Knowing how to create the best possible photography website for your portfolio is incredibly important. It’s an essential tool in building your brand and marketing your work, services, and even products as a photographer.
Luckily, with just a bit of time and the knowledge in this guide, this is something everyone (even with a little budget or no web design experience) can do.
So in this step-by-step guide, we’ll go over everything you need to know to build or improve your own photography website. And I’ll also show you where to find the best templates and share some examples.
Warning: This guide is huge! But by the end, you’ll have a great optimized photography website. Or if you already have one, just read the sections that are relevant to you. If you only take one thing away from this guide, I recommend you choose the right hosting provider.
Let’s get started!
The Importance Of Your Own Photography Website
No, Social Media Profiles Aren’t Good Enough
Social media profiles are great and should play an essential part in your online marketing plan.
It’s a great way to be an active member of the online community and can help in meeting others and promoting your work.
There are even artists who manage to sell a large share of their artwork through Instagram or Facebook.
But there are many things social media profiles can’t do, as we’ll see below. So they are better used to send people to your own website, and not as a replacement.
Here’s why you need to create your own photography website:
1. You Need Your Own Domain
Having your own domain name is just 10x more professional.
If you want people to spend money on you, it’s crucial your branding is on point. As domain names often cost less than $15 a year, it’s a great investment.
2. You Have To Measure The Number Of Visitors And Actions On Your Website
Most social media profiles or free portfolio websites don’t offer any or just basic statistics.
This means you have no idea which of your pages, photos,… are most popular and how people are finding you online. Are they coming from Google search or other websites? Which countries are your visitors from?
You have no clue.
But when you create your own website it’s easy to add free tools like Google Analytics or Clicky that can provide you with invaluable information about your visitors.
This way you can make informed decisions about your content and marketing efforts.
3. Total Control Over The Design Let’s You Stand Out
Photography is a visual medium.
So it only makes sense that you should present your work in the best possible way.
And while other free portfolio websites use a standard design template for everyone, having your own photographer website lets you show your own individuality and style. This way you can stand out from the crowd.
There are many photography website templates available that you can use and customize, or you can have a developer create a custom one. We’ll show you how in this guide.
4. Building An Email List Is Essential
The most important goal of your photography website, next to convincing potential clients of hiring you, should be getting visitors to subscribe to your newsletter.
When someone lands on your website, clicks around and then leaves they are gone forever. Even after you spend all those marketing and social media efforts on getting them there you’ll have no way of talking to them again.
That’s why it’s essential to build an email list.
This way you can contact them whenever you like. It means you have a second (and third, fourth,..) chance of convincing them and keeps you top of mind for when they are looking for a photographer.
And just as important, your email list is yours.
When you post something on your Facebook account, only a small percent of your followers (6%) will see your update. The only way to have your posts shown to more fans is by “promoting” them, which means paying money. The same goes for Instagram, Youtube, and most other social channels.
But sending your email subscribers an email is free, and reaches all of them.
As adding an email sign-up form to your website only takes a couple of minutes there is no reason not to.
5. You Need To Optimize Your SEO So People Can Find You Online
Showing up in search results is the best way for others to find you online.
That’s where SEO (Search Engine Optimization) comes in.
For example, 33100 people search for “wedding photographer” every month in the US alone.
Wouldn’t it be great if your website showed up someone is looking for a wedding or portrait photographer?
Reaching this amount of people would cost a fortune with advertising, and stops the moment you stop paying.
So if you can’t optimize your website for search engines you’ll have to rely on endless social media promotion, and you’ll miss out on many possible clients.
SEO is almost impossible on most social media or free portfolio websites. And even worse, Google sees those websites as less professional and important, which means less people will find you in their search results.
6. (Optional) Having A Webshop Let’s You Sell Your Photography Online
Why You Should Create Your Website Now
If you don’t have a website yet, the best moment to do so is now.
Domain Names Are Limited
Many domain names have already been taken, and as time goes by this will only get worse.
For example, yourname.com may already be gone.
(Check here which ones are still available)
So it’s best to get your preferred URL as soon as possible and claim it while it’s still available. As domain names are generally pretty cheap, there is no reason not to.
We’ll go more into detail about which domain you should buy below.
Older Websites Rank Better In Google
The age of a domain name is an important factor for Google to determine where they should rank that website in their search results. To Google, older domain names are more likely to be genuine and important.
So the sooner you register your domain and build your website, the higher you will rank and the more visitors your website will receive.
