Episode 48 – Street Photography Website Essentials w/ Valerie Jardin

Valerie JardinSince 1998, Valérie Jardin helps clients find their creative vision through the photographic arts. Valérie is a visual storyteller recognized internationally for her street photography. She leads workshops worldwide, has written books, produces a weekly podcast called Hit The Streets and is an official X Photographer for Fujifilm USA.

WordPress/Photography Related News:

Where to find Valerie:

Transcription:

Transcription was done by Rev.com

Scott Kivowitz: Welcome to episode 48. My name is Scott Wyden Kivowitz and I'm joined by my guest Valerie Jardin. Now I want you to say your name because I can try to say it with your accent but it will come out horribly, even though I do try. I do try.

Valerie Jardin: You tried, you tried. Except, you don't pronounce the N in the end. So, that's where people always get it wrong. It's Valerie Jardin.

Scott Kivowitz: Yes, so, I love how you say it.

Valerie Jardin: Thank you.

Scott Kivowitz: I actually, so, off air, I do practice saying it. It comes out hardly, so that's why I was like, you know what? I'm gonna say it as close as I can without an accent and then let you say it so beautifully.

Valerie Jardin: Thank you.

Scott Kivowitz: You did a great job. You always do a great job, with your own name.

So, since 1998, Valerie helps clients find their creative vision through the photographic arts. She is a visual story teller, recognized internationally for her street photography. She leads workshops world-wide, has written books, produced a weekly podcast called, Hit the Streets, and is an official ex-photographer for Fuji, USA.

We've known each other for years, at this point, now. So, I was just on your show about an hour ago. So, actually, we really just finished about 10 minutes ago.

Valerie Jardin: That's right.

Scott Kivowitz: So, it's nice that we're finally connecting for each other's podcasts chatting for more than five minutes at a time.

Valerie Jardin: Absolutely. Well, thank you for having me on your show. I don't do video very often, so, woohoo. My office is kind of a mess, but that's alright.

Scott Kivowitz: Well, you know what, so is my little studio back there. So, it's all good. But it will be a nice treat for all of your podcast listeners and whoever you share this with, to be able to see you talk about things that, you know ... So, before we dive into what's going on with you, let's talk a little bit more about WordPress photography related news.

The first is, that WordPress 4.9 is here with a variety of bug fixes, like usual. It has a new gallery widget and a bunch of other things. It's not a major release, the gallery widget is a nice thing, but it's a very basic gallery feature. So, it is what it is.

Press This, which is a feature that's been in WordPress since the beginning, has been removed from the software in favor of it being a plug-in. Basically, Press This is a feature where you can add a bookmarklet to your browser. And no matter what website you're on, you can hit and it will create a blog post draft, paraphrasing with a quote from the website you're on. And, so, it wasn't a very popular feature, So it was removed from the core software in favor of a plug-in instead. So, now if you wanna use Press This, you have to install a plug-in. Big deal.

Next is, at Imagely we actually just released an article. I spent one month creating this article, on image optimization. I compared all of the most popular WordPress plug-ins for image optimization, meaning image compression and that kind of stuff. So, if you wanna read that, I'll link to that in the show notes. That is a really good comparison article that should give you an idea of what ... It'll help guide you, sort of like what we did for our page builder comparison. It'll guide you, with an unbiased view, on what image compression plug-in might be best for your photography website.

And the last bit of news, is not really WordPress related, but my family has started the adoption process for baby number two. So, if you want to follow our journey, see what we're doing, see the website I built using WordPress for it, then it's, growingfamily.org. And you'll see all about it there, also link to that, in the show notes. And if you do visit the website, thank you very much for checking it out, because we're adopting, and it's nice to share the journey, and it's nice that you might read the journey.

Okay, so, Valerie, what's going on with you? What have you been up to lately?

