A website is one of the most important tools for any professional photographer. A website allows your work to be found through searches, can be used as a great digital portfolio in a pinch, and is an excellent way to interact with your potential clients and fans of your work. However, when I look through others photographers websites, I find a long list of ‘No-No’s’ on a design level. So here are five tips to help improve your website's presence on the internet.
1.) Avoid Adobe Flash at ALL COSTS
I cannot echo this enough. Don’t get me wrong, I love flash, and I was one of the photographers who stood by flash when everyone else started abandoning it. It just no longer serves a purpose for photography websites. While it makes a seemingly boring website look pretty, it can also make it load slow, and in many aspects, make your website unavailable to mobile devices.
And the mobile devices is a big thing. Looking at my websites own stats for example, shows that over 40% of the people viewing my website are from a mobile device. That's a huge segment of viewers that would no longer be able to view your website, and your work, with a flash-based website.
Another problem with flash based websites is the inability to add keywords to your images alt tags. This makes your site very difficult for search engines to read, which will hurt you dramatically in Google search rankings. Which brings me to my next point...
2.) SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
A great breakdown of SEO was posted by our very own Nick Fancher last week, so I’ll try not to repost too much of his information on this. However, Search Engine Optimization is likely the most important thing you can do for your website. We no longer live in the internet era where you can just make a website, and search engines like Google, Bing, or Yahoo will eventually pick up your content and start displaying it for those who search. We must now use creative keyword placement, backlinks to popular websites, and create an easy viewing website, for both humans, and robots.
This is all done through continuous research, and is considered a full time job for a reason. SEO is the difference maker for shooting a paid gig once a week, and being fully booked 2 months out. One basic and great tip for SEO is to name your images. Most photographers websites are portfolio based, with virtually no words within the content of the main site. You must counteract the lack of keywords in your website with alt tags in your images. This is done very easily with Wordpress based websites, but can be done easily through adding alt=”keywords keyword keywords”> to the html within the < img > tags. Simple adjustments as this can push your website from being nonexistent to Google, to being among the top websites within your market.
It’s a pain in the ass, no doubt, but blogging has some huge benefits to your website, as it gets people coming back. The average portfolio on a photographers website gets updated once every three months or so. With that being said, how do you expect to get repeat visitors if you rarely add new and interesting content to your website?
Blogging has huge benefits for SEO too. Its adding continuous content to your site, making it ever expanding and hitting multiple areas of photography. My website is portrait based, however, I’m able to put some landscape photos on my blog, and that might help me with getting some landscape gig in the future. As photographers, we dabble in everything, even though we have one specific focus to what we do. By having a blog, it enables us to be more scatterbrained in our work, and it’ll help our business grow as well.
Blogs also add personality to your website. People want to work with someone who is interesting and easy to work with. By having blog posts, about anything, it’ll help your potential clients get a general sense of who you are.
4.) Multi-platform Your Website
The internet is used for social media more than anything these days. We’re all addicted to Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, so why aren't you using all those forms of media to present your work?
Lets take Instagram for example. Personally, I was absolutely against Instagram for the longest time. I thought it was devaluing the photography industry, and that it was a fad that would pass in no time. Eventually, some friends who are photographers talked to me about it, and presented it differently. Instagram is a social media device, that allows millions of people to view some of your work, that may not have the opportunity otherwise. Not only that, but it also presents your life and personality in day to day photos, so why wouldn't you want to use that medium to help gain your own exposure as a photographer? All social media has their purpose, and its important to use them all to help grow your business. More importantly, you need to link them all together, so that your work is easy to find on all mediums.
5.) Organize Your Content
Your website is your digital portfolio, and there are tactics that you should use to help present your work more efficiently. A portfolio is designed to show off your best work, in different categories. My tactic, has always been the same one I have shared with many photographers in print portfolios. You present your very best work first, and last, and have the middle portion of your portfolio with the filler. This strategy is used as you want to grab attention initially, with WOW factor, show them diversity in your work, and then wow them again.
A great tool I use is to look at the bounce rate of my website. Bounce Rate, in laymen terms, is the rate of which people are leaving your site without viewing a second page of it. So an important strategy is to move your pictures around, and see which combinations have the best success rate.
For a further look into improving your website, I recommend checking out the Fstoppers DVD "How To Become A Professional Commercial Wedding Photographer".
