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Week Thirteen – Presenting Your Work

The website

You may not be interested in building a business based on photography or you may not yet feel you’re ready.  To be sure, your primary focus at this point should be on improving as a photographer. But, no matter if you view photography as an avocation or career, it’s important — and satisfying — to get  your work out there for people to see. Thanks to ever-more manageable photo-related software that is easier to do today an ever before.


Amateur and pro photographers alike often have their own websites and/or use photo services like PhotoShelter  or Emphas.is to sell their services. Social tools such as Flickr and Facebook have become important marketing platform for photographers, as has blogging about photography. Other social tools such asTwitter, which allows you to shoot and post images immediately, and LinkdIn are important networking tools. Even smart phones which shoot photos that can be edited with Adobe Photoshop Express app is part of the photographer’s tool kit. We’ll talk about mobile photography and other emerging tools and trends next week as part of our discussion of the future of photography.


For some the world of digital communications comes naturally and is fun, but for others not so much. Each of you will need to decide how best to invest your time — and money — toward promoting your work online.

Like it or not, prospective editors will check you out online. CNN culls Flickr groups for images of big events, as do photo wires services like Reuters and the Associated Press. Buzz about you and your work on Facebook can increase your ranking in a Google search.


Your online presence begins with your website. It is your business storefront. Its importance cannot be underestimated. It’s likely the first stop for prospective clients. Building and maintain a site is easy than ever before. Only a few years ago most photographers paid professional designers. Today platforms such as WordPress or even Flavors.me make it comparatively easy to build and maintain a straightforward photo site. This process start with buying a domain (.com) name. It should be your own name. If your own name is taken, choose  your own name plus the word ‘photo’ or ‘photography.’ Services such as GoDaddy or Lunarpages will allow you buy a domain name as well as provide hosting services. Even if you have no immediate plans to build a site you should by your domain name now before someone else does. It can sit dormant and cost as little as $20 USD a year.


Above all else your website should demonstrate the kind of work you do and be easy to navigate. With literally millions of sites out there, you need to separate yourself from the others and establish a connection with the viewer right away. The best way to do that is through clear presentation and a signature style consistent with your brand. Your site’s color palette, typography and general design can express to viewers a lot about who you are as a photographer. The branding choices should remain consistent from page to page and, to some extent, from platform to platform.  Your online presence should be clearly interlinked so people can move easily from your site to your Facebook page to your Twitter feed.


The kind of work you do should immediately be clear from the homepage. NOTHING Is more aggravating to editors or potential clients than having to hunt around on a site to find examples of the kind of work they are interested in having you shoot.  You should have clear tabs denoting different categories of work — wedding, portraits, reportage, architecture, etc.


Photoshelter founder Grover Sanschagrin suggests that photographs need think through and define the kind of work they want to do when moving into the highly competitive photo market place. He suggest you first decide from two broad categories: assignment work, original work shot for the client; or stock work and work for print or exhibition.  Below are a few tips for photographers thinking about work in each category:


Looking for Assignment Work?


  • Make it clear what you are good at.

  • Make it clear where you work (where is “local” and where is “travel,” or where are you willing to go.

  • Make it obvious how to contact you, with contact info on every page.

  • List clients you’ve worked with before.

  • Create a “case study” area where you show pictures and describe how the assignment went. This can work well on a blog, linked from your website.

  • Get yourself listed in as many directories and link lists as possible.


A quick personal note on assignment work. The Internet is a great promotional tool because it gives a photographer a reach that is literally global. But, don’t underestimate the power of local when you are starting out and don’t underestimate the power of a phone call to a local newspaper editor, community cultural magazine (online of in print) or gallery. These outlets are always looking for new talent from within the community. Best to call them with an elevator pitch (or two or three) for ideas that interest you and you think might interest them.


One of  the best ways to begin to build a relationship with an editor at a local publication are what are called weather shots — nice images of the first big snow storm or the first day of spring. Holiday images — parades, decorations — are also good. You can follow up with an link to your site after you make initial contact. f they like you and your work, this will lead to assignments and eventually a contract and perhaps full-time job. More on building relationships below.


Here are sites for two successful assignment photographers I know here in New York City.



Looking to sell stock or prints?


  • Caption/keyword all your images (editors note: you should do this with ALL your photos no matter the kind of work you wish to do. More on this below when we discuss search engine optimization).

  • Make your images searchable via concept as well as description, with concepts like ‘love, ‘ ‘anger’ ‘competition.’ Clients are looking to illustrate emotions.

  • Make sure site and search is fast.

  • Make sure there is an easy way to identify images (i.e.: image numbers/names).

  • 24/7 contact info: don’t hide your cell/email.

  • Make transitions fast, smooth (with built in e-commerce with instant pricing and instant download).

  • Consider specializing in a specific category of stock, find your niche market.

  • Diversify-get your images in many places.

  • Imagine what it would be like to be one of your clients and go through the buying process. Was it smooth and easy? Make changes


Increasingly many large magazine companies are using stock images  for single-shot illustrations of smaller stories instead of paying the much higher price of having original, assignment work shot. Publishing companies like Hearst Magazine Corporation will buy a subscription to a site that allows them to down load an unlimited number of images and then use the bulk of their photo budget for only important editorial spreads. Here are two sites that specialize in stock photography sales:





No matter the kind of work you want to do your site should be simple, clean and optimized for search engines (more on that below). Photoshelter research has found that business clients, namely picture buyers generally don’t want or need to be entertained, just get them to the images. Music and slideshows by default were not preferred.


