Sunday, December 21, 2008

Adding Video To Your Web Site Can Help Attract New Clients

Adding Video To Your Web Site Can Help Attract New Clients
By Tricia Gellman Holmes

In the age of the Internet, consumers expect immediate gratification, answers at the click of a button and engaging visuals to capture their attention. As a professional photographer, the demands of your potential clients are no different.

Photographers from all walks of life have been adding video components to their Web sites in an effort to attract new clients, showcase their creativity and create an emotional connection before ever speaking to or meeting with them directly. But, interestingly, only about two percent of the world's professional photographers have jumped aboard the video train.

Many of these are the photographers who are on the cutting edge or at the top of their field, and, as a result, they are leading the industry. For everyone else, this trend seems to take some consideration either because of the technical hurdles you'd have to overcome or because you might be afraid of breaking the bank.

"There are many ways to incorporate video on your Web site and you don't need the technical know-how or a big budget to accomplish this goal."

The truth is there are many ways to incorporate video on your Web site and you don't need the technical know-how or a big budget to accomplish this goal. In fact, most new computer operating systems are built to handle video capture and viewing, and if they do not also include a camera for creating the video, you can easily purchase the hardware and software you need at an affordable price. As a result, the end product can be as simplistic and homemade or as professional and flashy as you'd like it to be.

Attracting potential clients through video
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of creating a video and uploading it to your site, it's important to understand how videos can benefit your business. Photographers are using videos to explain who they are and what a potential client's experience will be like, provide a "behind-the-scenes" look at how they work, and translate their creative ideas into a visual story.

The trend toward photographers using video on their Web sites began with people putting their images to motion by creating a virtual video with audio, moving images and graphics to help tell a story. It was only logical that the wedding industry embraced this trend on the heels of the advent of sites like Video is now an influential medium for communication and consumers have grown accustomed to hitting "play" and getting all the information they need.

In today's globalized economy, people are not only searching for products local to their area, but they want the best and, if the price is right, they'll go to the other side of the country (and sometimes the world) to get it.

People are also less patient and tend to have less time, so watching three videos to see if they like a photographer instead of scheduling three meetings to evaluate their work is a value add, regardless of whether you are a bride or a busy art buyer. Videos are the perfect solution to creating that emotional connection from afar, and it's not just wedding photographers who have discovered this.

Now, more and more commercial photographers and photojournalists are realizing the benefits of using videos on their Web sites. Photojournalists are using them to help bring their stories to life and commercial photographers are using them to share their creative vision or to provide a further understanding of how they work and what makes them tick.

In fact, videos have proven particularly useful for the commercial photographers, whose job opportunities typically hinge on their ability to work well with an art director. Videos streamline the hiring process, allow art directors to determine if a photographer's style is in keeping with what they are looking for and how well their personalities and working styles might fit with the client's.

What kinds of videos are right for your business?
Much like the three uses for video I highlighted earlier, there are three different kinds of videos that tend to correspond to those purposes, and most photographers start with the easiest (and least expensive) version and work their way up the ranks.

Slide show set to music
For starters, most photographers creep into the video world by setting their still images to music and creating a slide show to help tell their story and showcase their work. This involves adding motion to the site -- while not necessarily introducing video. Examples of this kind of video, in the wedding and photojournalism industries, can be viewed on CHRIS+LYNN's Web site and the Curse of the Black Gold Web site.

[Unfortunately, QuickTime will be needed for viewing this last site. Connected Photographer doesn't recommend QuickTime for video both because you have to download the entire video to view, as compared to Flash streaming video, and because the QuickTime intall download from Apple often comes with other, less savory payloads that will install themselves onto your computer. -Ed.]

Bio videos
The next logical step is to create a video that talks about who you are as a photographer and how you prefer to work with a client. These bios, if you will, can be shot on a Web cam or any of the latest and greatest video technologies on the market, and editing isn't always necessary.

The frequency of real-time videos being posted on the Web has altered people's expectations in terms of video quality, so as long as you have good lighting and speak clearly, the outcome will likely be acceptable. In fact, an unedited video can sometimes help your personality shine through, which makes it appear more endearing and natural. An example of a commercial photographer's bio video can be viewed at on Chase Jarvis' home page.

