I am frequently asked to review photographer’s web sites. I always tell them that they should ask me with caution. I’ll tell you what I think. If you don’t want to hear don’t ask. Pretty simple. It’s a funny thing, but most photographers whose sites I review are actually pretty good. However, there is one big mistake that many make and it’s a simple and obvious one. Luckily its also easy to fix.
Your hero galleries suck.
OK. What is the hero gallery? It is the primary gallery or slideshow that loads on the home page. Common mistakes are too many images, too old images, images that aren’t that great, images that are too large or too small, images of irrelevant people, too many images of obvious models, etc. You’ve all seen them.
It matters. Here’s why. Almost anyone who is interested in your business will start their research on your web site. (read that carefully - I did not say, ‘on your blog’). Why? Because your web site IS your business online. Most consumers will only visit the blog after they’ve thoroughly reviewed the site. I’ve said it before but it’s a good rule of thumb, your web site is your living room and your blog is your family room. Important new visitors all go to the living room first.
When potential clients reach your site you want to greet them with the best possible message. Photographers spend an enormous amount of time figuring out every detail of the way their sites are organized. Colors, branding, text, type style, positioning, content allocation, everything gets viewed and reviewed almost ad infinitum. In many cases though the hero gallery is an afterthought. It shouldn’t be. It is the single most important element on your site.
Most consumers will actually sit through the whole slideshow before clicking through to a page. If it is their first visit (the most important one!) they have come to see your images. You want your very best right up front. Your VERY best. You also want to make sure that slideshow speaks for you. Here are some good rules to go by.
- You want your slideshow to draw people into your site, not overwhelm them.
- Stick to between 10 and 15 images, max.
- Make sure the very first image strongly represents the people you most like to shoot.
- Images of women should predominantly be beautiful.
- Images of men should predominantly be fun. (I’ll get into why in a minute).
- It is OK to intermingle genres so long as they’re in the same vane. (IE wedding and portrait). (Oh - I know I know - this is heresy. Consumers are evidently too stupid to figure out that you might shoot more than one kind of photography so you need separate sites and brands for each one ... OR ... these rules were made up by people who sell sites and branding and they just want you to buy more - you choose)....
- Images should not live on your home page for more than 6 months. (they should be fresh).
- Images should tell a story about your style and your business.
OK - A few examples.
If I were a wedding photographer my image order would be as follows: (Yes. Just one image for each number!)
- Bride Beautiful. The bride is your key decision maker and her biggest question is whether you will make her look beautiful. This should be your best picture of a bride, period, and she better be beautiful!
- Groom Fun. The bride cares about beautiful. The groom cares about whether you are going to be a pain in the ass. (sorry - business term there). The bride is worried about what her man is going to think too, so this image is communicating with both of them.
- Parents, emotion. Once the bride and groom are comfortable you want to talk with the person who is going to pay the bills. Parents want to be sure that you will capture the important moments of the day. A great image in this category is the Father/Daughter dance.
- A great group shot. No one likes to take them. Some photographers are lucky enough to have businesses that don’t require them. However, if there is any question, it’s a great idea to have a great group shot in the hero gallery. It shows your versatility as a photographer.
- A great shot of the whole wedding.
- A great detail shot.
- A great venue shot. (of the venue you most love to shoot in).
- A great reception shot.
- A great leaving shot.
- A great, the parents at the end of the evening, shot.
That’s it. 10 Pictures. Once they’ve seen them I want them to jump in to my more specific galleries. Every one of these images should be gallery quality beautiful. Tack sharp where they’re sharp, soft and sweet where bokeh rules. Perfect whites and balance and perfect framing. Nothing is thrown in just so it’s there.
The other galleries should be arranged in the same way. Never more or less than 10 images. Just enough to give people a taste of what you are communicating.
For portrait shooters I’d actually think the same way. A great hero/anchor image of the person who is the archetype for the clients I most like to shoot. A great shot of my client laughing and a great shot of an important moment. Then I would think about studio, indoors and outdoors. Show the range of light and your command of different textures. Make sure every single image absolutely rocks. Change them out at least every six months.
I think the most common mistake is simply too many pictures. Many times we’re the worst curators of our own work. You want your images to speak to the viewer about your skill, capabilities, style and vision. That will communicate more clearly with them than perhaps any other element on the site.
If it were me and I was in this business, I would have printed and mounted copies of each of the first five images with me when I meet with my clients. I would actually hand them the images and tell them the story of the people in the images. These would be signed prints, not an i-device. That’s because the kind of client I would want to attract would be a client who values the art of photography. I would want to make sure they understood that I was an artist who make perfect brushstrokes of their special moments. The stories of the people in the images will remind them of the galleries they’ve already visited and provides an important touchpoint in which I make clear my ability to connect with my clients not just through my lens, but in a personal way as well. (Again, because these are the kinds of clients I would want to serve)...