How to Build a Website, Part 3: My Site Goes Live

For the last month, we've teamed up with Wix for a series called "How to Build a Website." In this series, Lee and I talk about some of the advantages and mistakes photographers make when creating their own website. Today, I release my new commercial photography website and walk you through the process.

When the website design company Wix reached out to us, asking if we would be interested in creating sponsored content for them, I thought it would be helpful to not just demo what Wix's platform is capable of building, but also share what features and techniques photographers could actually use to help their own photography businesses. If you want to watch the previous videos in this series or keep up with the entire series, you can watch the entire series on the How to Make a Website YouTube Playlist.

In the previous two videos, Lee and I sat down to talk about some of the mistakes photographers make when naming their photography business. We also talked about some of the features that you might want built into your website and how to curate your portfolio to match the expectations of your potential clients.

My Goals

Over the years, I've built about a dozen of photography websites for different photography businesses. I've had at least five different wedding websites. Along the way, I've probably made a few separate sites for family portraits, a photo booth, commercial photography, and a bunch of different portals for proofing galleries and hosting slideshows. Almost 10 years ago, I helped build the very first version of Fstoppers before it became the massive community-driven website it is today. For this new website, I wanted to approach it a bit differently.

As you will see in the video above, I had a few goals for this new website. Below, I've made a few bullet points so you can see some of the elements I wanted to include.

  • New domain name that uses my name
  • Clean galleries that show my favorite photoshoots
  • Heavy use of video to help establish my brand
  • Heavy use of my own image to help connect with potential clients
  • Promo reels of some of my biggest, most viral photoshoots
  • Easy navigation on both desktop and mobile devices
  • Ecommerce store integration so I can sell more prints and digital products down the road
  • Simple contact page that requires just the right amount of personal information
  • Strong search engine optimization so that my images and website are easy to find on Google

Many of these concerns and goals are addressed in the previous two videos we released, and a few of them will be addressed in the final video coming out next week. The main goal I wanted to address here is about using video to brand your own website.

Video, Video, Video

In last week's article, I challenged our readers to include a portrait of themselves somewhere on their website. In today's article, I want to urge you to start working on a good promo reel for your website. Promotional reels are often viewed as something only videographers can create, but I think anyone in any profession can create an exciting video that shows them on a typical day.

When Lee and I first started Fstoppers, we had a very simple goal: we wanted to create a website that taught photography through video instead of text. What makes video so powerful is it can explain a lot more in a lot less time than a simple photograph. If a photo is worth a thousand words, then a short video clip is worth a million. By using video alongside your photography, you can show your potential clients what a typical shoot of yours looks like, you help them put a face to your brand, and you can sell them on a much stronger emotional experience than you can with just still photos.

I knew going into this website series that I was going to have to create a new website myself. Having a fun promo video front and center was something I was looking forward to building, and having visited dozens and dozens of websites the last month, I also know very few photographers have video built into their own websites. When you first visit my new website at PatrickHall.Photography, I didn't want loud audio blasting you immediately. Instead, I wanted something eye-catching that told my story in the fastest way possible. Below is the audio version of my promo reel if you want to experience my edit in its full glory, but again, I don't recommend having the audio on when visiting your website. 

As you can see from the video above, I've used tons of behind the scenes clips from some of my favorite photoshoots and life experiences to create an exciting 30-second video that embodies everything I've done in my career so far. Now, you might be saying: "but I don't have any behind the scenes videos to make a promo video from!" Well, now is the time to start filming a few short clips on each of your bigger productions. These videos will become incredibly valuable for your business down the road. If you are a wedding photographer, have your assistant or second shooter capture a few clips of you working with the bride and groom or wedding party. If you are a commercial photographer, do what my buddy Monte Isom has done and film behind the scenes videos of the shoot. If you are focusing on portrait photography, take a few slow motion clips of each of your portrait clients.  Having footage like this is an easy way to market your business in a way most of your competition is not going to do themselves.

Another area I've used video to promote my work can be found on my Stun Gun Photoshoot section of my website. When that series went insanely viral, I made sure to screen capture every television show and newscast it showed up on for future promotion. On that section of my website, I edited another high-energy promo video that mixed all of that footage together with the original video footage so that my clients could see just how popular that series had become. Many photographers have a section of their website that shows all the brands they have worked with and all the places their work has been published. For me, this promo video serves a similar purpose and shows potential clients that my photography has been on some pretty big platforms.

