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Importance of Website

Lesson 45 from: Environmental Portrait Photography

Dan Brouillette

Importance of Website

Lesson 45 from: Environmental Portrait Photography

Dan Brouillette

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Lesson Info

45. Importance of Website

Websites serve as a first impression of your work. In this lesson, learn the dos and don'ts to building a photography website, like focusing on images and simplifying navigation.
Next Lesson: Marketing 101


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Introduction to The Environmental Portrait


Environmental Portrait Purpose


Personal Work


Find Your Process




Purpose For Action Editorial


Prepare for Shoot


Lesson Info

Importance of Website

Everybody has a website, for every possible purpose, and it is the first impression you're gonna have with a lot of people, whether they're people you're emailing and you have your email or you have your website linked in your signature. Or whether they are googling for a photographer in your area and they just happen to see your website. So, this is usually the first impression, and there's a lot of things to consider when designing your website, thinking who you're gonna use, selecting the images and all that. We'll talk a lot now about how to go about doing that. So, the main thing is to keep it image focused and simple. You're a photographer, you're not a writer, despite the fact you might wanna talk about your images like I do up here. People generally don't care. So, what I wanna do is present the images in easy format where it's image first. They go to my website they don't need to click anywhere all these images are just right there. People don't have time to be clicking around...

. Especially if you're bothering them to try and get them to look at your work. If I'm gonna email a photo editor at ESPN magazine, it's like hey check out this new work I shot, and they have to work to find it? They have other stuff to do, or a hundred other emails from a hundred other photographers that day, who might have a website that's easier to navigate. So, my thought is these people don't have a lot of time, you're already just by them clicking on your website, you're already ahead of the curve so don't make it any harder than it needs to be for them to see what you do. And with that said similar to your portfolio you wanna put either your new work, depending on how often you work, and your best work up front. Because that's what they're gonna see first. If they go to your website and the phone rings and it's just sitting on the screen, I don't want some less than stellar image somehow making it to the front, so there used to be some of those flash websites that you know would rotate your images and all that. And you couldn't really control it. I'm really glad that flash is no longer really a thing. We're on to websites where you can save things and view them on your phone and all that. So, you can control the order of your photos, so I'm always trying to make the strong images first, because again, similar to your portfolio, when they open up that first look and get that first impression that's instantly what they're gonna remember. So, consider your viewer, a lot of these people like I said are really busy. A lot of the people are viewing it on different screens too. Is your website mobile friendly? By this point most of the websites you know if you're going through a photo folio, or squarespace or something like that. They all have mobile applications that automatically make your website friendly to all different devices. So, you don't have to think about that as much, but what you do need to do is open your website on a phone. I know a lot of people edit their website on their iMac or their laptop or something, and they think oh it looks pretty good I'm done. And then I'll be like, have you ever looked at your website on a phone, I cannot figure out how to scroll. And they've never looked at it, they didn't realize that it was one of those ones where you had to click to go to the next image. You don't wanna have to do that it's too much work, so you know take time to open your website on your own devices and let it, give yourself some feedback. And also send it to your friends or family. I know my dad is pretty good at giving me critiques on everything, let alone my website. So, it's like hey I just launched this website. Aside from your commentary on the photos, does it work on your phone? So, I want opinions from people like that because they're not necessarily the most tech saavy 30 year old guy who's working on a magazine who's gonna do the thing. So, I want to work a lot of times when I'm sending out email promos those link to my website. A lot of people check their emails on their phone. So, I wanna make sure that my site looks good, from my phone, so again, consider your viewer, consider the constraints of time and things like that that they're gonna have. And think about what you want them to see, if they could only go to your website and see the opener. So, simple versus custom. There's all sorts of thoughts on this, if you have the budget there's some amazing custom websites. There's a photographer named Stephanie Geno, I don't know if that's how you pronounce her last name, but her website, I just stumbled upon it recently. It's like the coolest photo website I've ever seen. There's other ones that are really simple. If you just use something like square space they have these great layouts. Or in my case I use a photo folio, have you guys? Photo folio, it's the guy from a photo he created a website for, that makes websites for photographers. I use one of his websites and it works really well, it's so easy to customize. Everything is customizable as far as my logo, all the fonts, the image placements, spacing, all those type of things. If you just have a little bit of time. It took me a couple days to get everything how I want, but I was able to do it myself, and it's like $ a month or something like that. And I spend more money than that a week on coffee. So, when you think about that as an important part of your business it's definitely worth it. Again, some of those custom sites are amazing, buy you can pay 10, $15,000 for a fully custom website, and in two years you're probably sick of it and wanting another one. So, it's an investment that sometimes it's worth it, but I'm more of the simple straightforward route, of just letting the images speak for themselves. Navigation, again, consider your viewer. Navigation is really important, it should be clear. There shouldn't be a bunch of hidden drop down menus that you don't even know how to access. Or things that are hard to find. Even with your site titles, your navigational titles, mind you're gonna see my website here shortly, but keep it really simple so people know where to click, and they know how to get back to the homepage. If it's really hard to get around, or they don't know what they're clicking on, you're gonna lose their interest because they'll get frustrated or they won't even know what to