Editor's note: My Lightroom Classic articles have moved to my new website Mastering Lightroom. Visit the store and get 20% off any ebook or ebook bundle with the code ml20 (valid until midnight October 21). Thanks for reading, Andrew.
Before you begin to build your photography website it’s a good idea to think about why you need one in the first place. If you are not sure then I suggest you read the first lesson in this series 11 Reasons Every Photographer Needs a Website or Blog. It goes over the most common reasons photographers need websites and will help clarify your thoughts.
Once you’ve figured out why you need a photography website you can start thinking about the details. If you’ve spent much time looking at other people’s websites it’s possible that you already have a strong idea of what you’d like.
But it’s also possible you have little or no idea about how you’d like to design your website. Whichever applies to you, working your way through the three steps in this lesson will help you solidify your ideas into a plan you can use to decide exactly how you are going to build your website.
Even if you intend to pay somebody else to do it you still need to think about these factors. The more certainty you have about how you want your website to look and what you want it to do, the better the brief you can give your web designer.
Step 1: Decide which type of photography website you want
There are five types of photography website you might want to build.
Type 1: Photography portfolio
A portfolio website should display your photos in a visually pleasing layout that’s easy to navigate. It’s primary purpose is to present your photos to the world, rather than sell something or publish articles.
You can see my current portfolio website here.
Type 2: Photography blog
Blogs started off as a type of online diary and have evolved into the predominant means of online media publishing. A blog can be simple record of your thoughts for people interested in learning more about your photos. Or you may have bigger ambitions and a desire to set up a magazine style website like The Creative Photographer or Capture Landscapes (shown below).
Type 3: Online store
The most common reason for having an online store is to sell digital products like ebooks, Lightroom Develop Presets, Photoshop actions, video courses or stock photos. Some photographers also sell prints and spaces on photography workshops.
Type 4: A supporting website for a bigger product
A good example is a supporting website for a photography magazine. If you look at the EOS magazine website, for example, you can see that it’s designed to support the magazine itself and provide extra information for its readers. The magazine is larger and more important than the website, rather than being a product that the website sells (I hope that makes sense as it’s an important distinction).
Type 5: A photography forum
If you’re really ambitious and your audience is large enough you may want to set up a forum on your website to give people a place to ask questions and discuss topics of interest. But you do need to be certain that it’s what you want before you commit as it will take a lot of time and energy to moderate comments and respond to people’s questions. Some photographers use Facebook groups now to provide the same service on a smaller scale.
Combining website types
It’s quite possible to combine these types of website. For example, if you are building a photography portfolio website you may want to include a blog to give you a platform to explain the ideas and techniques behind your photos.
If you have an online store selling, say, Lightroom Develop Presets, it’s a good idea to have a blog to publish articles about Lightroom to attract visitors and potential buyers to your store.
Even if you want to combine two or more of these website types it’s still a good idea to look at them separately because you may use different software for each one.
It also makes the design process easier as you can build your website one step at a time. For instance, if you would like to build a portfolio website with a blog, you could build the portfolio first, and move on to building the blog only once the portfolio part of the website is finished. This approach breaks the design process into manageable steps.
Step 2. Go surfing
Now it’s time to take a look at your favorite photography websites with a critical eye. Look at things like design, color schemes, photo galleries (there are LOTS of ways to display photos online – which do you like?) and layout. It’s useful to make a list of do’s and don’ts – things you definitely DO want on your site and things that you DON’T.
When you find a website you like think about the design from the user’s point of view. Is it visually attractive? Does it encourage you to stay and browse? What happens when you finish reading an article or page – what does the website encourage you to do next?
What are the photographer’s goals? For example, the primary goal of The Creative Photographer is to provide readers with useful articles about photography and Lightroom, and to encourage them to sign up for the email newsletter and buy some photography ebooks and Lightroom Develop Presets.
How does the website look on a tablet or a mobile phone? A key feature of modern websites is that they look good on mobile devices as well as a computer monitor. This is essential and not as difficult to set up as you might think (the right software will take care of it automatically for you). As much as 50% of web traffic comes from mobile devices so you need to be ready for it. Google also penalizes websites that are not mobile ready by placing them lower in search rankings.
This is what the mobile version of The Creative Photographer looks like.
Step 3. Set goals
Now it’s time to write a list of goals for your photography website.
The goals you come up depend on your needs. A photography gallery, for example, is very simple compared to a complex magazine style website.
Simplicity is king in the online world. Simple websites are easier to build and maintain and make it easier for visitors to find what they want. Keep your site as simple as possible by only having a few goals.
Here are some things to consider.
Budget. How much cash do you have to spend on your website?
Time and expertise. How much know-how do you have – or are you willing to acquire? If you want to learn how to build a website yourself you’ll need a lot of time to dedicate to the project.
This is related to budget. The more money you have, the more likely it is you can afford to pay somebody else to build the website for you.
The future. How much will the website grow in the future? Most photographers will need to update their websites regularly with their latest work. Do you require the ability to do this yourself (the answer should be yes)? Or are you willing to pay somebody else to do this (this will get expensive)?
Primary goals. Your website’s primary goals are the ones that are most important. You may also have other goals are subservient to your primary goals and are there to exist to help you achieve them. You should have already thought about this. Now it’s time to write them down.
Features. What are the site’s most important features? Some typical features of a photography website include: photo galleries, a blog, an online store and an email newsletter subscription service. The features should support the site’s primary goal.
The Creative Photographer website goals
As an example, this website has two primary goals.
- To help people become better photographers.
- To sell photography ebooks, Lightroom Develop Presets and video courses.
It also has smaller goals, some of which could be classed as features.
- Goal: To have good graphic design that makes the articles easy to read.
- Goal: To be mobile friendly.
- Goal: To have good SEO (Search Engine Optimization) so that people find the articles through Google and other search engines.
- Goal: To have an email newsletter.
- Goal: To publish high quality articles that over time become a useful resource for photographers.
- Goal: To be easy to navigate so that people can easily find the articles they want to read.
- Goal: To have guest writers write for the site so that there is more than one voice.
The next step
Now you have a good idea of what you want in your photography website in terms of design, content and goals it’s time to look at the different software options available to help you build your website. That’s the topic of the next lesson – I’ll add the link below when it’s published.