A digital camera is more than a way to capture still moments. It's also a creative outlet to help you show others your vision and viewpoint in certain situations. However, social media might not always be the best way to showcase your images. If you were to create a pro photography website, using top-of-the-line tools, you'll have a permanent place to host your work, that's under your total control.
What's more, the process is straightforward when you use WordPress, the Imagely theme, and NextGEN Pro. Combined, you have a flexible, scalable, and professional set of tools to help realize your vision. All of this without a single line of code, and minimal technical knowledge.
In this post, we're going to show you how to use the Imagely theme and NextGEN Pro to create a pro photography website to be proud of. Along the way, we'll also show you some of the tips and tricks you'll need to make your site stand out.
Why You'd Want to Create a Pro Photography Website
The primary place many will post images is on social media. The benefits of this approach are manifold: you get to share snapshots of your life with like-minded people, and it's straightforward to do from a dedicated app. However, if you have greater aspirations for your photography, social media (and similar other platforms) aren't going to cut the mustard. Here's why:
- The social media platform will ultimately be able to use your photography without your permission in any way it likes.
- You're going to be at the mercy of 'the algorithm'. In other words, the site decides what posts other users see.
- By extension, you're having to compete against posts and content that isn't photography. Depending on the social network, your posts and updates won't be what the 'audience' wants.
- It's tempting to see all of the engagement on your posts as indicative of potential interest. However, lots of times, it's hard to take that engagement and turn it into viable attention that will benefit you. Often, the engagement you see will only exist on the platform itself, and won't follow you onto other sites.
Combined, all of the above means you'll want to create a pro photography website. In contrast to this list, your own site will give you the following:
- Complete control over how you present your site, which content you prioritize, and more.
- You can market to a quantifiable section of users, rather than a social media platform's user base.
- You get to build a longer-lasting relationship with your users, which could equate to sales if you choose to monetize your work.
If you need an analogy, posting onto social media is akin to taking public transport, rather than owning your own car. As such, you'll want to gain independence as soon as possible.
How to Create a Pro Photography Website (In 7 Steps)
Over the rest of this post, we're going to show you how to create a pro photography website, step-by-step. We'll try to cover as much as we can within the confines of the post, although there is always something new to learn!
Our first step isn't the most exciting, but is the most important – so let's begin with your choice of web host.
1. Purchase Suitable Hosting for a Photography Site
When it comes to the 'sexy' elements of building a photography site, your web hosting can seem the least important. However, it's a vital foundation for the rest of your project.
The right hosting can give you a speed boost that will impact your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in a positive way. What's more, some types of host will carry out a lot of the initial technical and preparatory work for you, such as installing WordPress. We'll talk more about this later.
The first decision you'll want to make here is which kind of hosting you'll opt for. There are three different kinds to note:
- 'Turnkey' hosting. This provides everything you need under one 'roof' to run your site, although we wouldn't necessarily recommend website builder platforms such as Squarespace or Wix. However, Imagely Sites gears its offering to photographers, meaning you'll get all of the features you need, without filler.
- Shared hosting. This is a cost-effective way to host your site, at the detriment of speed and scalability. However, it's a great way to start your photography site if you choose a quality plan.
- Managed hosting. Your host carries out maintenance on the server, so you won't need to. Also, you'll have the most flexible, stable, scalable plan available. The cost can be a prohibitive aspect, but it will be worth every penny.
Our advice is to balance out the features of a particular host, the customer support provision, then consider your money. If you make a budget-conscious decision, you can run afoul of poor quality server infrastructure and other factors that you may not understand but will affect the end result.
2. Buy a Domain Name That Matches Your Branding Goals
Once you have hosting for your site in place, you'll need a way for visitors to find you. A domain name is the address of your site that's readable and memorable unlike the string of numbers from an 'IP address'.
With a domain name, there are two elements: the label, and the Top-Level Domain (TLD). Consider imagely.com:
- The label, "imagely" is a unique, branded word or phrase that serves as the 'hook'. You should make it easy to type, say, and remember.
- The TLD is ".com" in this example, although there are hundreds of TLDs available. While some advice will note that a .com is necessary, it's far from the case. You can choose almost any relevant and suitable TLD for your site. In fact, you can find .photos, .photography, and more with high-relevancy.
An integrated system is great to use and often needs little technical knowledge. However, the trade-off is that if your registrar or hosting goes down it will take the other with it. The typical approach for site owners is to keep everything separate (a term called 'redundancy').
A fully redundant system will include elements we're not going to cover in this article, but a separate domain registrar and hosting, coupled with a Content Delivery Network (CDN) will often keep your site online no matter which service goes down.
Note that a redundant approach needs more technical knowledge, for aspects such as pointing your 'nameservers' to your host, and even setting up email. However, it's worth the effort for better site uptime.
3. Use the Right Publishing Platform
With a domain and a hosting provider in place, you have a solid basis for the rest of your site. Your next decision is to find the right platform to publish on.
