The Professional Photographer Guide to Managing Your Online Presence

Intro

Whether you’re a seasoned professional or just starting out in your career as a photographer, you’ll need to be in total control of your online presence if you want to gain new clients and keep previous ones coming back for more. Once upon a time, word of mouth and a strong portfolio were largely all it took to keep a photographer busy with commissions. But those days are long gone, and now a photographer without a prominent online presence is also likely to be one without any work. As a freelancer, the internet represents both your main avenue for marketing and promotion and an opportunity to streamline the services you provide to your customers.

Are you a fun-loving, spontaneous and extrovert photographer who excels in capturing quirky and candid moments from real life? Or do you pride yourself on technical precision and expertise, rising to the challenge of even the most demanding photographic briefs by drawing upon advanced photographic techniques?

Either way, if you are to successfully carve out a niche for yourself in the highly competitive photography market, your unique approach, style and personality as a photographer must be instantly understandable from the way you present yourself online. The design of your website or the content of your social media accounts will dictate how you come across to prospective clients. A few good snaps, an agreeable personality, and a positive word or two from a previous customer will no longer cut it.

As a photographer, you deal in images. This is what people hire you for. But your image as a photographer doesn’t end with your photographs. It’s about the whole package. You are a brand, and every detail of your public image needs to be thought out carefully. Why would a client come to you for help in improving their image if your own image isn’t convincing?

This guide will take you through all the elements that go to make up your online presence, looking at some of the most effective ways of winning over new clients while providing them with a more slick, satisfying and professional service once you’ve got them onboard. Along the way, we’ll also consider a few tips on how to save time and money without compromising the value and quality of the service you provide to your customers.

Building a Website

A portfolio website is probably the single most important element of your online presence. As the first place many clients will go to when putting together a shortlist of possible candidates for a job, your website needs to be totally persuasive right from the word ‘go.’ Naturally, this means showing only your very best work and including sufficient information about past projects and clients. But it also comes down to the smaller details, such as web design, image loading times and ease of navigation. Your photos may be stunning, but if the presentation is subpar, many clients will doubt your professional credentials and take their project elsewhere.

Unlike with social media – where the possibilities for customisation are often limited – your personal website is the one place where you can take full control of your image. Here you can really hammer home the message of who you are as a photographer, without too much platform-inflicted compromise. Even if you are a total technophobe or don’t have the time to customise your site, you can still have a professional portfolio. There are so many fantastic portfolio website templates available for photographers. You will likely have little trouble finding a design that reflects your style and helps position you exactly as you wish to be seen by clients.

Before you get to that stage, though, you’ll need to consider which platform you will use to put together your site. While there are many different site building platforms, and most of them have their specific advantages, it’s likely that not all will meet your needs. Try to get a good idea of what you want your portfolio website to achieve before making a decision as to which platform to go with. Remember that your website builder should work for you, so the first task is to clarify precisely what jobs need to be done.

In practice, this means asking yourself a lot of questions. Questions about your work, and questions about your clients (or prospective clients). For example:

What kind of photography do you do and what are its unique qualities?

How can you present your work so it looks its best and these qualities stand out?

Do you work in series, or mostly just shoot single images?

Are the connections and relations between photos important?

Do your photos look better presented all together, almost like a contact sheet?

Or image by image, without distraction?

Do you need to add text and captions alongside the shots in order for them to make sense?

Or do they speak for themselves, without explanation?

What things will your clients look for before hiring a photographer?

What do they not want to see?

The answers to these (and many other) questions will dictate the kind of website you should put together in order to showcase your work.

The next step is to think about how to put the answers to these questions into practice as an actual website. Do you need a site design with simple horizontally-scrolling galleries? Or a more sophisticated slideshow feature? A main gallery page with a thumbnail view, featuring all your work together? Or separate galleries for each project? Take a look around and see what solutions other photographers have come up with to display their portfolios. What works? What doesn’t?

Only once you’ve compiled a hit-list of required features for your portfolio website is it then time to start thinking about which platform you might use. There are many though, so in order to help you compare the options available, we’ve put together a run-down of some of the most popular ones:

WordPress

With almost 30% of the top 10 million websites built using this incredibly flexible software, there’s little doubt that WordPress has a lot going for it. Right from the off, installation of WordPress is easy. In fact, most web hosting packages provide an auto-installer, allowing for WordPress installation with the click of a button.

Once you’ve successfully installed WordPress, building a website simply consists of selecting a theme from the many thousands that are available, and then using plugins to add additional functionality. The system offers considerable scope to customise the layout and design of your site, and for the slightly more adventurous, further tweaking of the design beyond the preset options of the theme can be achieved with minimal CSS knowledge.

With that said, if you’ve not previously done anything like this, getting to grips with WordPress can initially appear a little daunting. But, it’s actually a very intuitive system. The primary advantage of WordPress being so popular is that if you ever do find yourself stumped, you can be sure that other people have already found themselves in a similar situation. So from reading online forums to hiring a consultant on fiverr.com or upwork.com, any issues you might conceivably encounter can usually be resolved very quickly.

Whatever your degree of willingness to get to grips with the backend of WordPress, we recommend choosing and installing a custom theme, in order to help give your website a unique identity. No coding or design skills are required to do this, you just need to have a clear idea of the kind of design you would like, and then you can choose from the many thousands of themes offered by designers. Themes can vary significantly in price: from well over $100 USD for particularly exclusive designs, to totally free. If you do go for a commercial theme, payment will typically be one-off, rather than recurring. The theme can be reused for building other websites in the future. To give you an idea of the kind of website  designs achievable using WordPress, here are a few themes that we particularly like:

Theme Name
Shapely
Price: Free
Download

Theme Name
Rokophoto Lite
Price: Free
Download

Theme Name
Avalon
Price: $17 USD
Buy

Theme Name
Oshine
Price: $59 USD
Buy

Theme Name
Superba
Price: $59 USD
Buy

Theme Name
Tography
Price: $59 USD
Buy

Fortunately, there is no charge for using WordPress itself to build a website. And in addition to those listed above, there are many very stylish and functional custom themes available for free—making WordPress an extremely attractive option for those on a tight budget.

Indeed, with WordPress, the only thing you’ll need to pay for separately is hosting. Precisely how much you’ll have to spend on hosting depends on the size of your website, so be aware that if your website grows in the future, your hosting fees may also rise. However, most websites – even quite large photography portfolios – will not require anything more than the most basic of hosting packages.


Wix

Wix offers an out-of-the-box website building solution, which means that they take care of everything from domain registration through to web hosting. This makes putting together a website using Wix a pretty stress-free affair. What’s more, the software itself is also very easy to use, employing a drag and drop system that allows you to intuitively swap out images or edit text.

Wix even provides a number of templates which you can download that have been specifically designed for photography websites.

