Professional Photographer Magazine Web Exclusives

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.