Building your first website to showcase your portfolio? Or maybe you’re on your third iteration.
Either way, putting together a website for your photography can be a hair-pulling, time consuming, and overall frustrating experience.
Trust me. I’ve been there.
I’m here to make things a bit easier though, or at least help you navigate through the myriad of options out there. To make things clear, there is no ‘simple’ and ‘easy’ way to build a website.
Yes, some are quicker than others, but overall, creating a website takes a lot of work.
I’ve done everything out there when it comes to website building. I’ve used website builders like SmugMug, I’ve hired a designer, and I’ve done it all myself using WordPress.
So, if you are thinking about building a new site or upgrading your current one, this article should serve as a good resource on what’s out there to help you with the process.
If you want my short answer for the best solution – hire a designer for a complete custom build (check #5 on the list below).
It means a higher up-front cost, but less headaches and less time.
Why Build a Website?
- Place to Show Your Work
We are living in an online world and aside from social media apps, a website is the place to showcase your photography portfolio. A website is an even better option than Instagram, Facebook, etc. because you can control the organization and display. If you want to create galleries from all your trips, you can. If you want to put all your images into one big portfolio, you can. If you want to write a story about a few select images, you can. You can show your work and control the customization.
- Print Sales
If you are interested in selling your work as fine art or prints, a website is a great tool. Many photography website builders are streamlined with store options to sell your images. If you decide to build your own website, it can be a little tricker, but there are tools out there (like WooCommerce) that can help you. A personal website is great because you keep the entire percentage of sales, versus places like Fine Art America which can have high commission rates.
WordPress is the way of the web these days. WordPress is an easy way to create and manage your website. There are pre-built templates and plug-ins you can use to customize your site to the fullest extent.
This option is definitely for those more tech savvy. WordPress gives you the greatest control over what your site looks like and what type of content is displayed. You can find gallery and photography templates, but they will require some customization and work on your end. If you want to sell prints, I recommend the WooCommerce plug-in.
If you want one of the top WordPress setups, this is what I recommend:
Get the Astra Essential Theme with Beaver Builder included – https://wpastra.com/pricing/. I have built sites using this combo before. Astra is a great WordPress theme and Beaver Builder is a drag-and-drop website builder, making it easy for you to customize.
If you want the simplest solution, I think it is Wix.com. Wix is a website builder platform, meaning it comes with a ton of professional-grade templates, with a lot that work great for displaying an online portfolio.
Wix will also enable you to setup an e-commerce store for prints, and will also provide hosting options. It is a great option, but it does come with a price. Wix is one of the highest priced builder options, with prices varying from $23-50/mo. It is easy to manage though and the interface is great. Plus, 24/7 customer service.
SmugMug is similar to Wix, but there’s one big difference – SmugMug is totally geared towards photographers (it’s also cheaper). From the ground up, it’s a builder that has photographers in mind.
That means unlimited photo uploads, cloud storage, print sale optimization, Lightroom pairing, and more. I used SmugMug for years as my first site. It is a great option with lots of features for displaying/selling photos.
The only downside for me was I thought the site templates and overall design were a bit lacking. The sites you can generate still look great, but they have a very similar feeling to them. Meaning you might end up with a site that looks just like thousands of others.
Overall, SmugMug is a great option and if you want an easy way to get your first site up and rolling – SmugMug could be it for you.Adobe Portfolio
Adobe Portfolio is a more recent option, and a good one. The cool thing about Adobe Portfolio is it’s included with the ‘Photography’ Creative Cloud subscription plan. That means if you’re using Lightroom/Photoshop, you have access to Adobe Portfolio.
I think the available website designs are some of the best out of the template builders that I’ve had experience with. They’re sleek and clean, and really bring focus to the portfolio.
If you are using Lightroom, you can easily sync up Adobe Portfolio with your catalog for seamless uploads. This can really make a difference for populating your portfolio or galleries. As it might just take a few minutes with Lightroom, where it might take you a full day with other builders.
Of course, there is a con. There is a lack of e-commerce support. So, if you want to do any print selling, Adobe Portfolio will not be the best option for you.
This last option is the most expensive, but by far the best on this list. Jack Brauer, an acclaimed landscape photographer, leads Widerange Galleries. A web design service excelling in websites for nature photographers.
Jack has built his own foundation for all the sites he builds. Every site is grounded in some of the best gallery displays and SEO out there. People are more likely to find your site, and stay on your site longer because of the sleek look.
Jack’s sites are hands down, the best option for print selling. The galleries are exquisite, load fast, and offer numerous selling options. Many making a living on selling fine art nature photographs are utilizing Jack’s services. The sites are professional in every way, from looks to back-end coding.
A new site comes in around $3,600, but if you are serious about your website and are interested in selling prints – it’s 100% worth it. Look at it as a one-time investment, which it is, you’ll never need another site.
Matt Meisenheimer is a photographer based in Wisconsin. His artistry revolves around finding unique compositions and exploring locations that few have seen. He strives to capture those brief moments of dramatic light and weather, which make our grand landscapes so special. Matt loves the process of photography – from planning trips and scouting locations, taking the shot in-field, to post-processing the final image.
Matt is an active adventurer and wildlife enthusiast as well. He graduated with a degree in wildlife ecology and worked in Denali National Park and Mount Rainier National Park as a biologist. He also spent 6 months working in the deserts of Namibia before finding his path in photography. Matt’s passion for the wilderness has taken him to many beautiful places around the world.
As a former university teaching assistant, Matt is passionate about instruction. It is his goal to give his students the technical and creative knowledge they need to achieve their own photographic vision. He truly enjoys working with photographers on a personal level and helping them reach their goals.
You can see Matt’s work and portfolio on his webpage at www.meisphotography.com