Larger To Sell

Since I started The Travel Photographer blog, I’ve come across a lot of photographers’ web sites, and found some that are excellent; some are sort of good, while others are, frankly, just hideous.

We all know that the main objective of a website for most photographers is to promote themselves, to sell and expand the reach of their photography to new clients, and certainly to internationalize their work. However, too many photographers forget that simplicity is always best in creating websites. Whether photo editors or just casual viewers, simple websites with killer images are those that work.

Many photographers’ websites have flash galleries, which can be visual treats. However, when these cross into the realm of the fantastical design and navigational labyrinths reminding me of the cult game ‘Myst’, it becomes counter-productive. It is one thing to have an effective and beautiful website…and quite another to have a ‘state-of-the-art’ website that is too complicated to be effective as a marketing tool. Don’t waste people’s (especially buyers/editors) time with fancy technology and/or weird navigation, and keep it simple and efficient.

Photographers are often pressured to accept fancy websites by their web designers, who have egos as well, and need to showcase their technical prowess. But, the websites belong to the photographers, and must be created around the photographers’ work, not vice versa. People will remember powerful images…not flashy websites. And another thing about flashy websites…they get stale quickly.

Having said that, I’ve also seen photographers’ websites that seem to have been built in the early nineties…low resolution images, clunky and ugly buttons, thumbnails that don’t work, etc. So updating websites is a must. And since I’m on this subject; photographers need to update their copyright statements every year.

Color is critical for photography websites. My recommendation is to keep it simple…not necessarily monochromatic, but one basic color for the background which serves as complementary backdrop to the images. I personally think that white, grey, anthracite or black are the best colors for backgrounds. Let’s remember that it’s not about colorful backgrounds but about photographs.

I know I’ll be controversial here, but I’m a “larger is better” kind of guy. Some of the most popular photography blogs are The Boston Globe’s The Big Picture and the Wall Street Journal’s Photo Journal, and display large photographs (around 990 pixels by 640 pixels), and the response has been phenomenal.

Let’s face it, when an industry insider such as Rob Haggard of A Photo Editor establishes a web design company on the principle of building websites that will sell photographs ( a distinction from being merely eye-candy), and chooses large photographs that fill monitors, there’s some logic to this generosity. And the logic is pretty simple”¦ photo editors who review websites and portfolios want simplicity, ease of navigation, and large enough to see without having to wear readers.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Interesting article and I’m still looking for a really good way to present a portfolio. I’ve tried several of the options out there, and am just not thrilled yet.

    One small note since you were ranting a bit about outdated web-sites; you said “And since I’m on this subject; photographers need to update their copyright statements every year.” This isn’t really true and it is behind the times a bit. A date is no longer required for a copyright statement to be valid, so write it once without the date and that’s one small thing that doesn’t have to be dealt with again.

  2. Good recommendation, and, at least with respect to the image resolutoin, one I should take to heart myself.

  3. Jim’s point on copyright is correct. According to The Stanford University Law School:
    “For works published after 1977, the copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years.” For those (like me) who are emotionally attached to seeing a date after the copyright symbol on their website, I believe there’s Java Script code which can be inserted in one’s website that automatically renews the date every year, thus eliminating the hassle.

    Joe: the standard is 72dpi, but I heard/read that some photographers have jacked it up to 100 dpi to take advantage of the new and better monitors.

  4. Twefic: The DPI thing is a subject of massive popular confusion, but for the web it simply doesn’t matter at all. If you take (a sufficiently large) original and resize it directly to a particular set of pixel dimensions, the only thing that matters (on a web browser) are those pixel dimensions. Right now my site includes images that are roughly in the range of 550-600 pixels (on whichever the longer side is). Save for “image zoom” features in some browsers, web browsers always map one image pixel to one screen pixel, back in the day some screens could display no more than 640×480 pixels, others perhaps as much as 2000 on the long side, an image which doesn’t quite fit on the former is going to not use a lot of screen space on the other, dpi aside.

    The real question is “what size of image, in pixels, finds a great middle ground for the vast majority of the folks visiting my web site?” And while I’m not sure I know the right answer to that, my guess is that the WSJ has it about right, and that my smaller dimensions, while perhaps right a few years ago, are probably small and behind the times today.

  5. (PS: Thanks for writing this article, it gives me a much-needed kick in the pants to fix this problem on my own site.)

  6. Thanks Joe. You also caught my “confused typo” in my comment. I should’ve written 72 pixel per inch…not dpi. I”m personally partial to a 1000 x 667 size. I can’t recall where I read this, but it seems that the web editions of newspapers & magazines see substantial growth in traffic when they publish large imagery (as in photo essays) as well as multimedia. Whether this translates into added revenue or not remains to be seen…but I’m convinced -as others are- that it’s the way to go. Certainly photo buyers and editors are all for it.

    A recent example:


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