Valerie Jardin: Oh, boy, a lot. 2017 has been an amazing year. Lots of travel, lots of workshops, lots of personal projects as well. I wrote another book, which was published just a couple months ago. It's right here. And, yeah. But really, I would say, the highlight of my year, besides my workshop, is where I'm the happiest, is when I share my passion on the streets of the world with people from all over the world, is this project I've been working on with Joshua Coombes for Do Something for Nothing.

And we hit the streets of New York together and, for those of you who still don't know who Joshua is, he's this young, English hairstylist who cuts the hair of homeless people in large cities around the world. And we've known each other since he started the project. We finally had the chance to work together. And we're actually planning our next trip to Paris in January, where I will continue to document his work. And, we also just produced an e-book that's gonna be out soon to help fund this beautiful project.

So, that's been, really, one of the highlights. It's that project that makes you feel so good, that I know now I always wanna leave time in my busy schedule for this type of work. So, that beat everything else this year, book and everything else, exhibits or whatever else happened. This, really was, the highlight for my personal work.

Scott Kivowitz: At Photo Plus Expo, we got to sit and watch you ... Sit was nice, because there was a lot of walking that day, sit and watch you speak at the Fuji booth. And you shared a bunch of photos from that project, and they're absolutely beautiful. And they're fun to see too. You're seeing the smiles come from the faces of these homeless people. They're not smiling all the time.

Valerie Jardin: No. It's amazing how they share their story, we talk with them, we hug them, and then they leave after ... Because Josh takes his time. Some times it takes an hour, because it's more about the communication and the talking, than it is about the actual haircut. He takes his time and he gives them a really good haircut too. It's not just a buzz, it's a really stylish hair cut. And to see the spark in their eye, in the spring in their step when we part ways, compared to the way they looked sitting there, on that park bench. Or wherever we find them. So, it's a beautiful thing to experience, so I was lucky to be able to document that.

Scott Kivowitz: Fantastic. Yeah, and then you got more travels coming up?

Valerie Jardin: Yeah, it's kind of slowing down.

Scott Kivowitz: Going non-stop.

Valerie Jardin: A little bit, but I think I've been either to Paris or New York every other month this year. So, yeah, San Francisco coming up and Dallas. And then it slows down for Christmas time, usually, there's no workshop anyways. People don't do that kind of thing. So, that's my time to stop traveling for about three weeks and then Paris again in January. And a busy year, next year, again. So, it's good.

Scott Kivowitz: Nice. So, tell me a little bit about the new world-wide photo walks you're doing under your brand. Share a little but about that.

Valerie Jardin: Yeah, that just started last month and I was lucky to go to the first two world-wide photo walks. Hit the Streets with Valerie Jardin, which is my podcast. And I've always wanted to get the listeners together, because those people are in 150-some countries. And I'm sure a lot of them are in the same big cities, so why not try to get the audience to meet?

So, we started with New York. And those photo walks are free. We just limit them to a certain number of people for, obviously, so it's manageable. So, New York happened right after Photo Plus. And then, two weeks ago, I was at the first Paris Hot the Streets photo walk and, actually photographer friends came from all over Europe, which was a treat. And we had so much fun.

So, it's a social time. I mean, you know very well that it's not in a photo walk that you'll do your best work, but it's so important to hang out with other like-minded people. So, anybody who listens to the show, who enjoys it, and wants to help out, and lead a photo walk in a city near where they live or where they live, they can definitely connect with the team. I have some wonderful volunteers running things for me and helping out to make this possible.

So, the goal is, in about a year, to actually have one date for all cities. And every year, I'll go to a different city, kind of the Kelby walks. And a lot of other events like that. I mean, it's not new, but we'll still keep the separate events going, the small events, year round.

Scott Kivowitz: Great. That's awesome. Okay, so, let's talk about websites a little bit. Now, when you and I were talking, weeks ago, when we were scheduling this, that you didn't think you were gonna have much value in taking websites. So, I have some topics, tailored just for you. I think you're gonna be great at answering these. So, I'm looking forward to getting these out to all the viewers and listeners, because there's a lot of street photographers that don't get a lot of content that they can learn from about street photography. Street photography websites, I should say.

