How to Build a Website for Photography

A dynamic web presence is essential for every photographer's marketing strategy. Whether you are a fine artist, portrait, or wedding photographer, your website acts as your portfolio and calling card. While creating an online presence can seem daunting, evaluating your goals, skills, and budget will simplify the process of building your website.

Evaluate Your Goals

Most professional photography websites include common features, such as contact forms and portfolio galleries. Your niche and business model, however, will determine what functionality you need.

For instance, are you a fine art photographer promoting exhibits or building a fan base? If so, a portfolio site with a guest book, contact form, and biography page may suffice. However, if you want to sell limited edition prints from your site, you will want to investigate ecommerce options. 

Alternatively, a wedding photographer selling albums or event prints needs a more robust proofing and ecommerce solution. Also consider who will fulfill those print orders, you or your host's lab.

Budget and Skills

What size is your budget? Can you afford a professional to design and maintain your site? If not, how much technical expertise do you have?  How much time do you want devote to building your website? Balance anticipated cost savings of doing-it-yourself against the value of your limited time.

Solutions

Fortunately, there are numerous website solutions with a wide range of control over the site's function and cost:

  • DIY:  A self-designed site may be a good option if your site will primarily consist of a few galleries and content pages. Most affordable What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get (WYSIWYG) software includes customizable templates that make it possible for even novice designers to incorporate features like guest books or blogs. Some include PayPal button set up, making small-scale ecommerce easier.
  • Third-Party Solutions: Photographers requiring a more sophisticated proofing and ecommerce setup should look into using a third-party web-based solution. There are dozens of companies offering similar solutions that vary primarily in function, flexibility, and cost. Branded flash-based, customizable websites, for example, may charge a setup fee and/or monthly hosting charges. Other companies offer free, customizable homepages and charge photographers commissions on print sales. One drawback of "free" solutions is the placement of their brand on your site - a tradeoff whose value can only be measured by the photographer.
  • A Blended Solution: Combining your own design with a third party fulfillment solution may be a good compromise between tackling the entire design yourself and being limited by the templates offered by your photo hosting company. Building your own homepage and adding a link to your photo host or lab allows flexibility in your choice of vendors. Most pro labs offer free or very low-cost photo hosting, and as your business evolves, you may want the freedom to change vendors without completely redesigning your site or brand. 

Finally, when deciding on features and functions, consider your visitor's experience. Flash galleries, for instance, are beautiful, but can be slow-loading, turning off many visitors. Sites with music should always include a mute control. The site should be beautiful, but your photography should be the main event. Your website is often your client's first impression of you, and your focus on their needs will actively contribute to the growth of your brand.

Popular Cameras for High Quality Photos: