Email is not going to stop being a vital tool for photographers anytime soon. It's for this reason that you should be making the most of each and every one you send. If you want to stand out, get more work, and look professional when corresponding online, this article is for you.
It doesn't matter what kind of photography you do, all of us will need to use email from time to time, be it talking with clients, booking locations, or sending out invoices. While this form of communication works well for people you know, it can be rather hit and miss when you are sending out emails to strangers. I'm sure many of us have sent messages to prospective clients or customers to receive nothing in return. It's a terrible feeling not to get a reply, and while there could be many reasons why you didn't, one explanation could be how the email looked.
The important decision makers that photographers tend to try to reach via email will be swamped by literally hundreds of messages each and every day. If you are lucky enough that your email is read, then you need to make the content count. You probably have just seconds to pique someone's interest, and it's for this reason that whatever message you want to give out needs to be in the body of the email itself. Words alone just don't cut it in the visual world, and you can't always rely on URLs, buttons, or attachments being acted upon. This leaves us with the only option of including images in the email itself, and it's surprising how few photographers actually do this. If you have something relevant for a particular person then, by all means, include that picture in the body of the email. Personally, I think a better approach is to take advantage of the email signature to create something that can summarize what you do each and every time you send a message.
I've had the same email signature format on my commercial emails for over 10 years now. The idea behind it is loosely based on a passport photo strip, but instead of having four similar pictures, I created a montage of my work instead. This collection of pictures sums up my work in a concise way and hopefully helps the reader of my emails to understand or be reminded of the kinds of photography I do.
Creating and Installing an Email signature
I'm not going to go into too much depth regarding the creating of the actual image for your signature, but the main thing to remember is that the final flattened image needs to be fairly small and optimized for the web. In my case, my montage picture is 580 px by 153 px and comes in at a modest 239 KB in size. While we don't want the readers of our emails to require a magnifying glass to see our work, we also don't want the image to dominate the message or more importantly, take forever to load up. I experimented with image size for a while and feel like I found a happy medium which was streamlined yet still showed enough information.
It will come as no surprise that there are many email clients out there today, and they all have different steps to install email signatures. Thankfully for us, this site has developed a comprehensive list of tutorials showing the differing steps for the majority of email clients in use today. If your particular client is not on the list, I'm sure you will still be able to work it out. In a nutshell, after logging into our emails, we navigate to "Settings," where we should find a "Signatures" option. From there, it's a matter of dropping in the HTML code into the "Code" section and hitting "Save."
The HTML Code
The code I use for my email signature isn't anything fancy, but does the trick and has worked without fail for many years.
You will obviously need to change a few parts of the code to tailor it especially for you. The first part which needs altering is where it says "YOUR_URL." Change this to the destination you would like users to be directed to if they click on the picture itself. Next, the image you want to use will need to be hosted online somewhere, and it's this image's URL address which you will need to use in place of "YOUR_URL/IMAGE_FILE.png" in the code. The alt tag, which is used when the image doesn't load, is an equally important part of the code, so make sure you change where it says "YOUR_ALT_TEXT" with something suitable. Personally, I have this alt text as my domain name, so if the recipient can't see my image they will be greeted with my website address instead.
The example code above shows how to include just an image into your email signature. For those who would like to add text, then I highly recommend looking at this tutorial, which explains the process really well.
A Note on Hotlinking Your Image
For those that don't know, hotlinking is displaying an image online by linking to the original website that is hosting the file. If you have the URL address for an image, you can use said picture in an email signature. It goes without saying that I would not advise you use any picture which is not your own, and hotlinking off someone else's website could give you a headache too. If a website you are linking to decides to block your link, delete your file, or change the destination of their files, then your beloved email signature will stop working. For these reasons, I would suggest you store the file you intend to use on your own website, where you can keep complete control of it. The great thing about hosting your own file for your signature is that it makes it so much easier to change it when you want to. Instead of needing to change the HTML code on your various devices, all you need to do is just replace the file you are currently using with a different version with the same file name, and everything will be updated automatically. From time to time, I will swap out one of the pictures on my image montage, and I'm sure you will do the same. If you're the kind of person that likes to celebrate the holidays, then you can easily do this by swapping the picture. Just be sure to change it back once the festivities are over. I can also see this changeability being useful for photographers that may want to include a promotional offer in their email signature for a limited time. The beauty of hotlinking to a file is that the recipient will only ever see the current version uploaded. This is really handy, as it stops clients or customers from looking back at old emails and seeing something which is out of date.
So there you have it, how you can change your boring emails to something more interesting. Hopefully, this will help you to stand out and get you more replies when you are sending emails to people you don't know. What I like about this concept is that it takes minimal work to do, and once it's up and running, you never have to worry about it again. If your response rate for emails is not where you want it to be, then the humble email signature could be just what you need.
Over to You
What do you think of using an email signature in this way? Do you already have one? We'd love to see what you have and your thoughts on the topic in the comments below.
Lead image by Valentin Antonucci via Pexels, used under Creative Commons.