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Q&A #7: building a new site, image sizes, newsletter automation and optin plugins

I’m answering your questions about photography websites, business, marketing, SEO and more.

You can ask me anything. I’ll try to answer within 24 hours, and the most useful questions get featured here on the newsletter too. Need any help with your website? Don’t hesitate to write, I’m all ears.

Thanks to Dawn, Anna & Sharyar for these topics. Check out my answers below, and jump in with your own thoughts by sending me a message or leaving a comment below.



What are the key design elements I should be focusing on as a from-scratcportfolio site?”

Having a good navigation menu is critical (and often neglected by photographers). This guide should give you all the info you need: 

But it’s not always easy to define/simplify the navigation, because you might need to think about the overall structure of the site beforehand, which in turn requires defining your target audience first.

This article might also be a relevant read for you: 15 best features of successful photo websites (and how to design yours)

And if you were just asking about design in particular, I’m a big fan of whitespace :-) 



“How do I send blog post excerpts to my newsletter subscribers?

Full question: I have a small email list (300 people) for my travel advice blog and want to have the first part of the post appear along with a READ MORE style link. How do you only include a small portion of your blog post above the button? Is that an automated MailChimp RSS feature or something you have to adjust manually with each email? 

Regardless of the types of email you send out, buttons are added through MailChimp directly.

  • If your using one of their visual template builders, use a button block
  • If using a custom-code template (like I do), you need so experience with HTML but this article is a good starting point

As for automating the process and sending blog post excerpts to your subscribers, I’d think twice about it.

You could technically automate the blog excerpts by using MailChimp’s RSS Campaign feature. Since MC reads the RSS feed content from WordPress, you just have to make sure the RSS feed only contains blog post excerpts instead of the full posts.

But I don’t recommend automating this at all, I like to keep it manual. For every new blog post, I just create a regular campaign and put as much of the post content as I like. This manual approach is slower (though you can do it in less than 30′ once you get the hand of it), but has these advantages:

  • you can experiment with the content of the emails (instead of what comes through the RSS feed)
  • you have full control over the subject of the emails
  • you also have control over any images in the email (maybe you want a custom image/graphic instead of the first image from the post)
  • in some emails, after the blog post excerpt, I also like to add extra notes (about my current projects, what I’ll send in future emails etc.), you can’t do that with an automated process.



“What is the recommended image size and resolution for digital portfolios? I want to maintain image quality but not increase the page load time.

This guide has some relevant bits on image sizes & compression

Generally speaking, for an online portfolio, I recommend keeping images at a maximum of 1500-2000 pixels, never upload images larger than that to WordPress (for image security reasons).



“Is it a good idea to have family photography on my main wedding photography site or to have another website only for family related stuff?

The decision between having 2 separate websites or everything under one roof is a common one I get from photographers, so I wrote an in-depth article a while ago explaining how to navigate this compromise. So take some time to read the whole thing, I hope it’s useful.

In your scenario, familly portraits are close enough to weddings (and there is clearly an overlap in target audiences, they’re not complete distinct), so having one single site would work fine, and is easier to manage in the long run. 



“I want to integrate optins into my site to grown an email list. What are some good optin plugins I can use?

You could use a lead generation plugin like Thrive Leads ($67, one-time fee)

Just by quickly looking at its features, you’ll see the full range of optins you can create on your site, not just simple subscribe forms. Plus, you have access to a visual editor for each type of optin, allowing you to customize them to your wishes (including setting background colors/images, and placing fields side-by-side).

You might have heard of OptinMonster before (which is its main competitor), but in my experience, Thrive Leads is much more powerful and flexible, and I recommend you give it a try. This way, you can add various optins to your site visually, without having to ever deal with source code or need to hire a developer.

If Thrive Leads doesn’t fit your needs, for some reason, then check out OptinMonster or ConvertPlug.



Your turn: ask me anything. I’d love for this to become a valuable “repository” of answers from the entire community of photographers.

You can help with that by getting involved:
1. Ask questions. Send them to me via email or on Twitter (@foreground).
2. Answer questions yourself. If you have anything to add to any of my answers (or can answer from a different perspective), jump right in! I’ll share relevant notes with other photographers so everyone can benefit.

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