Expert Web Design Advice for Photographers

Photography is a visual medium. Promoting photography requires a visual media, one that not only lives up to the aesthetic appeal of the imagery but also provides the functionality to help photographers succeed. In today’s world, that means a website—a striking, easy to use, secure, professional website. Whether you prefer a blog style setup or a traditional portfolio site—or both—the design and development of your Web presence is critical to your business.

With all this in mind, Professional Photographer surveyed some of the industry’s leading Web experts on what it takes to develop a professional presence in the virtual world. The following are their recommendations for photographers on the World Wide Web.

What are some common design mistakes that photographers make when they try to do their own design? What should they do instead?
What’s the best way to protect your online images from theft?
What resources can photographers use to choose their color scheme for their website if they don’t already have one for their business?
What information should be on my home page? What can be one or two layers in?
If I create a video slideshow without music, what’s the best pace for photo changes?
What do I need to know about Flash, HTML5 and how they affect my SEO?
Does a splash page hurt my SEO?
What sort of products work well if I want to use an online shopping cart for my clients?
What can I do to make my purchase options as easy as possible?
What can I do to make my website look good on a mobile device?
How often should I put up fresh content?

What are some common design mistakes that photographers make when they try to do their own design? What should they do instead?

"The most common mistakes usually come from the opposite ends of the design spectrum. Photographers either go too minimalistic and design a site that could belong to anyone, or they go overboard with custom elements and create something that’s very hard for their visitors to navigate.

Like a good frame and matting, a good photography website complements the photos displayed rather than distracting from them. Allowing the work to speak for itself is always a safe approach. Picking a color palette of three or four distinct colors and using them consistently throughout the site will create a professional, well-branded look."
—Nataly Livshits, Zenfolio, zenfolio.com

"Getting too fancy. The focus instead should be on usability. Does your site load quickly and without plug-ins like Adobe Flash Player? Do you have a separate site optimized for a smart phone?  Music can be very distracting, especially when your clients already have Pandora running in the background or try to watch a slideshow on your site that also has music. Keep it simple, and focus on getting a potential client to love your images and contact you."
—Mike Smith, MorePhotos, WeddingDetails, morephotos.com

"A common mistake is a gallery with too many images in it. Your portfolio site's galleries should be a display of your best images. Generally, 30 to 50 images per gallery is a good range. If you need to show an entire shoot, your portfolio site is not the best place for it. Those are better displayed through a proofing application or a slideshow tool."
—Mike Caston, BIG Folio, bigfolio.com


What’s the best way to protect your online images from theft?

"The best way is still watermarking the image using either a built-in tool from the website admin or from Photoshop. Right click protection provides minimal protection against the basic user, but anyone who truly wants to steal the image will be able to using a screen capture. One of the biggest reasons clients take the images off a website is to post them to social media sites. This has started a new trend of providing low-resolution (about 500 pixels on the longest side), watermarked images for use on social media sites with the request that the poster links them back to your site. This helps your clients to show off your images at the best quality while building a potential referral source."
—Jenifer Martin, Portfoliositez.com

gros_watermark.jpg

©Amanda Gros Photography

Amanda Gros uses a discreet logo watermark on her gallery photographs that deters theft or uncredited posting of her photographs.

"There are services that can monitor your photos and tell you if they are being used anywhere on the Internet. That can help ensure that your images aren’t being used in a manner to which you object."
—William Bay, Flaunt Your Site, flauntyoursite.com


What resources can photographers use to choose their color scheme for their website if they don’t already have one for their business?
 
"Using color swatches that are already paired together will ensure your site looks coherent and professional. Some good options include Adobe’s Kuler tool (kuler.adobe.com) and Pantone (pantone.com)."
—Jenifer Martin, Portfoliositez.com

"Colourlovers.com is great site for color inspiration as well."
—Michael N. Caston, BIG Folio, Inc.

"If you're just starting your photography business, finding a web design that doesn't detract from your photography is really important, so a black or white background is most definitely the way to go. However, as your business is growing, you'll find that establishing a unique brand will get you the higher paying clients, and build more loyalty. At that point in your business, being different and being 100% custom is the most important thing. Smashingmagazine.com is a fantastic resource for both website inspiration and design tutorials, and for color combinations, Adobe's Kuler tool is really inspiring."
—Caroline Tien-Spalding, SmugMug, smugmug.com/pro

"The best resource would be a skilled designer. Not only could they help in a color palette creation for you, but they can also help determine where colors can be most effectively used on your site. They would also have an idea of what types of colors go well for certain designs (retro, art deco, classical, etc). For the DIYers, there are color palette generators online. You can start with a favorite color and it will define for you complimentary colors to go with it."
—William Bay, Flaunt Your Site

froxy_homepage.jpg

©Froxy Photography

Photographers Naomi Frost and Xanthe Roxburgh hired Flaunt Your Site to design their page. It uses bold colors to reflect their quirky image, and the keyword-rich and brand-building content on the home page helped it rise to the number-three result for "Newcastle wedding photographers" in the first month it was live.



