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10 Mistakes to Avoid When Building Your Photography Website

By Hanssie on November 25th 2014

Photography websites – you’ve probably seen them all, the good, the bad, and the ugly. It seems that when it comes to a photographer’s website, many of us try to piecemeal something together with a DIY template to save some money. After all, when we start our business, cutting any corner possible is a must and it is much more fun to spend your hard earned money on a new piece of gear instead of a web designer. And it shows.

I’m one of the guilty ones. My website has been the bane of my photography existence. It’s broken pretty much every rule in the following video (with the exception of automatic music), and I’ve had more than a handful of professional web designers try to work with me to get it just the way I want it. In the following video, writer, creative business consultant, marketing strategist, and photography dabbler April Bowles Olin lists 10 website mistakes you should avoid and why.



Here are the 10 things she mentions:

Dark background with a light font – yeah, Apple, are you listening? It hurts the eyes (If you updated to the new OS, you’ll know about this horrible new auto feature for iBooks).

Music that automatically plays – Any of you who have experienced this know what she’s talking about; and to those infringers, if you insist on having music play automatically, please make the pause button really visible so we can make the music stop quickly and easily.

Huge chunks of text – I’m really guilty of this…I’m a writer, so what do you expect?!

Two sidebars or cluttered sidebars – My 6th grade teacher taught me KISS – keep it simple stupid and it has applied to all areas in my life, including my photography website

Lack of sharing buttons – People are lazy. If you want them to share, it must be not only sharable, but easy to share.

Lack of contact information – this is my personal pet peeve, especially as an editor trying to contact someone to feature, so I can imagine how a bride or potential client would feel. If I can’t figure out how to get a hold of you in less than 7 seconds, you’ve lost me.

Lack of shop or buy info/buttons – Again, you need to make it easy for people.

Unattractive or hidden opt-in – Don’t forget, people are lazy. If they have to scroll down to subscribe, most of them won’t.

More than 2-3 fonts and colors – more than that, and your brand can seem messy and not cohesive.

Overall, unappealing to your target market –  if your website looks like it belongs at Big Lots, but your target market are Bloomingdale shoppers, there’s going to be a disconnect there. They will be unimpressed and likely will not book you because you don’t seem like you’re the “right” photographer for them.

Watch Do Not Make These Website Mistakes!

This clip was from April’s CreativeLive class, Create Digital Products That Sell While You Sleep. Check it out here.

What mistakes have you made with your own website? Leave a comment below.

This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, however, this does not impact accuracy or integrity of our content.

Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Andre Thomas

    Hi!,I’m a wedding photographer and am trying to optimize my website–pictures in particular. Can you school me on how to export pictures in LR and still maintain a good quality? I’m trying to get them below 400kb but it always gets distorted. I’m using WordPress.If you could give help, I’d much appreciate

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  2. Graham Curran

    Several of these could be summed up in the warning “don’t make it look like GeoCities”.

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  3. Troy Barboza

    Things that everyone needs to know when making their website.

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  4. AJ Luna

    photography website pet peeves:
    1. Flash. Related to music that automatically plays, flash just slow things down.

    2. Picture that don’t zoom out.

    3. I find it unpleasant when website uses Flickr or ImageShack to host images. And on the website, there’s a placeholder that says “Image not found”. Please update your links.

    4. The popup that appears at the end of the page that entices you to read related articles.

    5. Not providing a map or image of studio front.

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  5. Barry Cunningham

    I’d like to add another mistake to avoid.
    Embedded videos in a page that automatically chain to another video, possibly off subject, when they reach the end.

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  6. Sebastian Martin

    Oh – and I have to agree regarding music that automatically plays. I can’t stand this feature on websites.

    I hate when I’m sitting at a Cafe or somewhere relaxing, not realizing my volume is full – I click a link to a website and some royalty free cheeseball music starts blasting throughout the entire location! Brutal!

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  7. Sebastian Martin

    My first photography website back in 2006 was a flash based site and pretty cool for its time.

