Chapter 2: Website
Your entire website is one big online business card. The content should be all about your client and should address their desires and possibly even fears/hesitations, while the visual appearance of the site and the language itself should showcase you.
I have built every single one of my many websites myself. But that is only because I LOVE it. If you have no interest in constructing a website or studying a new platform, I will always recommend you work with a professional designer as soon as you can afford it. And until you can or if you prefer to not outsource that part of your business, Squarespace is an excellent place to start. For years I used Wordpress sites with Prophoto templates, then I moved on to Showit for a few years until Squarespace suddenly popped up on my radar and fulfilled all my website dreams. Just to be clear I am not sponsored by Squarespace, I just love what they do, and all of my current websites are hosted with them. If you want a slightly customised site I highly recommend looking into the Squarespace designs by GoLive (who also do designs for Showit if that is more your thing. For Showit sites, the wonderful Tonic Site Shop is also a beautiful source.
If you go for a Squarespace site I highly recommend learning some basic SEO for their templates through Photography Squares who kindly offers a ton of valuable tips for free on her blog and in brief webinars to those on her email list.
By the time you read this I may have made changes to my website as I am retiring from wedding photography to pursue new adventures, so I wanted to include as much of my wedding photography site here as possible as it has been for the past roughly 2 years while I've been focusing on elopements.
The Home Page:
My home page consists of three main sections. I have kept my menu straightforward, and directly below I specify what I do and where I do it as well as include a button link directly to my blog. The main feature of this section is a big slideshow moving through my very best images, all of which portray couples in nature, showing genuine emotion and intimacy, and often, literally, getting dirty or wet or walking barefoot. I have made sure to show images from all seasons and in different kinds of weather to show that I can create something stunning nomatter the conditions. I also have made sure to include both same-sex and bi-racial couples to show clients that I don't care who you are and who you love, all I care about is that you love, and that you are willing to show that during our shoot.
The second section of the homepage is me being very clear on what I do and who its for, to scare off as many people as possible from the get-go who are not a good match. It saves both me and them time emailing back and forth. And I've included a button that sends them right to my Contact page.
The third section, builds trust and credibility as I list my industry acknowledgements. If I were to continue in wedding photography I would have liked to remove this part completely just to experiment and see if that would have an effect on my flow of enquiries or booking percentage. Because my suspicion is that it makes no difference whatsoever. That all those feature buttons and accolades are merely confidence boosts for us as photographers, and that clients don't care. At least I suspect that my type of client don't care. I would argue that if you 1. show stunning work on your site, 2. understand how to speak directly to your ideal client and their needs and potential fears, and 3. most of them come to you through personal referrals from their family and friends, or through fellow photographers or their wedding planner or venue, or the bride's trusted dress designer, then the absence of industry awards and accolades mean nothing!!
Here is a screenshot of my blog which also functions as my gallery. I consider the slideshow at the top of my homepage my portfolio, the best of the best. In my blog and/or gallery I want to show the best of the best from each shoot, the story of each couple.
Instead of having one full post at a time, I prefer giving people the option to get an overview and click in to view the events and shoots that feel most relevant to what they're planning themselves. I think one is just as great as the other, it just comes down to personal preference and what you want the client to see first. Do you want them to emerge themselves deeply into your first blogpost, connect with that couple and their emotions, and imagine what it will be like to stand in front of your camera themselves, or do you want them to immediately see the range of your work.
My About Page:
One of the most visited pages on my site has always been my About page. Which makes sense, considering that I attract couples who want a personal relationship with their photographer.
My about page is led by a small collage of images of me in my daily life, taken by a dear friend and fellow photographer, Maria Fynsk Norup, (just like I suggested you to do in an earlier chapter. I practice what I preach ;-) accompanied by a quote which captures my approach to life:
Then follows my bio, which is probably the part of my website I have written and re-written the most. It took me YEARS and years to finally have an about text that I felt adequately communicated who I am. I still feel like this text is far too long, but for the past few years my clients have responded with incredible positivity to what I write. Talking about my breakdown ensures that I scare off anyone who are uncomfortable with being real and open. And tales of transformation, stories of a fall and getting back up have always fascinated the human mind. Talking about my travels is an unpretentious way to let people know that I am not just a small-town photographer, that I have experience and a reputation. Talking about my life in the country is a nice conversation piece for when I chat with the couple on their actual wedding day, because many of them are nature lovers and country folk themselves, or dream of one day living a quiet life in the countryside too:
The final piece of my About page is a slightly more light hearted feature, A short slideshow with a few of My Favourite Things, which offer further ways for the couple to find things we have in common, and again finishing off with a button taking them to my Contact form if they feel ready to book.
The next item on the menu, is Testimonials. I feature 5 different great reviews from past clients and link to the page where they can find lots of independent reviews of my business on Google. This is in fact one of the least visited pages on my site. Again, I suspect, because people already trust me to treat them well and create something beautiful because I come personally recommended.
