Why You Don't Need A Website and Probably Never Will

Why You Don't Need A Website and Probably Never Will

For years I have had the internal and professional battle to go through the motion of building a portfolio website to show off my absolute best and most recent work while also being able to allow clients to easily contact me. In today's day and age there has never been an easier way to do all of these things all in one place, for me that's Instagram and it should be for you as well. Here is why I think it's the best portfolio website on the web.

I have had this debate for a really long time, meanwhile I have done pretty damn well without any type of official portfolio website so why should I build one now? The answer has been sitting right here for just over four years now, Instagram does it all and then some when it comes to a solid website. It has a slick and beautiful simple web interface while also having easily one of the worlds most accessible and widely used mobile app at its core. 

Sure you can customize the hell out of your own website but at what cost to your freelance or even full time business are you making to help that investment come to life and bring clients to your work. I have always found a lean freelance business to be king over the biggest and most fancy marketing budgets on the planet. You want to have your work first and foremost when selling yourself and for me the best way to do that is on Instagram, here are a few talking points for those looking to lose the www. for the world of social media. 

What Does Your Website Need to Do?

At the base level you want your website to easily illustrate your best and most recent work while also allowing clients to easily contact you for hire. I have always struggled with where I should put my valuable time and efforts towards advertising my work. 

The bio section, outside of the actual content, is the most customizable section of the web and app you can do. Right now I have a very basic but informative setup. I mention my name, more on the importance of that later, address, my accolades, and also my email and recent link to work on Fstoppers. This sections' importance is big for those looking to help tell a bit about yourself, while also giving just enough information as to not go too far or too little for potential clients. Not to mention the quick stats located below (or above on mobile) will give a bit of context to how often you post and how much time you put into your craft.

As you might expect a social network might not last forever but you better believe it is the hottest ticket right now and one that can reach a huge audience of potential clients or connections in the future. Now, I am not stupid and understand how a website works. The most important thing you can see with a fully customizable website is SEO, search engine optimization, where you can reach a wider net across the web for people to find and view your work. 

Don't Talk to Me About Image Quality

Yes, I have heard all the excuses photographers and creatives have about needing to have the biggest resolution image possible but your posting your work to the web, image resolution literally means nothing! If you're client can't at the base level see your work and decide you are the one they want to hire, you have a bigger problem than someone pixel peeping on the web at a photo you have posted. Right now Instagram has everything going for them and the image resolution is set at 1080x1080 for square crop and slightly more for the recent portrait option. 

You want to be able to optimize your shots for the web, as you can see Facebook has trouble doing for the most part. Instagram on the other hand, does pretty well. Early on when the resolution was upped to 1080x1080 they had a little issue with noise and pixel stacking not when reviewing your shot but after it was finally posted. Outside of that I have had great luck with posting to the platform.

Marketing Ain't Easy, So Make it Count

I have had this argument with so many photographers in the past and when it comes to Instagram and using it as a marketing tool for you business you want to push out the best work possible, always! Essentially if you want this to replace your website or potential website you want it to host your best work possible. There are many ways you can look at that but in the end if you want to post shots of your breakfast, your kid, dog, the backyard? Make it the best photo you can take, period. 

This is the biggest struggle for any photographer looking to mold their Instagram page from simply a place they post snapshots to their best work possible. Personally I have found that as creatives you should be able to create the best shot from any scenario to engage with your audience and build a following. Whether that be a foggy landscape in your backyard or the droplets on the car window, both of which were simply photos I took while on my morning commute here in the Midwest. 

Morning! 👋🏻// #igersindy

A post shared by Andrew Griswold (@the_gris) on

Rain delay // #igersindy

A post shared by Andrew Griswold (@the_gris) on

Here is a little tip for those that want a bit more SEO on the web. Instagram is a great tool, though you may ask how can people find my work with a simple Google search? The key is in the bio, you want to make sure your full name is being used in the name section. Not only is this important in the app when people search your name but Google has begun to find ways to connect these two things and its being updated every single day. 

Mobile! Mobile! Mobile!

With the evolution of the web and how mobile consumption is becoming more and more important Instagram is where its at. They have one of the worlds fastest growing apps and its platform is built from a mobile device. So many times I hear photographers pitching me on the fact they have a new website and I must check it out. I immediately take my phone out to have them stop me and say its not built for phones... WHAT?! So I need to simply remember your site for later when I have a chance to sit down at a desktop and look at it that way? No thanks. The world is changing, be willing to adapt or get left behind.

