The Photographer’s Online Toolkit
Whether you’re launching a brand-new photography business or adding an online presence to reach more clients, there are a few tools you’ll need to bring your website and digital marketing into focus.
The process of registering a domain name and setting up your website isn’t complicated or time-consuming, but just as professional knowledge helps you capture better images than if you just aim and shoot, these tips can help you get the most from your online portfolio, email list, and social media. Let’s zoom in on what you need to grow your business.
Your website needs a host that loads your images fast
Because images take longer to load than text—and because the average mobile user will wait no more than 10 seconds for a page to load before they leave—you must have web hosting that loads your pages as fast as possible. You’ll also want plenty of storage space for site backups, to accommodate your image files. HostGator’s WordPress cloud hosting plans offer both speed and storage space.
You need a URL that’s on brand
Whether you use your own name or a company name for your business, your first step in choosing a URL should be to see if the domain name you want is available.
If it is—especially with the .com top-level domain (TLD)—snap it up. If .com isn’t available, consider a newer top-level domain specific to your business—for example, SnappyGator.photography. Learn more about choosing a good domain name, and once you’ve settled on the right one, register it along with similar names and different TLDs and redirect them to your site.
You need a professional email address
Once you have a web host and a registered domain name, you can create work email addresses for yourself and any employees using that domain name. Branded email addresses look more professional than a third-party email address and inspire confidence that you take your work seriously. Having a professional email address for yourself can also help you sort out your personal and professional emails, and it makes it easier to manage your business email list (more on that below).
Your site needs a design theme specifically for photographers
When photos are your business, you need a site design that displays your portfolio in a way that’s visually appealing, uncluttered, easy to navigate on desktop and mobile devices.
There are so many free WordPress portfolio themes that it can be hard to settle on one. Some of the most popular include Magnus, Spacious, Splendid Portfolio, and Draft. Take your time exploring, and remember that changing themes later on is relatively easy to do.
If you host your site on WordPress, be sure to check out our post on the top plugins for photographers.
Your photography site needs content and tags for SEO
Most photographers serve a local market and have a specialty or two, like portraits, wedding photos, or product photography.
Make sure your site copy spells out your location and services along with commonly searched keywords for what you do, like “Boston wedding photographer” or “Scottsdale real estate photographer.” Page tags aren’t visible to your site visitors, but don’t overlook them—include the keywords you want to rank for so that search engines can find your site. This search engine optimization (SEO) is how you’ll get found by prospects most of the time.
If you update your site regularly, it will tend to rank better in search results, and one easy way to update your content is by keeping a blog on your site. If you’d rather shoot than write, that’s OK—photo blogs update your content and show off your work. Just remember to include at least a little descriptive text and keyword tags for each image you post.
Your photography website needs booking, proofing, and order tools
Use your site to make things easy for your clients. Pet photographer Erin Lynch of Seattle has an online booking page that lets clients pick the type of shoot they want, with prices clearly listed and links to a calendar with her available dates and times.
Existing clients should have private access to proofs from their shoots so they can approve and order the photos they want in digital and print formats. Jireh Photography of Detroit, which we’ve featured on the blog before, has an online client proofing section that allows wedding and event clients to select the shots they love at their convenience. Online proofing also saves you the time, hassle, and expense of mailing proofs to clients or meeting to review them in person.
Your site needs an email list
Make it easy for prospective and current customers to find out about your specials and new services by keeping an email list. For example, fitness photographer Audra Oden of Houston has an email opt-in form on her homepage so clients can find out about “special rates, projects, and events.”
You can use an email marketing tool like Constant Contact to manage your list and your marketing campaigns.
Your photography website needs at least one social media account
The goal of your social media account(s) is to drive potential clients to your website and to contact you for a shoot. You don’t need to present your work on every social media platform, just the ones where your audience spends its time. That might be Pinterest, Instagram, YouPic, Flickr, or something else, where you show your favorite new shots, trade tips, and more.
As your photography business grows
As your business grows, collect your media mentions into a press section and add a testimonial section with photos, embedded reviews from Yelp and other sites, and thank-yous from satisfied clients. These elements add social proof that can win you even more new clients. Keep updating your portfolio and follow our blog for tips on properly pricing your services, tracking your time, and more tips for business success.
Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelancer who enjoys writing about business development and marketing, e-commerce payments and fraud prevention, and travel.