Five perplexing photographer website quirks (alternate title: In which she alienates all her photographer friends)

by DaniGirl on June 14, 2012 · 11 comments

in Photography

One of the things I’ve been tinkering with lately is the image galleries on my portfolio website, where I host all my Mothership Photography client proof galleries. I don’t like what I have currently but need to find something that is compatible with wordpress, easy to use and would function well both for my portfolio and for client use in viewing proofs and placing orders.

58:365 Brownie Starflex

I haven’t found that solution yet (and I’ve been dedicating at least four to six minutes each week to the search!) but I have spent a lot of time over the last few months peeking at other photographers’ websites. There are a few widespread practices that continue to perplex me. Here’s five of them:

1. Charging a fee to keep a proof gallery live for longer than a week, or charging a fee to make it live again. I suppose the logic behind this is to encourage clients to order in a timely manner but it takes about five seconds of effort to re-post a gallery even if I have remembered to take it down in the first place, which often takes months. Maybe this is also an issue for photographers who have hundreds instead of dozens of clients, but I promise I’ll never charge you a fee for this one!

2. Watermarking low-resolution files that you have purchased. I understand the theory behind this one, too – it’s a marketing tactic. The photographer hopes you post the photos on your Facebook page and all your friends see them and want the photographer to do their portraits, too. But I feel like if you’ve paid for the files, they’re yours to do with as you please. I’m always extremely grateful for the endorsement if you tell people that I took the pictures, but I promise any file you buy from me will be watermark-free.

3. Referring to themselves in the third person in the “about” section of the website. Danielle Donders will never do this, as she finds it just a wee bit too pretentious for her tastes. Or worse, when what you know is a one-person shop is written entirely in plural – “we” take ourselves a bit too seriously when “we” do this. This always strikes me as erring on the side of puffery instead of making the photographer look more professional.

4. Charging a fee for extra people in a session. I often see specifications about sessions being for families of four, with a $10 per person (or something similar) surcharge for addtional people. Yes, it’s a bit of extra work wrangling four kids instead of two, but unless you’re bringing the entire extended family including Aunt Bertha and sixteen cousins, I’m not going to charge you extra for it. And if you do have an exceptionally large group, I’d rather negotiate extra compensation on a case-by-case basis rather than putting this arbitrary fee out there.

I saved my biggest pet peeve for last. Are you ready?

5. Websites with music on auto-play. Really, any website with music at ALL is enough to make me click instantly away, but if the photographer really MUST set his or her portfolio to music, I’d at least like to be in charge of whether I’m listening to it or not. I know, this is a hotly debated topic among photographers, but really? Can the canned music. Also, have you purchased the rights to use that copyrighted music? Just sayin’.

These are all totally subjective. I hope I haven’t completely alientated all my photographer friends who have musical-accompanied websites written in the third person with caveats about extra fees up front. I totally get the reasoning behind these practices — but they still drive me bananas, and I promise I’ll never do any of them. (Ha, there is nothing like uttering the phrase “I will never…” to call down the gods. Think I’ll be eating those words one day?)

What do you think? Do you have a pet peeve? What am I or other photographers doing with their sites that I can learn from or learn not to do? And if anyone has a suggestion for a decent wordpress gallery plug-in, or something I can plug-and-play into my existing wordpress database, I’d love to hear from you!

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Karen Knox June 14, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Oh, that music thing is easily the most annoying thing a web host can do! I seriously just click away before it can get started. Unless the song is “Sexy And I Know It”… why oh why do I still love this irritating song?

I’ve never heard of charging extra for more people. There’s something that’d turn me off right away. As part of a family of five, we get shafted all the time when it comes to contests, seating arrangements and even toothbrush holders for goodness sake. It’s always refreshing when someone gives us a break.

On a side-note, we really intend on telling you which photos we want. We just have a healthy debate going and have even enlisted family to help us out! You’ll know but the weekend, promise!

2 Jennifer Gilbert June 14, 2012 at 1:00 pm

While I do agree with you with point number 3 and number 5, the policies of other photographers isn’t something you need to be. Everyone chooses to run their business differently. Charging people extra for things such as additional gallery time or extra people are decisions the business owner makes based on their cost of doing business.

While you’re certainly entitled to your opinion on the topic, is it really necessary to post something like this? How does this help you promote your business? Maybe focus on that instead of what others are doing.

These types of extra charges don’t just apply to photographers either. You’ll find them in any industry. People go into business to make a profit. When you take all the costs of doing business and add them together, you’ll find that even if you did 200 photo sessions a year at $150 each (I have no idea what you charge, BTW), you’ll find that you’re actually loosing money at the end of the year.

There are many great books about pricing out there. I’d be happy to recommend some if you are interested.

3 _Don June 14, 2012 at 1:41 pm

I agree with your beefs, especially the music thing. I also can’t stand excessive Flash on a site. I want to see pictures and information. I don’t want to wait extra for some fancy thing to load.

Further, on my Mac, I have a flash blocker. Anything with flash is not loaded, and only a “Flash” button appears in the middle. I need to click that to load whatever I (might) want to see. If I go to a photographer’s site and its a big Flash button, well, I’m done here. Move along.

4 DaniGirl June 14, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Karen! If you like Sexy and I know it, you’ll love the version my four-year-old does! I’m glad you haven’t gotten your order in yet — I have too much going on this week as it is!

Jennifer, they’re just observations and an attempt at light humour, which may have missed the mark. I’m sorry if I offended. In a way they do help me promote my business, because I’m talking about things that I won’t do because I think it would be more beneficial for my clients if I didn’t do those things. Don’t we all try to differentiate ourselves from the competition?

