Six Common Photography Site Failures and How to Avoid Them

Updated on

It’s fairly easy to create a website these days – a beginner’s skill set and a little bit of patience is really all it takes. The problem is that it’s equally easy to create a bad website, the definition of bad ranging from merely ineffective to downright detrimental.

There are roughly 1 billion websites on the Internet (and there could very well be just as many photographers in the world, especially in the age of the “iPhone photographer”). Many photographers are limited in their ability to create a truly effective photography site, whether it’s for a lack of time, budget, technical skill or a combination of all three. If you browse photography websites across the web, you’ll notice that a lot of them leave more to be desired. Why is that?

We’re here to dissect six common failures of photographers’ websites and show you how to avoid them. By the end of this article, you’ll have a clear vision for how to separate your website (and brand, for that matter) from the rest of the pack. So let’s dive into it!

Problem: Lack of Messaging

A picture may be worth a thousands words, but it won’t singlehandedly position your business for success. Every brand needs some element of communication involving words. And as a photographer, your website is essentially your storefront. If someone walked into your studio to inquire about arranging a shoot, would you simply hold up a bunch of your photos one by one and nod?

Customers need to know who you are, what you stand for, what you offer, and why they should choose you. You can’t possibly cover that ground with images alone. You need copy. So, make room for copy, and spend time strategizing on how to integrate it with your imagery.

Solution 1 – The Vanishing Welcome Message

How can you incorporate messaging into your website without destroying the display of your photography? Consider integrating a “vanishing welcome message.”

For example, when a visitor lands on your website, an introductory message will load like this:

Vanishing welcome message

The second that the visitor starts to scroll down the page, the message vanishes and the opacity overlay is removed from the image, revealing the original, unobstructed image:

Vanishing welcome message scroll

This accomplishes three things that are usually impossible to achieve together:

  1. Large, unobtrusive display of your photography above the fold.
  2. Clear messaging above the fold.
  3. Clear navigation above the fold.

To accomplish this, you’ll need to add some html, javascript and css to your WordPress theme. First the html:

You can add that html to your header.php, home.php or index.php. You might even consider wrapping that html in the is_home() conditional tag.

Next, the javascript:

Save that file load it into your active WordPress theme folder by adding this line to your theme’s functions.php file anywhere before the closing ?> php tag:

 * Enqueue scripts
function my_custom_scripts() {
	wp_enqueue_script( 'vanishing-welcome-message', get_template_directory_uri() . '/jquery-vanishing-message-scroll.js', array(), '1.0.0', true );

add_action( 'wp_enqueue_scripts', 'my_custom_scripts' );

Finally, the CSS. Just copy/paste this into your active theme’s stylesheet:

If you’ve done all of the above correctly, you’ll have a beautiful vanishing welcome message on your website, similar to the screenshot below:

Vanishing welcome message

Solution 2 – Permanent Welcome Message

If you prefer an off-the-shelf solution, our QUA WordPress theme allows for a welcome message on your homepage. The welcome message alone can have a major impact on the level of attention your visitors invest into browsing your site.

QUA Theme for Creatives

Problem: No Call to Action

It’s the simplest concept in marketing, and yet it’s so easy to forget when building a photography website. In the midst of compiling your awesome portfolio and creating that crisp copy we just discussed, you might forget to include a call to action (CTA). This is equivalent to making a brilliant sales pitch and then walking away after the customer says, “Yes. I want to buy.”


The solution here is pretty straightforward: Utilize calls to action! CTAs eliminate the guesswork for your visitors. Instead of wondering where to click next, they have a big, bold sign pointing them exactly where they want to go (and where you want them to go, for that matter).

A CTA doesn’t need to be a one-time, end-of-the-scroll thing, either. On the Graph Paper Press site, our landing page has a button that says, “Find Your Theme.” At the bottom of the page, another one says “Join Now.” CTAs are even placed throughout the interior pages, with actionable directives like “View Demo,” “Learn More” and “View All.” We try to make it as easy as possible for everyone to find their ideal WordPress theme on our site.


Problem: Untargeted Messaging

Aside from a sheer lack of messaging, untargeted messaging is another problem that plagues photographer websites. Even niche photographers usually try to keep their boundaries rather wide. They might specialize in, say, portrait photography, but also offer landscape and event photography on their website to bring in more business.

That’s great, except you wouldn’t sell someone a portrait shoot by showing them a gallery of your landscape shots, would you?


While designing your website, consider your different customer segments. How do they differ, and how can you funnel each into a page that speaks directly to them? This methodology goes hand-in-hand with the need for written content, and so you should map out your site before you get to building it. This custom theme builder might come in handy, as it allows you to easily create, arrange and edit different pages.