So, let's start with the absolute, most important thing that you believe every street photographer should have on their website?

Valerie Jardin: Well, first and foremost, the first thing that you should see on a website when you click on it is their work. Not their bio, not their picture, you need to be wowed. You need to want the person who looks at the website to want to dig a little deeper. And I think that needs to be either a gallery with several beautiful shots, your best shots, in the front, but it can't be so static. You need to update those often. You need to give a new experience when people come back.

So if you have just the one big picture in the homepage or if you're like me. I have a gallery that I update, regularly in the home page. Do that. Don't keep the same pictures on your home page all year. It gets boring. But you should really wanna give someone a taste of what you do and you want them to dig a little deeper into the galleries that you have on your website.

And if you do street photography, just devote your website to street photography. Don't have your wedding business on the same website or whatever else you do. Just separate them.

Scott Kivowitz: So, I'm actually ... It's interesting you brought that up. I'm a fan of actually having one website, but that's with a caveat. I believe that, for SEO purposes, is why you wanna have it on one website. However, you need to separate and segregate the content. For example, I have one website, but I teach photographers and I write and blog also, and have a portfolio for clients. So, my website, if you go to a page that's for family portraits, then you're going to see blog content recommended to you, related to family portraits. You're not gonna see photographer education there. You're gonna see families.

Then there's a lot of photographers who are doing this the right way and there's a lot who are doing it the wrong way. And I don't recommend having it on one website if you're doing it the wrong way. But, if you are doing wedding and you're doing street photography, which, oddly enough, I do see happen, that anything related to weddings should anything is street photography. Ever. It needs to be completely cutoff, even though it's on the same website.

And there are ways to do it in WordPress. There are ways to do it on other platforms, but you need to really think it out and carefully craft that.

Valerie Jardin: Yeah, because, you're some page. What's the first ... You have two different pictures. You have your street and ... But who do you want to cater to first? That's where you wanna decide. Do I cater to street photographers, who are my friends? Or do I cater to clients who are potential wedding clients.

Scott Kivowitz: So, here's my thought on that, and this is what I recommend to anybody who is considering, even if it's not street photography, if it's family portraits. And then, commercial photography, which also happens a lot. You're home page should be whatever makes the most money, right? Whatever brings in the most revenue for that business should be on the home page. Or if you can find a way to cleverly put them both there, in a nice way. Then, yes, you can do that and then lead direct people in to the right direction.

Otherwise, and this is what I do, is I have landing pages for each specific genre. And that way, the landing pages are actually optimized for search engines for those genres of photography. And that way, if somebody is searching and they're searching for a family portrait photographer, there not gonna land on my home page. They're gonna land directly on the landing page designed for that.

Valerie Jardin: Oh, okay. That's the way to do it then. That's clever.

Scott Kivowitz: Yeah, so there's ways, but, again, a lot of people don't think about this stuff and they just out it out there and hope that it's gonna do the job. And, in fact, it might actually confuse visitors more.

So, the other thing I wanna touch on, on that, on your answer to this was, displaying your best work. And I might be wrong about this, because I do street photography, but I don't do it as much as you, obviously. What I think is that, street photography, it's harder to sell to consumers, right? Prints. The average consumer may not want a photo of a person's face, that they've never met, on their wall, right. So, you have to be more creative about what you're trying to sell to people. And I think that whatever you're showing on the home page for your street photography website, if you're doing a dedicated street photography website, is not only do your best work, do your most sellable work to consumers.

And, also, display it in an absolutely beautiful way, right. Don't just have three photos there and you're done. Do it in a nice slideshow, or in a full page background slider, or something that really captures the attention with those photos. Not just putting the photos on a page, right. You need to make sure they're displayed in a way that really sells it to get people to want to look at more. So, that's my opinion on it.

