WordPress for Photographers: Top Tips and Professional Resources
Believe it or not, there was a time when WordPress was regarded as a great blogging platform, but that was all. Build an entire site on it? No way!
Well, that was then, this is now. These days, WordPress is powering some of the biggest names in news, music, fashion, business, politics, and sports. Names like CNN, Jay-Z, StyleWatch, UPS, Wonkette, and Major League Baseball.
Okay, so you’re not a big name. You’re a freelance photographer. And you’re more than invited to join the WordPress party. Here’s how:
What will my WordPress site look like?
More than a few freelance photographers start out with a gallery on Picasa or Flickr. Then comes the potential client who’s looking for the URL to your portfolio, and you realize that it’s time to have something more professional.
It’s time to get started on YourPhotoStudio-dot-com. But you’re a busy photographer. You don’t have time to think about your site’s design. You have paying work to do!
WordPress themes to the rescue. In the WordPress world, “themes” are what the rest of the world thinks of as templates.
The good news is that there’s no shortage of free or low-cost premium themes for photographers. Your biggest problem will be choosing from among the abundance. So, without any further ado, let’s see what’s out there, starting with my favorite five from Envato’s ThemeForest:
Want to see more than my favorite five? Check out Envato co-founder’s Collis Ta’eed’s top 20 roundup. Or, if you’re feeling really ambitious, tripwire magazine’s Carsten Stenvang reviews more than 110 WordPress Themes for Photographers.
Now showing in your gallery!
Here’s a tip about photography buyers: They work in cramped offices that are already filled with photographer portfolios, mailers, and other forms of promotional love. Do them a favor and refrain from sending more stuff until you’ve determined that they’re truly interested in your work.
What will they feast their eyes on in the meantime? The online galleries on your WordPress website! If you’ve chosen one of the themes referenced above, you may have gallery capability built in.
But let’s say that you’ve had a WordPress-based site up and running for a while, and you want to add photo galleries. Well, you’re in luck! There are plenty of WordPress plugins to choose from.
What are plugins? Think of them as apps for your WordPress site. Plugins will allow it to do almost anything you’d ever want a website to do.
Let’s take a look at some WordPress photo gallery plugins:
- On Envato’s Code Canyon site, there’s the WordPress Full Screen Gallery, Thumbnail Gallery, Wall/Grid Gallery, PhotoShow for WordPress, and PhotoMosaic for WordPress.
- At WordPress.org, the NextGEN Gallery gets quite a few downloads. NextGEN creator Alex Rabe says, “Before I started writing the plugin I studied all the existing image and gallery plugins for WordPress. Some of them are really good and well designed, but the gap I filled was a simple administration system at the back end which can also handle multiple galleries.” In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve used NextGEN on my website for many years, and I’ve found it to be a well-behaved plugin that handles my galleries with ease.
- If you’re a photographer who’s blogging away via WordPress while having your website hosted by the popular PhotoShelter service, there’s an Official Plugin for WordPress. Take it from someone who uses this plugin, it makes your blogging life simpler – and faster. You write copy describing your latest photo shoot, drop the Photoshelter slideshow code into your post, and boom, you’re done.
Wait, I need help with this stuff!
You’re probably reading this article and thinking, “Martha, all of this stuff is easy for you to say. But I’m a photographer, not a web geek. What am I supposed to do?”
Well, you could hire a web geek who speaks photography to help you get your WordPress-based site started. But if you don’t have time to go web geek shopping, consider having your photo site hosted by a turnkey service like Graph Paper Press. Their Pro Hosting Plan costs $35 a month and includes access to all 28 of their themes.
And now, a chat with the web people…
If you’re one of those multi-talented people who works in web development and photography, I’d like to have a chat with you. If the word gets around about your web skills, you’ll probably hear from more than a few photographers.
The good news is that these guys and gals really need web presences. The bad news is that, like many freelancers, they’re not blessed with big bank accounts. So, they probably won’t be able to afford your custom website packages.
Here’s how you can help them:
- If you’re proficient with getting sites going with free or premium WordPress themes, offer this service to your photographer clients.
- Don’t expect them to search through thousands of themes to find the right one. They don’t have time for that. Instead, you’re going to don your concierge hat and do the selecting for them.
- Once you’ve found 10 themes that seem like they will fit your photographer-client’s needs (you did ask what they need, right?), present them.
- Did your client select the theme of his or her dreams? Bring that theme to life! This job may involve building a shell site for the photographer to complete, or you might be populating the site with content. My money’s on the latter scenario.
- If you’ve built a shell site, expect to provide your photographer with training on how to finish it. If you’ve populated the site with content, you’re also going to assuming the role of patient teacher. Think back to when you first started with WordPress – you had to learn how to create a web page. And a blog post. You also have to figure out how to integrate photos into your pages and posts. On to photo galleries – you remember that those things didn’t set themselves up or get updated by magic. You had to gain proficiency at those things. So will your client.
- Your photographer client’s site will need periodic updates. Some WordPress updates are of fall into the “routine housekeeping” category, while others are of the “Install this version or your site is exposed to huge security risks!” variety. Same goes for plugins. Keep up with these trends – and keep your client in the loop.