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. 

View this post on Instagram

Morning! 👋🏻// #igersindy

A post shared by Gris (@andrewgriswold) on

View this post on Instagram

Rain delay // #igersindy

A post shared by Gris (@andrewgriswold) 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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Previous comments
Steve James's picture

Instagram might work for some people, but pursuing a social media following also takes a substantial amount of time. Setting up even a basic portfolio website is nor hard, expensive or overly time consuming. The amount of spam and junk on Instagram alone turns me off it as anything more than a casual thing.

Mokhtar Chahine's picture

Websites have evolved.

A website is a mobile office space (email &info), a portable portfolio (your work), and a cloud storage (to deliver to client & to store some content).

Some of my clients reach out to me because they like my Instagram account, Most of them ask me if they can see more from a specific genre, a website allows me to direct them to what they are asking for, its more organized and focused.

How many times Igers didn't want to post an amazing photo because it does not relate to their Instagram genre? thats very limiting.

Its important to stay up to date with all the social media platforms, but having a website is important and could save you time. how ? 99% of my clients book me after a phone call & viewing my portfolio on my website. I save time by not having to meet them, not having to create a specific portfolio based on their needs and send it to them.

Password protected galleries help them share projects between co-workers to select their images and send me their retouching comments.

Smart galleries allow me to enable downloads so they can download their content without having me burn one on a dvd, copy it to USB. and deliver it myself. Yes sure there are loads of cloud storage solutions, Having control is always impressive, and i usually get positive feedback regarding that.

Instagram & its followers won't last forever, Just like DeViant Art, Facebook Group/Pages...etc...

Mark Harris's picture

Not having a website is like working from a spare room at home - sure you can be a very talented and successful photographer under those conditions, but there will always be clients who will not take you seriously because you don't have an office or studio. Depends who you are pitching to.

D Laugh's picture

I would just like to say that all of the comments here are very good. But I think a lot of the posters are missing the point, or sound like a lot of the older photographers who were anti digital because it was safe and all they knew how to do. I see very good points presented, but truth is people who make the decisions on picking and choosing who will shoot what and what they want or need to be photographed are becoming younger and younger. The trend I believe, like much of life, is moving faster and faster and finding the path of least resistance is definitely the way of the younger audience. For most young people grabbing a mobile device and quite possibly finding the next Helmut Newton or Richard Avedon at the tip of their fingers via mobile device is the future. Most young people don't or will not make the time to sit and browse through an entire website. Most will probably find the process as fun as trying to read War & Peace. I personally wouldn't just up an abandon my website, but to stay relevant and with the times would it really hurt? Hell, I'm pretty sure if you could break down the stats of most photography website viewers we would find that most site views are by other photographers rather than actual potential clients. Stepping out of the box or the safety net of what we know could just be the next big thing, but this is just my two cents :-)

Dan Howell's picture

As I replied to the original article, there is a difference between Instagram follwers and clients. While there is lots of talk about monetizing followers and views, I have yet to hear sustained examples of real world clients finding photographers solely thru Instagram or broader social media. Furthermore, any opportunities that come thru social media have shown to be lesser and lesser rewarding. If you want to race to the bottom, go ahead, but please don't tell me that the bulk of real professional photography opportunities are on Instagram.

Andrew Griswold's picture

I've gained plenty of clients through only Instagram, the majority really. When I had 2,000 followers, 20,000 and now 60,000. It doesn't matter how they find me but when they do it's important that your work captures their attention enough and drive them to reach out to work together. Having companies like Apple find me and send me an email to my, as stated above, ameture email address found in my Instagram bio it's incredible. These places will always choose content and people over how shiny their website is or how high end their camera looks. Quality will always prevail.

Dan Howell's picture

Personally I have found, as have many of my peers, that passive marketing does not yield the kind of results as focused active marketing. I would not advise anyone to put more time/effort into instagram than they do with active marketing. Quality will not always prevail if it is not seen.

I would strongly advise you to run your theories by active photographers (away from FStoppers), photo reps and art buyers.Your experience is circumstantial.

