Open letter to wedding photographers about their websites

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Dear wedding photographers,

I think you're swell but, as a whole, your websites suck.

First of all, turn the freaking music off.

Seriously.

I'm probably looking at your site at work and it's hard to find the off button and I probably don't like the music you picked nor do I care since I didn't come to you for music.

Don't do it — you're going to get a potential client in trouble!

Secondly, it should not take 100 years for your site or gallery to load. The best way to ensure this is to NOT USE FLASH! And while we're on the subject of the gallery, how to move from one picture to another should be obvious to my grandmother and I should be able to peruse the thumbnails.

I should also be able to use the keyboard or the scroller on my mouse to move through the pictures (which is another reason NOT TO USE FLASH!)

Also, I'm pretty sure 75% of you all have the exact same Flash site re-branded. Stop it. Want something inexpensive? Try WordPress with a custom template design. [Editor's note: or even just a good pre-made theme.] And do NOT have your gallery or site pop-up! EVER!

Thirdly, don't have your blog header take up the entire screen. I get confused and think there are no posts or something. And if you don't have a blog with most of your current wedding previews, make one.

Fourthly, tell me how much you cost. I don't care if you do “custom” packages, tell me how much your typical package is and what it includes.

Fifth, I'm probably going to post the photos on facebook. If you have a problem with this, the best way to handle it is to give me lo-res versions of all pictures with your watermark. Then everyone is happy.

Lastly, tell me WHERE YOU LIVE. I totally get that you want to travel and stuff but I'm not looking to pay for that so make it really obvious where you live and shoot weddings generally. Don't make me look up your area code on google. Instead how about say “Chicago Wedding Photographer” instead of just “Wedding Photographer.”

Seriously I love you guys, but weddings are stressful and photography is expensive, so make it a bit easier on us! True I'm already married and had an awesome photographer (with a great website!) but since I have three good friends getting married next year, I now have to look at all the sites again… and it's annoying. It is also true that I develop web sites for a living and am probably more critical than most… but really, I'm trying to help!

Sincerely,
Becca

Comments on Open letter to wedding photographers about their websites

  1. Amen!

    I agree to all of the above ESPECIALLY the telling me where you live part. That is so important and I can’t figure out for the life of me why photographers don’t have that clearly stated.

  2. I had a photographer friend at one point who switched her page to flash mainly because she was frustrated at seeing people stealing her images using that handy right-click – save feature. Sadly, the thing that frustrates us the most is a result of a few people taking images without permission.

    That being said, dear god, I hate flash sites. I’ve just started browsing for photographers, and when the flash doesn’t work sometimes, I don’t know enough to try workarounds like I can with HTML.

    • You can disable right clicking through HTML (I think? It might be Javascript…). People can still get around it, but it does make it much harder!

    • You know, I do understand this issue. I think there are ways to use Flash sparingly so that it isn’t super annoying but you can stop the right click issue. (You can do it with HTML but you can also get around it). That being said, someone could always take a screen shot even with an image displayed with Flash.

      Also, someone else brought up the iPhone issue (which is annoying in itself – why should we all hurt because of Steve Job’s vendetta with Adobe?? but I digress …) so I think it’s likely a lot of sites will be moving away from Flash.

    • Flash isn’t the culprit. It’s poor design that is the issue.
      Flash is not inherently slow. People doing dumb things with flash, or programming it poorly, is what makes it slow. All of the complaints about ‘Flash’ are really just complaints about bad design and user interface. An HTML site can be just as slow and badly designed as a Flash one. (it’s just more prevalent with Flash because it’s easier to get all ‘wiz-bang’)

      • I agree with you to a point, but as a longtime Flash-hater, I gotta say that a Flash site ain’t never going to load on an iPhone, and unless you’re smart, ain’t never gonna allow linking to specific internal pages.

        • Actually, you can internally link. And make the back button work. And even get indexed on google. It takes programming skills, knowledge, and time (of which I only have 1.. hehe) but it can be done.

          Yeah, Flash is too powerful for Jobs to allow it on the iPhone. (it would take revenue away from people buying apps if they could get the same functionality for free from Flash/AIR programs) I will give you that…. unless of course, people stop buying a web device that can’t see a huge portion of the web. 😉 hehe

      • Flash is still notoriously poor for SEO, despite the majority of problems that stem from bad design. It’ll just never be as good as a CSS, HTML or other non-image-embedded site, even with as many meta tags and whatnot as you want to stick in there. There are workarounds, but that’s all they are…

  3. I work in the tech industry, and I have to say that, in trying to plan my wedding, it’s been frustrating to deal with badly built websites. This is not just limited to photographers though! I’ve had the same issue with venues, caterers, etc. Maybe I am missing out on things that might be great, but I live and die by the internet and if your website doesn’t function well, you don’t respond to emails, or your prices aren’t listed online, I don’t want you to be involved in my wedding.

    My own “gripe” to add to the list is “If you ask me what my contact preference is, PLEASE PAY ATTENTION”. I am at work 10-11 hours a day and cannot pick up my phone. However, I am plugged into a computer and constantly check my email. If I ask you to email me, I mean it! I hate talking on the phone. I will not have time or energy to return your phone call, so it’s your loss if you refuse to email me back!

    • Oooh, yes on the phone thing. I had a few vendors (not photographers, fortunately) who INSISTED on using a phone and not email, and they got narrowed off of my list. I work during regular business hours, plus I volunteer and am involved with a bunch of other stuff, and did most of my wedding contacting either at 7am or at 10pm (it’s also when I do my wedding-blog-surfing!). I DON’T HAVE TIME TO CHAT ON THE PHONE.

