6 Interesting Web Layouts for your Photography Portfolio

December 12, 2012

web-layoutsYour portfolio is the central piece of your photography website. It’s the section that receives the most attention, because let’s face it, this is where a client looks to determine whether he/she hires you or keeps looking elsewhere. To break from the monotony there are many creative ways in which you can display your photographic artwork on a web page. The layout you choose depends entirely on your personal taste and style.

But in a strict design sense, the layout establishes a sense of order for the content on a page. It guides how the user interacts and responds to your imagery. However your work is structured and organized visually on a webpage will have an effect on the visitor. We’ll look at common practices and trends to look for when designing your portfolio layout. Read the rest of this entry »

7 Tips to Improve User Experience in Photography Websites

November 7, 2012

improve-ux-coverWhat’s the use of driving targeted traffic to your photography website only to have users bounce (fail to click) or leave unsatisfied? In this post we’ll focus on the user experience, a powerful way to keep users engaged and happy when they interact with your site. Search engine optimization (SEO) focuses on getting visitors to your site by way of search engines. User experience (UX) focuses on keeping users engaged with the site once they land there. You need to apply both SEO and UX effectively to have a successful web experience. One that meets the goals of your site and the expectations of your visitors. To do this we’ll look at a photography site from a user’s perspective and explain how this impacts their behavior and perception of your business. Read the rest of this entry »

Factors to Consider when Designing your Photography Website

October 3, 2012

my-photography-websiteA website is one of the most powerful promotional tools any professional photographer can have. Not only does it allow you to publish your portfolio for people around the world to see. It also opens up the opportunity to receive feedback about your work and connect with others instantly. A well designed website can project professionalism, experience, and artistic vision. It can help you give a good first impression to new visitors and attract potential clients. But not all websites are created equal.

There’s nothing that hampers the overall experience and impression that a client has of your work than having a poorly designed website. Design is a form of marketing. So why not make web design your ally in marketing your photography business? Do so by taking note of the following key factors that can make any photography website stand out from the pack.

Read the rest of this entry »

Thought of the Day

May 4, 2012

Entropy is the the natural tendency in all systems. As information architects we must create order from chaos.

Good Design is both Artful and Utilitarian

May 27, 2011

“Everything in nature is the way it is by design; evolution has no aesthetic or personal opinion. Like art, some people find bugs to be quite beautiful while others cringe at the sight of them. But like them or not, their design is the way it is because of their environment and the obstacles they face trying to survive. In other words, it doesn’t matter what you think; it has to work, or they die.”
- Eric Fisher

Here’s a link to an excellent article about design, but more specifically about user experience design. It explains the difference between art and design, sometimes not very clear since the lines are continually blurred by both artists and designers. But the central tenet behind this article suggests something that I’ve been ruminating on for quite a while. It explains that the discipline of user experience design at its core is objective, not subjective. So I’ll add to this idea by making some basic distinctions. Yes, graphic design must be very artful and aesthetic, and I would venture to say that it’s probably the most artistically free expression of design along with motion graphics, where the only goal is to communicate and suggest an emotional response. But once you venture into architecture, product design, industrial design, application design, and web design, the stakes get higher. The goal is no longer limited to communication, but to guiding the action of the user. User design adds an additional layer of complexity to the work of design, and of course it must have an aesthetic appeal for it to work effectively.

But getting back to the issue at hand, designing objectively is very hard if you don’t know what your aim is, who the users are, or what your context is. This is why psychology, cognition, learned experience, and environment are such important points to explore when designing for successful user experience. As explained in the article there may be different routes to going about the same task. But if you design with the simplest and most efficient goal in mind, you save the users a lot of confusion. That’s Occam’s Razor at it’s finest. And nowadays the success of a product depends on it’s ease of use, which means intuitiveness. If you placed the button right where the user would have looked for it initially you’re on the right track. In order to know this you must get in your user’s head. And getting in people’s mind is no easy task. User design utilizes relevant and logical steps to guide experience. Art and aesthetic appeal don’t have a strict need for efficiency and logic. Although user experience design and graphic design are related, their aims are different. But both must work in conjunction for an experience (be it web, software, product, environment) to be completely effective.

