What makes a photographer's website great?

A site content and design guide

By Tricia Gellman Holmes

A great website is one that gets you the quality and quantity of work that you want.

In the current age of technology, a high-quality portfolio website is essential for a professional photographer because in many cases, your website is also your potential clients’ first impression of you and your work.

The first and arguably most important aspect of your site are images—make sure they load quickly and are displayed large. Beyond your imagery, here are a few key components to consider: unique and consistent branding, easy to use navigation, updated content, search engine optimization and clear, easy to find contact information. All of these contribute to ensuring your website is working to market your business.  

A distinct and consistent brand identity 

Your website is often the first opportunity you have to establish your brand and distinguish yourself with potential clients. Through the selection of your images, use of color, typography, logos and graphics, and even music, you have the opportunity to create your own unique brand. Use of consistent branding throughout your site shows the attention to detail and level of professionalism you bring to your business.  

In the worlds of portrait and wedding photography, your personality—and that of your brand—may be as important as your images to your potential client's decision. Customers often look for a brand and images that they connect with on an emotional level. Incorporating video into your site is a particularly powerful way to communicate a very personal message to potential customers and reiterate what makes your brand, and you as a photographer, worthy of consideration.

Intuitive navigation 

Navigating your site shouldn’t be a challenge. An intuitive navigation scheme helps visitors explore your site without experiencing frustration. With a glance they should understand how to navigate your site and access the content they want to see. Your choice of readable fonts is also key to ease of navigation. Ornate or highly stylized fonts should be used very selectively. 

Clearly identified menu items enable visitors to quickly find the pages they are most interested in at that time. Easy-to-navigate portfolios make visitors want to explore them fully. Having the right navigation in place makes your website inviting and will increase the amount of content potential clients view.

Giving your visitors viewing and navigation choices makes it even more user-friendly. It may seem repetitive, but combining next/back buttons, thumbnail navigation and slideshow options means your viewers have multiple ways to see your.   

Updated content 

Keep it fresh. A website that changes regularly provides an incentive for visitors to come back again. A site that is frequently refreshed tells prospective clients that you are actively working and also technically astute. And having a website solution that allows for easy updating without complicated programming is key to keeping your website current without taking away from your time to shoot.  

Image size and download speed 

Your website should showcase your work first and foremost, not distract people from it. Let your images take up most of the viewing area so the rest of your website design isn’t competing for attention. Faster download speeds help visitors have a better experience overall. The less time they spend waiting, the more likely they are to stick around and fully explore your site. Finding the right balance between high quality and low file size is essential. Too far in one direction and your photos will appear slowly on visitors’ screen, and too far in the other gets you fast-loading photos that don’t reflect the quality of your work. 

Search Engine Optimization 

You built your site, uploaded your finest images, and have taken it live, but does anyone know you are out there? Making your site visible to search engines is incredibly important to driving traffic to your site. This can make the difference between your site appearing on the first or second page of results for Los Angeles Wedding Photographers, or all the way down at page 52 of a search for Commercial Photographer in New York. 

The key to optimizing your site to rank well on search engines is selecting highly relevant keywords and descriptions and building this content into your site.  

Clear contact information 

A clear contact page is one of the easiest ways to increase business. Make sure that after visitors have explored your website they have an easy way to become your clients.  

Have a page where visitors can find out where you are located and access your contact information, including your address, phone number, and e-mail address. Make the page clickable with hot links to your e-mail or a request for more information, so it's easy for potential clients to get in touch with you. 

Make it a hard-working site 

An effective online presence can represent you to anyone in the world, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. It should clearly communicate who you are and what you do while at the same time drawing people in. Here are some examples of features and functions that can make your site work for you to give visitors a reason to browse and come back.  

• You can add video to your site to allow people to get to know you better

• Password protected galleries—share location scouting or model selection photos during a job by establishing private sections only your clients and art director can view.

• Slideshows—drive viral marketing as your clients pass along your work to their friends, family and colleagues

• Print ordering capability—grows your audience exponentially from a single client

• Blogs—create a community, and a reason to visit frequently

• Searchable photo archiving—turn your site into a resource for commercial or fine art imagery 

Features such as these add value to your site and make it a resource for clients and potential clients. A well-designed and easy-to-use website will dramatically increase the amount of business you generate while giving you more time and energy to spend on your work.  

Tricia Gellman Holmes is VP of Marketing for liveBooks, a provider of cusomized portfolio websites and marketing software for professional photographers.

 

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Comments (14)

This is an infomercial for LiveBooks. It should not be presented here under the Professional Photographer masthead.

