Web Marketing

 

At the outset, let it be clear that I am solidly in the camp of doing whatever you can to market your work. While the internet has become the de facto marketing device for most photographers, presumably because of its low–cost options, its ubiquity and equanimity imbues an air of the dilettante to all but the already well–respected artists and high end art auction sites. In other words, because internet marketing is inexpensive, the work displayed may also be assumed to be cheap. I have had the unfortunate experience of being contacted by an extremely eager potential buyer requesting "my best price" for two of my gelatin silver prints, seen only on the internet. This was unquestionably a red flag, considering the fact that I was clearly already represented "bricks and mortar style". It was obvious that the buyer was attempting to subvert my representation, with whom I was concurrently showing, and swing a separate, more cost effective deal with me. Although my print prices are clearly displayed on my site, I normally discount multiple print sales, as I feel such interest indicates commitment to my work. Still, I was able (with gallery agreement) to offer a 20% discount off the clearly displayed print prices on my site. I never heard from the "buyer" again.

What follows are a few suggestions to enable you to present your work on the web in the most respectable, professional way presently possible. Much of the following information is dynamic in nature – the ever evolving internet making learners of experts with every innovation. Consider the following food for thought, not a last meal.

 

I. THE WORLD WIDE WEB

The internet is a world wide system of interconnected computer networks. The alliterative, world wide web (www) is a system of linked documents, or web pages carried upon the networks of the internet. These web pages, one of which you are reading now, contain hyperlinks which allow the user to go directly to other pages with a mere click of their mouse (or pointing device). The existence of hyperlinks is what gives the world wide web its power, differentiates it from those archaic tree killing books, and makes it, well, web–like. Hyperlinks, or simply links, can either direct users to places within the page at hand, like the chapters and topics in this page's Table of Contents, or to other pages either on the site or any other site connected by the internet to the world wide web. To that end, there are a couple of methodologies available to the artist, rent–a–sites and roll–your–own sites. Of course, you could use one of the many consumer oriented photo sharing sites available at little or no cost (i.e., Yahoo's flickr), but these are far from professional solutions.

 

II. RENT–A–SITES

Rent–a–sites neither require nor allow programming skills. They fall into two broad categories. The first are craft oriented sites such as Etsy, which allow you to post your work and set prices in a number of hand-made art categories. Non–specific, semi–professional art commerce sites such as these handle all monetary transactions, and collect relatively small commissions on sales. Their services are aimed primarily at bargain to low–priced works. The second category of rent–a–site are the photographic–centric sites that handle presentation style and print sales specifically for photographers. Member subscriptions on these sites vary from low cost to pricey, depending on their advertising and monetizing strategies. One example is the popular photo sharing service SmugMug. While it may be possible to secure a unique name for a leased subdirectory on these sites, you are unlikely to be able to secure your own domain name, directly accessible from the world wide web.

 

III. DOMAIN NAMES

One of the major marketing advantages to establishing an independent presence on the world wide web is the ability to stake out a domain. This digital flag planting is, in practice, a prerequisite to obtaining server space on any host (i.e., rolling–your–own site). You will hang your professional shingle, your domain name URL (Uniform Resource Locator), on your host's server space. It is for that reason that at least one domain name should be selected and secured which is reflective of you or your artistic interest (i.e., yourname.com, greatphotos.us, etc.). This is the surrogate internet address (or alias) by which your users will find your site. It would also be wise to retain a ".com" suffix, if possible, as they are the most universally recognized and some internet browsers default to them automatically. If you do nothing else towards establishing a presence on the web, at least buy and renew your own name, some logical variation thereof, or some catchy site descriptive name to be used as a domain name at some future time (impertinently referred to as cyber–squatting). The shorter and easier to remember the better. Presently, a ".com" domain averages about $12/year, although domain names are frequently included free of charge with the purchase of new hosting plans.

  • Example: Regarding this site, www.rangeoflightphotography.com, also try typing "www.bendewell.com" in the browser address bar, and see what happens (if using Apple's Safari browser, you needn't type either "www." or ".com").

Upon securing your own unique domain name, you will truly become the master of your domain.

