As a freelance web developer, I’ve set up a lot of websites for clients and the images and content always seem to be an afterthought. Eager to get started, the clients often want me to create the whole website and leave empty boxes for them to fill in later with their own studio photos.
I always urge them to rethink this strategy because I think it makes their website less effective. Pictures tell half the story! If I have the client’s pictures from the outset, I can weave them into the design of the website and use fewer words.
In this day of short attention spans and mobile browsing, the fewer words we need to communicate our ideas, the better!
Maybe you’re getting ready to build a website or do a website makeover. Please, put some effort into collecting great pictures before you get started. You don’t have to have all of them right from the start, but the more you have, the easier it will be to make an effective design.
Studio Photos Checklist
I’m getting ready to design a site for a local teacher, so I took the opportunity to put together this list of photos to gather before getting started. They’re not all “necessary” shots, just ideas to help her photographer get a good variety to use throughout the website:
- Head Shots
- Other teachers
- Studio staff
- Featured students
- Studio pets!
- Action shots
- Teachers teaching
- Students learning
- Students/teachers playing their instruments
- Activities away from the instrument
- Group games
- View from the road
- Teaching rooms
- Waiting room
- Music library
- Welcome packet or brochure
- Nearby amenities (parks, coffee shops, playgrounds – anywhere waiting families might entertain themselves)
- Recital group shots
- Recital individual shots
- Community events your studio participates in
- Elements (these make great background photos!)
- Close-ups of unique studio features
- Close-ups of instruments
- Teaching supplies
- Curriculum (A picture of the curriculum you use communicates valuable information to prospective students without words!)
Do I need a pro photographer?
A professional photographer will probably capture shots that an untrained iPhone photographer won’t see, but if you’re on a limited budget, a friend with a good eye and a decent cell phone camera will get you off to a fine start.
- Capture the same subject from a variety of perspectives (close-up/far away) and angles.
- Place the subject off-center. There are artistic reasons for making the subject of the photo off-center and, from a practical web design standpoint, it allows you to use the picture in the background and place text over the area that’s not the main focus of the image.
- Read photography blogs for more tips on how to take great pictures with your camera or phone!
Accuracy or Aspiration?
There are two philosophies here. You can use pictures to 1) show what your studio currently is or 2) show what you want your studio to become. I recommend a blending of the two.
If your studio is primarily focused on teaching young kids, your website photos should primarily feature young kids.
If you want to start a group class for teens, however, I would suggest getting a group of teens together for a sample class and photo shoot. Just don’t dominate the website with pictures of teens if they only represent a small portion of your studio.
Nothing is more disappointing than expecting one thing based on a business’s website pictures and then being greeted by something entirely different when you arrive. (Has anyone else noticed that auto shops are notoriously guilty of this???)
So go, tidy up your studio (you’ll feel better afterward, I promise!), and take some pictures! Make those websites come alive with images that tell the story of your studio! I’d love to see links to your studio website in the comments below!