Online Marketing 101 for Creatives: Be Unique

March 11, 2011

With this post I’ll start the first in a series of posts about Marketing Online. I have found online marketing an extremely fascinating subject on many levels. Firstly because it can be such an effective and inexpensive tool to get more clients, and the results can be seen almost instantly. The sad part is that there’s an ocean of misinformation about the subject out there. It’s very easy to get lost and overwhelmed with all the hype and noise. Throughout my career as a web designer I learned valuable lessons about this topic, and here I’ll share my insights about the online marketing space and where it’s heading. If you grasp and apply the simple lessons contained here you can gain a huge advantage in the web. This is geared towards creative professionals like graphic and web designers, but the same principles apply to almost any business. Read the rest of this entry »

10 Essential Tips for Designing a Better Photoblog

March 3, 2011

photoblog1Blogging has come a long way since it’s humble beginnings as a personal diary of sorts. Now more than ever photographers are turning to the blogging format to display their photography online. In the same way as many businesses use blogs to periodically update their news section, photographers can use photoblogs to regularly upload new images to share with the world. This post will focus entirely on the web design aspect of a blog for photographers and offer some insights that you might find helpful.

1. Clean unobtrusive design

The main purpose of a photoblog is to showcase photography so keep the graphics and distracting imagery to a minimum. Maintain the focus on the pictures. You don’t want to saturate your visitors with too much information. To achieve this use a layout that is maximum 2 columns, typography that’s not too loud, clean and minimal design, low key graphics, neutral colors, and a clean background. Your design should tastefully complement and not overpower your photography.

2. Fast loading times

To improve the quality of the web viewing experience you’ll want to maximize loading times. There’s nothing more frustrating than waiting forever for images to load. And since a photoblog is full of them, you’ll have to make special considerations to compensate. The first thing that you can do to maximize loading is to optimize your images for the web. Don’t upload images at 100% quality or the downloading experience will suffer. Optimize images for web between 60%-80% quality, depending on the dynamic range of the image. The second thing is to keep the site’s HTML code clean and lean. This is done by adhering to web design standards and best practices, meaning unobtrusive javascript and graceful degradation, all concepts that any good web designer worth their salt is familiar with. And lastly pick a quality host with the right bandwidth. Depending on the amount of traffic your blog receives, you’ll have to manage bandwidth. Most hosting services offer differing plans, but you should stick to the ones on the middle spectrum. Going with a cheap host based on price can work to your blog’s detriment and inhibit download capacity.

3. About/Bio page

Blogging is about getting personal. It’s a form of medium where you loose the facade and show your true colors. So creating an about page with your bio will definitely welcome visitors and make them feel at ease. Put a human face behind the name and the work, and people will be attracted to that personable side of you. This will keep them coming for more.

4. Engagement

One of the main elements that distinguishes a blog from a regular website is its commenting capability. Make it easy for visitors to comment on your images. People are more engaged when they can interact with the content they see. So invite and promote interaction. It’s also kind of fun. Make your comment area clearly visible and even ask for comments by creating nicely defined buttons and titles that ask for comments explicitly.

5. Integration to portfolio website

If you have a photography website why not make it a seamless experience to jump from your blog to your professional portfolio and back? I see a lot of professional photographers have two separate sites. This approach can be cumbersome and a costly. Some of the people who stumble upon your blog may want to immediately look at your professional portfolio and maybe even hire your services, so keeping the door open to your main site is always smart. A good way to do this is to have the same look and feel for the blog and the portfolio, and use a content management system like WordPress to power the whole experience.

