10 Tips for a Picture-Perfect Photography Website
1. Professional, Artistic Web Design
The design and layout of your photography website is an important first impression for visitors and potential customers. Especially for those folks who don't know you, your website is the first indication of your taste and style. Many visitors can be turned off to the goods or services offered on a site simply due to poor design or layout.
Modern web design programs offer a wide variety of design templates and site-themes, ranging from light and casual to toned-down and professional. Make sure the layout and design you select is conducive to your business objectives and the message you hope to convey to your visitors.
"I chose my particular design as it doesn't look like a ready-made template and it also offered the flexibility to be adapted to include one of my own photos."
~Peter Thody, photographer and travel reporter
(In this article we'll be using examples from Sandvox, the easy web designer for the Mac from Karelia software, though these tips should apply no matter what tool you use. Feel free to visit our gallery of Sandvox-built websites, where several photographers have entered links to their websites.)
2. Flash Introduction of Your Work
Just like many other artists, your site may contain too many pictures or types of photographs for a visitor to get through in a single sitting. A Flash animation can help highlight your favorite aspects of your work. As with any images displayed on your site, it is highly recommended that you cover each image with a watermark. Picture thieves are quite adept with the screen capture button. It is also recommended that your homepage is not fully flash, as this can hurt your search engine rank.
Are you looking to show your full range of photographic interest and abilities or simply show off some of your best work? Either way, the Flash introduction allows your visitors a preview of your work without requiring them to first browse your entire site. This may help retain some of the more casual browsers and thus deepen their interest in your work or services.
To incorporate a Flash animation into your site, you will have to be somewhat selective in choosing your web design program. Some programs help you display Flash animations by use of a video page or "pagelet" (a sidebar to the page that includes its own supplemental content).
"I do wish that I had designed the site to use flash to show the photos or watermarked each image on my site from the beginning. I recommend flash or watermarking for all photos to protect the photographer."
~Wendi Schneider, fine art photographer and web designer
Sandvox from Karelia Software
- Build a Professional Photography Website
With Sandvox for Mac OS X, you can easily create a professional website featuring all the items listed on this page.
"It should be used in a software design class as an excellent example of an intuitive user interface.
~Andrew Soh, portrait and landscape photographer
3. Introduce Yourself
Be sure to include a page about yourself, the artist, on your photography site. Customers are often interested in the person behind the great work they are seeing. You can include a timeline of your interest in photography, a listing of your current or favorite equipment, even a write-up on any inspirations you may have in your field.
Some web design programs will help you customize such a page with raw HTML. This option could help you add that extra personal touch or highlight specific areas of your bio as you see fit.
4. Photo Gallery
This page will be the bread and butter of your site. Depending on your preference, you can display your entire line of work, separated into albums based on date or type of photography, or you can offer a selection of your work and areas of interest. Again, it is highly recommended that you protect your work by adding watermarks. You also have the option of including a few high resolution versions of some images (no watermark), allowing visitors to better evaluate your shots.
It is here that you can also offer items for purchase directly from your website (prints, posters, cards, etc.). The web design program you choose should incorporate PayPal, or similar online payment systems, for a seamless addition a purchasing page to your site.
BONUS: Color Management for the Web
This bonus tip is courtesy of Joseph Holmes, landscape photographer
A big problem for pictures shown on the web comes from the general lack of good support for color management among browsers. Windows browsers are totally devoid of color management support. Macintosh browsers often partially support color management, sometimes only if their preferences are altered by the user from their defaults.
Good color management support by browsers would include the reading of HTML tags on web pages which say, for example, "this entire page's graphics files (JPEGs and GIFs) are in such-and-such a color space (e.g. sRGB)", however, not one single browser that I know of does this.
Good color management support by browsers also requires that the browser read ICC profiles inside of JPEGs or GIFs used on a page and utilize operating system support to combine that profile with the current display profile of the computer to create a correct simulation of the color in the displayed image file, which takes the user's own monitor into account to show the color so that it's not too dark or too light overall (mainly in the midtones) or having a variety of other and usually more modest color shifts due to differing red, green and blue primaries of the display, etc. (compared to the color space into which the image files were encoded by the creator of the web site, usually sRGB).
So what you need to do is to make files which are a best-guess for typical displays, meaning you should convert your image data into sRGB, and then either save the image files for web use with the profile embedded or not embedded, depending on the situation. If your page design is simple, and has only a couple of image files, and does not use a drop shadow, for example, or would not suffer from a page being only partially color managed (some files shown right, and others not), then you should embed the sRGB profile in the JPEG or GIF when you make your web pages. On the other hand, if your page is a thumbnails page with many, many small JPEGs, you might not want to have to include many, many copies of the sRGB ICC profile, just because it bulks up the size of the page which must be downloaded before it can display.
