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The Essentials of Photography Websites

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The days of having an online portfolio are over. Photographers should now be embracing their website in more ways than one. This means building and maintaining a photography website that not only shows your work, but also acts as a powerful marketing tool.

The statistics in this article come from Photoshelter's survey of photo editors and commercial photo buyers. Eye-opening and insightful, I thought I'd share some of these statistics and tips to help take your photography website to the next level.

Whether you would like to update your existing website or start from scratch, use the new fundamental elements to make a "photography website of the future."


Is your website following the new essentials of a "photography website of the future?" Photo by Stewart Baird

Function Over Fashion

"58% said a unique design does not matter"

A pretty website is nice. But if it doesn't function the way it should, it might as well be retired. Instead of focusing on the look of your website, focus on the images themselves. Focus on the functionality of your website.

Here are a couple ways you can keep your website focused on function rather than style:

Keep things simple: The design of your website shouldn't stand out more than your images. If it does, think about toning it down. A simple white or black background is standard for many professional photographers.

Avoid Flash: Although Flash is great in some ways, the issues with it outnumber the benefits. Basically, Flash is slow on many computers, doesn't work without a plugin, and is difficult to index by search engines. Everything you don't want your website to be.

Be consistent:. In addition to keeping the design of your website simple and consistent, keep your clients involved with your work via updates. This could mean establishing a monthly newsletter or posting news on a special "news" section of your website. When someone from your list of clients and prospects is in need a photographer, you'll be the first one that pops into their head.

Deliver via download or FTP: The work of being a photographer doesn't stop at taking stunning images for your clients. You'll also have to deliver those images in a way that pleases your clients. Ditch outdated methods like e-mail and CD to deliver your photos.

When photo buyers were surveyed, "82% said they prefer to download high-res images directly from a photographer's website." Another effective method of delivery is FTP. Consider making these options an integral part of your websites functionality. It will streamline your workflow and please your clients.

Be speedy: For the question of how long would you wait for a photographer's website to load, "71% of the respondents said they would give up after 15 seconds." This means you need to make sure your website is running quickly and properly. Check the file sizes of your images if it seems to be loading slowly.

Think of your website as a lighthouse. Lighthouses are similar and simple in structure, yet the function they serve is huge. Their function is of more importance than their look.


Use The Right Image Size

A lot of photographers make the mistake of thinking bigger is better. But that's not what clients and photo buyers want to see. Photoshelter's survey found that the ideal image size for a photographer's portfolio is between 700 & 900 pixels. The size of your images is essential in the presentation of your website. The wrong image size can distract potential clients and deter them from your site.


Keep the images on your website between 700 & 900 pixels. Photo by Martin Grommel

Make Galleries Instead of Slideshows

"77% don't usually watch slideshows"

Most photo buyers don't have the time or patience to sit through a slideshow. They want to find what they're looking for and then go on to other important tasks. It's a good idea to create separate, well-defined galleries instead.

For example, a landscape photographer may separate his images into categories like "mountains" "rivers" "beaches" "forests" or "Yosemite Valley." This makes it easier for your viewers to find and enjoy the images on your website. It also keeps them browsing longer.


Images need to stand out on their own. Create galleries instead of slideshows for the best viewing experience. Photo by Mike Behnken

It Should Make Money

Photography websites today (and of the future) should be marketing and money-making tools. The web has enabled us to be more efficient and as a photographer you should consider the potential your website has to make a profit.

You could sell prints, products, or downloads of your work. Whether it's fine art or stock photography, setting up a way for people to shop for your images is a great way to have an extra stream of revenue.

And if you're selling stock, include prices of your stock photos directly on your website. That's because "87% of photo buyers want the ability to generate an instant price." The extra step of contacting you for a price could cost you a customer.


Photo by urbancitylife

Use Good SEO Strategies

Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the most important elements of your photography website. And it's something a lot of photographers don't pay attention to. Probably because most of us like images more than words. But having good SEO will dramatically increase your chances of getting noticed as a photographer.

Photoshelter's survey found that "61% of photo buyers use internet search engines as part of their image buying routine."

Let's look at how you can effectively use SEO on your website:

What terms are your potential buyers using? What terms do you want to rank for? Having a targeted approach to keywords is going to be essential in getting ranked for your niche. Think of 20-50 words that describe your photography. Then use Google Adwords Keyword Tool to see what the competition is for those keywords.

