An insightful interview with talented photographer Patricia Davidson. Learn from her about the importance of having a good website and looking professional online, as well as her thoughts on what makes an effective photography website.
Please tell us about yourself and your photography background
My name is Patricia Davidson. I’m a Landscape & Nature photographer based out of the Pacific Northwest. I’ve been photographing landscapes since around 2007. I’ve loved photography since I was in high school but didn’t have a chance to get back into it until my kids were grown. When I won a state photo contest with a point and shoot camera, my husband surprised me with my first DSLR. From there began a renewed passion for photography.
Spending time in nature has always been a part of my life since childhood. My family loved to camp and do outdoor activities. I’ve always felt at home outdoors in nature. It makes me happy.
What are all the components of your online presence now?
I have a website at http://patriciadavidsonphotography.com. My blog is there as well.
How do you balance photography work between commercial/editorial and personal projects?
Interesting you should ask this question as I am currently changing my lifestyle to accommodate more photography and travel time. I’ve been a web-developer for a small community college and will be leaving my job there to live a nomadic lifestyle in an RV with my husband. I will have more time for personal projects as well as having more time to promote my photography. This all begins this summer.
We bought an RV and will live in it full time to accommodate my desire to travel the US and Canada. I want to be able to do at least one international trip a year.
At what point in your career did you start using a website and what effects did the websites have on your business so far?
I’ve been doing web development since the late 90’s so I guess I’ve always thought it was important to have a web presence. I have gotten about 95% of the work and print sales through my website. It’s really important to me to have a professional looking site and for it to have the latest web standards.
I have encouraged other photographer friends to get a good web presence because I feel it’s important to look professional if you are trying to make money from your photography. Unfortunately, I have seen photographers that use free website services because they don’t want to spend the money on a good website. This does not look professional to their potential clients.
Your site offers multiple types of fine-art prints and image licenses. What’s your experience with selling them and what feedback have you received from customers?
I have focused my business on the fine art side of print sales over the last few years. I do sell prints through my website and directly. Either way, I’m there to assist the customer the best way I can. I have some very supportive customers and for that, I am very grateful.
I do license my images and find that I do better working directly with buyers than being locked into a contract with a stock agency. Most of the license opportunities come directly through my website.
Your site also offers a monthly newsletter (powered by MailChimp if I’m not mistaking). How have you leveraged it so far?
I do use MailChimp and love it. It’s really easy to use and it’s free. I wish I had started my mailing list years ago. I have been doing it now for the last year or so. Currently, I have a monthly newsletter that I send out. I hope to offer a free eBook in the near future to build my mailing list.
I know you’ve recently redesigned your website and chose to integrate the blog into it. What were the reasons behind this?
I did just redesign my website at the end of last year. It was long overdue. My previous website was not built with the latest web standards; it wasn’t responsive. I did want to bring my blog and website together so that they were better integrated. My website is built on the WordPress platform. I’m using SmugMug to sell and showcase my prints. My goal ultimately is that a website visitor will find it easier to navigate and to purchase a print.
I noticed you’re very active on social media sites. How do they help your photography business and how do you fit them into your schedule?
Yes, I am pretty active on social media, though I’ve been much more active in the past. Photographers need to have a social media strategy just like any other business today. I have tried to be consistent with sharing photos or posts and that has helped me in the search engines as well as building a slow steady stream of followers on the social sites.
Many photographers are looking to transition more from services to products (books, workshops/seminars etc.) Do you have any such plans (besides fine-art prints & exhibits)?
Yes, I definitely have plans to have my own products. I have lots of ideas that I’ve been hoping to have more time to start developing. This would include ebooks.
I have done some private tours over the last couple of years but have not yet offered my own workshops. It’s definitely a possibility that I will consider in the future. Right now, I want to concentrate on my writings and travel agenda.
What is your least favorite aspect of managing your photography business?
I would have to say that inventory is my least favorite thing to manage. Keeping track of the products I have throughout retail and business locations, can sometimes be a pain.
The problem with retail consignment is that you are responsible, most of the time, for keeping track of your inventory. Though shop owners have their way of managing it, they all do it differently so you are better off managing it somehow yourself.
