The Most Important Tips To Consider When Building a Website for Photography

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. 

Conclusion

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

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20 Comments

John MacLean's picture

I've been with PhotoFolio since liveBooks dumbed down during their HTML5 migration. I love my new site, except for one nagging issue. I can't do a self-fulfillment shopping cart. I would have to out-lab my printing thru FotoMoto. Since I have an Epson 9900 this wasn't an option I was comfortable with. If anyone has any suggestions I'm all ears.

Bill Wells's picture

A button on home page taking you away from your site is not the best thing you can do. If you SEO counts for anything you don't want people to bounce right off the bat.

Daniel Medley's picture

That is not necessarily correct.

Bill Wells's picture

This is absolutely correct. One of the major reasons to have a web page is to be found by clients via search engines. One of the ranking factors is the bounce rate and engagement.

If the first page has a button that takes me away from my page it creates bad bounce rates and destroyed engagement.

A much better design would be to embed your Instagram feed in your website. Instagram is important, for sure. But social media content is found via web or social media search.

Daniel Medley's picture

You are incorrect. You may want to brush up on your understanding of the admittedly moving target of SEO. Good SEO is comprised of many different factors. Typically no one factor is going to sink you or shove you all of the way to the top. Presumably, a good website will be comprised of various factors that will comprise a positive overall SEO response.

This may help your understanding: https://www.webpagefx.com/internet-marketing/do-outbound-links-affect-se...

Bill Wells's picture

Hi Daniel,

I take some offense in your comment: "You may want to brush up on your understanding of the admittedly moving target of SEO". But I guess that is just a typo mistake.

I do this stuff for a living (own both SGP and WellsMicro) and have been developing applications since my days at the pentagon. As senior director for a mission critical network. I'm the sole author of COLIS AND UNIS two worldwide installed application. So I have a little experience.

But bounce rate and engagement rate are two important factors. You are correct when you say "Good SEO is comprised of many different factors". I am hoping you are not saying bounce rate and engagement can just be ignored.

You say "Presumably, a good website will be comprised of various factors that will comprise a positive overall SEO response.". I agree. But if you idea of good response is to have a button on the landing page that takes you to completely different website is a good thing. Then we have to disagree. You will not find any of our website designed that way. We do some national brands BTW.

You design a website, spend time and money to get someone to your website. Then the first thing you do is have a big button to send them away from where you were trying to get them to in the first place.

Daniel Medley's picture

You said: "A button on home page taking you away from your site is not the best thing you can do. If you (typo, by the way) SEO counts for anything you don't want people to bounce right off the bat" as a flat statement.

It is simply incorrrect, impressive list of bona fides aside. If someone tells me 2+2=5 they are incorrect. Even if they have a PhD in mathematics. The PhD can disagree all they like, they would still be incorrect.

The reality is that having a button pointing offsite may or may not have a negative impact on SEO, depending on many factors. In some instances, it may actually benefit SEO.

The fact that you apparently make a living with this makes it even more imperative that you revisit your understanding of SEO. No typos, and I stand by what I said.

If that somehow offends you my only response would be, okay.

Bill Wells's picture

Your remarks didn't offend me. I just wanted to make sure we provided the correct information.

Words are cheap, so I wanted to compare both side by side. We will see if people should listen to someone that talks a lot or someone who puts it in practice.

So, if everything you say is true. You got the SEO answers. How come your site does not appear very high on google. Not page 1, page 2, page 3 or page 4. I tried a variety of search terms, because I wanted to be fair. No difference.

So, I went to my sites, I have a few (personal and commercial). Same or similar search. I'm in the #1 position for most searches, but never any lower than #3 on any term. It appears that my SEO might be working in real word. Yours, not so much.

Then I thought lets take a close look at the quality of your site. Surly you agree that is important. To be honest what I found was a mess. You can see from the evaluation below. Before you get too excited, I have more test I can post. But personally I think this is enough.

Now for a cup of coffee.

Daniel Medley's picture

Im not going to continue beating a dead horse. I don't know what you're Googling, but just Googling the obvious search term results in a page 1 ranking. Adding "photography" or "photographer" results in a page 1 top of page ranking. So ....

So you go ahead and have the last word. Others can come to their own conclusions.

Bill Wells's picture

I'm not sure why you got all excited to start with. I used your city SALT LAKE CITY, UT and your domain that are in your profile. search term was "SALT LAKE CITY, UT photographer" and "PHOTOGRAPHER SALT LAKE CITY, UT" You are either including your name or are looking at a cached search. I promise.

