If your photo website isn’t performing, it might be possible that you need to make some changes. The problems begin with the fact that most photographers are using the same templates, hosts and same ideas to populate their web sites.

It’s time to consider making changes to your website if you actually hope to make it work for you.

Let’s start with Flash. While this won’t make me any friends at Adobe, Flash websites for photographers aren’t always the best idea. According to Photoshelter’s Feb, 2009 research on what photo buyers are looking for, 77% of the buyers WILL NOT buy from a site that is based on a flash slideshow. 96% get LIVID when they need to watch a website intro before seeing images.

The reasons for these feelings are many, but not the least of which is slow loading times. 50% of buyers will give up and go somewhere else if your site takes more than 10 seconds to load – that’s right – 10 seconds. Quick – go check your Website’s load time and come back. More than 10 seconds isn’t it? By the way this gets worse if it takes 15 seconds 71% of your visitors will leave.

Another problem with Flash websites is that they don’t index well with search engines like Google. If you want people to be able to find you, Flash isn’t your friend.

Photographers should also check their design. Complicated designs that are cute for cute’s sake don’t fare well. Designs that show multiple photos are preferred. Photo buyers and editors are busy. They want lots of choices and they want them right away. After reviewing the images as thumbnails, the buyers want to see larger pictures in the 700 pixel range. While some people think the higher-res image should be as large as possible, the buyers say 700 pixels is just right – this may be because the larger the file, the longer it will take to appear on the screen.

Let’s talk a bit more about design. I’ve been preaching that web sites and blogs should have white backgrounds. The reason is simple – it’s easier to read things on a white background. Black is a good second choice if you’re only going to publish photos – minus text. Textured and patterned backgrounds with colored themes are really disliked. 94% of buyers hate textured backgrounds.

When it comes to functionality – spend less time being cool and more time providing features and helpful information.

Here are some things to avoid if you want to attract buyers and editors:

1. Flash
2. Video
3. Music
4. Ads
5. Too Many Slideshows
6. Slideshows as intros

Here are some things to do if you want to attract buyers and editors:

1. Concentrate on speed.
2. Spend your energy on providing content not style.
3. Enable keyword search.
4. Have all your contact info readily available from anywhere on the site.
5. E-commerce.
6. Consistent design and interface with easy navigation.

About pricing – make it easy. Nearly half the buyers interviewed by Photoshelter said they want to get their prices online. But also offer the simplicity of using the phone. Believe it or not, hundreds of thousands of photographs were sold and licensed before e-mail over the old-fashioned telephone. It’s a great backup or second choice after e-mail.

Once you sell an image, make sure that you have the ability to deliver it online. Why is this important? 82% of buyers prefer to download the images they buy online.

Also think about specializing. How would you rate your trust factor when dealing with a person who claimed to be a brain surgeon, an auto mechanic and a master carpenter? Your credibility goes up when you specialize and you also serve your clients better. They don’t have the patience to look at all 23 of your special galleries on subjects ranging from weddings to warthogs. In fact, 67% of buyers say they will only look at six OR FEWER galleries on a website.

Be accessible. 81% of buyers said they would look for photos beyond going to the big three stock agencies. 61% said they’d use a search engine to find new images. 58% said they actively search on photographer’s websites for images. You still may face the need to show an actual physical portfolio – but these statistics show that if you’re accessible and if they can find you, photo buyers and editors will do business with you.

Not everyone will like or agree with the stuff I’ve mentioned here. But to ignore research this detailed and replace it with gut feelings will probably yield poor results.

Join the conversation! 61 Comments

  1. I’ve been telling people the same thing about flash and quick access to a site. I tell my clients that if I can’t find what I’m looking for in less than 30 seconds, I’m gone. If Google can’t find your site, it’s gone. I love technology but I’m not a teenager with globs of time to surf around and wait for slideshows.

    Secondly, in a mobile world, flash sucks. We all know it. Smartphones are being used every day to access any information from the about page to your contact page. Visitors want to see something and if I need a flash plugin, I’m gone. We should be able to at least get contact info showing up or something.

    It’s a tricky situation to be in and that’s why it’s important to get a web designer that knows his stuff. You got questions and they got the right answers. Great job Scott posting this up for us all.

  2. I don’t know much about website design. And I know this is off-topic, but…

    That is an amazing photo.

  3. One of my personal pet peeves is music on a website, especially when you don’t own it or have a license to use it. Just my 2-cents. ;)

  4. One of my personal pet peeves is music on a website, especially when you don’t own it or have a license to use it. Just my 2-cents. ;)

  5. Great Advice!

  6. Great Advice!

  7. You are saying the same things I have told web designers for years. I have been complaining recently about some of the bone-headed decisions made relating to the web site at the company I work for now. (which will remain nameless under the circumstances…)

    Speed is #1. If I have to wait, I move on. Period and no second chance.