 

IV. ROLLING–YOUR–OWN SITE

The roll–your–own approach is the lowest cost, independent way to create a website. The main requirements are that a web host is obtained and appropriate software is then installed on the host's servers. The responsibility for designing and running the site software falls entirely upon the artist. Until recently, this required building a site yourself (with HTML, CSS, etc.), either with the help of professional web authoring tools like Adobe's DreamWeaver, or a host's on–line drag and drop website builder, or by paying a professional web designer to build and maintain a custom site. But make no mistake, these a la carte web design services do not come cheap and the resulting sites must be regularly updated and maintained, or they will become stagnant, so called cobweb sites. Fortunately, new CMS (Content Management System) approaches have come into vogue. These allow the end user (i.e., the artist) to create and manage sites from any computing device anywhere in the world (essentially, cloud computing). Foremost among these are the free blog (web log) platforms (i.e., WordPressTumblr, etc). These CMS engines have professionally and semi–professionally developed themes in order to distinguish "look and feel" aesthetics as well as photo gallery options suited to photographers. You can even use the blog developer's servers, if you wish, providing a total no cost solution.

Still, some photographers find these blog platforms restrictive and unprofessional looking (i.e., "bloggy"). With the purchase of a domain name and space on a web host's servers, and some amount of "tweaking" (i.e., limited web programming) or the possibility of developing your own custom theme (aka, "skin") if so inclined, a respectable, individualized gallery oriented site can be attained, which is then absolutely customizable and maintainable by the artist (full disclosure – this site is one).

Here is a brief thumbnail on the recommended steps to rolling your own CMS style website:

  1. Find a host for your site. The cost may vary from $3 to $50 a month depending on your needs. For most photographers, $10 to $12 a month should get you everything you need, and then some. Confirm that the host is able to provide you with all the software (SQL, PHP, etc.) needed to support the particular CMS software you will install and the databases it will use. Most hosts also provide major blogging and gallery software already on their servers (i.e, step 3 may not even be necessary, depending on your needs). One criteria in selecting a host which should not be overlooked, is that telephone technical support is available in a country whose first language you are comfortable with (i.e, non-outsourced technical support).
  2. Download (to your computer) the CMS software you wish to use from the developing platform's site.
  3. Upload the CMS software to, and create the necessary database(s) on, your host's servers. The host's web–based file transfer system may be used for uploading files and images, but it is recommended that a stand alone FTP (File Transfer Program – free versions available on–line) be used in order to more completely control and expedite transfers.
  4. Run the software's setup as indicated by the software developer. Once your database and CMS software are linked up you will be directed into the platform's "backend", where you will quickly discover just how easy it is to install and maintain photo galleries, blog, set up shopping carts, and interact with users, without programming skills.

How difficult and expensive is all of this? Once you've determined which CMS software platform you'll be using, and which hosting plan will serve it, it may take all of an hour – if you're a neophyte at website creation – and all of $120 per year, on average, to show your work in a professional manner of your choosing, to the world. Compare that, really just the price of a host plus domain name, with the cost of hiring (and communicating with) a website developer, maintenance contracts, or that of rent–a–sites, whose initial teaser rates although comparatively low, will increase with professional needs. Beyond the CMS platform's low–cost and ease of use, the ability to update visitors contemporaneously with news and images of, directly comment upon, and interact with, your work will prevent your site from becoming "stale". Here is a summary of rent–a–site and roll–your–own site features:

Roll–Your–Own Site vs. Rent–a–Site
Feature Roll–Your–Own Site Rent–a–Site
Cost $ $ – $$$
Domain Name yes no
Total Site Control yes no
3rd Party Copyright Release no yes
Unlimited Content yes no
Photos yes yes
Video yes
?
Blog yes no
Databases yes no
E–mail yes ?
Shopping yes yes
Monetizing yes ?
Advertising no ?
Favicon yes no

 

V. FAVICONS

Ever notice those little icons located to the left of the URL in the browser address bar? Favicons are the finishing touch to a professional looking website with which your users will associate your site and its web address (or domain name).

favicon http://www.rangeoflightphotography.com

Favicons will stamp your visitors' bowser history, marking your presence uniquely amongst a sea of generic browser specific globes (Safari) or page icons (FireFox). Favicons are simple graphic images, either 16x16 or 32x32 pixels that can be quickly be created in any graphics editing software program. Here's how to make and install them:

