The modern web was made for photographers; it’s such a visual medium where beautiful images have an incredible impact. Text, or copy, is still important for SEO considerations and for those visitors that want to spend more time on your content. Video is fantastic, and many photographers have the capability to produce great videos with their current equipment.
But unlike still images, by its nature video demands time — you need 30 seconds to watch a 30 second video versus a quick glance at a photo that usually communicates the entire message.
For the vast majority of professional photographers and aspiring photographers, having a website is a necessity. There are many social media networks to share images, such as Facebook, 500px, Tumblr, Flickr, Instagram, and Pinterest — and it can be beneficial to have a presence on them. However, the greatest advantage of having a website is that you are in full control of the design, navigation, branding, and information. This gives you an unparalleled opportunity to engage your potential clients and website visitors with your unique story.
Here are some important considerations in creating your website:
1. Ease of Use
Get a website that you can update easily. It’s important that your content is fresh and high quality, and it’s better if you can bypass your web designer and do it yourself. Be sure that you understand the basic technical information about your website before it’s built. Have your web designer show you an example site and walk you through how you would add content. The goal is to be 90% self sufficient, with the last 10% being major changes that require your web designer’s expertise.
Or, if you’re the DIY type, or don’t have the budget for a web designer at the moment, consider building your website yourself. See the bottom of the article for some recommendations for how to go that route.
2. Get Out of Your Own Way
It’s easy to have a website grow into an unwieldy octopus with too much content and information. Trim it down to the absolute minimum to communicate your message. Your potential clients don’t need to see 30 albums and 750 images from your 10 year career. Pick your best 10-20 and highlight them.
How many times have you seen a wedding photography website with too many images? The goal is to entice the visitor, not overwhelm them. Respect your potential clients’ time, don’t waste it with anything less than your A+ material. If they didn’t like the first 10 photos, the last 740 are not going to convince them otherwise.
For the remainder of your content keep it simple: provide a way to get in touch, create an “About” page, and have a blog if you can commit to it.
3. Create The Mousetrap
Your website should close the deal and make you more efficient. Utililzed properly, it qualifies potential clients before they call or email you. This is key. You’re not trying to get everyone in the world to contact you, just the people that are likely to sign a contract.
If your website clearly communicates your capabilities, your personality, your brand, and your fees (either explicitly or implicitly through design elements and word usage), then it makes your operation more effective. You don’t want your time occupied by dealing with people that don’t have a clear understanding of what you do or don’t have the proper budget.
4. Be Bold and Beautiful
It bears repeating, the modern web was made for photographers. Smartphones have the resolution that 30 inch monitors used to have 5 years ago. So make your images front and center and seduce your audience with beautiful high resolution photos.
You still have to optimize the file size of your images, but there’s much less concern about bandwidth than there used to be. If your website is several years old and still has tiny thumbnail images or a slideshow that looks miniscule on modern devices and monitors, then you need to get a new one. Sites like the new Flickr, 500px, and even Facebook’s full screen lightbox have changed the expectations of your audience about what photos should look like online.
We’ve got you excited, now what? Should you make the website yourself? If you have the budget to outsource it, do that, you should be a professional photographer and not a web designer. But, if you don’t have the budget, or simply want to do it yourself, there are web creation tools that are easy to use, inexpensive, and gorgeous. Here are two great options:
One of the easiest and most elegant ways to create a website, Squarespace seems like it was made for photographers. It has a very intuitive interface that’s very visual and a gentle learning curve. There are beautiful templates to begin with that do an excellent job highlighting your images. You do not need any prior HTML or CSS experience to build with Squarespace. The help documentation is robust and the community very active.
Another web building application that’s very easy to use, Virb let’s you start with a template and then add your content and make design changes. Like Squarespace, prior web design experience is absolutely not necessary, and you can very quickly create a beautiful web presence.
Both Virb and Squarespace templates are mobile ready, so your website visitors will have the optimum experience regardless of what device they view your site on. They are also self-hosted solutions, so your fee pays for both access to their Content Management System as well as web hosting, so the only other thing you need is a domain name.
There are dozens of ways to build a website, and all of them are valid possibilities. Virb and Squarespace are just two that are relatively simple to use and setup. What’s important is that you have the proper online representation for your photography and your business, one that showcases your beautiful photos and helps you be more successful.