Thursday, October 18, 2007

Photographer Websites

I was having a conversation with a photo editor at a very large magazine last night and she made a comment that I feel compelled to share. I was helping her track down a particular photographer in Montana and when she went to his website she remarked, "Great, another flash site." She then went on to complain about what a pain flash sites are and how she wished photographers would stick with html. She added that she's tired of photographers showing off fancy websites but the photos are weak. Keep in mind this is an international consumer magazine that works 100% with freelancers. They know this business inside and out. A few years back when I was a corporate photographer we routinely hired freelancers. If they didn't have a website we wouldn't hire them. If their website was a flash site, we couldn't view it because of our corporate firewalls, hence we wouldn't hire them. A recent study was conducted through ASMP where editors and art directors were polled on promotional items and websites. The majority said they didn't like flash sites. This is something to keep in mind for anyone in the process of building a website. Think about your audience and what they may be able to view or have the time to view. Remember it's about your photos, now about your web design skills.

13 comments:

Camden Hardy said...

"She added that she's tired of photographers showing off fancy websites but the photos are weak."
So a not-so-fancy website with weak photos is acceptable? The photos on a site are either good or their not. The web page they're displayed on is nothing more than a form of presentation, which can either enhance or detract from the images. So why does it matter if Flash is used?

Obviously, you don't want to distract from the photos with an overly-elaborate website, but it's just as easy to go overboard with html as with Flash.

Flash compatibility has always been an issue in the web design business. That's why I absolutely would not make Flash sites for myself or my clients until recently. However, Flash is so common these days (look at YouTube, for example) that it's no longer a problem. If you've bought a computer in the last 2-3 years I can tell you with 99% certainty that it already had the Flash plugin installed. Not to mention, most browsers these will download and install the plugin for you if it's not already there.

A quick look at Swanee's website shows that roughly 1 of every 4 of her clients has a Flash-based site.

In the past, ruling out a photographer because their site uses Flash has been fairly common. But to say that's an issue any more, in my opinion, seems somewhat misinformed; otherwise, why would so many successful photographers use Flash?

Kelly Gorham said...

Here's the way I look at it:

If I earn my income shooting for magazines and photo editors at magazines don't like flash...then I don't use flash. Simple as that. That's pretty much a summary of the editorial and commercial side of the industry. It's all about them and what they want. Or, at least, this is how I've managed to earn a paycheck for 15 years.

"So a not-so-fancy website with weak photos is acceptable?"
Weak photos are never acceptable.

You are absolutely right that an html site can be overdone. I really think her point was that they have difficulty viewing some flash sites, and from the surveys apparently they're not the only ones, and that they can be slow.

The problem with flash isn't the computer, it's the corporate firewalls. I work with some art directors that due to security, simply can't open flash sites. They can't view YouTube either.

"A quick look at Swanee's website shows that roughly 1 of every 4 of her clients has a Flash-based site."
Swanee also said in her lecture that she didn't like flash sites. She also says this in her book, page 29.

"But to say that's an issue any more, in my opinion, seems somewhat misinformed; otherwise, why would so many successful photographers use Flash?"

How is it misinformed when an editor says she doesn't like flash sites? She has a right to her opinion.

I know many photographers that have dumped their flash sites and gone back to html for these reasons exactly. If you look at the industry blogs, EP, ASMP, NPPA, you'll see much of the same. There are a lot of successful photographers that aren't designing their own sites so they don't understand the issues. If they have plenty of work coming in through reps and other sources, it may take a while to realize the issues with the website.

Here's my question:

Do you feel designing with flash is so important to your photography that you're willing to gamble loosing assignments because of it? I am certain problems with flash and firewall will be resolved in the near future, but what I'm hearing from the people that matter to my income is that it isn't there yet.

zallen said...

Can anyone give an example of an over-the-top flash website, or an over the top html website.
Kelly, is your website what a photo editor would be looking for?
If a photographer designed their own website is their creative intent is less important than the opinion of some photo editor?

adam c said...

I don't think one general rule can apply to everyone. I see Kelly's point in reference to landing jobs, the ASMP, etc. On the other hand, I can't see myself being involved/reliant on the ASMP or trying to land freelance jobs ever in my future.

(I'm not being vein and saying that I'm going to make a living with fine art work right out of the gate--but I know how to do things besides photography and art.
I'm not trying to make a living with photography in that way, and that's my choice.) Cater to your audience--who or whatever that is.

I am about to re-launch my new website that uses Flash technology. I love how it looks and how it functions. It is perfectly suitable for all my intents and purposes--it might not be right for everyone's work or aspirations, but it works for me.

adam c said...

And,

I think this is a worthwhile discussion, because Flash is the only kind of website software that is taught in our department.

Kelly Gorham said...

Zach and Adam have made very appropriate comments.

If you're going to work as a photographer and depend on art directors and editors for every ounce of your income, as I do, then you do whatever is easiest for them.

The editor's opinion isn't necessarily more important than my creative intent. What is important is that editors can view my photos easily and quickly. I want the assignments and the money that comes with them. If they can't view my site because of design issues then I can't get work.

That being said...Adam makes an excellent point. If you're choosing to earn your money another way then design your website however you want. It's fine as long as you know your audience can view the site.

That's really the only point I was trying to make in the original post. Design for your audience, but make sure you know the technical capabilities of your audience.

Kelly Gorham said...

To address Zach's comment:

I won't show sites that I think are over-the-top because I don't want to get sued for slander, but I will show you the site that spurred this whole conversation. It's like many of the flash driven sites I see...takes too long to load. Really strong photographer, however. The magazine was going to contact him based on my recommendation because they couldn't view his website.

www.davidmarxphotography.com

Camden Hardy said...

"How is it misinformed when an editor says she doesn't like flash sites? She has a right to her opinion."
She absolutely does. Her opinion is just as valid as anyone else's (and let's face it: if she's putting food on your table, don't use Flash!) But the reasons stated for not liking Flash sites are what I was referring to as misinformed. Compatibility has quickly become a non-issue in recent years. If the site takes too long to load, that's the web designer's fault, not Flash in general. That said, I think concluding that all Flash sites are slow is a bit of a leap.

"Do you feel designing with flash is so important to your photography that you're willing to gamble loosing assignments because of it?"
My feelings toward Flash are fairly neutral at this point. I used to be very strongly against Flash for the reasons you originally mentioned, but things have changed.

Adam did a good job clarifying where I was going with my comment. I'm not at all disputing that you want to cater to editors if that's your target audience. But Flash can be an appropriate choice for some.

M. Thompson said...

... it's took my high speed internet, and new iMac about 60 seconds to load www.davidmarxphotography.com... that's ridiculous.

Kelly Gorham said...

My point exactly.

Jackson said...

After reading though all the comments, it left me with my own questions, like is this editor computer illiterate, is their network staff incapable, are they the only ones who have problems, etc. I'm not attacking this editor or their company, Im just questioning details.
I started looking at the sites of Photographers I have bookmarked, this website, www.marchesiphoto.com, is of a friend of mine who is all freelance and is hired by editors and random clients. Now if he an make a living getting hired from his site, which is using flash, does this mean that all editors or companies are incapable of viewing or have qualms with flash. Maybe having a unviewable website policy is going to hurt them. Just food for thought.

Jackson said...

One other thing to add is that I have seen sites before that upon opening you can choose HTML or Flash.

Camden Hardy said...

"One other thing to add is that I have seen sites before that upon opening you can choose HTML or Flash."
From a web design standpoint, I recommend against this. Having both as options means twice as much work to get the site built, twice as much work to update it later, and there's a good chance you'll have inconsistencies in content between the 2.