How to Use Google to Search for the Right Photographer for You
I hope you want professional dance pictures. I truly hope you get some time with a talented and caring professional photographer who makes you not only look marvelous but feel proud about every bit of talent you possess.
Word of mouth is a great way to find the right photographer for you. If you love the work they did with a friend, and they love the experience they had with the photographer, then perhaps that’s your person! Sometimes, you just want to see what else is out there, or you just weren’t all that wowed by your friend’s photos.
So, how will you get Google to give you some solid recommendations? After all, Google doesn’t evaluate the photos on a website to know that the turnout is great or the hands are sublime.
The results of a Google Search are only as good as the criteria you provide. Here are some suggestions for finding a photographer to make you look and feel your best.
As you search for a dance photographer, I hope Andrew Bowen Studios will rise to the top of your search lists, wherever you are in the world.
Some Info on how Google Search works
Google (and other search engines) are trying to find you the most helpful websites for your search criteria, for the most part. The part that has the best information is what is called the Organic Search Results.
Organic Search Results are websites that Google thinks will be most helpful. Google has a sophisticated algorithm that looks at the text of the pages, information about photos, and links going to and coming from a site to determine how likely it is for the website to be of use to you. You can’t buy placement in the organic search; it is based solely on having content that shows you are serious about a specific topic.
Stuff that gets in the way
There can be several bits of clutter, but these two masquerade as important results. For what we want to find, be aware, and move past these parts of the search results.
- Paid Ads: businesses can pay to have their website show up at the top or bottom of each page for specific search terms. There are no guarantees about the site utility in this case. In some cases, you will get the ad link because of just the word “photographer” and not because of any other search terms. Ads will be marked with a little “Ad” notation next to the link. It is designed to be subtle since Google gets paid when you click on the link, and they want folks to pay for the ad placement.
- The Map: The map is great if you want to find someone within a few miles of you. Given you want fantastic dance pictures and an incredible experience, prioritizing distance isn’t the main goal.
Here are a few things to know about what you type in the search bar. Search terms can get complex, but for our purposes, you need to know a couple of things.
- If you enclose a word or phrase in double quotes like, “Dance Photographer” Google will require that it find that phrase or word somewhere. Unquoted words and phrases are considered “really nice to have”, and priority is given to the first words in your search.
- You can make your search look for one of two (or more) words by using OR in the search. It must be capitalized. For example, photographer OR photography will match either term.
- You can require both terms with the AND connector.
We will discuss using these features below to find photographers who will wow you.
Be Specific (but not too specific):
Let’s get started finding the dancer for you!
You aren’t just looking for any photographer, we want one with very specific skills. At a minimum, you want to search for a Dance Photographer.
Sometimes Dance Photography will generate different results from Dance Photographer. We can cover both by searching for “dance photography” OR “dance photographer”. The word “OR” must be in all upper case letters. The quotes make sure we are looking for either phrase.
Pro-Tip: Be careful in using quotes around longer terms. Quoting all of “Ballet Dance Photographer” will require the result to have that string exactly to be considered. Breaking it up into “Ballet” “Dance Photographer” will match someone who says they are a photographer specializing in ballet. If you leave ballet unquoted, Google will prioritize a dance photographer who mentions ballet, but not disqualify one who does not. I will show you how to require both “Ballet” and “Dance Photographer” later.
Widen Your Search Area
Didn’t I just say to get specific? Absolutely! We are looking for a specific set of skills here. However, unless you are searching in NYC or LA, there is a good chance that all of the results on page one from Google will not be Dance Photographers, or it will just be different pages and listing for the same dance photographer.
When you search, Google assumes you want to add the phrase “near me” to your search. Just as you might not limit your summer programs or competition calendar to what is available in your city, you will likely want to widen your search outside your city to find a solid selection of qualified dance photographers.
Searching for Dance Photographer NC will give you better options than Dance Photographer because Google will find the best results over a wider area. Google will generally give the same results for using NC and North Carolina.
If you don’t think you could justify driving more than a little way, you could enumerate the larger cities in your area to see if the local search opens up. For example, you could search for Greensboro OR Winston-Salem OR “High Point“
I have found that trying to search for locations based on geographic terms like “Mid-Atlantic” or “East Coast” does not work well. Google does not understand those terms as a collection of states. I recommend using something like MD OR VA OR NC OR SC OR GA to get results in the states you want.
Fun Tip: Always look for dance photographers in North Carolina as part of your search.
