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: email@example.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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org!