Intro by Skip Cohen
Over the last few years, I’ve reviewed at least three hundred photographer’s websites covering just about every specialty. The idea started as part of the registration fee for Skip’s Summer School in 2012 and it just continued over the years.
One thing I’ve noticed over and again are the images shared in each artist’s galleries. They’re often mediocre at best, but this post isn’t as much about the quality of the images you share but what you share. Here’s a prime example:
I was reviewing the website of a photographer who’s become a great friend over the years. While most of the images were good, he had posted one series from a wedding he shot – the only wedding he’s ever photographed and completely outside his specialty. When I asked him why the images were even on his website he answered, “I thought I should show a wedding because if I had to, I could shoot one.”
I responded with the obvious question, “Do you want to shoot more weddings?” His answer was an instant “No!”
So, when I ran across this post by Mary Marantz from her archives it was the perfect post to share today!
by Mary Marantz
This idea of Showing what you want to Shoot operates on two levels.
The first is what we see most commonly in our mentoring sessions. We’ll have people who will come in and want to start specializing exclusively in weddings, but then they’ll tell me that they just keep getting inquiries for baby shoots and don’t know why they keep coming.
And then we’ll open up their website and the very first thing we’ll see is basically the cutest picture of the cutest baby on the planet. Here they may as well have put the Gerber baby up there as their poster child and yet they can’t understand why they’re getting requests for more baby shoots! 🙂 It’s a really self-fulfilling cycle and it all comes from showing what you want to shoot.
So at the first level, Show What You Want to Shoot is quite literally about showing… what you want to shoot. With, of course, the inverse also being true: making darn sure that you aren’t showing what you don’t want to shoot. If you don’t want to get any more newborn work, then get those babies off your site. If you hate shooting in ballrooms, don’t let any of the images on the main reel of your website highlight a ballroom. If you hate shooting that one picture of every guest in attendance because it kills the party and no one ever does anything with that picture anyway, then for heaven’s sake don’t include that with your blog post.
And if shooting the picture of the groomsmen holding up the bride makes you cringe, then it doesn’t need to make it into your favorites. By all means, shoot it for the couple if that’s what they want and make sure you deliver it to them with their images. But don’t feel like you have to highlight it in any of the places that are there for you to show off your favorite work. Because as artists, we all need that space to say…this is the art that speaks to me.
Be willing to give yourself permission to do that.
And here’s the thing about putting up those shots that you don’t love, but you think you have to: there is a market out there for everything. And when you show it, that’s exactly who you’re going to attract… clients who want more of the same. And now you’re stuck. Studies show that you have anywhere between 2 minutes and 10 seconds for a potential couple to decide if you’re what they’re looking for. So it becomes super important that we’re giving them the clearest message possible of what we want our work to stand for, so we’re attracting the couples who want (and will allow us to do) exactly that.
And that’s where the second level comes in: making sure that the work you are showing practically SCREAMS the message you do want to send. With a megaphone. B-E-Aggressive style.
Given that we may only have 10 seconds or so to make an impression on a couple, we want those first 5-10 images on our website’s main reel to be the purest representation of what we want our work to stand for. We want it to basically jump off the screen and slap that couple in the face (in the nicest way possible! 🙂 with the words we want them thinking when they think of our work.
We want our work to be AEIOU: authentic, emotional/enduring, intimate/iconic, organic & universal. But out of those seven, if we had to pick our top 3 they would definitely be: Authentic, Enduring & Iconic.
So, when we’re picking images for our new brand that we’re working on, I want to make sure I’m leading off with the 5-10 images that scream that the most for us. And I also want to be picking images that show off a lot of black & white or soft color (because that’s what we like to shoot) in mansions or grand hotels (because that’s where we like to shoot) and of couples being more nostalgic, romantic & quiet rather than silly or crazy (because that’s who we like to shoot). And bonus points if the bride looks like she just stepped out of the 1940s.
Ok “class” so now it’s time for the homework!
First, I want you to go gut reaction and write down on a piece of paper what you think you would want your Three Words to be that describe your work. Those slap you in the face, this is what I stand for, take it or leave it, love it or hate it words. Authentic. Enduring. Iconic. Or whatever yours are!
Now go to the main reel of your website or the first gallery or your blog… whatever a bride will go to first. Go through the first 10 images you see. For each picture, ask yourself 1) Is it Authentic? 2) Is it Enduring? 3) Is it Iconic? (of course, inserting your words). What you may find is that some of your pictures have the first two, but not the third. Some will only have one. Some may not have any at all.
The goal is to swap those out until you lead off with 10 images that hit all three. In that knock it out of the park sort of way. Because at the end of the day, it is up to us to tell the world who we want to be as artists.
And then feel really, really grateful for the clients who let us do exactly that.