5 tips to better SEO for photographers

July 23rd, 2014

5 tips to better SEO for photographers

5 tips to better SEO for photographers

Marketing and finding new leads is something I have heard almost every photographer I speak to moan about. It’s so hard. I can’t get found online. Marketing is too expensive. I have no money. And the list goes on and on.

Well, if you have no money and you have no clients, then you need to start doing something about it. Complaining is not one of those things. In fact, are you really running a business? You need both to be “in-business” – just a personal thought here.

Part of the problem today, everyone is a photographer, including you. Yes, you! I know, I know, we all started somewhere, but you more than likely started without a real business plan. Most of us started with a camera and a dream. Well, now, you are realizing there is more to being a photographer than just running around taking pictures. We need capital, for equipment, for marketing, and the host of other business expenses required to run one.

However, there is hope. The one thing we do have that’s worth something…. Time! When I was starting out, I didn’t have much, but I had time. I call this sweat equity. You have to be willing to invest your personal time into your new business. If you now find yourself making yet another excuse, ie – “I don’t have time.” Just… stop reading. If all you want to do is be a photographer and nothing else that is required to run a business, well, then I hate to be Captain Obvious here, you don’t have a business and you never will.

Ok, if you are still with me, here are some tips to getting your website found online and ideas to help you start generating new leads for your business with little to no cost required other than your time. We get 3-5 leads per week via Google search results. We are in the top 3 on page 1 as of this writing. So, follow along and get your business on the fast track to getting found online.

SEO, search engine optimization, is something I have heard many photographers claim they can’t figure out. And I will be the first to admit it. The rules of the game are always changing. For almost 2 years, my business, Salvatore Cincotta Photography, was number one and two on page 1 for Google search results when searching for st louis wedding photography. Then, recently, Google changed the rules, which they often do, and I dropped to 5 and 6 on page one. I was in good shape, but seemingly overnight, my ranking dropped.

My point, this is not something you do once and done. It’s something you have to nurture over and over. You need a strategy. And since you have time, there is no reason for not doing it.

Here are some simple tips and tricks you can use to get your site on the right path to being ranked in your local market and generating FREE leads for your business.

Define your master keyword list.
How do you want to be found? For me, based on some conversations with brides, I defined my keywords as “st louis wedding photography” and “st louis wedding photographer“. Now you might be thinking to yourself, “what if I want to be found for babies, weddings, seniors, etc?” Well, you have quite the challenge ahead of you. It is much easier to get your site ranked on single set of keywords vs trying to optimize your site for everything. I chose to focus on my primary niche and the results show.

Keep it fresh.
Google is going to judge you for relevancy. Meaning, how often are you posting? If you are posting once per month or less than that, you are going to have some trouble. You site will start to look stale to Google and with that, any ranking you have, will start to slip. Trust me, I understand, we all get busy and sometimes there is just nothing to write about.

Here is something you can do. Put together a social media to-do list. And work it 30-60 days out. Come up with topics or posts to publish at least once per week. Some can be just pictures and talking about the shoot, while other posts can be more about ideas for selecting the perfect dress or the perfect pair of shoes, etc. Not only does this help you with Google, but it also helps establish yourself as an expert in your local market and can drive traffic and exposure to your site from potential clients.

Create a Google+ account.
Yep. I found out here recently that this has become very important in ranking your site and presenting the results on the search results page. For example, if someone is following you or your business on Google+ the results when they search are more likely to show your results because of the connection. In fact, it goes another step further. You will show up in the results of people who follow anyone who has +1 your content. This is a two for one deal with this little tip.

Now, this power tied to Google+ should be of no surprise to anyone since this is their platform, but apparently, the goal is to provide more personalized results that are seemingly more relevant.

Unlike Facebook and Twitter, which block Google from accessing their data, Google+ makes that data available for search engine ranking purposes. So, create content, and share it via Google+. It will make a big difference.

Don’t over-stuff.
Keyword stuffing has been a trick used in one form or fashion since the beginning of SEO. However, with every new technique to hack the search engines comes the countermeasures to prevent them from being hacked.

