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The Cutting Edge

When it comes to promoting your work, your website and your portfolio are two of your most important tools. But, as a freelance, you need to keep on top of trends. While the first decade of the 21st century brought new methods of image capture, the second is bringing new delivery platforms. There are a number of web services available, offering options from DIY websites to template and bespoke services. 

Tips:

•Make your images the heroes

•Steer clear of gimmicky features, which get in the way of the work

•When branding is done well; it creates a professional look, which inspires confidence. Any elements of the photographer's brand that are not integrated will detract from this impression

•Check whether web services offer to make business cards and stationery to match your web template, to maintain your brand identity

•Keep your website portfolio ‘lean and mean’ with a selection of photos at smaller sizes than an app, so it loads quickly

•Don’t expect potential customers to download and install your app. Save it for face-to-face meetings

•Think about having an app made once you have everything else in place. The photos come first

 

Apps:

•Do you want a portfolio app that you can put on your iPad, or a bespoke one that clients can download and keep? The cost difference is big, but so is the potential reach of an app

•Make sure developers care about the details as well as functionality, and will add new features over time

•If you are technically minded, you can develop your app within HTML5 using www.appcelerator.com. Otherwise, you’ll need a third-party developer

 

Generically, we now have the digital tablet, which is light, portable, powerful, and integrated. The iPad is part of this, for which some freelances have recently launched their own portfolio apps to promote their work further.

And even though it’s unlikely that you’ll want to develop an app if you’re just starting out, you may be at a stage in your career where the financial outlay is worth making. Either way, it’s vital to explore the various web services on offer, and to make sure that your portfolio can be viewed seamlessly, across all platforms and mobile devices.

 

theimagefile

theimagefile has been helping freelances with great web sites, sales proofing, and fulfilment, along with online strategies for marketing and new business generation since 2002. Based in Chertsey, Surrey, theimagefile now hosts nearly 20 million high res images for its customers.

Says Howard Butterfield, Managing Director, “theimagefile is a leading edge company, with an old fashioned attitude to customer service, and one of the most comprehensive and easy-to-use systems for the freelance. The firmly established advantages of using the system: easily updated websites, slick ecommerce solutions, offsite backups, excellent backup and support, and the benefit of massive investment in the system to date, are complemented with new features monthly, with thoughtful and up to the minute improvements, like being made iPad friendly.

“So that orders can ultimately be fulfilled by you or any lab, you should upload your images at print resolution. theimagefile resizes to optimum web sizes for you.

“With theimagefile, you can also allow your customers to crop images on purchase, either to a fixed aspect ratio, or using free image geometry for chosen items, for example T-shirts, or digital downloads where aspect ratio is not critical.

“When asking for email addresses, you have the option to: ask only if the collection is empty, so you can set it up ready for the event and start to generate interest; ask for an address in any case, so that you can keep visitors to a collection up to date or offer subsequent offers; and to ask for addresses that are then verified against a look-up list, so that a collection can be locked down to all but chosen visitors.”

theimagefile offers packages, from entry level, which include a website and a small collection of images for sale, to the full professional package (with an affiliate discount for BFP members and f2 readers). There is no minimum or maximum contract with theimagefile, and prices start at £6 per month. Once signed up, you’ll have a half hour or so conversation with someone from theimagefile, who will go through a template showing the system to its full.

Speaking to Richard Southall of Emphasis Architectural and Interior Photography www.emphasisphotography.co.uk, who has used theimagefile for a number of years, it becomes clear that its level of telephone support is one of its distinguishing features. “The telephone support staff are really helpful”, he says, “sorting out problems in minutes, not days - unlike some other service providers.”

 

Clikpic

Clikpic www.clikpic.com  launched a major new template version last November, allowing complete control over the content and design of a site. “Many of our clients now use the templates as a starting point to create their own unique site”, says Clickpic’s Thomas Peer. “We’ve seen lots of customers adding in Facebook ‘like’ buttons, and other social media tags. This is  now much easier with our new release.