Time is Money, Don't Keep Wasting Both

To conclude, I have to admit I work very lean. I have little overhead as a photographer investing in the absolute bare minimum gear and look to save in all areas possible to keep myself making money rather than losing it. I focus on my work over time spent updating a website every 18 months, which even then its not fast enough in this day and age. A website was one of those spots I always found I wanted to invest in but it would be on my own terms and right now that takes too much time for my return. I wanted great control without losing simplicity and quality, though that comes at a cost. For the most part this solution works really well for me and should for most photographers. 

As for expandability down, yes you are at the mercy of the social network and its plan to stay alive in the long run. I don't see Instagram lasting forever but it will have a pretty large lifespan in my opinion. As many of you know as creatives we have to wear many hats and managing a website, all social channels, business accounts as well as client expectations beyond it can become taxing. I feel social media can keep evolving and shifting and we can move with it steadily enough moving followers from one thing to the next to keep building a name without a website behind it all which would need to continue updating as well at a very high pace.

There are plenty of sites out there like Squarespace or Word Press that can build you a website quickly and affordably but its not for everyone. I will admit though having a custom built website can be a huge advantage but with the way things are going with social media fueling much of the chatter on the web, its the future. For me I have to push you towards Instagram as a damn good option in your next website full on and hope you might see my side of things. 

Be sure to follow me on Instagram, would love to hear your thoughts and chat more! 

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73 Comments

Casey Berner's picture

If you're a social media photographer promoting brands and creating social content, then obviously Instagram is a great choice because it shows your expertise in the desired habitat. But where would a wedding photographer list rates on Instagram or a commercial photographer coral all their work related to a particular client? I would love to hear what a wedding photographer or commercial photographer thinks, who transact thousands of dollars for professional services. Instagram is great but any marketer will tell you that today's digital landscape is all about an omni-channel approach. Only about 25% of the internet population uses Instagram and when you think about blog posts, CVs and utilizing ads to promote your work, a social media profile doesn't scream professional just yet. You should have an Instagram but not JUST an Instagram.

The right hashtags can help potential clients find you on Instagram, but I agree that you should back that up with a real website. Wordpress has great plugins that allow you to display your IG feed, and quickly share to other social media, giving you the best of all worlds.

Matthew Odom's picture

Casey is 100% right.

If you are in the Wedding, Family, and Maternity side of things then knock yourself out, but if you decide to ever work in commercial/advertising photography you'll need a to have a solid website and there's no way around it. Most of my clientele are ad agencies and publications. When I ask "how did you find me?" they all say "I googled you popped up and I looked at your website" When I started my journey with my rep they told me I had to have a solid website if I were to be taken seriously by art buyers. I think that Social Media works as a cog in the machine and shouldn't be relied on for all of the publicity. Even when I was heavy into shooting weddings early in my career, my wedding website was the main hub for brides to look over my work. Just make sure whatever website you have is mobile friendly :)

Sean Molin's picture

I disagree quite a bit in most cases.

The number 1 most important thing about a website is control. You are not at the mercy of a social network and their flippant, fickle rules and control. Not only with regards to content, but also with who gets to see your content and when. Websites represent stability. Many MANY clients see them this way, too.

I agree that when starting out you should be focusing on your photography more than a website, though. But also, a website doesn't have to be time consuming or incredibly in-depth.

Glen Grant's picture

Bingo!! You hit the nail on the head - 'Control'
I just revamped and released my updated site after 6 years of tip toeing thru social media.
Now, granted I get 90% of my business thru social media but I am handcuffed as to the ability to have control and more so manage my audience as I see fit.
Love my FB Fanpage, but they throttle you these days to force you into buying BOOST (I refuse to) then I have Twitter (well.. I have twitter). I use Instagram as a social avenue to not bore people with the same stuff so I do me #walkabouts which are popular (sold a few book compilations).
But seriously, while I admittedly ignored the website, I am back and I can't be happier.
I rule my domain and that is really what I want to do, have control and not subjected to someone else policies, rules or censorship of my work and direct it to my audience.

Todd Becker's picture

If you need to save 100 bucks a year on website hosting to stay profitable you probably not the best person to take advice from.

Andrew Griswold's picture

It's cheap to host for sure but I think you missed my point. Time is key here. I don't want to waste time on something I need to continue to update and work on on the back end for "control" while also making sure it's pleasing to the masses because design changes so often. I could easily seeing laying 100 for a custom email but when companies contact me with no issue like Pepsi, Mashable, and Apple to my yahoo email, does it make me see I don't get clients via Instagam? Not quite. Trade off in time is key here.

Jeff McCollough's picture

Or you just hire me to manage it for you for a very low fee haha.

Andrew Griswold's picture

I might do that but my inner designer and profession in the field would need to be involved in the overall design and UI. Ha

Jeff McCollough's picture

Well naturally. As an artist you really need your website to look great according to your tastes. Personally for my use and for that of my clients I like WordPress as it is very simple for the end user to use without needing to know code and you can either use a pre-made template or have a site designed for WP from scratch.