    If music blares when I hit a site, I rarely bother to look how to turn it off. I just close the site and go the next hit I found on Google. The last thing I want is music blaring in the office — or at home after my wife is asleep.

    Flash and Frames both share the horror of making direct page links impossible. If I can’t create a direct link to return later, the odds are very high I will never return at all — and the odds I will tell someone else to go look at it are pretty near zero.

    My own personal website seems anachronistic to many. I sell videos I made in the 90’s. Haven’t produced a new video in 12 years, yet I still sell roughly 100 videos per month and show up high in Google when relevant searches are made. I opted out of flash and frames years ago, as a conscious decision for these very reasons.

  8. You are saying the same things I have told web designers for years. I have been complaining recently about some of the bone-headed decisions made relating to the web site at the company I work for now. (which will remain nameless under the circumstances…)

    Speed is #1. If I have to wait, I move on. Period and no second chance.

    If music blares when I hit a site, I rarely bother to look how to turn it off. I just close the site and go the next hit I found on Google. The last thing I want is music blaring in the office — or at home after my wife is asleep.

    Flash and Frames both share the horror of making direct page links impossible. If I can’t create a direct link to return later, the odds are very high I will never return at all — and the odds I will tell someone else to go look at it are pretty near zero.

    My own personal website seems anachronistic to many. I sell videos I made in the 90’s. Haven’t produced a new video in 12 years, yet I still sell roughly 100 videos per month and show up high in Google when relevant searches are made. I opted out of flash and frames years ago, as a conscious decision for these very reasons.

  9. Thank you Scott, this is very helpfull.

    I want to change my website into photography and was thinking about the style. I like of course some of the black-background flash websites but reconsidering, reading your article.

    What did you use for your website?

    And yes, your website is fast! Even from here in China.

  10. Thank you Scott, this is very helpfull.

    I want to change my website into photography and was thinking about the style. I like of course some of the black-background flash websites but reconsidering, reading your article.

    What did you use for your website?

    And yes, your website is fast! Even from here in China.

  11. This article is just on time :)
    I’m changing my blog’s “location” from Blogger platform, to a designed (and paid for) blog on WordPress platform.
    On my first brainstorming with the designer, the rejected list looked just like the list published here, so now I’m calm :)

  12. This article is just on time :)
    I’m changing my blog’s “location” from Blogger platform, to a designed (and paid for) blog on WordPress platform.
    On my first brainstorming with the designer, the rejected list looked just like the list published here, so now I’m calm :)

  13. Thank you for this, it is really useful information and made me think seriously about how a site would (or would not) work for buyers. Stored for future reference!

  14. Thank you for this, it is really useful information and made me think seriously about how a site would (or would not) work for buyers. Stored for future reference!

  15. I really want to second Scott’s point about speed! Even if you have a pimped out high speed internet connection (or even if you have a mediocre connection) there is no guarantee that YOUR AUDIENCE has a fast connection. For example, my home cable connection (subscribed at the slowest speed because I’m cheap) blows away the DSL connection at work because my office is near the “end of the line”!

    If you don’t have access to a LOW speed connection, PLEASE test it out with something slower (maybe try loading it on the edge network on your iphone?) The 80% of the non-techie world will thank you!

  16. I really want to second Scott’s point about speed! Even if you have a pimped out high speed internet connection (or even if you have a mediocre connection) there is no guarantee that YOUR AUDIENCE has a fast connection. For example, my home cable connection (subscribed at the slowest speed because I’m cheap) blows away the DSL connection at work because my office is near the “end of the line”!

    If you don’t have access to a LOW speed connection, PLEASE test it out with something slower (maybe try loading it on the edge network on your iphone?) The 80% of the non-techie world will thank you!

  17. After reading the Adobe part of the post, I think of the old saying is “do what I say, don’t do what I do”. I do see a bit of irony in the fact that the avianstock.com website has the following statement; “This website requires the Adobe Flash Player. You can download it free of charge here. Flash sites might take an extra moment or two to initially download. Thanks for your patience.”

    Still think this post is really good and has a lot of good points in it. I agree the SEO is not really able to be done well with flash. I add another point for searching from Google; add the keyword to your image file name, don’t just leave it as “DCS0001.JPG”, Google is more likely to index keywords.

