Stay Fresh, Stay Current, Stay Visible: by Daron Shade

Bentley GT Speed for Braman Motorcars: Staying Fresh and Current in today's market is tough. Choosing a website that can help you do that is imperative

Daron Shade introduces CMS (Content Management System) and discusses how it benefits photographers greatly to have a website that they can manage themselves. Far more than keeping the portfolio fresh with uploaded images, a full CMS gives photographers greater impact with Search Engines, visitors and clients.

On the immediate Lighting Essentials front… we have just completed the Florida Workshop on Anna Maria Island near Tampa. We had some weather challenges, but the images we made included the inclement skies and we got some amazing, wild and stormy images. The models were wonderful and the talent of the group inspiring. I spent the day yesterday scouting and meeting some local groups to set the stage for next years Florida Workshop. It will be even more spectacular than imagined. What we have lined up at this point will challenge the photographers and also inspire them to move beyond the safe zone and step out on the edge a bit.

As for me personally, this is a little bittersweet. Those who know me know that I love love love this workshop, and it is a fantastic way to introduce beginning and mid-level photographers to the full spectrum of thinking about, and using, light to our advantage. But it has also been an exhausting year, and for that I am grateful. I like working hard, and seeing the work pay off. I will be sharing some interesting and happy stories from some of my workshop attendees later this month. I am happy though, that I can take some time to focus on getting next years workshop together (our schedule is up for the first half) and finishing too many projects that have not been given proper attention.

So thanks everyone for your support and workshop attendance this year. I hope to meet a whole bunch of talented and excited photographers next year as well.

Around the Web: Articles you may have missed.
Heather Morton’s blog post on Branding got a lot of attention (my next post is on this same topic) when she quoted a fellow art buyer as stating that while branding is nice, it won’t get you the job. Chase Jarvis followed up with a post, then the real firestorm erupted in his comments area. Even APhotoEditor had something to say on this topic, and his comments area are pretty interesting as well.

I am constantly looking at new work, old work and the stuff in between. When I come across a photographer I really like, I will share them with you here. This month I have been knocked out by the work of these photographers:
David Eustace: This long form piece is simply amazing.
Philip Toledano in Philadelphia is a long time favorite that I just rediscovered.
Jeremy and Claire Weiss make me smile. I love their work.
And if you have someone around you who is thinking about going pro, look into Selina Maitreya’s wonderful audio program. It will get them on the right track fast, and you can keep that $100 you save for a dinner when they get their first cover! Just enter FOSLE at checkout to get half off her regular price of $199.

Well, let’s get on to Daron Shade’s article on Staying Fresh, Current and Visible… no simple feat in these crazy times.

Stay Fresh, Stay Current, Stay Visible

Over the past few years, the marketing philosophy for successful business has shifted from traditional efforts to web-based marketing. This shift has become both a great challenge and a great opportunity for photographers – as our prospective clients become more accustomed to turning to the web for resources, they are more likely to hire us if we design our web presence correctly. As a commercial photographer, ad agencies are looking at our work and making decisions about us. Creating a site that lets them know that we ‘get it’ in the marketing world goes a long way toward securing our position as a resource.

In 2010, the core of your marketing engine should be your website. Your website must stay fresh and vibrant so that visitors are compelled to view many pages and return often. Even with a limited budget anyone who is willing to put the energy into their marketing efforts can have great success.

Forgive me for beating the same drum that you’ve heard from Don, but I am going to agree with his steadfast argument against flash sites in favor of using a Content Management System (CMS) type of website. We, as relatively little-known photographers in smaller markets, need to provide often-updated, quality, search-able content and do it without the expense of hiring a web designer for every little change.

Flash is a great tool for web design, but there are serious limitations that has eliminated it from consideration for me as a small market photographer who is unknown outside of my immediate network. Flash sites are difficult to properly optimize for search content and it is difficult to configure in a way that visitors can bookmark or send links to specific content pages. This impedes site visitors’ ability to discuss your content remotely and can cost you business. Flash site templates are also limiting in their design structure and are less flexible than a good html-based Content Management System. Flash also requires your site visitors to load large files to view any content – with our buyers traveling using airport wi-fi or meeting at the local coffee shop, a flash website on a slow connection can eliminate us from a job simply because the buyer doesn’t have time to wait for the flash to load and never even reviews our work.

When I decided to make the switch from a flash site to a CMS, I was getting very little traffic and virtually none from search engines. I knew the benefits of a content-rich website but still had great difficulty in writing the necessary articles to make the transition. I remember thinking “a picture is worth a thousand words” and having a mental block as to what I should write. “My work speaks for itself” and other excuses don’t earn us work. By now, it’s been over a year since the CMS site launched and I have over a hundred articles on my site and am getting dozens of search engine driven visitors each day. These new visitors view an average of 5+ articles per visit and stay on my site for about ten minutes each visit.

Search engines love words. They love key phrases written in plain language and detailed descriptions about our industry, subjects, and techniques. They love often-updated content with deep archives. They need to provide valuable content to their visitors. Your visitors. Provide valuable content that clients want and traffic and business will follow. For example, having multiple categories and ‘similar articles’ listings on a website will entice visitors to explore your website and find more of your work that is not in your current portfolio. I have been contacted many times by potential clients who found some of my non-portfolio images most compelling. Unlike a blog where the most recent articles are first with categories as a secondary consideration, a CMS website is naturally designed to drive traffic flow through specific topics and provide more relevant content to consumers.