Overusing your keywords on any given page on your site will undoubtedly get you black listed. There is a delicate balance between legit copy on your site and over-using your keywords. The key here is to ensure you are writing real paragraphs and providing real content to your readers all while not overusing your keywords.

Work hard to ensure you are creating valuable content for your readers and the ranking results will follow. If you create content for the sole purpose of getting ranked, that’s usually where you get into trouble. Remember, when it comes to SEO, it’s not a sprint. There is no silver bullet. It’s a slow and methodical marathon.

Be responsive.
If you don’t know what it means to have a responsive site, you are already behind the proverbial 8-ball. Today’s clients are surfing via a plethora of devices and increasingly, those devices are mobile. In the past, developers would create multiple sites depending on where the client was coming from. Google has openly stated, that responsive web design is a best practice and they are building this into their ranking algorithm.

Why does Google care about this? Content that lives on a single website with a single code base is easier to share, engage with, and index than a site that is spread across multiple domains, etc.

So, what is a responsive web site? It’s a web design approach that creates an optimal viewing experience regardless of what device you are on. The site and code are intelligent enough to know you are on a tablet or an iPhone and adjust your viewing experience accordingly. This is the future.

Internally, we are in the process of converting all our sites to responsive sites. I can tell you one thing, its not cheap.

I hope this article has been helpful and has given you some ideas for your own SEO strategy.

~Sal

 

 

Prague Portfolio Shoot

July 22nd, 2014

As many of you know, we are in Prague, teaching and shooting for my portfolio. It’s been amazing so far and just wanted to share some of the images we have had the opportunity to produce and some of the behind the scenes.

We got to work with the beautiful Stana who is from the Czech and calls this beautiful place home.

From my perspective, shooting in a new location, whether it be your own city, a part of town you have never been to before, another country, or just dropping a pin on a map somewhere is a great place to get out of your comfort zone and push yourself to see differently.

So, funny thing about Prague. Tourists are EVERYWHERE! Yes, I realize the irony of it all. I am a tourist, as well. However, when trying to make a unique photograph in a city with wall to wall people on vacation, it’s not always easy to get to the shot.

The staircase shot was extremely difficult. Especially now that the location is being turned into a museum and they are restricting access. We were chased off within 10min. Prague Portfolio Shoot

Hope you enjoy! Get out there and try something new and make your own amazing images!

Gear used.

Phase One IQ250
Schneider Lenses
Profoto B1
Reflector

Click to view larger image.

Prague Portfolio Shoot

Prague Portfolio Shoot

Prague Portfolio Shoot

Prague Portfolio Shoot

Prague Portfolio Shoot

Prague Portfolio Shoot

Prague Portfolio Shoot

Prague Portfolio Shoot

Prague Portfolio Shoot

Prague Portfolio Shoot

Prague Portfolio Shoot

Prague Portfolio Shoot

Want to create a portfolio site? Check out Squarespace!

July 18th, 2014

Want to create an amazing portfolio site to showcase your photography?  Squarespace was built with the professional photographer in mind.   Each design has been carefully considered and crafted to make your photos look spectacular on any device.  Whether you shoot landscapes, people, food, or weddings, Squarespace is chosen by some of the world’s most talented photographers.

Squarespace also allows you to showcase your work with multiple presentations including full-screen, slideshows, lightbox, and more.  You can upload high-res images and set a focal point; and they will automatically create perfectly-cropped versions for every device.  From Twitter and Instagram to Flickr and Smugmug, their seamless social integrations let you connect with your audience everywhere. Download the free Squarespace Portfolio app for iPad and iPhone so you can take your photos anywhere – no internet connection needed.  Last but not least, their award winning customer service. Everyone on Squarespace’ Customer Care team is an experienced Squarespace user and works in their office, nothing is ever outsourced.  See the video below for more on what Squarespace is all about, and click here for more info at Squarespace.com/shutter

London Photoshoot

July 16th, 2014

London Photoshoot
As many of you who have been following us already know, we are traveling to Europe this summer to teach and rebuild our portfolio. No easy task I might add. As photographers, we are all a little guilty of getting comfortable from time to time and that, over time, will lead to average, boring, stagnant shots. And that will ultimately lead to the demise of any business. After 8 years of being a “professional”, I felt like it was time to get uncomfortable and rebuild my portfolio.

