Many of you reading this are in the process of starting or have recently started a photography business. The photography industry is a tough one to break into, as I'm sure you've realized. It's a very competitive world, especially in a big city like Indianapolis. In order to keep up with the rest of the competition, you've got to pull out all the stops--and a website to showcase your portfolio is essential.
You probably started out with a Facebook page for your business or an Instagram account, maybe a Flickr or Tumblr...and these are great outlets for putting out small bursts of your work and staying in touch with your clients and followers. Don't get me wrong, this post is not to undermine the value of a well-kept social media page (or four). Social media plays such a giant role in the corporate world now and a presence there is imperative. A professional website, however, can open up so many more doors for you and your business.
Having a website for your photography makes your business more official and professional. Plus, while social media presents a medium for a more two-sided conversation, a website is much more one-sided. Your website is a place for you to tell the story of your craft. It's your digital portfolio--a creative outlet to present what you've done and show the world (and potential clients) what you are capable of. Creating a website for yourself on your own is probably a lot easier than you think. I've simplified the steps to show you just how easy website building can be...
Purchasing a domain name: You need a domain name to have a website. Your website builder (which we'll talk about next) will allow you to create a domain name for free (or as part of your monthly payment), but as they are the host of the website, they will own that domain name. So, if you ever choose to leave that website builder, you may not be able to transfer the domain name. You can, however, purchase your domain name through sites like GoDaddy and Namecheap, which gives you sole ownership of the name and allows you to transfer it accordingly. Attaching an independent domain name to a website builder can be tricky, but there are a lot of online tutorials and walk-throughs on how to do it.
- Side note: The cheapest and easiest way to get a domain name is to choose a website builder you love and let them host your domain name. If you choose a popular and reliable website builder, you probably won't find a reason to leave their service.
Choosing a website builder: Website builders are sites like Wordpress and Squarespace. They've got themes (pre-made website designs and layouts) built into them that save you the trouble of learning code. You'll pay about $8-$30 a month, depending on what features are important to you. I've used Wordpress and Squarespace, so I can only speak from those experiences, but I like them both and they operate fairly similarly.
Choosing a theme: Once you choose a host, you will be provided with hundreds of themes (or templates) to choose from. Many of them are free, but some cost. Because your website will already be so heavy with imagery, you probably don't need a super fancy design...a simple design will subtly complement your photography and style best. Plus, the design of your theme can usually be tweaked as needed once it's in place.
Filling in the blanks: Once the theme is chosen, you'll find different templates and features to choose from and adjust depending on what you need for your site. For example, there will be several options for your home page: do you want a gallery of featured images? directions and a map to your studio? a sidebar for a calendar of events? There are so many ways you can customize your website.
- Side note: I will admit, tinkering around with this part can get a little frustrating. There are, however, a million online forums and YouTube tutorials available on this stuff, so finding help is definitely not impossible (trust me, Google got me through my website building class in college).
Mapping the navigation: You'll also have to decide what the navigation of your website will be like. A good way to plan this is to write out an actual outline of the content you're going to include on your website:
- Home Page
- Carousel of featured photos
- Short intro to company
- Gallery/Portfolio (pull down menu)
- Katie & David
- Renee & Justin
- Samantha & Kyle
- Senior Portraits
- Product Photography
- About Me/Bio
- Head shot
- Personal info/ interests & hobbies
- Links to social media
- Contact Me
- Email address
- Links to social media
- Client reviews
- Gallery/Portfolio (pull down menu)
And those are the basics of website creation. Now, here's a couple tips to keep in mind...
Keep the homepage simple. A common instinct is to include your "about me" section on the homepage. While it may feel like this website is about you, people are on your photography website to see your photography, not to find out you enjoy skiing in your spare time. It's good supplemental information to include, but the purpose of the site is to showcase and market your work. Keep the homepage clean and simple--stick to the basics.
Focus your portfolio. While it may seem right to showcase as many projects/sessions as you can, you need your portfolio to be focused on your strengths. If you excel at senior portraits and weddings, then don't just throw a random photo of your daughter in there just because it's good. Think of the site as your resume. You tailor the resume to reflect why you're good for a position you're applying for...even if that means not including a job you enjoyed.
Make your images web friendly. Make sure you're uploading photos with a resolution that enables them to load quickly without compromising the integrity of the image. Our Lightroom and Photoshop classes cover this.
Make yourself easy to contact. You can include a "contact me" button along with social media links at the footer of every page of your website if you want. Just don't make it difficult for people to find how to get in touch with you.
Put yourself in the viewer's shoes. What do you like and dislike about websites? Make sure what frustrates you about other websites isn't present on your own. I'm sure you've been on other websites and thought, "Wow, I could do this so much better." Now's your chance! Don't forget about those things.
Create a personal brand. Design a little logo and create an atmosphere on your site that accurately depicts the essence of you. Keep in mind the psychology of color and the different messages that different fonts can send. For instance, your brand can have a classy, black and white feel with a fancy, script font, or it can have a casual, light blue feel with a modern sans-serif. Either way, once your branding is set, the elements of your marketing will be consistent, giving you a stronger personality and making your style more recognizable.
Look for inspiration. Like we determined earlier, you're not alone in the personal photography business. There are already tons of people doing this really well. Learn from their websites and their branding and use it to your advantage!
In conclusion, it's true that building a website is costly--not only in terms of money, but in time and mental energy--but it's entirely worth it. Plus, once the creation is done, you'll only need to worry about maintenance. Overall, a website is an opportunity to make your business more official and professional, allowing you to create a solid brand image and giving your business a better chance of staying afloat among the competitors.
Best of luck out there, photo entrepreneurs!
Author: Anna Powell
* All screenshots are of the Squarespace interface taken from www.michaelgodek.com.