This is why it would be better if the browsers would respect the simple HTML tag which basically says "Just use sRGB for the whole page" (you dummies! -- this situation has persisted for many, many years now and the browser makers are still not catching on to this very easy solution to a big problem, especially those living in the Microsoft world, which has apparently chosen to have zero instances of accurate color as their preferred standard).
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5. Portfolio of Published Work
If you have been lucky enough to have your work featured in magazines, books, or online, then you would be remiss not to include these items as a part of your advertisement. These are examples of your contribution to the photography world and help display your skills and talents. Depending on whether you are posting the images yourself, you may want to consider watermarking these images as well.
If you are in possession of digital images of your published works, then you can simply create an album similar to the photo gallery mentioned above. If your works are displayed on outside websites, some web design programs will assist you in building a list of links to your work. This will also help increase your reputation through the mention of professional organizations or publications on your site.
BONUS: Photoshop Files
This bonus tip is courtesy of Joseph Holmes, landscape photographer
When saving files from Photoshop for web use, be sure to choose the Save For Web option, not a regular save, because it not only leaves out the often quite bulky preview files from a JPEG -- files which may be bigger than the JPEG itself -- but it also leaves out some other stuff and results in much smaller files for faster page loading.
Sandvox-Created Photography Websites
- Travel Writing and Photography
Peter Thody's photography and travel writing from his road trips across America. Click the screenshot to the right to take a look at Peter's homepage and his description of his travels and write-ups.
- Photography and Web Design
Wendi Schneider's site for fine photography, web and print design, hand-painted photographs, and Polaroid transfers. Click the screenshot to the right to see Wendi's testimonials page, which features rave reviews from professionals in various fields.
- Portraits and Landscape Photography
Jacob Zellmer's site for his photo gallery and his year-long "Photo A Day" project. Click the screenshot to the right for a quick peek at Jacob's ambitious year-long project and some of the subject matter he has covered so far this year.
- Landscape and Monochrome Photography
Andrew Soh's digital photography website featuring his monochrome, close-up, people, and landscape images. He also includes a photoblog of images from his recent travels. Click the screenshot to the right to see the homepage of Andrew's photoblog.
"What a thrill to be able to say thank you for doing a wonderful job on my covers! I went to your website and had so much fun looking around. Very impressive!"
~Client review on Wendi Schneider's fine art and commercial photography website
Whether they're customer references or professional reviews, posting testimonials regarding your work can help set you apart. Customers like the reassurance of reading all the good things folks have to say about you. Aside from seeing samples of your work, testimonials are one of the most important items for consumer confidence.
The right web design program can help you display your testimonials in an eye-catching fashion. You can incorporate them into each page with pagelet callouts or build a linked list to the websites of those providing professional reviews.
7. Traffic Monitoring
This is absolutely essential for any business website. Traffic monitoring services such as Google Analytics allow you to keep track of several items, including your number of visitors, average time spent on your site, and the sites that referred your visitors to your site. This knowledge is very valuable when you begin attempting to market your site with various online advertisements or social marketing approaches.
Some website authoring programs are designed to integrate seamlessly with Google Analytics (the most popular of the traffic monitoring services). This pre-packaged integration saves you quite a bit of time, allowing you to move on to the all-important marketing of your site.
"One of the things that I wish I would have started from the beginning is Google Analytics. [It] lets me know where I need to focus more on marketing."
~Jacob Zellmer, landscape and portrait photographer
8. Do Some Blogging
Customers and other visitors to your site like getting to know the person behind the camera. By starting a blog on your photography site, you can pass along informal stories and write-ups of interesting photo shoots or locales. Or maybe you are particularly inspired by a certain image or subject matter. Telling these types of personal stories helps connect your customers with you as an artist, rather than simply a person looking to sell their work. Relevant content and frequent content updates (i.e., blog articles) are also among the many tips for helping your website get noticed by the search engines and your potential customers.
Establishing a blog on your photography site can be very simple with some of the better web design applications. The best of these programs even allows you to create podcasts or videocasts, which could be an exciting addition if you travel quite a bit and have "stories from the road."
9. Contact Form
Despite all the great content and information you already have on your site, some of your visitors may be left wanting to know more. You definitely do not want these folks to leave empty-handed. Instead, provide your guests with the means to easily contact you via email or phone. You can even setup a new email address with a good spam filter specifically for your photography site.
Some web design programs allow you to create such a contact form either as its own page, or as a pagelet alongside your other pages. Contact forms can also be a convenient means for your customer to get a hold of you or leave positive feedback.
10. Calendar of Events
Do you have upcoming shows or exhibitions of your work at the local gallery? Let your visitors know of any opportunities to check out your photography in person. Not only does this give them another chance to evaluate your skills and creativity, but it allows you develop connections and a larger network of clients.
Web design programs often offer the ability to customize pagelets to include any number of Google Gadgets. Among these are a variety of calendar choices. You can use your website's calendar to display any important upcoming event in your photography life.