Valerie Jardin: It also depends on what you wanna do. A lot of people don't wanna sell their work. And you're right; street photography is not something that sells very easily. I mean, there is the more artsy way to do it that will allow possible sell. Like silhouettes will sell versus a close up of a stranger, obviously.

The name of the photographer will sell. It doesn't matter what it is, if it's an [inaudible 00:16:27], obviously somebody will put in on their wall. Or [inaudible 00:16:34] or whoever. But you're right; it all depends if you are and educator, then you wanna show something different. You wanna show a selection of what you are capable of doing.

It's hard, but I was a commercial photographer for a long time. And it's not until about seven years ago, that I phased out my commercial photography business and that I devoted my time and energy to educating, and writing, and podcasting. And for the first couple years I actually kept my commercial portfolio on my website, although it wasn't the first thing people saw, because that's not what I was selling. I wasn't shooting commercially, but the reason why I kept it somewhere in my website is because people could see ... Because they didn't know who I was. People could see what I could actually do, that I had experience, that I feel like a good photographer should be able to shoot anything.

I had made a living shooting interiors and food photography. And I wanted to keep that as a part of my website so that people who would sign up to come on to my workshop could see that I wasn't just a street photographer, I was a professional who knew how to use a camera. And I decided that I wanted to teach this genre of photography, but that's not all I could teach and that's not all I could give them. So I did keep that gallery for a while. And after about two years, it made no sense to keep it on there, because I was still getting commercial requests and I was turning them down. So I took it out.

Scott Kivowitz: Isn't it nice when you can turn down work?

Valerie Jardin: Well it's nice the days ... Okay, that's it I'm not taking another client today bar, yeah, it is nice. Just shooting for me, only. I'm the only person I have to please. It's a good place to be.

Scott Kivowitz: So, this actually needs nicely into what was my third question, but ... So street photographers, there are many purposes for having the website. You could be creating the website to sell, you could be creating the website to teach, you could be creating the website to just display. There's a wide range. Who should the average street photographer ... Who should they be targeting when they write content? When they write blog posts, when they write in the About pages, and their mission statement, any of that kind of stuff? Who should the average street photographer be writing for? What do you think is the most common ...

Valerie Jardin: Well, the thing is, street photography is really something you do for yourself, unless you're an educator. And I don't think that many street photographers want to make a career teaching others. I don't think that's the goal. Most street photographers do it out of pure passion for the genre. And it's not something they do to make money. It really is about sharing their passion and sharing their vision with the world. It may be one of the only genres that approached photography this way, because it is just a hard thing to sell.

Anyways, if you're in street photography to make money, just do something else, because that is not the genre to make money, unless you really want to pursue the education part of it, which is hard. People may say, oh, it's so nice, you travel the world, but it's a lot more work than people think to get there because that's what everybody wants to do. There is a lot of competition. And people don't realize to get 10 people on a workshop, you need to reach tens of thousand. People don't really look at it that way. They always think, oh, it's just 10 people. Yeah, it's ten people that are willing to travel the world to meet with you.

So, you really need to know who your audience is. Is it a potential client then? Is it your peers? Other street photographers? And you wanna be able to share with them and engage a conversation, I think that's that most common. And that's definitely how I started my ... Even today, my clients are other street photographers. So, they're not people who were just looking for a vacation and said, oh, maybe I'm just gonna pick up photography. No, they're serious photographers. Some of them may be beginners in street, but they're still photographers.

Very rarely do I have someone on my workshop who has never even picked up a camera before. I mean, usually people ... When they get to street photography, they've done this a while, usually. And street photography may be the one thing that they've been intimidated by, but they wanna try. So, whether they're beginners or professional photographers who have always wanted to do street.