I have a couple different genres that I work in, however, they don't have much synergy. There are some images that I simply wouldn't display with some of my other images. In other cases mixing different image genres together looks unfocused. For me, having multiple websites makes more sense. However, having multiple social media/instagram accounts does not make as much sense. You gloss over the control of format like it is insignificant. As an image creator or story teller, giving up control so many tools of expression is simply not a strength.

Andrew Griswold's picture

Thank you. This comment means more than you know.

Brad Barton's picture

No, I think you missed the title of the article... That you don't need a website and the article below goes on to say Instagram is all the author needs - and thinks you should, also.

I'm not saying you don't need Instagram or any other new technology. I'm saying that you also need a website to maximize your presence... To reach potential clients that either aren't on Instagram (substitute your favorite platform) or won't take some who only has that seriously.

This isn't a digital vs film argument. It's "an online presence takes effort to maximize your return" argument.

The author says he doesn't feel like time spent on a website has an ROI for him. I don't know how he could possibly know that since he doesn't have one and hasn't done an analysis of traffic.

I can tell you that I have and the majority of my traffic comes from google first, Facebook second, and Twitter third - with everything else (including "no referrer" running far behind.

J. W.'s picture

In typical fstoppers fashion, there is a link to another fstoppers (contradictory) article on the bottom of this one "Why It's Important To Have a Good Website". https://fstoppers.com/originals/why-its-important-have-good-website-102466

Andrew Griswold's picture

An incredible article. I'm not saying a website is worthless I'm just stating my siccess is not using one at all essentially for my business and using Instagram and a powerful alternative. The best thing about Fstoppers are the varying views of each writer. We all have our own experiences and find value and experience in so many genres. It's incredible!

Tomas Ramoska's picture

Andrew Griswold you need to add this article into #BS category.. I just look into your 500px profile this is one of your images by the way nice masking work around the edges my two year old daughter can do better work. #NiceToLearnFromIndustryLeaders.. Happy New Year..

Andrew Griswold's picture

Hey Tomas, eat shit.

Tomas Ramoska's picture

Actually I just did it by reading this article.. but thank you anyway :)

Norbert Tukora's picture

Well, Andrew handled that VERY professionally.... XD XD

Andrew Griswold's picture

Just a little fun. Not all the comments can be filled with thrilling rebuttals about something that works for me personally and could possibly work for someone else in the profession. Too many people are close minded to think something different can work like using Instagram as a portfolio page in this day and age but thats fine. Its not for everyone.

Grant Watkins's picture

Exactly what you would exact from a professional, that suggests abandoning a marketing tool.

Drew Pluta's picture

This is great advice if you and your work are exceedingly common and your client base is millennials. I find it increasingly more difficult as time goes on to make my work fit well into a 2 inch square with any success. If you shoot weddings and head shots go for it.

Andrew Griswold's picture

Or if you shoot campaign work, charitable prospects, personal projects, product or landscape photography or many various avenues or genres. It all depends on how willing you are to accept the fact this is simply a different avenue to display your work to a wide range of audiences. You can do so much more than promote to millennials and even then where do you think this world is going and when those kids grow up what do you think they will do later in their life? Call you up to hire you as a photographer when they are working for Apple, GE, or Mashable? All clients I have gained from people working at a lower end of those companies knowing my name and finding my work via the app and my page. It works for me, its not for everyone though. Dont discredit my opinion for lost information. Its just my opinion on a way to promote your work and use a platform that is still on fire.

tim hammond's picture

If you're OK with someone else deciding which content and concepts are acceptable for you to include within your creative vision, that's just very, very sad. Foregoing a web site that you control in favor of social media to serve and control your content is de facto endorsement of censorship.

Dana Goldstein's picture

A bit early for April Fools, isn't it?

Just off the top of my head:
(1) No ability to organize galleries
(2) No ability to show motion components over 10 seconds
(3) No ability to connect images / blog posts via links in posts
(4) Extremely limited profile/about section
(5) Chronological organization may not be best fit to tell your story as a photographer

Really, F-stoppers, I get that you want click bait, but THIS?