Make sure you choose your theme wisely though, as probably the biggest drawback of Wix is that once you’ve selected your website template, you’re locked in. Switching templates involves setting up your site again from scratch. Also, Wix costs from $12.95 USD per month to use (less if you pay annually), making it somewhat less appealing than WordPress for those concerned about costs. And be careful not to get caught out by Wix’s additional fees. For example, if you want to add a form to your site (say for a newsletter opt-in), this optional extra will cost you $15.95 (again, less if you pay annually); a personalised email ([email protected]) will cost you an extra $4.95 USD per month for each inbox (you guessed it, also less if you pay annually).

What you get for all this money though is a full customer support network via email or phone (although no chat support, sadly), and a lot of online documentation to help you iron out any problems quickly.

Finally, the only other reservation we have about Wix is regarding flexibility. But for most people, this will not be an issue, as the out-of-the-box features will likely be more than enough. For anyone wanting to add bespoke features by getting down and dirty with the code, Wix is perhaps not the ideal platform.


Squarespace

As it’s one of the most popular website builders currently available, you’ve likely seen the name Squarespace before. Oddly though, when it comes to templates, Squarespace offers a more limited number of options than most of their competitors. However, the quality of the 40 templates that they do provide is extremely high. And while the platform doesn’t offer drag and drop functionality, Squarespace’s templates are so well designed that it’s unlikely that many of its users ever feel the need to customise them in the first place.

Squarespace offers integration with G Suite (Google), opening up a whole host of features that make it easier to design and manage your website. For example, you can configure your website to connect to Google Drive and automatically populate relevant documents. The platform also offers integration with Adobe Image Editor and Lightroom, so even after you’ve added a photo to your online portfolio, you can continue to make adjustments to the image without leaving Squarespace! What’s more, with Google’s built-in SEO features, prospective clients will be able to find your website more easily on Google.

Price wise it’s a simple $16 USD per month ($12 USD if paid annually) for the basic package or $26 USD per month ($18 USD per month annually) for the bumper package which includes personalised email ([email protected]). These charges place Squarespace firmly in the highest price tier of the most popular photography website builders. Nonetheless, if you’re looking for a high-end photography website with premium features, it’s probably worth spending the extra for Squarespace.


SmugMug

Unlike Squarespace, WordPress, or Wix – all general purpose website builders – SmugMug has been developed specifically for photographers and photo enthusiasts, allowing even the most amateur of photographers to put together a portfolio that looks highly polished and professional.

Unsurprisingly though, this level of photo-dedicated service and design comes at a price. SmugMug’s plans range from $5.99 USD for their cheapest offering, through to $35 USD a month for their high-end package (lower if you choose to pay in annual instalments).

The primary advantage of a photography-specific platform such as SmugMug is access to some quite unique and well-designed photo gallery layouts that will help set your portfolio apart from the crowd. Signing up for a paid plan will allow you to choose from many beautiful themes that have been specifically designed for photographers and that you can further customise.

SmugMug portfolios are optimised for different screen sizes, including mobile phones. This means that wherever your clients are, and whatever device they are viewing on, they’ll be able to check out your portfolio. Another advantage is that, with the click of a button, your photos can be quickly shared on social media. Where SmugMug really comes into its own, however, is in the ease in which a photography portfolio can be transformed into an e-commerce store. This allows you to sell prints, photo books, digital downloads, and much more, directly from your website.


Photoshelter

Last up in our list of recommended photography website platforms is Photoshelter, another serious contender that—as the name suggests—was also specifically designed with photographers in mind. Reflecting this, one of the strongest features of Photoshelter is its compatibility with Lightroom and Photo Mechanic. You can use their plugins to automatically sync your files between these programs and your Photoshelter cloud storage. If you’re one of those people who frequently find themselves digging through endless files trying to find the right image for your portfolio, this can really be a huge time saver.

As with SmugMug, a Photoshelter website can easily be turned into an e-commerce store for making sales of prints and other products. While the possibilities for e-commerce vary depending on your specific price plan, some form of e-commerce capability is available with each of Photoshelter’s three packages (ranging from $9.99 USD through to $49.99), so you do not need to be a premium user in order to sell your photos to clients.

On the most basic plan, users are limited to 4GB of photo storage, while at the highest price point storage becomes unlimited. Which plan you should choose will ultimately come down to the number of photos you need to store and the amount of bandwidth you want to offer your clients each month in order for them to download files from your server.

A Photoshelter subscription includes handy built-in SEO tools, as well as the ability to integrate your portfolio with your blog, Instagram, or Vimeo. This high degree of compatibility between Photoshelter and other platforms helps to make it a great option for those with a serious social media presence.

Summary

PlatformMonthly FeeHosting FeeFeatures
WordpressFreeFrom £3/month● Thousands of themes available
● Free to use
● SEO optimised
Plug-ins available for any needs
WixFrom $12.95 USD/month, add $4.95 USD/month for custom emailFree● Easy to setup and use
● Drag and drop design
Photography website templates available
Squarespace$16 USD/month for website or
$26 USD/month for website and custom email
Free● High-quality themes
● Integration with G Suite
● Built-in SEO features
Adobe Image Editor and Lightbox integration
SmugMugFrom $5.99 USD/month to $35 USD/monthFree● Password protected albums available
● Customisable gallery themes
● Sell your photos directly from your website
24/7/364 support
PhotoshelterFrom $9.99 US/month to $49.99 USD/monthFree● Portfolio templates available
● Sell prints from your website
Free setup & support

From the chart, it’s pretty clear that WordPress is the least expensive website builder in terms of subscription fees. It’s also pretty strong on features, even without forking out much (or perhaps even any) extra money. But if you were to start paying for custom themes or outsourcing coding work, you could quickly see your expenses climb (still, likely just one-off costs rather than monthly charges). However, with so many great free themes, and its easy-to-use interface, any photographer willing to put in a little effort to learn the ropes will likely find WordPress the best option for the creation of a fantastic looking website on a minimal budget.

Wix comes in at the middle of the pack, offering simple customisation options for a fair price. However, if you’re looking for more bespoke options or higher-end features,  then you might be better off going for either WordPress or Squarespace respectively.

Of the portfolio platforms we’ve looked at here that were not specifically developed with photographers in mind, Squarespace is the most expensive, with monthly plans costing as much as $26 USD. However, Squarespace is a frequent sponsor of podcasts, so if you use a promo code from your favourite podcaster you can bring this cost down significantly (for the first year, at least).

Conversely, if you feel more comfortable using a website builder that was designed exclusively for photographers, then SmugMug is the most budget-friendly choice.

Photoshelter, on the other hand, is a more costly solution that provides – even at its lowest price point – some of what’s on SmugMug is only available as more expensive features. There’s no such thing as free lunch, however, and if you are tempted by Photoshelter’s offer of these extra features at a lower subscription rate than SmugMug, be aware that this basic plan comes with the drawback of only a 4GB storage limit. If that limit is not a major handicap for you, then Photoshelter might be your best option.

Ultimately, there is no “best” website builder, but rather your choice of platform will depend on how much you’re willing to spend and precisely which features you consider essential to your website. What should be evident by now is that you need to get as clear an idea as possible about your needs and likes regarding online portfolios before you make a decision. It certainly wouldn’t make any sense to invest time, energy and money in one of the more expensive options if it turns out that you would have been equally happy with a WordPress site on a free gallery theme. Alternatively, some photographers might have such specific ideas in mind for their portfolio website that all but one or two of the site building platforms can immediately be excluded from consideration if they don’t offer the particular features.