    Cheers,

    Jon M. Cohen

  18. After reading the Adobe part of the post, I think of the old saying is “do what I say, don’t do what I do”. I do see a bit of irony in the fact that the avianstock.com website has the following statement; “This website requires the Adobe Flash Player. You can download it free of charge here. Flash sites might take an extra moment or two to initially download. Thanks for your patience.”

    Still think this post is really good and has a lot of good points in it. I agree the SEO is not really able to be done well with flash. I add another point for searching from Google; add the keyword to your image file name, don’t just leave it as “DCS0001.JPG”, Google is more likely to index keywords.

    Cheers,

    Jon M. Cohen

  19. Scott I visited your site too. I found it to be one of the fastest loading sites around. I am not sure why Jon felt the need to get snarky. I see that in most areas you follow the advice of the article. Unfortunately for me, my website is all Adobe Flash and I realize after reading this its too slow. Thanks for the piece. As always, you provide great content for free. I wonder when you sleep.

  20. Scott I visited your site too. I found it to be one of the fastest loading sites around. I am not sure why Jon felt the need to get snarky. I see that in most areas you follow the advice of the article. Unfortunately for me, my website is all Adobe Flash and I realize after reading this its too slow. Thanks for the piece. As always, you provide great content for free. I wonder when you sleep.

  21. I’m about to start designing my own website and was really excited to to read this article and get some great ideas. I was all set to learn flash – just goes to show how good the marketing guys over at Adobe are!

  22. Quite startling figures if you ask me. I wonder what web site designers are thinking if they make sites that take a long time to load or too much work to get to what you want. Really, if half of your visitors leave at 10 seconds, you’re losing out on a big portion of your market. Do they not actually get this information?

  23. Quite startling figures if you ask me. I wonder what web site designers are thinking if they make sites that take a long time to load or too much work to get to what you want. Really, if half of your visitors leave at 10 seconds, you’re losing out on a big portion of your market. Do they not actually get this information?

  24. There seems to be some misunderstanding based on a few of the snarky comments I didn’t allow to pass through – this post isn’t about my website. It’s about YOUR website and information that none of us had until this month, when Photoshelter released their study. To those who hate or love my website, thanks either way but it’s not relevant. I’m in the midst of changing some things on my own site due to the information in this report. The point of the post was to get you to do the same.

  25. There seems to be some misunderstanding based on a few of the snarky comments I didn’t allow to pass through – this post isn’t about my website. It’s about YOUR website and information that none of us had until this month, when Photoshelter released their study. To those who hate or love my website, thanks either way but it’s not relevant. I’m in the midst of changing some things on my own site due to the information in this report. The point of the post was to get you to do the same.

  26. Good points Scott,
    I’d like to share a photo website that shows they get it. Tony Stromberg is an amazing photographer and his website is fast, interesting, and even explains image quality and loading times for web users. See at http://www.tonystromberg.com/Gallery.html
    I plan to use his as a benchmark for my upcoming site.

  27. Good points Scott,
    I’d like to share a photo website that shows they get it. Tony Stromberg is an amazing photographer and his website is fast, interesting, and even explains image quality and loading times for web users. See at http://www.tonystromberg.com/Gallery.html
    I plan to use his as a benchmark for my upcoming site.

  28. Hi Scott, thanks for the post. I AM a web developer and I always recommend to my clients to stay away from Flash… sorry Adobe, nothing personal… Personally I would much rather click through images using previous and next buttons than sit and watch a slide show. I just don’t have the patience for it and they never seem to go fast enough. I also prefer to look through thumbnails and then open something that is interests me rather than having to look at everything.

  29. Hi Scott, thanks for the post. I AM a web developer and I always recommend to my clients to stay away from Flash… sorry Adobe, nothing personal… Personally I would much rather click through images using previous and next buttons than sit and watch a slide show. I just don’t have the patience for it and they never seem to go fast enough. I also prefer to look through thumbnails and then open something that is interests me rather than having to look at everything.

  30. Hi Scott.

    Thanks for posting that info! I am in the process of updating my website and was debating between white and black for the background. I guess I know which one I should use.

    Are you able to post a link to the report?

    Off to do some more work on it,

    Steve.

  31. Hi Scott.

    Thanks for posting that info! I am in the process of updating my website and was debating between white and black for the background. I guess I know which one I should use.

    Are you able to post a link to the report?

    Off to do some more work on it,

    Steve.

  32. Great post with truly valuable research. An additional argument against using Flash to present photos (and anything else for sale) is that some larger companies actually employ a policy banning Flash sites altogether.

    This is the case with one of my clients (a European utilities conglomerate). Fortunately for me – at least so far – the buyer likes my work enough to view it from home and place her order from work the next day or so.

