An About page is a must-have. Keep it accessible, interesting and easy to read. If your potential client feels comfortable with you as a person you are still in the race for the job. Don’t blow that by making the big About page mistakes.
Most photographers dread having to put their About page together. Not only do you have to go all metaphysical (Who are you? Really) but you have to do it in writing. Short or long text? Funny, factual or inspirational? First or third person voice? Modest or self-confident? Headshot or not? It makes editing your own images almost pleasurable.
Yet the About page plays a crucial role on a photographer’s website and by understanding why you need to put yourself through this torture you will find the writing gets a lot easier.
Our clients – be they photo editors, marketing managers or art directors – have a problem to solve: getting the images they need. If they can’t come up with some great images to show their boss their project falls flat and they could loose their job. The problem is no one has found a way to preview images that haven’t yet been shot. Photo editors are gamblers at heart.
The foremost goal of a photographer’s portfolio website is to reassure the potential client that he or she is a safe bet and can be counted on to produce the goods. The portfolio’s role is to display photographic abilities. The website’s overall feel needs to establish professionalism. The About page’s purpose is to give a sense of the photographer as a person. Yes, the Contact page is there to list your phone number.
An infinite number of things can hurt an assignment. One of them is the photographer’s character, ability to get along with the subject and assistants, behavior, professionalism. In short, while it’s true that your personality alone can’t make a shoot successful, it can definitely ruin it. The About page serves to reassure the client that this photographer will be a good person to work with.
Gotta have one
In that respect it is an essential part of your website and one that many visitors will be looking for sometimes as the first point of study – who is this photographer? – before even looking at the portfolio. So, just as you can’t do without a Contact page, you need an About page. Keep the link easy to find as a top-level navigation menu item. Don’t call it Info or hide it in a drop-down menu. If you have a one-page website and no menu make sure the About section isn’t buried too far down and that a simple exploratory scroll down finds it.
Bio pic or not?
The fact is people judge other people by their appearance. If you can come up with a good, smily picture of yourself that makes you look friendly and interesting then by all means include it. But if you don’t have one that you like or just hate the sight of yourself, don’t feel bad about leaving it out. Most people “look” fine, i.e. it is rare for someone to “look” difficult to work with, and most clients know that so it isn’t a key reassuring factor anyway. You would have to have a pretty outlandish appearance to scare off a potential client. Of course he or she could be particularly prejudiced against certain visible features, which no doubt happens but there is little you can do about it. The sum up: including a friendly picture will help, not having a picture won’t hurt you.
A second reason to include an image is that photography is a personal activity and your website should reflect that. Only you can produce your images. Your business – your photography – wouldn’t be yours anymore if someone else pressed the shutter. A picture underlines that personal dimension and “puts a face” on your pitch.
Chose a good photograph of yourself and I don’t mean one that makes you look cute but one that is actually good photography. This is a chance for you to demonstrate that you understand photography. You may or may not have taken the picture yourself but if you can’t recognize a good photograph then how can you be trusted to take good ones?
Avoid the me-and-my-camera shot. Whether you took it (in a mirror) or not, you don’t need to be holding the tool of your trade. Would a plumber pose holding a wrench? It comes across as revealing either a need to assert your identity as a photographer or an unfounded pride in your gear, something amateurs may feel, not a pro like you. The worst type of photographer’s portrait is the selfie taken in a mirror with the camera, typically held in the vertical position, covering half the photographer’s face. Not only is the face half hidden, the camera becomes the co-star of the shot.
Keep the text short and informative
Online attention spans are notoriously short and, I don’t care who you are, 2,000 words are not necessary to get a sense of who you are. What is interesting is your background, where you are from, who you work with, what you prefer to photograph, anything defines you today. Anything that makes you stand out from the crowd is also worth including.
Conversely, avoid clichés. If you started photographing at 12 when your father gave you a Brownie “and never looked back since” please keep it to yourself. And keep to the point. Your religious beliefs – as important as their are to you – are not relevant to your abilities as a photographer.
A “welcome to my website” or “thank you for visiting my website” is not necessary. Visitors are already there and they want to get going. They know that you want them to read your About text, look at the portfolio and hire you. A website should offer content not packaging.
A client list is helpful if your list is impressive. A client list is about name-dropping and nothing else. Keppel it short and spectacular.
First or third person voice?
Up to you. Both are acceptable. Just a few years back I would have recommended using a third person voice to avoid the self-centered sounding “I do this, I am that…”. But the explosion of social media has changed all that. “I” is no longer self-centered. It’s “authentic” and expected. So much so that “he” or “she” may come off as a little pretentious if it sounds like you are talking about yourself in the third person. The safe and effective third person voice text would be authored – and signed – by someone else whose opinion enjoys legitimacy by virtue of their position in the photography business.
Avoid the lyricism but stay friendly
Leave out anything that sounds lofty and pretentious. Real life example: “With perceptive attention to detail, I strive to make beautiful, impactful images and provide attentive client service”. Your images will say everything about your photographic eye but your opinion of your images interests no one. The potential client will judge your work for him/herself thank you very much.
Remember that the point of the page is to establish that you are a good person to work with. A light and friendly tone helps but authenticity matters. You probably are fun to spend time with – photographers are cool – convey that in a natural way.