So, I would say it's really, showing your work to other like-minded people, at that point. And if you have content to share ... People love looking at galleries of your work, whether it's on a blog or something. Or tips, struggles, people love to ... You learn from people's mistakes. So I think those are good things to share, and be completely open, and be you. Really, that's the key. Be yourself.

Scott Kivowitz: Yeah, so, you can share your work and if you don't wanna be an educator, really, you could still share your work and just share like the situation that happened, the struggle that happened, why you're making this photo. What was going on in the city while you were making the photo? And what happened when they guy walked around the corner and walked into a pole or something? Or like what happened ...

Valerie Jardin: Absolutely. I mean, you're recording a piece of history, really. You can look at it this way, the way your city is changing, is interesting. So many people do street portraits and engage the people in conversation. I mean, look at Humans of New York, that's how it all started. And a lot of people are doing these projects in a different way, with their own twist. Those are all very important projects.

And, really, if you do this and you keep it for yourself, what's the point? Share it, start a blog. I think blogging, really is the best way to share your work. Not just having the website, which is a bot static, but have a blog. And every website now has a blog attached.

Scott Kivowitz: Capability. Yeah.

Valerie Jardin: I would say that's the way to really engage an audience.

Scott Kivowitz: For sure. So what are your top three portfolio tips for aspiring street photographers?

Valerie Jardin: Be very picky when you curate your work. Just don't ... It's good if you can get some feedback. I do a lot of portfolio reviews and lot of online critiques for people when I'm not traveling and it's amazing how much stuff that they have on there that I say, you know what, really? Is it really a personal shot or do you think it's really a strong photograph? Not because you are attached to it personally, that it's actually a strong photograph, that it should be displayed in your portfolio.

So, be critical of your own work or have somebody help you. And we can all work on that. We all attach to some pictures that ... And that's okay too, but try to show less, but show better work.

I would say, don't put one thing, it's my pet peeves, and you may be completely of a different opinion. When you're displaying pictures on your website, on your main gallery, don't have a watermark. We know it's your website, it has your name on it already. I don't like seeing watermarks on website galleries. I know there are a lot of people do and I don't know why they're so afraid. The only way I think a watermark is still valid, is to find out who that picture actually belongs to. So, if it's on Facebook and that picture is shared, and shared, and shared, then it has a ... My watermark on social media is so tiny, you really have to look for it, because they're so easy to remove. They're completely useless. Don't put a watermark because you're afraid somebody is gonna steal your work. That makes no sense. Only have a little watermark, that's really inconspicuous so that people know who the photograph belonged to.

But when the people are on your website, they already looked for your website. They know it's yours. So you don't need to have your name on every picture. That is something that kind of bugs me. If it's on your blog, it's different, but on your main page in your galleries on your website, that bugs me a little bit.

How about you? I didn't look at your website. Maybe you do have your watermark on there.

Scott Kivowitz: No. I'm actually anti-watermark. I don't even use watermarks when I share it anywhere. I don't like that they take away from the photo. The way I feel is, if someones gonna steal my photo, if it's somebody that is got a big reach, well shame on them. And then second, they're about to get a lawsuit. Otherwise, if they're just ...

Valerie Jardin: And you can't stop them. Dishonest people will always be dishonest and honest people will be honest. And that's the way it is. That's the way it's always been.

Scott Kivowitz: And there's DMCA letters. If somebody that is not worth suing actually does take my photo, I can just do a DMCA letter and then in a matter of days, it's taken down and problem solved. It's no skin off my back. It's annoying, but it's something we, as artists, have to deal with. But, yeah, I don't know, it's ...

Valerie Jardin: It's just part of it. And it's funny because it's usually the new photographers that are the most afraid of that. And they're probably the least likely to get their pictures stolen, anyways, but they're the ones that have the biggest watermark. What drives me really crazy is when I see a watermark in the middle of the picture. Which, you see, is like why even put your work put there?