That being said, however, it is important to note that while you can develop online videos for free or for very little money, it is essential that you always put your best face forward. There's nothing wrong with being quirky and fun, but regardless of what kind of video you choose for your site or how you create it, it's crucial that its quality reflects the brand you want to portray.

Behind the scenes
That brings me to the last style of video photographers tend to use. This is typically a behind-the-scenes look at how a photographer works with a client and what sparks his or her creative vision. It may incorporate parts of the other two videos I mentioned, but is typically longer and of higher quality, so as to present the photographer in the best light possible.

Again, you don't have to spend a lot on a project of this nature, but when photographers decide to invest in videos on their Web sites, this tends to be the product they choose. An example of one of these videos can be viewed on John Griffin's Web site, or you can see how one photographer has incorporated all three types of videos on Garret Nudd's Web site. Unfortunately, Nudd's site tends to require you to wait until everything loads to begin telling you anything, a design that's not particularly recommended.

What factors do I need to consider before starting a video project?
Once you have decided to incorporate video into your Web site, the next thing you need to do is ensure that your current site can support it and, if it can, how you want the video to be viewed.

Some Web hosting sites simply do not allow you to upload videos. If that is the case with your site, that's a deal breaker and you'll have to shop around for a new host (or just host the video portion of your site with a video-friendly service).

Similarly, you need to find out whether or not your Internet service provider (ISP) can support the bandwidth you would be using with a video and, if so, how much it will cost you each month. You want to be sure that the people who visit your site have a quality experience, so if you're hosting your site at a place that is not set up to deliver data quickly and efficiently, you may need to look into a new host or consider the alternatives.

One alternative to placing your video on your own site is hosting it for free on another Web site, such as YouTube, (now part of Photography Mentor) or You can use the embed code to put those videos right on your site, but it will have the host company's logo on it. Depending on what you are trying to achieve, having someone else's branding on your video may or may not work. Again, it all comes back to how you want to portray your brand.

Once you get past that decision, you need to determine how you want to encode the video, if you have the knowledge to do this yourself, and whether or not you want the video to be a streaming or progressive download.

The most common solution is to place your video on the host server and have it play back on the viewer's computer as the bandwidth allows. In this case, which is called a progressive download, people can pause the video to allow it to buffer, meaning that if they have a slow connection they can wait and then experience a clean playback at their leisure.

With streaming video, your video is sent to the viewer's computer only as they watch it, so if they have a slow connection it will be jumpy. This is the future of video playback but, unfortunately, for many people, this still does not deliver an acceptable experience.

The final thing to consider is what tools people will need to watch your video. You may be creating your video on a Mac, in which case it may seem to be a logical decision to post your video in QuickTime. However, you need to realize that people who are using a PC may not have a QuickTime player. What is most common and is used by the likes of YouTube is Flash video. The Flash Player is able to play back most videos and more than 98 percent of computers with Internet browsers have Flash Player installed.

You can also consider providing an embed code, which will allow people to upload your video to their own sites and blogs, and ultimately share it with others. Viral marketing is a good thing, and I would highly encourage this action.

Getting started
I understand that this is a lot of information to digest and that the process probably seems even more daunting after reading all of these options. However, it's not nearly as difficult as it seems and you can probably sort through your fears by making a quick call to a video savvy friend or your Web site provider. Many of the leading photography Web site companies can help you add video to your site without a lot of hassle or confusion.

The next step would be to review some other photographers' videos and see what the competition is up to. There are an array of photographer videos online, and they all range in length, approach, and quality. Once you've fully researched your options, you'll be well on your way to standing out in a sea of professionals and finding new clients with a greater appreciation -- and understanding -- of your work.

Product availability and resources
Visit CHRIS+LYNN's Web site.

Visit Curse of the Black Gold (QuickTime required).

Visit Chase Jarvis' home page.

Visit John Griffin's Web site.

Visit Garret Nudd's Web site.

Tricia Gellman Holmes is the vice president of marketing at liveBooks, Inc. The San Francisco-based company provides fully editable and customized Web sites and management solutions with innovative online tools to help photographers translate their work into effective, online experiences, increase their exposure and share their creative vision.

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