by Tom Lee Published 01/05/2000
How many photographers have asked themselves that question?
The answer is of course you don't have to bother, but then why advertise your services at all! Like all technologies, photographers seem to be the last people to embrace new concepts, usually because it ends up costing them money. Earning a living in photography can be hard work, and giving up hard earned cash for new equipment or promotions can be like getting blood from a stone.
One of the biggest misconceptions about the internet is that you only have to be on it to generate thousands of 'hits' and the enquiries will flood in. When the reality sets in, you may be lucky to get hits in the tens or hundreds and maybe no enquiries at all. This is probably the main reason that there are so few of us doing it.
This aside, just think for a minute about the potential and not the technical. If you could place an advertisement in the Telegraph or Observer, maybe even the Times, all year round - for free. Would you do it! There is no guarantee that anyone buying the newspaper will read your advertisement, but you would still do it. The internet is just the same, only millions more people have access to it than are included in the circulation of the three papers mentioned above and in many instances you don't have to pay a bean. Some companies are offering to let you have space on specialised sites and will even design your pages for a small annual fee, so you don't even need to own a computer.
A Professional Showcase
How much would it cost to put on an exhibition of your work in a local gallery? Placing your work on show on the internet allows a massive audience into your private gallery free of charge (except for the phone call). This is the biggest showcase your work can ever get.
You may not be able to see a client due to busy schedules or geographical difficulties. Anyone with access to the internet can view your work and place orders without the need for appointments. A recent wedding commission involved clients travelling from Southern England to North Cheshire for their wedding, due to both families living in my area. The previews were posted on the website (on a secure page) for them to see without having to make another long journey north. The quality of the images were good enough to view and make their album and reprint selection, but in a low enough resolution so that illegal copying was not worth it. Friends could also select reprints similarly.
Topic Of Conversation
I use 'News Pages' on my website for local wedding announcements, just like the tradition of posting them to the local paper. Recent wedding couples are displayed on an 'Announcements' page, so that family and friends can see them. This is not only novel, but has a serious commercial value. What percentage of wedding or portrait commissions come your way by word of mouth? A good 50% of work most people receive is due to the manner in which they conduct themselves and present their work. Brides discuss their wedding with prospective brides, they tell them how much they enjoyed themselves and how professional you were, and now they are on the internet! I can't say if the website pictures have tipped the balance, but I do know that from recent referrals, these pictures have been discussed and caused great amusement. If it helps to get them talking about you and your work, it can only benefit you in the long run.
Too Much Effort
There will always be photographers who proclaim that its all too much effort, or I'm too busy. But there have always been photographers who refuse to accept digital photography, or refuse to educate themselves by attending seminars and lectures, or prefer to sit by the telephone and wait for it to ring.
Successful social photographers know that they will only get out what they put in to their business. Whether full or part time practitioners, learning new skills or embracing new technology is all part of the game. Even if you don't agree with my sentiments there is the sheer prestige of having a good-looking website. This says something about you and your professionalism.
Nearly 70% of our prospective customers have internet access through their home computers, and 'Internet Shopping' is developing at an incredible rate. This has even woken up the Government so much that there are moves to decrease the local call rate on the internet, to making it even more accessible. People with digital television access now have the facility to access internet sites without a computer. How many homes do you know without a TV!
Can you afford to be left behind, and if not, how long can you afford to wait?
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