do. And yet everybody could be patient and click around and figure it out I'm sure, but you have to realize that they won't be so, that's just one of the facts. So, you gotta make the navigation really easy, and consider that pretty highly when you're making your website. And lastly with your website, your image presentation. Are you gonna go with a site that's individually showing your images? Do you want thumbnails? Do you want to be full screen? Do you want to be left or right scroll? All of these are things to think about, and I don't know the right or wrong answers to these, but again just considering your viewer, knowing the format of your images, and how they best look. I personally have a website that goes to thumbnail, just because I want people to be able to see a whole lot of large images without scrolling around. You're gonna see my website now. We can actually switch over to my computer real quick, and I'll show you that, so you can kinda see what my website looks like. So, when you first go to my website, you see basically what it is I do in thumbnail version. And again this looks different on every screen. On my iMac, I have a 27 inch iMAC I edit on. It'll have six thumbnails across, and all of them are a different size. So, always looks different, but when you go to my website, you don't have to do any clicking to get an idea of what I do. All you gotta do is scroll, and you see the full I made the thumbnails almost as large as possible but so they're still three across on a normal size computer or laptop. And the main page is the overview. So, I always think this is important for all photographers, to have an overview, because if they never click on any of these other navigational items up here, they'll always know that, oh it looks like he does environmental portraits, there's some still life, landscape stuff in here, definitely always on location, not a lot of studio. Looks like lighting is pretty prevalent within the work. There's some guys, there's some girls, there's some older people, some younger people. Lotta color, no black and white. And that's kind of the story. Those are the key words, when people look at my website, and I've already rand this testing by people, it's like, name what you see here in ten words or three words or whatever so that I know that everything here is fitting the theme of my portfolio. And when I do new work it doesn't necessarily make it to the top left image here. This image is a couple years old, but it definitely is strong and it fits the area, and again, I can't control what device people are looking at it. So, they might see them in a slightly different order, as far as the thumbnails. But at the same time I can control which images are at the top, so I usually make it a combination of strong work and new work. So if you go to my website, in six weeks from now, at least it'll hopefully look different than it did today. Because that means people look at it, oh he did something new. Rather than if I buried that work lower in the website, they may not notice it, and I know I go to a lot of photographer's websites for inspiration, or because I'm slightly obsessed with some of their work. Or things like that, and I love it when I get there and there's new photos, it's like oh what's this? So, with that said after the overview I then divide up the work, so I have my overview, and then I have my portraits. So, this is pretty clear, it's just photos of people, and you'll notice when this page opens, it's actually gonna be a left to right scroll, with the option to click and make thumbnails. And this is because I wanna control the order of the photos, similar to my portfolio. So, I have newer work up front, and I have it balanced in a way that we have color, we have these blues. We have some closeups, some far away work. I want it to kind of be, it's all the same size photos, but it also has this narrative when you're looking through, that there's a theme, not all loaded yet. But I want it to kind of tell a little bit of the story. But if you don't wanna look at that, and you just wanna see the thumbnails, it's easy to get back to this view. It's one, any image you click on instantly goes back to this, so I set that up because it worked for me. I did everything from choosing the style of the tiling, the thumbnails, to even the spacing. And that's one thing cool about this photo folio stuff is that you can, if you wanted the scroll bar to be thicker over here on the right, you control the width of the scroll bar and the shape. So, all sorts of things, you can control every aspect of this site. And again, if you have the time to put in it's great. So, I have those, you'll also see I might have a couple shots from similar shoots, but I don't really repeat photos from the over view to the portraits. There's a different shot of this guy in the other one, so I wanna keep a theme, but I don't wanna repeat a lot of photos. There might be one or two in there just because they're strong enough where I want it to be something that's familiar. I know that's same thing here goes to the scroll, but then it's all a bunch of landscapes, and these are photos that only one of these is on the main page, all the rest of them are new. And yeah some of them go, like I didn't even know that would happen, that it would get huge like that. But it does on this computer. So, it's just a matter of having all that work. And then the last thing I do that's totally different, is I have these stories. So, this is where you click and it does a bit of a drop down. All of a sudden you have options, you can look at all the pictures from a different. So these are if I want to put multiple pictures together from one shoot. So, for instance the turkey call maker. You have seen him a couple times, and we talked about that story, you even saw the email from the shoot. So, this is the portrait they used in the magazine. They wanted all these detail shots, if you remember looking at the brief for that. Of how to make these turkeys calls. So, these were accompanied by text. So, I wanted to show the entire shoot, along with the portraits and the details, just to show the range of what we got. If you look at the Buffalo Bill rodeo it's a whole nother series, this is a series of portraits of these bull riders that you saw displayed differently. Oh this is one of the collages in my portfolio. It's all these images together, I remember now. So there's all these in a row, where it's definitely a theme or you can look at it in thumbnail version, and it'll look a little more how it did on the slideshow. So, it's definitely a theme, but it's not strong enough that I want to put it in the portraits. I want it to kind of have it's own story. And there's multiple of these. There's pheasant hunting, turkey call maker, lift climber. Oh, here's the sawmill guy you've seen him. His portraits on the main page. But I wanted to put it in this format too, so we could tell the entire story with all the images, in one place. That's when I drove by everyday and wanted to photograph. I was like that place just needs some pictures. So, it's a mix of that entire story