6. Search Engine Optimization

SEO affects your site in more ways than you can imagine. If your photoblog is well structured for search engines you’ll be blessed by the Internet Gods (meaning Google, Yahoo, Bing, and other search engines). This translates to more traffic, more interaction, more exposure and ultimately more photoblog success. You want your site to be crawled by search engine bots, so make this an important piece of your web design puzzle. What can you do to improve SEO? Well, use correct and relevant title tags, description tags, headline tags in all your pages. Since most of the content is imagery you’ll want to use some sort of caption to inject relevant text in your photos. Internet technology is not yet at a point where search bots can process images. You’ll also want to use tags replete with rich keywords concerning each image. All this will do is create a semantic foundation for your images that web crawlers love and understand.

7. Large imagery

There’s nothing more disappointing than going to a photoblog only to find really small images. The images are the centerpiece so make them large and attractive to the display and layout of your photoblog. I would suggest making them at least 600 pixels wide if it’s a two column layout, and maybe even 800 pixels wide if it’s a full screen width layout.

8. Relevant information design

Information design is the key to building an excellent web experience. Successful information design starts with relevant information so it makes sense to keep your links and buttons relevant on your photoblog pages. Let’s say a visitor is looking at a post in the fashion photography section. If you want to keep them engaged you’ll want to offer them links to related fashion photography posts, information about fashion photography services, and possibly a link to your fashion photography portfolio all in the same page. Make relevance come front and center so the user doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

9. Screen resolution

The basic screen web resolution today is 1024 pixels wide by 768 pixels high. Web users are quickly shifting to greater screen resolutions, but this number is still a reference point for web design in general. There are thousands of websites that don’t adhere to this standard either by making sites too thin or too wide. Some sites have images that are way too small because they don’t maximize the alloted screen space, or the opposite, they have images or navigation cut off because they overextend their reach. Your aim should be to entertain the greatest number of users on your site. By applying a standards based screen resolution to your photoblog you’ll be able to communicate effectively with everyone.

10. Define your style

Part of having a blog is about expressing your own voice. Every photographer has a unique vision and you’ll want to express that uniqueness in your photoblog. If you have a certain style make it evident not only in your photography but in the blog design itself. So as a creative find your own style and stamp it on your site. This comes by defining the right color palette, typography, and even graphic design that’s relevant for you. Doing this will infuse your blog with personality and make you stand out from the pack.

These are all essential steps which can take your photoblog to new found glory. As a photographer you already have beautiful images to start with so why not give them the right home on the web by applying these insights? In the coming weeks I will also write a follow-up post that relates specifically to marketing your photoblog so stay tuned.

Update: If you’re looking for wordpress photoblog themes you might want to check out

Never Stop Marketing

February 16, 2011

I learned this the hard way. The biggest mistake you can make in your business is thinking that marketing and advertising are only necessary when job flow is zero. Why? Because when you have no active projects you have no cash flow. And we all know what happens next. The mind goes to survival mode. Working from this state of mind is always unpleasant and unwise. Marketing is as necessary as saving. It should be a habit like brushing your teeth. It has to be present each and every month in your budget. If you’re not marketing you’re losing business, and even worse, planning for failure. You should be marketing always. Market in the fat months so that you don’t have lean months. And when you don’t have active work, the marketing is the work. So this is my advice to all creative freelancers and small businesses: never stop marketing.

But you don’t have a marketing budget you say. Make one. If not now, do it when you have the resources, but marketing is not just limited to media buys in the New York Times. For all of us mortals there are other creative alternatives to marketing that are low cost. They do require more hands on involvement and hard work, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. The bottom line is you need to get creative with your marketing if you don’t have the marketing dollars of Coca-Cola. In a follow up post I’ll offer some resources and tips that have helped me understand online marketing. Something I’m sure you’ll find useful for your business.