“With the range of sites available from us, and our competitors, there’s now no reason to develop your own site. You could spend £thousands, and still not achieve the level of functionality available in a £35/year hosted package. The place to spend money is on the look and feel, which a graphic designer can provide as part of a general visual identity

Morgan Silk.

Location, advertising and studio photographer Morgan Silk www.morgansilk.co.uk, who is represented by Vue, has been commissioned for campaigns with clients including Land Rover, Sony and Carling. He recently launched a personalised portfolio app for the iPad and iPhone. “Although it wasn't the first portfolio app in store”, he says, “it was the first pro photographer folio app released worldwide using Teleportfolio's development, design and code. “The exposure I have gained worldwide over the last few weeks in the App Store has been fantastic. I made it into the ‘What's Hot’ section, and seeing my app in ‘Apps of Art Lovers’, next to Ansel Adams, Monet and Van Gogh, just made me smile.

“Having your own app makes the work accessible off line. It's portable, updatable, and presents the work beautifully. It’s also very solid and doesn’t crash. “It's supplementing the existing portfolios, rather than replacing at the moment, though I'm sure the bias will shift as things develop. In fact, it could well be the future of portfolios, and one day apps may take over from websites.

“As soon as the iPad came out, my agent in the US adopted them as group portfolios, and got good responses from the off. Later, I had a client meeting where I presented a large collection of images on my laptop. I’d prepared a web gallery and thought it would make a slick enough presentation, but although the meeting went well, I found the whole experience lacking. As soon as left, I went straight out and bought an iPad.

“I’ve spent around £2000 on my app. It's made me think differently about how I present my images: I’m more aware of presenting my work in a way that doesn't detract from the images. I also noticed that the experience of using a well designed, branded app, is different to viewing a website, in that it’s more focused. “The quality of reproduction on the iPhone 4 and iPad is something people comment positively on. I don't really hear people complaining about reflectivity, as the devices are easily moved.

“Having used my app to present work alongside my print portfolio, I noticed a difference there, too. The print book is sometimes seen as more precious, and people feel obliged to slowly view the pages in a careful way, whereas the iPad is much more informal. The print book is somehow elevated, and the app is more immediate and quicker to navigate.

“Also, I couldn't realistically hand over a printed portfolio of over 250 pages, whereas it is very easy to present the same number of full screen images in the app in a very short time. So I have both.

“It's too early to tell whether it will directly contribute to sales, but I had over 4500 downloads worldwide in the first few weeks, which is really encouraging.

“An art buyer in NY said she loved the idea of this becoming popular, and of being able to collect all her favourite photographers’ apps together in one folder for presentation to clients.

“Another commented on how beautiful the work looked on the screen, and likened it to viewing transparencies on a (21st century) lightbox.

“When I field-tested my app in NY on my iPad before release, it helped me get my foot in the door with some major ad agencies. I saw at least a dozen art buyers, and it was great to see them all pick it up and immediately go through the images at their own pace, without really having to say much about how to use it.

“Also, because of the bespoke look, branding and coherent design, other creatives notice that care has been taken over the presentation. One practical advantage is that if, for instance, an art buyer anywhere in the world wants to see or present my portfolio in a meeting, they can download it and are good to go - there's no waiting for shipping out heavy folios.

“There's a novelty factor, too. Not many photographers have their own apps, as they are usually prohibitively expensive to develop. Teleportfolio has changed the game in this respect, and folio apps will probably become more commonplace in future.”

 

Teleportfolio

Teleportfolio www.teleportfolio.co.uk, run by brothers Simon Lunt and Jonathan Forster-Davies, is currently virtually unique in offering a custom-made iOS portfolio app worldwide. “It’s aimed at anyone who needs a portfolio, which covers many professions”, says Lunt, “actors, models, jewellery designers and more. We also feel that, as we develop things further and introduce the ability to add pages of copy, they will become useful for publications and books.