My goal this trip is to think differently about the way I see things. This includes posing, lighting, composition, etc. Maybe not a complete throw away of everything I know, but definitely working towards something cleaner and tighter with my work and portfolio.

London was the first stop on our trip and we had this gorgeous location picked out for the shoot. We found a lavender field about an hour outside of London. As you will soon read, this was about the only thing that went right for this shoot. When it’s all said and done, I hope you will agree that regardless of what was happening around us, a great team will hold it together and still execute on the task at hand. I was definitely very proud of my team this day and their ability to keep it together in the face of pure and utter chaos.

Lesson 1 – a car is not truly rented until you are driving away with it.

With the lavender fields an hour away, we obviously needed a rental car. So, like we do when we travel, we went to the web and rented a van from Enterprise Rent-a-Car in London. The location on the web site that showed the van being available was about 45 min away on the tube. That was the only location showing availability. So, we planned accordingly and scheduled it for a noon pickup. Goal was to be wheels up by 1pm.

My team, Laurin and Alissa, went to pick up the van while we prepped gear at the apartment. Upon arriving, they were informed that they did not have a van for us, but could offer us two cars for full price on both cars totaling 3x the cost of the van. And oh by the way, it was at a location 30min away that they expected us to pay cab fare for. Wow! You read that right, according to the manager there was nothing he could do about price. Nothing he could do about the fact that his web site shows it available. Nothing he could do about the inconvenience. In fact, the conversation took a turn for the absolute stupid when he told us he tried calling to let us know they didn’t they didn’t have the van. We pushed back and said, “we do not have a message or missed call from them”… his response, “well, that because we can not call international numbers as company policy.”

Wait! What!? So, you didn’t try and call, yet you just told me you did. You just made us come out here and now you want us to pay 3x the price? I lost my mind with him on the phone and the absolute absurdity of the situation. Shortly thereafter, he agreed to transport the team to the other location to pick up the 2 cars because there were no vans available.

Once we arrived at the new location, magically, there was now a van available. Hmm. Weird. It was now 1:30pm and the team was still an hour away from the apartment where everyone was waiting to get picked up.

Lesson 2 – no matter how well you plan, allow for more time

With the rental car debacle, we had now lost almost 2 hours of travel time – this was just to pick up the van. We still had about an hour to travel to the fields. This didn’t include traffic, getting lost, etc.

We really did think we had allowed for plenty of time, but in hindsight, we could have used more. There are certain things you just can’t plan for and the rental car process was one of them.

At this point, the team, including myself, was so frustrated and on edge you could see this shoot just falling apart by the second. We all pulled together and said – deep breaths, we have a car, let’s focus, get out there and do what we do. And with that, we were loaded and on the road.

Within minutes of getting on the road, boom, London traffic. The gps was now showing over an hour to arrive at the fields. And of course, the route we were on was all single lane roads. There was no making up time.

As we got within a few miles of the location, we had a navigational snafu. Here is the conversation. Alissa, co-pilot, “turn right here.” Me, driving, gets into turning lane at full speed, “here?” Alissa, “no!” I swerve back into left lane, screams from the back of van as someone had already jumped along side of us in my blind spot. We have now entered the intersection with a concrete center divider, so I now swerve into the right lane going the wrong way into oncoming traffic. We clip the concrete divider and blow out a tire.

So, now, just miles from the location, we were stuck on the side of the road. Time was quickly running out. We had to be there by 4pm and it was now 430pm.

Lesson 3 – the original solution may not be a solution at all

With a flat tire on the side of the road, we had limited options. First, we thought, let’s get down and dirty and just change this bad boy. So, we emptied the back of the van only to realize there was no spare tire. Ok, next plan.

Google “gas stations” and then run over there to pick up a can of fix-a-flat. Turns out closest gas station was about 2.5 miles away. Even running, we would not make it there and back in time.

