Well, for a couple of good reason, at least. One, it’s still the very first step to start gaining authority over the mass of social-network-so-called-photographers. And Two, having a website gives you total control on your media. And of course this does not apply only to automotive photographers. Let’s elaborate, shall we?
A bit of history
When we were kids (or at least, when I was) photography was not easy. You could’t change ISO, you could’t see what you were doing on a screen preview, you actually had to pay in order to see your pictures. The cameras were bloody expensive too, and now-standard features such as autofocus and high-speed burst were just for pro bodies (even more expensive). Digital photography made it way easier, we got the opportunity to learn much faster and cheaper to be a photographer. Not so good for the ones who produced or sold or developed film rolls, but hey, that’s life.
Anyway, knowing how to take a picture was not enough to make a living from it. You still had to have a marketing structure that brought your work to your potential clients. Back in the days it was mainly the photographer’s studio, or the photographic agency. Advertising your services other than locally was out of questions ($$$). Having a website was not very common, nor very useful. Then Social Networks happened.
The Social Era
Imagine you can increase your audience from a local, to a national or maybe global one. For free. Too good to be true? Actually, this was the beginning of the Social Era. Apart from stalking old schoolmates on Facebook, people started to share their picture on platforms like Flickr and, later, Instagram. Then the same people started to look for beautiful images, and the authors of the best ones started to receive visibility boosts, often worldwide spread. The forward-looking photographers took advantage of this and increase (or create from zero) their business basically at no cost. Then everybody understood the game, and tried to do the same.
Saturation and Alghoritm
It’s 2021. You want to be a photographer, an automotive photographer. You take beautiful pictures of beautiful cars, you are a master in Photoshop. All you have to do is posting your work on Instagram and wait for clients to come. Well, be prepared to wait for a long time. Why? Because there are a lot of other people just exactly like you: decent composition skill, the access to relatively cool cars, quite good skills at editing. This is what I call the Saturation. It’s like being in a mall where every shop is pretty similar to each other: in that condition getting a client is more like winning a lottery. But not a fair one, because nowadays every social network shows posts using its own Algorithm. If you are new to the game, you’ll get no visibility. If you don’t publish regularly, you’ll get no visibility. If you don’t get interactions, you’ll get no visibility. If you don’t have enough visibility, you’ll get no visibility. And how do you get that damned visibility? Easy, you have to pay for advertising. I forgot to mention it: this was for free.
So, you’re a beginner, or an established professional that can’t afford to buy for visibility… Are socials a loosing game in 2021? Is it really too late? Well, not at all. While becoming a social media star is increasingly more unlikely, you can still make good use of those greedy platforms. They are still useful to impact users that do not know you. To increase the probability of being noted, you obviously need to stand out from the crowd. There is a number of way to do that. Gain authority is certainly one of them.
You gain Authority when, apart from the facade of beautiful pictures (that a lot of people can produce), you show to the potential client that you have knowledge and skills, that you have a work method. Having a proper website can do the trick. You need to have at least an updated portfolio, the about section, and a list of previous project. A blog just like this is strongly recommended too. Invest a bit of money, avoid free hosting with embarrassing url’s and crappy non-responsive templates. It does not cost a fortune to do a good job: to give you a practical example, this space requires less than 50$ per year and a few hours of free time once in while.
Having a decent website demonstrates commitment, expertise, competence. It is still a powerful and valid mean to differentiate from your competitors. Especially from the lazy ones, those who spend their life complaining about evil algorithms (I was one of them too, you don’t have to feel too ashamed).
Having a decent website is stronger than just having different editing style, or shooting niche subjects, because it is not a matter of personal taste.
One of the other silly things that happen on social media platforms is that you don’t have full control on your stuff. I mean, you decide what to upload, and you can remove it… that’s it. They decide if what you posted is worthwhile to be showed to others (even the ones following you), how long it will be discoverable, if that respects the policy, if your account respect the policy. And most important, they can decide to change the rules anytime. A few examples? Let’s see.
You are thriving, thousands of followers, lot of organic interactions from your base. Then one beautiful day, your posts’ visibility drops: the algorithm has changed, baby.
Or maybe a “nice” guy decide to report some pictures of yours just for the sake of it. The platform suspends your account, you ask for a review. And they check, taking all the time the need. It could be an hour, or a month: sorry for your business!
Another one: you have taken your best picture ever, outstanding quality, amazing technical skills demonstration, remarkable subject, a career-defining picture. It’s even got viral, thousands of likes and comments. Wonderful. The day after, the algorithm doesn’t show it anymore, to anyone. It’s expired, buried under thousands of re-posted pictures with questionable editing.
The point is: those platforms are just hosting you, they make the rules, they apply them just like the want, and they change them. You work for them, producing content, and still they want you to pay to get the visibility.
Your website instead is your home, and nobody will put you down (just be respectful of law and pay the bills), nor exploit you. Better, isn’t it?
At the end of the day
Control and Authority are not the only reasons to open a website. There are others equally important. Like SEO, for example. Or diversifying your activities to have multiple incomes. But I’ll save those topics for other posts, sorry.
So, long story short: if you want better chance to earn something from photography take you time and open your website. It’s probably the very first step.