Andrew Griswold's picture

1) I organize my library per my daily life. Keeps things personal and professional together in a cohesive and fun way. For me that works and clients love it.
2) Video is still fairly new to social like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook and doesnt get quite as much engagement so not many do it. IG has 15 seconds but you are far better going to Vimeo or Youtube.
3) The app is still working on the links to be live in comment and captions. Probably one of the bigger disappointments in the app and web version currently.
4) I am simple, I love how I can keep it limited. Short and sweet. Straight to the point. If they want to know more about me they can leave a comment, spark a conversation and relationshp as well as email me directly.
5) I totally disagree with this one. I think the evolution of my work over 4 years shows a lot about me as a professional looking to always build on my past work and do better each time. The chronological order is unreal and shows so much of me and my life to clients. Great way to connect with them on a personal level and help them know me and hire me rather than the blind google search they did to find someone in a speciic area.

Norbert Tukora's picture

Fstopppers, why don't you start fresh the new year, and fire a few weak staff writers like this one.....

Andrew Griswold's picture

Wow, sorry to hear your disappointed. What would you like to hear me write about?

Jack Alexander's picture

Instagram and social networks are important, and I agree it's essential to keep them updated. But I wouldn't work with any make-up artist or stylist that didn't have an official website. For me it's the distinction between someone who is serious about what they do, and also illustrates that people care about how they and their work is perceived. I often have to get my creative team approved by the PR or publication I'm working with, and I'd be embarrassed sending over an Instagram link for a stylist etc... I wouldn't do it. But that's just me personally.

Andrew Griswold's picture

The world is changing buddy, you make some incredible points but in many cases you would be absolutely shocked how many clients I have gained and campaigns I have been a part of because someone searched a genre of photography or geo location to eventually find my work to hire me on the platform. These are mom and pop shops or kids in highschool these businesses are GE, Apple, and Pepsi. Crazy world we live in, just simply do what I can with what I have and not wasting more time on something I just dont see that much more value in when its working so damn well with Instagram and other social platforms right now. Its amazing how many times an AE or CD at an ad agency hits me up and asks me to send them some links to some names of makeup, commericial or retouching on Instagram for them to see their work quickly and do a bit of audit on that person. Someones website only shows a bit of that person, so many places want to hire someone they can trust, too easy to hide behind a super clean website these days and act professional and then be a total clown behind the camera. Legitmacy doesnt come with just a clean website. I live in Indianapolis a city not well known for commercial photographers but it makes me sick when these few names pop up in my feed as "professionals" and are charging outrageous amounts and then never getting more work after that because they will set up huge lights and setups and then fake pop off 3 of the 5 lights to show boat a photoshoot. NOT saying you are that type, Ha! Just crazy to be on the agency side right now and see the types of things I see when it comes to hiring talent and how companies will look into photographers well beyond their website to find more about them. So many times we have to audit their social and other platforms to see what they are really like. I just like to kep it simple so IG is where I can do that. Show my personal and professional life all in one. Love it you and many others on this thread have some GREAT points though and I could see myself building a site down the road but right now this is perfection in a glass.

Mark James's picture

I am not sure what instagram is, but when I think of the images I've seen shared from there all I remember is seeing over processed crap. Like they have tools to ruin your photo just for fun or something. None of them have ever made me want to go to the site, or whatever it is.

Grant Watkins's picture

This is by far the stupidest thing I have read today.

Answer one question, when was the last time a potential client asked for your instagram username? *Mic drop.

David Taylor's picture

Honestly, I would skip responding to these highly negative comments. They aren't worth the time, or your sanity. Some people are going to complain, no matter what you do. You could rescue them from a burning car, and they'll critique your shoes while being saved.
I don't agree with every aspect of this article, but I still find it informative how other photographers are marketing their work, and I appreciate the thoughtful (and appropriately/maturely worded) comments by several of the photographers here in the responses.
Don't take the negative comments to heart, especially from those who have never written an article for a trade/industry publication. They aren't "in the arena" with you, fighting the good fight.
They are hecklers, screaming/whining from the nose-bleed section.

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