It’s easy to start taking pictures, but it takes a lot of skill to become a great photographer. However, there are some amazingly simple and quick steps that can speed up your journey to taking amazing pictures every time.
Though we’re mainly a marketing site, there’s nothing we appreciate like good photographs. Also, there’s a simple fact for you to keep in mind. If you want to make money at photography, it helps a ton if you’re a great photographer.
George Lange can famously take excellent photographs with virtually any camera, including lower end models. Of course, having an amazing camera does make it a bit easier to take amazing photographs. The photographer determines the picture much more than the machine, though.
One of the reasons Lange can consistently take such great photographs is his understanding of the camera as machine and tool. It’s certainly not the only thing – his years of experience, understanding of photography basics, and artistic vision all also play huge roles. However, understanding the camera brings you one step to more closely understanding photography.
Get to Know Your Camera
That’s right, the tip’s that simple.
Before you take your next photograph, spend an hour or two really getting to know your camera. You may think you know your camera pretty well already, but you can always get to know it better. Here are a few ways to get better acquainted with your camera.
Read your owner’s manual in its entirety. The information therein can be life changing to a true photographer.
Know what every button on your camera does. Keep in mind that this also includes the advanced, specific settings options given to you by newer, higher end digital cameras. Explore all your options for best results.
Understand how your camera works. Spend a little time reading about how cameras actually work. You’d be surprised how much mastery over the fundamentals of photography a bit of basic knowledge here will give you.
As a true photographer, you should think of your camera as a very dear friend or, better yet, an extension of yourself. In an analogy appropriate for the recent release of the latest Star Wars film, you should look at your camera like a Jedi looks at his lightsaber.
Once you truly get to know your camera, you’re virtually guaranteed to take better pictures. This is because you will truly understand every option at your fingertips, and the intricacies of how those options affect your pictures. While knowing your camera is no substitute for twenty years’ experience in the industry, it’s certainly a faster way to improve a bit and get your foot in the door.
If you’ve been studying, practicing, or even just looking at photography for a while, you’ve probably heard the name George Lange. He’s a great photographer, and occasionally gives out wonderful advice to other photographers, particularly those new to selling their services.
He’s written a new book called The Unforgettable Photograph that looks to be a good one. While doing my weekly photography reading, I stumbled on some sample tips from the book over at The Huffington Post. While the article gets a bit sales-pitchy for the book at times, it’s a great read – and honestly, the book sounds like a good buy for anyone who wants to take great photos.
Here are some of the highlights of my interpretations of tips from The Unforgettable Photograph.
Get close to your subjects!
When George Lange shoots, he doesn’t rely on the gear too much. Scott Mowbray has said that Lange can shoot a great picture with any camera, even a cheaper point-and-shoot model or (gasp) an iPhone.
Instead of using a zoom lens – which is often either very unreliable or very expensive – he gets very physically close to his subject. This produces a more natural, stable photograph, and also allows Lange to notice detail.
And it’s all in the details.
The tiny details are what elevate a photograph to being a true piece of art – and that’s what you want to provide for your clients. Notice the tiny details of the room, the crowd, and the people when you’re shooting pictures.
For example, if you’re photographing a wedding, be sure to capture some of the architectural features of the church or other venue while you’re taking crowd shots. Work to catch the colors and angles of the bride’s dress or groom’s tux in the best light.
Don’t shoot in overly lit areas.
There’s nothing that makes a photo look bad like having too much light. Just as you would never shoot in a pitch-black room, you should never shoot somewhere too fully lit. A moderate light produces the best photographs, and allows you the most control.
If you’re shooting outdoors, aim to take evening shots, or use shade to your advantage. If there’s no shade, try using different filters to diffuse some of the excess light.
Know the light where you shoot.
You should know where the light sources are, as well as the brightest and darkest spots, anywhere you’re shooting pictures. This is very easy to figure out through observation and trial and error in your home or studio, but what about when you’re on the go?
Try your best to scope out venues and locales you’ll be photographing in advance. You have less control over your subjects and their environment when you’re not in your own studio, so you need to know what you’re working with!
