Professional photography website by an amateur
February 23, 2009 11:41 AM   Subscribe

Hi guys, I would like to make my way as a photographer, and I know making a supemotherlovin' website is essential. I have seen a lot of professional photographers using flash based websites and I see they are rather stylish but often slow (although I understand it is partially necessary for copyright protection). What I would like to ask is: what is the quickest/easiest way for me to make a professional looking website?

I have some experience with Rapidweaver on the mac (my primary system) but not much: I am however happy to learn to use flash if that is the only way. I have time on my hands but I would like not to waste it! Look forward to your suggestions...
posted by Saddo to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
If you don't know how to write flash now, your own photography site is probably not a great place to start. If you are serious about making it as a photographer, your site needs to be super clean. They are really hard to do. Even experienced designers can make pretty screwy and poorly designed websites.

Start reading here:

The template sites are somewhat (or not somewhat, just plain ol') expensive. I've used, which is a cheap (though somewhat frustrating) alternative. There's also carbonready, I think. But that is not going to cut it for a pro-site. Doing baby pictures in Indiana, maybe. Doing products in NY, no chance in hell.

Photographers and photography buyers are incrediblypicky about websites. Just a heads up. There's a lot of superficiality involved but that's the business. Good luck.
posted by sully75 at 11:48 AM on February 23, 2009

Flash doesn't protect them from anyone who has the technical savvy to press "print screen."

I am a professional web developer, but if a photographer came to me wanting a site I'd say, 'get a Flickr pro account." it does everything really really well, from showing various sizes, to licensing, to uploading big batches.

if you really want a website, I'd say do something small, with 2 or 3 of your very best, contact info, and a link to your flickr. There's really no need to re-invent the wheel with some super-advanced, super-annoying Flash navigation. As bad as the initial building will be, i can only imagine what a pain it is to upload new pics into those things.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:51 AM on February 23, 2009 [3 favorites]

(reading the first answer, I realized maybe I am rather ignorant of the industry. I was coming from the perspective of "it's the work that matters" - i know for instance for filmmakers it could be on youtube or whatever and no one cares- if it's good, it's good.

But maybe photography is different and sending a link to a flickr page will get you laughed at. Someone else will have to shed light on that.)
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:54 AM on February 23, 2009

Consider using SmugMug. For a little over $3/month for the standard version, it's one of the most professional-looking (and gorgeous) gallery interfaces I've seen, incredibly user-friendly, a breeze to navigate, there are no storage limits like other sites, and you can use your own domain. It beats anything flash-based by far, and if you're concerned about copyright, you can automatically add unobtrusive watermarks to your pictures.

If you opt for the Power or Pro version, you can remove the SmugMug logo from your website and personalize it as much as you wish, you can set prices for prints and make a profit, all your pictures are securely backed up, along with a ton of other great features that would cost you thousands of dollars to implement in your site (unless you plan to do your own coding). Also, customer support is incredible, I hear.

SmugMug is OMG awesome. I swear I am not a paid shill.
posted by halogen at 11:54 AM on February 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Why not use a commercial photographer hosting site like Pictage? I think it's mostly aimed at event and wedding photographers but it's usable and has a lot of backend functionality built in.

Whatever you do, please do not have any music autoplay on the site, or at least make the mute button obvious.
posted by benzenedream at 11:59 AM on February 23, 2009

bensenedream, Pictage requires an email address to view any photographer's gallery. I spent about 10 seconds trying to view actual photographs, and quickly gave up because registration was required. Yikes.
posted by halogen at 12:09 PM on February 23, 2009

I think it depends on what kind of photography we are talking about here, Flickr or SmugMug might be OK if you are doing retail stuff like weddings but that is the worst possible advice if you are doing commercial/editorial/etc. type work. If you can't spend a few bucks to make a decent portfolio website, which is your number one marketing tool, no art buyer or photo editor in the world is going to take you seriously.

LiveBooks is a popular (and well liked by buyers) service for professionals. Personally I did not think it was worth the price so I bought a simple Flash template called AutoViewer, customized it to my needs (you can right click and save the images), and stuck it on my own webspace. It does what it needs to quickly and simply which is the main gripe I hear about photog's websites from clients, and as someone who spends a lot of time looking at other people's work I agree completely. Make it quick and to the point, show your images and contact info and that's it. And dear god to not put music on your website!
posted by bradbane at 12:14 PM on February 23, 2009

I would recommend a service like SmugMug (which I use) or Zenfolio. They both have free trials and enable you to set up websites geared specifically toward photographers. They even have features available for selling photos online. I would think this would be the easiest route, rather than building a site from scratch.

(FWIW, I do nature photography and I've been very happy with SmugMug. I'd be happy to answer any questions you have about them!)
posted by geeky at 12:16 PM on February 23, 2009

Re: Flash vs. not flash: Photo editors/art directors that I've talked to have said that they prefer "not flash" so they could save pictures to their computers easily when they were scouting for new photographers. Imagine spending your days looking at hundreds of photographer's websites, then saying to yourself "hey, I wonder who took that photo I saw the other day, that photographer would be good for this job," and then having nothing but their browing history (which includes a lot of photographers they DIDN'T like, as well as whatever other sites they looked at) to try to track it down. Of course, if they liked your work enough to remember it, and you have a site where you could right-click-save, they'll have an image named saddolastname.jpg (or whatever they want to call it) saved, and they'd just have to browse the thumbnails in a folder.