To each his own. And we've all gone through that. I went through the watermark, they got smaller, and smaller, and smaller for a while. Removed them altogether and then I kind of got tired of seeing my pictures on other people's galleries as their own. That I had a little problem with. But you know what, I could spend my day doing that and chasing after people and that's not a good way to spend my energy. So I choose to just, whatever.

Scott Kivowitz: There are services too, to automate that process. So, for those who don't want to do it manually, there are services that will automate the monitoring of your work and then actually doing the takedown letters. Basically, the...

Valerie Jardin: But you still need to know that's worth ... I mean, chances are, your picture's not gonna be used on a billboard or something. You're never gonna get anything out of it. And I resize my pictures ...

Scott Kivowitz: I did have a photo that was in blog, not in my portfolio, that was taken by Hudson News. And was used on their websites, not in their stores. Hudson News is the small, little newspaper shop that's in all the airports.

Valerie Jardin: Oh, yes, yes. That's right. That sounded familiar.

Scott Kivowitz: I got a nice check from them before they took the photo down.

Valerie Jardin: Okay, good.

Scott Kivowitz: So sometimes, that's happened numerous times to me. Marriott, sort of did the same thing, that whole chain.

Valerie Jardin: Isn't that crazy? That a big corporation like that, they actually have people working for them in that department that still doesn't know the copyright law.

Scott Kivowitz: It's crazy. And you know, the way I handled it was, instead of a DMCA, I sent on invoice. They paid the invoice, and they took the photo down.

Valerie Jardin: Good. Well good for you. Yeah, if you have the time or if you can hire somebody to do that legwork for you, yeah, you could probably cash on a few things. But don't let it become your main focus.

Scott Kivowitz: Yeah, yeah. Totally. So what's your thought for portfolios keeping all black and whites together and keeping colors separate? Or do you mix them in?

Valerie Jardin: Well, no, I don't do that actually, because I believe that ... Well, the subject actually decided if it's whether it's gonna be a color or black and white shot. And if you're in my Paris gallery, you will have some color, and you will have some black and white, but they make sense why they're color and why they're black and white. So, it's just that I will usually try to display them in a way that it actually works.

Just like in a book. I don't believe that it has to be all black and white or all color because some pictures would make no sense in black and white and vice versa.

Scott Kivowitz: Awesome. Yeah, I know. Some people are very particular about that, so it's nice to hear your take on that.

Valerie Jardin: I'm not nitpicking that kind of stuff so much.

Scott Kivowitz: So we have a segment that we started, recently actually, where you, the guests can ask a question to all the listeners. So Valerie is about to ask a question to you, whoever is listening to this. Please, either comment at the show notes, which I will share the link later, comment with your answer to this question. Or underneath the YouTube video on YouTube, you can comment with your answer as well.

So, Valerie, what is your question for the listeners?

Valerie Jardin: Okay, so for all the photographers out there who have not yet tried street photography, what is the reason you haven't done it yet? What is holding you back?

Scott Kivowitz: Great question. I am looking forward to seeing the answers for this. So, to answer this question, again, go to the YouTube video. If you're on YouTube, just scroll down and answer the question in the comments. Or go to Imagely.com/podcast/48 in order to answer it in a comment on the show notes.

So, Valerie, I'm going to share all the links of where people can find you and to pick up your new book as well.

Valerie Jardin: Thank you.

Scott Kivowitz: So, do you wanna share your website, which is your portfolio and your podcast?

Valerie Jardin: And the podcast, and the blogs, and the store, and everything. It's simply valeriejardin.com.

Scott Kivowitz: Awesome. I will share the website, again, where you can buy her book, if you're interested in her book. Her Facebook page, Twitter, all of that stuff all in the show notes.

Thank you, Valerie, for joining me today.

Valerie Jardin: Thank you.

Scott Kivowitz: You can find the show notes from today's episode and where to find Valerie at Imagely.com/podcast/48. Until next time.

 

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