A website is one of the most powerful promotional tools any professional photographer can have. Not only does it allow you to publish your portfolio for people around the world to see. It also opens up the opportunity to receive feedback about your work and connect with others instantly. A well designed website can project professionalism, experience, and artistic vision. It can help you give a good first impression to new visitors and attract potential clients. But not all websites are created equal.
There’s nothing that hampers the overall experience and impression that a client has of your work than having a poorly designed website. Design is a form of marketing. So why not make web design your ally in marketing your photography business? Do so by taking note of the following key factors that can make any photography website stand out from the pack.
Imagery and Content
As a photographer your main content is visual. People come to your website to look at your images. For that reason images should be front and center. They should stand out on the homepage and it should be relatively easy to find your portfolio. You can put your best foot forward by showcasing only your best work.
Quality is more important than quantity. Keep in mind that the overall strength of your portfolio is only as good as your weakest shot. To add flair show some variety and depth. If you specialize in a certain type of photography, cover different angles and moods. There’s nothing more boring to any portfolio than monotony.
Besides your portfolio content, other essential pages include an about page, a services page, and contact page. The about page is critical since hiring a photographer is usually a personal or subjective matter. Potential clients want to know who’s behind the camera so insert a brief bio with a headshot to convey trust and friendliness.
In your services page simply state all the types of services your offer and be clear when communicating the value or uniqueness of your work. And lastly your contact page is there for people to reach out to you once they’re interested. Be sure to include a contact form since it’s the easiest method. Also have your social network links present on this page should a client decide to follow you on Facebook or Twitter before they reach out to you.
Design and Layout
A photography portfolio website’s main objective is to showcase your photos in the best light. Therefore design should be used as a complement and it is only there to serve as a platform for your images. It should never overpower the photography itself. When executed effectively graphic design communicates the message intended. Which in this case would be to show your beautiful photography.
Minimalism is a design style used in many photography websites because it provides a clutter free space for the images to emerge. However, simplicity in design does not mean you have to lose your personality. Far from it. Uniqueness and identity are very important factors to consider in your design.
That’s where branding comes in. Make sure to include a strong logo that represents your name or business. And this should be consistent throughout the site. The design and layout style of your site should also capture the mood of your business. For example, if you focus on child photography a playful and youthful vibe should be present in your entire site. This can be achieved with vibrant colors and playful graphics.
Layout is another key component when designing. It provides the visual structure that frames your images. Use different image sizes to add variety. You can use two, three or four column arrangements for your portfolios. More than four columns would make photos too small to see.
Making images easy to visualize is key. Remember that the frame most people use for the web is restricted by the screen. And the global standard screen resolution used today resides at 1024×768. If we factor in the browser’s size were dealing with a page of about 1000 pixels wide. Of course this doesn’t cover mobile devices but we’ll get to that next.
Responsive design has gained broad appeal because more people are browsing the web using their smartphones and other mobile devices. What is responsive design? It simply means that a site’s design is adaptable and can be viewed by different devices like iPads and iPhones.
We’re no longer limited to just the computer screen. If your site doesn’t scale to different device formats you are essentially losing an opportunity to communicate your value and services to a larger audience. One of the main points here is understanding the characteristics and limitations of other devices. For example in most cases Flash is not recommended since it is not supported by iPads or iPhones.
Search Engine Optimization
The keywords contained in your website are very important when it comes to people searching for your content. If your site is properly written with text that search engine robots can crawl and index, your site will be easily found and accessed by users. How do you do this with photographs? Make sure all images are properly labeled with the (ALT) alternative text tag that describes each image. Since search robots can’t tell what an image is about this is the proper way of making all photos search engine friendly.
Your entire site should also include proper tagging structures for all content including page titles, descriptions, and headings. And since competition for short keywords is fierce, the new way to increase ranking for search is by taking a hyperlocal approach. This can be done by tying your services to a geographical region. To give an example, if you specialize in wedding photography in San Francisco all your main pages should include the phrase San Francisco Wedding Photography in the HTML descriptions and titles, along with relevant copy. This is basic SEO and it will help your site rank better for specific keywords. And the better you understand SEO and apply smart strategies to your site the easier it will be to for potential clients to find your photography business when using search engines.
If you want to establish a strong online presence your website must be linked to your social media networks. By doing so you establish credibility within a community of fans and supporters. Nothing will give your site and business more social proof than having an active social network where dialog is always present. The purpose of this article is not to tell you what social networks to join or use to promote your services. There are hundreds of them out there and we all know which ones are relevant. The important thing is to be engaged in at least one social network, and have that reflected on your site. The focus here should be placed on quality, not quantity. It doesn’t serve you to join of 10 social networks and be active in none.
So if you have a Facebook page for your photography business make your Facebook link highly visible on all pages. You can also place a Facebook facepile in your footer or sidebar so people know you’re talking with others.
If you want to take it a step further place the Facebook comments plugin on your blog comments section as well (Zach uses Livefyre). This will help carry the conversation from your website to Facebook where you’ll gain more exposure. The more interaction you have with others the more trust you’ll gain from new visitors. And this will certainly increase the perceived value you provide on your website.
There’s no better way to harness the power of marketing online than by creating a blog as your main site, or attached to your site. You do this by periodically sharing and publishing interesting content or additional photographic work with the world. Since you can have blog comments it allows you to start a dialogue with your visitors. Getting feedback from readers is very rewarding, especially when you receive uplifting compliments about your work. Having a photoblog is also an effective way to attract visitors by publishing fresh photographic content even when your portfolio may have not been updated for a while. And did I mention a blog also improves your SEO? It works to your advantage with the search engines by providing new pages of content to your site. Having a blog or photoblog is a win-win decision.
This is a concept that describes the satisfaction level a web user experiences when interacting with a website. The end goal of all user experience is an optimal experience. The main users experience (UX) principles to keep in mind are ease of use, intuitiveness, clarity, simplicity, and quick response.
When designing for good user experience it always helps to know your users, or in this case your audience. What’s important to them? How do they think? What images would they like to see first? These are considerations that a UX designer would think about. And if you want to improve the experience of users who visit your photography website it would benefit you to start asking these types of questions. Anything that adds to a positive web interaction such as clear navigation, engaging content, and fast loading times for images will leave your users with a good impression. Anything that detracts from this experience or makes things more difficult to do or find on your site will make your visitor want to run away, possibly never to return.
A quick and simple way to enhance user experience in a photography website is by improving image load times. And you can do this by making sure all your images are optimized for the web.
Content Management Solution
A Content Management System (CMS) is a piece of software which allows you to organize information in a website and display it the way you see fit. Every bit of data in a CMS is stored in a database for easy access. There are many CMS’s and online web services that allow you to upload and manage your photos and portfolios. I recommend WordPress because of its simplicity, flexibility, and rich features for photographers. It can be configured as a regular blog or customized as a full portfolio site. Images can be easily uploaded and pages can be created on the fly. Since it has an intuitive administration panel you won’t need to mess with HTML code here. Because of its well structured code base it is also phenomenal for SEO. And there are thousands of theme designs to choose from online, as well as designers who can create unique designs for your site. All these advantages make WordPress a dependable content management solution for photographers.
Recap of Web Design Principles
A photography website is a marketing machine that showcases your visual talent. Visitors to your site will be impressed by two things: the impact of your images and how well your work is presented on your website.
To create an outstanding website experience you need to have certain elements in place such as engaging content, strong branding, supportive design and layout, cross-device visibility, SEO, and social media reach. And if you want to manage and update your site with ease, use a reliable and industry standard content management system like WordPress. By effectively applying these web design concepts you will make your website a true asset to your photography business.