“We’re only developing for iOS - the operating system used by Apple mobile devices - as the vast majority of agencies and creatives use Apple products. What we’ve created is a chassis that we can 'skin' at a very competitive price. It can be easily customised to reflect brand and style, giving it the feel of a bespoke product, but we also needed it to be available for the cost of a website to make it feasible.

“Other portfolio apps available are downloaded from the app store, which you then have to populate with your content and physically go and show to the end user, but with us you get your own app that can be downloaded to an iPad, iPhone and iPod directly from the app store, putting it in the hands of potential clients worldwide.

“We also design the app to incorporate your branding, and create bespoke buttons and icons to fit with this brand, including info pop overs with direct links to your website, email or agent.

“We’re developing a content management system, that will allow the user to control their own app by adding images, descriptions, galleries and more. We aim to give the photographer as much control as possible.

“Our template starter pack costs £600 for iPad only, while the full package costs £2000, which includes a landing page, unlimited images, galleries and video, and is compatible with iPhone and iPod touch.

“Other features, such as Lightbox, are currently in development, but we haven't set the prices yet. We don't believe that charging for the app in the store is the right way to go - portfolios should reach as many people as possible, and are a tool for our clients to gain more exposure and work, like your printed portfolio, but reaching a larger audience.

“I think that tablets such as the iPad will become the portfolio of choice in the near future. They offer so much more, and are much more manageable than, a print portfolio. I don't think it's a question of if: it's when this becomes the standard way to show your work. The iPad is only just over a year old - so this is just the start. Given the positive response we’ve had so far, I’m sure that this will make a huge impact on the future of portfolios.”

 

Layerspace

“Everyone wants their website to work on an iPad or iPhone or anything mobile,” says photographer Andy Eaves www.andyeaves.com, who runs his own web design and services company Layerspace and Layersites. “But the iPad and iPhone can’t read Flash, which is why it needs a different design.

“A lot of the sites I build were in Flash, but now that’s changed, and  I only develop for Apple devices, not Android. I’ve just built a website that works on an iPad for a photographer Gary Salter www.garysalter.com, which is in HTML5 and uses bits of code that make it look like Flash, even though it isn’t. It works on an iPad and does fades, transitions and animation.

“With Layerspace, we use an auto-detection system, which we plan to develop further over the next few months, that shows a different template or design depending on what you’re using to access the site - which works very well on iPads and iPhones.

“I’ve been doing a similar sort of thing with my custom designs, using an auto-detection device which shows a different website, but using the same content, and I’m also building a Lightbox feature. “With Layerspace, the auto-detection is built in, so there’s no extra charge -  it comes as standard, whereas, for bespoke sites, I have to do more work, so I charge a bit more - about £300 as a one-off fee.

“What I’m currently advising and building is a different navigation method where the colours and the logo remain the same, but it works using swipes and a touch screen. We’re also working on allowing movies to be shown on Layerspace through the same content management system, and we’re hoping to have it ready by the end of the year. More and more clients want to be able to upload movies and have a show reel. I can see how having an app would be suitable for some people, but I doubt if people will charge for it, as it seems to be a promotional tool.”

 

Amazing Internet

Over the last year, Amazing Internet www.amazinginternet.com, has added a Pro Series to its web services. Says Marketing Manager Tom Hardy, “It’s aimed at professionals who need to upgrade from a template service or existing site, to a cutting-edge custom style site, but without the custom price tag. 

“With a full custom site, we start from scratch and build the site according to unique client requirements, whereas with the Pro Series, we’ve created designs and layouts that take the client a lot closer to the finished site much faster. With a template site, the code is shared across all similar sites, but with Pro Series it’s a unique build, so you have options that are not possible in a template build.

“Photographers such as Kate Hopewell-Smith have proved that, when you take the care and invest in a custom site, with matching brand rolled out to print, and use this in conjunction with a matching blog and links to Facebook, you can make a mark at the high end very rapidly.