What information should be on my home page? What can be one or two layers in?

"A slideshow of the photographer’s signature images on the homepage is the easiest way to capture the visitor’s interest and represent the style of photography. The logo should be clearly visible, so that the viewer can easily identify who owns the website. A tagline (whether part of the logo or part of the welcome message) will tell the visitors more about the type of work. A concise, keyword-rich welcome message will speak to the visitors and improve SEO. Contact information and a call to action are final must-haves for the homepage. Whether there’s a contact form directly on the homepage or a link to 'book your session,' the visitor should never struggle to find a way to reach the photographer.

“Additional information such as 'about me,' 'contact,' 'client area,' 'pricing,' and 'testimonials' can be listed on separate pages, but needs to be easily found. A consistent site menu with links to specific galleries, pricing information and other details will keep the homepage clean and the site information well-organized."
—Nataly Livshits, Zenfolio, zenfolio.com

"Any question you get within 10 seconds of introducing yourself in person should be available as level-one information, which should be visible on your home page or in the main site navigation. Who are you? Answer with 'About us' section. What kind of photography do you do? Offer links to categories of work. Do you have examples? Display a portfolio or gallery. How do I contact you? Provide a contact form. Things like accolades or side projects can definitely be a second level of content."
—Caroline Tien-Spalding, SmugMug, smugmug.com/pro

tillinghast_homepage.jpg

©Laura Tillinghast Photography

A good home page delivers a message to the reader and search engines. Laura Tillinghast Photography shows the photography in large format, with information supporting the images, but not competing with them visually.

 

dhost_homepage.jpg

©D. Host Photography

The D. Host Photography home page includes information about the studio, and the slideshow illustrates four styles: classic, creative, contemporary and cool.



If I create a video slideshow without music, what’s the best pace for photo changes?
 
"Rhythm for your slideshow is everything—go too fast, and the prospective client won't have time to savor your shots, and go too slow, and your prospect client will move on to the next photographer. I've found that .7 second per slide is a nice moving but relaxing pace."
—Caroline Tien-Spalding, SmugMug, smugmug.com/pro

"For a standard website portfolio slideshow, 2-3 seconds is perfectly fine. You just have to gauge interest levels of your particular audience. What works for some target markets or parts of the country might not work for others. This is where having tools like Google Analytics can help you figure that out. Are people getting bored and leaving your site before the slideshow is over? Well, the slideshow might be too slow, or too long. If you have access to this information, you can make informed decisions about it."
—William Bay, Flaunt Your Site



What do I need to know about Flash, HTML5 and how they affect my SEO?

"Websites built with Flash are essentially a brick wall when it comes to SEO. Some services claim that you can still make it SEO friendly with meta keywords and hidden text, but those go against Google and Bing’s best practices and can potentially get you removed from search results. A traditional website will always outrank a Flash based website.

HTML5 is a bit overhyped of a word right now. It’s not as important as marketers are leading photographers to believe. It’s not a replacement for Flash; it’s just a designation with some new ways of formatting. But there are some very exciting technologies that came out with HTML5, such as Micro Formats, which allows you to see rich snippets like video thumbnails and your Google + profile picture in search results."
—William Bay, Flaunt Your Site, flauntyoursite.com
 
"Search engines don't see photographs the way humans do. That means that if there aren't any alternative titles or text for the photographs, the search engines have a hard time seeing them, indexing them, and ranking them. So HTML5 is better recognized by search engines than Flash websites. Keep in mind also that iPhone, iPads and other Apple devices do not read Flash, so you'll be excluding a portion of the population if you choose to go with Flash, which means your ranking could be negatively affected."
—Caroline Tien-Spalding, SmugMug, www.smugmug.com/pro


Does a splash page hurt my SEO?

"A splash page can actually help SEO if done properly. A splash page is a simple page that allows clients to choose the direction they would like to go next. It can also contain your basic contact info, your specialties and what areas you service. This content can improve your SEO.  The biggest SEO killer on a splash page is only having the links open as new full-screen pages with no 'same window' option. Opening up full screen uses a Javascript function that Google can't follow well, which can cause the info from your website to be ignored by Google."
—Jenifer Martino, Portfoliositez.com

"A splash page can hurt or help SEO depending on how it’s built. A Flash splash page won’t be discoverable by search engines. An HTML5 splash page can help the homepage get indexed by search engines. However, a splash page that doesn’t contain any indexable content can only do damage to the site’s rank in search results. If the site is already search-engine friendly, a splash page is just another step that search engines have to take to get to the relevant content. In general, a good photography site shouldn’t need a splash page to help with SEO."
—Nataly Livshits, Zenfolio, zenfolio.com


What sort of products work well if I want to use an online shopping cart for my clients?