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

Choosing Your Domain Name

Now comes the fun bit. A strong domain name for your new website will go a long way towards influencing people’s first impressions. Conversely, if prospective clients see your domain in Google’s search results and aren’t convinced by it, they likely won’t visit your website. No site visits = no jobs.

What’s in a (domain) name?

How should you go about deciding upon a domain name for your new photography website? Here are a few points you might want to consider:

  1. Keep it simple – Nobody wants to type out a long domain name each time they visit your website. Your domain name should be fairly short, and above all memorable and logically related to your business.
  2. But not too simple – If you somehow manage to secure a really simple premium domain such as “photographer.com”, congratulations: you are either phenomenally rich or just downright lucky. A domain such as this will likely rank very high in Google’s search results for photographers – thus perhaps allowing you to pick up work from people who didn’t previously know about you. However, it’s also so generic that anyone specifically looking for you will likely never find you.
  3. Include your name – Most photographers’ domains include their first and/or last names. If you already have a defined name for your photography business, you can also use it as your domain name – assuming it’s still available.
  4. Stick to letters – While you are able to use hyphens and numbers in your domain name, we suggest using letters exclusively. It’s much easier to type, and harder to misspell, than a website that only has letters in its web address.
  5. Include “photo” or “photography” – It should be clear to your website visitors that you are a photographer. One way to make this distinction clear is to include “photo” or “photography” in your domain name. This might take the form of “yournamephotography.com” or alternatively, now that many new top-level domains have become available, you could go for “yourname.photo” or “yourname.photography” (see below for more information about extensions). Although, if you expand your repertoire to include other services (such as videography) in the future, having the word “photographer” in your domain name may start to feel restricting.

Once you’ve chosen your domain name, you’ll need to decide on a domain extension. This process might force you to change your domain name if your original choice is unavailable. However, there are so many domain extensions available that with a little creative brainstorming you’re sure to be able to come up with a good solution for a catchy domain.

Which domain extension is best?

Here are a few of the most popular domain extensions for photographers and our thoughts on each of them:

  1. .com – The most registered domain extension in the world. Unfortunately, with popularity comes scarcity, so you may struggle to register your ideal domain name (especially if you have a common name). If you can get an appropriate .com address, don’t hesitate, as this is likely to be the extension that anyone looking for you will try first.
  2. .co.uk – The classically British domain extension .co.uk. is similar to .com but will likely have more options available, as it isn’t used globally. Not only this, but if a prospective client is looking for a photographer specifically in the UK, your website will likely be given priority in Google’s search results. Thus if the fact that you are located in the UK is important to your business, .co.uk might be a good option to go for.
  3. .uk – This extension is similar to .co.uk, but is not as widely used. In order to register your website with a .uk extension, you must have a UK postcode. Again, if you can’t find your ideal domain with a .com or a .co.uk extension, you may be able to get it as a .uk one. Just bear in mind that, as a more recent addition to the catalogue of top-level domains, people are less familiar with .uk.
  4. .photography or .photo – If you go with either of these domain extensions, your full web address would look something like “yourname.photo”. These extensions are great if you offer a few different creative services (like graphic design or styling) and want to have separate domains for each one. Perhaps more importantly though, a .photo or .photography extension will also be ranked higher by Google in search results when someone does a search for the word “photographer”, thus putting you somewhat ahead of the pack.

When you use a service like GoDaddy to register your domain, you’ll get domain suggestions based on your preferred domain. You’ll also be able to see the different prices of each domain extension or suggested domain name.

Like website builders, domain extensions come at different cost levels and there are premium surcharges for domain names that include common search terms. In the table below, we’ve outlined the basic costs (found on iwantmyname.com) for each of the domain extensions we’ve suggested:

Domain ExtensionAnnual Cost
.com$14.90 USD
.co.uk$9 USD
.uk$9 USD
.photo$39 USD
.photography$29 USD

As you can see in the table, the least expensive domain extensions we’ve suggested are .co.uk and .uk, while the most expensive are .photo. The .com extension comes in around the middle, but this price is highly dependent on your chosen domain name and the popularity of the terms you include.

Where can you buy a domain?

When you’re purchasing a domain name, you want to make sure you’re taking a legitimate route and not just throwing your money into a void. Different domain registrars offer different services, too. You’ll want to have a good idea of what you’re looking for before you set off on finding your perfect domain registrar.

We’ve done the research and found the best places to buy your own domain name. Here are our top picks:

WebsiteNotes
GoDaddy● World’s leading domain registrar
● Built-in website builder
iwantmyname.com● Automatically protects your information from spammers with WHOIS privacy
● No setup costs or hidden charges
HostGator● Sells top-level domains only (.com, .co., .org, etc.)
● Automatically renews your domain to prevent it from expiring if you forget
Domain.com● Offers web design services and integration with G Suite

As you might expect, domain prices will vary across each of these platforms. Getting the best deal for your domain can take a bit of digging, but it will be worth the effort in order to have your very own website!

Choosing the Right WordPress Hosting Package

You only need to concern yourself with this section if you choose to go the WordPress route, as each of the other website builders we’ve reviewed provides hosting services as a part of their monthly fee.

We’ve put together our top picks for hosting packages from across the internet in the table below so that you can compare the options available. When you’re choosing a WordPress hosting package, you’ll need to consider the amount of storage you’ll need for your particular website. You’ll be able to increase this in the future, but bear in mind that the monthly fee will vary depending on the amount of storage you require.

BasicMid-RangePremium
$0.99 USD/month for 1 year, $7.99 USD/month after$4.99 USD/month for 1 year, $9.99 USD/month after
$8.99 USD/month for 1 year, $14.99 USD/month after
BasicMid-RangePremium
From $3.92 USD/month

- 1 website
- 5 databases
- Unlimited storage
- Unlimited transfer
- Free SSL & SSD
From $4.90 USD/month

- Unlimited websites
- Unlimited databases
- Unlimited storage
- Unlimited transfer
- Free SSL & SSD
From $9.31 USD/month

- Unlimited websites
- Unlimited databases
- Unlimited storage
- Unlimited transfer
- Free SSL & SSD
- Turbo (faster speeds)
- A2 site accelerator
BasicMid-RangePremium
$19.99 USD/month

- 100 million visits per month
- 30 GB storage
- 30 GB backup
- 2 GB RAM
- 1 domain and IP address included
- Free SSL
$39.99 USD/month

- 600 million visits per month
- 120 GB storage
- 120 GB backup
- 6 GB RAM
- 1 domain and IP address included
$49.99 USD/month

- Unlimited visits per month
- 240 GB storage
- 240 GB backup
- 8 GB RAM
- 1 domain and IP address included
BasicMid-RangePremium
From $7.95 USD/month

