Every photographer needs a good website; that's a given. What isn't so obvious is should you have a contact page? What about a photo on your bio? Is it best to have multiple galleries or everything on one landing page? Today Lee and I review a few websites to show you what does and doesn't work when displaying your work.
Photography websites come in all different styles and designs. In order to show a wide range of options you might want to include on your own website, we teamed up the website company Format.com. Format is known for creating dozens of slick looking and highly customizable websites for photographers as well as other creatives like graphic designers, illustrators, architects, and professional models. In this website critique, we will be examining some amazing photographers' sites including Matt Ferr, Seandshoots, Jason Charles Hill, and Zach Allia.
In exchange for letting us critique some of Format's websites, all Fstoppers readers can get a free 14 day trial on any of their websites as well as 25% off your subscription to their services. If you like anything you see or need to update your own website, head over the to the Fstoppers Format landing page to take advantage of this deal. Now let's get to some of the elements you should consider when building your own photography based website.
Your Business Name and URL
Before you even build a website, the first thing you are going to want to tackle is the name of your business and the actual URL your website will be hosted on. Many photographers like to use their full name such as Matt Ferr Photography. Going this route will make your business very personal and less generic but it might be tough to ever sell your business or expand your business if you yourself stop being the main photographer people are hiring. If you name your business Wanderlust Photography, clients will instantly know what type of photography you do and your specific name will not be associated directly with your photography brand.
These both have their advantages and disadvantages. Winning the SEO game for your full name might be easier than winning the battle if you name your business "ATL Wedding Photography," but many more people will be searching for Atlanta Wedding Photography more than they will be searching for a specific photographer by name. I'd personally recommend setting up a few different websites so that you can direct some of your clients to a more generic name while impecuniously building a separate brand for myself. What ever direction you go, I would make sure both your business name and URL are the exact same wording so people can easily find your portfolio.
Is a Landing Page Necessary?
Many websites come with a landing page that acts as a grand entrance to your website. Landing pages can look super professional and give your clients a portal to different genres of photography you might offer without making them navigate through everyone all on one site. The disadvantage to making a landing page is that it adds one more click between the search results and your portfolio. If you offer both photography and videography, you might want to include a landing page otherwise I'd recommend sending your clients directly to your main portfolio.
To Social Media or Not To Social Media
In today's mass media culture, more and more photographers are finding clients through less traditional means. As much as we would love for our actual website to be our main portfolio that everyone is funneled towards, the reality is you are going to want grab as much attention from as many social media platforms as possible. Therefore I would highly recommend adding social media links to your website so that your followers and prospective clients can find your Instagram, YouTube channel, Twitter account, and Facebook page.
The disadvantage to this is that you might feel like your work is spread over many platforms that you now have to manage. Also, some platforms like Instagram might not give you the full screen viewing experience and easy navigation that you might prefer through your website. On the other hand, social media sites are just that, social, so it's much easier to communicate and interact with your followers through Facebook or Instagram than it is on your main website. Of course Google takes all of your web presents into account when ranking your website so it's more important than ever to have a presence on every platform with as much organic engagement as possible. Finally, many art buyers and potential clients are looking for the most experienced photographers who have the largest reach, so depending on the type of clients you are trying to book, it might be advantageous to link to your other social media platforms to show your overall reach and popularity.
Navigation Is King
Perhaps the quickest way to turn visitors away is to have a website that is tough to navigate. When designing a website, it's super important to make sure your navigation bar and menus are simple, intuitive, and easy to access. If your current website looks old and dated, or has tons of unnecessary text and photos linking to different sections of your site, you are probably discouraging visitors before they even have a chance to look at your work.
As you can see with most of these Format websites, lots of time and consideration has been made in creating an easy to navigate platform. Some of the photographers in the video above have opted to have their entire portfolio load immediately upon entering their site while others have decided to separate their work into a few different categories. Whichever option you choose to do for your own site, make sure everyone from the savvy tech blogger to your grandmother can easily find the important sections of your website quick and easily.
Sell Yourself, Don't Sell Yourself Short
It's important to remember that the number one thing you are selling is not your photography but you yourself. Sure, you want your visitors to be impressed with your photography but at the end of the day, people want to fell emotionally connected to the person they want to hire. This means you need to be present on your website in the form of a photograph, headshot, biography, behind the scenes video, or other media. Your visitors want to know what you look like, how you carry yourself professionally, and some of your other interests outside of photography. If you are not making a personal connection between you and your work, I guarantee your business will suffer.
Why the Contact Page Is So Important
Once someone falls in love with your work, your website should make it easy for them to reach out to you via email or phone. I would highly suggest creating a contact me page on your website so that your potential clients can message you immediately after viewing your work. Most contact pages have a customizable form that has fields for name, email, and a comment, but I would also recommend adding a field for their phone number. Email is great for archiving a conversation and getting the ball rolling, but I've found that many jobs can be instantly secured after a simple phone call.
If you can feed your email contacts into an email curator like Mailchimp, your contact page will also serve as a way for you to continually update your past and potential clients with your new work and projects in an email blast.
Proofing Galleries and Sales Portals
Finally, if you are a photographer who sells prints or other services like Photoshop actions or stock photography, you probably want a proofing gallery or shopping cart option on your site. As a wedding photographer myself, I knew how important it was to have a streamlined system where my clients could easily check out all of their wedding photos in a single, easy to find location. By having a proofing gallery or client gallery section on your website, you can quickly email any of your clients a link found directly on your website, give them a secure password, and allow them to download files or buy prints in an automated way.
If you are a creative who makes money selling stock images, photo workshops, Photoshop actions, poster prints, or other digital services, you might also want to add a shopping cart to your site as well. I know a lot of fine art photographers who sell massive prints of their work, and they have made a ton of money simply because they have a well designed ecommerce portal that easily lays out all of their prints and size options all in one place.
Building a website used to be a difficult task that often required days if not weeks of work just to get it up and running. Luckily, companies like Format have made it possible to build a website in literally hours. Now that building a custom website is much easier than it was in the past, it's probably more important than ever to make sure your visitor's overall experience on your site is as enjoyable as possible. Also because there are more people calling themselves photographers today, it's going to be important to differentiate your own style and brand from the rest of your peers. Hopefully this article and video have given you some good ideas on what you can do to make your own website well designed and easy to navigate so that your business can be as successful as possible.
If you have any other tips that you have implemented in your own site, feel free to share them in the comments below. And if you are in need of your first website or simply want to update your existing website, head over to the Fstoppers Format Landing Page to save 25% on your next order.