We want visitors to be able to easily email links to content and post links on social media sites. We want people talking/typing/linking about our content online and create a buzz about our work. For example, using Google Analytics I recently found that there were 200 visitors to my website from a link on a Spanish-speaking photography forum. I used Google translator to learn that they were attempting to reverse engineer the composite image from last month’s LE “Breaking Out” article and I was able to help them with a detailed description. This type of information can be very important in helping us understand how we are unique as artists and what other photographers truly feel about our work. These links are great for potential buyers to find out more about us and just boost our overall presence on the web.

Fully integrated site vs. sidecar blog – Many photographers with flash sites opt to create a separate blog where they update content regularly and share their knowledge. This is a good way to supplement the limitations of a flash website, but there are good reasons to truly integrate your content – having that home page fresh with html links to popular articles and portfolios will help keep your site higher in the rankings and more people will bookmark your home page. Having each portfolio or image linkable is another strong argument for integrated CMS websites.

There are a lot of options when choosing a Content Management System. As budget-minded consumers, we are going to discuss Open Source solutions. The Open Source designation generally indicates that the software was written by a collaborative effort and there is usually no charge for this software. For a more detailed explanation of open source software, go here

Each Content Management System has its advantages. Lighting Essentials and other sites that Don Giannatti runs use WordPress. It’s the industry leader and a perfect solution for single-contributor websites like most photographers and smaller websites. It’s easy to set up and there are countless resources available to assist the novice WordPress administrator. Templates are readily available and Don even has some great photographer-ready templates that are very much worth consideration when building a site. Using WordPress as a blog first and then transitioning that blog into a fully-featured website is a great way to phase out an old static site and evolve into a powerful marketing tool.

I chose Joomla for my websites and have many web clients running Joomla CMS successfully. It’s a bit more complicated than WordPress and is designed for larger organizations. A typical web design client of mine, the North Carolina Public Health Association, is a good example of a more complex site with multiple contributors, a members only section, several hundred content pages, and complex document management needs. A small photography website built in Joomla is a bit like shooting family snapshots with an H4D-60. It is an elegant tool, but maybe a bit of overkill. I only feel a need to discuss the option because it’s the system with which my site was built. For those interested in learning more about the open source content management systems, here’s a document comparing the popularity and features of available CMS systems: Download PDF.

For training in understanding SEO and web stats, try WEB CEO.

A relatively new CMS solution is PageLime, designed to quickly modify an existing website into a fully functional Content Management System. Don is already using this for some of his clients and I am in the process of testing it and like what I see. We will be covering this in more detail in an upcoming article.

Next month, we are going to discuss the benefits of social media marketing. If you’re not on facebook and linkedin, sign yourself up and start networking with everyone you know. I have links to my profiles from the header on my website. Stop by and say Hello!

Thanks Daron, and I hope you stop by Daron’s site to see all he has there and send him a note if you appreciate his working hard on the benefit of photographers.

See you soon with an article that may be a bit controversial, but it has to be said. And I think I am the one to say it… stay tuned.

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About 

This is a place for photographers.

Hi, I'm wizwow - also known as Don Giannatti. Photography has been the focus of my life for most of my adult years. I have written three books for Amhearst Media (available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble: keyword 'don giannatti'. Lighting Essentials is my flagship blog and e-zine with a slightly different slant than most photography related sites. If you are interested in becoming a better photographer, check out Project 52 Pros.

Thanks for visiting.

3 Comments

  1. AMEN, glad I’m not the only one preaching this gospel. In fact i have a consulting session with a photographer today and my entire mission is to try and talk her down off the ledge from developing her site in flash.

    Assets are fine in flash, entire sites not so much for all the reason’s stated here and one giant one that you overlooked and that is Usability for people with disabilities.

    I’m still not sure why every photographer and their brother feels like they need a flash website, but I’m glad to see articles like this educating people against them.

    This should be a must read for anyone on the fence about developing a site in flash or a content management system.

    Cris Mitchell
    Publisher
    ProPhotoResource.com

  2. hi Don, Daron,
    Nice to see you taking on this one.

    Another point is that there is a good chance you won be designing your site (photography and web design are two different arts) – using a CMS allows to be be less dependent on a designer to update your site when it comes to small modifications like adding a picture, or changing some text.

    One word of warning though, make your homework before you choose a CMS. this is a long term marriage. I started one site with Joomla, another with WP, and a third (the most active one) with drupal. while they all provide similar options for basic use, they all demand updates / upgrades / security maintenance and more. I also found that designers ask for different fee for different systems. Maybe a good option is to browse your favorite photogs galleries and see what they are using.

  3. Thanks guys, great input.

    Here’s something that just happened, I wanted to share it because it drives home the point I’m making in the article.

    About an hour ago, my phone rang. It was the manager of operations at a company based outside of my area. She was looking for corporate headshots done in both Tucson and Phoenix. After we discussed the details, I asked her how she knew about me. She told me that she googled “headshot Tucson” and found me. After I prepared the quote, I ran a quick search to see what she found. It was an article I wrote a few months ago discussing an actor’s headshot and showing lighting diagrams. Yeah, if I hadn’t written that article a few months ago, my phone wouldn’t have rang today. I get more of these phone calls each month.

    How many times a month can you afford to not even get a chance to quote on a $2k+ job? I need every one I can get. If you aren’t writing about your work, you’re leaving money on the table.