- One-click WordPress install
- Shared hosting
- Supports multiple WordPress sites and domains
N/AFrom $16.95 USD/month

- Over 5 times faster than shared hosting
- Includes Jetpack Premium
- Scales to handle traffic spikes
- No bandwidth caps
BasicMid-RangePremium
From $3.99 USD/month for 1 year, $7.99 USD/month after

- 1 website
- 10 GB storage
- 25k monthly visitors
- Free domain w/ annual plan
From $7.99 USD/month for 1 year, $14.99 USD/month after

- 2 websites
- 30 GB storage
- 400k monthly visitors
- Free domain w/ annual plan
- SEO optimisation for 2 sites
- 1 SSL certificate - 1 year free
From $13.99 USD/month for 1 year, $24.99 USD/month after

- 5 websites
- 50 GB storage
- 800k monthly visitors
- Free domain w/ annual plan
- 1 SSL certificate - 1 year fre
BasicMid-RangePremium
From $5.95 USD/month

- 1 site
- 25k visits per month
- 1 GB backup
- 50 GB storage
From 7.95 USD/month

- 2 sites
- 200k visits per month
- 2 GB backup
- 150 GB storage
From $9.95 USD/month

- 3 sites
- 300k visits per month
- 3GB backups
- Unlimited storage
BasicMid-RangePremium
$5.99 USD/month

- Free domain
- 2 websites
- Unlimited disk space
- Unlimited bandwidth
- Unlimited email
$7.99 USD/month

- Free domain
- 6 websites
- Unlimited disk space
- Unlimited bandwidth
- Unlimited email
- Double performance
$13.99/month

- Free domain
- Unlimited websites
- Unlimited disk space
- Unlimited bandwidth
- Unlimited email
- Quadruple performance
- Pro level support
BasicMid-RangePremium
$3.95 USD/month

- 1 website
- 10 GB web space
- 10k monthly visits
- Essential WordPress features
$5.95 USD/month

- Multiple websites
- 20 GB web space
- 25K monthly visits
- Premium WordPress features
$11.95/month

- Multiple websites
- 30 GB web space
- 100k monthly visits
- Geeky WordPress features

So far we’ve considered the key logistical stages you’ll need to go through when creating a photography website: from choosing a site building platform, theme and hosting plan, to registering an appropriate domain and extension. As essential as all this information is when putting together a website, it’s really only half the story: just as important as getting all the technical elements right is deciding what to do with them once you’ve chosen them. And here it’s vital not to lose sight of the purpose of building a website in the first place: i.e. making an online showcase for your talents that is appropriate to the style of your photography and suited to the particular niche of the market you’re working in.

That being the case, let’s take a look at some of the other important issues you might want to consider when putting together a photography portfolio website.

Structuring and Designing a Photography Website

The actual design you choose for your website is of course down to you and to a degree will depend on the site-building platform and template you choose. We’re not going to explain how to go about doing the actual design work, or tell you which software to use, as there’s no right or wrong way and a standard template might even do the job fine. However, what we can provide you with are a few pointers to help you consider what material to include on your website and how to best display this info:

Make Your Mark

Your website is your chance to explain to the world who you are, entirely on your own terms. Does your bio really put across your passion for photography and the extent of your professional experience? Do the images you’ve selected for your portfolio truly reflect your current photographic interests, skills and capabilities? Is there something more you’d like to let potential clients know about in order to win them over? In short, does your website tell the story about yourself that you want it to tell?

Function Before Form

It can be tempting to go for a flashy theme with all the bells and whistles, but if your website doesn’t actually display your photography in a format that is appropriate to the style of work that you produce, then it’s not doing its job.

Your online portfolio has to do one thing, and do it well: show your photos in the best possible light. It needs to look good, for sure. But, like a picture frame, your portfolio website must always remain secondary to what’s on display, enhancing rather than overshadowing your photography.

Try not to be swayed by gimmicky designs and fancy plug-ins, instead think about how you want people to view your photography, and then choose a theme that will display your work in precisely this way. Keep it simple and sophisticated.

Signpost

How often have you clicked through a couple of links and found yourself looking at a website without really knowing how you got there, or perhaps even what you’re looking at? Make sure visitors to your site know they’ve arrived, and where, by displaying your name, the nature of your services, and your contact information in a prominent and easy-to-find location on your site.

Keep ‘Em Coming Back For More

Update your site with new content as frequently as you can. Show people that you’ve been busy (even if you haven’t). Reward frequent visitors with interesting new material, give them a reason to come again.

By this point, you should have a good grasp of how to go about putting together a strong portfolio website to showcase your photography to prospective clients. You’ve selected your best work, carefully considered the order you wish to present each project in,  uploaded your CV, and written a great ‘About Me’ page to introduce yourself to visitors to your site.

Survey

We asked over 3 thousand photographers what content featured on their website. The vast majority included a portfolio, contact form and bio, whilst only half included prices and only 42% included testimonials:

Which of the following pages does your website feature?

Social Media for Photographers

Having gone to all the trouble of putting together a fantastic portfolio website, you’re obviously going to want to get people looking at it. But it’s not enough just to put the site online and expect everyone to come. Unless you’re already very well known as a photographer, you’ll need to tell the world that it’s there. This is where social media comes into play.

As a creative, image is everything, and if you don’t control your own image then effectively other people do. Social media is one of the best ways of taking full command of your public image and interacting with clients, photography enthusiasts and other photographers can bring a great many rewards. In any case, if you want to be successful in your career as a photographer, promotion on social media is now one of your core professional responsibilities.

Ultimately you want people to look at your website, as this is where you are fully in control of your image and can offer a deeper understanding of your work and social media is the way to grab the attention of prospective clients and steer them towards your site. Over time, you may have to switch between different social networks as old ones fall out of favour and newer ones steal the limelight, but the strategy is always the same: give away just enough information on social media so as to pique people’s interest, but hold enough detail back that they want to know more and so will click through to your portfolio.

That’s all very well, but what does this actually mean in practice?

What to Post

Making social media work for you means striking a balance between interacting with followers in a genuine and spontaneous manner, while never losing sight of the fact that in doing so you are representing your business to the public and therefore need to come across in a certain light. Be yourself, but don’t talk only about yourself. Reveal something genuine about your life and work, but don’t post only about your own life and work. Make a strong statement and build your identity, but be careful not to become overbearing and egotistical or you’ll risk alienating your followers.

In practice, this is actually a lot simpler than it may sound and we’ll break it down for you shortly. In the course of your work as a photographer you’ll likely meet a lot of interesting people, go to new places, and see and do unusual things that the rest of us know little or nothing about. Tell us about these experiences, we want to know! There’s no need to over hype things up or embellish them because as a working photographer your life is likely to be genuinely interesting enough in itself.

Likewise, turn us on to other photographers whose work you like. Or even people and things outside of photography that you think we might be interested in. Show us what makes you tick, what inspires you. Just finished reading a stimulating book or watched a gripping movie? Let us know. Seen a thought-provoking exhibition or gone to a great concert? Tell us about it. Anything but endless selfies and shots of your lunch: total narcissism is unlikely to prove the best marketing strategy.