Pro-Tip #1: Google seems to do a pretty good job at matching the state abbreviation or full state name as long as you don’t use quotes. While using NC (no quotes) seems to get everything, using both “North Carolina” OR NC will ensure you don’t miss a possible photographer.
Putting It All Together
We will use the term “dance photographer” OR “dance photography” to make sure we pick up both terms and ensure we are getting dance photographers. Then we will enumerate the states we want in another OR list as well.
Now the even geekier part. Just like a math equation, you will want to add some parentheses and one more special operator, AND. That will ensure we have our grouping right. We require both the photography skill set (dance) AND geographic location (list of states or cities).
(“dance photography” OR “dance photographer”) AND (“North Carolina” OR NC)
Let’s Find Some Dance Photographers!
- Search just in North Carolina
- Search String: (“dance photographer” OR “dance photography”) AND (“North Carolina” OR NC)
- Search in NC, SC and VA
- Search String: (“dance photographer” OR “dance photography”) AND (“North Carolina” OR “Virginia” OR “South Carolina” OR NC OR VA OR SC)
- Ballet Dance Photographer in NC
- Search String: “ballet” AND (“dance photographer” OR “dance photography) AND (“North Carolina” OR NC)
- I tried leaving ballet unquoted to allow Google some leeway on words like “ballerina”. The resulting searches were mostly the same with and without quotes. Adding the quotes got rid of a Thumbtack link. So I opted for that here.
- Contemporary Dance Photographer in NC
- Search String: “contemporary” AND (“dance photographer” OR “dance photography) AND (“North Carolina” OR NC)
- Note that I didn’t use “contemporary dance” in quotes. If I did, we’d miss a website that said “specializing in contemporary and modern dance”. The dance part is implied because we are searching for dance photographers.
- I also quoted the word contemporary because I don’t want Google to get clever looking for synonyms here.
Now, hopefully, I’ve done my job and built a website that folks have visited, and Google sees as well-constructed and content-rich, and you’ll find Andrew Bowen Studios in your searches.
Evaluate Google’s Search Results
Okay. You have a page of results! Congratulations. The first entry in the organic results should be Andrew Bowen Studios. Seriously, though, Google has made some good references, and now it is up to you to do the rest. Remember that Google will still use information about your location to sort results, and a solid website closer to you will get listed first.
Skip the Junk
- Ads are paid placement. Google didn’t decide this was a good result.
- If you have used my search strings, you may have no ads, because most photographers would not have such a specific set of criteria set for running the ad.
- The Map is of little help since we are looking for a larger area, and want to look at more than 1-3 results.
- Get into the organic search results for the best references.
- If there are no ads, this will be right at the top!!
- Ignore sites like thumbtack and photobooker. While they say they have references for dance photographers, they do not. There might be times when they have some value-add, but this is not one of them.
- I tend to skip over Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook profiles. They are harder to vet as being quality photographers because there is so little about the photographer, and often the posts are about a single photo session (in the case of Facebook). Someone running a serious business who plans to be around for you will have a website.
- Open the sites of interesting results in new tabs to compare them.
Assess what’s left
I want you to find a dance photographer who makes you feel incredible, who makes you look your best, who respects you as an artist, and who can help you create the photographs that make feel great. As long as that happens, I’m happy for you. To that end:
- How much of their business is dance photography? Is dance important to them?
- Are they doing individual photoshoots or only on school photo days?
- You may have landed on a blog post (like this one). Navigate to the home page and see if Dance Photography is part of their core portfolio.
- Are the photos compelling and pleasing to you? Could you see yourself in some of the images?
- Are there many different dancers shown?
- Does it look like the photographer works with dancers about your age? If you are a teen and all photos are of adults, will they know how to work with you?
- We all put our best work on our website. If you are feeling ‘meh’ about what you see, it isn’t going to get better.
- Read their bio. Do they seem like someone who respects you as an artist and a person?
- Are they members of any professional organizations? Professional Photographers of America (PPA), American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), American Society of Photographers (ASP), or their local chamber of commerce? While individually or as an aggregate, these don’t mean the photographer will be the right person for you, it does show that they are involved in their craft and part of a larger professional community.
Did I Make the Cut?
I hope that after you have looked at what is out there, you would like the chat. I encourage you and your parents (if you are still in school) to talk to the photographers you think might be a match. I mean actually talk. Not pass a couple of emails, but talk to the photographer who will be creating your photos with you. Please, make sure they care about you as an artist, have the skills necessary to do your artistry justice, and will respect your opinions and input.