One of the biggest challenges in photography is not so much photography but the marketing and tech side of things. Recently, I have taken to updating my website because these days I do so much work on my blog that I almost completely forgot that I ALSO have a website.
I know that sound strange but it is true. The site part of my “site” that should have a portfolio and whatnot is just there. So I sat down and thought about what is the best way to put my photos across and came to the realization about photo-sites. They are not so much for showing your work but to establish your “serious” intent to be a photographer.
This seems like a stretchy, but here me out. These days everyone can be a blogger, photographer, social media icon, etc. Photo sharing sites like flickr host a wide range of talents and not all people actually think of themselves as a serious photographer. So having your own space that you create is step towards a more serious attitude in marketing yourself. Notice that I am trying not to use the word “professional” but rather “serious” because simply having a site does not mean that you are in anyway a professional photographer and that is also an argument for another post.
Thanks to google, people can now find your work on most of the photo sharing sites quite easily and thus the need for a dedicated online portfolio on your dedicated site is starting to diminish. People that are looking for new photographers are turning to social sites more than personal websites. After all, most of the time they are looking for a particular topic or subject and google images or flickr search is an easy way to find what you need in a hurry.
Why Do We Need Dedicated Websites?
A dedicated website shows that you serious about what you do, in a manner of speaking. Sure, anyone can make a website very easily with a variety of templates and options out there but the fact of the matter is that if you put time into making and maintaining a site, then in some way you are more serious than the person posting on facebook. This just gives that added bit of professionalism to your venture. It also gives you a “place”
I look at the internet and photography like a vast city. Google+ and other social sites are like visiting a party. At the party, there will be the popular guys like Thomas Hawk and Trey Ratcliff and they will be circled by a large group of people who all love great photography. School would be Kelby Training and Lynda.com. Facebook is like the mall. Tons of stuff to do and places to take your money. Having a facebook page is like setting up a kiosk next to the guy who sells sunglasses. It could get lots of traffic but if people are seriously looking into your work, you want to have something more than just a facebook page.
Having a website to me is like having a proper office which you can decorate how you please and connect to a variety of different places. So think about a person who likes your photos, so they come to your “office” and upon entering they see a beautiful arrangement of your best photos. Then they chack out your smugmug galleries for purchase or contact you for more information. You have a place that is design to your liking that people can visit and see what you do. You can “talk to them” via your blog and even teach them. It is all there and it shows what you can do.
Sure, there are some sites that look like crap. Even my site probably looks like crap to some but that is not the point. The thing is that I have a place for my work. As I give more time to my site, it will get better and if I really want to design a great site I would hire an awesome designer like Griffin Stewart from the Traveling Designer. The main thing is that it is your space with your name to do what you want with it. Just like an office or a gallery.
How to design a site?
Well, that is the tough part. When you get your site you pretty much get a blank space and nothing else. So how do you fill it? What do you put into it? The easiest way is just to see what other people are doing and do that. Put your own style into it but keep it simple. That would be a good start and then once you have a better idea of what you want to show you can find the resources to change it.
I used Rapid Weaver for the last two versions of my site and I really love it. The reason is that before I was having to learn how to code everything using Dreamweaver and it was a pain in the ass and the product was less spectacular than I had originally planned. This was quite disappointing after spending so much time working on it. This also meant it was really hard to update it as I just didn’t want to sit down and work on it again.
Rapid Weaver allows me to quickly update my site to achieve the results that I want. I have also started using themes by Archetypon which are extremely stylish and function well. They are also price well and the support is great.
I am not a designer so I have no idea how to put together a great looking site but thanks to the store (add ons) on the Rapid Weaver page, I can piece together something that I like. It is really that simple.
How to Publish your Site?
This was the biggest issue for me. I hated having to transfer everything over to my server and hoped that it would work properly once I got it there. Rapid Weaver publishes everything simply with a single click. As a photographer, this appealed to me as I had failed so many times before with publishing sites and now I can update and redesign without any FTP programs or anything.
Is It Really Worth The Investment?
I think so. Again, everyone has a facebook page, a flickr page, a google plus page and whatnot. Investing in a decent website will pay off in the long run, at least I think so anyway. It shows people that you are dedicated to your product and are putting the time into creating a showcase for potential clients.RapidWeaver retails for $79 and can be purchase for this link or from the mac store. (It is a mac only program)