    After reading the above research, I am seriously considering abandoning my Flash based slideshows and galleries and replace them with technology that serves the needs and demands my current and future clients have.

  33. Great post with truly valuable research. An additional argument against using Flash to present photos (and anything else for sale) is that some larger companies actually employ a policy banning Flash sites altogether.

    This is the case with one of my clients (a European utilities conglomerate). Fortunately for me – at least so far – the buyer likes my work enough to view it from home and place her order from work the next day or so.

    After reading the above research, I am seriously considering abandoning my Flash based slideshows and galleries and replace them with technology that serves the needs and demands my current and future clients have.

  34. I wonder how this applies to wedding photographers…

    I think a couple or bride looking for a photographer may have a different set of priorities than someone looking to buy images already on the site, as opposed to imaging someone make new images just for them.

    I know I’ve seen many a bride or young lady swoon over a frilly designed website.

    That said, I think it most of it still applies, esp. the part about the sites being fast, and having prices readily available.

  35. I wonder how this applies to wedding photographers…

    I think a couple or bride looking for a photographer may have a different set of priorities than someone looking to buy images already on the site, as opposed to imaging someone make new images just for them.

    I know I’ve seen many a bride or young lady swoon over a frilly designed website.

    That said, I think it most of it still applies, esp. the part about the sites being fast, and having prices readily available.

  36. Scott.. I am sitting with the problem now where I have to decide to stop posting on Flickr and start to think about getting a website together to publish my photos. Because hopping around flickr and other sites becomes a waste of time and effort. Any suggestions for free or payed websites to start out would be nice and helpfull. Thanks for a great site..

  37. Scott.. I am sitting with the problem now where I have to decide to stop posting on Flickr and start to think about getting a website together to publish my photos. Because hopping around flickr and other sites becomes a waste of time and effort. Any suggestions for free or payed websites to start out would be nice and helpfull. Thanks for a great site..

  38. Hooray for dark text on a white background!!! Much as I love DPReview, it is very hard for my 56 year old eyes to read. And sites with dark grey text on a light grey background are even worse – I leave those immediately.

  39. Hooray for dark text on a white background!!! Much as I love DPReview, it is very hard for my 56 year old eyes to read. And sites with dark grey text on a light grey background are even worse – I leave those immediately.

  40. I’m so glad someone has posted against the use of Adobe Flash in web sites. I believe whole-heartedly that it can be used sparingly within a site to add accents but the site should not be completely Flash-based.

    I also wanted to add that adding music to your site can be just as big a sin (along with potentially illegal if not licensed properly.

    Lastly, I agree 100% about speed. My parents still have dial-up Internet connectivity and there’s nothing worse than waiting for a Flash component to load, then an advertisement and then a music component just to see a small piece of information on a page. Also, keep your graphics optimized to load quickly. I realize dial-up users are slowly becoming extinct but they are still out there.

    Lastly, don’t FORCE your viewers into anything data-intense. Splash-pages, force views of galleries, etc. all make people look elsewhere. Clean, concise and quick is the best!

  41. I’m so glad someone has posted against the use of Adobe Flash in web sites. I believe whole-heartedly that it can be used sparingly within a site to add accents but the site should not be completely Flash-based.

    I also wanted to add that adding music to your site can be just as big a sin (along with potentially illegal if not licensed properly.

    Lastly, I agree 100% about speed. My parents still have dial-up Internet connectivity and there’s nothing worse than waiting for a Flash component to load, then an advertisement and then a music component just to see a small piece of information on a page. Also, keep your graphics optimized to load quickly. I realize dial-up users are slowly becoming extinct but they are still out there.

    Lastly, don’t FORCE your viewers into anything data-intense. Splash-pages, force views of galleries, etc. all make people look elsewhere. Clean, concise and quick is the best!

  42. Good Post, I have been a web developer for a long time and this mirrors what we have found to be true over the past five years. As in any tech the latest and coolest gets overused and abused to the point that the person viewing is forgotten. My rule of thumb has always been ‘Can my 80 yr old mother find her way around the site’, and “will she still be here when it loads’.
    There is a great book called Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition by Steve Krug that should be required reading for anyone who has a wedsite.

  43. Good Post, I have been a web developer for a long time and this mirrors what we have found to be true over the past five years. As in any tech the latest and coolest gets overused and abused to the point that the person viewing is forgotten. My rule of thumb has always been ‘Can my 80 yr old mother find her way around the site’, and “will she still be here when it loads’.
    There is a great book called Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition by Steve Krug that should be required reading for anyone who has a wedsite.