Of course, social media is also a place to promote your work more directly. But you probably shouldn’t give everything away all at once. Instead, post tantalising previews, behind-the-scenes reports, making-of shots, and previews of new work. But not entire projects, as you want people to click through and view the work as it was intended to be seen: on your portfolio site.

Also bear in mind that not every photograph is a great candidate for sharing on social media. In order to achieve maximum impact, you should go for strong, attention grabbing images with bold, graphic compositions, vibrant colours, and easily understandable content. This is not the place either for great subtlety or intellectual complexity.

View your social media posts like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Collectively they all add up to create your public persona. If you have a clear idea of the finished image you wish to put across as a photographer beforehand—and carefully consider this image before posting each time—it will be very easy to see when a post is likely to work for you, or if instead it’s only going to detract from the personal brand image that you are trying to establish.

In order to help you better develop your social media strategy, here’s a quick checklist of the kinds of things you might want to share with your followers:

  • Previews of work-in-progress or recently completed projects
  • Flashbacks to older projects
  • Behind-the-scenes shots from your latest commissions
  • Members of your team (make-up artists, stylists, assistants etc.)
  • Inspiration and reference images
  • Shots of great locations you’ve found
  • Tearsheets or other published work
  • Screengrabs or location shots of commercial work in use
  • The installation or opening of an exhibition of your work
  • Interesting exhibitions, books, magazines, movies and music

Once you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve, you can almost treat social media as a visual diary or scrapbook, giving followers a glimpse of your daily working process and unique personality. Just make sure that every item you post in some way adds something to the image you’re trying to create for your business.

Survey

We asked our photographers which social media channels worked for them and it’s clear that Facebook still has the reach to get results:

Which social media channels do you use to promote your business?


Which social media channels have been successful in getting you new clients?

When to Post

Taking social media seriously means not only considering what to share, but also when. Just as you wouldn’t make an important announcement to an empty room, there’s little point in sharing exciting content on social media if no one is looking. Users of the various social networks tend to be active at different times of the day, and on different days of the week. For maximum impact, you should schedule your posts to hit at peak viewing times for the platform(s) you are using.

Furthermore, you should also consider the location and habits of your specific client base. Are they located regionally, nationally or internationally? Are they all in the same time zone as you, or are some of them several hours behind or ahead? Get to know their habits and target them when they are likely to be at their most receptive.

Similarly, it’s essential that you find the right degree of frequency for posting. Not often enough and your posts will be ineffective and quickly forgotten; too often and you’ll just annoy people. Again, ideal frequency levels seem to differ significantly between the different social networks. Do your research, identify the optimum frequency, and then stick to it. If people like what you share then they will come to expect to see it regularly. Try not to disappoint them.

How to Post

To anybody that’s new to social media marketing, this may all sound pretty daunting. Not to mention time-consuming. Presumably the reason you became a photographer in the first place was in order to take photographs, not spend all day glued to a device hitting “publish”. Certainly, if handled badly, social media can become a real ball-and-chain. The key is strategic planning and good organisation.

While you probably want your posts to feel as spontaneous and unrehearsed as possible, a successful social media campaign often requires a considerable degree of preparation. Rather than just posting when you get a random moment and hoping for the best, set aside some time – perhaps a particular day of the week – to put together the bulk of your posts for the next week or two. This doesn’t mean you can’t also share more spontaneous moments as and when they occur, but simply that you should always have a reserve of good quality posts prepared and ready to go. This way you can guarantee a steady flow of quality content and maintain a consistent posting schedule even when you are busy with other tasks.

There are several apps and plugins available that allow you to schedule and queue social media posts ahead of time. This means that even if you’re in the middle of a meeting with clients, or perhaps fast asleep in a hotel room on the other side of the world, your posts can still be made at optimum times. We will return to this topic later with a social media scheduling comparison chart, since in order to select the right scheduling tool for yourself, you should already know which social media channel you want to focus on.

Analytics

Another area where technology can be of help is analytics. It’s all very well thinking long and hard about great content to share, and researching the optimum times to do so, but if it turns out that nobody is looking at any of your posts then clearly you’ll need to rethink your strategy. Getting deep into the analytics of your social media accounts will give you greater insight into the effectiveness of your social media campaign(s) in order to better understand the kind of posts that resonate with your followers.

While most social media platforms offer some kind of native analytics tracking, in some instances you’ll need a pro account in order to access them. In any case these native apps are not always the best analytics tools available. If you really want to get a solid grip on the stats, there are several cross-platform analytics tools you could consider using. Of these, some of the more popular names include SproutSocial, Agora Pulse, Crowdbooster, Brand 24 and Brandwatch, with Hootsuite also including analytics tools. As is frequently the case though, the better stand-alone analytics programs come at a cost.

Having got to grips with social media strategy, it’s now time to consider precisely which social network will be best suited to promote your photography business.

Choosing the Right Social Media Platform for your Photography Business

With so many different social networks vying for your time and attention, and new ones emerging at an ever greater rate, it can be difficult to decide which to go for. In order to help you work out which one is right for you, let’s compare the advantages and disadvantages of some of the most popular platforms with specific reference to photography.

Facebook

Almost one and a half billion people worldwide use Facebook each month. Of these, the average person spends over 20 minutes on the network every single day. Clearly then, one of Facebook’s primary advantages is just the scale of audience it can potentially help you access. Add to this the various media formats you can share on Facebook and the numerous ways in which users are able to interact and engage with posts, and it’s pretty obvious why Facebook has become as ubiquitous as it is.

How appropriate is Facebook specifically for the promotion of a photography business though? Certainly you can share as many photos as you want on the platform, but sadly, as a user, you have very little say in precisely how your images will be presented to viewers.

Also, while Facebook has the advantage of allowing users to create posts combining images with text, it’s not a great platform on which to share a sequence of images. A solution to this problem can be to drip-share a series of photographs one by one over consecutive posts. This offers the advantage of providing followers with a reason to prioritise your page in their feeds so as not to miss the next instalment. Posting in this way also allows for greater opportunity to engage other users in conversation.

Finally, Facebook’s real advantage might simply lie in the sheer number of people who already have an account and are therefore potentially able to view your posts. Bear in mind though that this advantage may be somewhat overshadowed by the degree of competition for attention from other photographers already on the platform. Nonetheless, Facebook should be high on any photographer’s list of social network priorities. Be generous with your time, discrete in promoting your own work, selfless in bigging up other photographers’ work, ask questions, and answer those of other users, and Facebook promotion can be massively rewarding.

Optimum Posting Day(s): weekdays, but with an increase in use towards the weekend

Optimum Posting Time(s): in the afternoon, peaking mid-afternoon

Optimum Posting Frequency: once or twice a day

 

Instagram

Of all the social networks, Instagram is probably the most clearly suited to the promotion of photography: people go on Instagram specifically to look at photos, and nothing but photos and videos, so you’re not competing with totally unrelated media. Show good photography and people will look at it, because that’s precisely what they’ve come for.

