Common Cents
June 2009

by Mark Loundy

"Our Fortune rolls, as from a smooth Descent,

And, from the first Impression, takes the Bent"

— John Dryden, Absalom and Achitophel

The first thing you want to do with a potential customer is piss them off. At least that's the philosophy some photographers follow on their Web sites.

The folks at PhotoShelter surveyed more than 500 commercial and editorial image buyers and found out what they really want (and don't want) from a photog's Web site.


• Mandatory Flash intros

• Sites that take longer than 15 seconds to load

• Images that are too small

• Images that are too big

• Inconsistent navigation


• Thumbnail navigation

• Unobtrusive (or no) watermarks

• Neutral-colored backgrounds

• Keyword searchability

• Keep e-mail and phone number always visible

The report also talks about on-site purchasing, music, low-res downloads for comps and much more.

My personal pet peeves are sites that force a busy editor through a linear slideshow to see a portfolio. You've gotta have the abovementioned thumbnails.

The best news is that 60 percent of buyers expect their purchasing budgets to increase or remain level in 2009.

You can download the entire report for free from PhotoShelter.

They say that you only get one chance at a first impression. Wasting it with an ill-conceived Web site is not the way to compete in today's market.


• J Group Photo and Picture Jobs (PJs) Network, which is looking for an experienced documentary photographer to donate their skills to the Peace Corps Fellows program. It doesn't pay, but if it fits into your personal business plan, it's a heck of a good cause.


• The Washington, D.C., client looking for both photography and make-up services in exchange for the ever-popular "exposure."

• The organizer for the self-described "multi-ethnic, pagan, gay wedding," who was offering $180 for photo services. Thus proving that no group has a monopoly on stinginess.


• The USC Law School for their all-rights, etc., etc. contract. But, hey, what would you expect from a bunch of proto-lawyers? A grad student probably wrote this one.

Please let me know of any particularly good, bad or ugly dealings that you have had with clients recently. I will use the client's name, but I won't use your name if you don't want me to. Anonymous submissions will not be considered. Please include contact information for yourself and for the client.


• Schmap Guides is trolling for free photos again. Their infamous "one of your photos has been short-listed for inclusion …" e-mails have been popping up in many photographers' in-boxes. The Schmap guides are actually pretty cool. When I installed the guide for San Jose, Calif., on my computer, it noted that a limited number of images were included with the application and it invited me to download the rest of them. When I did, 2,073 images poured into the mapplication — all of them obtained for free from photographers promised high-quality "exposure" with links from their images in the map to the photographer's sites on Flickr.

• Freelancer Mason Hipp has broken it right down. The feast and famine cycle – doing it all yourself, balancing work and life, etc. – we all know the list. But Sean not only raises our collective consciousness, he has suggestions on how to face these challenges in a piece he wrote for Freelance Folder.


Photoshelter Survey

Why Freelancing is Freakin' Hard

NPPA Independent Photographers Toolkit

Advertising Photographers of America Business Manual

Common Cents Column On The Cost of Doing Business

Editorial Photographers

Editorial Photographers Yahoo! Group (Message Archives)

Small Business Administration

© Mark Loundy

Mark Loundy is a visual journalist, writer and media consultant based in San Jose, California.

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