If you try applying all of these tips, you’re sure to improve your photography quickly – and without shelling out cash for any new, overpriced gear!
One of the biggest tips we give to photographers just starting out online, after building a website and starting to do some basic search engine optimization, is to frequently check how their SEO is doing. It’s only by knowing what’s working and what isn’t that you can continually improve your SEO.
Also, it’s important to remember that even if you’re at the top of Google now, you might not be forever. That means that it’s important to always stay on top of your SEO status and make sure everything you do online contributes to your SEO.
We did a post on the basics of checking your SEO a few days ago, but I thought it would be good for our readers to see some specific examples of the types of SEO tools available. Like in the last article, we drew a lot on Web Gnomes’ list of free SEO tools, as well as on their article on SEO analysis tools (which this SEO thinks is one of the most important types).
What are SEO analysis tools?
SEO analysis tools are diagnostics that seek to create a report that gives you a big-picture view of how your site is doing SEO-wise. They’re a great tool for everyone doing SEO – they’re good for beginners because they’re simple and broadly focused, and good for more advanced SEOs because they can point out problems you didn’t know you had and let you know when to use more specific tools.
Raven Tools’ Site Auditor is one of the best SEO diagnostics out there, but it’s also expensive. I wouldn’t recommend this for your photography business unless you start expanding to multiple large geographic areas – you can hire a marketing consultant company like ours for not much more than you pay to use Site Auditor. That being said, Raven Tools does offer a 30-day free trial of Site Auditor, and their services are used by a lot of professional SEO marketing firms, so this tool is always worth mentioning.
A good free/freemium alternative to Site Auditor is WooRank. This diagnostic is easy to use, and most small businesspeople and photographers who aren’t ready to pay for SEO yet can get away with using the free version. The paid plans are also cheaper than those offered by Site Auditor.
What about other types of SEO tools?
Other types of SEO tools are more specific than analytic tools. They’re often utilized by advanced SEOs to start a deeper investigation into some of the problems with a given site that an analytic picks up on.
All of these tools can help you make huge, fast changes to your SEO profile – which can set your website up for success. It certainly takes some time to learn each tool, and then learn how to use the data each tool presents, but each one can be a big part of the SEO puzzle.
A lot goes in to SEO – how can you find out what you’re doing right (or wrong)?
When it comes to SEO, the worst thing you can do is shoot in the dark. If you want your photography site to be highly sought after and widely available (both of which mean more customers for you!) then you have to a) know what you’re doing when it comes to SEO and b) look for evidence showing you how your SEO is doing.
One of the things that challenges photographers and other small business owners most is checking on the status of their SEO. It sounds simple. However, like many things in the SEO world, it’s not as easy as you’d think. Even looking to see how your SEO is doing can be a challenge.
The Most Basic Way to Check Your SEO
This may be obvious, and it is helpful – but it’s not enough to put you at the top and let you stay there on its own.
The most basic way to check your SEO is to Google (or search on Yahoo or Bing) some of the search terms you want your site to rank for. If you’re on the first page, that’s good – it’s even better if you’re in the top three.
Please note that you should log out of your Google accounts or use another computer to get accurate results this way. Google uses data on individual users more and more lately to give them SERPs tailored to their needs – which means your site might get a favorable bias when you search for it and not when someone else does.
This is certainly a good quick diagnostic of your SEO. However, it won’t help you much when you’re just starting out, because you still have a lot of work to do to get anywhere near the top. It also won’t help you see how a particular piece of content has performed, or if your SEO stats are rising or dipping (either of which could precipitate a change in the SERPs you want your page ranked on).
However, there are many options out there for deeper, more specific analysis – and you’ll need these to succeed.
Advanced SEO Options
I’d love to write you a comprehensive list of all the good SEO tools out there, but the fact is that would take days for you to read (and even longer for me to write). I can give you a few ideas, though.
Yoast is one of the biggest purveyors of SEO tools, many of which are free or very reasonably priced. If you use a WordPress site, their free WordPress SEO plugin is one of the best reviewed tools in the industry.
