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If you are reading this is highly likely that you have already understood the huge difference between social media and a website. Therefore, I congratulate you. You have no idea how many people are still confusing the two. Today I want to talk a bit about the most common mistakes photographers make when building their own websites. I'll try to keep the order logical, but be aware that some things can happen independently of others.
1. Rushing Into It
Let's face it, having a photography website is a great asset, but we need to take our time figuring out what we truly want to portray to the world. If you are just starting out, you don't really need a photography website right now. Photography is a slow-paced process in which stages should be savoured and enjoyed.
Even if you've started taking photography seriously in, say, the last two years or so, you may still not need a website of your own. What you probably need to do now is practice and post your photos to forums and photography-based social platforms in order to receive constructive feedback.
Hint: We have a place here at Light Stalking that revolves around this feedback mantra, it is called the Shark Tank, and is a great place to get quality critique and therefore become a better photographer.
Finding our inner voice is hard, but it appears when the time is right. Keep on practising until you are able to get a consistent body of work that deserves to be showcased.
2. Poorly Curated Portfolio
And speaking of your portfolio, you need to be very strict when it comes to curating it. If you leave it quite visually inconsistent you might very well be doing yourself a creative disservice. Your portfolio needs to be clear about what you do as a photographer, and it really doesn't matter if you are doing it professionally or not. Well, it does in terms of sales, but you need to always be clear about what niche your portfolio belongs to.
3. Not Using a Photography Template
There are many options when it comes to choosing the technology for your website. There are some really beautiful templates on offer, but you need to be certain that you pick one that is designed around the logic and purposes of showcasing photographs.
These themes are usually simple and quite clean, with sober colors where the photo is the main subject of the whole gallery. If you don't keep your site simple, it could distract viewers, and eventually, reduce their visual impact.
4. Abandoned Blogs
Many photographers love to keep blogs, and this is nice even for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) purposes. The huge problem with blogs is that if you don't nurture them with content on a regular basis, you'll end up with an abandoned blog that reflects negatively on you with your viewing audiences.
Photography is sort of atemporal, and that's part of the magic of it. But with blogs things get complicated. I've seen countless examples in which a photographer builds a site, posts 3 to 5 pieces of writing in their blog, and then it never evolves. This shouldn't be done, if you are going to take the responsibility of building a blog, you need to keep it constantly nurtured. Remember, blogs are great and help you get found, but they need to be kept updated.
5. Not Understanding SEO
So, what about SEO? Search Engine Optimization is not something you build and definitely not something you install (trust me, some people actually believe that SEO is a plug-in or something). SEO is simply the way search engines like Google understand your efforts at making your content easy to be found by users worldwide. There are several SEO good practices, and as browsers evolve, they evolve too. If you want to know more about this you definitely need to read, I am still finding out about the nuts and bolts of “being easy to be found.”
You need to understand that appearing right at the top in search engines is hard and involves advertisement and many other efforts. Don't expect to be found right away after publishing your website, and don't trust people that tell you that they can make your site appear #1 on Google out of the blue.
6. Not Doing Your Homework
Keeping an eye on trends and technology, in general, is something you should do regularly, almost like a habit. Research is one of those things people take for granted, but it has some serious impact (positive or negative, depending on how you do it) in the results your website will bring you. It is also important to do some benchmarking if you have a very defined niche or target; What are the others doing? What is being demanded by people right now? Don't just assume these things, dig deep and find evidence that will help you be successful.
7. Weird Communication
One thing you need to be sure of and that is being clear about what you are trying to do with your photographs, and most importantly, being clear about yourself as a photographer. Many people forget this last part, and in such a connected world, the human presence is being demanded more and more every day by end-users.
Talk briefly about yourself, and put a nice photo of you. Be transparent, and clear about you and your style. Keep all your ramblings for another time. All these words will have an impact on how people perceive you!
8. Uploading Very Large, Data-Intensive Images
This doesn't need a lot of explaining, you just need to avoid uploading gigantic photos. High-quality images are very much appreciated, of course, don't get me wrong, but you can still upload decent quality photos (1920×1080 for example) in a light way by reducing the amount of PPI. It is commonly accepted that 96 PPI is website-friendly, so now you know better, always make a website-friendly JPEG output of your freshly developed raw files.
9. Not Knowing What You Want
Many photographers are still having a hard time defining what they really want from their websites. Do you want to get exposure? Do you want to attract clients? Do you simply want to share your life-vision with the world? Do you want to rant about the world from time to time? What do you really want from your website? This is fundamental in order to avoid feeling disappointed.
10. Treating It Like Social Media
This is a mistake. Social media is a different communication channel, and a website should be the front door of your serious vision about photography. Leave the random shots for Instagram and you'll be making healthy decisions for your photography.
11. Not Responsive
Ok, so what do I mean – a responsive website is where a website will look awesome no matter what screen size or device you are using. This might not be a serious thing by now since plenty of website builders offer this feature, but you still need to take it into account if you are paying somebody to build you a shiny website from scratch. Even Google isn't indexing sites that aren't responsive – and hey, you want your images looking fantastic no matter what.
Long gone are the days when the vast majority of photographers had assistants. We now live in the time of high-individualism, and we are the ones in charge of doing everything, therefore we need to understand how the internet works.
We hope that this brief list will help you out in the magnificent process of building a personal/professional photography website. And if you have any thoughts or insights, please share them with us in the comments below!