The second of two assignments for the ‘Photography in the Digital Environment’ module is to research other photography websites, think about our target audience, and build a promotional website for ourselves.
What Type of Photographer Am I?
This is one of the first questions I guess I need to answer for myself to have any idea of what kind of WordPress-powered website to put together. Well, in all honesty, I’m still not sure what kind of photographer I’d like to be making money as. My tastes and favourite kind of photography chances on a seemingly week-to-week basis. This isn’t a good thing as it’s not allowing me to get stuck into and concentrate on a specific style that should allow me to develop more quickly within that field. One thing I do know, though, is that I much prefer capturing images in a more documentary, journalistic, or environmental style, as opposed to the more structured studio or wedding scenario. Basically, I don’t want to be having to deal with directing people if I can help it, especially people at weddings who don’t want their picture taking or uncooperative models.
Because of this, I’m currently classing myself as a Sports, Events, and Portrait photographer. The portrait side of things being along the environmental side of things as much as possible.
So, with this in mind, it was time to have a look at some websites I might be able to take some influence from for my own site.
Website Research Findings
After a Google search as well as having a look at some websites of photographic artists I know of and like, I ended up looking at a total of 9 websites. These were:
- Joe McNally – https://portfolio.joemcnally.com/index
- Alexey Titarenko – http://www.alexeytitarenko.com/
- Alec Soth – https://alecsoth.com/photography/
- Tim Page – http://www.timpage.com.au/
- Martin Parr – https://www.martinparr.com/
- Lee Jeffries – https://lee-jeffries.co.uk/
- Andy Gotts – https://www.andygotts.com/
- Matthew Lloyd – https://www.matthewglloyd.co.uk/
- Eric Ryan Anderson – http://www.ericryananderson.com/
After checking them all out for their general look and feel, I used the process we were shown to see which of the websites were built using WordPress. Out of the 9 I looked at, only 3 appear to be built through WordPress; Joe McNally’s, Lee Jeffries’, and Martin Parr’s. Eric Ryan Anderson’s website has the word ‘WordPress’ in its script results when I use the “Ctrl+U -> Ctrl+F -> Type ‘WordPress’ into box” method. I don’t believe this makes it a WordPress website as it’s very far down the page and looks more like a link or image from a different WordPress-built website.
Of the 9 websites I looked at, Joe McNally’s, Eric Ryan Anderson’s, and Matthew Lloyd’s are the ones I like. As for the others:
Alexei Titarenko‘s is built with Squarespace and, although it looks modern and clean, it’s not what I want.
Alec Soth‘s doesn’t look very professional, which I find surprising for such a well-known photographer. I dislike the huge text in the menu that isn’t enclosed in its own section. The pages just seem to scroll for ages too. It doesn’t look like much effort has been put into the site. I do find that quite a few famous photographer’s websites are like this. Perhaps life as an artist is difficult when it comes to money and, as a result, they can’t afford to pay someone to build their sites for them. Maybe they just don’t care as they’re just interested in letting their images do the talking. Or, perhaps they just want to be seen as rough-and-ready artists and not as a clean and polished mainstream photographer who makes a living taking family portraits. I’m not even sure what this one is built with and so got an “N/A” as per the assignment instructions when we were told to have a look at the code.
Although I love the work of Andy Gotts, I don’t feel comfortable when viewing his website. That’s probably a weird thing to say but, it just feels like a bit of a mess. It starts with his logo (which I also don’t like) as it comes towards me when I click to enter the site. I prefer the main menu to be accessible right from the homepage. He does have this but it’s in very small text and is in the form of a drop-down from the tiny word ‘Menu’. Again, his images take centre stage with a cover image for each category link used in a masonry gallery-style. I’m also not a fan of the fact you have to scroll left and right through the images once you get to the different categories pages. This could be to make you spend longer on the site, as is the desire of any website for ranking purposes but, personally, I would have prefered a masonry gallery for me to see the images on one page for me to pick and choose from. This website looks like it’s been coded and was designed and developed by GML Consulting.
Tim Page is a famous British war photographer who now lives in Australia. Again, I love his work, especially his Vietnam War images but, I didn’t like his website. I get the impression he wasn’t bothered for a website at all and so not much effort or expense was put into it. The reason I say this is because of the way the website looked and because I get the impression he’s ‘old school’ and didn’t think he needed a website (which I’d agree with). His website was built through Squarespace and was available for viewing when I first looked at it for this assignment but now, it would appear to have gone. When you go there now, you just get a Squarespace page:
Anyway, the reasons I wasn’t a fan of the website were because the font was far too small and the menu was too busy. Also, as I said, I don’t think much effort had gone into it and it didn’t look too professional.
Martin Parr is an absolute legend in photography circles but, as far as websites go, I don’t really like his. I quite like the idea of trying to be different with the main menu as this suits what Parr does in terms of photography. For me, though, I prefer easy, quick to understand buttons. His menu is a nice bit of fun but, not for me. I’m also not a fan of how thin the website is. The main content area is thin enough as it is but then they’ve put a sidebar on it too. This just looks old and cluttered to me. Having said that, this sidebar only appears on the blog page, which is understandable, but that page could have done with being full-width, in my opinion.
The final website of the ones I looked at that I wasn’t overly keen on is that of Lee Jeffries. Admittedly, the site would appear to just be all about getting sales of his photobook “Portraits”, or individual images from it in his shop. Because of this, it is very simple in design with a vertical side menu and very simple pages. Lots of white space, which helps to keep it uncluttered and helps to emphasise his brilliantly edited black and white images.