There’s also a great list of 33 free SEO tools (some of which are actually “freemium”) over at Web Gnomes. If you take a look at this list of tools, you’ll get an idea of how specific SEO tools can get. You probably don’t need every tool on the list, but downloading a few of them that focus on areas you’re highly interested in improving could make a big difference for your photography business.
There’s a lot of research out there on the web when it comes to SEO keyword research – almost everyone has something to say on the subject, and information from one site often contradicts information from the other.
We’ve spent a lot of time doing keyword research and analyzing the effectiveness of SEO keyword research techniques here at Photographer Marketing Academy, and we’ve done it all with photographers in mind. Although no SEO marketer can say 100% that he has the right answer all the time, we believe we’ve hit on a powerful method of using keywords to boost photographers’ SEO – and that’s focusing on the specifics.
Let’s be honest – no SEO marketing firm, no matter how great it is at what it does, can optimize a site or page for every keyword that could bring customers to the site. Doing keyword research involves figuring out which search terms will bring the most customers the most often, instead of scattering the limited resources that SEO marketers and small photography business have.
We’ve found that the best way to find the search terms that work the best is to aim for specifics. For example, the search term “photography” is never going to work as a keyword. Why? There are several reasons:
The competition for the keyword “photography” is too high for a small business to fight for dominance of this term and come out on top. There will always be a bigger business that includes photography services – it’s best not to try to compete with international corporations when it comes to SEO.
People rarely search for something as general as “photography” anymore. Rather, they search for something more specific like “wedding photography in Topeka.” Even if they do simply search for “photography,” Google’s location based search results will favor local results for their SERPs, and Google (or one of its competitors) will likely suggest more specific search terms like “wedding photography” – which users are likely to use when their more general searches don’t turn up the results they really want.
The upshot of all this is that a photography firm (or an SEO marketing team who works on behalf of a photography firm or individual photographer) must use those more specific search queries as potential keywords. For example, if you’re primarily a wedding photographer, you should have “wedding photography” optimized as much as possible throughout your site!
You should also take location into account, and use your geographic location as often as possible in conjunction with words and phrases like “photography” and “wedding photography.” This will help you win at local SEO, which is where you’re going to pull in the most clients anyway.
You’ll also want to use a wider variety of keyword phrasing when you’re focusing on specifics – for example, it’s probably equally likely that a potential client will search either “wedding photography in Topeka” or “Topeka wedding photography” – and the upshot of that is that your site should be optimized for both (if not more).
The guys at the Stone Temple Blog put out this helpful infographic not too long ago, and I thought we should share it with our readers here at Photographer Marketing Academy for several important reasons.
First of all, the SEO game is hard. It takes a good, experienced company to help you market your product, whether it’s photography services or something else entirely.
Secondly, there are a lot of shady companies out there masquerading as SEO gurus. Some of them use black hat methods that are both unethical and only viable in the short term, while some of them are (even worse) straight up scams that are out to get your money and give you nothing in return.
Obviously, we want to sell you our services here at Photographer Marketing Academy – and we really do believe we’re the best around. However, even if you don’t end up going with us, and decide to either use another online photography marketing service or strike out on your own, we want to be sure you don’t get scammed or otherwise taken in by an unethical company.
Let’s look a little bit more closely at a couple of the warning signs of a bad SEO that apply to photography particularly well.
1. Don’t work with SEOs that want to automate page creation.
Automating page creation means writing programs or using other techniques to generate web pages without any human input, and that’s bad for a lot of reasons. The major one is that these pages will likely not have any quality whatsoever – meaning that even if they do give you a short term photography SEO boost, the traffic won’t keep coming. Worse, your site could get removed from Google entirely.
As a photographer, you’re an artist – and that means that a little artistry and consideration should go into every page on your site. If you choose to work with an SEO firm, make sure it’s one that will match your level of dedication to the craft.
2. “They propose massive link building” – is it a warning sign?
Well, yes and no. It really depends what’s meant by massive link building.
Backlinks are one of the most important pieces of an SEO plan – many would say the most important. So a company that proposes getting you a lot of links isn’t a bad one – it’s just that many companies offer thousands of links that are worthless.
If you’re considering working with an SEO, make sure that the links the company offers you are legitimate, and not links from dummy pages or sketchy forums.
