I’ve noted elsewhere here that having a website is no longer optional for photographers. Clients will expect you to have one. Indeed, many potential clients will never even find you if you don’t have one. At minimum, you need a site that presents an impressive portfolio of your work, and provides a bio and contact information for potential clients.
But I’d push you to move beyond simple site design and think creatively about all the other content you might add to attract people to your site, enhance your reputation, and increase your income. While the types of content you might add are limited only by your imagination, you might start by considering things like blogs, reviews, or advice. Blogs, especially, are becoming almost standard for many pro photographers.
Why? First, good quality content attracts more viewers and more potential clients, and keeps them coming back to your site. That is, it generates traffic. High traffic helps you indirectly by getting your name out there and expanding your reputation. It helps you directly by generating more leads for your photography. And, if you manage your site well, it will help you directly by generating immediate sales and advertising revenue from your site.
By far the most common type of additional content today, and easiest to start and develop, is the blog, one of the great new communication forms of the web. As I’m sure readers here know, blogs deal with all kinds of subjects: photography, law, politics, economics. There are many blogs that don’t seem to deal with anything at all. They just circulate gossip or recount people’s personal stories. There are at least two broad categories of blogs that you can consider adding to your photography site: a blog targeting other photographers, or a blog targeting prospective and past clients.
Client-oriented blogs are by far the most common for pro photographers. On a client-oriented blog, you write light fare about recent photographic work you’ve been doing, post samples from recent shoots, announce new projects, and offer personal ruminations about your photography work. Much of the content is specifically client-related – “check out this photo from my wedding last weekend…Mark and Lisa were great!” But other posts may be of a more personal or general nature – “I was out at Red Rocks park yesterday taking landscape photographs. The lighting was brilliant, and it made me think about …..”
The overall effect of such a blog is to allow readers to get a strong sense of your personality and your work as a photographer. These are the kinds of blogs that family, friends, and fellow photo enthusiasts will enjoy reading as well as clients. But a real advantage is that the blog allows clients to get a feel for what kind of person you are and whether your personality and style fits with what they want.
Depending on how open you are about sharing your own personality, some people use blogs essentially like diaries, just to tell their personal stories. If you think no one is interested in your personal ponderings, think again. It’s always surprising to me that people are interested in reading the personal diaries of others, but they are. People seem to be voyeuristic by nature.
If you are reading this, then you aspire to be a professional photographer. How many other people in the world do you think aspire to be professional photographers? A lot! We often consider that to be a bad thing, because it means more competition. But from the perspective of a blogger, all these people are your compatriots, interested in the same things and engaged in the same struggles. There’s a good chance that many would be interested in reading about your personal journey.
Blogs oriented toward fellow photographers
For this kind of blog, you find a photography-related subject that you have (or can get) special knowledge or insight about. You share that information with other photographers. And if it’s valuable enough, they will come. This blog is a good example, as are two other groups blogs that I run, Photocrati and SLR Geek.
Many people think they don’t know enough about anything interesting to write their own blog. Think again. You know more than you think you do, and you DO have some special knowledge that would be valuable for others. Good possibilities might include the best photography locations in your town, including the best places for landscape shots or wedding photos or some other kind of photography. You might talk about the techniques you’ve used to produce your favorite shots. Or the best camera stores in your town. Or the problems you’ve had with photoshop and how you’ve solved them. Or the best photography books you’ve read.
One adaptation of this kind of blog is to collect existing online advice and to provide an intuitively organized clearinghouse of information on certain subjects. The web universe is so vast that it can take hours of searching to find the right resources, and even then you often don’t find the best ones. If you can find the best resources for others, you can save them time and provide a valuable service.
Another adaptation for the truly enterprising is to expand your blog beyond yourself. You can invite others who know as much (or perhaps more) than you on particular subjects to contribute to your blog. Some blogs are based entirely on this model, providing a forum for many bloggers to post their thoughts on a given subject.
To make all of this more concrete, consider an example. Let’s say you enjoy doing macro and super-close up photography. In addition to showcasing your own imagery on your site, you could collect and organize the most valuable information on the web for close-up photography—locations, techniques, equipment. You could also find other great close up photographers, local or national depending on your ambitions, and get them to post on your site. Now your site is becoming a focal point for the community of photographers who do close-up work. From there you can keep expanding. The additional content not only generates traffic, and therefore opportunities for revenue, but also solidifies your reputation as a close-up photographer.
You can do the same thing if you specialize in weddings, cultural photography in Jordan, wildlife in Kentucky, or extreme sports.
Starting Your Blog
Blogs are remarkably easy to start. The simplest approach is to go to WordPress (www.wordpress.com) or Blogspot (www.blogspot.com) and simply follow the instructions to get started. Your blog can be up an running in minutes, free of charge. They will give you a site address like janesmith.wordress.com to host your blog, and you can just add a link to that address from you photography website. Even those lacking tech savvy will find setting up a blog to be a relatively easy process.
If you want to have the blog based directly on your site (ie. www.janesmith.com), I would suggest downloading and installing WordPress software directly to the server where you site is hosted. While this may sound complicated, it’s not. If you have set your site up yourself, including setting up your domain name and hosting service, then you can simply call your hosting service and ask them for instructions. Most webhosting services have a simple, “one-click” option for installing WordPress on your site that greatly simplifies the process.
Indeed, if you are still waiting to set up your site, you can go to bluehost.com, use the check domain link to find a web address you like (www.janesmith.com), and then call Bluehost to set up your site and install WordPress at the same time. You can have the whole thing up and running in 15-20 minutes.
Blog as Business Activity
I’ve already noted some of direct benefits of runnig a blog: it solidifies your reputation as an expert in the kind of photography you do, it shows readers your personality, and (due to both of the previous) it helps you attract and keep clients.
If you are enterprising enough, however, you can make your blog a source of income in it’s own right. I’ve written in another article about the importance of Multiple Streams of Photography Income. I honestly believe that most photographers, especially those starting out, need to think beyond the simple take-photos-and-get-paid-for-it model of the photography business. Most pros do a range of income earning activities beyond photography – from writting magazine articles or books to conducting workshops to providing photo editing services to other photographers.
In this spirit, a well-done blog can be its own business activity. Once your blog develops a decent readership, it’s quite feasible that you can bring in an additional $1000/month from a blog. This article is not the place to go into great detail about how to “monetize” a blog. I’ll be clear in saying that you need to do this carefully. Many a blog has been ruined by excessive emphasis on income. But it can be done right, with taste, grace, and a continued emphasis on providing a enjoyable experience for your readers.
Have a blog? What you think about the role of blogging in photography?