“A photographer teaching about building a website!?” This thought is most probably hovering in your mind right now, and it might mislead you. But trust me on this one, I have a strong background in system engineering and have been building photography websites for about 15 years now. Bear with me and read along to learn what my immense experience offers.
Like I mentioned before, I have been building my sites and tried many platforms and options in the last 15 years, even before SEO was all the rage like nowadays.
In today’s highly competitive time, having a site and not ranking well for the keywords that bring you business is a big problem, at least for me it is. In the last 8 years, I have been relying on many ways to bring business to me: referrals, networking, paid ads, and the most valuable and difficult, Search Engine Optimization. I don’t claim to be a marketing expert, but with years I have realized that you need to invest in your website for a long-term strategy and that’s why I bet my money into SEO.
You might ask yourself, why is this guy talking about SEO, well, pretty simple. Taking the right decisions when building your site could have a big impact on your business success, so here are my valuable recommendations to look for when building your photography website.
Look for inspiration
I do this all the time. Whenever I have an assignment or a personal project, the same applies in this case. Photographers, are visual artists and visuals inspire us the most. What better way to get inspired than to look at the websites of the photographers you admire? Another good resource to find inspiration is to look for web templates, specifically photography-related ones, so you get a clear idea. Forget what platform it is for now. At this stage, what you want to do is spend some time gathering good examples of what you like.
How will your website work for you?
This is a very important question you need to ask yourself after you find your inspiration. The reason I say this is that many people these days rely on social media platforms, something that I think is a big mistake since social media platforms could come and go unexpectedly, I’m not saying Instagram or Facebook are going away soon but you need to have something more reliable and user friendly like a website.
These days I find the number of platforms very overwhelming that offer the ability to have your website up and running in “seconds” and in most cases that is what you want, right? Quick and easy? Well, sometimes that quick and easy is not the best long-term solution, at least for me, based on my strategy. I want my website to be my main business driver. I rely on it more than on social media, at least until now.
We are getting back to the main point, right? Some of the most popular websites builders that I’ve tried for my photography website are:
I have to disclaim that I did not run my website on all of them. On some of these I just did the trial, and some like Squarespace and Wix. I stayed for a couple of months. After trying something easy to build like those I mentioned, I realized some limitations get you stuck. In my case, I find platforms like Squarespace have a design limitation since you can’t have the site exactly as you wish unless you spend money to customize it for a developer. Another limitation is the lack of plugins to enhance your site. And last, my main issue is the hosting those sites use, they are standard hosts and very limited. I’ll explain why…
The choice I went to is WordPress even tho is a more difficult path, but it is more customizable and popular to build a website. Here are the reasons I think it is the best option:
● You choose the template you want. I know it’s hard work, but worth it.
● You choose the hosting you want. In my case, I went with Kinsta.com. More about this below.
● Unlimited plugins
● Integration with many services
● Unlimited developers
● More work to do
● You can’t change the template without editing the whole site
● More pieces to put together
I only scratch the surface with this info about website platforms, but I want to give you an overview of what works for me and my experience.
The right website hosting for your photography website
I had a similar experience with this, testing different hosting where I got my website down for days because of the hosting problems, backups, customer service, etc.
This is what the ideal hosting should look like for your photo website:
● Cloud hosting: Don’t go with shared hosting, it is very slow and you will regret it
● Solid-state storage: Sometimes this is implied when choosing cloud hosting, but not all the time. The solid-state is FAST.
● Integrated CDN: I won’t go into detail here, but you want this feature.
● At least weekly backups: This is crucial because many things could happen, security issues that break your site, a wrong update, and many more.
● Reliable customer support, if possible 24h
● Staging environment: I know this could be confusing. In simple words, this allows you to create a new site or edit your site in a temporary URL without affecting your Live site. Whenever you are ready, just push one button and you are live with your modifications. Pretty cool ah?
● SSL certificate is a must, no you can’t avoid this. Trust me
Some of the hosting I’ve tried:
● Godaddy. Avoid them as much as you can. They are the worst I’ve tried.
● HostGator. Average hosting with good price but to get to the features as mentioned above, it becomes expensive and the customer support is not the best.
● Bluehost. Same experience as HostGator. I have to add that the user interface is horrible to manage your site, confusing as hell. And last, customer support is terrible.
● SiteGround: The second hosting I would recommend has all the features I mentioned above, but it is pricey. Customer support is top-notch most of the time. The interface is old and could be confusing.