As the infographic says, you also shouldn’t trust a company that charges per link – rather, you should look at one that charges based on the time involved in developing your SEO, or charges more or less for certain types of businesses or based on keywords you want to rank for.
If you follow these simple rules when looking at SEO marketers you may want to work with, you should stay in the clear. And if you want more detailed analysis of what makes a good SEO marketer and what makes a bad one, we’ll have another post on this subject soon.
When it comes to online content, there are two things that Google and consumers want: immediacy and relevance.
Nobody is interested in looking at your sample photographs or reading your blog posts from five years ago, and Google knows that – so it (and its competitors) prioritize websites with content from the very recent past – often from the very same day the search is made. Many SEO gurus term this the “fresh factor.” This is where the immediacy comes in.
Now for the relevance: you don’t want to fill your photography blog with non-photography-related content. You don’t want to use your personal Facebook account primarily for photography marketing on social media and you certainly shouldn’t use your business Facebook for personal activities. Readers (and search engines) want to see content that is related to the keywords and links used to optimize it for search engines – not content that is unrelated or, worse, just plain awful.
So what does all this mean for you? It’s simple:
You should create fresh content for all of your online properties (including your main site, your blog, your business Facebook and other social media accounts, etc.) every day or at least as often as you can.
For some properties, such as Twitter and Instagram accounts, it makes sense to update even more often – sometimes as many as three times a day.
While you’re doing this, you should also check external properties such as Google or Yelp – they may have new reviews or similar content available that need your attention. Also check your reviews and messages on Facebook at least once a day.
While you have to be professional, your clients and potential clients want to feel like they’re interacting with a real person – that there’s a heart beating behind the computer screen they’re using to review or contact you. You have to create fresh content and interact with them so that you become a living, breathing person to them – not just another web site.
Remember, when you’re responding to reviews, always be professional. Never react defensively to a bad review – instead, let the customer know you’re fixing the problem, and contact them privately to see if there’s anything you can do to make them feel better.
While you’re busy creating all this content, remember that in addition to being immediate, it has to be relevant. So make sure it’s good and you’re really putting your best effort into it.
Always remember the old SEO axiom: content is king.
If you keep all of these tips in mind and truly update your properties as often as you can, you’ll be sure to find success much more quickly than most photographers trying to sell their services online.
And if this all seems to be too much to handle in addition to doing what you do best – always remember that there are professional marketers to help you with SEO, social media, and similar activities that help you promote your photography business online.
When it comes to keyword research, a lot of business people are in the dark, and this includes photographers as much as anyone else. However, there’s an easy way to do keyword research, which is one of the most important basic building blocks of SEO.
When it comes to deciding which keywords to optimize your content for, you need to think of two things: popularity and relevance. It’s hard for small business people like photographers to do the kinds of research into search term popularity that big corporations can, but if you use your head you can figure out what’s trending and what will work for your business.
How to Be Sure Your Search Terms are Relevant
To make sure the terms your optimizing for are relevant to your business and your industry, you’ll want to be sure not to waste time optimizing for unimportant words – if you exclusively shoot still photos, for example, optimizing for terms like “video” would be a waste of time and a bit misleading. If you do shoot videos as well as stills, though, you’ll absolutely want to play that element up in your content!
But, more importantly, you should know that it’s a lot easier to target more specific terms – something as general as “photography,” for example, will likely pull up a Wikipedia entry before anything else, whereas “wedding photography in [your town]” will most likely pull up a business-heavy SERP – and you want to be sure your business is at the top of that SERP!
There’s a lot of trial and error involved with keyword optimization, especially for smaller businesses, but keeping in mind exactly what kinds of customers you want to attract and how you want to attract them will make the process a great deal easier.
You’ll also want to focus on as specific terms as possible for the majority of your keyword optimization – and that’s the big life-changing tip. While general terms may, if you’re lucky, have a huge short-term effect because they’re so popular, the more specific search terms are what is really going to keep your business thriving for years to come.
You’ll also want to make sure that your keywords (and every other piece of your SEM plan) are optimized for local SEO – because it’s local SEO that ultimately determines whether or not a good number of small business people succeed.