Ok next plan call road side assistance for the rental car company. Soonest they could be out there was Monday. Today was Sunday. Just awesome.

Ok, next plan. Call taxi. Within 10min the cab had arrived and off to gas station we went. Apparently, fix-a-flat is not standard at the 3 gas stations where we stopped.

Ok, next plan. Have cab pick up entire team and take them to the lavender fields.

He would have to make two trips for everyone and the gear, but after $100 in cab fare and another hour, we were finally there! It was now 530 and the location was officially closed.

Lesson 4 – no matter how defeated you feel, keep your head in the game

The people at the lavender field were so friendly and understanding, they allowed us in and let us shoot. They could not believe the sequence of events or what we had to do to get there.

At this point, emotions were running high. The last thing I, personally, wanted to do was shoot, but we had invested a lot to get to this moment. Not only didn’t I want to shoot, but I didn’t want to quit on my team. That’s what I love about being part of a team – it’s that pressure to not let down those around you that keeps you going when you really want to give up.

It was no one’s fault. It was merely a series of events that just kept compounding on one another. I had to take about 5 min to walk it off and regroup.

Lesson 5 – let the results speak for themselves

With my head back in the game and the sun setting fast, it was time to get to work. Like most things in life, I always try to find something positive that we can learn from, but this was a doozie. The key take away for me was the power of “team”. Without my team on this shoot, helping me deal with the chaos, I am not sure we would have gotten anything this day.

Ultimately, with anything you are working on, there is always the potential for something to go wrong. This holds true for weddings, portraits, etc. Just be ready and surround yourself with good people so you can focus on the task at hand… getting the shot!

To see some of the behind the scenes shots of the day, check out our feed on www.instagram.com/salcincotta

Enjoy.
London Photoshoot
Camera // Phase One IQ250
Lens // Schneider 55mm
Exposure // ISO 200 1/180s f5
Lighting // Natural light and reflector

London Photoshoot
Camera // Phase One IQ250
Lens // Schneider 55mm
Exposure // ISO 200 1/320s f5
Lighting // Natural light and reflector

London Photoshoot
Camera // Phase One IQ250
Lens // Schneider 55mm
Exposure // ISO 200 1/640s f5
Lighting // Natural light and reflector


London Photoshoot
Camera // Phase One IQ250
Lens // Schneider 55mm
Exposure // ISO 200 1/125s f16
Lighting // Natural light and reflector

London Photoshoot
Camera // Phase One IQ250
Lens // Schneider 28mm
Exposure // ISO 400 1/250s f16
Lighting // Natural light

Now, if you hung around long enough to make it down here… I thank you! Here are some long exposure I made while in London as well. These are of the Tower Bridge in London and are among some of my first long exposures.

London Photoshoot
Camera // Phase One IQ250
Lens // Schneider 55mm
Exposure // ISO 800 f14 4minutes
Lighting // Natural light
Filter // Lee Filters Big Stopper

London Photoshoot
Camera // Phase One IQ250
Lens // Schneider 28mm
Exposure // ISO 100 f22 30seconds
Lighting // Natural light

Color Space Part 2 : Getting Control With Your Color

July 1st, 2014

Color Space Part 2 : Getting Control With Your Color

Color Space Part 2 : Getting Control With Your Color 

Now that you have tested the waters with color space, hopefully you have had some success. In last month’s article, “Color Space and Your Photography,” I discussed how to get control back into your workflow using different color spaces. By expanding on this, creating custom camera profiles and calibrating your monitor can get your images displayed the way you want. Seeing the difference in your color photography is a huge step you can take to be ahead of the curve. As we all know, separating yourself from the competition is crucial. Before we jump into specifics, I want to start by checking your camera settings and getting you on track before shooting. Then onto creating custom profiles for your camera and computer monitor.

For a custom workflow in color photography, you need to get away from using auto white balance in-camera and in post-production. The camera manufacturers claim that their sensors can accurately balance a multitude of lighting conditions; although this is correct the majority of the time, it creates inconsistency and wasted time editing. For example, if you are shooting in low light or with an incandescent light source, the auto white balance tends to cast a color across the image to adjust for it. You might have also used the preset options, including incandescent, fluorescent, daylight, flash, shade, cloudy, etc., but these are approximations of color temperature, and don’t accurately balance the light.

