Thursday, April 4, 2013

Make An Impression

By Grover Sanschagrin Published in The Business of Photography
Websites for NIO Photography, Chris Owyoung and Darren Carroll are excellent examples of successful sites that communicate simply and effectively.
Websites for NIO Photography, Chris Owyoung and Darren Carroll are excellent examples of successful sites that communicate simply and effectively.
How is your portfolio website like a car door? Give up? At PhotoShelter, we like to use this analogy to explain how people perceive the experience of interacting with a website in ways that you may not realize or expect. It's common for car shoppers to slam a car door and make judgments about the car based on the sound the door makes. In many cases, they have no idea that they're making a judgment when they hear that sound, but they are. Similarly, people are judging you based on your portfolio website. Although you may expect to be judged on your images, you may not be expecting to be judged on the experience of using the website itself. Not paying attention to a few commonly overlooked details could result in fewer jobs for you.

I've made a list of the 11 most important considerations for any photography portfolio website. This comes from lessons learned while working with photographers and photo buyers during the past 10 years.

NIO Photography

1) Clean and simple wins. Always.

If people are constantly praising the design of your portfolio website, you're probably doing something wrong. Your photos are supposed to be the star of the show, so don't clutter it up with useless design elements. If people notice the design of a site over the photography it contains, that's a problem. The design of a website should fade into the background and not be noticed.

There's a growing trend among photographers who want to show their images at full screen. This is a departure from the past, where photographers were worried about image theft, so they intentionally made their images small. Today, it's all about impact and getting the assignment. Larger images, they feel, make a bigger impact.

A clean website also takes things out of the way when they aren't being used. For example, next and previous buttons can fade away until the user wants to move to the next image. They would do this by moving their mouse pointer to the left or right edges of the photo.

Another way to decrease clutter on your website is to be careful about how you watermark your images. Protecting your images from being stolen is important for many photographers, but it's important to realize the implications of going too far. If a watermark is so large that it obscures the image, destroying the experience of viewing it, the photographer may be doing more damage than they think.

Keep in mind that there are people out there who want to buy or license your images, and you should make it as easy as possible for them to do it. An aggressive watermarking strategy could backfire on a photographer because it could result in the image not being selected for consideration based entirely on the watermark.

2) Navigation, links, gallery titles must be easy to understand.

Don't turn your portfolio into a game of mystery. Make sure that categories, sections, labels and navigation make sense to everyone. Getting clever with these things may seem like a fun idea, and a way to be different, but it creates a frustrating experience for your users.

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