The next menu point is For Photographers which you already know since you are here :-)
And the final one is the Contact page which I will go into detail with in a seperat chapter.
When you start to see the same questions pop up in email conversations with potential clients again and again, it's a sign that you're not giving them everything they need on your website, and it might be time to include a Frequently Asked Questions section somewhere clearly visible on your site.
So all in all, keep the menu simple and the items transparent. Unless you have thought out a super clever and specific concept, don't feel like you have to reinvent menu names. Call the contact page "Contact" or "Connect", call the about page "About", call your blog "Blog" or "Journal" etc etc. Make it simple and easy for potential clients to navigate your site, and lead them from one page to the next in a natural order, so they get to know you, can see themselves in your work, and then have an easy way to reach you. Don’t confuse professional with stiff and robotic. Write it like you would say it.
Video is an optimal way to present yourself. It instantly grabs the viewers attention in a way stills just can't. Two places on the site where video works beautifully is on the Home page and on your About page. It doesn't even need to have sound. Even a short 5 second black/white clip showing you shooting, laughing moving about would give your ideal client a way to connect with you. If you can afford to hire an actual videographer that's great! but a few clips shot on your phone or with you own camera works too. Several years ago I started creating small video clips from my travels and a few weddings back home. After a year or so of doing that I had enough to put them together with a few clips of me from my home (I filmed them myself using a tripod), and my favourite 20-30 images using a very simple free video editing software. Do I cringe seeing that video today, oh yes. But at the time it helped me book more destination weddings and my clients felt more connected to me from the very beginning of our working relationship.
Make sure to have at least one photo of yourself on your about page, and if possible in terms of the design of your site also potentially somewhere on your front page, so people know who you are right off the bat. Openness fosters trust. How do you expect others to step in front of your camera if you are not willing to go through the same experience yourself? Plus, it might benefit your understanding of your clients and help you service them even better to stand on their side of the camera once a year.
Also, please, please write in the 1st person. How do you expect to foster a close working relationship with a couple if you won't even speak as yourself. If you're a commercial photographer and only work with large corporations and brands it might might be good business sense, but wedding photography is a highly personal business.
Let me show you a few examples of photographers who really know how to infuse their personality into their writing.
A great example of someone who has infused her website with every bit of her personality and who is not afraid to write like she talks is Andria Lindquist:
If you come to her website as a client and spend even just 20 seconds there, you will know exactly who she is, because she tells you, directly and in your face. This is an excellent way to make her ideal client say heck yes! to booking her, and an equally excellent way to instantly repell and drive away anyone who would not be a good match.
Declared feminist wedding photographer, Carly Romeo, is all about community, acceptance, equality, and inclusion. And she makes this abundantly clear. There is a "& Co." in the business name and logo, and the gallery is called "our work" to make it clear that this is a team effort. In both images and words team Carly speaks directly to a type of client whose needs and wishes have not been met by the traditional wedding blogs for years and years. They make it clear that they do not only photograph weddings but celebrations of love in whatever shape or form they may take. They feature just as many queer couples as straight couples in their gallery. If for, whatever reason, you do not feel like you can identify with what is portrayed in the mainstream wedding industry you will immediately feel embraced and understood here. If you are looking to cater to untraditional couples (which is a big market that many photographers still ignore) I highly recommend watching Carly's short class on Creative Live on how to authentically appeal to this type of client.
If you are unhappy with your site, but don't have the funds to have one custom built by a designer, peruse the platforms and sites and design combinations I mentioned above to see if something feels right (but don't just grab a template because it looks good, make sure you can use it in ways that corresponds with your brand. Check the options for setting up galleries, how is the blog built, can you incorporate any illustrations or clip art to accentuate your brand etc. (You can find the links you need in the Resources chapter at the end of this Module)
Grab your dream clients right on your front page! With exactly the type of images they are looking for, at the type of venues where that they are planning on getting married. When you write, focus on your ideal client and their needs, values and wishes, maybe even address their potential fears or hesitations. All the stuff you wrote down in the section about the right client, use that now to speak directly to yours and the kind of experience they are looking for.
Is there anything in there that helps you repell the type of people you absolutely don't want to work with?
Get that photo of yourself on your about page! ;-) And depending on your client type and your own personality, consider whether you should have a mini presentation of yourself already somewhere on the home page with a link to the actual about page where they can learn more about you.
Look over your bio text and consider whether it could be about any random person or if it includes unique points about you, also ones that you may consider silly or slightly embarrassing. Does it include points of potential connection between you and your ideal client. Go back to your Know Yourself and Dream Client notes, and find the common denominators, and actually use some of them in the text. If you are at a complete blank, print out the worksheet below.