Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Addios 4x6 prints

I spent 23 years in the photofinishing business. Since our clientele was primarily professionals, we called the 3x5 or 4x6 prints “proofs.” That was really just a subtle hint that we didn’t consider a little piece of paper a suitable end to the art of photography.

We knew that 95% of all photographs would end up as 4x6 prints in a drawer. This was never a particularly satisfying thought. Figuring out what to do with all those little prints has been an ongoing challenge ever since George Eastman began cranking them out in 1893. By that time photography had been around for nearly 60 years, but Eastman’s Kodak Company opened photography up to everybody, and opened the floodgates on all these little pieces of paper.

Now in the age of digital photography we have a lot more choices. We are no longer bound to the tradition of the little paper print. We can share photos on web sites, email them to anybody who might be interested, display them as wall size works of art, or wrap them around our cars. As a lover of books, I have been challenging myself with book projects that were not feasible even a couple of years ago. Anybody with a good eye and a little cash can publish a coffee table photography book. I see specialized books of photography as a coming market for commercial photography.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Photos on your web site

In this era of electronic communication, it is easy to forget that it is still about relationships. We want to feel connected to others. The amazing success of sites like LinkedIn, MySpace, and Facebook attest to this fact. When we deal with another company via the internet we still strive for some sort of personal connection.

I recently chose a vender for a project that could be handled by a specialty company thousands of miles away. A Google search revealed several choices, but I ultimately choice the company which posted photos and a short biography of each of their staff. The bios included e-mail addresses and a direct phone number so I knew I could contact anybody in the company. I also knew their job title and their background experience. When someone from the company called me with a question, I called up their photo page and felt like I could make a personal connection. I did not even consider any company that did not provide a phone number or a street address on the first page of their web site.

We are in a very visually oriented culture. Pictures are essential to an effective web site. Photographs should be high quality and attention getting. Additionally, many people are sophisticated enough to recognize stock photos, so actual photos of your business and your people are important – even if you don’t look like the models in the stock images.

I quick survey of web sites shows that very few are using photos effectively. I believe the front page of your web site should feature a high quality photo of your product, facility, people, or maybe the president or key spokesperson. Somebody unfamiliar with your business should be able to glance at the opening page of your site and immediately know what you do without reading a lengthy description.

If you have a “photo” page on your web site, you will find that that is the page most viewers click on first. They want to see what your product looks like, what your office looks like, and if you are the product, they want to see what you look like. A model holding a “black box” is passé.
It has been said that “A picture is worth a thousand words.” But the right picture, in the right place, and the right size could be worth thousands, if not, tens of thousands of dollars to your business.

Beautiful photos grab eyeballs and bring people back, but too many or too large of files will cause the site to load slowly. If it takes more for than a few seconds for your site to load, people will just exit out and move on. For that reason photographs should be optimized for fast loading and tested with various interconnect speeds.

Make it a habit of walking into your business every morning like you are just walking in the door for the first time. You will see all kinds of things you never saw before that every customer immediately sees. Then click on your web page, or better yet, do a search for your company and see it with new eyes like a potential customer would. Is it visually appealing, can you figure out what your company does, can you find out somebody’s name or what they look like? You might be amazed.