Don, my husband and I have an ongoing debate about Flash. He teaches flash, so he may be biased, but I’m not a fan. Oops, there’s another person I’ve offended! πŸ˜‰

5 Danielle June 14, 2012 at 3:43 pm

Dani – You know I love ya, but if I am being totally honest, I also feel like it comes across as indirectly bashing other photogs a bit. By all means differentiate yourself. In this market it’s a necessity. But you should do this with the quality of your work. Do this with your customer service. Find things that are unique about your work and your business that wows people and makes them want to hire you above all others. I’m not sure that pointing out what others are doing wrong is the way to go about setting yourself apart. We all have our reasons for pricing ourselves the way we do. And even if we don’t agree/are confused by how each of us do things, at the end of the day they are all decisions we have to make for ourselves based on many different and unique criteria.

Just my 0.02. I hope that makes sense and that it came across as helpful and encouraging. That was my intent! πŸ™‚

6 DaniGirl June 14, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Thanks Danielle, I wouldn’t take anything you said as anything but well-intentioned. I’m sorry you read this as “bashing” other photographers – absolutely not my intent. Had I written “can you believe some asshats are doing this?” then that would be bashing. Or if I said (which I never would), “Did you see Danielle does X? I would never do that.” But I am genuinely perplexed (word chosen intentionally) by these practices, and I personally disagree with them and wonder why other photographers might do these things. Maybe there’s a good reason and I need to be informed? I’m open to that! Just stirring up discussion – it’s always good to hear other opinions, right?

7 A June 14, 2012 at 4:11 pm

The water mark thing was an issue for us in choosing a photographer Dani, just so you know you are not crazy in your opinions! We still love our photos!

8 Amy @ Muddy Boots June 14, 2012 at 4:49 pm

I agree wholeheartedly with #3 and #5.

My guess is that #1 is a result of a photographer having clients taking FOOOORREEEEEVER to order prints and they just got exasperated and added this policy as… encouragement to order promptly. It’s not a practice that I’ve adopted, but I get it.

#2 is kinda poor marketing, IMO. If a client WANTS your watermark to showoff their professional photographs, awesome. Or, if the photog is posting sneak peaks and tagging the client in them and wants to add a watermark, fine.

As for #4, likely some photog somewhere added this policy and others saw it and adopted it. I think I had that in my pricing at one point (might still, but it’s *cough* been a while since I visited my own site *blush*), but never actually collected. Big families are fine with me. I’ve even offered to take a few shots with grandma or grandpa if they’re around. I should probably go update my own policies…

9 Danielle June 14, 2012 at 5:14 pm

I do agree with #3 and #5 although I’m certain I’ve been guilty of #3 from time to time. LOL!

I know that for me, #4 is in place to avoid surprises. 99.9% of the time if I’m contacted by a family requesting an extended family shoot, I will not charge them for the extra people. I have, however, shown up to what I believed was a 4 person shoot…but ended up as a 13 person shoot. And call me crazy, but I like to be prepared for large groups! I like to be sure that we’ve chosen the best location, I’ve had time to think about posing, what props to bring etc. Also, a 13 person shoot takes me quite a bit longer than a 4 person shoot as I like to provide a good variety for all families involved. Again, it’s never usually an issue for me (and I’m not even sure I’ve ever charged for extra people!), but it’s in place to prompt people to ask before the shoot so that I can be as prepared as possible to serve my clients as best I can.

#2 – I watermark my web images for safety. Maybe it’s a matter of personal opinion on this but whether the client has purchased them or not, the image can still be stolen and used inappropriately (either for profit by Facebook or goodness knows who…). I feel it’s for everyone’s protection as I assume my clients also don’t wish to have their family photos used inappropriately. I’ve never once had a client disagree with or question this policy.

Lastly, my reasons for #1 are probably fairly common in that I pay for my images to be hosted in my online galleries. I pay a monthly fee for X number of images. If I exceed this number, I am charged more. It’s never usually an issue (which is why I’ve never charged this fee to a client), but again, it acts like more of a deterrent. My experience is that when clients know there’s a time limit, they respect it. I’ve never had a client take issue with it.

Glad you didn’t read my comment as negative Dani! πŸ™‚ I’m not sure if the above clarifies things for you but I do know that several other photographer friends of mine run their business in a similar way which is why the policies seem the same. None of us are in the business of ripping people off or making life difficult with these policies. We are just trying to run a business that is safe, profitable and enjoyable for everyone – ourselves AND our clients. πŸ™‚

10 DaniGirl June 14, 2012 at 5:30 pm

Hey Danielle, that was really nice of you to write such a thorough explanation. See, now I get your perspective and am less perplexed! Clearly we all agree on at least 40% of the points! πŸ˜‰ I think the group size thing would present itself at the time the client books, so I still disagree with you on that one, and I’m still not convinced about the watermarking one — but I am more than willing to respect your reasons and agree to disagree.

I really hope you didn’t see me writing this as accusing anyone of trying to rip off clients. There are as many business models out there as there are photographers. You and I have talked before, for example, about the Groupon-esque model and how we would never do that – and yet some photographers have had great success with it. Once again, I did not intend any personal criticism here – I wasn’t actually thinking of anyone local when I wrote this, but many sites I’d come across through random clicks in my search for a better web gallery. (In fact, on sober second thought, maybe I should have checked to see how many of my friends have implemented these practices? Another lesson learned!) I’m grateful that you were interested enough in the conversation to respond.

11 Suzan Wood-Young June 15, 2012 at 2:52 pm

So happy to stumble upon your blog again, just when i was thinking of posting “Things I dislike about blog posts” on my blog. Since my first one is “Don’t act so holier than thou” it might be a touch hypocritical. I did enjoy your photoblog/website don’ts very much and agree with all them. Looking forward to reading you more regularly!

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