Part 2 – Building Your Wedding Photography Website – 8 Must Haves For You

The average visitor on your website spends maybe 3 or 4 minutes browsing around.

Compare that to the amount of time you spend (or will spend) working in and on your website.

So while it's nice to think about how to create a website that fits the needs of your visitors, equally important is finding a website solution that fits your needs as well.

In this post I'm going to talk about the 8 things your wedding photography website must have for you – the photography business owner (and website manager).

1. Easy and Advance-able Branding and Customization

When you're first starting your business, you need to get a custom, branded photography website up as soon as possible.  So you'll need to find a website solution that makes it easy for you to get a decent site up in a short amount of time so that you can be open for business.

In the early days of “going pro” you might not have hundreds or thousands of dollars to spend on a graphics designer and a developer to build your website – so you might want to consider a web hosting solution that you can work with “out-of-the-box”.

And as you grow, and see the value your website has on your business, then you will also want the ability to do some advanced customization either by yourself or through hired help.

2. A Photography-focused web solution

You're a photographer and you have needs.

The least of which is to upload tonnes of photos, full resolution if possible, and to organize them in a way that works for you and your clients.  When you're done editing a tonne of photos, you want it to be really easy to create a new client gallery on your site, upload your photos, customize and tweak settings on that gallery, and move on to the next client.

3. Photography-focused e-Commerce

Wouldn't it be nice if clients could purchase high-quality prints directly from your site without having to go through you!

OK….not really nice….this is a must have feature of your website solution.

If all of your clients have to go through you to purchase prints, and then you have to turn around and order those prints from somewhere else and maybe ship them too….then you're wasting your valuable time.

So in your search for the perfect website solution, you'll get extra points if you find something that allows you to:

  • Sell high-quality prints.  (Bonus points if they also sell canvas and specialty items like mugs, t-shirts, etc.)
  • Sell digital downloads.
  • Allow you to set prices and turn a profit (extra points for this one too!)
  • Has a beautiful, easy to use shopping cart
  • Provides a 100% guarantee for your customers
  • Handles customer support issues for your customers on your behalf
  • Fancy options like coupons, packages, and boutique packaging

4. Security!

Your photos are valuable to you and they are sometimes private to your clients.  Ideally, your website will allow you to:

  • Watermark your images (but have them unmarked for purchased prints)
  • Right-click protect your images
  • Password protect individual galleries
  • Create hidden galleries
  • Backup your images
  • Keep your photos on your site forever

5. A Large and Passionate Community

There are a gazzilion communities out on the world wide web.  Before buying or committing to an “off the shelf” photo hosting solution for your wedding photography website needs, make sure there is a large or at least passionate community online that you to access and become a part of.  An active forum is an ideal place for community interaction.

A good community will help solve your problems and will help motivate you to take action on your website and your business.

My community is at www.dgrin.com.  Such a wonderful place for photo enthusiasts and pro photographers to hang out.  If you go there and register (it's free), be sure to say hello to my buddy Andy Williams.

What a guy.

6. Killer Customer Support

If you haven't guessed by now, there is a good chance that you might not want to attempt to build a website that meets the needs listed above all on your own.  You'll want to go with a photo hosting company that can do all the things above for you at an affordable price.

So going that route — getting good great customer support is very important.

Do they have a lot of easy to find and helpful documentation to help you DIY your website as much as possible?

And when you do need their help and need to talk to a real person — are they quick to respond? are they polite? are they actually knowledgeable and helpful?

Tip: Most companies have a free trial.  During the trial period, make sure you test drive their customer service to see how it performs.

Customer support is a critical item, in my experience.

7. A Site and a Company That Excites You

As a pro-photographer, you will end up spending a lot of time working in and on your website.  This time can either be a major pain for you, or it can be one of the most enriching parts of your business.

If you can find a photo-hosing company that spends the time on creating a great user-experience for you, then that can be a huge plus.  Uploading photos, customizing your website, and fiddling around the inner workings of your website can be fun if you find the right company to work with.

8. Win-Win Partners

If you can find a company that helps you succeed as a professional photographer, you'll likely find that they naturally achieve the list of things above and more.

If they are set up in a way that your success brings them success then you will find they go the extra mile to make sure you're happy and your customers are happy too.

And My Recommendation Goes To…….

Smugmug, hands down.

Smugmug caters their service to professional photographers and photo enthuasts that want the very best for their images and their customers.

They are not free.  And there are plenty of good reasons for it.

I've been with smugmug since 2005, and I always recommend them to friends and colleagues who takes their photography seriously – pro or amateur. The value  I have received in return for the cost has always been 10x or  more.  I pay that yearly costs happily.

As a professional wedding photographer, you'll want to go with the “pro” account so you can take full advantage of setting your own prices for the prints and products they offer – to turn a profit, of course.  (My clients absolutely love the metallic prints, by the way).

