My post about how photographers can protect themselves against buyers Googling their names ruffled a feather. In response, Sean Cayton, a professional photographer in Colorado, argued on his blog that instead of “camouflaging” unwanted Web appearances that turn up on Google search results, you should “stand by your work and your words.”
That misses the point. I’m not saying that photographers shouldn’t stand by what they’ve done in the past. I’m just pointing out that some photographers might not want everything they’ve done presented to every client they meet.
This is simply about image, an important part of every photographer’s marketing power. It takes a lot of time, effort and money to build an online portfolio that reflects your abilities and experience the way you want potential clients to see them. You might not want that image to be affected by a comment you wrote or work you did ten years ago, especially when it no longer reflects your views or skills today.
You might also not want your professional image to be affected by your contributions to sites that have nothing to do with photography. Not everything you post might be professional, but professionals can see everything you post. My post explained one way that you can control what your potential clients learn about you.
Sean also states that the photographers he’s come across who are concerned about their appearances on Google are mostly those who “stopped evolving as photographers.” I’d say the opposite was true; it’s precisely those photographers who want to evolve who can find themselves held back by a past available permanently to anyone with a Web connection. Someone who’s spent ten years photographing weddings for example, but who now wants to move into photojournalism, might find it hard to pitch his skills for photographing news when his name returns twenty comments about his work at receptions and only one about his work at a riot.
That’s got nothing to do with not standing by the work you’ve done in the past; it’s got everything to do with not being held back by the work you’ve done in the past.
Sean was right about a couple of things though. I was wrong to say that everyone has to build their own camouflage. Only everyone who finds that their Google results are having a negative effect on their image as a photographer. And he was right to tell me to stand by my words. I do.