This is my very first moaning blog post – wow, I wonder how I managed to get so far without getting cross about something out there in the photography industry! But sometimes I have to speak out, particularly when I see that people may be being mislead by advertising on the internet.
The story is this. I have recently been approached several times via email from a person who owns a photography based website, offering me some free leads for portrait photography. The first few times, I ignored the emails, believing it to be a site which offers paid listings for photographers, which is not how I advertise my business. However, after the fourth or fifth email, I got curious and clicked on their website address to see what kind of directory listings were being sold, just to satiate my own nosiness.
It wasn’t a directory listings site at all. It was a website, set up to look like it was a company offering portrait photography in the Somerset area. Anyone who would fill in their contact form would be doing so believing that they would be contacting the photographer who ran the website and whose copy and images are shown on there. However, this is obviously not the case, as the person who owned the domain was offering me the opportunity to take leads from the site (and, I can only presume, with a view to selling the URL or some other profit making enterprise). The website features images which are accredited to a photography firm in London, not in Somerset.
This made me so cross. There are so many photographers, like me, out there on the internet, working so hard to make sure their website is a truthful and honest reflection of what they offer, the work they do and the personal and valued service they provide. Yet, there are sites out there which mislead and misdirect. So, with this in mind, I’ve compiled a short ‘how to’ when booking a photographer over the internet, to ensure you get what you expect!
1. Don’t make a booking without speaking to the photographer first, either by phone or ideally face to face, unless you have a personal recommendation for the business. The internet makes it so easy to hand over money in just a few clicks, and there are people out there who are adept at creating very convincing looking websites (and using other people’s images and passing them off as their own). Bear in mind that a website should have a contact telephone number and also a contact address, not just an email address or contact form.
2. Always ask to see plenty of prior work, not just what’s shown on the website. Any good photographer worth their salt will have an excellent back catalogue of work, and what’s more, be thrilled to show it off!
3. Use the internet to your advantage. Google the photographer’s name to check if anyone out there has posted an independent review about the business. Bear in mind that it’s as easy to create positive reviews as it is to create a website, so don’t rely purely on reviews from people you don’t know.
4. It’s a competitive market out there, so look at plenty of websites before creating a shortlist of those you’d like to speak to further. Don’t just pick the one at the top of Google under the assumption that if it’s got a high Google ranking, it’s got lots of happy customers – it can just mean that someone has paid for a Google ad, or an SEO (search engine optimisation) expert to increase their visibility on the web.
5. Finally – trust your instinct! Photography should be as individual as you are, so find a site which really speaks to you and then make sure you have plenty in common with your chosen photographer so that you know they understand your wishes and your vision. One size certainly does not fit all when it comes to photography – so take time to find someone who really fits the bill and most importantly, has the skills and the understanding to create just what you want.
Spending time together photographing new places is something that Paul and I really enjoy, so choosing a great photographer for our wedding was an important thing for us. Out of all the portfolios that we saw online Belinda’s really stood out as being distinctive, highly skilled and able to capture the mood and emotion of a wedding. She spent time with us before the wedding day to get to know us, taking an interest in our wedding plans and ideas, and also demonstrating how she’d direct us on the day, which helped put me at ease, as I can be self-conscious in front of a camera.
On the day, Belinda was brilliant – she was totally unobtrusive, but somehow managed to be in the right place to take beautiful shots that really capture the atmosphere of the wedding. We’ll be able to look through our album years from now, and remember how wonderful the day was, the fun we had with our family and friends, and how joyful it all felt.
Donna & Paul