If you already own a domain name and want to check how old your website is, go to domaintools.com and fill in your domain.
Then find “Dates” in the “Domain Profile” to see how old your domain name is and when it was created.
The Best Way To Build A Photography Website
When want to create your own original photography website that you have full control over, you have 2 options:
Get It (Custom) Made
If you have enough money or no time you could consider hiring a developer to build your own custom website.
While this is a valid option, there are some drawbacks.
The main problem is that you’ll need your developer for every change you want to make. Whether it’s changing the font, adding a new page or trying out a new layout.
And while a fully custom made design looks cool, it’s hard to maintain.
Build Your Own (With A CMS)
A CMS (Content Management System) makes it easy for people who have no coding experience to set up their own website.
They take care of all the “behind the scenes” technical stuff so you can concentrate on designing and building the best photographer website possible.
And even better, most of the best and well-known content management systems (like WordPress) are free so it also saves you money.
Moreover, when you use a popular content management system you’ll be able to find many tutorials (like this one) online to help you when you’re creating your website.
Lastly, there are also many developers who are specialized in WordPress, so you don’t have to rely on a single developer.
A Middle Ground With Photography Website Templates
The best way as a photographer to create your portfolio website is probably in the middle:
A CMS with a photography website template.
This template can be installed (and customized) by a developer, or you can do it yourself. Most quality templates come with an in-depth manual.
By choosing this route you’ll end up with a professional website that you fully control and reflects your personality, making you stand out from the crowd.
Pro Tip: While there are many free templates available for photographers, I suggest you invest in a premium paid theme. Premium themes are built better, have better features and offer support when you need it. We’ll cover everything you need to know about photography website templates and give you some suggestions further in this guide.
A Note / Warning About Free Website And Portfolio Builders
There are many (free) photography website builders available. The most well known are Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, and Format. Other options to show your work are free portfolio websites like 500px and Flickr.
On these platforms, you can easily create your own customizable website. When you use their higher pricing plans they even offer some basic marketing options.
Although some of them may look great to the eye, it’s almost always a bad choice for someone who is serious about their photography.
As they lack some important features (see above), limit your ability to brand and market yourself, and are often very bloated under the hood (to accommodate for all the options one might choose) thus hurting your chances to rank in Google, they should be avoided.
(In case you really want to use a builder to create your photography website I recommend Format)
Creating Your Own Photography Website
You only need to set up four things to create your own website:
- A domain name: this is the URL people will visit in their browser, such as photographydomination.com.
- Website hosting: every website has it’s own “home” somewhere on a server where all your files are stored. When a user visits a URL this content is shown. It is also one of the most important things to get right with your own website! (I recommend SiteGround)
- A content management system: This takes care of the technical aspect of your site. (In this guide we’ll use WordPress)
- A website template: Determines how your website will look.
Even if you have no experience this is pretty easy and we’ll guide through it step-by-step.
So let’s create your website!
Note: In this guide, we’ll be creating our website with WordPress (See below why). Of course, you are welcome to use something else. Most of the rest of this guide will still be useful then.
1. Getting A Domain Name
Registering a domain name is easy.
Most good web hosting providers (like SiteGround, Kinsta, and WP Engine) offer you to register a domain when you sign up for a hosting plan.
However, I recommend you do this separately with a domain registrar like IWantMyName.com.
They often have more tools geared towards managing your domain, but more importantly, this doesn’t tie you to any provider. So should you want to change your web hosting it’s easy to do.
And it doesn’t cost you any extra.
To get started, just enter the domain you would like to register in the search box.
The result of your search will show you which domains are still available and which ones are taken. Just choose the domain(s) you would like to purchase from the list.
Pro Tip: If you’re a local photographer, you might consider getting a country-specific domain like .co.uk or .it as Google often favors those domains in their local search results. So when you want to reach people who are looking for a photographer in your area, a country domain might be better than a .com extension.
2. Setting Up Your Hosting
Getting reliable and fast website hosting is the most important part of creating your website. Even if you already have a website, upgrading to a better host should be the main thing you do to improve your website.
Because your hosting has the biggest influence on the speed of your website.
And the speed of your website is incredibly important:
- Google heavily favors websites that load fast in their search results.
- 40% of website visitors leave a website if it has to load longer than 3 seconds.
- We as photographers rely heavily on many images that take longer to load anyway.
Getting a fast website hosting is even the #1 factor in the official WordPress optimization guide.
