Sunday, December 27, 2009

Website Presence and Design

The freelance industry, for those semi-pros and beginners the industry has taken a nose dive. The economy has hurt so many photographers. I have heard of many photographers closing shop and packing their cameras away.

Typically the first of the year is slower; people have spent money at Christmas and are not looking to have photography done. This year however, work is literally non-existent. I have a few small side jobs, but not what I normally produce by the middle of May. It is frustrating and depressing all at the same time.

What to do? Spending money on advertising can’t happen; relying on Craigslist, word of mouth, random people browsing your website is all you have. Making sure your website is updated with all the latest info and photos is a must. Having a well designed website is also EXTREMELY important.
When I first started my business, I could not afford to pay someone to design a website. So using my basic skills with Photoshop, trying to understand what HTML was difficult to say the least. In 2000 this was not as well known by the masses that now have a myspace page etc. I spent an entire weekend and following week trying to learn HTML, playing with codes, words and images.

I developed by business name (with the help of a friend) purchased my website address, and sat at my computer for hours, stressing, chain smoking. Literally pulling my hair out to try and understand what specific codes did, how to make an image clickable. Mind you again this was 2000, very little info could be found and understanding the jargon was difficult.

Since that time, I have re-vamped, continued learning, continued to change my website look and feel numerous times. Moving to California, I knew I needed to step up my site and my game. I needed to try and stand out as much as possible from the others. In 2004, I received my first version of Dreamweaver. Opening this program was overwhelming. I had no clue. I spent weeks using the tutorials, with trial and error, and researching how to use this complex program, that I felt was written in Chinese.

For the next two years, Developing not only my website, but a friends, I had learned enough to get in trouble (as my mom would say). I had an understanding of how to create a site from scratch and make it a workable website.

Nothing fancy, but clean, eye-catching and usable. Once I had Dreamweaver understood, then it was on to Flash. I’m still learning.

Up until recently, I used a flash slide show that a friend had developed for me. It works but it was time consuming and no matter what I tried, I could not get the images that big. I wanted my art big, something that filled the screen and stood out.

About 8 months ago, I began researching the internet and looking at various photography sites. I had found many that I had like. I thought they were clean, simple yet effective. I began to notice a pattern, while each site essentially looked different, they worked the same. I had discovered LiveBooks; a company that developed websites for photographers. Gorgeous. I love this site; it had everything I was looking for in a website. It was clean, had large images that filled the screen, had music, flash, and was easy for someone to understand that was visiting the site.

Then I looked at the price. OUCH!

My dad has always told me I had a Cadillac ass and VW budget (when VW’s were inexpensive). I wanted this service but I could not afford it. So what do I do? The top price package, which gives you everything you would want, unlimited room, space and images, was over $3000.

I didn’t have that, let alone the time to save the money. I wanted to change my site but have more control of design and change of design. (I tend to change around my site once or twice a year.) I needed the flexibility and control of how my world was run. I needed something in my price range.
Having a better knowledge and understanding of HTML, CSS and some flash, I researched online and found a couple of programs/software that would work. The program I found only cost me $80. A one time charge. I self installed and have now a program that is very close to LiveBooks, but will allow me to build the page around their programming. If you are interested, please visit the site below.
Since beginning to learn basic webdesign, I now have designed online shops, informative websites and expanded my knowledge in what I believe the world is becoming an online based business driven industry.

What’s the first thing you do, when looking for information? Google it? Search for it online? Or do you go to the library? Last time I stepped into a library to use for research was at least 7 years ago and even then I believe it was for an assignment I was covering at the newspaper.

If you do not have a website yet, get one. It is vital to any photographer today looking to display work, drive business.

If you need hosting, I recommend 1&1, I have used their service for the last 3 years and found them to be the most affordable and offer the most space and capabilities. Click the image link below for more information.

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