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
Chris Collacott's picture

Well, obviously this strategy won't work for *all* photographers. It would certainly not work on mine! A traditional website is absolutely critical for my business. I'd like someone to challenge me on this ;).

Fino Balanza's picture

Agreed with Casey... I'm a wedding photographer and feel that having a website is a must... The Gram is a great tool to expand my network but in the wedding and commercial photo industries, websites are essential to first impressions with clients. Not to say the gram isn't as effective as a website portfolio, but if a couple can't view rates, book a session or check credentials, then there goes another client. More importanly, having a mobile friendly website accessible to phones and tablets are crucial and at times more effective than the gram.

Andrew Gerard's picture

I always feel like clients see or find me on social media, but they don't hire, or hand over money until they see a website, I feel like a site still has the ability to make people feel you are legit.

Shannon Duffy's picture

yessss exactly how I feel. I definitely use Instagram to market myself, it's a great tool. However, my business card has my portfolio's website on it, not "follow me on insta lol".

Anthony Tripoli's picture

I couldn't submit just an instagram handle to creative agencies looking to contract photographers for work and be taken seriously.

Instagram is a very important tool for self promotion these days, but a website is a curated collection of your best work, where an instagram is an ongoing feed of work you're creating. While I would never just post for the sake of posting to my professional IG, you do need to post somewhat frequently to stay relevant. Posting somewhat frequently, even if it's just the occasional best shot from your recent shoots will still bury content you might want people to see front and center. For example, the first photo on my website is one of my all time favorite shots. To find that shot on my IG though you need to scroll a ways back to locate it. The average creative/art director isn't going to dig that deep...

This is why having a portfolio is so important IMO. It gets your best work in front of the potential immediately.

Kate Fox's picture

I totally agree with this, I have found my site doesn't do much except help with SEO and I rely heavily on my Instagram account. I use the younity app to access my Lightroom library at home, allowing me to post my high quality photos from my iPhone with no emailing myself run-around. http://www.getyounity.com/blog/post-photos-stored-on-your-computer-to-in...

Lee G's picture

I mean if it works for you then run with it.

I feel that even a simple website is better than not having one. Especially with how easy it is to build a now days.

I 100% agree with your point about SEO. My Instagram has ranked on Page 2 for my SEO keywords for over a year, back when I only had 84 followers. :) My website is still floating somewhere past page 15.

I also think Instagram is a relatable way for potential clients to gauge your credibility. (as is any social media, instagram is just the one I use most). I list it instead of my website in my email signature. Its much more current and active than my website.

Andrew Griswold, thank you for a well thought out and timely article. You provided much good information and relevant insights. It made me again reconsider using Instagram. Thank you.

Allow me a suggestion, but please do not call me the grammar police. In the article there are numerous misusages of you your and you're.

Cordially and respectfully submitted.

Andrew Griswold's picture

Ha! Thank you very much in both fronts. We have editors but they can't do it all. I'm a designer and creative by day with 0 technical writing capabilities but I'm working at it. Thanks for the heads up!

I'm a little disappointed because I at least know better on those.

Hannes Uys's picture

Apologies for being super late on this one. One thing we have to realise is that how we are doing business is busy changing and it will continue to change. The days of a passive brick and mortar type of approach to promoting yourself will not be enough. People will continue source and buy products differently. Even shopping malls in the States are under threat. People want easy. The smart people will have picked that up early and will benefit from the extra exposure that channels like Instagram gives them. It's about exposing yourself to as many eyes and possibilities as possible. Even though this type exposure is free, it is an active one that requires thought and constant attention. I think most photographers don't like that part. I for one was late on getting the bigger picture of how everything relates to each other, but its never too late to start right?

Kathy Drasky's picture

I am super late to this thread, but I just have to say this is the best idea I've heard in a long time! Not only do I applaud you Andrew for writing this piece and taking the flak, but I thank you for doing so and living in the 21st century. Photography is just a part of my work as a digital media professional, so I *do* have a website. But it does not showcase my photos, and I have struggled with whether I need to add a portfolio component to it. This piece proves to me that I do not need to do that and that my time would be better spent promoting my photography through Instagram. You (and a handful of others who have commented above) realize the value in social media - and particularly mobile. I love looking at a good online photo portfolio as much as the next photographer, but they can be clunky and force one off a mobile device back to the desktop/laptop. As time goes on, less people will be making decisions this way and more will be making them with a mobile device in hand. Thanks again for the forward thinking. It inspired me to write a blog post, too: http://www.kazzadraskmedia.com/let-your-instagram-feed-be-your-photo-por...

Andrew Griswold's picture

Thank you so much for the message and really appreciate the support. You nailed it! I love simple and right now this format and workflow is perfect for me as its all in one and costs the least amount of money, though time is spent it all goes to a better purpose in growing my name and building it from the ground up with a community. I site is only as good as you put time into it and update it constantly.

I know this post is a few years old, but my input:

If you are a photographer, Instagram is a must. There are many people that use strictly Instagram as their main social media platform. You can quickly display your work easily contacted right from people's phone. However, I just don't think you can provide the same feel or user experience as a website. Smooth graphics and more detailed content can be provided on a website as well as an integrated blog. I use Hostgator, which allows wordpress installation. Using this and the Elementor plugin, you can create an amazing and highly customized user experience that you just can't do with Instagram alone. While I agree with most of this article as far as the uses of Instagram, I just can't see it being used as your sole online presence, but I suppose it depends on the photographer! Thanks for the write up, great article!