Photo Blogging Best Practices
Building a Great Website and Crafting Your Blog Posts to Attract the Clients You Want.
Part 3 | How To Start a Photography Business.
Disclaimer: This post shares things I’m currently working on improving in my own work. I’m no Jedi yet.
This is going to be a 2 part series within my “How to Start a Photography Business” series. This post will focus on the philosophy of curating images for your portfolio. The next part will be about the nitty gritty of running a photoblog. I’ll be interviewing my own webmaster, Sean Leacy from Thirtypoint Technical Solutions for some practical tips to help all of us all build awesome websites.
One of the big struggles for many photographers is attracting the type of clients that we want to work with. As photographers, of course we all want to land those clients who are absolutely in love with art and more specifically YOUR art.
For me, when my wife and I started our photography business, we wanted to attract engaged couples planning on having rustic barn weddings and who loved our up-close and personal style of photojournalism. We were fortunate in the sense that one of our earliest weddings was a couple friends of ours who were doing just that at a time when the barn wedding trend was still new and fresh. (I actually think that they kind of got the trend started here in Northeastern PA.) So, it was basically the grace of God that right from the beginning, I had a really great wedding in our portfolio that exemplified the style of photography and the type of clients that we liked to work with. To this day, that post on our old blog is still the highest trafficked post I’ve ever published. Check it out HERE.
Portfolio Building – Curate the photos you publish
If it’s not already obvious, the first thing to do is tailor your online portfolio to appeal to the clients you want. Back in Part 1 of this series, I wrote about the importance of defining yourself and the niche you want to work in. Your online portfolio is the place where that definition takes shape. It must be relevant to the people you’re trying to reach. If you’re just starting out, it’s very tempting to just post anything and everything that you shoot. However, there’s a potential here to create problems for yourself by drawing in clients you don’t really want if the work you’re posting is not within your chosen niche.
It must also be said though, that even if you’re disciplined about curating the images you choose to share, that doesn’t mean you won’t get requests from people outside of your niche. It must be understood that some people don’t pay that much attention to the environment they see in the pictures; they only see (or feel) the emotion of the images themselves. As I said before, I started out wanting to attract folky barn style wedding clients, but I often found myself getting contacted by people who were doing very traditional Catholic weddings despite the fact that my website was primarily full of flannel wearing, bearded hipsters.
Sometimes, I would choose to post those images because I was proud of the photographic work even though I wasn’t particularly interested in the environment. I’ll be honest though, there’s a lot of work I’ve shot that has never been published for the reason that it was outside of my chosen niche. I call those “paycheck jobs” because they didn’t do anything to benefit my portfolio, but I’m not strict enough (and honestly couldn’t afford) to turn them down. Seriously, it’s almost impossible for me to say no to someone even when I really want to.
So, with all that said, it’s important to learn to prioritize your goals over your feelings about specific images. I’m preaching to myself here. It’s really hard for me to say no to myself about sharing work that doesn’t serve to further refine my portfolio. I’m getting better, but there’s definitely still room for improvement.
Note: There ARE times when it’s a good idea to share work that’s outside your niche IF the purpose is to display a specific talent or skill. However, be careful with how much you do this. If you’re trying to build a reputation for a particular style, then it should be a rare and calculated occasion to display something different. If done well, it CAN sometimes serve to boost your traffic because it’s outside the norm.
“But, how will I be able to build a portfolio if everything just gets culled out because it’s not within my chosen niche?”
Good question. If I may, let me take an example from somewhere else…
I used to be big into music–specifically electric guitar. When I was about 17, I remember reading a magazine article about guitar solos. I’ll paraphrase here, but there was one statement from a musician who said something like this, “I’d rather hear a single note well placed, than a dozen notes that don’t say anything.” The point is, sometimes less is more. We have to resist the idea that we have to share everything. It’s better to leave your readers wanting more than for them to leave your site because there’s too much that’s irrelevant.
Publish only your best and archive the rest.
If someone wants to see more, they’ll ask.
Here’s 4 questions to ask yourself before you publish anything:
- Is this going to appeal to the type of clients I want to work with?
- Is this the best I can do or is there room to improve it?
- Is it consistent with my style?
- Is this post well written and have a good flow?