      I can’t help but think it’s a holdover from the days when women didn’t hold full time jobs – being married was their full time job. But … seriously, that was 50 years ago.

    • I couldn’t agree more about the contact preference. If you are going to contact me however YOU feel like it, don’t ask for my preference! Drive me nuts.

      I also couldn’t agree more with the comment about poor websites. We planned our wedding from out of town, and if you didn’t have a website, or had a website with no information, you were out, because I live on the internet, and if you as a vendor were going to be a good fit for us, you had to be technologically up to date, especially because we couldn’t just pop in for a meeting after work one night. Sadly, so many aren’t.

    • Seconded. SO MUCH. And to those who don’t ask about my contact preference? Maybe they should start. I’m almost never without email for more than a couple hours, and I’m terrible at phones. I get nervy, forget questions, have to ask people to repeat themselves, etc.

      One of the reasons (not the only one by far, but) that I custom ordered my dress without setting foot in a single bridal store? I couldn’t get up the nerve to call for an appt, they all required them, and not a single one of the local ones had a contact form/email on their web site. So I started looking at custom options, just for fun and ideas, since I had plenty of time, and found something I loved.

  4. YES!!! Thank you for this. When looking for a wedding photographer I was able to find ONE who listed prices. I figure if your price isn’t listed, that means I can’t afford you (same for apartments, if any are out there reading this). I wasn’t blown away by that one photographer’s portfolio so I had a good friend take the pictures at our wedding. She did a lovely job and I certainly saved money but I probably WOULD have spent the money on a professional if I could find one with a good website.

  5. ha! this is really wonderful – i think these are the exact thoughts i had (in the exact order, even) when i started looking at wedding photography. i kept *wanting* to be excited and do tons of photo-stalking, but i couldn’t bring myself to.

    as someone mentioned, lots of folks/vendors have bad websites, which is a shame, but i get it. the thing is that people are automatically going to be more critical of the design when looking at a photographer’s site, as it is (fairly or not) a way to see their aesthetic.

  6. I would like to add “Quit resizing my browser window!” I understand that some websites look better at a certain size, but in these days of tabbed browsing, highjacking my window is annoying.

  7. Package price was the first thing I checked when I went onto a photographer’s website for the first time, every time. There’s no sense in me falling in love with the style of a certain photographer who I will discover after an e-mail conversation is far out of my price range. It won’t make me revise my photography budget, it will just make me sad 🙁

    • “It won’t make me revise my photography budget, it will just make me sad 🙁 ”

      Yes, THIS. Exactly. I get the sense that some photographers hope you will “change your mind” and adjust your budget when you see the beauuuutiful pictures…not gonna happen. Even if the pics are super-beautiful. A Ferrari is a super-beautiful car (IMO), but no matter how much you try to sell it to me, it will Never be in my budget so don’t waste my time!

  8. Great post! I definitely agree with the whole music thing; not only is it annoying, but a lot of the times, it’s STEALING!

    Regarding listing prices, I currently list my half- and whole-day starting prices, though I’ve been considering listing my packages on the site. I agree with Shari about wanting couples to contact us, but at the same time when I planned my own wedding, I didn’t contact anyone who didn’t have any kind of pricing on their websites. I enjoyed having prices listed (photo packages/menus/etc), though in the end I just contacted the people I knew (nice planning a wedding in your small hometown).

  9. I hang my head in generic flash based template web site shame. no one spends any time on my website hardly at all, and my blog gets all the traffic. I officially feel so behind the times and am not sure what to do about it as the evil flash based website template providers own my url. I have all this advertising etc. attached to this url, so it’s complicated.

    This is actually something I’ve been mulling over for a longtime: how do I change my website so that it’s more user friendly.

    Any other tips that ya’ll wanna give out are most welcome.

    • Can you transfer the URL registration to another provider? (It might be that you’re on a contract for a certain amount – when that contract comes up, you *should* be able to transfer it elsewhere.)

      I just had a look at the site itself, and then main annoyance for me is that it loads directly into your wedding portfolio. I think it might be better to have it load into an “about me” kind of page – not necessarily the whole bio that you have on the “information” tab, but may just a “Hi! My name is Lauren! I take wedding and engagement photographs and creative portraits in the *fill in the blank* area!”

    • Yeah, this is definitely a larger issue. It’s part of why the suggestion to go for a WordPress-based site is so smart — WordPress is a blogging AND a website content management platform, so you can have your blog and your portfolio in one place. All without flash.

      • Wahoo!! we just made our site a “blog site” and are super stoked about it! we’re still working out the last of the kinks and plan to launch totally on monday. but yeah, these were all things that annoyed us both (steph for OBM and me for Hi-Fi Weddings) when we have to search for content. i’s great to hear everyone’s thoughts on this! i’ll be thrilled when these cookie cutter flash sites are a thing of the past! thanks for sharing such a great article! becca, you know i love your wedding 😉 xoxox

      • I cannot sing the praises of WordPress enough. Seriously, even if you don’t know much about websites, you can use WordPress to do pretty much anything. And there’s so many photo templates!!!

    • i’ve been tirelessly building a flash website, only to have it not work (and we’re even paying for it!) so this really helped me too! now i will just finish building my non-flash and leave it at that!

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