Today’s photographers put a huge amount of effort into creating and displaying their portfolios. Whereas once the sole challenge was to build a collection of outstanding images, today there’s the added need to showcase these images on beautifully designed Web sites, often with slideshows and accompanied by descriptive text.
That’s understandable. If Black Star tells a client that we’ve got a photographer who would be perfect for a job, we expect that the first thing the client will do is check that photographer’s Web site.
And we wouldn’t be surprised if the second thing the client does is Google the photographer’s name.
The client is obviously going to be happier if he or she can feel that this is a photographer who not only produces excellent photos, but also can be trusted and relied on. Clients don’t just assess images when they hand out assignments; they also assess reputations.
That’s where things start to get tricky. You can control all of the information that appears on your portfolio, but what turns up on Google is in the hands of anyone who’s ever met you, heard of you, worked with you or seen your images.
For some people, this can be a problem. You might not be ashamed of anything you’ve ever done, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’d want a client to know about everything you’ve ever done. And that’s assuming that everything about you that can be churned up by a quick Google search is true.
An article in the Washington Post  back in July discussed what people can do to make sure that their online reputations aren’t held at ransom by either malicious opponents or by elements of their distant past that they’d rather forget. Many of the people the article cited were lobbyists and politicians — but freelance photographers are at least as vulnerable to people Googling their names.
Politicians, after all, only have to worry about their reputations at election time; photographers have to think about their reputations every time they’re up for a job with a new client.
The Washington Post referred to companies like ReputationDefender  and Naymz , but their services can run as high as $10,000 — a small amount if you’re running for public office, but a fair hit for most photographers. And I suspect that much of what these companies do, most people could do for themselves if they were prepared to put in the effort of launching Web sites and optimizing them.
Essentially, what online reputation management firms do is find ways to push positive items to the top of your search results, so that anything negative is buried and unlikely to be seen. This is an effective approach, because research shows that very few Web searchers look past the first two or three pages of results when conducting a search.
A good starting point for managing your online identity is to look at those first few pages of search results when you enter your name. Are there criticisms or other negative items you wish weren’t there?
In some cases, you may find an unintended factual error that you can correct simply by contacting the Web site in question. There are also plenty of things you can do to create positive items and push those positive items higher in your results. I’ll offer some specific recommendations for photographers in a future post.
[tags]Black Star, Google, John Chapnick, reputation management, ReputationDefender, Naymz[/tags]