Why should you make your own photography website?
(This article contains affiliate links which if you click and buy something I get a small commission but at no extra cost to you)
There are several reasons why you should make a photography website of your own, and in this article I’m going to show you the benefits to having your own website over just using one of the many 3rd party photo sharing websites such as Flickr, 500px or Instagram. Building your own photography website is not as difficult as it may seem at first, and when you have your own you can also manage it more easily, edit the website when you need it, add new photos, remove old photos, sell your photos, set prices, change prices, offer discounts, customise the look and much more.
Another advantage to having your own dedicated photography website is that you are always in control. The likes of Instagram or 500px could one day go out of business, or even change their terms and conditions to the point where you no longer want to keep your photos with them. But even if all these 3rd party photo sharing sites went out of business tomorrow, your website will always be there. You can also easily sell your photos from your own dedicated platform.
In this article, I introduce you to two different options you have to start your own website: building a wordpress site with your own hosting, or using a dedicated photography website company like Smugmug.
Smugmug - a dedicated photography website builder
Smugmug is a dedicated platform for photographers to showcase their work and is the easiest way to make a photography website. While it has all the features of a photo sharing website like Flickr (in fact Smugmug now owns Flickr) it comes with many more features.
There is a photo sharing community on Smugmug, but first and foremost you build your own website which is fully functional like any other. You can even choose not to make your images viewable in the community. Here is my Smugmug website as an example.
There are several plans, which offer a variety of services including photo storage, print and digital sales and more.
Building your website with Smugmug is easily done using their templates, themes and simple drag and drop website builder. You don’t have to worry about the technicalities of it all, nor do you need to worry about updating software, maintaining the technical side or any of the backend stuff. Additionally, you don’t need to purchase web hosting. All you need is a domain name.
Another advantage is that you don’t need to bother resizing your photos and optimizing them for fast page loading. The system does it all for you. In fact, it’s better to upload the full size jpegs because it also acts as photo storage, and you can download these photos at anytime. Smugmug have recently added a feature that offers RAW photo storage too.
All you do is upload the full size photos, organize them into galleries and create your pages. You can also create private galleries and send personal links to clients to view and download (ideal if you are an event, wedding or portrait photographer).
Selling your photos
If you are looking to sell your photos then Smugmug works with several print labs so you can order prints of your own photos either to sell yourself or keep. The portfolio and pro plans come with a fully integrated sales and fulfillment service which is very easy to setup. Any images you setup will be automatically made available for sale, unless you choose to disable it for a specific photo.
(get 15% off with this link, no coupon needed. Simply sign up for a free trial and if you decide to continue you will get a 15% discount off your choice of plan)
Building and hosting your photography website
The next option may be a little more difficult, but it is still quite easy once you get to grips with it and will enable you to take more control of how your website looks, give you more flexibility and options. But it will require a little more knowledge and also a lot more maintenance.
A2 web hosting services
There are many options out there for web hosting. Simply Google it and you’ll find them. I personally use and highly recommend A2 web hosting. You can get a great deal on their shared hosting packages if you buy 3 years up front.
If you choose the Drive package you get
- Unlimited Websites
- Unlimited SSD Storage
- Free & Easy Site Migration
- Free Automatic Backups
- Money-Back Guarantee
The automatic backups option is indispensable. The system does a daily backup of your entire website. The reason this is important is because if anything goes wrong, your site gets hacked, something breaks after an update and you cannot fix it or even get into your site, you can easily go into your cpanel and perform a server rewind, which restores your website to the backup of your choosing. The system keeps snapshots from up to 7 days.
Website building software
One you have purchased your web hosting package, it will come with access to the cpanel. This is the backbones of your hosting, so here you will need a bit of tech knowledge. But don’t worry, if you get stuck or into trouble, their technical support team is superb and you can even have a live chat with a technician to sort it out. I’ve sorted many a problem very quickly this way.
In the cpanel, you will see the option below to install a dedicated platform for building your website. I personally use WordPress with Elementor.
WordPress and Elementor
I use WordPress and Elementor for this blog and my main photography website. In fact, I use it for all my websites and the websites I build for my clients. What originally began as a blogging platform has evolved into a fully functional website builder with all the features of the blogging platform incorporated. Therefore it’s great for a photography website because you can easily combine it with a photography blog.
Once you have your web hosting sorted, all you have to do is go into your cpanel and install WordPress. A2 offers you the option to install it with Elementor too.
Elementor is a plugin so it can also be installed separately once you have WordPress installed. There are two versions of Elementor, the free version and the pro version. The free version is great and comes with a lot of great features, but of course to get the full power of this great website builder you need to pay. Currently Elementor pro is just $49 per year for one website. Even if you buy the pro version, you still need to install the free version as they work together.
To get started with WordPress you need to install a theme. There is a free theme you can use from Elementor, which is a very basic theme that allows you to build your entire site using their builder. This blog is built with it. However, you can also get some other free themes, or some paid themes which are of course much better. You can still use Elementor alongside the other theme. For my photography website I use the Photography Theme from Envato, and Elementor Pro.
Updating your plugins and themes
Your themes and plugins need to be regularly updated when updates become available. Thankfully WordPress now comes with a feature to enable automatic updates, which saves a lot of time. However, you also need to keep check to ensure no problems or conflicts arise. Sometimes an update can break your site, cause problems or a conflict with another plugin that hasn’t been updated. You also need to check to ensure all your plugins are being regularly updated by the developer. Sometimes they stop supporting them, in which case you need to find an alternative.
Selling photos or workshops
If you want to sell your photos or you run workshops and want to have an online payment system, you can use a great plugin called Woocommerce. Again there is a free version and a paid version. I use the free version as I only take payments for workshops, but if you want to build an integrated shop then the paid version is probably better. There are also several themes available designed specifically for Woocommerce.
What are you waiting for?
So there you have it, some great options to get started building your own photography website. If you would like some one to one online WordPress training to help you build your photography site then please get in touch.
If the idea of a Smugmug website is more to your liking then check out my Smugmug tutorial series here on YouTube.