change

The value of your online portfolio

martina_cole

Crime writer Martina Cole photographed at a London hotel © Neil Turner/TSL

I’ve had a web presence of some sort or other since 1999. First of all I was just dipping my digital toe in the water with some free web space and free software supplied by AOL when I was with them. That morphed into the original dg28.com website which was all about helping other photographers to understand light and lighting. Like most things we do in life, my site has grown and changed and it has mirrored my work – both have been through many changes to get to where I am now.

January as a freelance is traditionally a tough time – or so I’m told. One of my goals for this month has been to re-evaluate my online presence and to give my website both a freshen-up and to make it more iPad/iPhone/Android friendly. Work, happily, got in the way and so I haven’t got anywhere near finishing what I started. I have given a lot of thought to deciding exactly what the point of an online portfolio is:

  • I know that I haven’t been inundated with work from it
  • I’m sure that my SEO (search engine optimisation) isn’t state of the art
  • My Google rankings by name are great
  • My Google rankings by occupation, specialism, location and other useful factors are not great
  • I know that it gets a lot of visitors because I have all of the relevant analytical data

Who are my visitors? Where do they come from? Why are they visiting my portfolio so much? Would they notice if it wasn’t there? Would my business suffer? Five very important questions to which I don’t know the definitive answers. That got me thinking and it got me going online to see what other people thought about the very same issue. Professional photography is unlike most other businesses – clients that I work with don’t order online and the amount of repeat business is good but not to the extent that we’d like it to be.

From digging around myself, chatting to friends, colleagues and a couple of web professionals and generally canvassing opinion I have come up with a few absolute truths and one or two bits of generally accepted notions by which changes and upgrades to my web presence are going to be governed in future:

  • You have to have a web presence
  • It has to be good
  • It has to show your work off
  • It has to be focused and demonstrate clearly who you are and what you do
  • You have to assume that it is being looked at by the right people
  • Probably fewer than 10% of the viewers are the right people
  • Most of those ‘right people’ are there because they want to look at my work – they haven’t stumbled across my site randomly

So that means if I want to do more than one thing, I have to have more than one website. That means that I need to show pictures – the kind of pictures that I want people to notice, be impressed by and then to commission something along the same or similar lines.

By now I sense that most people who have read this far are saying “tell us something we didn’t know”. I apologise for being un-original but the truth is that there isn’t a magic formula – despite what SEO expert George keeps emailing to say. So where next? Should I invest money in getting a site built for me that is a bit better than I could build myself? What format should the pictures (because they are the most important thing on the site) be in?

In trying to answer those questions I have been looking at a lot of options ranging from template drive sites to slide shows to contact sheets to bespoke (and expensive) “wow” sites. As I get nearer to the end of the revamp process I find myself getting more and more apprehensive about the various options and technologies. So here is the thing… I have been playing with a software package called Wowslider and I have put a single test page together and asking for opinions and feedback about that page. So here it is www.dg28.com/folio/2013-01/ and I’d be very interested to hear opinions. I know this one thing for sure… what worked last year is probably very different from what will work next year and so January 2014 will probably see me going through this very process again. See you in twelve months time!