What’s more, follower engagement with posts on Instagram is extremely high (300% higher than on Twitter for example!). Generating engagement is exactly what social media is about, so this makes Instagram a very strong contender.

Instagram has introduced a feature called Stories that is quite similar to Snapchat stories. The app now allows users to upload short videos or photos to their story that disappear after 24 hours. Verified users can use a photo or video to link to a website, so this could be quite useful if you have a large following and want to send your followers to your website.

Most successful photographers on Instagram don’t just post good individual shots. Instead they clearly think very carefully about their feed overall, almost treating it as a work of art in itself. Consider the relationship between each image, and the order you post them in, so as to create a constantly evolving visual narrative that reflects your personal branding as a photographer.

While most people associate Instagram with square photographs, you can also choose to set up your feed in either portrait or landscape format, depending upon your preferred shooting style. However, a great trick is to go for the square format and then upload your images – be they vertical or horizontal – on a square white background. This allows you to mix both formats on one feed, and also makes for a very clean and sophisticated looking design.

Optimum Posting Day(s): weekdays

Optimum Posting Time(s): end of working day

Optimum Posting Frequency: at least 2 times a day

 

Twitter

As a platform built around the concept of 140-character written posts (changed to 280 in 2017), Twitter is perhaps not the most obvious choice for the promotion of photography. It certainly shouldn’t be ruled out though, and photos can, of course, be shared too. In fact a great many photographers have made Twitter work well for them as a promotional tool. What’s more, adding a photograph to a tweet statistically increases the chances of it being retweeted, so photographers are actually at something of an advantage on the platform.

To really get anything out of Twitter, you need to be skilled in composing eloquent, thought-provoking and entertaining tweets within the application’s character limit. This means having something of value to say, and not being afraid to say it. Certainly, you are much more likely to connect with followers and reap the benefits of retweets by posting honest, emotional, and perhaps even controversial, content than by playing it safe and just tweeting the occasional bit of self-promotion.

Either way though, if you decide to sign up with just one single social media network, Twitter is unlikely to be the best choice for any photographer. Twitter can undoubtedly be a great tool for promotion, but only when used as a supplement to other more photo-centric forms of social media. At the very least, Twitter is a handy way of alerting people to new material you’ve just posted on your website or other social media platforms and to interact with social influencers such as celebrities, journalists, or bloggers.

Optimum Posting Day(s): weekdays

Optimum Posting Time(s): morning commute, lunchtime and afternoons

Optimum Posting Frequency: 5 and upwards times a day

 

Pinterest

Pinterest has a lot in common with Instagram, at least on a superficial level. For this reason many people view it as an either/or choice between the two networks. What most clearly differentiates the two, however, is user base: over 80% of Pinterest users are female. So if your market is predominantly female, as might be the case with wedding photographers, then this could make Pinterest an excellent choice for marketing.

What’s more, the ability to set up multiple boards – each individually tailored to specific viewers – means that Pinterest is particularly well suited to certain tasks that Instagram can’t really handle. For example, with Pinterest you could put together separate reference or mood boards for every project you work on—featuring casting ideas, colour schemes, inspiration—sharing them only with your creative collaborators or client.

While clearly this makes Pinterest highly useful in streamlining your workflow and providing a better service to existing clients, the network can also be put to good use in marketing your talents to new ones. For example, you’ll likely be able to attract new followers, and perhaps even gain commissions, by putting together boards arranged around specific themes that you think potential clients may find useful or inspiring. Provide useful resources and people will come.

Optimum Posting Day(s): weekends

Optimum Posting Time(s):  2-4pm on weekends, and 8-11pm weekdays

Optimum Posting Frequency: 5 and upwards a day

 

500px

Combining portfolio website, stock agency and social network in one, 500px was developed specifically for, and indeed its user base largely consists of, photographers—from total beginners to professionals. As far as presentation is concerned, 500px is a much better platform on which to show off your photography than Facebook or Twitter. This may make the platform initially appear quite appealing.

However, it’s worth bearing in mind that, unlike say Instagram, which was also specifically designed for photography but now attracts people from all sectors (including many of those who might be interested in hiring you), 500px is effectively just populated by your competitors. How useful this makes it as a marketing tool seems open to considerable debate.

For sure, it can be beneficial to make connections with your peers. And certainly gaining a strong reputation among other professional photographers can pave the way to a successful career. But the ultimate goal of internet marketing is not just to receive compliments and encouragement from fellow shooters, but to reach those who have the power to commission you. It’s not at all clear how many of these people regularly browse 500px looking for new talent.

It’s true that the platform also serves as a kind of stock agency—licensing users’ photographs to commercial clients—so evidently the creators of 500px are confident that they can attract customers and make sales. However, these are customers looking to purchase pre-existing photos, rather than commission new ones—which may or may not be appropriate to your line of photography. What’s more, sales of photos on 500px are capped at a standard $250 per image. For photographers accustomed to earning higher fees, this is not an attractive proposition. Indeed, the lack of autonomy in setting pricing will likely discourage many more serious photographers from using this network. Since all the content posted on this network is created by photographers, posting times and frequency will not be factors that determine your success.

Snapchat

Snapchat is a little different to the other social media platforms we’ve looked at here. While, of course, all social networks serve as a means of communication, none are quite as intimate and direct as this app.

In some respects the application is closer to an old-school private instant messaging service, but with the unusual quirk that all media sent over it is deleted after 10 seconds. You can publish publicly viewable material (Snapchat calls them ‘Stories’) allowing you to create a diary-like narrative. But even this content vanishes after 24 hours, forcing users to maintain a punishing posting schedule if they want to keep their followers coming back for more. Snapchat also differs from other platforms in that the number of followers a user has is not displayed, and so the goal here is neither attracting hordes of followers or garnering huge amounts of ‘likes’, but rather engaging people interactively, often one-on-one.

While Snapchat is still viewed by many as a social network for adolescents, the platform can no longer really be considered solely in this light: as demonstrated by the growing number of late adopters and older user. In fact, having existed since 2011, Snapchat really isn’t all that new anymore. However, as far as the marketing of photography is concerned, it’s still early days on the app.

So far, most photographers have been using the platform solely to offer backstage insight into their working process, by regularly sending videos from behind the camera or in reply to followers’ questions. While this is a great way to reach a certain demographic, and in just the direct and informal way that millennials undoubtedly appreciate, how many commissioning editors, art directors or brides-to-be are scouring the platform for talent remains to be seen. What’s more, the fact that Snapchat content disappears after 24 hours means that, by the time the more influential sectors of the photographic industry finally catch on and start commissioning work from photographers on the platform, most of your hard work will be long gone anyway.

With that said though, engagement levels on all other platforms appear to be dropping considerably, while Snapchat continues to grow. What’s more, the major corporate players are all falling over themselves to get on board, throwing considerable amounts of money into Snapchat in the form of advertising budgets. This is a clear sign that they view Snapchat as a potentially powerful, and as yet relatively untapped, marketing opportunity. If you can find a way to make Snapchat work for you as a photographer, then there are potentially huge rewards to be had.

