The Basics – Your Own Web Site

Do you have your own web site?  I was recently surprised by the number of toy photographers in our community who don’t. I feel strongly that in the shifting quicksand of social media platforms every semi-professional photographer and artist should have a personal home on the internet. A place where you can control how your work is viewed, present a carefully curated representation of your work as well as supporting information. A personal web site can also act as a central hub for all your social media accounts and can grow and change with your own artistic needs.

You’re the boss

If you’re only showing your work on corporate social media platforms, then you’re probably presenting your work in a random fashion. If you’re like me, I generally post my most recent work, a contest entry, or an idea I’m working through. On my personal web site I showcase my work in small groups that follow a specific theme. I also highlight images that are my current favorites.

By creating your own web site, you control first impressions. You can organize your images in groups, by theme, by style, by subject or in any way that makes sense to you. Unlike the fast past world of social media, a web site can be a place for fans to take a longer look at your work. Where potential customers, and even marketing representatives, can get a complete view of your style and even personal and biographical information.

Another benefit of creating a home on the web for your best work, is that you can present images without the distractions of likes, follower counts and +1’s. Honestly, I feel that this (meaningless) information attached to your images, will only alter how your work is perceived. Your work should be judged on its own merits without the distraction of unnecessary and irrelevant numbers.

Facebook is not a website (nor is Flickr)

Any social media site that you may be posting your own images to, is not a substitute for your own web site. You do not have control over these platforms. As we’ve seen on numerous occasion, corporations can change the user interface at any time. Your account can also be deleted and your images banned without your consent. Basically, you’re not in control of who or how your work is seen. This is not an effective, longterm strategy to promote your work.

Social media sites like Facebook, Flickr, G+ and Instagram are only tools in your promotional tool box. They are not a substitute for your own web site.

Show you’re serious about your work

Having a site dedicated to promoting only your work, indicates that you’re serious about your work. What looks more professional: sending a publicists to Instagram or to your own website? One is a hodgepodge of images posted in no particular order while your web site is a clean, organized and carefully curated selection of your work.

Create an identity as unique as you are

When your work is seen on Facebook, Flickr, Instagram or G+, there is nothing unique about the presentation of your work. You’re just one more image in someones else’s user interface. You want to create a web site as unique as you and your work. A place that sets your work apart.

No one makes art in a vacuum. We all have stories to share about our work and our toys. By creating your own web site you can present the “why?” of your work. Create an artist statement and tell the world why you do what you do! Create a blog and tell the stories behind your own artistic journey and your photographs. If you’re exhibiting your work, keep a list of upcoming shows so your customers can find you. Start a mailing list, you never know what you may want to promote in the future.

Let your fans get to know you. In my experience, people are more invested in artists that they know.  They want to make a connection with the artist creating work they already love. By offering personal information you can begin to create a stronger connection with potential customers, fans and even marketing and PR firms.

Just go for it!
Its easier than you think

Creating your own web site is easier than you think. You don’t need to know how to write code and you don’t need to be a web designer. There are plenty of templates available that allow you to drag and drop your images into place. Companies like Wix, Weebly, Squarespace and Jimdo exist to streamline the process for small businesses and artists. The advantage of using a company like Wix, Weebly, Squarespace or Jimdo is that you can be assured that your page will look great on a mobile or a desk top device equally.

Don’t try to make your web site perfect from day one. If you’re like me, your web site will never be perfect, it will always be a work in progress. Launch your web site with enough images and information that your fans will get the basic idea. Be sure to include your contact information and links to your social media platforms. Even Rome wasn’t built in a day!

Less is MOre

When creating your own website remember less is more. Don’t overload your site with ten different styles of photography with each section containing twenty plus images. Only present you best work. Rotate and update your site with your new favorite images every few months. Keep you site lean and mean. Make it easy for interested individuals to quickly get a sense of your work, your professionalism and most importantly – get a hold of you.

eCommerce

Make sure your site has eCommerce capabilities. You never know, one day you may want to sell your work. If you’ve already been selling cards and small prints on sites like RedBubble and Society6, you’ve probably already experienced your fair share of take down notices. Why run the risk of running afoul of large corporations when you can easily send potential customers to your own sales site. Yes, I understand its harder to fulfill your orders than to simply receive a commision check. But on the upside, you get to keep all the money.

Conclusion

Like everything in life, creating your own web site has a price. You will pay both in design time and hosting costs. I can’t tell you if this will be a good return on your investment. But if you have dreams of taking your work to a new level, like product photograph or direct sales, investing in a web site is an important tool. It’s a place where you control how your work is viewed.

In other words, its priceless.

Shelly

If you would like to share your own experiences creating a web site, please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments. We all learn from each other! 

If you have a web site that you would like us to link too, please let me know in the comments. If there is enough interest, I will create a resource page of individual toy photographer web sites from our community.