Greg:

If it was or was not an "infomercial" the information presented was helpful. Thanks

Yep, this surely was an infomercial, written by the marketing director at LiveBooks. While the disclosure at the end is nice, it was immediately apparent that the story is for and by LiveBooks since other companies doing similar work were excluded from the story.
Use of hand-out stories like this give me the impression that your magazine is too cheap to pay for original content, and is not worth any further attention. Consider the bookmark to your website DELETED.

April:

I found this information very helpful. We have hired a company to redesign our web site. These are key techniques that we can use. NO where in this article does it say I have to use liveBooks. I appreciate professionals in the industry making this type of information available.

I'll keep you in my favorites!

This was not an "infomercial" for LiveBooks, it was an informed professional person sharing their knowledge with everyone.

Along with a photography studio, I also own a large wedding service in Hawaii, and I often write wedding related articles for several magazines and blogs, sharing my 18 years of experience in planning weddings with couples around the world. I am not doing this to get more clients to my company, but to share my knowledge with them, and I see this article the same way.


I found this information very informative. Since I also design websites on the side in my spare time, much of the basic information was a refresher course for me, but I know that many out there have never desiged their own site before. I am keeping this information in mind as we redesign our photography website and change it over to a flash based website.

Paul:

I'm continually disappointed with content from PPA. The word professional is in the title, but everything I read is geared towards beginners.

As a piece, this is just boilerplate. Nothing innovative was added, so why bother?

"The word professional is in the title, but everything I read is geared towards beginners." - Paul

I couldn't agree more. As an industry we're way past the beginning lessons of website design and technology. There are countless resources out there to help the beginners - but what if we've already been doing these things for YEARS?? What should we do next to stay competitive? Where are those articles?

No article can be helpful to both the newbee and oldster... that said, most of the info was self evident and lacking specifics beyond the goal stated in each sub-heading.
All that was said was
1. Make your site engaging
2. Make it easy to navigate.
3. Provide contact info
4. Optimize for quick download.
5. Make it functional for you and users.

Ok .. HOW?
Marc Neuffer

Matt:

While I agree this article was not an in depth look at what makes a GREAT website... it goes along way towards helping photographers (who are not web professionals) start thinking about ways to help make their site better.

I am a professional photographer and a web designer and I am always amazed at how bad a lot of photographer's websites are. I am not even speaking of looks but in general. These people need help like this! The need solid advice that may not be as in depth as some of you want but any advice that is good can only help.

Moreover... You dont have to read the article if you think you have it all together!

I agree with you Matt, I appreciate all the advice I can get! I'm no website pro, but I want my photography to shine every time someone looks at my site, and articles like this can help me get to that point. I agree that if you think you're beyond the help there's no need for you to be reading the articles!

PPA encourages both new photographers and seasoned photographers to join, and these kinds of articles are vital to building those new photographers! Thank you PPA! Even someone who knows it all can benefit from a slight refresher!

Matt:

I just also wanted to add it is really lame to leave a comment on an article like this criticizing it and then not leave a link to your website. If you have it all together and your website is everything that it should be then leave us a link and let us check it out. Maybe people can learn from you instead of having to rely on what you think is such a horrible article!

Mat:

People. The debate is futile. This article written by:
Tricia Gellman Holmes is VP of Marketing for liveBooks.

I'm betting quite a few people went to livebooks because of it. Great marketing plug.

Now... if you're a professional photographer, then you should know everything that was discussed already. If you're not, then it might help you to goto livebooks where with $1500 or more, you too can have all of these things built for you.

Otherwise the article doesn't tell you "how to" anything, making it more of a "plug" than a helpful resource for current professionals. If you've subscribed to Professional Photographer or have been a member of PPA, then you can see the relation, and most of you should be on your way to "Imaging USA", because it's ALL one big marketing conglomerate.
Most of us know this. "Hail Scott Kelby". It's just business, don't take it so personal.

By the way, you don't need livebooks, you can use iweb,frontpage, or many other template applications or services. And, if you keep some of the categories mentioned in the article in mind... that might help.

Matt:

I dont see how it is a plug for livebooks at all! It merely states where the contributer works.

This is a starting point for good websites...

BTW - Photographers should have a professional do their website if they can afford it. Because web professionals know what they are doing and chances are the average joe photographer doesn't when it comes to websites.

You would not suggest that a web designer photograph a wedding just cause they have a camera it goes the other way too. Focus on what you are good at and let others do what they are good at and EVERYONE will be better off.

I got a new website from bludomain. It is really modern, interesting and clean. My clients still prefer my old html site...

JK

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 1, 2007 8:18 AM.

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