  44. This post seems very relevant and useful to stock or commercial photographers, however I think the frills/slideshows/music/intro stuff may be more appealing to a would-be bride than a magazine editor.

    Scott, I’ve come across a number of template sites that advertise SEO optimized flash sites ( David Jay’s showitfast.com is a good example ) Do you have an opinion on these?

  45. This post seems very relevant and useful to stock or commercial photographers, however I think the frills/slideshows/music/intro stuff may be more appealing to a would-be bride than a magazine editor.

    Scott, I’ve come across a number of template sites that advertise SEO optimized flash sites ( David Jay’s showitfast.com is a good example ) Do you have an opinion on these?

  46. I agree 100%!!! I am in the process of putting my website together and all of these are things I thought about when planning for the website. I didn’t have the statistics, instead opting for my own annoyances with photographers websites while doing research in the field and seeing what other photographers are offering. The last piece I am trying to put together is being able to have the images purchased online. Using wordpress I am finding it difficult to have a ecommerce layer AND security (access to the original images) built in.

    All in all, great write-up and I wholeheartedly agree.

  47. I agree 100%!!! I am in the process of putting my website together and all of these are things I thought about when planning for the website. I didn’t have the statistics, instead opting for my own annoyances with photographers websites while doing research in the field and seeing what other photographers are offering. The last piece I am trying to put together is being able to have the images purchased online. Using wordpress I am finding it difficult to have a ecommerce layer AND security (access to the original images) built in.

    All in all, great write-up and I wholeheartedly agree.

  48. [...] TWIPPHOTO has a post on Building Photo Websites that Attract Photo Buyers and Editors. [...]

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  52. Jon just wondering if you visited my website? The front page loads in 2 seconds. There are no flash loading signs. There’s no flash front page. There’s no flash splash page. The flash portion is ONLY required for slideshows and those are optional. My site isn’t perfect and I don’t hold it up as an example of what you should do. I feel pretty confident that I am 85-90% there. This research is new and is causing me to rethink all that I do. Perhaps you could actually visit my site before commenting on it?

  53. Jon just wondering if you visited my website? The front page loads in 2 seconds. There are no flash loading signs. There’s no flash front page. There’s no flash splash page. The flash portion is ONLY required for slideshows and those are optional. My site isn’t perfect and I don’t hold it up as an example of what you should do. I feel pretty confident that I am 85-90% there. This research is new and is causing me to rethink all that I do. Perhaps you could actually visit my site before commenting on it?

  54. Scott, I hope you didn’t take offense to my comments. (That’s not my style)

    I have visited your site and let me say that it has inspired me to improve my site. (Plus your work is great). I have a lot of Flash on my site and I totally agree that removing the majority of Flash is the right move to get indexed with Google. I know that most photographers don’t really get the whole SEO part of the web search game. I am just happy to see your post and maybe it will start to help make people more aware.

  55. Scott, I hope you didn’t take offense to my comments. (That’s not my style)

    I have visited your site and let me say that it has inspired me to improve my site. (Plus your work is great). I have a lot of Flash on my site and I totally agree that removing the majority of Flash is the right move to get indexed with Google. I know that most photographers don’t really get the whole SEO part of the web search game. I am just happy to see your post and maybe it will start to help make people more aware.

  56. Jeff it’s clear that like most things in life, the designers, and the photographers who hire them, are more focused on being cool than successful. I guess we see enough evidence that being cool is all you need to do to be successful that people don’t care. That’s why I published this article. I visit as many photo websites as anyone I know and about 80% of them start with Flash slideshows that take more than 20 seconds to fully load.

  57. Jeff it’s clear that like most things in life, the designers, and the photographers who hire them, are more focused on being cool than successful. I guess we see enough evidence that being cool is all you need to do to be successful that people don’t care. That’s why I published this article. I visit as many photo websites as anyone I know and about 80% of them start with Flash slideshows that take more than 20 seconds to fully load.

  58. Hi Susan thanks for sharing I love everything about Tony’s website except the background color – which is dark gray and makes it tough to read the text. According to the report from Photoshelter, photo buyers wouldn’t enjoy that background as much as they would if it were white. Otherwise, great site.

  59. Hi Susan thanks for sharing I love everything about Tony’s website except the background color – which is dark gray and makes it tough to read the text. According to the report from Photoshelter, photo buyers wouldn’t enjoy that background as much as they would if it were white. Otherwise, great site.

  60. Al as a developer how do you feel about the other conclusions drawn from the Photoshelter research?

  61. Al as a developer how do you feel about the other conclusions drawn from the Photoshelter research?

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About scottbourne

Founder of Photofocus.com. Retired traveling and unhooking from the Internet.

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