“A website is still the first point of contact for many clients, and being able to rapidly get the information is vital. An iPad app meanwhile has to be downloaded from the Apple App Store, and can easily get lost in the hundreds of apps on someone's phone or iPad. Though this can be a useful tool for existing clients to see specific work, it has a very different function to a website.

“A website that works fast, is easy to navigate, and works in all browsers and all devices (especially avoiding Flash, which doesn’t work on iPad or iPhone) and which gets the viewer to stunning images in seconds, is still the best guarantee that viewers will engage with your work and pick up the phone and make contact.

“Facebook, blogging and Twitter can all complement this by driving traffic to your site. And while these are all vital, you shouldn’t forget that personal referrals still remain a tried and tested and age-old way of getting business and repeat business!”

"It's hard to see how iPad or iPhone apps would ever replace a website”, adds Amazing Internet’s Managing Director Andrew Skirrow. “There is definitely an important future for mobile and tablet devices, but while it might be a nice way to package up a presentation to show a specific client, the fact that you have to go to the App Store to get it, rather than finding it via Google, means that it could never replace a website as a promotional tool - it's just not accessible or visible enough.”

Pro Series

www.amazinginternet.com/services/proseries

Photographers using Pro Series

www.karenjulia.com

www.emotionphotography.eu

Full Custom

www.amazinginternet.com/services/custom-gallery.html

Photographers with Full Custom sites

www.xandercasey.co.uk

www.katehopewellsmith.com

www.suewestwood-ruttledge.co.uk

 

Digital Photo Gallery

Music photographer Andrew Kendall www.andrewkendall.com runs his own company, Digital Photo Gallery

www.digitalphotogallery.com using software he has written to create an online, cloud-based image management system.

Photographers sign up for an account, and then upload and securely store their images online. They can then use this pool of images to make portfolios, export images to different services, and to access files whenever they need.

“The software I’ve written is all based around HTML5”, explains Kendall. “It works on all platforms. A photographer can log in from a web interface on their desktop, from an Android device, or an iPad or iPhone. You can then create websites from templates, or customise them to create the exact design you like. You can also create HTML5 sites, which look great on a 27ins monitor, but also when viewed on an iPhone or iPad.

“I believe, strongly, more than creating apps, you should create an amazing online website portfolio - one that works seamlessly across all of the different mobile devices.

“Individuals use DPG to create their own website, such as mine - there are thousands of other photographers on the system, but also bigger clients, like Download Festival,  use it to create websites for their events.

“We ran quite a lot of websites over the summer,  and from all the statistics I’ve seen, there’s been a massive increase in traffic from people using tablets and iPhones, but still, the majority of people are using desktop machines.

“This means that, when the majority of people are looking for you, the first thing they are going to do is type your name, or the name of something you’ve shot, into Google.

“Right now, I don’t think apps will replace websites, because people are so entrenched in using Google. If someone’s going to like your pictures and send a link out, say via Twitter, they’re going to send a link to your website. If someone’s on Facebook they’re going to send a link to your website, they’re not going to send a link to your individual app.

“Creating website portfolios is something I do now, as I think it’s one of the most important things a photographer can do. However, if apps increase in importance, I’ll simply add a feature that allows you to create an app automatically.

“Whereas an app can be very beneficial as part of the things a photographer can do, they should concentrate on other things. As a photographer, the primary thing to concentrate on is the strength of your work.

“Work on taking amazing pictures. Then work on your website - creating a website portfolio is one of the most important things you can do. And your social media presence: make sure that you are sending out your links to all the right people so they can see what you’re doing.

“Having done all those things, having an app is definitely not going to be detrimental. It’s just an additional tool.”

                             f2

 

Want more? Buy the bask issue now.

This article is taken from Vol 5 No 7. THE BUSINESS 18. The Cutting Edge.

 

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