Building the right photo website. Dilemmas and truths.

Finally my new website is LIVE!   By far creating the right website is one of the most important steps for a photographer and to me one of the most difficult and stressful tasks.  The website is your whole image and the best chance you have to catch the attention of a potential client.  I used to have 6 printed portfolios that traveled from agency to agency but rarely I get calls for a book anymore.  Clients will decide on a photographer based on their site, a bad website will get you no work.

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What is a good website?

There are many opinions but my idea of a good website is EASY NAVIGATION, SPEED, CLEAN PRESENTATION, GOOD VIEWING/IMAGE SIZE, GOOD ORGANIZATION and of course GOOD CHOICE OF IMAGES.  The GOOD ORGANIZATION and GOOD CHOICE OF IMAGES is by far the most difficult part and I wish I could say I had it down.  I spent sleepless nights thinking about what galleries I should include in my site and in these galleries what images I should showcase?  With the new website I tried a different approach, with most galleries being photo essays that tell a story (is very possible that by the time you read this blog this could have changed).   I find it much more interesting to look at photo sites that tell stories rather than a sites that have Portfolio 1, Portfolio 2, Portfolio 3, with a bunch of unrelated images.  However, many art directors, art buyers, photo editors or possible clients don’t have time to look at photo essays and they won’t like my approach.  If they have a project and need a good people shooter, they want to look at a site and see a PEOPLE gallery with just people.  Websites organized by specialities, like PEOPLE, LIFESTYLE, BEAUTY, SPORTS, to give a few examples, are the most popular.  Probably a more effective approach than mine but I find it boring and impersonal.  I rather be hired because I told a good story than because I saved somebody a few minutes so  they can spend more time on facebook.
The other important part of GOOD CHOICE OF IMAGES and GOOD ORGANIZATION is to create somewhat of a theme that works together.  If you are a tabletop, studio photographer, you probably don’t want to put a gallery of your latest trip down the Grand Canyon.  If you shot a wedding and got some cool shots don’t put them on your site unless you want to be a wedding photographer.  If you want to shoot some weddings on the side you are better off creating a separate website.  The photographers who specialize are the ones who will have an easier time selling their work. They can focus on selling what they specialize on and it sure makes it easier.  I started my career as a fly fishing photographer.  I could list my potential clients on my fingertips and was easy to go after them.  It was so easy to just put fly fishing images on my site and not worry about anything else.  Now things have changed in my world and a list of obsessions have been added to fly fishing and focusing on very specific subjects is something I struggle with.  There are so many things I do and love to shoot, with different styles, and I find it really hard to pigeonhole myself to one thing.  To me style is nothing but repetition and repetition is a bummer.  Who wants to eat the same thing over and over?  Even if it’s your favorite dessert? So the key is to showcase images, subject matters and styles that work together but always remember why you decided to be a photographer.  You should be passionate about what you photograph and don’t just shoot something because it sells.

How much does a website have to cost?

A few years back I spent over 9 thousand dollars on a website.  I conceptualized it and designed it and it sure was unique and cool.  It was so unique and cool that I was the only one who truly knew how to navigate it.  Clever, hidden buttons that turned into words, images that appeared by magic and a fancy long intro.  It didn’t take long to realize that the site was a failure.  While checking out other photographers friends websites I started noticing some that stood out and started asking questions.  Who designed it?  I kept getting the same answer. Aphotofolio and they are templates (they offer many different templates) that you purchase for $900 and they host for $17 a month.  Rob Haggart, former Photo editor of Outside Magazine and Men’s Journal started Aphotofolio and it didn’t take long before their websites took off.  More time went by and finally a prominent photo agent told me that my site sucked and I decided it was a good incentive to drop my expensive, clever and useless site and signed up with Aphotofolio.  I just recently changed to their new DesignX template which is based on HTML5 (versus flash).  My main reason to switching to HTML5 was color.  I was seeing some magenta color shifts on flash that weren’t acceptable, especially on skin tones.  There is also the ridiculous fact of Apple not supporting Flash on Ipads and Iphones.  I was also reading that HTML5 might eventually replace flash.  The beauty of having aphotofolio sites is that they keep updating them to keep up with times.  If it’s going from flash to HTML5 or implementing social media.  The new DesignX site is very easy to navigate, is well integrated with social media, very easy to update, is simple, clean, is fast to load, let you showcase images at any size you want (for speed I restrained my images to 1200px wide) and allows for all the customization you need.  No, Rob Haggart is not paying me to say this, they are just great sites.  Only drawback is that you might have Joe next door with a similar website.  However with the amount of customization that Aphotofolio templates allow, this is a minor issue and sites might look similar but most likely will not be the same.  I see a lot of custom designed sites out there that are hard to navigate and lacking important elements.  Recently I was looking at a photographer who was featured on Photo Editor, I checked out his site and could not get past seeing the first 3 images.  I tried really hard because I liked those first three images but had no success.  Don’t try too hard to be cool and make sure people can see your work because ultimately that’s what matters.  If you enjoyed this BLOG and want to stay updated on what I do please LIKE ME on facebook by clicking here.


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