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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Shelly, this one goes straight to my “read-once-a-day” bookmarks.
I can’t tell you how much does your post inspired me.
Im glad my efforts aren’t in vain Marco. I think your work is worthy of its own web site. 😀
This is a great post. Thank you very much for your work, dear Shelly!
My presence on Internet always was focused on communication and, I don’t know why :D, I’ve never imagined my own web site. But I know that your post will help me a lot if I organize my site. You’ve made a wonderful instruction.
Have a great day! 🙂
Ann, Im glad you found this post helpful. Social media is about communication, you’re right. But I know you want to take your work farther. I think you need to have a web site that will put your work in perspective. IG, G+ or FB isn’t the place to do that. Best of luck and remember – it will always be a work in progress. 🙂
Thank you very much, dear Shelly!
Great article. I’ve had websites forever, one for my now defunct wedding/portrait photography biz, another one for my now defunct headshot biz, and then one for my toy photography as soon as I had a body of work to share. At the beginning of the year I scrapped my old toy photo site and built a new site from the ground up, using Wix. It was a huge step up for me (and one I didn’t look forward to!) as the old site was not optimized for smart phones, and I was unable to work on it from my Mac. There’s a slight learning curve with Wix (which is normal), but it gets easier as you familiarize yourself with the tools. At this point I can go in and make changes, add photos, etc in a matter of minutes, so it’s great. I’m really happy with it and can recommend using them (I think Weebly is probably pretty similar). Honestly, I first connect with most of my toy clients by way of social media, but from there I feel it’s important to be able to direct them to my website so that they can see my professionalism and intent. It’s there that I’m able to elaborate on what I do, share some of my press coverage, sponsors, etc. I generally forward the public to my Instagram page (which is what I do in this blog as well), which is where I interact with people and pretty much post all of my toy photos, but my website can be linked to from my IG profile if you’re curious.
Mitch, Thank you so much for joining the conversation! As someone who has been a professional photographer and is making your way as a professional toy photographer – your experience and pov is invaluable. I think that social is a great way to connect with people, but I think its mandatory to have a curated back up to that experience. Like you say, a place for your press coverage and other important information.
Im currently on VIRB but I feel Ive grown out of it. Im thinking of jumping ship to WP later this year. But Im loath to take my creative time and put it towards a new web site. But I desperately want a more flexible platform.
I will add your web site to my little list of toy photographers who are a part of our community.
Cheers and thanks again for joining the conversation!
Great post, Shelly, and it seems like I might have to reconsider a couple of things. My blog used to be a website for two months or so, but then I decided it all was more about showing, sharing, and interacting with my visitors, so I changed everything back to “blog with a couple of static pages” – there are a couple of galleries presenting various series and projects.
But I also like a couple of poimts you made: Having a clean, distraction-free site that only showcases your work seems like a good idea. I now wonder what I could do within the framework of WordPress … maybe that’s a test to be run this winter.
Like you Im flummoxed by the range of choices. Images only? Incorporate my blog posts? Create a selling arena? Coordinate with Mail Chimp? Ugh!! Why cant I just take pretty pictures??
But with all that, when I go to my web site I like seeing my images free from comments, free from the BS of social media. Its how I want them to look in a gallery, and right now, this is the closest I can get.
We can both set aside time this winter to make some changes. We can commiserate together in the dark of winter as we curse WP. 🙂
Maybe I’ll join you two in a WP commiseration chat. I love the platform, and it’s been great for my site/blog, but there are so so many things I need to consider, update, change…who has the time?!? I just need someone to volunteer to manage the entire art business side of things for me. 😛 lol
P.S. great post Shelly!
I have always been convinced that I need my own place on Internet, even if my audience is so small. Instagram and all other community medias are great but, as you said, the wind can turn quicky.
The perfect example is the new Instagram algorithm…I was really enjoying myself before on Instagram, now I almost cry every time I go on my Instagram feed.
And my little baby blog (one year old yesterday) is my creation, my place to express myself and very important.
