Jan Brouckaert Photography
How to create a photography website ?
Nowadays there are numerous ways to create a website, but what is important and what is not? How can you make your life easy, yet have a bit of freedom to influence the design?
First of all, I have four options for you to consider if wanting to create your own website:
- Learn PHP, Dreamweaver or any other coding language, and design your site from scratch
- Buy a ‘prefab’ template you can use on sites like WordPress and customise it yourself
- Use a drag-and-drop software such as Sandvox, EverWeb, Zenfolio, or PhotoShelter
- Outsource the creation of the website completely to a third party
As you can imagine, it all depends on how much time you have and are willing to put in the creation of your website.
1. Learn a coding language such as PHP / Dreamweaver
If you tend to make large websites and have enough time to do everything from the scratch, then this first option is probably best for you. Programs like Dreamweaver give you the biggest freedom to design and change anything you want on your website. For me, website is a tool that I simply need in order to produce and to showcase my photography work. Hence, the time I put into creating my website is away from something else, such as taking and editing photos.
WordPress is becoming one of the most popular tools for building a website in a short time. In less than 15 minutes, you can publish something online that looks quite professional. As WordPress itself is free, there are a lot of templates available, however, the free versions are limited and they encourage you to get a paid pro-version.
WordPress is ideal for marketing start-ups and as an eye catcher if you want a nice looking website with not too much content.
So far, so good… However, if you want to customise your website, you will run into one problem after another. The templates have their limitations and even if you buy a widget or an add-on, for example, to overcome them, in the end you have a template with a lot of costly extras. Yet, you still have to live with the template’s limitations and be dependent of all the third parties and hope that the newer versions will be compatible with your template.
The mecano-based system does not give you any control over the content, pricing, or interdependence. It is a never ending story of templates, limitations, add-ons, updates etc.
To give you an example of one of these limitations:
-As a photographer, I mostly work in Portrait format (3:2) as opposed to Landscape format (2:3). Most of the templates work fine in Landscape, but when you add a Portrait image, it is automatically cropped to a square or something worse. If you discover this late in the process, you have wasted a lot of your time…
- The image galleries exist in some of the templates, but they are rarely neat or customisable. For instance, if you want to add a streak or border, or a name or number under the image, it’s hard to do.
My journey with WordPress was a nightmare of bypassing one limitation after the other. If you want a bit of freedom, because you have a clear idea in your head about your website, there are better options IMHO.
3. Drag and Drop software
There are many applications these days that claim to make life easier by giving you full control and half-automated software (no-coding).
I will not discuss all of them; this has already been done (see links at the bottom of this article). The main reasons for choosing such a solution are the following:
- You need to know how comfortable you feel handling and working with the software; some find it easy to learn, others may have a hard time.
Choose the one that makes you feel at ease. Most of the applications offer you a free trial for 14 days or more :)
- How is the price structure set up? Is it a onetime payment or do you need to pay monthly? For example, Zenfolio charges 28€ per month or 240€ per year, whereas Sandvox asks for a onetime 70€ payment.
Zenfolio looks more pro and has a lot more options.
Yet, are you willing to pay for or the rest of the months too
You probably want your website to exist for a long period of time, so make sure to calculate the difference in price also in the long run!
4. Outsourcing everything to a third party
If you have a bigger budget, you can easily find a professional who creates and maintains your website. You may need to go to that person every time you wish to make a change or have an update, but at least you will not lose a lot of time learning software and dealing with the issues mentioned above. This allows you to spend all your free time doing photography.
Conclusion: Find a good solution for yourself.
As I personally used iWeb in the past and learned to be competent with it, I now have a problem with all the so called pro-solutions in which you are limited to certain designs on your website.
The templates look great, but if you want it to be a bit different, it is a complete hassle. I also have a limited budget and do not want to be charged every month for my website.
Therefore, my golden midway is EverWeb as it gives me all the freedom I need for an acceptable price. It is marketed as the ‘future’ for iWeb users and it has been designed in a similar way. It also looks more straightforward to me than WordPress and Zenfolio.
One pitfall: it only works on Mac so far.
I hope this article will help you find the best solution for yourself,