10 Photography Portfolio Website Tips from a Web Designer

Tips for making a photography website

Creating a photography website

Am I a hypocrite? Yes. My photography portfolio is completely out-of-date; however, I think I have some good tips to share on creating a photography portfolio website because I worked for two years running a website design firm.  I have built quite a few photography portfolio sites in my day, and I’ve learned what works.

Photography Site Tip #1: Before you do ANYTHING, decide why you’re building a website. You will build a wedding photography site quite differently than a wildlife portfolio site. The key question here is what you want to accomplish. Are you trying to get business, sell fine art, or just wanna share your photos so mom can print ’em and slap ’em on the fridge door?  If you take 5 minutes to write down an objective for your site, I promise that your whole website will be simpler and easier to use.  I ALWAYS forced my clients to take this step before I’d even touch their website.  Skip this step at your peril.

Photoblog Site Tips #2:  Stay within your skill level. If you have never used wordpress before, I probably wouldn’t use it.  If you have never coded a website before, I certainly wouldn’t start.  I have seen many photography websites go down the tubes simply because the photographer tried to do it himself and didn’t have the knowledge to do it.

Photography Site Tip #3:  Make it easy to update. Even though I can code and I know wordpress well, I don’t use either of those solutions for my photography portfolio.  Why?  It takes too much effort to update the site.  When I tried using these solutions for my photography portfolio, I never updated the site and it got out of date quite quickly.  Choose something that is fast and easy to update and you’ll update it much more often.

Create a Photography Site #4:  Don’t cheat yourself on SEO w/ missing Alt tags. SEO means search engine optimization.  It basically means that you need to do some things in creating your website to help Google to know what your website is about.  If all you have on your site is a title and photos, there won’t be enough text for Google to place you high in search results.  The best tip for improving your photography site’s SEO is to add Alt and Title tags to EACH PHOTO YOU USE!  These tags are meta tags that you can add to a photo so Google knows what is represented in the photo.  I ALWAYS use alt tags on the photos on this site.  Want proof?  Just hover your mouse over the photo featured on this page.  See the text that appears?  That’s the Alt tag.

Build a Photography Site #5:  Don’t shy away from paid solutions. I HATE buying anything that charges a per-month price, but I think it is worth making an exception for a photography portfolio site.  There are so many options that the choice can be daunting.  I have tried almost all of the solutions available, and my two personal favorites are Smugmug and Photomerchant (and I’m not getting paid to say that).

Creating a Photography Site #6:  Flash is for portraits, not for websites. Adobe Flash is a tool that some website developers use to create websites.  Unfortunately, Flash takes a long time to load, it is not search engine friendly, some computers can’t display it, and they often look overdone.  If you are choosing a photography site developer, make sure to ask first if they are going to use Flash.  If so, run away.

How to make a photography site #7:  Make the navigation easy. When it comes to creating a menu bar for your website with links to the different pages, DO NOT GET CREATIVE!  Make the website dead simple to use.  Make the navigation easy so people can focus on the photography without being distracted by trying to figure out how to use the site.

Tips for making a photography site #8:  If you include a blog, give it a white background. Photography looks great on black or gray backgrounds, but white text on a dark background is tough to read.  If you’re going to include a blog with lots of text, find a way to put the text on a light background to make it easier to read.

Making a Photography Website Ideas #9:  Give them what they expect. If you want to sell prints or get clients, you probably need to include prices.  This obviously doesn’t apply to high-end photographers, but most clients want the price right away.  If you don’t include prices and your competition does, you probably won’t get many calls.

How to Make a Photography Site #10:  Don’t choose your own photos. When I create a photography portfolio, I choose 100 of my best photos and show them to 10 people who have never seen my photos before.  I do NOT choose other photographers to look through the photos, I choose regular people, because that’s who will look at my site.  I then ask the 10 people to look through the photos and select 20 of their favorites.  If you do this exercise, I bet you’ll be shocked to learn what most people consider to be your best photos.  The results will definitely surprise you.

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