Your article is powerful and I hope it will push people to create their one place on internet 🙂
Here is my humble blog : http://www.eatmybones.com
Karine, thank you for joining the conversation! What you want to cry every time you get on IG? Do you mean I’m not the only one? Today I had hard proof my follower count is going down. Seriously? After six years of steady growth it was only when they changed the Algorithm did I see steady declines in growth and interaction. My work has only gotten better, so I know its not content. *sigh*
Congratulations on your blogging anniversary! Its a lovely blog and I will add it to our list of toy photographers in our community. I think you made a smart decision starting on WP. I know its not the easiest platform to work on, but I think it has the best ability to change with your needs. I think it has the best long range prospects.
Now if only we can maintain net neutrality…
Thanks for joining the conversation!
Excellent post, Shelly! I definitely agree about the importance of a website. I’ve had personal websites since my middle school days, and they’ve all evolved over the years. Blogs, sites for my video work, photo galleries… as my creative endeavors have evolved over the years, so have the sites I drove people to.
Right now I’m using WordPress, though I have experience with Squarespace (mostly through building sites for clients at work) and places like Wix & Weebly. I find that they’re all pretty similar and come with their own sets of pros & cons. I like the blog functionality with WP, and the flexibility to edit templates to make my site LOOK like more of a photography site than a blog.
I have to admit though, I’ve been neglecting it this year and need to get back into the routine of keeping it updated. I write posts for this blog and post my shots on Facebook, G+, Insta, and Flickr, but forget that final piece of adding them to my site as well! I like your idea of keeping it more stripped down and to mostly feature new work or favorites. No sense in displaying pics I’m no longer proud of or that don’t represent my current style.
James, like you the site I use is super easy to use. But Im thinking I need to upgrade to WP for more flexibility. I feel like my own site is the poor step child, but I need to put more effort into it. I write for this blog once a week and I barely link to it, much less post my own words on my blog. So stupid! I need to fix that, sooner rather later. Its hard to be a solo entrepreneur! Know you’re in good company!
I keep coming back to this post, and to the idea. I already have a site for my non-toy photography [squarespace could NOT be easier!] but I keep mulling the idea of creating a non-social-media spot for the toys. IG is fine, I suppose, if someone is already there and wants to follow, but a simple, direct site may be in my future. I go back and forth with the idea, really, but more from a perspective of my own self confidence deficit: the wee voice in my head that says it’s not worth the effort for 3 people to go see it. Am I alone in this quandry?
Ryan, I never thought anyone visited my site. In fact I created it out of obligation. You know: a home on the web that is your own because all the experts say you should do it. I recently linked the site to Google Analytics and I was kind of shocked by the traffic. It’s not much, but at least five people a day stop by. One day it had over 70 hits! Seriously I was like: wtf? So you may tell yourself that only three people will see it, but what if its more? What if it’s the right three? Link your two sites together or build out a little toy section to your current site. You might be surprised what happens. 😀
Thanks for writing this post. I think it is very important to have your own place. I currently have a couple WP sites that I devoloped. I learned WP first while building my side business of Wowflutes. It was a rather steep learning curve to incorporate WooCommerce and shopping cart options, as well as all the other add-one you suggest (mailchimp, etc.).
I do like having a place to work from that is my own. It is much more work than social media. Writing a blog post for instance is much more work than just posting a shot with some tags. But I feel it is worth it. A feeling of ownership and expression is better when you control every aspect of the site. I have been using WP for many years and I find it very intuitive and easy to manipulate. I don’t have any experience with writing code or the languages of the internet but the cool thing about WP is it is open source. It’s a free platform. Millions of coders have created awesome content and plug-ins that do everything I want without me having to know code. There are also tons of free plugins that are phenomenal. Some folks just create the plugins for their own site and put it up for others to adapt to their own liking.
I am fond of this open platform of WordPress. If y’all need any help with it I can point you in directions for what currently works well for me.
My Toy Photography site:
My little side business (I make pocket flutes):