If you’re looking to start a photography business and you don’t know where to start, I’ve got a few tips and pointers for you. No, I’m not going to give you advice on f-stops and apertures, shutter speeds or lenses. You’re on your own with that stuff.
Nope, I’m here to tell you how to set up a winning website that can really help to drive traffic, helping you grow your business, win new clients, amaze your friends and confound your enemies.
This is all about building a great looking website for your photography business.
Your website it a critical component of a successful photography business. It’s a fantastic way to showcase what you’ve done and to win over new clients. It’s sort of an online business card that keeps on working for you, even when you’re asleep. With the right website, you can make a fantastic first impress, let people know about your latest works, share your ideas with the world and help to increase your brand.
Pretty cool, right?
What Are Some Options for Setting up a Photography Portfolio?
You’ve got plenty of options. Some are free and relatively simple to set up, but they lack flexibility to do absolutely anything you want. Some of the free options also require some level of payment if you want to add on features like eCommerce.
I have some recommendations, so let’s get cracking. Let’s begin in the best possible place. Let’s start from the end.
Should I Choose a Custom Made Website
If money is no object for you, a true custom made website could be a great place to start. With a custom made site, you can find a web designer on a place like Upwork or Craigslist, maybe even the yellow pages if they still have those, to create a completely hand-made, custom theme from the ground up.
The strengths of a custom site are obvious. You can have a designer create exactly what you want, give them a lot of guidance to how you want your pages to look, to add features that you need and when it’s done, your website will look absolutely perfect. You’ll be able to create your brand in every facet of the design, making sure that everything is exactly like you’d imagined. You can keep working at it until things are exactly like you want. You won’t have to do any of the work yourself and that can be a really nice thing, right?
Those are great reasons to get a custom design and if it’s right for you, get at it!
Some of the drawbacks, it can take quite a bit of time to have a developer create something that’s totally custom. Maybe a month if it’s simple and has relatively few features? But it can easily take three months or more to complete the task, depending on the skills and communication level of your developer. I’ll be honest, many web developers don’t have the most skill in communicating, keeping to a strict deadline and all of that jazz. It can be a real challenge acting as a sort of project manager for a web designer.
What’s more, the cost can be prohibitive. Custom sites are pretty expensive. And, honestly, that’s the big thing. A custom made website can easily run you $3k to get you everything you need. That’s being conservative. If you’re just getting started in the photography business, you probably don’t have three grand burning a hole in your pocket. If you did, you’d probably head over to Bell and Howell to scope out some sweet new lenses, right? Right. Three. Thousand. Dollars.
Well, How About Free Sites?
I get it, free is a very good price. It’s super tempting to create a website on a free platform. Starting your own business can be costly in a lot of ways and money is a nice thing. There are a whole bunch of different options out there to get a completely free website. So, I’ll outline a couple different options for you.
One option, you can create a free website using something like Wix or SquareSpace. These are relatively user-friendly platforms for creating all kinds of blogs, portfolios, business sites or whatever you need to create. For some projects, free site builder might work fine for whatever you need. But that’s only going to work if you don’t need true flexibility and if you don’t mind having a website that isn’t completely under your control.
Of course, there’s a catch. The free versions don’t have the features, the flexibility or the support that many folks need.
Sure, you can upgrade to a premium plan to get your own web domain, add one some other features, get support. But now you’re spending money and you still don’t have total control over the features and functionality of your site. You really can’t have everything you need with one of these freebies. So, for me at least, that’s not a perfect solution.
WordPress.com is pretty similar, you can sign up for an account with a subdomain like ‘myawesomephotos.wordpress.com’ and start building a great looking site using either a free or premium theme, but they don’t allow you to sell anything. Hey, you can barely promote yourself. For some bloggers, that might not be a big deal, but what if you want to sell prints online or something? You’ll need to upgrade your account and, again, that can cost you money. Also, I don’t think it’s nearly as professional having your site be the subdomain of somebody else’s website.
Also, what happened to free?
Overall, I think the freebie sites really aren’t a great way to go. They’re not nearly as professional in appearance, the premium features aren’t free at all, you don’t have flexibility and you’re also going to lack control over all the customizations you might want to engage in.
What You’ll Need to Start Your Photography Business Website
First, you’ll need hosting. Personally, I recommend Bluehost, since it’s reasonably priced and I’ve found their customer support to be really strong overall. They have 24 hour a day support, it’s really easy to set up, Bluehost gives you a free license for cPanel, which makes the back end stuff super straightforward. Even a shared plan should get you started off on the right foot, though more expensive VPS plans can be a bit faster.
I’m getting off into the weeds here.