Want to read this photography training article? Log in and launch this free photography training magazine // July 2014 issue or create a free account by clicking here.

Let’s Go With GoPro Part 2 : So You Have a GoPro. Now What?

July 1st, 2014

Let’s Go With GoPro Part 2 : So You Have a GoPro. Now What?

Let’s Go With GoPro Part 2 : So You Have a GoPro. Now What?

What has changed since you bought your GoPro? Maybe it’s still in the box, or perhaps you haven’t purchased it yet. Some of you are using it for fun—good for you! This article is all about how I’ve used the GoPro in the past month on shoots for clients. I’ll also show how you can avoid all my mistakes and implement Switzerfilm’s GoPro success strategies to make better films and more money.

Why should you spend more of your hard-earned money for this fad of a camera? You already have a camera (or four) plus your 1080p iPhone. But the GoPro is not just another camera. It’s the most versatile, fun OMG tool to hit the video world in years. Just like you have a monopod and a track and stabilization device, the GoPro allows you maximum flexibility for your films. It’s your one tool in the bag that just flat out works in those situations when nothing else can do the job.

Want to read this photography training article? Log in and launch this free photography training magazine // July 2014 issue or create a free account by clicking here.

5 reasons you should specialize

July 1st, 2014

5 reasons you should specialize

5 reasons you should specialize

When I first fell in love with photography, I shot everything and anything. I was going to countless workshops and soaking everything up that I could. I was in my learning phase, and I really didn’t know what I wanted to shoot. Looking back, I really don’t think I even knew who I was as a creative. I distinctly remember getting an inquiry for a family session, and I was so excited. My son Roman was only six months old, and I had only just started to charge for my photography services.

I showed up to the family session that wasn’t just one family but an extended family as well. I immediately felt outside my comfort zone, and knew I was in over my head. Kids were running everywhere, no one was listening and I was just trying to get a couple of shots that they would love. I left that day knowing that I didn’t want to do family sessions. Weddings are what I knew and what I felt comfortable controlling. They were not completely overwhelming, and I felt like I had more control. For five years, I had exclusively shot weddings and engagements. Although I exclusively marketed myself for weddings, I still had inquiries for families, seniors, etc., but due to my schedule, I turned everything else away. Specializing allowed me to brand myself and become known for shooting weddings relatively fast in my market.

Want to read this photography training article? Log in and launch this free photography training magazine // July 2014 issue or create a free account by clicking here.

Hiring Second Shooters

July 1st, 2014

Hiring Second Shooters

Hiring Second Shooters

More and more wedding photographers are hiring second shooters for the wedding day, with so many couples now requesting this “extra coverage.” Two wedding photographers means more images and angles to choose from.

There are plenty of things you need to consider when hiring a second shooter. These include knowing the difference between an employee and an independent contractor, second shooter contracts and handling income tax, including the requirements for issuing Form 1099s.

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H.E.A.L.T.H.Y. Elements of a Healthy Business

July 1st, 2014

H.E.A.L.T.H.Y. Elements of a Healthy Business

H.E.A.L.T.H.Y. Elements of a Healthy Business

Being healthy plays an important role in how things happen in our lives, both in business and personally. Let’s go through the word healthy together with an acronym I came up with.

Habits

The habits we develop play a key role in our performance, both in business and life. We form habits around what and when we eat and drink, when or if we exercise, what we do in our free time, how we run our businesses and so much more. When it comes to forming or breaking routines we’ve put in place, we have to look at the “habit loop,” according to the author of The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg. Duhigg explains that habits are made up of cues (or reminders), the behavior (action) and then the reward (or benefit), and understanding this “loop” is the key to breaking bad habits. We have to remove the cue or understand and change the reward, and the reward is usually a result of the way we think or feel.

Want to read this photography training article? Log in and launch this free photography training magazine // July 2014 issue or create a free account by clicking here.