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You Can’t Be a Professional Photographer Without Having This

You Can’t Be a Professional Photographer Without Having This

There are only a select few truly universal things that every photographer must have. While you may think of the obvious, such as cameras, lenses, bags, and other kit, we won't talk about any of these in this particular article. Instead, we will talk more about a service that every photographer must use in order to be a real pro.

What does it mean to be a professional photographer in 2023? Well, many things. Being in touch with the current zeitgeist, fulfilling the demands of modern clients, and so on. One of those things that a photographer needs now is a website. Before going further, I want to say that I am not paid by any particular platform to write this article. I pay for these services myself and had a website long before starting to write for Fstoppers.

In this article, I want to give reasons why you must have a website as a professional photographer in 2023 and why you can't simply send an Instagram link as a website. Moreover, I will share some tips on how to build a good website that clients have no trouble navigating.

Why Have a Website in 2023?

First and foremost, a website is a place to showcase your work. It allows you to curate a selection of images, control how the viewer sees them, and really let your work shine. There is a simplicity that a website creates, which provides your viewer with a clear and comprehensive view of everything that there is to display. The ability to constantly edit the images you present ensures that your portfolio is updated and relevant. Unlike social media, a website provides a cleaner look and gives you control over what you display in what order. What is more, if you are shooting in several genres, you can divide the website to suit this need as well. That is simply impossible on a single Instagram account.

Another reason to have a website is that it elevates your professional image. It is expected that a photographer has a website in 2023 if they are planning to work with clients. Every time I speak to someone in person, they usually ask for my website rather than Instagram. An established web presence is a valuable marketing tool for a photographer.

Why Is Instagram Not Good Enough?

Instagram is another valuable tool that you must have as a photographer. However, it serves a very different purpose when compared to a website. Instagram is a place to show that you are actively working and posting new content regularly. It is a place that is not so much your portfolio as it is just a blog or a feed of what you've been up to. It is less professional and more personal than a website. Sure, Instagram is going to be much more frequently visited than your website, but it is not a valid digital presence on its own. An Instagram is going to attract all sorts of people, whereas your website is going to be more targeted. That audience might very well be potential clients and industry professionals. Having an Instagram allows you to build a following, while having a website will convert into more jobs.

How to Build a Good Website

I will be honest: standing out by having a fancy website is probably a bad move. Let your work speak for itself, not the website on which the work is presented. The importance of having an easy-to-navigate website can't be underestimated. I see far too many photographers make a complicated website that is impossible to use. To add insult to injury, they put in a contact form, which will keep most clients from ever reaching out. Here is my guide to building a good website.


First things first: picking a platform, I tried a few on the market, including Wix, Squarespace, and Weebly. I ended up using Squarespace, as it is the best out of the three. Sure, they are notorious for their marketing and are pretty much everywhere, but honestly, they provide a great service at a reasonable cost, so it only makes sense to use them. My experience with Squarespace has been largely positive. It is very easy to build a website; I made mine in about an hour. The whole interface is super clean, the blocks are easily customized, and you really don’t need any previous experience with web design. All this adds up to a fantastic-looking website and a great backend experience.


Now, how do you make a great website that clients can easily navigate? My website is built to be simple. I follow the KISS method: keep it simple, stupid. Essentially, it contains some galleries that show my work, an about page, and a contact page. The portfolio is the homepage, and all the work is visible at once. You can go on it and immediately see what I do and how I do it. There is no entry page, no galleries to click—literally nothing that the client has to do in order to see my work. This way, I am able to immediately get down to business and avoid the annoyance of having the potential client scroll through menus and find what they need. I’ve known cases where clients will skip a photographer if their website is too complicated to navigate.

About and Contact

The other thing that is important is contacting you. It has to be easy and obvious. This is why having a dedicated "Contact Me" page is so vital to having a good website. I have my contact information on both the about and contact pages. This eliminates the slight chance that a client won’t know where to find the contact information. Don’t hide it; keep it simple and obvious. The other thing that you need to have is an email and a phone number that is clearly visible on your website. Contact forms might seem like a good choice at first, but they are both impersonal and annoying to fill out. It is much easier and faster to have a "mailto: youremail@email.com" link. Whenever I fill out a contact form, I usually don’t even expect the person to get back to me, as it feels like a shot in the dark.

The about page should also be short and to the point. Don’t open with an “I loved photography since childhood.” While it might be true, nobody wants to read your life story. I suggest keeping your about section to information on what describes your work, some clients you worked for, and maybe a quick question and answer about you. I am currently adding one that shares some private info such as my guilty pleasure, etc. Such information can help you quickly build a personal connection. For example, I love Family Guy. If my client also likes Family Guy, there's a topic to talk about right from a sentence on your website.

Closing Thoughts

So, there you have it. Here is why you need a website and how to build an easy-to-use website that your clients will love. Every working photographer must have a website in 2023. There is no excuse for you to not have one.

If you want me to review your website and provide feedback, feel free to get in touch via email at illya@illyaovchar.com!

