How to Start a Photography Portfolio Website?
There are three essential ingredients that are required to start a good photography business: skill in photography, equipment and marketing. From the marketing perspective, the first step is to establish a strong online presence in order to reach more people with your services.
Nowadays, it is necessary for every business to set up its own website. When people need something, they usually look it up on the Internet, visit a particular website and either start ordering products or contact the business for further information about the service.
A photography portfolio website is what your business needs and we are going to show you how to create one in this article. There simply isn’t a better way for a photographer to show his work to the audience than a portfolio website. It is not only an effective way to grow your customer base, but also very easy to set up. It doesn’t matter if you are a professional photographer or a beginner; a portfolio website is a great way to popularize your work in both cases.
Surprisingly many photographers choose to revolve their services only around social media. They create a Facebook, Instagram or 500px page and upload their work there. This is one way to build your business, but surely not the most effective one. First, we are going to explain why every independent photographer needs to set up a portfolio website. Then, we are going to show you one of the simplest ways to build one.
Why You Should Start a Photo Portfolio Website?
For many photographers, the first time when the public sees their photos is when they upload it on a portfolio website. If you have a nice collection of photos, then you can upload them to your website so that potential clients can see what to expect from your services. Showing people a nice storefront is already a good marketing practice.
The fact is that you can show your work on the Internet in many ways, so it might not be immediately clear why you should do it by creating a website. Next up, we are going to talk about some of the most popular platforms photographers use instead of websites and how they are hindering their success. Then, it will be much easier to see why a portfolio website is a better option.
Photography Accounts on Social Media
As we mentioned before, photographers usually like to upload their photos on sites like Facebook, Instagram and 500px. These platforms are quite popular, but all of them have the same disadvantage. You will be able to post your work for the circle of people that follow you, and maybe some more will join, but you will be still limited to those people that use the same platform.
On the other hand, the main point of a photography business is to attract people who are not interested in photography at all, but rather in the services based on your skills in photography. On the abovementioned platforms, you will be able to share your work with other photographers, but potential customers will be rarely interested.
It is a great thing if your photos get appreciated by other photographers, but if you want your business to grow, you need to attract random people that need your service.
Uploading Photos to Online Marketplaces
Instead of setting up a portfolio website, it might seem like a good idea to post your brand on directory listing pages and online marketplaces. There are plenty of wedding marketplaces available for those who need a photographer for a wedding. All you need to do is to add your classified ad to these pages and wait for the clients. As it turns out, this is quite an ineffective practice.
When photographers get contacted by potential clients, they can show a portfolio by sharing the link to their directory listing site. Sharing such links should be avoided by all means. Although the people interested in the service will be able to look at some sample pictures, the photographers only make it harder for everyone to hire them. There are three different factors that greatly impact their decision making process:
- Decision Fatigue – Repeated decision making only causes frustration and fatigue after a certain point. When people are looking for a photographer or any other service, they would rather avoid making any decisions after a long day. What they want to see is a single, yet appealing solution to their problem. They are already forced to make enough decisions during their jobs. By linking a directory, you are not really solving a problem, but rather confusing them and the end result is that they make the wrong decision.
- No Branding Opportunities – Before you start any type of business, you should figure out the brand name, the logo and some ideas for a specific style that will be a hallmark of your work. All these things are necessary if you want to establish a strong brand. The sad fact is that a directory won’t be able to present your brand properly to the audience.
- Too Many Choices – When people visit directory listing pages searching for photographers, what welcomes them is a long list of available professionals. No one likes to be faced with an endless list of choices because it often makes them unable to make a decision. It is simply overwhelming, which is why most people immediately leave these sites without even checking out what’s on offer.
All in all, directory listing pages and online marketplaces are rather drawbacks than good platforms when it comes to popularizing a photography business. With that said, let’s see how any photographer can build a professional portfolio site!
Beginner’s Guide to Creating a Portfolio Website
In order to be able to build your brand properly, you need to set up your own portfolio website. The design of a portfolio website needs to be minimalistic, emphasizing the imagery on your pages. It has to be fast, and you also need to work with a theme that has an awesome slideshow or gallery feature. Your visitors need to be able to find your pictures with a single click.
Then, based on your style, the quality of your work and maybe some customer reviews that you added, they can decide whether to hire you or to leave. Most photographers create their personal website just for fun, but if you want it to be a business website, there are a few important things you will need to focus on. First of all, the main reason why you create the website should be to reach out to clients.
