It used to be that starting a website from scratch meant spending tons of money on professional web design services. Those days are long gone! Sure, you can still hire out the work, but virtually anyone can put together a terrific looking website without spending a pile of cash to do it.
Prior to 2007 when the iPhone was introduced, there was a big push toward Flash based websites. Flash seemed perfectly suited for photographers because it created a movie-like experience using pictures and music. Photographs could be set up to fly in and fade out on screen while music played in the background. When the iPhone and iPad came on scene, everything changed. Apple decided not to support Flash based content, essentially rendering Flash websites obsolete. Photographers everywhere scrambled to find alternatives.
Since then many photographers have flocked to WordPress. WordPress doesn’t use Flash, so you can rest assured that smart phone and tablet users will be able to see your content. In the long run, moving away from Flash based websites has been a good thing since they’re difficult to optimize for search.
What makes WordPress stand out is how easy it is to customize virtually every aspect of your website using themes and plugins. Everything is managed via an easy-to-use admin interface. Once set up, you simply log in whenever you want to customize the look of your website, add new content or create new pages. You’re in complete control.
WordPress themes are used to create the overall look and feel of the website. Although there are hundreds of free themes available online, I recommend purchasing a high quality theme designed for photographers. You can find quite a few gorgeous themes at Pro Photo (my personal favorite), Elegant Themes and Studio Press. All three companies offer technical support and assistance with getting your theme installed and customized.
You will also need to pick a domain name. The domain name for my wedding and portrait photography business is www.PaxtonPortraits.com. It’s important to pick a name that clearly identifies your business and brand. You can purchase your domain name through your web host or through a domain name service (such as Name Cheap).
The last piece of the puzzle is finding a place to host your website. This is where your website will physically live. It’s critical to pick a host that is reliable (in that it rarely takes your website offline) and responsive (offering quick technical support). Do your research and check out what other people are saying online in forums. Read through comments connected to host reviews. I also recommend checking the Better Business Bureau (links for USA and Canada) to see how your top picks are rated.
Now that we have the basics out of the way, let’s move on to five common mistakes photographers make starting a business website. Keep in mind that these suggestions specifically apply to photographers starting a new business.
1) Trying to Be a Jack-of-all-Trades
When you dive into photography for the first time, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by how much there is to photograph. There’s landscape, portrait, fashion, children, wedding, macro, food, real estate, sports, underwater, aerial and automotive photography – just to name a few!
Think of each of these as specialized trades under the general category of “photography.” You’re unlikely to find a professional wedding photographer who also specializes in food or real estate photography. Nor is a portrait photographer necessarily skilled at capturing beautiful landscapes. Each field requires a great deal of time and practice to master.
It may be tempting to set up a website advertising a variety of photography services. For example, I bumped into a website offering real estate and wedding photography side-by-side. Not only does this water down your perceived skill, it’s also confusing to visitors. Imagine a bride-to-be clicking over to your website and having to navigate through real estate photographs to find information about your wedding photography. It would be confusing and frustrating. The two fields simply don’t go together.
The bottom line is to pick one or two related areas of photography for each website you develop. If you’re interested in wedding and real estate photography – no problem! Since one doesn’t have anything to do with the other, consider marketing them on two different websites. That way you can focus your services and potential customers can quickly find what they’re looking for.
2) Failing to Develop a Consistent Brand
Have you taken the time to develop a brand that uniquely identifies you and your business? You don’t have to be a marketing expert to know that your logo and brand should be consistent. As a photographer, you’re selling yourself. You’re the main product. Potential clients are buying into you and your skills. This starts with your website.
Everything related to your business should flow together. Your logo and design choices should extend into your business cards, flyers and other marketing material. Take the time to develop a logo and brand that you can be proud of then make sure that it extends through every aspect of your business.
Check back this Friday, February 1st, for 5 Mistakes Photographers Make Starting a Business Website – Part 2!