If you opt for a turnkey hosting solutions such as Imagely Sites, you have no other decision to make here. The hosting and platform are one and the same, so this is one decision you don't have to make.
However, if you opt for a shared or managed host, we can only recommend one platform: WordPress:
This is an open-source, free, Content Management System (CMS) that is number one by a fair way. Let's discuss what makes WordPress the ideal platform to create a pro photography website.
Why WordPress Is Ideal for a Pro Photography Website
We don't give WordPress immense praise without justification; the CMS has a lot of benefits to site owners of all stripes. For photographers, some of these are more relevant. For example:
- It costs nothing to use, so your budget can leverage the best site publishing platform in the world for free.
- The core WordPress software is complete out of the box, although you can extend the functionality further using add-ons called themes and plugins. We'll have more on this later.
- You get to retain control and ownership of your content, unlike a third-party platform, social media network, or sharing site.
- By extension, you can choose to monetize your images if you wish, using WordPress plugins.
- There is a huge community of users, developers, and web hosts. This means you'll find products and services designed around WordPress' needs, which improves the experience for you and your visitors.
It's this last point that will be a factor over the next few sections when you begin to build your site. Before this, you need to install WordPress itself.
How to Install WordPress
Much like choosing a website platform, how you install WordPress will depend on the host you opt for. A solution such as Imagely Sites installs everything you need, which lets you begin the design process sooner.
However, shared and managed hosting won't always come with WordPress ready to rock and roll. In fact, one benefit of using a managed host is that it will sometimes pre-install WordPress for you. This is a boon, and if your host does this, you can skip to the next step.
For everyone else, you'll have different options depending on your host and its choice of control panel. This dashboard lets you work with your site and its files in an intuitive way, and you'll find custom panels or popular 'bolt-on' solutions such as cPanel.
Most hosts will include an auto-installer for WordPress, and using this is as straightforward as following the setup wizard:
In other cases, you'll use auto-installer software (such as Softaculous) to install WordPress:
The process is intuitive and will often go through the following steps:
- Name your site.
- Set up a new admin user.
- Create a database for your content.
- Link the site to a domain name.
- Finalize the installation.
The process takes a few minutes, at which point you should be able to log into your WordPress dashboard using the credentials you set.
At this point, take a look around the dashboard, and acquaint yourself with what you can do.
We're not going to go into everything here, but we will focus on the most important areas – starting with your choice of theme.
4. Choose a Suitable Theme to Style Your Photography Site
WordPress' core functionality is something you can extend. It's a big benefit of using the platform and means you can create a site that matches your vision and requirements, in many cases without the need for code.
Consider a theme to be the 'skin' for your site, although lots of times a theme will also provide other functionality too. In broad terms though, you choose a theme for its looks and intuitiveness in design. As such, choosing a theme is a key decision, because the wrong choice could turn a hopeful and quick turnaround into a slog in 'development hell'.
You can find all sorts of themes that cover a wide range of niches. Some of these are free, and you can find them within the WordPress Theme Directory:
However, a premium theme will give you better support, a greater frequency of updates, more features, and functionality, and a generally better experience all around. While there are thousands of premium themes to choose from, we want to introduce you to one designed for photographers.
Introducing the Imagely Theme
The Imagely theme is our take on what a photographer needs when it comes to a WordPress website.
There are dozens of designs available to you out of the box, that cover myriad applications, businesses, and setups.
You can use these as-is, or take the layout as a base design and use the WordPress Block Editor to create a site that matches your requirements. What's more, there is a full complement of tools to help you customize your site further, such as color palettes, typography settings, a menu builder, and much more.
How to Install and Set Up the Imagely Theme
Before you begin to use the Imagely theme, we'd recommend you read through the documentation. This will give you a taste of what the theme can do, and prepare you for some of the functionality you can implement.
However, if you read nothing else, you should go through how to install Imagely on your WordPress website. Once you have the theme installed on your system, you can begin to work on how your site looks.
5. Create a Design That Meets Your Vision
This step the one we can't give you a solid process for. This is because creating a site that looks great is down to your goals, desires, needs, and subjective taste. However, we can offer you some insight into what you can do with the Imagely theme.
Once you install and activate the Imagely theme, we recommend heading to the Imagely tab within WordPress.
This screen will show you a number of templates ('demos'), and if you hover over one you like, you can either preview or import it. We're going to import the Gridly template:
This will pop up another screen that will give you a choice to install and activate some additional plugins. These will help you match the layout of the demo:
Our advice is to activate what you need here, as this will give you the best experience. The next box will ask you which elements of the demo you want to import – the default is everything, and again we'd recommend this:
Once you click Install This Demo, WordPress will do the necessary. You'll need to wait a few moments, but at that point you can preview your site:
Our documentation on Imagely will get you through the steps you need to customize your site further. Just know that the options page within the Imagely theme is a rabbit hole you might not come out of for some time!
