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Lily Hayes's picture

Husband Seeking Advice For Wife

Hello Fstoppers!! Before I begin, I know I am breaking the cardinal rule of not overstepping my boundaries when it comes to my wife, but I am. My wife has been doing photography professionally now for about 3 years. Some of her work I think is really good, while some of it I think could us some work. I also am her second shooter when needed (I try to be the creative one but she is the boss). For the longest time I have been wanting to post on here to get some objective opinions about her work because she gets frustrated with me when I try to tell her things (I know who am I to tell someone about their work). I support her 100% in her effort to be the best photographer that she can be. We have invested a ton of money in equipment (Nikon D4, D3s, PCB Einsteins, and the list goes on). She definitely has all of the equipment necessary to be successful.

Now to the question at hand. She definitely has consistent work split between newborn, portrait, and wedding photography (all at the same time being a full-time Mom). What I would like from you fellow fstoppers is to give her your honest critique about some of her work on her website and the layout of her website at http://lilyhayesphotography.com.

Do you think she should get her website redesigned?
What do you think about her work posted on her website?
What suggestions do you have for her to improve so she can get high-end clients?

Any comments/suggestions are welcomed. The one thing we do agree on is you only get better through continued practice.

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Lily Hayes's picture

Thanks for the feedback Jerry. Definitely will take your advice and look to improve her website design. Some of you thoughts are exactly what I feel. Also didn't mean for the request to look spammy either. This is my first post hear. In the future, I will post some of her wedding sets to the actual post when looking for constructive criticism.

Some of the reason the site is a little wordy was to try to get higher up in Google searches. You gotta love Google for how they rank photography websites!!!

Lily Hayes's picture

Well this is Lily Hayes now speaking. I agree with you Jerry, recently I have toned down my saturation alot. I've had my equipment for a while now but didn't really start photographing until November of 2013 so from there everything took off. I'm still trying to figure out what works well for me but I definitely want to change my style of editing though to a more softer look so I agree. As for the site, I agree as well. I've been doing photography full time, going on two years in November. At first I wanted a cute, pretty looking site but now I want a more all white and black modern feel to attract higher end clients. Sooner than later I will put that in place but here in Texas wedding season is crazy busy in September/October so hopefully when November comes around I'll have a new look.

Patrick Hall's picture

Hey Lily's husband! I just checked out your website both through my phone and now on a desktop and I really like your work. I'm not sure if all the work on the site is strictly hers or a mixture of both of yours but either way I think it is really solid for the wedding market (I know nothing about maternity or babies).

I have a few suggestions and have broken them into headings so it's easier to read.

Pricing. The first HUGE thing I found a little off is your pricing. IMO your wife can easily afford to raise her prices quite a bit. I'm not familiar with the Dallas market but because it is a big city I think her 4 hour package with no assistant and no album could at the very least start at $1500. Most of the photographers here in Charleston have this packaged priced at around $1500 - $2200 and their work is probably in the same caliber of your wife's.

I also think you have to put some more worth and weight into your engagement and bridal sessions. Even if you want to include both in to your "LuxE" package, I don't think they should ever really be priced lower than $200-300 even in a package (maybe $350 - $400 stand alone). This would make your highest package priced at around $3500 if you wind up saying 4 hours with worth $1500 and both sessions together are worth $500 at a discount.

I know how scary it can be to raise your prices but I think your wife's work is good enough to warrant a much higher rate than what she is charging and she has an advantage in that, assuming, you have a job that pays rent/mortgage then she is a little more flexible and not completely dependent on booking. One thing you have to remember when wanting to book higher end clients is that high end brides with bigger budgets will want to spend ALL of their budget on a photographer. If their whole budget for the wedding is say $50,000 and the Knot tells them to spend 10% on their photographer, well then your wife doesn't even come close to fitting that budget. Therefore, even if her work is competitive with other high end photographers, she will appear cheap with a max package of only $1999 and therefore high end brides will consider her the budget option and no bride wants to book the budget option.

Presentation: I think Jerry is right in saying she needs to work on her presentation and website. I found it extremely confusing to see text pop up over images that were supposed to lead me to other services on her website. Also, as I got deeper into her site, it was impossible to figure out how to navigate back to other galleries without hitting the back button. I think she needs a simple site with a very clear navigation bar at the top AT ALL TIMES.

I like that she has a lot of photos on her site but I always tell everyone to really narrow down the images you present so that only your strongest images are shown. When it comes to marketing higher end brides, you need a mix of beautiful people and "normal" people but even the normal people need to be very photogenic (at least appear so in the images you use of them). The very first image on the weddings page wasn't very strong IMO compared to other images further down and this might be really harsh, but the girl with the gap in her teeth portrays someone who doesn't have money and can be off putting to a high end bride. The photos are beautiful but again I'm focusing strictly on the marketing here.

Another area that seems lacking is good reception photos. I think I only saw one back and white image from the reception and brides want to see these images too. There needs to be a good selection of first dance images, toasts, laughter, group dancing, cake cutting, party atmosphere, room ambiance, departures, etc etc. High end brides want the whole package and I feel her images focus too much on posed portraits. To be honest, most wedding photographers show their weakness with low light, well lit reception photos so if she can display awesome photos that are well executed then she can stand out among her competition (especially those who only shoot natural light and especially film where everything is B&W, grainy, and usually not very impressive).