25 Outstanding Photography WordPress Themes

February 12, 2011

Like many web designers and developers I’m a dedicated WordPress user. There’s no secret here. I love the software for it’s simplicity, flexibility, and well, the many ways in which it can be adapted and morphed into different themes for different uses. I would also venture to say that WordPress probably has the largest global development community, which produces themes that can give any WordPress based site a facelift. But for this particular post let’s say you’re a photographer and you want a WordPress theme to showcase your work. What do you do? Easy. WordPress can give you a photo gallery for cents on the dollar, compared to what it would cost to develop a site from scratch. It’s also quick to set up and customize. The following list includes high-quality WordPress photo themes that I handpicked and are brilliantly designed to highlight a photographer’s best images. Read the rest of this entry »

Must-Have Mac Tools for Web Designers

February 5, 2011

textmateAs a web designer I can’t remember the last time I used Dreamweaver. I don’t know of any hardcore web designer who does. I have been designing and coding websites for over eight years now. In this time the web landscape has changed immensely and the tools to make websites have improved dramatically. If you’re still using Dreamweaver and ImageReady it’s time to update. I ask that you give new software a chance. Here I present a list of professional applications that I can’t work without. They’re indispensable tools of the trade that make my job a thousand times easier. My work would be slowed down or brought to a screeching halt if I used anything else. I use these programs daily because they all contribute in some form to usability, efficiency, and simplicity. They have helped me become a better web designer and I hope they help you in your workflow.

Adobe CS5
This is the mother lode of all design software in the market. This comes as no surprise and I won’t go into detail about it because it’s common knowledge. I chose to include it in the list just because it’s mandatory. Without Photoshop or Illustrator life would be depressing for designers everywhere. Fireworks and Flash deserve a special mention also. But the complete suite of products is incredible and Adobe is beyond a doubt the industry leader for making great software for designers.

I have used this FTP client since day one and will never look elsewhere. The latest version comes with an Amazon S3 connection module. What can I say? It’s just plain simple to connect with multiple servers, manipulate files, drag and drop objects, change file names and permissions, etc.

TextMate is a coding powerhouse. It’s an efficiently simple markup editor. Code anything you want with it in ten seconds or less, HTML, PHP, ActionScript, you name it. It has quick libraries that can help you build site frameworks in seconds. It also has keyboard shortcuts, snippets, and macros to make coding lightning fast. I cannot recommend this piece of software enough.

This is the main event when it comes to server side coding. I love using this because it gives me live server access to change and update code on the fly. This has completely replaced Dreamweaver and its interface is phenomenally clean and uncluttered. Besides text editing it has terminal access and subversion control. What else could you ask for? Brought to us by Panic, the same guys who made Transmit.

Little Snapper
This handy app has helped me gather web inspiration like nothing else. I use it to grab screen shots of sites that inspire me which I later archive and use. It serves as my digital scrapbook with tags, annotations and a well organized interface. And it’s super easy to publish the content to Flickr or upload to a server via FTP.

Font Case
Typography is essential to design and I manage my font library with Font Case. I only recently started using this software but as far as I’m concerned it rocks! Imagine an iTunes like interface that handles all your fonts. Need I say more?

I’m a get-things-done kind of guy. This is not as much a design tool as an organizational and productivity tool. I gather my task list for certain areas and I simply check things off as I complete them. It’s a reliable task management tool that helps you get it done.

Here’s another speed app. By using it you’ll be able to access and launch all programs and files on your computer with a few keystrokes. Makes switching from one program to another fun and seamless. This alone is a rare and crazy productivity and time saving tool that has saved me hours in accumulated time.

Although this piece of brilliant software is not related to design, it deserves a special mention because it is essential for all of us who manipulate and share digital files. This is more critical if you’re working with a remote team. And we all know how important backups are. Well, DropBox does it all.

If you haven’t given these programs and apps a try I suggest you do. They’ll take your design and production skills to a whole new level. And if you know of any other software that has helped you make a quantum leap in your design work flow I invite you to share below.

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