"The trick to online shopping is to not over-complicate things for your clients and to keep everything on brand. If you offer hundreds of choices all at once, your client may feel overwhelmed. Keep your offerings to products that your clients are already familiar with. To make your process easier, we recommend offering print sizes that do not require cropping so the photo your clients buy is the photo you intended them to see."
—Caroline Tien-Spalding, SmugMug, smugmug.com/pro

cart_sphynge.jpg
©Sphynge Photography

Caroline Tien-Spalding of Sphynge Photography keeps her cart selections simple by limiting choices to three print options and a card. She also offers Print Memories and Ultimate Parents’ Choice packages.

"Prints are the obvious choice to make available in a shopping cart. Enabling framing and mounting options to go along with those prints provides excellent add-on purchase options. If the shopping cart allows a preview of the image inside the mat and frame, that view of the final presentation is a fantastic sales closing tool.

One of the most effective sales tools is adding bundled packages to the online shopping cart. Bundling prints, products and digital downloads together for a discount makes the visitors see the value of bulk purchasing."
—Nataly Livshits, Zenfolio, zenfolio.com


What can I do to make my purchase options as easy as possible?
 
"Keep your product offering simple and guide your clients towards the products you feel will look best for them. Most clients aren't familiar with entire lines of products, and they rely on your expertise to preserve their memories in an elegant and long-lasting way. Pick products that you can show examples of, so that they can more easily envision the products in their homes."
—Caroline Tien-Spalding, SmugMug, smugmug.com/pro

"Creating an easily visible and accessible call to action is the best way to boost sales. For most photographers, having a prominent 'buy' or 'add to cart' button in every gallery will make the biggest difference in converting visitors to buyers."
—Nataly Livshits, Zenfolio, zenfolio.com


What can I do to make my website look good on a mobile device?

"First and foremost, you should focus on usability above looking good. That means making sure your site loads fast and visitors can find the information and images they need quickly. Avoid animations and tricky navigations (especially mouse hover effects) on mobile devices. Because mobile devices and screen sizes vary significantly, the best approach is to aim for a single, 'responsive' design. A responsive site uses CSS3 to adjust the layout of a site depending on the visitor's screen size. The idea is to have a single, flexible site, rather than creating multiple sites for multiple devices."
—Michael N. Caston, BIG Folio, bigfolio.com

"As a photographer, you would likely compose an image differently if it were to be printed as a wallet-sized print vs. a 20x30. The same thing is true with your website. It is important to have a different look on your mobile device. The links should be larger and it should load super-fast in case someone is using a cell phone on a limited data plan. Also, it is important to use a service that offers mobile optimized (not just friendly) sites."
—Mike Smith, MorePhotos, WeddingDetails, morephotos.com


How often should I put up fresh content?

"Search engines love new, keyword-rich content. Therefore, consistent updates (such as blog posts) will do wonders to help a site stay high on the search page results.
 
But there’s also the non-technical, more personal reason to put up fresh content. Research shows that the majority of brides on the market for a photographer will start their search long before they are ready to make a decision. Having a site that is constantly refreshed will make a photographer look more in-demand, as well as help with building a relationship with repeat visitors.

There is a fine line between updates that are too frequent and too scarce. Updating a blog two or three times a week with previews of the latest shoots makes the photographer look highly in-demand without being too pretentious. On the other hand, someone who updates daily can come-off as having too much free time."
—Nataly Livshits, Zenfolio, zenfolio.com

"It really depends on how much your audience is actually consuming the new content. If you blog weddings every week and your readership is actively reading the posts, then you should keep it up. If you post every day, and no one reads it, then you might try blogging weekly or monthly and see what happens to your readership.

This is where tools like Google Analytics and Feedburner (which tracks how many people subscribe to your blog feed) help. When you have information available to you, you can make very powerful decisions about your online presence.

Focus on publishing things that are valuable. Google’s ultimate goal is to provide the best content when people search for something. So the emphasis should be more on quality, not quantity. And if you can do that daily or weekly, that’s a bonus."
—William Bay, Flaunt Your Site, flauntyoursite.com

"You should try to add something new at least once a month, the search engines will rate your site higher if every time they index there is something new. A blog integrated into your site is an easy and effective way to get new content into your site and give your customers and potential customers a reason to come back often. Just make sure your blog posts are relevant to your client base. "
—Mike Smith, MorePhotos, WeddingDetails, morephotos.com

About

This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 6, 2012 9:42 AM.

The previous post in this blog was The Joy of Film, Without the Mess: Exposure 4.

The next post in this blog is Budget Friendly, High Quality: Epson Stylus Photo R2000 Inkjet Printer.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.


 
Powered by
Movable Type 5.2.7