in one area. And then of course your contact info. There's some photographers who don't really have contact info on their website, which I think is crazy. Just to show that I have a sense of humor I put my baby picture where I was a bit of a chunk. I have a quick little bit about me, that kind of summarizes my personality in one paragraph. I have my contact info, clearly displayed. You'll see at the bottom no matter what page in my website there's a clickable link to my Instagram. So this is in the footer of every single page, so you can easily get to my social media. And then a partial list of the clients that I work for. So, it just gives me a little bit of credibility. It's a quick note about me, a funny photo that almost everybody who views my website comments on, so I leave it up there. And yeah you'll notice if you go to the bottom, there's my Instagram link again on the main page. So, my website is super simple. There's tons of different versions that are great for everybody, but this something I can easily update. The back end of their software is really great. So, to open, to get there, to get to the backend of my website, we'll just do it really quick. All I have to do is type in admin, slash admin at the back. So, when you go up here, under admin my site looks the exact same but there's this little drop down menu, and here I can, you can build PDF's to send to clients of images, your media library. There's different design, you can easily change your website. If you wanna add new images you just go to media library, hit add and it'll instantly take you to a finder window, you can drop pictures from your desktop in there, and they just appear here. So these are all images that are alternates, and then you'll see over here you have your website menu. So, that's my overview, so check this out, here's the order of those thumbnails as you just viewed them directly, and you can move this window, anywhere. So, those are all the images that are right here, you can click and drag to reorder them. It's that easy, so that's why I like this type of website, Again, they're not one of my sponsors or anything, I just really like their website. And I've had a couple square space sites that were awesome as well, I just like this because of the ease of use, and knowing that the guy who created this is the former editor of a magazine. It's all photography based so it's pretty straightforward. So, that's my website in a nutshell, and everybody needs a website, whatever is right for you is totally up to you, but those are my thoughts on why my website is the way it is, it's pretty well thought out, and it works pretty well so far, and I haven't had any complaints. Yeah any questions about website? Yeah, my question is about your another website, because I know you're a senior photographer too. Yeah, so I have other parts of my photo business and my other website's a square space site. But this the same name, how would you do it? No a different name. Yeah so I keep everything separate, because I have different clients for different reasons. I have local clients in Omaha. I also teach like I'm on creative live, I do some workshops, so I keep everything separate, because again, knowing my viewer, if I have a photo editor of a magazine viewing this, I don't wanna clutter up the navigation with all sorts of stuff. Similar to my portfolio I want them to go to my website, and know oh he shoots some environmental portraits, and landscape stuff in a similar style. I don't want them clicking around getting confused and not knowing what I do. So, if you do, let's say you're a wedding photographer, and you also wanna do commercial work. I would highly suggest keeping those websites separate because that'll just start to confuse your viewer whether it's the bride you're trying to get to hire you, or the commercial client. Because I don't want them getting you know, again I don't want to be that jack of all trades. Whether or not you do that work we all have to make a living, so I have all my education stuff on one website, with the, like I'll put all my creative live stuff, and the links to the videos on one website, but then I'll keep this website strictly for my commercial work and all these environmental portraits. So, yeah that's a great question. Yeah but your brand is your name. No the other one's not my name, because of this. My last name's really hard to spell, and I'm not from Omaha, I grew up in Iowa, I moved to New york city, and then when I moved to Omaha, I thought I want a name that's more easily google-able. So, I just came up with another name that directs all those local people who know me. Whether it's local corporate clients, I do a lot of head shots and things like that for local law firms. Again that website has all those head shots, but they wouldn't really fit on here, because they're a little more, I dunno, they're not quite as exciting as these portraits. So, I wanna keep all that work<, plus I also wanna keep a name where they can find it on google. And all the SEO data is different, you know, it says like head shots and corporate photography and all that. So, that's why I keep them completely separate. And then the other thing is, at my other photography business, I've had to hire other photographers to cover some of that work at some point. Or if I'm shooting a wedding and you have a second photographer, sometimes I don't want it necessarily associated purely with my name in case you can't cover that job, it can be more of a business that has these photographers available. So, there's all sorts of different reasons, but those are my reasons for keeping everything separate. And then it keeps me fully associated with this, as far as the commercial work goes, and the editorial, where all the other stuff whether it's education or the other portraits, or weddings or anything like that is on a totally different website, so I can keep the two bodies of work separate. There's even separate Instagram pages and things like that, and separate emails. And I even have a google voice number so the phone numbers aren't even the same. Because I like to keep it all separate, and then if I decide not to do something later, it's pretty easy to get rid of it. If I don't wanna do it, hopefully the goal is to get large enough commercial work that I don't have to do any of that stuff, but at the same time for now, I do have to make a living, and I love working as a photographer so I like to keep all those things coming and keep those jobs coming. But I like to separate them as far as how I handle them. Yes, that's a great question though, because a lot of people do that. I know a lot of wedding photographers especially who have taken workshops or emailed me and said, I wanna do more of the commercial stuff but how do I do it? And I say well first off separate it, because you don't want the commercial clients, they don't want to see all the wedding stuff. Everybody knows wedding photography and some of it's really amazing but that the same time it just doesn't mix well with the commercial stuff. So, just a totally different look and a totally different client.

