Developing a Photography Website, Part 1: Planning

In August 2018, I purchased the zachfox.photography domain name and a Vultr VPS and wrote the first version of my personal photography website. I didn’t have too much of a plan at the time, besides “I want to show off and sell my photography and photography services.” I sold a few prints and digital wallpapers, but I mostly learned about web development and exactly how hard it is to sell photographic work.

Now, I want to develop a plan for running a successful photography business, and then I want to implement that plan. I invite you to join me in this learning process as I battle imposter syndrome and push through the mental blocks which have been preventing me from doing this for a long time.

First: A New Website

I want to start this journey by creating a new website, which will anchor my photography business.

My current website has at least the following problems:

  • It puts my art first, instead of my services.
    • Nobody is going to want to buy a 5×7″ print of an image that only means something to me.
  • It doesn’t employ a standard photography website navigation pattern.
  • It’s hard to figure out the services that I sell.
  • My “Services” page has too many words.
  • Some images aren’t formatted properly for certain screen sizes and aspect ratios.
  • I only have one testimonial on the site.
  • The custom zoomed-image viewer doesn’t work sometimes, and that feature isn’t important.

As I go through the websites of other photographers geographically near me, here are some of the problems I notice:

  • Too many words are quickly overwhelming.
  • Using the word “investment” to describe the pricing page feels pretentious to me.
  • Some links on websites I’ve seen just do nothing when clicked…
  • So many typos
  • Lots of people are using third-party sites to handle their bookings.

With those problems in mind, here are some of the high-level qualities I want my new website to have:

  • I want the website to be easy to navigate on desktop and mobile.
  • I want to show off my photographic services first.
  • I want a section of my website to show off my fine art photography.
    • Perhaps I can have one rotating “limited edition” metal print for sale in a section of my site.
  • I want pricing to be fair and transparent.
  • I want a “book now” button to be visible to users on the very first screen.
    • This button should lead users through a series of full-screen steps which asks: “what service?” (top three first, then a “more” button which shows all services), “when?”, “where are you located?”, “name?”, “email address?”, “anything else i should know?”, SUBMIT!
  • I want my contact form to be as simple as possible.

Here are the photographic services that I can confidently offer:

  • Family portraits
  • Solo portraits
  • Couples portraits
  • Graduation portraits
  • Pet portraits
  • Professional headshots
  • Engagement photography
  • Wedding photography
  • Event photography
  • Real estate photography
  • Product photography

I’ll have to choose which of the above services to highlight on the website, and how.

Here are some concerns I have about my new website:

  • I’m a talented and versatile photographer, but not having one or two specialties has its problems, like being less attractive to search engines. I don’t know exactly how I’m going to sell my varied talents.

Website Structure, Design, and Implementation

I plan to divide my website into the following sections:

  • Home
  • Services & Pricing
  • Portfolio
  • Contact
  • About

I want to build some wireframes of each of those website sections, and I want to create mockups of some of the important design elements on each of those pages.

I want to build this site with NodeJS and Webpack. I have extensive experience with those technologies, and I know that I can accomplish my goals with them.

After the Website Launch

After the new website goes live, here are a few tasks I’ll consider, if not accomplish:

  1. List myself on Google Maps
  2. List myself on Yelp
  3. List myself on Thumbtack
  4. Review and update my Facebook page
  5. Review and update my Instagram page
  6. Delete my Twitter page (photographers don’t seem to use Twitter as a marketing vehicle)
  7. List myself on The Knot
  8. List myself on WeddingWire

Additional Considerations

There’s so much more to starting a photography business than just the above.

When I first started Zach Fox Photography, I created an LLC called “A Friendly Fox, LLC” in California. This cost me $800 per year in California tax fees for the two years I had it active, and I wasn’t making $800 per year with my photography work. I learned some about “being a business owner” from that experience, but it wasn’t worth the cost at the time.

Now that I’m feeling more serious about my photography being a business, I’ll need to, at some point, start up an LLC again to protect myself and my assets. I don’t know what that process is like in Maryland, but I can learn – just like I learned in California.

If you have any advice for me as I begin this journey, please leave me a comment. Thank you for reading!

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