To sum up on the basics of a photo website, below are the six most important things to think about as you design your site.


  1. Easy navigation – Simple is often better. Make is easy and intuitive for the viewer to mover around your site

  2. Image quality, size and speed – The design and images quality should be flattering to your work. Images should be sized to load quickly and smoothly (they should also be copyrighted. I am not a fan of watermarks).

  3. Easy to update and update often – Currency is king. Change images often to reflect your latest work or work that relates to events such as holidays or important events.

  4. A clear brand – Emphasize the elements of your photography that are strongest by showcasing them well and through solid design.

  5. A clear way to contact you – Your contact information should be on every page.

  6. Integrate your online presence – Make it easy for people who find you one one platform to learn more about you and your work on another.


The Blog


In recent years the distinction between blogs and traditional webpage has begun to blur. In large part this is because out-of-the-box  blog themes by companies like Woo Themes, Graph Paper Press and WordPress now have the look and capabilities of traditional webpages. My site (redesigning it now) is built with WordPress using a Graph Paper Press theme called ‘Photo Workshop.’ Themes can be easily customized for color, typography and general layout. They are easy to update. More advanced customization is limited only by the users programming ability.


Many photographers build audience or connect with the large photo community by using their site not only to promote their work, but to promote discussion about photography.  This is an excellent strategy to build audience and recognition within the community.


Vincent LaForet is a former New York Times photographer who is now shooting commercial video as well as photography. His very elaborate site has become a gathering place for photographers and videographers to talk about  new tools and trends.


Search Engine Optimization (SEO)


Social media is quickly catching up with Google and other search engines as the primary way people find things ranging from restaurants to music to photography online. Still, SEO is very important. If someone searches your name with Google or Yahoo or is looking for a photographer in your area, you want your site to be at the top of the list.


Search engines can’t recognize images (yet). So how you caption your images as well as keyword and tag them is very important. Linking to other sites as mentioned about or linking to other platforms is also important. Software like Lightroom or Aperture makes it easy to manage all kinds of text information associated with an image or group of images.


Here are a few tips for writing captions, tags and keywords with SEO in mind:


  • Include full names of people, especially if they are  famous or in the news.

  • Include specific geographic information

  • Spell out words completely–no abbreviations — United Nations rather than UN.

  • Use a consistent set of keywords tags throughout your archive to describe the activity of the images (sports, arts, travel).

  • Keyword with the kind of photo(s) it is (portrait, architecture, wedding)

  • Consider word choice: Would someone use another word more naturally to do a search? For example: Handouts v. Bailouts.

  • Think about related words to your topic that help narrow the topic. For example, an image of a melting glacier might be keyworded with ‘environmental impact’

  • Use common words that reflect specific subjects: Computer security: hacking, hackers, security, firewall, attack, network, flaw.

  • Order of the keywords/tags is important-with the first couple of words weighed more heavily.


The Personal Touch

Your website and even your photography will only take you so far professionally. You need to convince editors and clients that you can get a job done on deadline and within the budget. You also need to be someone whom they can work with. Prima donnas and flaky people don’t last long in the is business.


As Bill Hunt of Hasted Hunt Gallery in New York says you can meet almost anyone — once. It’s the second meeting that proves more difficult. He is saying you need to be prepared. Most successful people are busy people and though some of the biggest names are often the nicest and most willing to help, you don’t want to waste your time or theirs. Hunt has written a top ten list for beginning photographers about building a career in fine art photography (what it was written for), as well as editorial.


  • Be talented.

  • Be smart. Think. Don’t be a jerk. Be engaging. If you are determined enough, you can meet anyone at least once. Take the situation seriously; don’t blow it. Take stock of yourself. Is the work fully realized and are you ready to approach museums or dealers?

  • Be focused. Be single minded. Be ambitious. Think in terms of the long haul and the full arc of your career.

  • Be clear. Be able to articulate what you are doing, not so much why you are doing it but literally what it is. Rehearse what you are going to say. Keep impeccable records about your work.

  • Be ready. Have prints, have slides, have a resume, have business cards. Don’t tell me they’re at home or that you are still working on them. Give me something to remember you by. Send a thank-you note.

  • Be full. Have a life. Teach; get commissions, commercial work, stock, whatever. Get money, make love, be happy. It will inform the work positively.

  • Be active. Be your own primary dealer. Take responsibility for museum and magazine drop-offs. Approach collectors yourself. Develop a mailing list. Market yourself. Send postcards. Donate prints to charity auctions. Go to openings. Make friends with your contemporaries. Use them. Always ask to be referred. Publish or get published. Get patrons, mentors, advisors. Use them.

  • Be receptive. Take notes. Bring a pencil and paper to appointments. Do your homework. Know what sort of work galleries show before you approach them. Go look. Say hello, but be sensitive to a dealer’s time demands (unless you’re buying something). Have a sense of what’s out there.

  • Be merciless with yourself. Edit, edit, edit. Edit, edit, edit. Take out anything marginal. Make me hungry to see more of your work.

  • Be patient. Please.