Ratings and Reviews

Julie V

I had the chance to sit in the audience for this class and absolutely loved it. Watching Dan create amazing images from start to finish in front of us was so inspiring. I've learned so much from this class. It actually gave me the confidence to start playing with lights in my studio. It was really useful to see how he sets his lights and how he can easily mix ambient light with artificial. I also love how he focuses on getting the image right in the camera to only do light edits after. I recommend this class to anyone wanting to learn more about lighting, shooting tethered and editing efficiently!

a Creativelive Student

I love this guy! I so appreciate his honesty while he is explaining his thought process, admitting that his “shoulda/coulda/woulda’s” - which I experience ALL the time. I am now going to dust off my light meter and start using it on location as I’m convinced that it works now that I’ve seen Dan’s class. I enjoyed the detailed way he sets up each light individually, checking to make sure it adds the amount and quality of light he wants. Definitely recommend this class - especially for those people who have experience using studio lights and want to see how they can be used to get specific results. Dan’s clear, simple explanations, his unabashed humility, and his sense of humor made this a truly enjoyable way to spend my time learning his methods.

a Creativelive Student

Dan is an excellent instructor! He's completely transparent with his thought processes, from technical to creative. He doesn't waste time horsing around or getting off topic, but is structured and sticks to his outline. Every minute watched is on topic, and is understandable. He's sincere and likable. The course is great for anyone interested in this genre!

Student Work