broken my portfolio up into three different areas Engagements, Weddings and Portfolios to show that I am skilled in other areas of photography also and offer a range of services.
Display strong images throughout, at the beginning to secure that great first impression and definitely at the end to ensure a long lasting impression. The presentation of your portfolio is as important as the images that you include. Before the customer has looked at the portfolio images they will form an opinion of the aesthetics of your website. My online portfolio presents some of my favourite images selected from weddings, styled shoots and creative projects I have done.
For most photographers, our portfolio is presented online, it is very important to ensure your website is very strong from both a visual and usability standpoint. An electronic version can be used for off-site client meetings or for those opportunities when you bump into someone and it presents a chance to showcase your work. Living in the digital era, your portfolio should be utilized for tablets and smart phones as this means you can carry your portfolio with you everywhere. Of course many of us have hardback portfolios to begin with and I personally display a lot of art on the walls of my studio along with beautiful bespoke frames as this showcases as a mini exhibition for any clients.
I always make sure to keep my online portfolio updated regularly. My website was designed on a drag and drop website builder which means that is very easy for me to log on and make changes as I go. Make sure your website is content managed with a content management system (CMS) that gives you the power to update your website and update your galleries when you want to. It is a given that you will master your skill and your work improves with each shoot or project. My blog and social media are the perfect platforms to showcase all my recent weddings and engagement shoots. This is a really great and simple way to kick start my bookings. Facebook is the online equivalent of word of mouth and by simply having followers like and share your work that opens a new visual window for potential clients to look in. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends and family to view your page or website as all feedback will help you build the perfect user experience when looking at your photography.
I speak at a lot of events across the UK and I am always asked about my price list and what is the best way to market your cost to the public. I personally don’t have a price list on my site as this is the perfect excuse for potential clients to get in touch and enquire, meaning that this forms a connection and a great opportunity to find out if the client is the right fit for me.
The problem with having a price list available online is that the majority won’t contact further and more than likely the cost of your services might be out of their budget price range. You won’t benefit from this as no one will enquire within and by not offering too much information online, this will filter out the consumers.
My personal preference is to offer a price range on my collections. That way the client has an understanding of the investment they are about to make and this will attract the right clients to me. A lot of photographers offer a PDF Brochure as their price list when requested. Designer and brand specialist Melissa Love has informed me that it is more effective to now host a one page site containing all information that a previous brochure would. The client can only access this page from enquiring within and you share the link. This not only looks more professional but it is easy to navigate and gives you the chance to showcase your images on this page creating a visual aesthetic keeping your brand consisted throughout.
People consume media in different ways, some like to read, others like to browse images and video is a great way of engaging with your customer. It feels like an exclusive insight into the world of a photographer and it is compelling to see someone in action. Gives you a real sense of their being. The viewer does not need to read long texts or navigate too much to gain information.
I have incorporated a video on my site of a fun engagement shoot I was fortunate to do in Paris. It’s a powerful source of engaging with my customers and it can really boost traffic to your site. Search engines now offer video as part of integrated search results.
A personal video can build an emotional connection with your client especially those wishing to get married when they see behind the scenes footage of how happy the couple was on the day of this shoot. They instantly want to share a moment like that and feel you are responsible for that happiness. This can definitely attract sales.
Learn more about creating a winning website in our Website and Online Marketing Course.