We’ll further focus on speed later on by choosing the right template for your photography website and adding some plugins.
When you finally get a visitor to your website, you want it to work.
So getting a reliable web host is very important. This is mostly expressed in “uptime”, the amount of time your website is up on the internet and working.
All hosts go down now and then (for maintenance,..) but the best have an uptime of at least 99.99%.
When something is wrong with your website or you just have a question, having a real person to talk to is invaluable.
Many companies try to save on this, but the good ones have customer support available 24-7, ready to answer any question.
Getting a good hosting provider doesn’t necessarily means it needs to be expensive, although you often get what you pay for.
To get the absolute best (Kinsta), expect to pay around $30 a month.
Siteground, which is almost as good currently has a discount for their WordPress hosting packages, bringing the monthly fee for their GrowBig package (which I recommend you get) to $5.95.
So Which Hosting Should You Use?
The three best WordPress hosting providers (by far) are Siteground, Kinsta, and WP Engine.
In fact, Siteground is what I use on this website for Photography Domination.
If you want the absolute best, go with Kinsta. But for most of us, Siteground easily offers the best quality for the price.
In fact, Siteground is recommended by WordPress and often voted as the number 1 website host in many polls.
Here are some more reasons why Siteground is the best option:
- Automatic daily backups.
- Often 100% uptime, with 99.99% guaranteed.
- Excellent customer support (available 24/7).
- Free SSL certificate.
- 1-click WordPress Install (On their GoGeek plan).
- Automatic WordPress updates.
- A hosting package suited for everyone.
- 30-day money back guarantee.
- Very good caching through their Supercacher + SG Optimize plugin.
How To Host Your Website On Siteground
Step 1: Choose Your Plan
I suggest you get the GrowBig plan, as this will get you some premium features like their WordPress SuperCacher (this alone is worth it as it speeds up your website considerably) and on-demand backups.
Step 2: Enter Your Domain Name
Enter the domain name you bought in the previous step (or if you already had one and want to transfer your website to SiteGround, use that one).
If you didn’t buy a domain name yet (like we covered above) you can enter the one you want here and buy it through SiteGround if it’s still available. However, to stay flexible should you ever want to change I suggest you use IWantMyName.com to register your domains.
Step 3: Enter Your Details
In this step, you’ll just have to fill in your details and payment information.
Only 2 more choices to make in the “Purchase Information” panel:
- Data Center: Here you can choose the location of your preferred data center. Best to select a location close to where most of your customers and audience are located.
- SG Site Scanner: Monitors your website. I personally don’t use this, but the option is there.
Step 4: Update Your DNS Records
Note: If you bought your domain through SiteGround above you can skip this step. We’ll setup our DSN with iwantmyname.com below, but the steps should be similar if you registered your domain somewhere else. Just google “change DNS yourdomainregistrar“.
DNS stands for Domain Name System.
Basically, your DNS records tell your web browser where in the world they can find the files of the website you want to view when you surf to an URL.
So we now have to point your domain (in your iwantmyname.com dashboard) to the right location (SiteGround).
First, find the DNS records you need to use in your SiteGround User Area → My Accounts → Information & Settings → Account DNS.
Then go to your IWantMyName.com dashboard → Domains → yourdomain.com.
Then “Update Nameservers”.
Then just copy-paste the SiteGround DNS records from above. It might take a while (often less than an hour) for these nameservers to update all over the world.
Step 5: You’re Done.
That’s it, you know have your own website hosting. Next step is installing WordPress, so let’s do that!
3. Installing WordPress
Installing WordPress on your website with SiteGround is easy. In just 5 easy steps you’ll have it up and running!
WordPress is easily the most used content management system in the world (used by 60% of the market). In fact, almost 30% of all websites on the internet are built with WordPress.
While it’s harder to use than just making a Facebook page or using a simple free website builder, it actually quite easy (especially with this guide) when you get the hang of it. Moreover, it gives you a lot more options over your design, content and many other things.
So for serious photographers looking to create their own website with full control, it’s hands down the best solution.
(Note: The difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com)
Step 1: Login To Your Customer Area on SiteGround and access your control panel (called cPanel).
Step 2: Click on the “WordPress Installer” icon.
Step 3: Click the “Install” button. This will bring up a page where you need to fill in all your setup settings.
Here are the recommended settings:
- Choose the WordPress version you want to install. Go with the latest version.
- Choose Protocol. Use an https:// version. We’ll add the (free) SSL certificate later to make your site more trustworthy. You’re free to choose if you want the www or non-www version.