My flash site has a mirror html site that comes up on mobile devices. Does that mirror site help me in google ranking? And does anyone know if html5 works the same was as html?
HTML5 is HTML. It's just an additional set of tags that are utilized by any modern browser. A simple tag HTML5 uses is this is how easy it is to embed a video with HTML5. Without it you need to tell the browser what type of video you're attempting to have it load, where to get flash (for instance) if the viewer doesn't have it.
HTML5 is EXACTLY what Google wants you to start implementing. When Google looks at your website to figure out what's important and what they should note about each page on your site the spider, like us, is easily overwhelmed, it doesn't like seeing too much stuff without a lot of content. So if you can use simpler coding to get the same thing done, well you're site loads faster, on more devices (with TINY little chips that can play 2K res videos and they somehow fit in your pocket...), and as a fantastic side bonus... Google will index your site and you will get better hits.
I'm grossly under-explaining both HTML5 AND Google's indexing process, but in short: No, HTML5 does not work "the same as HTML," it's far more efficient and it will give you a better likelihood of getting what you want indexed... the way you want it to be indexed.
While I agree with everything you say, and I totally endorse HTML5, keep in mind that it's not standardized yet. Tags and syntax are still submitted and under review. Same goes with CSS3. Very awesome technology, but not kosher.
Might want to clarify the title of your first tip. Being a photography blog and all, I read "Avoid flash at all costs" and instantly dismissed the entire article as amateur BS. David Hobby would like a word with you... :)
I agree. Should say "Avoid Adobe Flash..."
Did you really not understand what he meant by Flash? If not, you have a more serious problem to work on.
Not as bad as your trolling problem, apparently.
I'm not trolling. The article is about website, so obviously flash means adobe flash. Plus, if you and everyone else understands what Zach meant, then there's no need for clarification, isn't there?
"If not you have more serious problems to work on."
You find someone you don't agree with and add an insult to your comment to them. That's being a troll. Tell me, how do you intend to maintain a constructive conversation when you end your first comment to someone with an insult?
This is a photography website. 99.9% of the time I see "flash" without any other qualifiers mentioned on a photography website it means "camera flash" not "adobe flash", so my first instinct was to think "Don't use camera flash?" on an article about websites. I realized the issue and kept reading. The reason why I suggested the change is because that pause in thought so early in the article affected readability for an otherwise well written article.
Also, others agreed, and you didn't feel the need to end comments to them with an insult.
You're perfectly welcome to not agree, but the moment you stoop to an insult to prove that point. You are a troll.
I'm sorry you think my comment was a troll-like act. All I see is instead of appreciating the good content, all you readers are just sitting there nitpicking the writers here. You don't need to agree with his writing style either sir. I'm sick and tired of unappreciative readers.
While nitpicking on Zach's writing skills, it doesn't seem to me that your writing is any better. Take, for example, your sentence, "You're perfectly welcome to not agree, but the moment you stoop to an insult to prove that point. You are a troll." - Did you notice the lack of a proper verb in your sentence after the punctuation?
My point is that no one's perfect. Everyone should just appreciate the free content on this site. If you don't agree with the content or the writing, close the tab and go out shooting or something. Go get some fresh air and take it all in instead of sitting in front of your monitor bottling it all up. Jeez.
See how you're using picking apart my grammar to belittle me? This is common troll behaviour
I'm sorry I didn't take the time to explain I loved the rest of the article. It's quite well written. I should have said that before suggesting the one ambiguity that gave me a hard time about the article.
I'll take the time to explain that next time instead of simply clicking the "Like" button.
I made the same mistake!
Aww come on. The article is about websites, not photography techniques.
I'll change it :-p
Did the singular word "flash" not tip you off? Or the pic of a missing plugin? Or the fact that it's about improving websites and not your photography?
Why the need to clarify if you and everyone else understands it?
@tambnguyen:disqus Tam and Sinisterbrain Lmao. Your need to chill.
Sorry about that. My pre-coffee sense of humor includes poking at easily annoyed people. I'll not do it again.
Interesting article. Personally i dont think "avoid flash sites at all costs" is fair. Its surely about personal taste, how you use the site and more so how good the flash based site your using is. Ive been on hundreds on non flash sites that are badly designed, load slow and are frustrating-they just make me turn off straight away and more so i just dont like the look of them. However There are some flash sites like the one i use that allows tagging and converts the site for mobile/ipad. So i wouldnt avoid at all costs-just do enough research and think about how youre going to use the site then decide. Both Flash and non flash have their pluses and minus points
Flash is not supported by Android, Apple iOS, or Googlebots....