People who visit your website should be welcomed with a visually stunning design. In addition, your theme and content should be optimized for SEO, ensuring that people can find your business even by typing photography-related queries into the search engine. If you need a good platform for building your new website, you can either choose WordPress or any hosted website builder.
WordPress is without doubt the most popular platform for building blogs, eCommerce sites and basically any type of professional or personal website. After introducing you to WordPress, we are going to talk a bit about hosted website building platforms as well.
Creating Your Portfolio Site with WordPress
WordPress became so popular in the past few years that when people want to create a website, this is the platform that immediately pops into their minds. It is considered as the best option for bloggers and small personal websites, but plenty of businesses are using it as well. There are thousands of themes to choose from, including free and premium ones that cover all the possible categories. On top of that, there are countless plugins available, both free and premium ones that can add new functionalities to your site.
Once you get a domain name and sign up to a reliable web hosting service, you can start to build up your new website. Since you want to enter the market as a professional photographer, you will need a well-designed theme from the portfolio category. WordPress might seem a bit confusing at the beginning, but you can find plenty of step-by-step guides for the platform on the Web that can help you set up any type of professional website from scratch.
Essential WordPress Plugins for Photographers
Envira Gallery is a highly powerful WordPress plugin right now for photographers and any other profession where imagery is important. It lets you add image galleries that are fully responsive and can be opened via a lightbox popup as well. On top of that, it provides many features that are missing from the default WordPress media library.
The drag and drop gallery builder ensures that your photos will be presented in a neat way and each gallery takes only a couple of minutes to build. Since Envira is an extendable plugin, you can add plenty of different add-ons to it, making it an even better tool. If you have photos on your Instagram or Dropbox that you want to add, you can import them with a single click.
Downloading Envira Gallery is highly beneficial for your SEO, guaranteeing that your web pages load at high speed.
Soliloquy is highly recommended if you want to add stylish and fully responsive sliders to your portfolio site. The sliders are compatible with images and video content as well. There are numerous awesome features integrated into the plugin, making you able to change the theme of your slider and to add animations which make it more appealing to your visitors.
Many of the WordPress slider plugins are complicated and take plenty of time to get used to. Soliloquy, on the other hand, integrates seamlessly into your dashboard and every option is quite self-explanatory. A lot depends on how a slider plugin is coded. You definitely don’t want to hurt the SEO of your site by downloading a poorly coded plugin that does more harm to your site than good. Soliloquy guarantees a seamless user experience by ensuring that your sliders load up quickly with all the imagery you have added.
The plugin is designed to handle both backend and frontend queries the most effective way, so that your pages are not affected by any delay when loading. If you add it all up, Soliloquy is perfectly optimized for fast page load speeds, no matter how you customize your slider or how many photos you add.
Optimizing your photos for faster page load speeds is what Imsanity is truly good at. You can always ensure a better user experience for your visitors by optimizing your content. If you have loads of content accumulated on a single page, it can be frustrating for people to wait until it all gets downloaded. As a photographer, your photos are the type of content that can slow down your website the most.
This is the problem with most websites, as you can have tons of imagery on your pages, even if you are not actually running a photography portfolio site. This is also why people use Imsanity on many different websites. It is the perfect tool for optimizing your images, guaranteeing high page load speeds and ensuring that people have a good time browsing on your site.
Of course, you can download any typical image compression plugin if you want, but it won’t be as effective as Imsanity. The reason why we recommend it is because it can resize tons of images in no time. All your images will be smaller, yet still big enough to emphasize the important nuances and the overall quality and style of your photos that you want to show to your clients as a professional photographer.
Divi – Our Most Recommended WordPress Theme
Divi is a WordPress theme developed by the Elegant Themes team. Both the team and this particular theme are highly popular right now on the market, attracting thousands of people that want good quality templates for their websites. In Divi, you can find everything that a good photographer would need for an awesome website. There are lots of predefined layouts, custom CSS box, drag-and-drop interface and tons of customization options.
If you want to add modules to your website, you can easily do it with Divi. There are 40 different content modules to choose from and you can add them to the layout of your page according to your taste. Pretty much everything can be done easily with this plugin while it’s designed to be lightning fast. The plugin has a live preview function, so that you can keep track of the result until you find the perfect colors, fonts and overall design for your page.
With Divi, what you get is an appealing, modern design for your website. Once you start adding your photos, you will realize that the theme is not only beautiful on its own, but it also makes your content look great. You only need to apply a layout, add your content and a few modules, apply a few changes as final touch and your website is ready.