- Choose domain. Select the domain you registered earlier from the dropdown menu.
- In Directory. Leave this blank to install on the domain directly unless you have a good reason to use a subdomain.
- Site name. The name of your WordPress site. (You can always change this later)
- Site description. The “tagline” for your site. (You can always change this later)
- Enable Multisite (WPMU). Make sure this box is unchecked.
- Admin username. The username you would like to access your website with.
- Admin password. Enter the password to login to your site.
- Admin email. The email you want to use with your website.
- Select language. Choose what language you would like your WordPress installed in.
- Limit login attempts (Loginizer). I suggest you enable this checkbox. This will install the “Limit Login Attempts” plugin to improve the security on your website.
- Classic Editor. WordPress recently introduced a new editor, but I suggest you enable this check box to install the classic editor as well.
- wpCentral – Manage Multiple WordPress. Leave unchecked.
- WordPress Starter. Leave unchecked.
- Advanced options. Here you can rename the database name and table prefix but just leave the default values.
Then hit the install button and WordPress will begin installing!
Step 4: Adding A SSL Certificate To Your Website.
In this step we’ll add a SSL certificate to make your site more trustworthy.
First, go back to your cPanel in your SiteGround account. Then click “Let’s Encrypt” in the “Security” Panel.
Then, select “Let’s Encrypt SSL” and press Install to add your SSL certificate.
Step 5: That’s it! You just created your very own photography website! Go to yourdomain.com/wp-admin to log in to your WordPress dashboard.
Now that everything is up and running, let’s take care of the design by selecting a template for your photography website next.
Choosing A Photography Website Template
What Is A WordPress Template?
A template (or “theme” in the world of WordPress) determines how your website looks. Sometimes they also include tools to help you position blocks of content on a page. So the layout, fonts, colors, total look… of your website can be changed with a template.
While there are millions of free themes available, I suggest you go with a premium template for your photography website. The small investment is easily worth it by helping you to create a better website for your photography, saving you time, providing you with more essential features, and landing you more clients.
So you’re a photographer and you want to show off your portfolio on your website. Probably to convince more clients to hire you.
What do you think they are looking for when they land on your website?
How to contact you? Some more information about you? Testimonials? Pricing?
Probably (and we’ll get into those things below).
But mostly: Your images!
So when choosing a template (or “theme” in the world of WordPress) for your photography website, here’s what you should look for:
- The design should show off your portfolio and personality in the best possible way.
- Well coded, lightweight and optimized for speed.
- User-friendly (especially if you’re a beginner or have no coding experience).
- Optional: Compatible with WooCommerce if you want to sell your images online.
Below are some premium themes that tick all the right boxes and are highly recommended.
Recommended Templates For Your Photography Website
In their own words, the templates from Flothemes help you create “Customizable Photography Websites That Book You More Clients“.
While they are not cheap ($279 per theme), you’ll get the best website themes created specifically for photographers. The price also means there won’t be many other photographers out there with the same design for their website, making you stand out more.
Each website theme also includes:
- Full customization.
- Powerful page builder.
- Responsive design.
- SEO Optimization.
- Video integration.
- Email list building tools.
Some suggested themes: Rosemary / Fiji II / Leon / Crowd II / Kyoto
Divi is the most popular WordPress theme in the world (powering more than 1million websites) and with good reason.
Not only do you get the theme but Divi also comes with a visual drag & drop page builder and many pre-built elements. In that way, it’s mainly a great fit for people who like to design their website while looking at what they are doing.
They also include their Monarch social sharing plugin and Bloom email marketing plugin when you get the Divi theme ($89).
Art is a simple & clean WordPress theme for creatives that lets you create a unique website without knowing any HTML or how to code.
The lightweight coding makes your website load fast, and with the custom drag & drop builder, you’ll be able to show off your portfolio any way you want.
The Adios Portfolio theme is a great way to show off your portfolio and impress your clients.
You also get Visual Composer, the famous drag & drop editor, super high-resolution graphics, and extensive documentation to turn any newbie into an experienced user.
Moreover, it’s super fast, lightweight and SEO optimized from the bottom up!
Notio is a stunning portfolio theme for your photography website.
Optimized for speed and SEO like all the themes in this list, it’ll make sure you can present your images in the best way without sacrificing user experience.
Astra is one of the fastest and most flexible WordPress themes available.