The first of the three websites I did like is that of Eric Ryan Anderson.
What I like about this how the images turn to black and white as you move the cursor over them. I also like how you can pick how to view images in each section (full one image, side by side, or masonry) and different buttons to scroll these images viewed in different layouts.
The image above shows the icon change when you move it over a single image. If you click it whilst this icon is displayed, the view changes back to the gallery layout. This looks like a very novel way of doing what the ‘Back’ button usually does.
It’s probably best to go to the website to see what I’m mean: https://www.ericryananderson.com/
The second website I really like is that of Matthew Lloyd: https://www.matthewglloyd.co.uk/
What I take from this website is that I like the full-screen images on the front page. I like the fact that there’s a large ‘Contact’ button right from the start which continues as a ‘Get in touch’ button on all other pages. I’ve read that it’s very important that the potential customer shouldn’t have to hunt around your website for a contact button. If they do, chances are you’re going to lose some potential income. I also like the large buttons with images behind them that lead to other sections of the site.
In each section, I like the masonry layout with the small annotations under the images.
Matthew Lloyd’s website isn’t built with WordPress, nor is it built with Wix, Squarespace or any of the other so-called “Free” website builders. This goes down as an “N/A” with regards to how it’s been built.
Perhaps my favourite of the websites I looked at is that of Nikon Ambassador, Joe McNally.
This website is built using the WordPress CMS and appears to be all about the images. There’s not much text to get bored reading and it’s straight to the point. I like the speed buttons below each individual image (as per the screenshot below), and I like the fact that one of them is to buy that image. Trying to make it easy for potential customers to buy at every opportunity.
Takeaways From My Research
The first thing I started to notice is the fact that many famous photographers don’t seem to care too much about their websites and online presence. I’m not sure if this is just because they don’t understand the power of the internet, because they’re old-school, are already so well established that they don’t feel the need to put much effort into it or their lack of interest in it is part of some artist’s image they’re giving off. Unfortunately for me, I’m not already established and famous enough to be a brand in my own right so I’m going to have to put some effort into my online presence for marketing through the use of a website and social media platforms.
Another thing I noticed is that many of the better-looking websites, that have had time and effort put into them, seem to prefer the vertical main menu layout. This menu is always on the left-hand side. Certainly, Joe McNally and Eric Ryan Anderson’s have these, and they make up two of the three websites I prefered. The third website I liked is Matthew Lloyd’s and his has the main menu across the top, which I think I prefer.
The third thing I’ve noticed about what I consider to be the better of the websites I looked at is the use of white space. The sites I like have just the right amount of it to give the viewer a more pleasant experience of a website that doesn’t feel cluttered, heavy, or difficult to navigate. This is definitely something I hope to achieve with mine. With the white background, the images are more prominent and look better when not being invaded by text and large buttons around them.
My Target Audience & Website Design
Because I’m still not 100% sure what kind of photographer I am, this is a bit of a difficult one for me to answer, especially when trying to build a website in the design traditions of different niches. As I’ve stated above, I think a portrait website benefits hugely from having the white space given to it from a white background. I’m not sure this is the case with a sports photography website, though. I feel the expectation could be that it should be a darker background that should be used for that. If it were a gaming website (as in online gaming) I could agree with this but, with me wanting to be a sports, events, and portrait photographer, I think I’ll be best off sticking to my original plan of the white space idea. If I can get blues and greens into the website somehow, this might help with the whole aiming at the sports audience.
As I continue my research into what makes for a good photographer’s website, I came across a blog post on 99designs.co.uk. Part of that article struck me as it described me and where I feel I am currently as a photographer. In that article, freelance photo producer, Alex, says:
“When a corporate client or art director visits your site, they want to know what you’re good at as quickly as possible. For example, they’re looking for the best portrait photographer for the job, not a generalist who has some portraits thrown in with food, architecture, sport and reportage. Clients should know what you’re best at from the moment they visit your site.
If you don’t already have a specialization, you’re going to to find your niche. This can be hard, and sometimes even emotional. Ideally, you want to find the overlapping portion of the Venn diagram containing what you’re good at, what you find creatively satisfying and what the market desires. Once you determine your specialty, describe it in commonly-understood terms. Genres like portraiture, lifestyle, food, architecture, sports, reportage and product all have well-understood definitions and skillsets associated with them.
A lot of photographers, especially early in their careers, want to be all things to all people. They want any job they can get, and their portfolio reflects that. When I was a hungry, young photographer, I did the same thing, eager to get literally any work I could. However, I didn’t realize that this wasn’t what clients are looking for. If an art director sees a site like that, they’ll often skip on to the next, recognizing the photographer as inexperienced or unfocused.”
This concerns me as I feel I need to start making money as a photographer and have been thinking that, if I were to settle in a niche, I’d be restricting myself to fewer money-making opportunities. I’ve read and been told many times that I should be specialising more, and this article reaffirms that.
Looking back over my images, I think I might be an environmental portrait/location photographer…
I say this as I think I prefer those images where people are present but, I’ve not had to direct them; I’m just photographing them in their environment doing what they do.
Anyway, it looks like we’re supposed to do this written part of the assignment as a PDF so, as far as writing on here is concerned: THAT’S ALL FOLKS!