  1. Open up any image editing program (like Photoshop) and create a unique image to be used as your site icon. It should be either in the .gif or .ico (if available) format and be no larger than 32x32 pixels. It should be as simple an image as possible, given its small size and resolution. Reducing photographs almost never works, as their tonal characteristics will create a confusing visual. Using one of your image editing program's artistic filters on a photograph may deconstruct the photo sufficiently to create something visually interesting. For successful favicons, the simpler the better, will result in a coherent icon. Save the image as either a .gif or .ico file. If the .ico format is not available, simply change the .gif suffix to .ico on your desktop. Naming it "favicon.ico" is easiest.
  2. Upload the properly suffixed favicon to the root directory of your website.
  3. Insert the following line of code within the header section (i.e., between <head> and </head>) of your site's (X)HTML pages:

      <link rel="shortcut icon" type="image/x-icon" href="http://www.yourdomain.com/favicon.ico" />

  4. Replace "yourdomain.com" with your actual domain name.
  5. Your favicon should appear in your browser's address bar and histories. If not, refresh your browser cache, confirm the path to the favicon is correct, or place the line of code in step 3 in another location within the header, to avoid conflict with other commands.

 

VI. FLASH

Flash is an animation platform available for website development. It is not universally supported and because of its resource demands, is often reviled for its slowing of websites. Its use should probably be avoided, if at all possible. With the recent introduction of some tablet devices (i.e., primarily Apple Computer) there has been re–ignition of the debate as to the use of flash based animation. Unfortunately most on–line video is also flash based and will not show up on the site if embedded. By example, if one is viewing this page on an iPad, neither the embedded video nor "book" will be available. Someday this contradiction will likely work itself out.

 

VII. BEGGAR BUTTONS

There has been a trend of late to install "donate" buttons (i.e., PayPal beggar buttons) on the bottom pages of some photographer's websites, whether or not value-added content enhances their galleries. Sometimes a plea accompanies the beggar button regarding the usefulness and upkeep costs of the site. It is my view that, for the most part, this is disingenuous, unjustified and unprofessional. No self–respecting, authentically successful artist would consider such a thing. It would better serve both the photographer and the artistic community as a whole to suggest that appreciative users support the site with the purchase of a print, book, notecard, calendar – whatever represents the artist's unique work.

 

VIII. VIDEO

Creating compelling videos and posting to YouTube or Vimeo is a great way to cross promote your website and your work on the net. Additionally, you can save bandwidth on your site's servers by embedding the video's code into your pages. This is a case where you are actually encouraged to use the remote site's bandwidth (i.e., not stealing it), as they provide you with the embed code to do so.

 

IX. BOOKS

My experience with on–line book publishers (i.e., BlurbLULU, Apple's iBook) some years heretofore, specifically in regard to fine art photography, has been less than satisfactory. When one hardcover version arrived the pages were haphazardly cut and misaligned. The clothbound cover itself was cut not much larger than the pages themselves, offering them little protection. The paper quality was, shall we say, inexpensive. But worse, attempting to match monochrome tonalities with an automated color digital printing process was an unpredictable, expensive, and ultimately impossible task. The idea of continuing to re–work the book in an attempt to get things right was unthinkable, considering the expense required and the ultimate realistic price charged for the book would be far less than the actual cost of production in any kind of multiple run. How poor quality are these books, really? Well, the only copy I ever made of one such paperback book "walked out" of the gallery where I was showing (tongue firmly planted in cheek).

Because the internet publisher is also a de facto distributor, a major obstruction to selling books is overcome. Still, I don't believe the internet printing business model is well suited, thus far, to fine art book printing. However, these books may prove valuable as marketing take–aways or bound portfolios of your work, with which to present to prospective representation. Beyond that, once developed, the book may be presented digitally on your website by using the publisher's embed code at no cost. Though not totally convinced that an e–book such as this is any more useful or compelling at showing your work than are your galleries, it is an option.

 

Apple iBooks

With the recent introduction of the iTunes Bookstore, and the new Apple Multi–Touch iBook format, I believe e-books have now achieved some distinction and many of the concerns mentioned in the previous section are now addressable within the format. Please see my article: Making an iBook.