This is a great tool to find out which terms you should be using for SEO. Remember, terms that have low competition rates aren't necessarily bad. In fact, you drive a more targeted audience with specific terms. That means you may have fewer viewers visiting your website, but the ones who come are more likely to buy or contact you.

On page keyword usage: Use your specific keywords frequently in the bodies of text on your website. Even though most photographers want to focus solely on the photos themselves, it's important to use text to it's fullest advantage. Write descriptions for each image and gallery, an about page that attracts clients, and be sure to include text on your homepage. These elements will help search engines determine your website is valuable.

Anchor text: Say you're writing a guest post for another site in order to build your online presence and get links. You'll want to include links to your website. But what's the best way to do this? A blue, underlined word that reads "click here" isn't enough to get good SEO. Keyword-rich links are going to be more descriptive and enticing, not only for readers to click, but also for search engines to index. If you have other people linking to your website, be sure to talk to them about using keyword-specific anchor text for the links.


 

Here is an example:

Bad anchor text: Phototuts+ posted a helpful tip about balancing ISO and aperture.

Good anchor text: Phototuts+ posted a helpful tip about balancing ISO and aperture.

 


Meta descriptions and titles: Write specific keyword-rich descriptions and titles of each page and galley. Use the keywords your audience uses to search for your type of work. Many Wordpress themes have SEO settings built in where you can customize the descriptions for each page.


Be Easy To Contact

Put your contact info on every page. It could be in the footer, top right corner, sidebar, wherever it is that's easy to find. Also, it's important to place your contact info in the same spot on every page. Imagine a potential client is looking through your portfolio, likes your images, and then can't find your contact info so they leave your website. It happens! So make sure your contact info is easy to find and on every page of your website.


Put your contact info on every page and in a place that's easy to find. Photo by Thomas Leuthard

Have a Search Button

Photo editors and commercial image buyers don't typically have the luxury of time to spend hours admiring all the images on your website. Instead, they are on a mission. A mission to find a specific kind of image for a specific purpose.

For this reason, buyers prefer to search for a photo on your website. In fact, "58% would likely use a search function within a website if one were available." Add a search bar to your website and use tags for your images so they can be easily searchable.


Keep Yourself Relevant By Blogging

Starting or keeping a blog may be tedious for many photographers. But it really pays off in the long run. There are several reasons why you should consider adding a blog to your website.

1. The search engines will eat it up (and that's a good thing). You want your name to appear in the search engines. You want your business to be front and center in the eyes of the audience you want. Remember that "61% of photo buyers use search engines to look for images."

That being the case, blogging is great for SEO. Search engines will index your site more frequently when there's high-quality text being added on a regular basis. Blogging also allows you to integrate your specific keywords.

2. People will want to link to you. And links are good things. Building links drives more traffic to your photography website, which means more potential clients and buyers. It also establishes your online presence and makes your website valuable in the eyes of Google.

3. Establish trust. Blogging is an excellent platform to share how much you know and how hard you work. Imagine someone is searching for photographers for an upcoming project or event. He stumbles upon two photographers - Jack and Bill. Bill blogs about his recent assignments and experience. He includes stunning images and positive reflections of working with his clients. Jack, on the other hand, has a display of nice images but doesn't have a blog. We don't even know if he's still working because the site hasn't been updated. Which photographer do you think appeals more to the one searching?

Blogging is a great way to keep your website fresh. Have fun and be creative with your blog. You can write about recent assignments, "stories behind the lens," or use it to thank your clients after a project. Just remember to stay focused on your work and leave the details of your personal life out. It's much more professional that way.


Be Sharable

Include social media buttons for every image in your galleries. From Facebook "likes" to Twitter "tweets", the more you can easily make your work sharable, the more widespread your website will become.

In addition to those social media buttons, every image should have it's own page or URL. This makes it really easy for others to bookmark and share. Say for instance someone wants to send the fifth image on your homepage slideshow to a friend or co-worker. They bookmark the page when they see the image they like, but then when they go to that page, they're sent to the first image in that slideshow. They're left frustrated and leave your website altogether. You can easily overcome that issue by giving each image its own page.


Now It's Time For You To Share!

How is your website using the "new essentials of photography websites?" What other tips do you have for photographers making or redoing their website? Please leave your comments or suggestions below.

Also - learn more about what photo editors and commercial buyers want by watching Photoshelter's Photography Websites of the Future video on Vimeo.

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