Being good at photography doesn’t require being good at web design. If you’re thinking about F-stops, depths of field and balancing empty space all the time, chances are you’re probably not worrying about things like user experience, website navigation or calls-to-action. But while ignoring web design won’t affect the quality of your photographs, it most certainly affects the quality of your photography website design.
Websites for photographers are often portals to new clients and more work. If your site is sub-par, you could actually be losing business, not to mention missed opportunities in personal branding and getting your name out there. So if you want a crash course creating good websites, below we present 7 quick and practical tips for designing a photography website your clients will love.
1. Break up galleries by theme
One common mistake in photography websites is to feature one single “gallery” section with all your work. But because the main content of your site is the pictures, putting them all in the same place is counter-intuitive. Imagine if Amazon organized all their items under one single “products” category.
Rather, break up your galleries into themes. If you specialize in a few different types of photography or favor certain subjects, that’s a good place to start. For example, Tayler Smith below breaks her galleries up by both industry (“ecommerce”) and subject (“dogs”).
Not only does this make your photo galleries easier to digest, but also it helps in navigation. Some of your visitors already know what they want, so let them go straight there without any confusion. For example, if someone was interested in hiring Giles Clement for his landscape work, they can go straight to his “earth” gallery without wasting time.
2. Trim the fat
Photography website galleries are not unlike brick-and-mortar galleries. In both places you want to feature only your best—showing too much overwhelms viewers, distills your best work and risks running out of room!
Especially if you use your photography website as a portfolio, you want to show off your best work and only your best work. Short and sweet makes a stronger impression than drawn-out and average.
Browsing websites for photographers, you see a lot of sections like “personal collections” or “selected works” (Alan Schaller below). This is a fine strategy for exhibiting only your best, and it can also help in breaking up your galleries, mentioned above.
From a more practical perspective, having less total pictures means you can enlarge the thumbnails of the existing ones, a great way to get more from your visuals. If you can trim enough fat, you can even host full-page image galleries like Grace Chuang—but full-page galleries are less effective the more slides you have to click through.
3. Prioritize your goals
Web design isn’t just about how a site looks, it also incorporates how a site functions. Smart web designers can use the site setup to influence visitor decisions, encourage specific actions and even improve sales. But before you accomplish any of these, you have to know what your priorities are.
What’s the main goal of your photography website? Attracting new customers? Selling prints? Showing prospective clients your portfolio? Impressing art gallery curators and art directors? The order in which you prioritize these goals will determine the best web design strategies to use on your site.
For example, one goal of Adrieana Blazin is to get people to subscribe to her newsletter, so she includes a call-to-action for the newsletter at the bottom of the screen on every page—this kind of repeated exposure in subtle space tends to increase conversions. Danilo & Sharon are more business-oriented, so they want to prioritize their work with real weddings, which is why that’s the only photo gallery they include. Amelia Allen, on the other hand, is all about selling prints, so their Shop is the top navigation option.
4. Show your human side with your About page
Especially for personal events like weddings, people don’t want to hire strangers. It’s a bit of a paradox, though, because how many people are friends with a professional photographer? The workaround for this particular Catch-22 lies in the About page—the space on photography websites for introducing yourself.
Use your About page to talk a little about yourself and share some personal details. Again, short and sweet is better—no one wants to read a stranger’s autobiography. But in the few paragraphs you have, try to show your human side. If you have an established career, this is also a good place to include your previous clients or publications, like Lara Jade and Deanie Chen do, or you can even include a “fun facts” section like Marvin Lei.
No matter what, be sure to include SEO keywords in particular your geographical location and specializations. We talk more about SEO below.
5. Include all your contact info
At the risk of stating the obvious, including contact info on your site is essential to running a photography business. Contact information serves a dual purpose: for one thing, it lets the visitor actually reach out to you for business, but just as important, it also proves that you’re human. Hiring someone from the internet is scary, so seeing a phone number or populated social media feed can ease some fears that you’re still active or even that you exist.
Because your visitors will all have different preferences, you want to include as much contact information as you can to accommodate everyone. Be sure to offer your email, telephone number and links to all your social media. Mentioning your city or town is also crucial because it tells visitors where you operate—often people are looking for local photographers to cover events.
Where you display your contact information is up to you. A lot of photographers include their contact information in their About page and reserve the “Contacts” tab for sending direct messages through the website. Alternatively, Pedro Oliveira keeps his number and email at the bottom of the home page so people never have to look far to contact him.
6. Focus on SEO
SEO is one of those areas that not many people know about unless they work with websites often. For photographers, though, it’s an important skill to learn to get the most out of their photography website designs.
For local photographers, one of the most important SEO keywords is the location. You want to mention your city, county, state/province and favorite stomping grounds as much as possible—that way, people searching for those specific names will see your site. For that same reason, you also want to mention your specialization; if you’re a wedding photographer, use wedding-related words as much as possible.
Aside from your About page, blogs are a great way to organically work in SEO keywords. Not only do they help attract new visitors to your site, they also present an opportunity to show more of your human side—not to mention increase your visitors time on your site, which in turn helps your SEO even more.
Christina Marie, a wedding photography, works in words like “wedding” and “engagement” and even “sunset” to her blog titles to help her site appear when people search for those words. If you want a more minimalist style, you can include brief textual descriptions under your photos; for example, Will Bremridge works in both the location and subject matter in a quick one-line description.
And because you’re hosting a lot of images, don’t forget to include alt text for each one. This is an ideal place to work in keywords.
7. Forget watermarks
No one likes watermarks—not viewers, not photographers. They distract from the visual flow of an image that depends entirely on visual flow. If you’re trying to show off your photography skill, watermarks will only undermine your abilities. To sum it up, the disadvantages of watermarks overweigh the advantages.
“Won’t people steal my photography, though?” You know what… maybe they will. But if someone wants to steal your image, do you really think a watermark will stop them? You’d have to plaster the watermark over the center of the image to ensure they can’t manipulate it, but in that case the cure is worse than the disease.
If you’re worried about it, there are other ways to protect your work. For example, Adam Bird Photography displays the copyright information if you try to copy the image off the website.
Or include the copyright information in an easily visible place using subtle text; just look at the bottom left corner of the Nukem site.
What does your picture-perfect photography website look like?
Everyone can take a photograph, but not everyone can take a good photograph. That’s why they hire you. By that logic, how confident are you in making a good website? Sure, photography websites don’t demand much, but if you want to ensure that it’s perfect and optimized for business, consider hiring a professional web designer to build your site for you.
This article was originally published in 2017. It has been updated with new examples and information.