 

X. SOCIAL MEDIA

What would the internet be without social media sites like FaceBook and Twitter? Well, by some people's standards not much, as that is pretty much all they ever see of it (we mainly call those people kids). So to reach those people and cross pollinate social and commercial venues, include news, teaser photos, and links to your professional site from your social media accounts. Reversely, AddThis can be used to install easily accessible sharing buttons to all the major social media sites on your site's pages (see very bottom of this page).

 

XI. INTERNATIONALIZATION


The world wide web being exactly that, some effort towards internationalization of your site will pay dividends in increasing its potential viewer–ship. While English is still the de facto international language, with perhaps Chinese clicking at its heels, a site's user base will increase markedly if it appears at least partly in the home user's native language. Various internationalization schemes have been developed that will allow the user to have the site appear in their own language. The choice a website platform should not preclude the option of an internationalization module, if at all possible.

 

XII. NETPROOFING

The world wide web owes much of its popularity to the inclusion of pictures. It is a fabulous way and inexpensive way for anyone to democratically disseminate information and imagery to anyone else over the entire globe. Internet imagery is plentiful, necessary, and cheap. It may be the sole way for many photographers, fine art or commercial, to show their work, if only by digital means. When a photographer posts a site on the web, any image becomes immediately available to anyone, to be used (or stolen) for any purpose they wish. This is a fact which, barring unending, successful lawsuits, is inescapable. Don't believe it? Want to fight the good fight? Just consider the eventual outcome of the recording industry and music sharing on the net. Don't want to risk theft on the net? Don't put your images up on the web. My advice is to get real, and control the extent of uses of your images as much as possible, and in good taste, from your end of things.

Only post the largest, best quality images necessary (jpegs!) to portray your work in all its glory. For most current display systems this is 72 DPI, and no larger than say 640 pixels on its longest side. This size would allow for a hardcopy digital print, at 240 DPI, of only slightly more than 2.5 X 2 inches. With the possible exception of a postage stamp, or at most a CD cover, meaningful theft is reduced to images purely for electronic display. At the horizon, the new high resolution retina displays (i.e., Apple Computer) threaten the potential ultimate duplication of an image to "useful" sizes. Place copyright notices on your site's pages, so that it is clear to visitors that you are professional and your work is protected by copyright law. By the way, the copyright notice at the bottom of my web pages comprises everything on my site, including the text you are now reading. Embedding meta-data containing copyrights within the 1's and 0's of the digital file is of little practical use, once the image has been registered. So called right–click download prevention schemes are, alas, far from foolproof on all computer systems and web browsers, and easily subverted by screen dumps in any case.

I am not a proponent of placing a "copyrighted by..." notice on the image itself, as I feel this disrupts and cheapens the sanctity of the image. What is the point in putting up images of perfectly composed, tonally exquisite fine art prints – or more properly, the images of such – and covering them with textual warnings? Besides, the text may be easily clipped from the image, adding insult to injury, further misrepresenting the original image maker's composition. Banner style digital watermarking diagonally traversing the whole image, even though dimmed or semi–transparent, seems to violate the spirit of an image entirely. Personally, a feeling of unwarranted entitlement and manifest insecurity accompanies the author of any image "protected" in this manner.

Hot–linking, the ability for other sites to link to your images and videos, allows your work to be displayed on those sites, often uncredited. It is a kind of theft, in that your work is used without your permission and your bandwidth is being stolen. Unless some specific reason exists, hot–linking should be disabled through your website's software options.

Still, theft happens. What to do about it?

  • Be flattered that someone thought enough of your image to steal it! I'm not kidding. Get real. Forget it, Jake. It's the web. (apologies to Robert Towne, Chinatown)
  • Hope (pray?) that the transgressor is a solvent corporation with offices in, or shares copyright relationships with, the United States. You get to sue them for copyright infringement, collect statutory damages and attorneys fees, and retire from your worthless day job! You did register your images before putting them up on the web – right?

Of course, meaningful internet theft – the kind that results in monetary damages – is largely reduced to secondary image licensing and royalties for classic silver and alternative printers, whose primary unique, hand-made, artworks are only derivable directly from the artist.

Admittedly, netproofing turns out to be quite an optimistic term for this advice. Do what you reasonably can, stay real, and have a beer.

 

- Top of Page -

留言 (0)

无留言

加入留言:

名称:
电邮:
网站:
输入验证码: Code


订阅留言 RSS Feed

Random Images