Diversify websites: High end brides want to know that they are hiring a photographer who specializes in wedding photography. You don't have to ONLY shoot weddings, but you need to market yourself AS IF YOU DO only shoot weddings. The worst thing wedding photographers can do is have a website that has galleries for weddings but then also have galleries for swimwear, Fashion (which never looks like real fashion images), naked girls, sexy girls, cars, landscapes, personal projects, etc. All those galleries are huge turn offs for high end clients. Babies, maternity, and senior portraits are more closely related to weddings and I think it's wise to market those sessions to your past clients but in my opinion I would still separate them from your wedding only website. Weddings bring in far too much money to treat your wedding site as a one site hit all option. You might want to do something like a landing page that has 3 genre options but then when you click on weddings you are clearly in a wedding only site where you can really market that towards high end clients without them being distracted, or worse turned off, by other genres of photography.

So my suggestion is when you decided to redesign your website, it would be in your interest to actually build 2-4 different websites for each genre so that when potential clients visit one, they feel like you are 100% committed to that genre and that you are an expert in that field. Again, your wife isn't the worst offender I've seen because all her sessions are sort of related but young brides looking to book a wedding photographer still do not want to see babies, seniors, and maternity images.

I hope that helps. I know it's easy to want to hear more about lighting, composition, lens and camera choice but honestly I don't think your wife suffers in that area as she does with marketing towards higher end weddings. Another thing, you have some of the best gear you can buy so don't waste too much money investing in new cameras for a good few years. You should be able to pull off everything you want with a D4 and PCB lights.

Lily Hayes's picture

Patrick this is great feedback. We have kicked around the idea of doing exactly what you mentioned about have a landing page which distinguishes between the different types of photography and design sites dedicated to those types of photography. That should really help out with SEO as well since it will likely lead to having more pertinent content related to the particular subject of photography.

Oh buddy, you will be sleeping on the couch for the next couple of weeks most likely when your wife finds out... Best delete this thread afterwards or your sex life will be non-existant for quite a while! Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned!

Rob Mynard's picture

Hey hey

Ignoring the content the three things that stuck me straight away are
1 - when your page first opened I got a big "subscribe" banner that looked a bit like cheap spammy site. That goes away after the fist visit but it was a bad first impression.
2 - The header bar at the top of your site is huge and doesn't go away as you scroll down. This usually looks good on a big screen (like most photographers will be using) cause you've got the real estate but if your clients have a regular screen or are doing a bit of a search at work where their boss hasn't shelled out for large monitors, then 1/4 of your page if taken up with your header... I use a big header on my page as well but when you scroll it reduces for a better look. see what i mean here http://robandlizzie.com/
3 - my 3rd point is very subjective... the site looks like every other wedding photographer... White background, clean layout, logo with a flower or tree in it, etc... all i get from a cursory look is that you're a wedding photographer, i don't see any of your personality and if I'm looking to hire someone to be around me all day on my wedding day, I wanna know what kind of person they are. Now I could get into an email conversation or plan to meet up with you to see if we click but that all takes time and i'm already planning a wedding and i can see from this other guys site that they'll really "get" me...
I hope that helps a bit :-)

- Rob

Lily Hayes's picture

Thanks Rob. Your site is awesome! You definitely hit the nail on the head about personality. Your site has a ton of it. All good points you made above and definitely appreciate you taking time to give us some feedback. Right now we are in the process of splitting out her different types of photography into sub-domains (Newborn, Baby & Maternity | Engagement, Bridal, & Weddings | Lifestyle). This will allow us to focus individually on those sites specific to the type of photography and our clients needs. We still have a long road ahead to get there, but hey that is what it is all about.

Adam Sparkes's picture

I didn't all the way through Jerry's short novel there ;-), but I agree some greens are a little wild. Overall though, you guys seem very solid. Offering critique over a particular smaller set here and there might be easier to do than just taking the whole site on at once? Also, My browser keeps loading the mobile version, so it is somewhat broken for me. Best of luck!

Lily Hayes's picture

Gotta love W3TC. Sometimes it gets kinda wonky on you. We are definitely learning more and more as we continue to shoot. Photography is just one of those endeavors that you cannot stop learning (kinda like working with technology).

Graham Marley's picture

One little thing that I would provide as a tip: mind your horizon. I know we don't always get to shoot in Narnia, and sometimes your only option for background is just some greenery. Getting low with the camera, especially for full-length shots, emphasizes the subjects *against* a background, as opposed to them kind of lingering in wasted or unpleasant looking space in the foreground or somewhere in the middle. This is by no means a "rule" but one example is a shot in your portfolio of a couple up against a tree. There's a big patch of mud in the grass a few feet behind them, and it sits right in the middle of your frame, taking up a bunch of space. If you drop low to the ground, you eliminate most of it and get a better balance of place and subject. Just a thought.

Joe Watson's picture

Not gonna go into any detail as most folks have it covered, but the work struck me as being excellent and the initial doubt expressed in the first post are hopefully just down to being self critical creative (like most of us).

Maybe a little too much wording, especially on the portfolio thumbnails, those images speak for themselves :)