What is the best website for photography? Different occupations have different demands, but a photography business website requires so many unique features that I have to categorize it in its own league. What sets a photography site apart from others is the strong tendency in pretentiousness. And it’s somehow justified because of the nature of the business. Yes, I said it. Photographers are amongst the most unbending, conceited, and smug bunch that you can ever find. No apologies here, it’s the truth.
Photographers have to work hard to establish a critical difference between their work and the Joe next-door. In the age of digital photography, almost anyone is considered a photographer as long as she has an index finger capable of pressing the shutter release. And let’s face it, out of 100 frames, one ought to come out half decent without any knowledge of photography whatsoever. It kind of follows the notion that if you leave a monkey with a typewriter long enough, he’ll eventually write Hamlet.
Before the boom of digital photography, a handful of photographers had websites, and those who did were indeed visionaries. Their sites were simple, up to the point, and the message was clear: I’m a professional photographer and this is my website to showcase my work.
Unfortunately now days, the trend is 180 degrees backward. Professional and amateur photographers compete in an idiotic race of making a flashier website to set them apart, disregarding the simple fact that it’s not the pretty flash intro or the fancy background illustration that will get them work. In many cases the quality of their work is hideous at best, and the fancy web page doesn’t even scratch the void.
Relying on the design
Do you want an honest advice? My designing talent does not make your bad pictures look better, it only makes me look more talented and you more incompetent. I have three words for you: Content, Content, and Content. That’s the only thing that will set you apart. A good work will sell itself without much trouble where a bad work will look bad even in a diamond frame. Take Craigslist for example. The design of the website is so ugly that for a long time I choked every time I used the site. But I use it anyway and I’m happy with what it is. Because its content fills the void of the modern design. In fact, Craigslist website hasn’t changed in 12 years! Yet it has more traffic than Ebay and Amazon, and generates more revenue than both combined. It’s interesting to know that eBay has 16,000 employees and Amazon boasts 22,000 workers, and both companies have full-time programming teams working round the clock to make their sites look better. Do you care to know how many employees Craigslist have? Only 30 people.
A few words for female photographers
What I’m about to say is not sexist in any way, so take the feminist wax out of your ears and listen. Having an adorably cute and ungodly complicated website will not make you a better photographer. If you expect your visitors to watch a 30 second intro just to enter your site or a series of 10MB pictures to load as they come in, and your navigation menu consists of “artworks” of a sun, a ring, a possum or other incoherent symbols please jump off of a bridge.
Not long ago, a photographer called David Jay gave birth to an abomination to web designers and developers called SHOWIT, a drag and drop flash based website building application to cater to the need of the wanna-be photographers that grew like wild mushrooms. His intention wasn’t so much to help than filling his bank account. Then Jasmine Star, a female photographer who calls herself an “International Wedding Photographer” started to actively market this useless junk of software to the technically-challenged growing market of photographers for about the price of a kidney.
Now Jasmine Star is a very successful woman and I truly admire her drive. Her blog is amongst one of the most visited and commented photography blogs, and it’s not uncommon to see triple digit number of comments on her 10 sentence-long posts. And majority of her readers are naturally women. Because of her fame and success in the business (much owed to her admittedly nice rear-end), Miss Star has managed to sell crap-load of this crap to unsuspecting people, and she targets wannabe and professional photographers on a daily basis. She has even evolved to give web-design seminars, not knowing a single line of code or even an understanding of the web.
So why do I pick on the mutilated Jasmine and SHOWIT services? Because they have created a movement that slows down everything. The Web-pages take an eternity to load, they use gigantic uncompressed images for front pages, and are making believe that a photography website should be like that. Again, it’s not the design that will sell your photos; it’s the quality of your work.
10 Tips for making a great photography website
So let’s get to the point. Here’s the 10 commandment that photographers should follow if they haven’t been mesmerized by Jasmine’s ass and SHOWIT flash.
- Don’t use generic, pre-designed templates. You are an artist (or you want to call yourself that at least) and what makes an artistic statement is not a template that 1000 other photographers are using too. Custom web-design cost should be the easiest justifiable cost of your business. You wouldn’t buy a bad quality 50mm lens, so why would you do this?
- Host your own website. Don’t fall for the design and hosting package scam. They want to cripple you, plain and simple. Are you looking for the best host? Two words: Inmotion Hosting. Hands down one of the best in business.
- Don’t build flash websites for photography business. If your pictures need flash animations to make them look good, honestly you suck big time as a photographer. Pick another profession. A photography website should be interesting by its photo content not with useless animations.
- Don’t separate your blog and website. Nine out of ten photographers tend to register two domain names, one for the website and one for the blog. Why? You are splitting your work for no reason, taking away search engine ranking, and making it confusing for the clients. Stop doing that. Just because one idiot did it, it doesn’t mean you should follow too.
- Don’t use free blogging services like wordpress.com or blogger. These free blogging services are for amateurs. You wouldn’t set up your studio in a bus station so why would you represent your professional work in a crowded unprofessional place? You’re not 14 anymore and you’re not writing your high school diary, get a web-host for god’s sake.
- Register your domain name with the word “photography” in it. Photography websites by nature are not too Search Engine friendly, and you need all the help you can get. Putting the word “photography” will emphasize this fact and will get you a better search ranking. Instead of registering a domain called www.JohnDoe.com, go with www.JohnDoePhotography.com. To register your domain I recommend using Namesilo. This is the registrar that I use on daily basis, they always have the cheapest prices on domains, and they have a great website with absolutely no advertising and garbage add-ons. Domain privacy is always free with Namesilo as well. Stay away from Godaddy at all costs. Use the coupon code (NEWNAMESILO) to get a discount as well.
Here’s a tip: Register your domain name for at least 3 years and better yet, for 5 years. Search engines don’t index domain names with short expiration time. Domain is cheap, so buy as many years as you can.
+4 Bonus Tips for making a photography website
- Optimize your photos. I know, I know, and I freaking understand when you say “I want my pictures to look great, that’s why I choose heavier files”. Smaller file sizes don’t necessarily mean lower resolutions; it means faster loading time and more visitors. You can compress any image with loss-less image compressors and still get a great result, and no, your Photoshop software doesn’t do that. Lossless image compression is an art and you need to master it. Or pay someone to do it for you.
- Have a portfolio. That means you need to showcase your talent to the fullest. There are millions of other photographers who are eager to take your customers so spare none. Your portfolio should be nicest, greatest, and most complete part of your website.
- Unless you are a four times Emmy Award winner, list your prices for different packages online. Don’t tell people to contact you to find out, they won’t, they go where they can get a clear idea on how much it will cost them to have a photo shoot for their ugly baby. When was the last time you emailed someone to ask how much something was? I know the answer; never. On another note, don’t call your price page “Investment” either. Bonds are investment. Stocks are investment. Your photos are not investment. Would you buy them back from your clients? If the answer is no, you have no right to call them investment.
- Even if you can’t afford a professional design, at least have a website, whatever it is. (Not free blogging of course). I see many talented photographers who only use Facebook or other social media outlets as their portfolio. This is the worst thing you can do for your business and yourself. This is selling yourself cheap, under-rated, and you look nothing but an amateur with a camera. Take it seriously or move on to other hobbies.