By Jeff Lantz
Happy New Year! The New Year presents an opportunity to engage in an annual time- honored tradition important to all of us … taking a moment to reflect on our law firm’s website. Specifically, how our website can be improved to make it into a super-powered, revenue-producing machine for the upcoming year.
While significant time is often spent creating website content and organizational structure, much less time is typically spent considering website photography and imagery, even though these elements play a critical role in determining whether a firm will be perceived as a leading, high-quality firm with top-notch attorneys or an average firm. Here’s how your firm can use high quality photography to significantly enhance its perceived expertise.
What Types of Photography Look Good (and What Types of Photography Should be Eliminated)
What looks good:
- Large images, especially on attorney profile pages.
- Non-traditional photography. Shoot images outdoors. Even on a busy street. Have lawyers in non-traditional poses, such as sitting on the corner of a desk. Make your photography visually interesting.
What should be avoided:
- Small attorney headshots. Small attorney headshots with white or neutral backgrounds are great for LinkedIn, but should be avoided for a website profile page. Your firm’s attorneys, and how they serve clients, are the focus of your firm. Small attorney images on web pages suggest the opposite – that the attorneys are not a critical part of the firm.
- The lawyer line-up. These are the images of one or more attorneys lined up in front of law books. A professional photographer with an artistic sense can make these images look good, but the “quick photo” line up pictures (usually taken on camera phones) used on many law firm websites usually don’t look professional.
- Typical attorney imagery. Scales of justice, court rooms, etc.
What About Stock Photos – Should We Use Them?
High quality stock photos can be helpful, but only if combined with high quality firm photography. Even good stock photos cannot overcome otherwise poor firm photography.
How to Get Great Firm Photography
To get great firm photography, here’s what you can do (and what you can discuss with your photographer):
- Use Different Combinations of Attorneys, Rather Than Only Large Group Shots. Large group pictures seem to have a Sports Illustrated cover-like curse – soon after they are added to a website, someone in the group will leave. Inevitably, that person will be in the middle of a great picture, where they can’t be cropped or airbrushed out. Use different combinations of attorneys, different positioning, etc., to try to avoid this potential issue.
- Show that Your Firm is a Team. An important attribute of most law firms is projecting the synergies that flow from having multiple lawyers, especially with respect to cross-functional selling. Take pictures with members of different practice areas together to better promote cross-functionality.
- Shoot Images with a Large Width-to-Height Perspective (Perhaps 4:1 Aspect). Consider the top images shown on many website home pages (sometimes referred to as “hero” images). These images are much wider than traditional photos, which might be more in a 4:3 aspect. If an image is not in a “wide” format, it may be unusable.
- Allow for Plenty of Space on the Sides of the Subjects. This is a corollary to the point above. Sometimes photographers (particularly those who often shoot weddings), shoot pictures thinking about how they will look in picture frames. The unfortunate result is pictures that are don’t have enough room on the sides for a particular website placement.
- Don’t Center Attorneys in the Middle of Profile Pictures. Often, website profile images feature text, such as the attorney’s name and/or contact information. Profile pictures should be shot with the attorney to the left and right of center to accommodate for the website design. It is also more visually appealing when the subject is not centered (which is part of the “rule of thirds” in photography).
- Use a Shallow Depth of Focus. With a shallow depth of focus, a person may be may be in focus, but the background (or foreground) is artistically blurred. As an example, some attorneys at a conference table may be in focus, while others (either nearer to or farther from the camera) may be somewhat blurred. Or, an attorney may be in focus while standing in their office, while their shelves and background items are blurred. These images place a strong emphasis on the attorney, while minimizing the other image elements that may be distracting. Shallow depth of focus images also work great for attorney profile pages and for images that will have text.
- Action Photography. Action shots are often more effective than images of attorneys posing for the camera. Action shots might include attorneys walking down the hall discussing a case, or even working on a matter in a conference room or on the phone. When discussing a case in the conference room, hand gestures that people often use when making a point can be effective (instead of simply posing for the camera). Remember – clients want to picture their attorney hard at work for them – make your firm look active.
Hiring a Photographer
- Cost. Hiring a good photographer does not need to be super-expensive. Check out photography websites, and also consider posting a job on a site like www.thumbtack.com (which is free). Thumbtack allows multiple professionals to bid on projects, and job posters can see reviews for the professionals that may be considered.
- Define the Scope of Work. Who will be photographed? How many group shots will there be? Will the photographer “touch up” the raw images? These and other scope of work matters should be discussed at the outset of a project.
- Negotiate full ownership of the finished work. Ideally, you will hire a photographer, they will take the pictures, your firm will own the completed work, and your firm will be able to do whatever they want with the images (including altering the images). Make sure you are not locked into a contract that is going to cost a lot of extra money after the shoot.
Best of luck for a successful 2018!
Jeff Lantz is an attorney and the CEO of Esquire Interactive LLC (www.EsquireInteractive.com), a leading provider of website development, branding, Internet marketing, video, and social media services for attorneys and law firms. He is also the author of the ABA book Internet Branding for Lawyers: Creating The Client-Centered Website, and the book The Essential Attorney Handbook for Internet Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, and Website Development Management.