When is it appropriate to start a website? Why is it important for photographers to have a dedicated space to host a portfolio, and how do you go about creating one? Marketing yourself in a era where digital spaces have allowed for an influx of amateur creatives and market saturation to occur can be a bit daunting. Nonetheless, it's important to understand why you've chosen to start your own website and created a dedicated space to demonstrate your talent and achievements. Here are 3 things to consider when starting a website...
Ask yourself, "What is my objective?"
Rather than arbitrarily making decisions based off spur of the moment ideas, really consider the importance of creating a website. Am I looking to start my own business or is this more of a recreational hobby? Am I looking to connect with more clients or is my goal to create an electronic portfolio that I can send out to companies? The questions go on, but the main idea stays the same, "What am I going to get out of building this thing?"
In the age of digital media and social networking platforms, creatives have been able to use apps like Instagram and Facebook to connect with others and build a social following.For the majority of people, the purpose of creating a website is to show off your work in a way that is all-encompassing and easily digestible. This is to say that an overall disadvantage to social network sites (like Instagram) is the lack of options regarding customization. Building your own website allows you to show off your work in a way that you believe reflects who you are as a creative or business owner. Creating a website that is built around your own particular style can give you more creative freedom and expression, especially when it comes to marketing yourself or your services. Dedicated pages for mission statements, biographies, larger format video files, shopping catalogs, and even blogs like this one can help your business grow. I wouldn't recommend building a website for the casual hobbyist because there are other options to showcase your work and share it with others in a more practical way. In fact, some professional photographers will argue that there isn't a need for a traditional website at all, and that networking sites are more than enough to build your business. Though I disagree with that idea, there does seem to be a lot of people nowadays that consider follower ratio as the distinguishing factor between a good and bad photographer. Now if you're looking to send out you work to admission teams and employers, I would suggest you start building that electronic portfolio, as it is considered the "industry standard".
Do I have enough content to build a strong portfolio?
Okay, so this is much more subjective and people are entitled to what they want to do with their time and money. However, I find it difficult to image someone would want to go through all the trouble to start a website with only a couple photos or videos. For the photo-hobbyist and amateur looking to build a small portfolio that can be shared with friends, a separate photography-dedicated Instagram account can suffice. Now, I will be the first to admit that I too fell into the pressure of building a website right after picking up the camera. Granted, it was around the sixth month of my introduction to photo taking and I had taken a ridiculous amount of pictures by then, but I still don't think it was necessary or essential to my growth as a photographer. For the beginner photographer, there are better things worth investing in. For starters, buying a solid lens or lighting can dramatically improve your photos. Putting more time and money into your actual content that is worth displaying takes priority in my list of things a photographer should understand. Now, I could understand if your goal is to motivate yourself to grow by periodically updating your website, but I still think acquiring the actual content will give you an overall better looking website and more options to create a cohesive and signature look.
Tip for Amateur Photo-takers:
Don't wait for the dream to come true. If you're wanting to really understand photography, start by taking photos of what is familiar. During the summer months, I would visit my old high school band and take their pictures. Not only was I able to figure out how to operate the camera, but I also gained decent exposure for my work.
How do I want my website to look...
There is no getting around that fact that building a website can be challenging. Even with site builders like Squarespace, Wordpress, and Wix making it super simple for beginners to create amazing portfolios, it can be a bit daunting to pick a format that best for you. Though all these web-builders offer templates to start from, it is always nice to have a clear vision of what you want to see in your site. My best advice is to research other photographers (or anyone who has something similar to what you want in a website) and find a way to incorporate it. This doesn't mean to completely copy someone else's website they spent so much time creating, but rather learn what works for you and take bits and pieces of those ideas. I modeled my home page on my website from several different ideas and put together something that I think reflects my personality in a very clever way that also allow others to see me as a multifaceted individual. Lastly, another tips I would give is try to incorporate a signature look with a consistent color scheme, clever use of fonts, carefully considered placement of media, and an honest appreciation of your own work. In other words, don't try to be someone that you're not. If you enjoy what you're doing and approach your website as being an extension of what you think is valuable about yourself, then the work will definitely speak for itself.