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Photographers guide to all things web – Part 2

Now we’re getting down to the business end of things. In the first part of this series I prepared you to start from scratch. In most cases this is the easiest way to get great results.  A fresh approach and fresh ideas are lot easier to achieve when you aren’t trying to fix something. So let’s dig in. By the way this post is a little long but there is a lot to get through!

Part 2 – The website

First up you need to decide what you want, do you want a blog, or do you want a portfolio with a blog? These two are very different setups but either way you are going to end up with a blog. For the purpose of this post we will be dealing with a portfolio website and tomorrow we will tackle adding a blog to it all.

Contrary to many beliefs flash based websites still cannot be read properly by search engines. I have to admit while reviewing some flash sites I can see the appeal, they look amazing. However they are not functional. Not only do you have the search engine issues you also have major companies like Apple who do not support flash in some of their products. I don’t want to jump the gun here but we are probably seeing the end of entirely built flash based websites. So what can you do? Well with out getting into the technical side of things there has been some great advancements in website technologies over the past few years, which have resulted in websites that function much like a flash based site but are more “friendly”.

Do I need a web designer?

Yes and no! If your looking for a completely customised website then you will need to fork out the money for a web designer, however it doesn’t necessarily need to be as expensive as it used too. I’m sure you’ve all heard of wordpress, the opensource content management system that seems to be running most of the websites around.. It runs both RAW and Tristan Jud Photography which are two entirely separate setups. An interesting premium theme market place has developed over the years which you can either buy a theme that you like and use it as is or get it customised for a fraction of the cost.

These market places have some amazing themes that require little to no knowledge to get setup which is sometimes perfect for the photographers just starting out. A prime example of the quality of these themes is my site, it is just a theme with no customisation at all. I could have spent a week or two designing and developing my own theme however I spent that time shooting and editing some images which was a lot more fun. True a web designer is going to a customise the site to make it look amazing and fit perfectly with your branding but with the option panels of many of these themes you can probably get away with doing some tweaks by yourself, saving yourself a ton and getting yourself that new glass you’ve been eyeing off. One thing a web designer will tell you though is that you should put music to your site, hate to break it to you but noone wants it or likes it.

It’s not a free-for-all though, make sure your site fits your branding, i’ll be covering this in the next few parts of this series but consider that your website is the hub, and everything will need to tie in with it.

Is there something simpler?

Yeah of course, you may have read a previous post I did on a service called CarbonMade. It’s an amazingly easy solution to setup a online portfolio that looks good and will provide you with what you need for sometime. I would recommend going for their “Whoo” account which is their paid account because it provides you with a few more features that will help you out.

Something a little more advanced then CarbonMade is Photoshelter. This is an almost complete solution for your photography work. Initially I was a bit taken aback on how to best use photoshelter but i’ve successfully integrated it and I’m starting to see the benefits of using it.

I suppose the best way to describe Photoshelter would be “a complete photographers content delivery and management system”. Sounds good! what that basically means is Photoshelter can handle everything for you. One of the main reasons for using the web these days is to make it easier for you and your clients. Many of you would have been using client logins for sometime now to show the client the photos from their shoot, but what many of you wouldn’t be doing is integrating ecommerce functionality so that they could purchase the photos they want as a download or print straight away. Photoshelter can then either have the photos printed for you or you can choose to service it yourself so you can still be involved in the process. Think about what i’ve just told you, now think about how long you have spent taking and filling the orders of your clients.  If you haven’t got many clients and your mainly shooting TF to build your portfolio, think about the time it takes to get the downloads to your models.

Photoshelter provides you with a few themes to customise your website and away you go. Personally I had quite a few problems getting my head around how to integrate Photoshelter so if your like me then comment or hit me up on twitter and i’ll help out where I can.

Now Photoshelter comes with really simple integration with a wordpress theme provider called Graph Paper Press. They sent me out their flagship theme Modularity to trial which I did in a screencast format to show you how everything can look in a matter of minutes. I have of course customised my Photoshelter integration to suite my current websites layout. This does take a bit of work to get right but does give you the flexibility to have any sort of website you like. Anyway have a look at the screencast of my Modularity excursion.

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As you can see from the video you get a decent looking website that is very functional and integrated with all the photoshelter goodness with only a few clicks.

I was planning on covering this in my review of Photoshelter but I’ll write a little about it now. When you have a photoshelter account you also get a ton of other great information that seems to come through on a regular basis. So far i’ve seen Social networking for photographers, Blogging for photographers, Selling prints, you get the picture. It seems that photoshelter is investing in your success with providing some really great and useful information.

Domains and subdomains?

Ok, all you people using blogspot, wordpress, virb, 4ormat, tumblr, photoshelter or whatever setup a subdomain. It is actually pretty easy and if you can’t do it yourself from the instructions that these companies provide then send an email to your domain registrar or hosting provider and they’ll do it for you. Most of these services allow you to do this for free or a very minimal fee! Get it done! If your using something that doesn’t allow you to set your own custom domain then it’s really very simple, change to someone that will.

Say your photo business is called “My Photo Business” and your domain is “myphotobusiness.com” tell me why you would register “myphotobusinessblog.com” when you could just use “blog.myphotobusiness.com” people aren’t going to remember your blog domain more then a sub domain. In some cases it can actually cause some confusion in some not so tech savvy people.

This concludes part 2 of the series. Tomorrow we talk blogs.

Disclaimer: Photoshelter have given me an account to play with so I can let you know what I think about it. However like with all the things I review I wouldn’t tell you to use it if I didn’t think it was a great product. Just thought I would let you all know that.

Author Tristan

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