It’s feather light (just 50kb or resources) and it allows making changes visually with a real-time preview.
A free version is available to get you started, while the pro version will give you unique features and countless customizations so you can build a photography website that matches your brand.
Other Themes For A Photography Website
Of course, there are many other WordPress templates that are suitable for photographers to show off their portfolio. Here are a couple more interesting multi-purpose themes that you can use:
How To Install A Template
Adding Plugins To Improve Your Website
How To Install A Plugin
The ShortPixel plugin is one of the most important ones for a photographers website.
It improves the speed of your website by optimizing and reducing the file sizes of your images. The resulting smaller images are also indistinguishable from the original ones, without a loss in quality by using advanced compression technology.
The smaller images make your pages load faster, leading to better rankings with Google and great user experience. In fact, shrinking your images is one of the best ways to improve the speed of your site.
The ShortPixel plugin installs directly into your WordPress Dashboard and from then on all images will be processed automatically. It’s even possible to compress images you have already uploaded.
They even allow you to optimize 100 images a month for free. However, the “short” package only costs $4.99 per month and gives you 5000 images to optimize every month which should be plenty for most.
We talked about the importance of building an email list above.
OptinMonster is one of the best plugins to do it. It allows you to easily add signup forms, popups, banners and more to your website, so people visiting can subscribe to your newsletter.
Even better, it connects directly to almost all newsletter platforms available like Active Campaign, Mailchimp, ConvertKit or MailerLite.
Want to really speed up your website?
Then you’ll need the WP Rocket caching plugin.
Even better is that the plugin is simple and affordable. You won’t have to struggle with complex plugin settings, your site will be optimized upon activation of the plugin without any coding required.
Instagram Feed Pro By SmashBalloon
As a photographer, you’re probably on Instagram (growing your following with our hashtags guide).
In this case, it might be a good idea to display your feed on your website. That way your visitors can find and follow you straight from your website, as well as like your photos.
The Instagram Feed Pro plugin is one of the best. Super simple to setup without any coding needed, highly customizable and optimized for speed. You can even show a hashtag feed or show your Instagram stories.
If you would rather grow than show your Instagram following, MiloTree is the ideal plugin to use.
Cool and lightweight widgets enable you to directly grow your following for most popular platforms, including Facebook and Pinterest. You can try out a demo here.
When designing your website, it’s best to keep to the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid).
A photographers website main goal is to show off your portfolio. This way potential clients can get a sense of your style and whether you would be a good fit to work for them.
So the main bulk of your pages should be portfolio pages with your images.
That said, there are some other essential pages (or elements) that are just as important. So here we’ll go over all the essential pages that should be present on your website, ordered by importance.
Your homepage is the probably the first page your visitors will land on when they search for your name online, or when someone links to your website.
It’s thus very important to immediately capture their attention. This also lowers your bounce rate.
You can do this by making sure that one of the first things they see is either:
- One of your best images.
- A grid of your best images.
- A sentence about you and what you can do for them.
Most of the people visiting your homepage want to know two things: What is it that you offer and why should they care?
So whether you choose to show or tell them, make sure this is clear immediately.
I keep saying this: People like to work with other people.
That’s why an about page is often the most visited page on any personal website.
So show some of your personality. Tell them something about you, your background, how you got into photography, your accomplishments, and your vision.
And as much as written words are a powerful way to make your prospects like and trust you, there is an even more powerful way: Your face!
So add an image of yourself. Or even consider adding a short video where you introduce yourself.
This will help your prospects to decide whether you will be a good fit for them even faster.
Don’t make it hard for someone who wants to hire you to contact you.
People generally don’t like filling in forms (and they can fail to deliver) so I would stay away from those.
Instead, just list your email address, telephone number and optionally your social media channels.
Testimonials / Publications / Articles / Clients
People like and trust people that have proven they can help other people or are experts in their field.
So you can say the nicest things about yourself or your photography, but they are worth nothing to your website visitors if you are the only one saying them.
This page is thus the place to show off.
Add some client testimonials and make sure to use credible testimonials that back up the claims you make.
If you have been published in a magazine, newspaper, online or anywhere else add it here or link to it. This established credibility.
Participated in some exhibitions? Mention them!
Add a nice list with all the relevant names of people and brands you’ve worked with.
Pricing And Packages Page
You’re not the first one to create a photography website of course, and there some prime examples available on the web, each with their own style and vision.
Take a look at them to find some inspiration for your own website. I’ve included well and lesser-known photographers in the list.