So far every client I've ever landed or potential client I've met has always ask for my site, never my Instagram, or my Twitter, or my Facebook, or my 500px. Though I mostly work in video now, but still.

Austin Rogers's picture

I think the only thing I have to contribute to the conversation is the importance of a "real" email address. Even if you want your URL to point somewhere other than your site (i.e. IG) having "andrew@andrew'surl.com" would probably give a wee bit more credibility. I know I'm always turned off by someone's "business" email ending in "gmail.com."

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ to each their own of course.

Andrew Griswold's picture

Great point! The only reason I would buy hosting is to get a url and have a custom email. I hate the yahoo mail I have but it's easy. Def going to look into it this year. Then again I've caught plenty of big clients emailing me directly through yahoo without a doubt. Hell even Apple reached out. Haha

Austin Rogers's picture

Totally not knocking you as a person/photographer. I mean if you buy the domain I'm happy to let you use my Dreamhost acct for free email. ;)

Andrew Griswold's picture

I like you just a little bit more now Austin.

Tom Lew's picture

I think this article takes it to a little bit of an extreme place.. but I pretty much agree with 95% of this. The power of instagram never ceases to amaze me.

Andrew Griswold's picture

After reading it back it does go a bit far and I added a few points extra in there this afternoon. It's a very powerful tool and it's shocking how many people don't utilize it as much as any other avenue of advertising or publicity of their personal or business work.

Tom Lew's picture

Speaking to a bunch of photogs today at my shared studio space.. we were talking about how they best find clients and it was unanimous = Instagram

From the Instagram terms of service:

"you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post on or through the Service"

Typical of all the social sites (and especially so for parts of the Facebook empire.

Post your best work there and who knows where it legally might end up or how it will get used.

R W's picture

^^ THIS! Why do so many photographers use this service with ToS like this? What am I missing?

You are missing the fact that in real life it's never happened, and probably never will. There are way higher risks to your images elsewhere. They only have these ToSs so that they can legally feed your images to other users. It's just not a credible problem.

Not a credible problem? Don't forget Instagram tried to change their ToS so they could 100% sell your work with no royalties, who's to say they won't try again?

https://fstoppers.com/business/instagram-can-now-sell-your-images-withou...

Drew Pluta's picture

And then there's the Richard Prince debacle.

Dan Howell's picture

Upfront let me state that I am only reacting to the article and it's contents. I don't know nor will pass any judgement about your work or the scope of your business. Having said that, I think that there is a fundamental problem with the opinions in the article. Chiefly that I think it overlooks the difference between followers and clients. I have no idea what your business is, but even saying that it is retail photography (a photographer working directly for the end user/audience) what percentage of followers are paying clients? My thought its 1% or less.

My business is not retail photography, rather I am shooting for companies who then display my work to either publish the content to entertain or inform their audience, or they are using the content to display or advertise their product or service to their audience. Both types of my clients DO rely and get value out of social medial and connecting with their audience. They do not, however, seek or get exposed to professional photographers by stalking them on social media. In the case of most of my clients, they are inundated by photographers directly promoting to them. Not one of my clients had significant extra time to follow a great number of photographers as they are probably more worried about building their own audience whether it is print or social media.

I am not discounting the fact that benefits can be derived from participating in social media, but the article takes what I would consider an extreme stance that social media can encompass a photographer's entire marketing effort. Frankly I don't care if teenagers in Bangladesh are following me to look at photos of models that I shoot. It seems highly unlikely that they will ever hire me as a photographer. To spend a significant amount of time pursuing a social networking presence at the expense of focused direct and indirect marketing to a finite scope of potential clients is unwise. To advise other to do that is, frankly, irresponsible or at least incomplete.

Mokhtar Chahine's picture

Spot on ! No Sugar Coating.

Well said Dan!

Brad Barton's picture

My first thought when I encounter any entity that does not have a website - only a social profile or fan page on Facebook -- they aren't a serious business.

Seriously.. You go searching for a restaurant or a piece of camera gear and all you find is an Instagram feed - are you going to try and navigate that to try and find menus, pricing, specs or are you going to go to the website that has all that easily accessible on a well designed website?

Even the author here says he links his Instagram back to his Fstoppers portfolio - so really, he has a web site, just not one he manages... And that website also serves up the searcher thousands of other potential photographers in the same space.

Take a look at thegrid.io
it is supposed to be designed to save you time IF a "website" is what you really want.
It seems like a good solution for someone that does want an actual WEBsite.
Im going to try it out and see if it holds true.

Drew Pluta's picture

A year later and we're still waiting for THEGRID.