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Lessons learned from working on over 300 photography websites

I’ve been working as a web-designer on photography websites since 2010 and loved every minute of it. I’ll never forget the first website I ever built, and great photographers I’ve gotten to know over time, some of which I can even call “friends”.

Having been a (bit of a) photographer myself in the early days, it also pains me to see the struggles that photographers often go through.

Here are some patterns that I noticed in my work:

Many photographers don’t know how (and why) to edit down their portfolios

I sometimes come across huge portfolios, with photos that clearly repeat themselves (same scene shot from different angles), instead of showing just a tight selection of their best work.

That’s usually down to the inability to judge your own work (a skill that takes time), or some sort of fear of missing out. Fear that maybe an extra photo could be the exact thing a that a buyer is looking for.

But in the process, ten other buyers are bored and leave the site.

Recommended reading: 

Collaboration is not just a shallow word; it’s critical to a web-design process

On my side, I know the importance of communication skills in the services that I provide.

On the other side, photographers have to be willing to be changed by the other person.

When hiring outside help for your site, please realize that:

  1. The website is not for you, it’s for your audience. So it has to be liked and used by an audience, not by you as the website owner. This perspective changes things.
  2. You are hiring an expert in another field (the web-designer) to help guide the project and make design decisions. Without this respect, you’ll just give out “orders” and the end result will suffer.

When you’re out on a photo shoot with a client, you definitely wouldn’t like them to point fingers and tell you “Please shoot from there, and then from this angle, etc…” because it’s assumed that you’re the expert at taking pictures. They just want to look good.

The same mindset applies to you hiring a web-designer. Ask for explanations, thoroughly describe your goals, but give them the freedom to do their work.

People are overly concerned with SEO, at the expense of user-experience (UX)

I’ve already written a lot on the topic this year, here’s a good starting point if you want to dive deeper: Hierarchy of website priorities: Do you have an unreasonable obsession with SEO?

Photographers sometimes ignore essential business skills

Beyond creating your art (shooting & editing photos), you have to develop other skills to help them run a successful business.

At least some basic web-design best-practices, SEO fundamentals, and other topics like marketing, finances, copyright, contracts, etc.

Those help you to better define your audience to them tailor your website & services to them, to charge more for your work, to better handle your finances.

Just publishing great photos is not enough to make it in this business.

Fake business plan where you just sit and wait for success

I’ve written more about this mindset shift here and here.

Photography businesses in all industries are suffering

“Competition”, “Cheap”, “Micro-stock”, “Smartphone”.

All words that are somehow involved in why many photographers are struggling to make a living.

It’s not impossible to rise above the noise, as many photographers have found ways to build thriving businesses. But it requires a lot more work than before.

Or smarter work: changing your approach, pivoting where needed, adapting to market changes.

Survival of the fittest.


More insights that I gathered from working in this industry: How to modernize your photography website and adapt it to recent industry changes

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