Selling photos online Part 2 – Website content

When designing a website for selling your photos, plenty of photographers start in the wrong place. They start by trying to learn how to ‘create’ a website… yes, it’s important, but as I discussed last time, you need to start by understanding your site’s goals first. Now, wait… there’s one more thing you need to do before you fire up a development tool…

Plan your content

When I talk about content, I’m referring to all the stuff you’ll put on all your web pages:

  • information (words)
  • images
  • portfolio
  • functionality

If you’ve ever tried to create a website, you’ll be familiar with this problem: you spend hours working out how to make a web page… and by the time it’s complete, you can’t think of anything to write. Or maybe you can only think of one or two things – not enough for a proper ‘website’. So, let’s take this step by step…

1. Plan your content

Write down all the things you want to put on your site. Some ideas might be:

  • a description of your experience
  • a description of how you will work with your customers
  • pricing
  • portfolio of images
  • contact information
  • faq

Think about how much you’ve got to say on each point, and then compare your content with the goals you established last time. Does Suzie the bride actually want to know what kind of camera you use? Ryan the model may be more interested in knowing who else you’ve worked with, or whether you’ve got the right kind of equipment for his shoot.

I would strongly recommend that you write your basic content first, before you start building anything. As a web developer, I can tell you that you will save yourself a lot of headaches if you know beforehand how much content you’re working with and whether they’re going to fit on the pages you’re planning. It takes discipline to get this done first, but it will help you immensely, especially when you come to thinking about menus and navigation on your site.

2. Pick your images

There are two types of images you’ll want to think about: overall site design and supporting graphics on each page. These are different to your portfolio, which I’ll look at shortly.

Your overall site design – or ‘look-and-feel’ – includes the colors you choose, designs, page layouts, font types etc. If you have the budget available, you may want to employ the services of a graphic designer to help you with this. A designer will interview you to find out what kind of business you’re running – they’ll ask you the kinds of questions you worked out in the planning phase – and they will design a look and feel for your site that matches your established goals.

A designer will help you create a very professional look and they will create the graphic elements you need to use on your site – definitely worth the money. If you can’t hire a designer, my advice is to keep your site simple and clean. Your customers aren’t there to be impressed by fancy graphics or moving parts – they want to see your photos, so create a design that doesn’t distract or detract. I also recommend that, where possible, you avoid using ‘template graphics’ that come with programs like MS FrontPage – these have been used thousands of times by amateur designers and they don’t have the professional feel you want: they give you away as being an amateur too.

Remember as well, that most of the pages in your site will need at least one supporting image. Choose your images wisely – choose images that support the text without overpowering it. You may want to choose some of your best images as samples on each page. Stay away from the temptation to use gadgets that let you change the photograph every few seconds. This doesn’t add anything to the content and makes it hard for the customer to read the text.

3. Having an online portfolio?

You may choose to create an online portfolio where your customers can look through a sample of your photographs. Again, when doing this, go back to your goals – what will your defined customers be looking for? Do they want to see that you’ve worked in different locations, with different lighting conditions, or different subject matter? Do they want to see how you’ve treated subjects exactly like them (as brides do), or do they want to get a sense of your diversity and artistry?

Be circumspect when choosing images. Don’t put everything out there – this is just a sample to get your customers interested in your work. Make sure the images you display are unique and interesting to your customers.

4. What can customers do here?

Finally, think through what you want customers to be able to do on your site… this shouldn’t be hard if you’ve done your planning. Can customers view the photos you’ve taken for them? Do you want them to log in, or can anyone see those photos? If you want customers to be able to select the photos they want, what happens next? Does the site help them to create an order sheet, or can they email you their order? Does the site calculate costs and let customers pay online?

Once you’ve worked this question out, review the whole content spectrum again. Does the content still make sense in light of the functionality? Do you need a portfolio to attract new customers or are you focusing on delivering a service to your existing customers?

If you’ve done all this, you’ll find it so much easier to create your website. If you’re going to try to create it yourself, you’ll know what kind of functionality you need to explore. If you’re going to engage a web developer, this information will allow you to to get a clear estimate from them as to the costs.

Next time: How to start building your wesbite.

Written by

Derek is Engineering Czar and Co-founder of Fotomerchant. He once picked up a camera and started shooting but everyone screamed so he stopped.