Get Your Own Website With Wix

Hopefully, my website and my use of video has inspired you to revamp your own website and to start capturing video clips of yourself for future marketing. If you don't already have a website, or if you want to test drive a website from Wix, head over to Wix.com/fstoppers and try out a site for free, and then save a little if you decide to upgrade to the full site. We will soon be releasing episode four of "How to Build a Website" with Wix, where I will cover some of the techniques you can use to get traffic and exposure for your new website

Log in or register to post comments

12 Comments

Patrick Hall's picture

Hah that’s too funny. Hope you guys are doing well over there; I absolutely love Germany!

Michael Kuszla's picture

Oh man!
I like the content!
But... As Designer and art director first, your website do not reflect your photography. You have a style, an identity, as well as your background as co-founder of our beloved F-Stoppers.com, and there is cohesion between images...

And this is a typically Wix design pattern. So... What I found disturbing most, is not the the fat typos and menu, but the lacks of cohesion and direction between pages.

- On the homepage you have a tight portfolio without margin between images.
- In the Portfolio section, you have a thin margin.
- In your fine art section, you have full with portfolio with square previews of product to sell (and I didn't know they were to sell before clicking on it, you'll loose some buyers).
- Sometimes your lightbox have a white background, sometimes it's a black background...

Again, I like the content, the way you communicates trough your video showreel, the main design is there.
If Wix, or Squarespace, of Photoshelter, or whatever is here to "simplify" the creation of website, every photographers or creators needs to give direction and cohesion to their communication.

Patrick Hall's picture

These are all good comments. I admit here and in the video that I’m not a great graphic designer and I did change the template I used greatly. Luckily most of the issues you named can be fixed and tweaked from the back end.

What gallery did you find that had white backgrounds? I thought I changed all those and checked my site just now but can’t find them.

Also typos?

Michael Kuszla's picture

Well. As you said, this is a question of fine tuning for now :)

You'll find the white background in the Fine Art section. I wish that you'll display your photos in their original ratios there :)

Anyway, I find the typos prominent, so they need a wider letter-spacing and padding between blocks.
Fore exemple on your nav item, I would add some letter-spacing, and downsize by one or 2 px the font-size (for exemple letter-spacing: 0.15em; font-size: 0.9em;), as well for the claim "photographer and co-founder..." I suggest to reduce a little bit the text size and increase letter spacing.
It will gives better readability.

(Numbers are based on what I saw in my dev console.)

Again this is just fine tuning, your website is almost done. #Bravo!

Michael Holst's picture

Patrick does not speak design so when he reads Typo he probably thinks you're talking about spelling....

Michael Kuszla's picture

Let's talk about font and not typo, so:)

Robert Teague's picture

I dislike these "boilerplate" websites. Too often they all feel alike and I find they don't really show of the photographer as a person; the focus of the sites being too narrow. That may be fine for some, but doesn't work for me.

Having said all that, I did enjoy the thoughts and rationale that went into the building of the site.

Brian Jones's picture

Congrats on your new site.

I know it is a choice of taste, but one thing I learned about portfolio building and sequencing from Pulitzer Prize photo editor and creative consultant; Stella Kramer is to steer away from images placed on dark backgrounds. Just my 2 cents worth...

I am a huge fan of format.com's websites. They feel more "finished" than most of the other template sites. Patrick, you have some amazing work, but I agree with many of the comments, that your site isn't showcasing it as well as it could. I too believe that photography is best illustrated on white. It's clean and lets you focus on the work instead of the design of the site. I think the wix template you are using has some odd font/font size combinations, and it makes it difficult to get past when you first visit the site. Here is my site: www.bernardbrzezinski.com . Please feel free to tear it apart, I could use some honest feedback. For me, the simplicity of it lets you quickly focus on the imagery. It is by no means perfect, but I like it. Anyway, I always enjoy seeing what you produce.

BTW, what is the story behind you using the Canon camera underwater with no housing in the banner video? My heart stopped for a second when I saw that.

Michael Holst's picture

"When the website design company Wix reached out to us, asking if we would be interested in creating sponsored content for them"

...Should probably put the sponsored content label on this article...

Well, I like your photos, but the site - I am not sure about it. And it is kind of not very responsive.
I discovered that you have your image of the five minute portrait challenge retouched. Well done. I like it very much. I like both versions though. Can't say which one I like better.
What about the costs of the project? I did not read part one and two. Did you mention it? Can you give us some numbers otherwise? And how much time it took you?