If you find yourself always seeking to make small tweaks to your photography website, please sit down, this is an intervention. Always a good time for a quick reality check.
Through working with so many photographers trying to build or improve their online presence, I started to see a pattern emerging. Most people are avid for quick and easy tricks for online success. It’s understandable. The internet is full of tips & tutorials, and this blog aims to become a trusted resource for you to build an amazing photo website. So writing this post might seem counter-intuitive.
But, besides our welcome post, I wanted to start off this blog with a manifesto:
Learning some SEO tactics or changing your site’s background color are not the keys to building a better photography business. Posting your images on Facebook will also not magically get you to photography stardom.
Focus on the quality of your images. Learn to create epic content.
People should work on their SEO, marketing etc, but not take any shortcuts, the quality of the images is critical. When you share mediocre content, all the best website tools and promotion in the world won’t make it popular.
Content is king
Bill Gates coined this expression in 1996, and the abundance of average content online makes this an even stronger statement today.
I often see photographers obsess about small design tweaks, spending weeks or months fiddling around with insignificant little details, but then doing a bad job when selecting images for a good portfolio.
Quality images should always be the first priority for a photographer. Of course design, SEO, and marketing are important, but it’s the quality of the images that helps build the photography business over time.
Websites act as enablers
A good website won’t do all the hard work for you, it will never replace quality content. Consider your website as the enabler, the tool you can use to express yourself, to create value.
Another way to look at this: think of your website as a multiplier of the quality you put out. If amazing images are backed by a powerful website, results can be impressive. Websites can surely drag photographers down sometimes (like talented artists with no easily accessible contact information), or they can also sometimes pump up the status of an average photographer.
There are surely a lot of things you could be doing wrong on your photo website, but most of the times, though, it comes down to the true value of the images. Aesthetic value, journalism value, commercial value, personal value.
Distinctive content starts marketing itself, generates social media traction on its own (or with very little effort). It almost has its own momentum, you don’t have to “drag” it around.
Don’t stop with launching your site
A great website is just a storefront for your images, a window into your work. What content you create and put on the site is what it’s all about and requires a continuous effort, it’s a long-term challenge.
You always want to engage with your site’s visitors. The quality of the content is the main factor in keeping them on the site and making them come back.
If you’re already doing a good-enough job of focusing on the quality of your images, but still feel something is lacking from your photo business, it most probably has to do with how you promote your work. We’ll cover this topic in future blog posts, so stay tuned for updates.
Social media is content’s best friend
In this new age, it’s become easier to reach larger audiences through social networks. The successful photographers who constantly stand out in social media platforms are the content creators, professional photographers who only share their best work.
It’s clear that the recent smartphone & tablet explosion makes it even easier to consume content. The fantastic rise of platforms like Pinterest and Instagram is evidence of where the market is heading.
Content-creation costs keep falling
Photography has seen a boom in recent years with the introduction of cheaper DSLRs and powerful camera-phones. Professional image editing software is becoming more and more accessible to the masses, as are website themes & tools. The only differentiator, therefore, becomes the quality.
More than a decade ago, pro photographers worked well with ad agencies or print publications, but now there’s an endless supply of images. Photographers need to constantly adapt to market changes, and realize that quality is the only constant.
Form still matters
The visitors of your photo site always have expectations (for layout, experience, colors etc.), you definitely have to try to meet them, to present your work in the best possible way.
But that only becomes a priority when the images (the core of the site) are as good as can possibly be (at that time).
Quality vs quantity
You shouldn’t mistake your worth as a photographer for how many thousands of images you publish on your site or how many Facebook likes they get. The point is to always add meaning to your work, to create galleries that inspire people and makes them think.
Switching your mindset from quantity to quality cannot happen over night, though, it requires experience and courage. It’s perfectly fine to draw inspiration from the outside. In fact, you should steal like an artist.
Follow your own path
Especially when you’re starting out as a photographer, if you spend too much time focusing on technical details (website stats, what social media buttons to use, nudging design elements a few pixels etc.), you’re unavoidably comparing yourself to other photographers, to how others have shaped their work. You should instead focus on your own journey, on growing your art over time. You’re not here to compete with the world, you just need to enjoy the ride and celebrate your passion.
Focusing more on your own trajectory draws the process inward, making you develop your skills. Focusing too much on bells-and-whistles, superficial business metrics or analytics almost always distracts from the essential: learning to see creatively, adding more meaning to your photo projects.
Working on improving your photography site deserves its own time, for sure, but sometimes having the courage to venture away and instead work on a creative project can do wonders.
Create a challenge for yourself to always try to publish epic images, to the best of your abilities. Your website traffic, number of clients and self-confidence will start to fly.
Remember that when you start to ask yourself why you aren’t getting enough work or visitors to your website, when you wonder why your images aren’t being shared online that much, always start by asking yourself these powerful questions: Am I creating quality content? What could I change to make my images/galleries amazing?