● Kinsta: This is the king of the kings. It has ALL the features I mentioned above and they add great features all the time. They run on a google cloud platform; they had proprietary CDN, and it was great. Recently they upgraded for free to CloudFlare. Last, the customer support is freaking amazing, fast, when I say fast is, you don’t wait over 5 minutes on a chat to get a knowledgeable technician. What I like the most is, you get all those features for a very good price. You can’t go wrong about Kinsta for your photo website.
If you want to sign up, use this link (this is an affiliate link so I will receive a commission :))
A Coherent Theme
Now that you have selected the platform and hosting, it is time to pick a theme for your website. As a developer and a photographer, I would highly recommend that you choose a theme that best resonates with the theme of your photography. Another important point is that it should allow you to customize not just the fonts but colors and layout as well. Each element of your website, including prompts, fonts, and background, should follow a singular theme. The theme which has the same color theme as your photography and allows maximum customizability is the ideal choice. Remember, it must be responsive.
A great resource where to get the best WordPress photography templates is theme forest.
Showcasing your Portfolio
Of course, the main reason for building a photography website is to show what you are capable of. However, there are certain things that you need to keep in mind while doing this. Let me emphasize that the key to an appealing website is how it displays the content. Hence, you need to find a visually pleasing way to do this. You should not put all of your work in a sort of heap, but break it up. I would recommend that you divide up your galleries depending on the theme or even based on projects that you have done. This will not only help you order your work but also help the visitors navigate your website better.
The next thing that you need to be aware of is to only showcasing your best works. I have learned through trial and error that although a photographer’s first work is dear to him, potential customers are not here for the sentiments. They need to see the best that you have done. Therefore, remember to only put up the works that portray your strengths.
Acknowledge Your Goals
Website building is more than simply uploading content for people to see. The whole idea behind showcasing your best work is to make viewers into potential customers. You should know that besides your works you need to add subtle prompts on your website which will influence the visitors to do some action for you. For instance, if your main goal is to sell or license your works, you can display a prompt talking about deals or discounts. Similarly, if you want to teach people photography, you can ask them to subscribe to your emails.
Like I said above, Search Engine Optimization or SEO is all the rage nowadays and because of good reason. Search engines today have become so smart that they rank websites depending on their relevance to the subject. Since the main portion of the photography website is occupied by images, you need to make sure that you add relevant text to these images. If you want to attract local clients, you can use the name of your city or even country in the text displayed with your photos. If you want to work as an event photographer, you can use words like weddings, concerts for better ranking. These are just a few examples of keywords; you can select your own depending on your niche.
Make Yourself Approachable
Every photographer knows that, although the images are the most critical part in securing a client, the photographer also needs to be approachable. While building a website, you must take great care in curating your ‘About Me Page. This will serve as the first gateway towards you therefore, it needs to reflect your priorities and values.
The next thing that you should do is add Contact Information. It would reflect poorly on you if you build a fully functional website, but forget to provide a way for people to contact you.
Last, add links to your social media as well. Now, I said that a website is better than those mediums, however, even I cannot deny their significance in today’s world. Linking your website to your social profiles will generate more visits, which will consequently lead to more popularity and profitability.
There are two sides to the watermarks discussion, and both are equally important to understand. The first one is that watermarks prevent image theft and keep your works safe. However, it is also a double-edged sword. Mostly, watermarks are placed right in the middle and with gigantic fonts. These might make the images look less flattering and visually attractive than they are. If you are too protective of your works, go with the watermarks. For others, there are a few methods that you can use instead of watermarks. You can try to display a prompt that displays your ownership if someone tries to copy your images from the browser. Otherwise, you can write ‘all rights reserved’ or similar text under your images. Unfortunately, the images still might get stolen even with watermarks, so I recommend you choose the visually attractive option over it.
I particularly don’t use watermarks since it is so easy to remove it from the photo. Something that I came across not too long ago is a service that tracks all your work around the WWW and tells you if someone is using your work. They help you track and legally take action with those who like to steal your images. I’m just trying it. It’s called pixsy.
Start a Photography Blog
You might say that why would I need a blog when what I do is photography? However, you need to understand in this online world, people have become wary of online fraud. Therefore, you need to connect with them, and what better way than a blog? Not only will it help with your overall perception, but it will also boost people’s trust and confidence in you. The blog will also help you if you write about your photography process and the tools you use. Who knows, you might get some insights into your workflows if you write about them? There is one more advantage of writing a blog. As I discussed above, focusing on SEO will be extremely beneficial for your website. Blogs are a great way to make a photography website rank better. You can write about your works using trending and relevant keywords. Blog writing will not only help the reader connect with you but will also be beneficial for your website, so why not try it?
To sum it all up, a website needs to be as creative as the photographer’s works. These points, if understood, will be enough to build a great website. Have fun with your photo web!