If you decide you want to give smugmug a whirl, you can use the (affiliate) links above to sign up for their 14 day risk-free  trial.  And through those links you'll be taking advantage of a special discount where you'll save 20% on your first year.

 

Comments

  1. I think point 6 is very important, since there will definitely be times where we’ll run into technical trouble.. so working with a hosting company that gives great support is important.

  2. I have been with smug mug since July of 2012, I am ecstatic. I haven’t had time to customize it yet. I have been busy marketing and building the business. I am trying tonight to customize it to something I like. I don’t know code, css or html stuff, so it is going to be a learning process. I am using your gorgeous site tutorial, except I am not a strictly wedding photographer. (Although I gave a few sessions away, and one of them was a wedding. lol.

    • Ryan Oakley says:

      Hi Dawnya,
      You do NOT have to be a wedding photographer to use my tutorial. Not at all. I just set it up that way as an example. You will easily be able to customize the site navigation and pages to your taste.
      Let me know if you have any questions. Just post a comment on the tutorial page or send me a message through my contact form on this website.
      Good luck!

  3. I’ve used SmugMug for years and love them! My site has recently been customized with my logo thanks to a very kind soul at the dgrin forum. Most can figure out how to do it themselves. I needed help and it was generously provided. http://www.perfectmomentsbydonna.com

  4. I’m now a month or two into my new photography site with SmugMug. (http://www.angelakearneyphotography.com/) I love it and am so happy that I spent the time to rebuild my whole site with them! You are right, their email customer support is great, products and e-commerce features are wonderful (the metallic prints look amazing) and the site loads fast and is easy to upload photos to my galleries. I did end up hiring a professional http://www.newskinmedia.com/ to help me for three hours. Melissa is amazing and I highly recommend her because she will work up customizations to your SmugMug site at an hourly rate and chat with you on-line while she’s doing it. She understood what I wanted to do and made the CSS additions without making me purchase an entire package or template…. So three cheers for SmugMug, three cheers for New Skin Media, and three cheers to you for promoting them. Thanks again, Angela

    • Hi Angela….your smugmug site looks awesome! New Skin Media did a great job…

      Now you can just snap to your hearts content, upload to your smugmug galleries, and share the love! It’s a beautiful thing. :)

  5. Hey Ryan –

    You have great content!! I’m getting married next year and we’re still looking for a ((inexpensive)) photographer! =D

    Anyway, I thought I’d shoot you a comment for support (found you through IBMA). You have great content. Though I’m not planning on becoming a pro – I like taking pictures of kids/babies/toddlers, mostly my nephews and niece. So I’ll definitely come back and read through your blog.

    Thanks!

    All the best to you!

    Shenz

    • Thanks for having a look around and for your kind words of support Shenz.

      I love taking picutres of kids/babies/toddlers too! (I have 2 little ones of my own)….:)

  6. Hi there, took your advice and started the 14-day trial. Trying to contact customer service by phone to ask a few questions and can not find a phone number on their page…had the same trouble with Wix. Can you direct me to their number? Thanks, Angela

    • HI Angela.

      That’s so cool that you signed up with smugmug today. I really hope you enjoy it.

      Regarding your question about smugmug’s “customer service by phone” question…..I decided to send an email to smugmug to see what they say about it. I sent my email to help[AT]smugmug[DOT]com at 3:01pm today and they replied at 3:29pm (pretty standard 30 minute response from them)

      My email to smugmug:
      > Hi guys,
      >
      > Does smugmug have a customer support number? If you do, its pretty hidden. Or do you just use email for support?
      >
      > Thanks.
      > Ryan

      Smugmugs response:
      > Hi Ryan,
      >
      > Thank you for emailing us.
      >
      > We don’t have a phone number for support and while I understand your desire
      > to speak with us directly, we’ve found that email support is the best way to
      > go for both you and us. We can share internet addresses, links to help pages
      > and video tutorials easily. We can give you written instructions so you can
      > remember them. On top of that, you never have to wait with a phone stuck to
      > your ear listening to elevator music until we get to you. To offer phone
      > support at the level of quality we currently provide by email, we’d need to
      > significantly increase the cost for membership – and even then, it’s
      > unlikely we could provide service at a comparable level to the current
      > system.
      >
      > If you have not already checked it out, you might want to do a search in our
      > help portal at help.smugmug.com Your question may already be answered
      > there. If not, please take just a few minutes to reply back with your
      > questions and we’ll get back to you as quickly as we can.
      >
      > Standing by,
      > Ryan W.
      > SmugMug Support Hero
      > Connections Team

      So Angela…does smugmug answer your question? If not, I encourage you to send them an email. They will be more than happy to talk with you. They’re great like that. :)

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