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Q&A #9: how to get stated, slideshows & galleries, child themes, photography website services

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 Shannon, Amit & Zach 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.


“Are galleries and slideshows SEO-friendly?”

This is a complex question. Anything is SEO friendly if it contains text (and not just images) AND is easily index-able and understandable by Google.

If gallery thumbs or slideshow images have ALT tags (in the source code, not visible by humans), excellent. If you also show text on the site (thumbnail titles/captions, slideshow image titles etc.), even better.

But it also depends on how well-coded your WP theme and/or plugins are.



“How do I create a WordPress child theme (so I can safely make tweaks)?”

This is a common task already covered by many other sites (since it’s generic, it’s not photography-specific).

The normal process is outlined here: How to Create a WordPress Child Theme

But there’s an even easier way, which is to use a plugin that creates the child theme for you, instructions here.



“What is the best slideshow gallery out there?”

That’s a contradiction in terms, not sure what you mean. A “gallery” is usually a set of thumbnail images (that can then be enlarged). A “slideshow” is usually a carousel of large images.

If you’re looking for gallery plugins, I’ve heard great things about Envira Gallery.

For slideshows (also with animations and text layers on top of the images), you can’t beat Slider Revolution.



“How do I get started with a photography website?”

Full question: “I have just recently got started in photography as a career. I’ve been doing photography and film making for years now and am currently in college for film. However, I am now taking it to the next level and stating to freelance with it. So I am looking into making a website that will show my current photos and film that I have created! I would also like to have it show what all I do and with prices(I am having a hard time coming up with prices because I enjoy doing photography so much I never charge anyone, So I need to come up with rates) and then also a contact form. So I am just wondering if you can help with any tips or input on how to get started. “

Happy to hear your venturing in the world of freelance photography.

Starting a new photography website can be complicated, and people usually start blindly with the first platform/tool they heard of and then dabble through.

I recommend a few steps first, to set a better foundation:

  1. Have the right mindset from the beginning: 10 important mindset shifts to finally take your website & business to the next level
  2. Consider using WordPress (instead of photography-specific tools) because it’s become quite powerful: WordPress now powers 1/4 of the Internet
  3. Define your target audience (which will then help you craft anything you write on the web better): How to define your target audience & elevator pitch (and use them on your site)
  4. Think about the structure your site will need to have: Information architecture for photographers: how to structure your site for optimal user experience & conversions
  5. Start building your site, with a special focus on the navigation: Navigation menu best‑practices for photography websites



“Comparing photography website services…

And finally, I thought I’d share an interesting discussion I recently had with a photographer about the state of photography website tools. I’ve anonymized the actual company names because they were beside the point here.

Photographer: “Can you do a comparison between different tools? Personally I like […]’s unlimited space and speed (probably many CDNs and optimised algorithm) […] is awesome for presence and the look and feel. Very clean and functional. […] is great but slow and pricy but it does offer much more flexibility on pricing and sizing and image control.”

“I used to host my own site on WP for many year but grew tired of constant tinkering and playing with half baked plugins that take up too much time.

Sometimes I think comparing the 3 is like comparing apples and oranges and pineapples. Sure they are all fruits but they are all different so the comparison is also a little flawed to begin with.

One focusses on image management and web presence is a by the by. The other focuses on web presence and image management (Digital asset management) is a by the by. The third one – neither here nor there.. sitting in between more like a family sharing thing…

ugh… its like walking into a supermarket and wanting to buy a simple toothpaste. You want in through a long queue to find your aisle then you are hit with 20 brands and 15 varieties in each brand all provision bigger and better…!!!”

Alex: I agree with what you’ve said, each platform has its strengths and weaknesses. I also think that WordPress is catching up slowly, and with the right set of good plugins it can start to rival photo-specific platforms, with some exceptions. The future is interesting for sure in this department :-)

Continuing the toothpaste analogy, it’s not really something I’d get angry about (having too much variety). My parents lived in the communist block in their youth, and there was a deep shortage of everything. Now I can choose from 20 brands of toothpaste at will :-)

Same with platforms/tools. We have great tools at our disposal to present our work, to sell products to anybody across the world, we just have to do a little research work to choose the right one. It’s natural to be picky, our businesses depend on it, but there are options out there, we have to be grateful for them.

And I also understand each platform wanting to carve a niche for themselves, developing unique features that competitors don’t have. Thus the discrepancy between all of them :-)

My opinion is that general website platforms (WordPress, Squarespace) are becoming more and more capable, and will slowly start taking users away from photography-specific services. But it takes time. The ease of managing the content will matter more and more.

WordPress is the most capable of course, but with great power comes great complexity. In experienced hands, it can be a great solution, but it’s hard indeed to choose the best plugins and customize everything.

Photographer: “Choice is good. Too much choice just for the heck of choice is NOT really choice imho. Its more spam and clutter annoyance and waste of time for the already busy buyer.

Everyone is time poor in the modern world.

We also live in a world where somewhat blatant false marketing is ok by most. People generally don’t bat an eyelid.

There is a HUGE gap to create a CMS that bridges these gaps. It could put all these image hosting companies to shudder if someone came up with a good UX and architecture that was scalable and worthy.

WP is awesome what it does but need time and patience and most of all knowledge. Just like you said.”

Alex: Well, let’s see what the future brings, and what companies will try to bridge those gaps first.

Update: a more detailed response to this question can be found in this separate article: WordPress vs. photography-specific & other platforms: deciding where you should build your photo website



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.

Off-topic or inflammatory comments may be moderated.
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