If you do go this route though, you will definitely need to combine it with at least one other form of social media. This is for two reasons. Firstly, Snapchat is not at all suited to sharing high-quality imagery, but rather all about instant, throw away media; so you will definitely need another platform you can send your followers to in order for them to see your work at its best. Secondly, Snapchat doesn’t work in the viral way that other platforms do, and you can’t see who your friends are following, so in order to attract users in the first place, you’ll need to heavily promote your Snapchat account elsewhere. Just like with 500px, it’s difficult to say what’s the best time and frequency to post for photographers, in this case, because the platform is still relatively unexplored for professionals.

 

Blogging

While only really a borderline social network, and distinctly old school in nature, blogging is nonetheless still a very effective way of promoting any photographer’s business online. Indeed, adding a blog section to your website, and regularly updating it with short but informative posts, can be a fantastic way of keeping people interested in what you are doing and providing them a reason to return directly to your site.

To really reap the benefits of a blog though, you need to write all your posts with search engine optimisation fully in mind. This means compiling a list of keywords that you want to rank for, and then incorporating a few of them into meaningful and informative posts of say 400 words (or more). By posting regularly about your commissions, projects and experiences as a photographer, and adding in a few keywords where appropriate, you’ll soon see a distinct increase in your search engine ranking.

Don’t cram keywords in gratuitously though, as this will just make your posts difficult to read and followers will lose interest. In any case, Google rewards the use of appropriate keywords and disqualifies sites that try to trick the system by keyword-spamming with irrelevant phrases. In fact, doing this might end up damaging your ranking, or even result in your site being removed from Google’s results altogether. But don’t fret. There are plugins and tools that you can use that let you know how you’re fairing for optimisation. Yoast SEO in particular is a popular option for WordPress while other platforms come with their own set of SEO tools.

The best tactic is just to write informative posts that are closely related to the services you provide and the keywords you want to rank for. Try to become an authority in your field, somebody that the public turns to for reliable information and expertise about your chosen subject: portraits, weddings, landscapes, babies. Or preferably even more specialised—and therefore less competitive—sub-niches of these genres.

Adding SEO keywords to a blog post while still maintaining a natural flow is a real art though, and if you struggle with this, or any other area of writing, you might do better outsourcing this task to professionals rather than making a mess of it yourself. Specialised photography writers can be found for reasonable rates on sites such as upwork.com and fiverr.com and contracted to ghostwrite regular updates for your blog. Outsourcing your content writing will leave you free to get on with the real work of being a photographer.

 

Social Media Scheduling Apps

Now that we have discussed the different social channels, we can also discuss the different social scheduling apps available. But when looking to select the best scheduling app, keep in mind that each app has different caveats. Just like with websites and web hosting, there are free and premium versions available and if you use the free version you will need to work around its limitations.

It’s only fair that after setting aside for the costs of your amazing portfolio website, you don’t want to pay extra for a social scheduling tool. The free versions are actually often more than enough to keep a community of followers engaged. Keeping that in mind we focused on the free version of some of the most popular social media scheduling tools. In our experience, even if you decide to upgrade, it’s always best to go for the free version first until you get a good feel for a platform. Upgrading is always made easy should you find you need a more sophisticated social scheduling solution.

By the way, here’s a secret tip. Only the biggest social media nerds tend to know that Facebook actually penalises using third-party software for social scheduling. That means that your post will be rated down by the Facebook algorithm and it will receive fewer impressions if you are using scheduling apps. So when you are scheduling for your Facebook page, make sure to do it directly from Facebook itself. Also keep in mind that Instagram doesn’t actually allow for scheduling by 3-rd party platforms but more specialised apps such as Later and Buffer allow you to prepare the photo and the caption in advance and ping it to you via the app so you can publish it on your Instagram account with one click.

 CostSocial ChannelsExtrasLimitations
HootsuiteFree (upgrades available)Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, Youtube AnalyticsOnly three platforms available on free version, same IP
LaterFree (upgrades available)Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, InstagramOne-click posting through app on Instagram, Basic Analytics30 posts only per channel, videos are not supported
IconoSquareStarts at $9.00 per month (upgrades available)Specific to InstagramOne-click posting through app on Instagram, image repost is available, Basic AnalyticsOne profile
BufferFree (upgrades available)Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn,
Twitter
One-click posting through app on Instagram, Easy to use, Basic Analytics10 posts per channel
PIXBUFFree or $4.00 per month (paid yearly as $48.00)
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Blogger, Tumblr, Pinterest, Flickr, 500px, EyeEm, YouPicSpecifically created for the easy sharing across photographs3 accounts or unlimited for the premium subscription, little customisation available for text
IFTTTFreeFacebook, Google+, Instagram, 
LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, Youtube, Tumblr
Not a scheduling tool in the traditional sense but allows for auto-tweets for new blog posts and moreNot used for scheduling custom content

Hootsuite is definitely a social scheduling dinosaur as they were the first entrant to the market and it remains the mostly widely used platform by social media specialists—but that doesn’t make it the best. The free offer is limited to one user (it will be tied to one IP address). So if you have a team that needs to access the account from various locations, the free version will not be suitable. If you have used it in the past, you might be more comfortable with it, but if you are just now looking into using social scheduling, there are many apps that are much more intuitive such as Buffer. Buffer has also been on the market for quite a few years and their free offer is quite comprehensive—the only downside being that you can only schedule ten posts per channel at a time.

If you have decided to focus your social media activity on Instagram and use other channels as complementary, your best bet will likely be Buffer or Later. If you maintain some legacy accounts on Flickr or have a 500px account, you might want to give PIXBUF a try. It was developed specifically with photographers in mind and allows for easy sharing and tagging, however the downside is that it has little in the way of customisation for the messaging, so it might make you come across as spammy on channels where snappy and engaging commentary will score you extra points. Finally, a honorary mention to IFTTT (If This Then That), a handy little tool that lets you set up automated online activity based on conditional actions. For example, you can auto-tweet each mentions of your favourite photographer or auto-post your new blog posts on your Facebook page. It’s a bit geeky, but if you’re into that sort of thing, you’ll get a hang of it in no time.

Social Media Summary

Hopefully, you’ve gained a good idea as to which will be the best social media network for promoting your photography. However, all of the networks we’ve looked at here have something to offer, so ultimately it will come down to the style of photos you shoot, your personality, and your individual preferences.

In reality though, as no two networks are exactly the same, the best tactic for the promotion of your photography business will likely be to establish a presence on more than one social media platform and then use these in tandem. This will allow you to cross-pollinate between networks, each platform serving a supporting and complementary role to the others. As all of the above platforms offer slightly different features, each will likely reach a different audience.

The key here is not to duplicate posts across different networks, but instead to use the particular strengths of each platform as a way of enhancing your message and enriching your followers’ experience. Offer unique material on each platform, and let your followers know about it via the others, and you’ll soon see people clicking through for more.