Even if you're event photography, I know several friends who did a similar thing when looking for wedding photographers. They'd save a few photos off of sites they'd like, then a month later, poke around in the folder to narrow down their choices. It made it easier for them to remember what they saw.

If someone is going to steal your photos, they know how to do a screen capture. You should disable hotlinking though.
posted by AlisonM at 12:33 PM on February 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

As a long time photographer, when I look at other photographers' web sites, it's all about the photographs. Assuming that a site isn't flat out crude and amateurish looking, I have no problem with it. An informal poll of my designer buddies indicates they feel the same way.

Within the last several months I switched to a flash site from the pure html site I'd had in one form or another since 1995. I did this using a commercial JAlbum template for the gallery portion.

My web site loads quickly on a reasonably high speed connection, but pales in comparison to many from a design point of view. But it's clean, loads fast given the large amount of pictures on it, and there's no god awful music on it. I get some decent jobs as a result of my web presence.

Every time I look at The Big Picture I come away thinking that I could actually do a lot worse than reverting to a simple HTML site with big pictures on it.
posted by imjustsaying at 1:39 PM on February 23, 2009

This book by the ASMP will help you bigtime, if you want to operate a photography business. It has things you probably haven't thought of, when it comes to being a working professional. Guidelines for liscensing, copyright, forms, bidding, etc.

That said, I think a flickr account is ok up until you will get a real site. Otherwise, flickr reaks of unprofessionalism.

A good site will have your contact info, or a link to it, on every page. You have to structure the page so that the viewer does not have to scroll to view the whole image. Forward and back arrows? They need to remain static on the page, so the viewer does not have to keep moving the mouse. Also, on your front page, there needs to be your name, city in which you hail from, and the type of photography you do, in some body copy. (describe yourself) This will get you better search engine optimization. Be very vigilant on the copy editing. Hire someone if you must. Bad grammar and punctuation is very bad for your site.

Most clients who are searching for a photographer will only spend about an average of eight seconds on the site if they do not find what they are looking for immediately

Once your website is up, it will silently be doing your best marketing, 24/7.

Really, you need the book I mentioned above.
posted by captainsohler at 1:56 PM on February 23, 2009

I've enjoyed setting up Gallery2. It's lovely.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 1:59 PM on February 23, 2009

I use these guys:

It does lack certain features that I would like, but it's clean, and user friendly and I can update it daily if need be...and the price is right.

But if I had the cash to spend, I would probably go with NeonSky or LiveBooks.
posted by WickedPissah at 3:07 PM on February 23, 2009

Response by poster: Wow, what a brilliant response in such a short time! Will take me a while to look over all this advice and forge a way, but you have all made what seemed like an arduous exercise seem much more straightforward. Thanks guys!
posted by Saddo at 3:58 PM on February 23, 2009

How has nobody mentioned Zenphoto? Way, way, simpler and cleaner (default design and contribute designs) than Gallery2 - I did my sister's professional art portfolio (including photos) with it, and it's really quite nice software, and not too tricky for nontechnicals to install/use.
posted by tmcw at 5:51 PM on February 23, 2009

There's also SlideshowPro (look at what this guy did with it!) if you're looking at self-hosted options.

I'd also look at a customised Indexhibit installation, as that allows you to update and edit your website really easily.

Photoshelter are a really nice hosting company, and they allow you to have really nice looking galleries.
posted by Magnakai at 7:28 PM on February 23, 2009

Before you build a site, you really need to know what you want to do with your photos. Flickr might get you laughed at in certain circles (there was a big flap in the art photography community about flickr a year or so ago...) and it certainly doesn't communicate professionalism. When someone is looking to hire you for your photography, they're also looking to hire someone who can get the job done, who knows how to send an estimate and an invoice, who knows how to hire a stylist (if applicable) and the right sort of stylist for the photography, etc. Presenting your photography well goes a long way to convincing others that you've got (or can hire) all the non-photography skills that it takes to follow through with a photo shoot.

Glad to see photoshelter mentioned above, but surprised that their newly-released 2009 photo buyer and editor survey about photographers' websites. Sure, it might not be very scientific and it's all skewed toward trying to get you to sign up for photoshelter's services, but there's a lot of good information there. Turns out 700px wide is the sweet spot for editors, and nobody likes flash, and scrolling thumbnails like livebooks uses makes some people sick. Lots of information. Get it here.

And for the love of all that's good, don't use anything that requires your viewers start by seeing thumbnails (or worse, cropped thumbnails). You've got a couple seconds to grab viewers' attentions, and best to do it loud and proud with a big picture right up front.

Last, but not lest, make sure you put your email address and phone number all over the place if you want a potential buyer to contact you about your pictures. Contact forms are no good; email address and phone number and your name on every single page of your site. Anything less loses potential buyers.
posted by msbrauer at 12:46 AM on February 24, 2009

I had some issues with Gallery2 myself, uploading a very large amount of photos. Simple to use and install

I turned to pixelpost as my front end for my photo site. There are many templates to choose form, it is fairly well maintained and it is free.

Worth checking out IMHO

posted by silsurf at 10:04 AM on February 24, 2009

« Older To podcast or not to podcast?   |   Guide me to a travel guide. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.