I actually have an idea for an app for managing it. I hope to develop that further in the near future.
How do you manage your work/life balance?
Since I started my photography business part-time while working full-time, it’s sometimes hard to keep in balance.
I work a lot of evenings and weekends fulfilling orders. I depend a lot on email communications with clients.
I use all my vacation and off time, to travel and take photos. I’m looking forward to spending my time just concentrating on the photography business and not working 9-5 for an employer.
What inspires you? (now, in the industry)
I am inspired each time I go out in nature and see a beautiful waterfall, green forest or the ocean beach. I love getting outdoors with my camera as nature inspires me!
It’s a great time to be a photographer. Even though more and more people are picking up cameras and taking pictures. We have so many quality tools available to us and the public seems to love photography more than ever.
Because there are so many people out with cameras, there are a wide variety of places to view inspiring photographs. Places like 500px and Instagram now are leading the way with some inspiring photos from photographers all over the world.
What do you think are the qualities of an effective photography website?
You have written beautifully about those things on your blog. I’ll try and name a few that come to my mind that I try and share about with photographers that don’t have a web presence.
- Design – The design must be appealing and clean, compliant with the latest web standards and look professional. After all, you need to attract buyers to your website.
- Navigation – It should be easy to find things on your website. You don’t want to frustrate your potential clients!
- Content – A website should convey clearly what you do and who you are. They always say, “Content is King!” and it’s so true. Writing content is the hardest thing for most people. I always recommend having someone else read it if they are unsure and to get help writing it if needed.
- Portfolio – Even if you don’t have it set up for ecommerce, you need to have your photos displayed in such a way that shows off your photography beautifully.
- Contact – It should be easy for people to contact you. I get most of my assignments and print request through my website. It’s important to me that it’s easy for people to reach me.
- Blog – I think a blog is important for any business website. It will help in search engines. Content that changes frequently, has the potential to bring search engine bots to comb your pages on a regular basis. Also, it’s great for providing content that is helpful for fans or followers.
In your experience, what mistakes are people usually making on their photography sites?
I see some people not putting enough effort into their business sites. They may be putting more into Facebook for example. I have actually heard people say that they are concentrating on putting everything on Facebook rather than their websites because people are there. But what happens if that social network goes away? They need to find the balance by using Facebook or other social networks to direct people back to their website.
What website metrics do you track and what informed decision do you take based on them?
I like using Google’s Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics together. These are really great tools and they are free. I know there are a lot of other great tools out there but at this time I don’t have any experience with anything else.
For tracking my newsletter, I am just using the tools available through MailChimp.
I also look at Facebook’s Insights to see what photos and posts people are most interested in. It’s helpful for determining what photos for example I should add to my website gallery for sale.
On Google’s Analytics I can tell what kind of keywords people are searching for and what online links people are clicking to within my website.
What are your plans on improving your site and growing your photo business in the next year?
I want to focus on developing my product line. As mentioned, I’d like to finish the ebook ideas I have and see if it’s possible to develop an app. I want to expand my products to more than just fine art prints. I’d like to grow my stock inventory as I travel.
I want to come up with a good plan to blog on a regular schedule. Right now, it’s pretty infrequent because of time restrictions.
In this crowded market how do you avoid getting stuck in the background and start reaching the foreground of your audience?
It really is difficult with so many great photographers, especially in the Pacific Northwest, to stand out and make a name for one’s self. I try not to concentrate on trying to be popular, but instead focus on growing in my photography skills and hope that people would take notice.
What’s something you’re still actively learning or struggling with?
Night photography and portraits.
How many countries have you visited (and which one did you like most)?
Only Mexico. I have yet to travel international. I’m going to take care of that soon.
Do you have any irrational fears?
Maybe bear encounters!
Your favorite sources of reading material?
What is your morning routine?
If I’m on a photography trip, I’m up prior to sunrise and arriving at my destination plenty early as to not miss any great light. I’ll have everything laid out ready to go the night before.
If I’m home I generally make a smoothie, take my vitamins and catch up on emails.
Great having you on the Foreground Blog, thanks for your time. Where can people get in touch with you if needed?
I can be reached from my website here. All my social links are listed on my website. I try to respond within 24 hours even when I’m on a photo trip.