Just so everyone knows, you never want to search for your name, to judge the effectiveness of your SEO. You will always appear #1, but clients will never use your name in a search.

Daniel Medley's picture

Excited? Okay ...

Bill Wells's picture

Maybe this will help:

External links are hyperlinks that point at(target) any domain other than the domain the link exists on (source)

Outbound links are links your pages that reference pages on a site other than your own. Outbound links can have a positive or negative effect on your rankings depending on the site(web page) you are linking to and ALSO TO SOME EXTENT ON HOW THEY ARE IMPLEMENTED ON YOUR WEBSITE.

https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-difference-between-an-external-link-an...

Daniel Medley's picture

"Outbound links are links your pages that reference pages on a site other than your own. Outbound links can have a positive or negative effect on your rankings depending on the site(web page) you are linking to and ALSO TO SOME EXTENT ON HOW THEY ARE IMPLEMENTED ON YOUR WEBSITE."

Okay, I lied. THIS will be my last post. I'm a bit puzzled that you find a difference with this and what I wrote:

"The reality is that having a button pointing offsite may or may not have a negative impact on SEO, depending on many factors. In some instances, it may actually benefit SEO."

A rudimentary grasp on basic reading comprehension would reveal that my statement and your copied Quora one are basically the same.

Compare and contrast to your statement: "A button on home page taking you away from your site is not the best thing you can do. If you SEO counts for anything you don't want people to bounce right off the bat."

If I didn't know better I'd almost say that you'r dangerously skirting troll territory.

Anyway, you have fun, now.

Bill Wells's picture

You don't have to reply. But I guess they say when you don't have a valid argument call names and avoid questions.

All I did was give you facts. Instead of addressing those, you started the name calling and jumping around, like someone with their hair on fire.

Look you could have been the best at this website design and SEO stuff. I didn't know. So I did some analysis on both our sites. I could have been wrong.

The results of the analysis or your body of work, does not support your expertise.

Not everyone is an SEO or website design expert. Most want nothing to do with details in web design and SEO. They just want a website that shows their work. They hire someone like me to do the behind-the-scenes grunt work. There is nothing wrong with that. As for me, I'm more of a computer guy than a photographer. So I'm the guy that worries about that. Not very exciting I know.

I can change oil in my car and I've read the manual. That does not make me an expert on motor overhauls.

Bill Wells's picture

**** UPDATE UPDATE ****

In the review it appeared that Matt Ferr (great images, you feel energy in his images) link to Instagram opened in the say page. That was not good, I promise.

If you have not looked at his site you should: https://www.mattferr.com/

I just looked at his site today. It appears to have been corrected to open in a new tab. Big difference!!

So maybe our discussion had them take another look.

Hundred's of times I've seen something that someone has done and think duh, I should have done mine that way.

Bill Wells's picture

I just wanted to let everyone know that I managed to grab the ear of Rob Greer. (https://robgreer.com)

He is one of the nations utmost SEO experts. He teaches (rather pricey) SEO classes across the nation He is also the expert SEO speaker at PPA (Imaging USA) and WPPI (Expo) conventions. He is a judge for album design at PPA. and WPPI. Here is what he said about the link we are talking about.

He said, and I quote, "An Instagram link isn't going to have any impact on a website's SEO."

John Dawson's picture

FYI - You can see how any site will look on a tablet or phone by (in Chrome) hitting F12, clicking the tablet/phone emulator icon in the lower-left (the blue one, or press Ctrl-Shift-M) and then selecting your desired device from the drop-down at the top. You can also rotate the device using the top far-right icon.

Example:

https://i.gyazo.com/14f496dcb876be97c7a0edae0293eceb.png

I'm a web developer by day and I often live in the emulator.

John Dawson's picture

For the second site, the URL is horrible! I get that it's partly his name, but it's too easily confused or forgotten.

Format does have some great design aesthetics but it doesn't really compensate for their pricing plans.
I'm a graphic designer and product photographer and have no reason to go for an e-commerce store or proofing plan, all I wanted was the freedom to upload all my images without limit. Paying 25/month becomes difficult just to store and display all your images. I've shifted to Pixpa now and the prices are pretty decent, with the lowest plan offering unlimited images. Checked out Smugmug too, and it also has unlimited photo uploads even in their basic plan.

Eckhardt Kriel's picture

Thank you for this informative video - for me you nailed it as I am thinking about developing my site! Great tips and useful info.