Illya Ovchar's picture

Illya aims to tell stories with clothes and light. Illya's work can be seen in magazines such as Vogue, Marie Claire, and InStyle.
LIGHTING COURSE: https://illyaovchar.com/lighting-course-1

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Just saying: Potential clients whose accountabilities include web design will look at any Squarespace-, Wix-, or Weebly-built product and immediately think, "Pfff, canned website. Not trying very hard, is he?" I agree that a canned website is better than just throwing potential customers down the Instagram rabbit hole, but once your career advances to the point where you're ready to take the next step, a custom-designed website (and a coordinated identity system to go with it) might be a worthwhile investment to consider...

--- "Just saying: Potential clients whose accountabilities include web design will look at any Squarespace-, Wix-, or Weebly-built product and immediately think, "Pfff, canned website. Not trying very hard, is he?""

Source? Or, just anecdotal?

--- "but once your career advances to the point where you're ready to take the next step, a custom-designed website (and a coordinated identity system to go with it) might be a worthwhile investment to consider.."


I hate most custom websites. They're usually convoluted...trying way too hard to be fancy. If anything, I find established photographers keep it simple. I'm not saying the below examples are custom, but, these are somethings I wouldn't be surprised if Squarespace had similar templates for.


I have a friend who is/was/is again an art buyer/producer for major ad agencies. Her and other art buyers can spot a Square Space site and like that it will work, the links will go to the right pages, easy to share with colleagues . If they are looking at 50 sites a day they want it to be easy to use.
No need to re-invent the wheel, there is an under the hood consistency that does not make them search for the "contact" link, and she needs to look for navigation tools, SS is user friendly as opposed to some webdesigner/photographer's wet dream of a CA award in web design. SS is simple...it works
OTOH she has shared frustration with custom (over) designed, overly complicated sites...

And you know what? They are not hiring a web page designer, they are hiring a photographer.

Just saying: nothing wrong with a Squarespace site. They are more than excellent.

Thanks! I was under, I guess, the false impression that "professional" simply meant you get paid.

I actually disagree. Lots of pro photogs these days don't have websites. I think website are useful and as someone who had a career in web design at one point, It was tough to conclude that a dedicated business is a waste of time and money for a LOT of small businesses. I even used to argue they were critical, if you dig into the archives, I even have several articles on Fstoppers speaking to it. times have changed, though.

It depends on who your clientele are. A commercial photographer probably still benefits from a website because art directors or similar appreciate an elegant website experience. On the contrary, those serving a more generic public generally will find clients who have never even visited their website, and for the few who did, it would have been fine to just visit a social media presence instead. The effort and cost of building/maintaining a website often could be better spent elsewhere as the website tends to generate almost no leads.

For example, Irene Rudnyk, a successful pro photographer frequently featured on Fstoppers, does not have one.

That said, I will always have one because I like having the elegant, controlled experience that I can send people to but to claim it is necessary to be "pro" is simply not true. Its a nice to have for most. Having a strong well-crafted social media presence is far more important.

This is not true for a few reasons.

The first one is, that I have worked at a magazine that use Instagram to pick photographers. The internet loves to talk in trends everybody must do this everybody must lose that, but that is just basically a lie. Companies work the way that they feel like it whether it's more or less with the current ideology (trends). The people who used to run that magazine now work at another magazine. Is a high chance them and their photo editor that now works at CNN, is Coleman through any prospects social media.

Last year I met a photographer that also does drone video/images. He gets most of his work from his video clips which are sitting on his Instagram. Very young dude just happens to have friends that know people with a lot of money. So that got him into real estate. Is he not professional? He came to shoot my apartment for my management company and his video work was awesome.

So I'm making two points and the first one is that this 'who's a professional stuff' is a old tired argument that F stoppers petapixel and a bunch of YouTubers have been trending on for the last couple of years. Most of these guys call themselves pros based on their own work or the work of their immediate circle or so. There's a lot of other people doing things in different ways and it makes a lot of these videos and articles about pros look silly. But shouldn't we know this? At least this should be in all of these articles because none of this stuff is absolute unless you're in a very particular slice of the market.

The second point is that the internet doesn't decide what you supposed to have, and talking heads don't decide either. The person that decides which is supposed to have is the people who are hiring at the job that you're looking for. You would expect that the person involved in hiring you has a good sense of what they want and proper process, especially on the editorial side a lot of these people absolutely do not. This is something that only your research and insight can prepare for, after that you're being thrown through the wolves in terms of what they expect to see. So many sites have prospective photographers sending themselves up in very stoic ways not even taken to account that the people reviewing their work they're possibly give a crap.

Even as a design art director, I got shit from a hiring manager over my use of PDFs... was insane but it is what it is. Hiring managers are people over anything else, beyond what's supposed to be their common sense or professionalism. This is what we all have to deal with and it'd be nice to see more articles giving out that practical information because that's what it is.

So I think these pros should have articles are just going about it to generically and easy. I would think it'd be better to just preface by saying for my part of the market you should do this. Because the market is not lavish but it is still pretty wide especially nowadays. These rules are not universal not in the least.

My 2c, after literally experiencing the opposite of what this article is stating. And let's not even get into everybody's website looking the same or using the same services. That's another fun conversation that deserves its own space.