    I am currently brainstorming ideas for a new website. It seems that WordPress seems to be all the rage these days. Any ideas of the pro’s and con’s of a WordPress site?

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    • Ben Perrin

      Hi Sebastian,

      As a wordpress user I think the appeal is in the flexibility of wordpress. There are free themes plus a tonne of plugins and options available. I think it’s the largest CMS in the world or something? Where I find the real strength of wordpress is though is blogging and dynamic content. If you need to blog I’d highly recommend wordpress. However, the negative side in my opinion is the steep learning curve involved in customising anything. Basically you’ll need a good knowledge of html, php and css and maybe a little Javascript if you want to deviate from the standard templates.

      If you aren’t going to be blogging then wordpress seems less exciting. I’ve heard people say that squarespace is brilliant and easy to use if you aren’t web savvy (and even easier if you are). It also has photographer friendly themes. I’m sure there are heaps of other options out there though.

      Hope that helps.


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    • Julian Tai

      Like Ben said wordpress is a great option if you’re trying to build a site exactly the way you want. Getting up and running is straight forward. You purchase hosting, install wordpress with a click and the site is up. The problem is that everything that follows your initial wordpress install. It starts out simple, but it’s definitely a huge undertaking. It’s kind of like buying a house. It’s all fine and dandy until something needs fixing, or you want to add some trees. Here is a quora post I wrote on the topic.

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  8. Michael Leslie

    34.5% of visitors to my website use iOS and 10% use Android, a clear shift away from the traditional desktop computer. So one of the top things on everyone’s list when making a website is to make sure its usable on these devices, flash should always be avoided unless you want to miss out on a large chunk of your market.

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  9. Daniel Thullen

    April makes some decent points on the “don’ts”, but Greg’s comment above is probably the biggest “do” that we typically don’t do on with our web sites. That is: Make them accessible and user friendly for mobile devices. At least 25% of my site traffic is mobile in nature.

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  10. Greg Silver

    Eron and Nick – I have to agree with both of you. I’ve seen great websites that are black with white (thin) fonts. Also as cool as flash can be – it doesn’t work on most cell phones and tablets.

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  11. Nick Viton

    also, don’t use Flash?

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    • Ben Perrin

      This is very true. Although I admit I was guilty of having my gallery in flash up until a couple of months ago. Finding a decent one in html actually took some time.

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    • Ben Perrin

      The music one drives me nuts. Another one that people often forget is listing where you are from. How does someone know to hire you if you don’t list that? Also DIY isn’t a bad option to try at least once (doesn’t have to be in a live environment) as you will need to learn a lot of these rules anyway. I see people buying fantastic templates and ruining them because they don’t understand how to size their photographs or break up text properly. Just my 2 cents.

      P.S. Maybe SLR Lounge could have a section for critiquing websites as well.

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  12. Eron Frederick

    I have to disagree with dark background, lighter text color, these are easier to read than a white background, white text.

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    • Eron Frederick

      white background, dark text…

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    • Imants Ozolins

      Some light text on dark background web-sites look good, but most of them look terrible. For long texts I’d rather read black text on the white background.

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    • Jim Johnson

      There are all kinds of things that contribute to the myth that light fonts on a dark background is hard to read. The real problem is contrast— you want contrast but not too much— even on light colored sites.

      I mean look around this site. It looks like it is black on white, but it really isn’t. There is a lot of shades of gray— light gray surrounding background and dark gray main text. The result is that a that there is enough contrast to easily see everything, but not enough to “strobe” against each other.

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    • Darbeth Trust

      Agreed. It is high contrast rather than colours that is the issue. I also notice that on her presentation she did not have a pure white background either, or that would have presented the same issue.

      It is also important to understand that displays attached to digital devices, e.g. monitors, tablets, phones, etc. all transmit light rather than reflect it, which is what happens with paper and projector screens. Transmitted light and reflected light have vastly different contrast profiles for the same image.

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