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Career Jumpstart: Win on the web!
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Career Jumpstart: Win on the web!

What? You don't have a web site?

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If you don't already have one, creating a web site should be at the top of a marketing plan for you and your photography business. In the case of most creatives, looking at the web for photographers' work first, has virtually replaced the 'cattle call' of portfolio dropoffs.


Whether an art buyer at an agency or an editor at a publication, the creative will search the web for the most appropriate images for the job or story and present their selections to the client or editors for further discussions and approvals. Usually, only when the work has elicited a positive response such as: "Does the photographer have more images like these?" or "The style works for us--can we see more variety?" will contact be made and you'll be invited to submit your portfolio and samples.

On average, over 100 web sites are viewed for approximately every twenty books that are called in. So, you have your work cut out in producing a web site that will attract attention and traffic.

Case Study No. 1

URL: www.ericmeola.com
Photographer: Eric Meola
Why it works: Excellent use of bold color as a unifying design element, incorporates one of the photographer's iconic images as a recognizable visual signature.
Monica says: With the navigation across the top as well as at the bottom of the main page, accessing any specific area of the site is right there. The scroll bar to the right takes into account that the viewer can be using anything from a 12" Powerbook to 23"-plus LCD monitors.
Click on a specific photographic topic in the navigation bar at the top and a window promptly opens with a column of thumbnails at the left side and the main window has the first image matted and framed as if it were a print displayed elegantly on your wall. The overall presentation is striking, contemporary and memorable--all desired effects for a successful web site.


Define yourself

Whether you are designing your first web site or just making sure that your site is doing everything you want it to, there are a number of factors that need to be considered. Similar to the ideas discussed in Prime Your Portfolio, your online presence should show examples of your best work, tailored for your target audience. Sounds simple, right?

Well, not so fast. Are you a commercial photographer with a broad style and a few specialties, or do you want to set yourself apart with your niche work? What about your personal work and image sales, or if you are strictly a fine-art photographer? Obviously, you need to focus on your strengths and what you are marketing to whom. With your web site as your first introduction to a potential client, the appearance of your site is very important.

Make it easy--or else!

In recent studies by researchers, Internet users have been shown to aesthetically judge a web site, literally in the blink of an eye. Before you jump to the conclusion of 'I'd better go for a super design with lots of bells and whistles', consistently, the number one response from creatives in judging the success of a website is 'ease of use,' followed closely by 'quickly able to find you' and 'learn more about you and your work'.

With your web site considered your portfolio book, the creatives viewing it will very likely want to go forward and back, and even fast-forward to the end, much as they would flip through pages of your portfolio. The content of your imagery--the body of work---should have a consistency and personal style just like your portfolios that you send or carry in person. Be selective in your visual point of view; more is not always better.

Your work should show what inspires you and that your photography has staying power. Show your latest work, and update your site regularly. You'll need to decide whether your online portfolio will have an editorial slant or context, act as a sales site for your print or stock work, have a private area for certain clients including an FTP capability and perhaps a blogging facility--some or all of these will work for you.

Make sure your online portfolio, your physical portfolio book, and any marketing materials you send or leave with clients, all have a consistent vision and design, and all have your site's URL and your e-mail address clearly accessible.

Case Study No. 2



URL: www.martinparr.com
Photographer: Martin Parr
Why it works: With a home page Flash opener of a black ink on paper drawing morphing into a Parr classic photo image, you just know this site is clever and artistic, just like the photographer.
Monica says: For British photographer and filmmaker Martin Parr, with his rich photographic history of projects and books, this is a site to take the time and explore. The main page design has the menu across the top and quick links to all things Parr. Click on the 'portfolio' to view images from 16 different portfolios as either thumbnails or in a slide show. Click on 'books' and you'll get seven pages of 'em! Many of Parr's books are so popular that they are sold out or out of print. For the researcher or client, there are links to Magnum offices worldwide (Parr has been a full Magnum member since 1994) and for his fine art representation there are links to galleries that represent him.
And for the photographic enthusiast or student, Parr has a two page section of FAQs, where he answers questions that range from camera and film choice, to shooting fashion and to his special interest in Japan.


At this point, unless you are especially confident in your new role as a savvy web designer, you will probably want to get your site designed by a professional. Start your research by looking for web designer credits on photographers' sites whose work and site you admire, award-winning web sites, photographers' representatives' sites, and campaigns you like. Find sites through Google searches, blogs--and very importantly, word of mouth.

Keep your budget target in mind: having your site designed can run about $2,000-4,000 (think of your design lasting two to four years) and hosting a site runs about $15-30 monthly. Since you already have decided on what work you want to show and who you are trying to reach, the next step, in your discussions with the designer, will be including topics such as the overall design concept and appearance, navigation including speed, cross platform compatibility and search engine readiness. More about that next time!

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