6. Include Relevant Pages For Your Site
While some sites only have one page to navigate, the majority of sites have many other pages that help visitors understand your photography, and provide some other 'quality of life' features.
We recommend that you set up a number of other pages on your site within WordPress after you set up your theme. Here is what we call essential:
- A home page. This is the first page a visitor will see, so it must be impactful, and feature your work. You also want to make sure a visitor can navigate the rest of your site from here.
- An About page. This will give your site a 'human' element that is often lacking on a website. It should be about you and your work and supplement the rest of the pages on your site.
- A contact page. If a visitor needs to contact you, it's a good idea to do this through a dedicated contact form, rather than social media or off-site methods.
- Your portfolio. Of course, a pro photographer site needs images, and your portfolio should contain the most. We'll discuss how to create a gallery later.
From here, you can add further pages or sections to your site. For example, you'll want to add necessary e-commerce pages if you go that route, or a blog to document news and your opinions.
The official WordPress site has a fantastic resource to help you add new pages to your site, and work with them in the Block Editor. For a one-line summary, head to Pages > Add New or Posts > Add New within your WordPress dashboard:
From there, you can use the Block Editor's functionality to build your page layout and content.
7. Add Image Galleries to Your Posts and Pages
The final step is to add images. WordPress' default setup doesn't give you lots of options to add and work with images, but fortunately, you have NextGEN Gallery to help you. Let's get straight into what this is and how it can benefit you.
Introducing NextGEN Pro
NextGEN Gallery is one of the most popular solutions to create and display image galleries on your site. It's a photography site's secret weapon, and lets you display your photos in a way that's dynamic and interactive, rather than passive and static:
When you purchase the Imagely theme, some plans will also include NextGEN Pro. This is an enhanced version of the free plugin that provides further functionality to assist you when you create galleries.
For example, you can add e-commerce functionality to your site, and there are further features that let you run your site as a business:
- A selection of gateways to help take payments on your site.
- An automatic tax calculator powered by Taxjar, for any region in the world.
- Price listing functionality, so you can include a 'menu' of your products and services that's complete and up to date.
However, NextGEN Pro is also great for those who want to enhance how images display on each page. For example, there are lots of various gallery layouts, complete with a wealth of customization options. You can also implement protection for your images, using watermarking and right-click disabling.
Starting at $139 per year, NextGEN Pro is a fantastic way to supercharge your photography website. Given that you also get access to the Imagely theme, almost everything you need to create a pro photography website is in the box!
How to Add an Image Gallery to Your Website
Before you work with the functionality NextGEN Pro has to offer, you'll want to ensure you install and activate the plugin. We have full details on how to do this, but if installing plugins is familiar to you, this part is a breeze.
Once you activate the plugin, you can jump straight in, but you might want to take a look at the options screens first. The NextGEN Gallery > Gallery Settings screen is dedicated to individual gallery types:
We'd suggest that the default options here are great to get your feet wet, but you may find that tweaking these will whip your gallery's design into shape.
The NextGEN Gallery > Other Options screen includes more technical settings, such as image resizing dimensions, user roles, and cache management:
Again, this screen is good at the default, for now, so we can look into how to add a gallery. First, head to a post or page of your choosing, and find the right location for your gallery. From here, add a new Block and choose the NextGEN Gallery Block:
This will insert the 'Add NextGEN Gallery' dialog box, and once you click this you'll come to a number of options:
Our preference is to upload images before working on other aspects of the gallery. To do this, select the Upload Images tab:
Here, you can choose to upload new images or a folder or select from the Media Library. We already have the images within WordPress, so we'll choose the appropriate option, give the gallery a name, then click the Select Images button.
You'll use the Media Library as you would in any other situation. Next, head back to the Insert Into Page section, and choose from the many different layout types. We're choosing a tiled gallery here. Once you're ready to display the gallery, click the Insert Gallery button:
While you won't see a preview within the Block Editor itself, you can do this using the dedicated Preview button in WordPress:
This is all you need to do! Once you save your changes, the gallery will display on the front end of your site. Note that the NextGEN Gallery Block includes other sections that we're not going to cover here, such as Manage Galleries…
…and Manage Albums:
However, these are intuitive and help you organize and manage multiple albums. For your first few galleries, you won't visit these pages much.
While social media gives you a quick way to reach a lot of potential admirers of your photography, it's akin to a ticker-tape parade. There's no guarantee that you'll find the right people. However, you can control this somewhat with your own website, free from the restraints of other platforms.
Throughout this post, we've given you advice on how to create a pro photography website using a few of the most popular tools. WordPress is the ultimate publishing platform, while the Imagely theme is tailor-made for photography. What's more, the NextGEN Pro plugin gives you a flexible way to display images and image galleries on your site. Combined, they're perfect for building your site and showing off your awesome photography.
Does this post inspire you to create a pro photography site, and if so, which aspect excites you the most? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!