Going a bit Google

Question: When is a wedding photographer not a wedding photographer?

Answer: Apparently when they say they’re a commercial photographer, a press photographer, an architectural photographer, a spoon, a pomegranate. Whatever their keywords and web blurbs say they are that week.

You may sense from this post that I’m a little fed up. Maybe I am. Maybe I’m frustrated at the number of new clients telling me they were looking for a commercial, press or PR photographer (in other words, a photographer with the requisite experience for the work they’re looking to get done) but had to wade through pages and pages of Google search results of wedding photographer sites to get to mine. I’m not half as frustrated as those clients are, but I feel their pain.

Google is a great tool, but it becomes pointless if businesses pretend to do what they don’t, and try to attract visitors who will rarely convert into clients, and who will probably regret it if they do.

I know some wedding photographers can take good corporate, commercial and maybe even decent press photos, and they’ll have galleries on their sites to prove it, but most only ever do weddings. On the rare occasion they get near a corporate shoot, it often ends up looking like a wedding in an office.

So why do photographers pretend to do something they don’t and mostly can’t do? Perhaps they think clients are stupid and won’t know the difference, or they think that since they mainly work weekends it might be nice to pick up the extra work in the week. They clearly also believe that once you have a camera, you can tackle absolutely any photographic assignment. Regardless of the actual kit, experience and skills required.

wedding photo for press article

In my defence, this was shot for a feature on eco-friendly weddings.

So off they go with their keyword blunderbuss, kerblamming their site with keywords that have only a tenuous connection to what they actually do.

I don’t list weddings as one of my skills. I don’t put “wedding” in my keywords. Neither do I put “puppies”, “Bat (or Bar) Mizvahs” or “christenings” in there. Why? Because I don’t do them. Just like I don’t do plumbing, antique restoration or brain surgery. Why compete with people who already know what they’re doing and have the workflow, supply chain, mental skills and experience to do those jobs?

Recently I added my details, with keyword tags, to a local creative forum website. Within a week, a wedding photographer had done a copy and paste of my keywords, then added “wedding” to the end. A look at his website showed no sign of all the disciplines he’d listed, except weddings. He’s clearly on a fishing trip for extra work, but his entry, like a blunt pencil, is now largely pointless.

If anyone needs to do a web search for a photographer to take pictures for commercial publication, they will have to be sure to type “-wedding” (thus removing any site ranked using that word) into the search box in order to get more relevant results, which seems a bore. But if these jack-of-all-photography types are going to insist on using keywords like a drunk uses expletives, it may be the only solution.

I could strike back by adding all the weddingy keywords to my site, but there’s no point in that. Did I mention I don’t do weddings?

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21 comments

  • Eric Schmidt April 21, 2010   Reply →

    Guess they maybe feel that it can’t hurt to try and get some of that traffic. But yes, it doesn’t help to get someone to your site that has no intention of using your services.

    – Eric
    http://www.best-digital-photo-frames.com/

    • Glass Eye April 22, 2010   Reply →

      Hi Eric, I think the problem is it DOES hurt to try to get business that isn’t suited to the photographer. Not only does the photographer end up letting the client down, but it also gives photographers in general a bad name. Especially if we don’t value what we do enough to stick to our own specialities.

  • Chris Barton April 22, 2010   Reply →

    Re: “On the rare occasion [wedding photographers] get near a corporate shoot, it often ends up looking like a wedding in an office.”

    my favorite quote of the day!

    🙂

    • Glass Eye April 22, 2010   Reply →

      I’m glad you liked that one 🙂 I speak as one who has seen the results, so it’s a heartfelt statement.

    • Alexavia August 11, 2014   Reply →

      Okay I’m codcenvin. Let’s put it to action.

  • Chris Barton April 22, 2010   Reply →

    Interestingly we had the same problem with the categories in our ‘find a photographer’ section:

    http://www.photographersdirect.com/professionals/portfolios.asp

    Photographers can choose which categories are relevant to them, so what’s to stop them doing the same thing – just ticking every box?

    Well, our results ranking sysetm will penalise them – if you are a ‘specialist’ and only tick a few categories, you will end up higher in search results for those categories than if you are a ‘generalist’ who ticks every category. Seems to work well!

    • Glass Eye April 22, 2010   Reply →

      Funny you should mention that. I had the exact same discussion with Andy at photographers.co.uk. He’s had to bring in a similar system to cope with the “tick all” brigade. Otherwise it makes a nonsense of the search system of such sites as much as it does Google searches. Plus if people find photographers directories throwing up lots of irrelevant results, people will stop using them altogether which rather defeats the purpose.

  • pogomcl April 23, 2010   Reply →

    you just wait till a macro photog does a wedding shoot and you’ll get a the toe ring on left foot

    • Glass Eye April 23, 2010   Reply →

      I think I know what you mean! Horses for courses, isn’t it.

      • Wilma August 11, 2014   Reply →

        Ya learn soenmhitg new everyday. It’s true I guess!

  • Chris Barton April 23, 2010   Reply →

    How about a war photographer shooting a wedding?

    Stands at the door and asks:

    “Which side are you on? The bride or the groom?”

    • Glass Eye April 23, 2010   Reply →

      Haha, Chris! Have to say, I think war photographers are less likely to pose as wedding photographers. Wedding photographers listing themselves as war photographers has more obvious dangers: “Ok, just line up against this wall for the next shot…”

  • Chris Barton April 23, 2010   Reply →

    how about an infrared photographer doing a wedding? Might be quite a cool idea actually…

  • Rakesh Malik April 26, 2010   Reply →

    It’s baffling. I wouldn’t put types of photography on my site that aren’t my specialties because not only would I not be the right person for the job, I also don’t want to do them, because I don’t enjoy them.

    I guess those folks didn’t get the message — by trying to everything to everyone, they’re instead making themselves nothing for anyone.

    • Glass Eye April 26, 2010   Reply →

      At the very least, it detracts from their core skill, which can’t help their core business. Maybe this is what happens when times get tough. People do silly and desperate things!

  • Chris Barton April 26, 2010   Reply →

    Rakesh, it sounds like you are speaking from the point of view of an experienced professional. You understand the different skills and experience that are needed in different areas of photography. However, these days ‘everyone is a photographer’ and a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Non-professionals don’t understand what is really involved in different areas of photography, and therefore think that it is just like any other area they know, and thus it is easy to take on any photography job and ‘go with the flow’.

    But as they say, if you think a professional is expensive, wait until you hire an amateur…

    • Glass Eye April 26, 2010   Reply →

      Perfect example of your last sentence is the set of photos a client showed me recently. Shot at one of their sites (not in UK, and a bit far for me to travel) by someone who charged actual money to do the job, the photos were terrible. Not just not very good, but actually unusable. The client was pretty annoyed that their colleagues had wasted time, effort and money on this dross. The pics looked like the guy had literally run around the building with his finger on the button. Bad angles, bad lighting, bad choice of subject, nothing properly organised. It was a joy for me to see as it confirmed why I charge what I charge.

  • Zoe April 28, 2010   Reply →

    But you have photographed puppies before! Don’t tell porkies! 😛

    • Glass Eye April 28, 2010   Reply →

      True! But I don’t have “puppies” in my keywords. I leave those shots largely to the puppy professionals.

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