So its never a good idea, as it hurts your google rankings, and your mobile accessibility.
Your presuming, and this article that we all care about google rankings and hits. I dont. Couldnt give a jot. I get my business other ways. Which is why i said i think saying avoid at all cost is a bit sweeping. As for mobile accessibility: again. My Flash site converts itself into a website that works on Apple etc.
I will concede that if you want all the google hits and thats how you get your work then yep Flash isnt the way to go-but its not to be avoided altogether.
There is just no reason to use flash anymore. You can talk about how you don't clients via search engines or all the little work arounds forever, but why bother? There is nothing that flash does anymore that can't be done in other ways while also being more accessible, faster loading, etc.
Sure, my opinion, Google's opinion, adobe's opinion, apples opinion, the HTML consortium's opinion, the writer of this article, and on... I'm sure your right though.
So if everyone said jump off a bridge we should do that too huh? If someone wants to use flash then let them use flash. But yeah im sure you and all the others knows what right for everybody though.
The point of the article is best practice. If you want to continue to use outdated technology go ahead. That doesn't make it best practice though. Also, my point above was that you can do everything that was possible in flash using a mix of other technologies that don't have the drawbacks of flash. That actually isn't opinion it's the reality. With that in mind I'm not sure why anyone would accept the many drawbacks of flash technology at this point.
Yep and the point ive continually made is that while Its not best practice for you (or others) for someone else it might be. All the Analytics, tagging, mobile use is all very well and good but if someone prefers to use flash and still gets business out of it who's anyone to say "avoid it at all costs", "its not best practice" and that is my point its a sweeping statement. There's plenty of people that it works for and they get business from it as well. I don't use a flash site anymore, my needs changed but for the years I had one it was perfect.
I think you might be confused about what best practice means. It's not best practice for anyone to use flash. If you have a flash site and Ir's working then maybe don't fix it until you need to but that doesn't mean it's best practice. BTW, everyone's needs changed, not just yours. Flash used to be great then technology passed it by.
I'm not confused at all by the meaning of best practice. As I said you have your opinion on it and I have mine.
Right and as I said, one of us in on the side of the technology companies who, for better or worse, drive the industry. So enjoy your opinion and your rather pointless argument since you yourself don't even use flash.
I had a flash site.... up until three month ago so hardly pointless argument. I'll stick to letting people decide whats best for themselves and their needs.... you do whatever you want. Your'e obviously right.
If I might offer a personal-taste reflection, Flash(tm)-based sites suck. It's a terrible user experience, and amazingly inconsistent. Doesn't matter if it's a photo site or literally anything else.
i disagree. But then thats the magic of opinion and taste :)
Avoiding Flash at all costs is the best tip in the whole article. Period. If you disagree, you have no idea about Website optimization. It has nothing to do with photography skills, nothing to do with your name as a photographer, nothing to do with your overall website in aesthetic matters. Its simply a stupid idea to use flash if you want to have a successful website that google actually reads.
" Its simply a stupid idea to use flash if you want to have a successful website that google actually reads."
- but it's more than that; you should avoid a Flash(tm)-based site if you want to provide a decent user experience at all. Flash-based sites SUCK.
just about to go live with my first website. Choosing between Livebooks, Photoshelter and Aphotofolio was easy. APhotoFolio is all HTML5...done!
I've had some experience 'optimizing' websites for SEO in the past, plus I have done some research on optimizing seperate video's with SEO factors, but actually getting a proper ranking on a website pretty much only showing embedded video is a bit frustrating. I guess this is mostly the same for you photography guys out there. Wish you all the best of luck!
My advice would be make maximum use of your website, so include keywords in the alt-texts for pictures for example :)
Thank you for the awesome tips. All of your photography homepage building tips are spot-on. Thanks for taking the time to write a great piece about photographer websites.
dear worldly photography members. i am a photography student at cypress college and one of our class projects is to find the best and the worst photography websites in our area of interest. my focus is environmental portraits and sports photography. i am a novice photographer and i am looking for the best and the worst tips i should avoid when making an environmental portraits and sports photography website. my goal is create my own photography website that is easy to follow and navigate for potential clients. is there anything else i should think about? thank you in advance and i appreciate all of your innovative ideas. warmly, kristyna blazkova.