Bottom line is, you need some kind of hosting plan. Whatever hosting plan you choose will probably work great. If you’re new to this kind of stuff, a managed plan could be the ticket for you. If you feel comfortable enough googling some tutorials to help get you started, a regular plan should get the job done.
You’ll also need a domain name. If you’ve got one already, great, you’re halfway there already. If not, Bluehost gives you a free domain name when you sign up for your hosting plan. That’s a pretty sweet deal, though most web hosting companies actually offer the same service, so it’s far from unheard of. Yeah, it’s only $15 or $20, but it’s something. Personally, I recommend you register your theme for a few years.
It just looks more professional that way.
What About the Best of All Worlds?
I recommend WordPress as a great place to start. WordPress is an open source content management system that was built for bloggers, but it’s evolved so much since it’s initial release, it’s almost unrecognizable. These days, you can create a great looking online portfolio to help show off your images.
Specifically, I think WordPress.org is a better option than the free sites available on WordPress.com. That’s my personal taste, but if you’re running a business, I think the power and flexibility of a WordPress.org site is well worth a few bucks a month for hosting and a reasonable price for a great looking WordPress theme.
Speaking of WordPress themes.
One of the great things about the web today, you can find a lot of premade WordPress themes, but that can be a bit tricky, trying to find one that has everything you need, but doesn’t have a really steep learning curve. After all, you’re a photographer, not a web designer. You should be taking cool photos, not hacking code to get the look you want for your site.
We’ve got some stuff to help you out though.
We’ve gathered up quite a number of WordPress themes that could be pretty handy if you’re looking to get a fine photography portfolio up and running. There are about as many options as you can imagine, from the simple to the more ornate, the basic to the fully tooled beasts. I personally favor simpler themes, but ones that have the design flexibility to adapt to any situation. I’ve kept that in mind when selecting themes for all of our collections. So, check out this collection of portfolio themes for instance. Those work great, but we’ve also got a collection of themes specifically made for photographers. Either way, you’re going to get a really attractive, user friendly site for letting the world know about your photography. These themes are highly rated, user-friendly and offer great support. I’ll list a few specific themes here in a minute, so stay tuned.
Now, the Important Part: A WordPress Theme
If you’ve read this far, awesome. Now we’re going to get to the important stuff.
While you’re free to code your very own WordPress theme from the ground up, it’s really a whole lot simpler to purchase a theme from a marketplace. If you want to spend the time, you certainly can, but it’s a pretty difficult task to learn to code just to make your own website. Personally, for folks looking to start up a photography business, I think it’s overkill. There are tons of great WordPress themes out there to help get you started.
Free or Premium? That’s the Question.
While free themes are pretty tempting, many don’t offer a particularly wide range of features and if you need support, you may be out of luck. It’s weird, but there are actually quite a few great free themes for blogs, but not that many for portfolios. I’m not exactly sure why that is. But, it is. So, I recommend taking a look at a premium theme. They’re going to run you a little bit of money, but they’ll save a lot of headaches in the long run. So, let’s take a look at a few.
I’ve got some personal favorites that you could be interested in.
Divi is by a developer called Elegant Themes and this is their all time best seller. This is actually among the most popular WordPress themes anywhere, thanks to how flexible it is. Elegant Themes brings the heat with this theme, it’s got a patented drag and drop page builder, tons of elements to help you arrange your portfolio any way that you want it. It’s even got quite a number of pre-made styles you can install to help get your site up and flying fast. Making a great first impression shouldn’t be much of a challenge with Divi.
With an absolutely perfect rating on ThemeForest, MF is a really strong option for crafting a photo portfolio. One reason I really like this theme, the developer actually offers to install and configure the theme for you. Once you get your hosting all squared away, you can hit them up to install the theme and pick out a demo site to get a really custom look to get you started. That’s a time saver and if you’re a beginner, it can be a really nice offer to have in your back pocket. Then again, installing a theme isn’t too difficult, so you should do just fine.
This is Leedo, another theme with a perfect rating. It’s got a little bit different style than the other themes I’ve highlighted, but just as many features. Leedo blends WooCommerce with several modern, fresh styles that you can choose between. With WP Bakery Page Builder, another premium quality drag and drop page builder plugin, you can re-arrange any element you want and it’s pretty easy to use. It’s even got a visual portfolio editor to lend a hand, making any sort of look possible.
Okab is a clean, creative and user-friendly WordPress photography portfolio theme that helps you get a website up and running quickly. I’ve included this one because it’s got a really nice feature for folks who want to get into the latest WordPress trend, the use of the Gutenberg page editor. That lets you visually click and edit anything you see on the page, without ever having to go to the back end editor to make changes. For some, that might be a key feature to have going for you. Okab is also great with mobile devices, since it supports AMP for fast, high-performance loading on small screens.