Again using our site as an example, we allow users to search for a theme based on what they’re looking to use the theme for (their photography, online portfolio, business, online magazine, etc.). When they land on a page for a specific theme, the content is tailored to address their needs and preferences.


Problem: No Email Marketing

According to the Direct Marketing Association, email marketing yields an average 4,300 return on investment. Likewise, business management firm McKinsey & Company found that email is nearly 40 times better than social media at acquiring customers. And still, very few photographers utilize email marketing as an extension of their website – likely because it sounds like a lot of ongoing work.

The importance of email marketing is two-fold. First, it’s an outlet for you to keep in touch and build trust with current and prospective customers alike. Second – and rarely noted – it enables you to remove clutter from your website. The information that’s valuable to your clients isn’t necessarily valuable to “window shoppers.” Through email marketing, you can send those who opt in highly relevant content and continually measure the results of your efforts.


For those who have not yet dabbled in email marketing, we recommend MailChimp. It’s simple, intuitive and free (until your list gets huge).

With the MailChimp extension to our popular Sell Media e-commerce plugin, it’s super easy to not only build your email list through your website, but also integrate that list with your online photography store. When someone buys a photo from you, they’re presented with a “Sign Up for Newsletter” option at checkout. If they checkmark that box, that’s your cue to continue engaging them with email content.

P4Problem: No Story

The difference between a brand and a business is that a brand aims to inspire while a business aims to sell. You can be both, but your brand needs to be the outfit to your business.

Every brand needs a story – now more so than ever before. Rather than hammer-to-nail marketing garble, we’re seeing more brands position themselves as storytellers. And despite having a story behind every single photo they take, photographers have a tendency to only tell those stories verbally. The result is a website that has plenty of awe-inspiring imagery yet lacks human connection.


Storytelling should be a big part of your newfound emphasis on content. But where do you start?

Let’s use Beats by Dre headphones as inspiration. The reason behind Beats’ groundbreaking success isn’t the 3.5mm audio cable, ¼” adapter and 0.21 kg weight, or even the aesthetics. People buy Beats by Dre headphones because they represent a lifestyle that is conveyed through riveting, story-driven advertisements of famous athletes and entertainers utilizing Beats headphones in their everyday lives.

Each piece of content becomes a new extension of a brand story, creating an audience of connected customers who unite as a community of fans. You can create a similar connection with your website visitors by telling your story visually through multimedia, or simply through engaging text. Show them who you are. Creativity is yours to seize here; just remember to speak rather than sell and you’ll be on the right track.


Problem: Too Many Photos

You’re a photographer, and you want to share all of your wonderful photos with the world. There’s nothing at all wrong with that, but here’s something to think about:

Toothpaste: everyone needs it; everyone buys it. But have you ever actually shopped for a specific toothpaste? It’s completely overwhelming, and the shelves eventually become a blur of color. By the time you decide on a toothpaste, you don’t know what you ended up with – nor do you care.

The same situation takes place when a customer is thinking of buying one of your prints and becomes paralyzed by the hundreds of different photos you’ve uploaded to your site. And worse, they don’t need to buy a photo like they need to buy toothpaste. When you go too heavy on options, customers experience decision overload, at which point they’ll probably leave the site without making a purchase.

Even on the client level, a customer once contacted us for assistance transferring 500+ photos to their portrait client for review – you can’t help but shake your head, right?


Our photography themes feature crisp, compelling image galleries. Based on our collective experience as photographers, designers and web developers, we recommend limiting a gallery to 12 photos at most. Homepage slideshows should not exceed 5 photos. Remember, your web visitors should want more, not less.


Final Word

If you’re looking for a reliable WordPress theme designed specifically for photographers like you, you’ve come to the right place. More than 300,000 creatives around the world use our templates to power their businesses, portfolios, blogs and online stores. Pair the tips above with one of our WordPress themes for photographers and watch your personal brand thrive.

Here’s to your success!

Join over 280,000 independent website owners

The next person to join our monthly newsletter gets a 25% off coupon!

We guarantee 100% privacy. Your information will not be shared.

2 thoughts on “Six Common Photography Site Failures and How to Avoid Them”

  1. Great ideas, especially the vanishing message. Want it on my site.
    For the uninitiated, the vanishing welcome message, having also made the html word adventure vanish, might well have been written in Sanskrit. I wonder what proportion of the population understands what was written. Photographers think in pictures, not html. When is GPP going to switch on to the idea that there has to be a better solution than html.

  2. Some really great ideas, and I love the vanishing message idea!
    Am using it with the photolog template.

    Would make great plugin just to make it easier to implement.

Leave a Reply