Nonetheless, if the prospect of spending half your waking life posting on social media doesn’t fill you with a great deal of enthusiasm, and even just managing to keep up with posting on a single one of these platforms feels pretty ambitious, Instagram comes out as the clear favourite right now. Given that Instagram was developed by a photographer specifically for photographers, it’s clearly going to be the most suited to promoting a photographer’s work without too much compromise. On top of that, it’s one of the most popular social networks out there. Instagram gives you access to a huge potential audience that doesn’t consist entirely of other professional photographers.

 

Final Social Media Recommendations

If you really must choose just one single social network to promote your photography business, we recommend that you go with Instagram.

For photographers willing to take on two or more networks, a combination of Instagram and either Facebook or Twitter will likely produce the best results.

For those concerned with SEO and willing to go the extra mile, blogging is still one of the best ways of promoting your photography business. Blogging also has the added advantage of allowing followers to gain much deeper insight into you and your work than other platforms will allow. Good application of SEO keywords will help your website to rank much higher in Google, but you’ll likely also need to use one or two other forms of social media to promote your posts if you want actual human beings to read them rather than just Google bots.

Finally, for those looking to make their mark in a relatively virgin territory, and possessing the creative vision to exploit its limitations, Snapchat is clearly the platform to jump on to right now. Once again though, this will need to be combined with other forms of social media in order to be of any real benefit.

Backup and Delivery

Up to now, we’ve largely looked at ways in which to use the internet as a promotional tool for your business, but it can offer other advantages too. If you’re a busy photographer with a rapidly growing archive of images, you’ll no doubt have already invested in some serious external hard disk storage in order to backup all your files. While it’s essential that you have a secure physical backup of your photographs, this alone will not make you immune to misadventure: technical malfunctions, fire, flood or some other form of natural disaster could easily wipe out a lifetime’s work in one go. For this reason, making an online backup of your photographs is a highly recommended move.

It’s worth keeping in mind, however, that even cloud storage cannot be considered 100% secure. Hacking occurs, companies go bankrupt, files ‘rot.’ In short, putting all your eggs in one basket—be it physical or digital, hardware or virtual, local or remot—leaves you exposed to considerable risk. The general advice is to back up three copies of your files, in three different formats or locations.

There’s also the matter of delivering your work to clients to consider. Sending more than a couple of low-resolution jpegs by email will likely either result in the mail bouncing back or your client throwing a fit for hogging their bandwidth. This is clearly not a practical or professional solution for the delivery of files.

While many photographers are happy to send via an FTP or use a file sending service such as Wetransfer—which permits users to send up to 2GB of information at a time free of charge (or much more with a paid account)—there are several more sophisticated online storage and viewing options which will also allow your clients to easily select and tag the images you’ve sent them. This can save a lot of time when a client needs to come back to you with their final choice of images or requirements for retouching.

In recent years, cloud storage of large data has not only become a practical reality but also an affordable one. Let’s take a look at some of the main providers of cloud storage in order to gain a better idea of their respective advantages and disadvantages with specific reference to photography:

ProviderStorage LimitRAW compatibleAutomatic backupFile sharing/sendingPhoto tagging/ratingCost
Amazon Cloud Drive
* Pay for what you use
unlimitedsingle images onlyX$11.99 per year

Dropbox1TBsome$10 per month
Microsoft OneDrive1TB1.99 per month for 50GB
Photoshelter ProunlimitedX$45 per month when billed annually
500pxunlimitedXXvarious pricing levels, from $1.67 per month to hundreds of dollars per year
Carboniteunlimitedno datafrom $59.99 to $149.99 per year
SmugMugunlimitedonly when paying extra for SmugVault extensionXfrom $3.99 to $25 per month (when paying annually)
BackblazeunlimitedXfrom $50 per month
Crashplanunlimitedno datafrom $59.99 to $149.99 per year
Zoolzfrom 7GB up to whatever you’re willing to pay foryes, but only Canon, Nikon and SonyXXfrom free to €20 per month and beyond

Other: Zoolz is more about long term file storage than making regular backups. Original files are put into “cold” storage, from where they can take a few hours to be retrieved, and lower resolution versions of these are made instantly available from “hot” storage. There is a handy RAW preview feature that makes Zoolz somewhat more suitable for photographers than other “cold storage” services.

As you can see from the above list, there still appears to be a gap in the market for a serious cloud storage platform directly geared towards photographers. Remember that this list isn’t exhaustive and new cloud storage providers seem to appear almost weekly (for example, if none of the above meets your needs, you might want to look into SugarSync, JungleDisk, Sync.com, SOS Online Backup, and many others).

Those providers that do specifically cater to photographers frequently offer specially designed user interfaces for carrying out tasks such as organising images or adding metadata etc. Such features can be very useful.

However, the majority of these providers are clearly more concerned with the amateur market, as they mostly do not allow the storage of RAW files—probably the most fundamental requirement for any serious photographer. Meanwhile, of the more professional general use cloud options that do permit RAW storage, most tend not to offer the same ease-of-use or any of the handy features that you get from the photography-specific providers.

File delivery is possible using most of the above services, however some will be more convenient or professional looking than others, so make sure that you check that a specific provider’s services meet your requirements before signing up.

Ultimately there may not yet be a perfect option for photographers, instead it will be a matter of identifying the cloud storage provider that currently comes closest to meeting your needs.

Finding Customers Online

Now that your online presence is ‘all set up,’ in a dream world, you would see client inquiries pouring in shortly after putting your website live and getting your first followers online. Wouldn’t that be nice… but let’s be realistic. It can take years to establish your reputation as a professional photographer and to build up a reliable client base that refers you to friends and family and keeps coming back for repeat business. And even then, you might find yourself fiddling your thumb during slower months. Unforunately, as with most freelance jobs, it’s the nature of the business that once your shoot is completed, you often need to get your next commission to pay the bills. So that’s the million pound question: how do you find new customers?

Here’s a proactive approach: be at the right place at the right time. Meet them on their own terms and on the platforms where they are already looking to hire professional photographers just like you. Here’s where Bidvine comes in. Bidvine connects photographers in the UK with clients looking for their services locally and we’ve helped hundreds of photographers get hired. No matter what kind of photography you offer, chances are we cover it. We receive thousands of client inquiries each year for corporate, wedding, events, portrait, product, architecture and even drone photography. What’s more, there are no membership or sign up fees—you can view client requests for free and you only pay a small, one-off fee, when you want to contact a client. If you don’t like the request details, you don’t pay. Simple.

If you sign up today, we’ll start sending you client requests straight away.

Final Thoughts

As a photographer, your online presence is of the utmost importance. Even if you possess fantastic networking skills and invariably leave every professional or social gathering with a stack of new contacts, you’re almost certain to then follow these leads up online. And they too will be checking your profile. You need to be totally confident that what they find about you online is exactly what you want them to find.

This means putting together a polished and professional looking portfolio website, ideally one that ranks on page one for a Google search of your name (or business name). It means using social media to create a strong and convincing brand image. It also means providing those contacts that you do manage to turn into clients with fast, convenient and efficient service. If you’ve read through this guide as far as here, you now know exactly what you need to do in order to make all this a reality.