Creating Your Portfolio Site with a Hosted Website Builder
Hosted website building platforms are another great way for the modern layman to build a photography portfolio website. There are numerous website builders that are worth trying. These are usually paid, yet affordable services, requiring you to sign up to a monthly plan. You will have your own custom domain name and an abundance of awesome features that you can apply to your website.
You might think that these low-priced or even free website builders are quite limited and unprofessional. This is not the case at all, as nowadays you can get highly professional services for a nominal fee. Website builders – especially the more popular ones – are designed with the inexperienced user in mind, yet offer a wide selection of professional-looking themes.
Some of the platforms cater to eCommerce businesses only, while others are fully packed with features for creative professionals. You can clearly tell the target audience of the particular website builder just by visiting their home page. As a photographer, you need to find a website builder that lets you improve the content of your site by optimizing pictures and local SEO.
BlueHost – A Powerful Host and Domain Registrar
As a photographer, you definitely don’t want a complicated hosting service. You want a web hosting plan that is easy to handle and provides enough resources for your website while you focus on providing great content. With Bluehost, web hosting is not only easy but you can also rely on their professional support. The reason why they are among the biggest names in the industry is quite simple: they work hard, no empty promises.
Their plans are optimized for WordPress, meaning that you can get the CMS up and running with a single click. Not only that their service is competitive, but they managed to keep their prices as low as possible, making it affordable for small businesses and individuals as well. You can get web hosting, email hosting and a quick setup for your WordPress site in the same package, saving you plenty of time.
On top of that, there is no need to look for a third-party domain registrar. With each hosting package, Bluehost gifts you with a free domain name for a whole year. The great thing about these features is that all the billing goes through the same provider. As your photography portfolio site starts to grow, it can attract a lot of people, but there is no need to worry. As long as you don’t have more than 500k visitors per month, you will be fine with their basic plan.
What Makes a Portfolio Website Stand Out?
Today, website builders and CMS are all designed in a way that makes people able to create a professional website without any experience. You can put together a website with ease and under a relatively short amount of time; the question is whether you can make it appealing to your visitors. And if you add the businessman mindset to the equation, you need to make it able to turn visitors into customers as well.
You need to figure out how to encourage your visitors to spend more time on your website than usual. This also means that while they are browsing, you have more time to convince them that you provide a great service as a photographer. There are plenty of resources available on the Internet about conversion rate optimization (CRO).
If you read a few articles on the topic, you will be able to implement the most important marketing practices on your website. These can include minor changes in your website design or adding a blog section to your website and posting a few articles there. There are many practices that can help in improving your conversion rate, and many of them bring outstanding results for photographers.
Optimizing Picture Sizes
A processed photo ideally takes up 12-15MB of your storage space. If you want your web pages to load fast, then your pictures need to be smaller than the mentioned size. The more pictures you upload without compressing them, the slower your website will be. By compressing your photographs, they will become much easier for the server to handle, since they will occupy only a fraction of their previous size.
Also, your photographs need to be noticed by Google. The search engine can only interpret those images that have an alternative text added to them. It would be better if Google could define a picture just by taking a look at it, but we are not there yet. Until then, you need to provide some additional information about your photos. This piece of information allows people to find your photos through an image search.
Make Your Website Responsive
Nowadays, people rather use their smartphone if they want to browse the Internet. Sitting down to a desktop machine is becoming less and less popular. Therefore, if people need a particular product or service, it is highly likely that they are going to check it out on their smartphone. Your website needs to be available on all devices if you want it to reach a wider audience.
Most website builders and CMS platforms are optimized for mobile devices. However, this doesn’t mean that there won’t be any unexpected flaws on your website. These usually come in the form of distorted pixels, misplaced photo frames and other issues with the appearance that make your website look weird. These glitches can be fixed rather quickly. All you need to do is to contact the respective customer support team and they will adjust your site in a couple of minutes.
Use Customer Reviews to Your Advantage
People are much more likely to hire a photographer if one of their friends or another credible site referred it to them. If they have just found your site on the Internet and never heard about you as a photographer before, then the chances definitely won’t be on your side.
To build some trust in your visitors, you can always include some honest customer reviews on your website. You need to add a nice list of these testimonials to a part of your website where they can easily find it. Instead of waiting for the testimonials, you can ask your recent clients to write one after you have done the job.
For most people, this isn’t too much of an effort, especially if they were satisfied with your service. Keep collecting feedback until you have a substantial amount, and then add them to your site as social proof. If other people were satisfied with your photography skills, then there will be no reason for your prospective clients to not hire you.