You’re ready to make the leap into the world of professional photography – or you’re at least ready to start selling your images – which means it’s time to build a strong website that will showcase your talents, be easy to navigate and will draw in your clients/customers so that they are ready to either hire you or purchase your work.
When I first began as a professional photographer, I thought creating a website was going to be easy. I looked at other photographer’s websites – which all looked professional and polished, for the most part – and went about trying to figure out what direction I should go. I ended up landing with a web hosting services that provided what looked like beautiful templates build especially for photographers; they even had great reviews, which eased my mind. Well, to make a long story short, I think I spent the first two weeks doing nothing but staring at the screen – I had absolutely no idea how to use the “back end” building functions, and nothing that I did ended up looking good on the “front end” (what the client sees) of my website. Sure, there were lots of options, including fonts and colors and text boxes, etc., but I couldn’t put these things together to make something that looked professional to save my life.
Eventually, I had a friend help me get my website looking somewhat decent, but it just didn’t look professional. It wasn’t sleek and slick; it didn’t grab you when you arrived on the home page and say “Welcome to a Professional Photographer’s Website” – which was what I wanted without having to say it. In those days, I did everything I could to keep people away from my website, which was sad, because I was paying for it every month.
When I stumbled on Shutterforge, it seriously changed my world. Finally, there were the templates that I had wanted – the things that looked professional and came across as inviting. And when there was something that I wanted that wasn’t available, all that I had to do was ask and it would be created for me – slideshows, front page logo placement, easy “one click” product sales buttons, additional products (canvas, metal, etc.). I was amazed that something like this existed and that everyone wasn’t using it!
Build a Better Website with Shutterforge
Let’s be honest, the majority of us are scared to death when we get into that “back end” portion of our website, right? It looks daunting, and it feels like there’s no way we could possibly use all the functions correctly, but I implore you to sit back, take a deep breath and just have a look at everything with an open mind. This is a “real website”, folks, not one of those cheesy Wordpress Platform templates that are meant for hobbyists or people who don’t really care about getting found in Google Searches – let’s call them “Vanity Websites”. You’ve chosen the real deal here, so there’s a lot to it, but it’s not nearly a difficult as it seems. Here are a few tips in building a better website:
- Just Because There Are Hundreds of Customizable Options Doesn’t Mean You Should Use Them All. Yep, I said it…throwing the entire house and the kitchen sink into your website is not going to magically make it look good. Shutterforge is filled with options to make your website fully customizable, but choose your selections wisely. Take your Home Page, for example, a slideshow of your best images is always a great way to grab people, because it’s dynamic and impressive. You may, though, want to forego a bunch of text beneath the slideshow and just come up with a simple “one-liner” welcoming people to your site and asking them to have a look around. A slideshow and a huge block of text may come off as “too much”.
- Consistency is Key. One of the cool things about your Shutterforge website is that you can fully customize each and every page with different fonts, styles, colors, etc. This is great if you do it with a purpose, but people are generally more attracted to things that look consistent and clean, rather than clicking from page to page and feeling as though they are on a completely different website. Try to use fonts that are in the same general family group, or if you choose to go with something like “block” and “scrip” to make a statement, stick to just those two.
- Don’t Forget the Importance of the About Me Page. Sometimes it’s tough for us, as photographers, to talk about ourselves and our accomplishments. I know I’m terrible at it. I hate writing “bios” for myself, because I don’t usually have a ton of great things to say, and when I do, it comes off as sounding arrogant. Still, clients and customers like to know who they are working with; they want to know about you. Consider using the third person (example “Sarah is a photographer from the Central Coast of California), as this sounds a little more professional – if you go with first person, realize that is more “intimate”, and play up that intimacy. Finally, if you’re having a difficult time writing your bio, as a friend to write one for you – often times what others see is more real than what we see about ourselves.
- Make Sure to Use Those SEO Tools. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it twenty-five more times…take advantage of the fact that Shutterforge is a leader in the market when it comes to SEO. Tag your pages, tag your images, write descriptions, pay attention to titles, etc. Get your SEO Reports to 80% or better on every single thing that you can, because you want to be found when someone types in “Fairytale Sunset” or “Time in Hand” (two searches that I come up in the first three images on Google now, which is pretty amazing). You can get there too, just use what is already there for you.
- Learn About Album Types and Use Them: Regular, Dynamic, Hidden, Client, Password Protected, Featured, etc. One of the best things about Shutterforge is the way that you can control your albums, from completely hidden albums to ones that are featured with one click right on your Home Page. These are powerful tools to get people to see what you want them to see. Have a group of images that you want to sell? Create a Dynamic album, create a Tag (like sale) and all that you have to do is go through all of your other albums and add that tag to your chosen images and…like magic they will appear in that Dynamic album that you created. Now make that album a Featured album so that it shows up on your Home Page and suddenly your customers are seeing what you want them to buy. I like to leave the majority of my client albums up as Featured albums on my home page for at least a few weeks, because I want perspective clients to see the work that I’ve been doing – then I will cycle them out. I have some clients who want their albums hidden, so I use the Password option and direct them to the Client Portal. There are so many things that you can do…learn them and use them.
- If You Have a Question...Ask. Perhaps the best thing about Shutterforge is the fact that it is run by REAL people…there is someone you can contact when you have a problem or concern. At Shutterforge, we want you to bother us when you are stuck on something, if you have an idea for a new feature you would like to see added, or if you just have a question; it’s our business to make you happy and keep you comfortable…and SELLING!
In the end, building a good photography website isn’t easy, but it’s a whole lot easier when you have the right hosting service behind you.
Written By: Sarah Williams of Mirror's Edge Photography
Sarah Williams is a professional photographer and freelance writer living on California's Central Coast.