WordPress is the most widely used content management system for websites. The ease of use, flexibility, availability of third party plugins to extend features, e-commerce options, constant security and core feature updates and all round versatility for a broad range of requirements have made it an extremely popular platform for businesses of all types. And it is especially good for the broad range of requirements photographers could need.
I personally operate and host very close to 500 WordPress websites for my own businesses and also for my clients (yes seriously – some days I ask why I would do that to myself too 😝). I have a lot of experience in managing, developing and operating WordPress websites and have helped many photographers get their businesses online using it.
Out of all of the content management systems and other website platforms I have used I have no doubt that WordPress offers the largest feature set and opportunities to continue growing and building your website to suit your requirements over a long period of time. WordPress can be used in the simplest of website requirements all the way up to the largest of e-commerce and blogging solutions.
But there are some things you need to consider including security, search engine optimisation, ongoing updates and maintenance. Let’s take a look at some WordPress website tips and plugins for photographers. This article is probably targeted at photographers already using or in the process of planning the development of a WordPress website. In each of these tips I will recommend a third party plugin, websites or external resources that will help maximise the potential of your photography WordPress website.
WordPress website hosting for photographers
Hosting for your WordPress website is one of the most important things to consider. WordPress offer two options for their core products – self hosted (WordPress.org) and hosted (WordPress.com). I highly recommend using the self hosted option for future proofing your website and giving you much more flexibility in how you can use it.
When choosing the self hosted version there are a few things to consider. Firstly you will need to get yourself a domain name and a web hosting account. You will also need to either know how to install the core WordPress installation, or select a web host that uses an application set like Bitnami to automate the WordPress installation on your chosen web hosting account.
Hosting provides the backbone of your website. Not all hosts are creates equally. For the average photographer a standard hosting account or even a shared VPS will be suitable. But depending on your traffic requirements and number of websites you intend to operate a dedicated server may be a better option. You will need to consider the amount of bandwidth and traffic capacity your web host will allow you to use.
Domain name registration – Godaddy.com
Australian WordPress Web Hosting – Digital Pacific
A guide to choosing a WordPress web host – http://www.wpbeginner.com/wordpress-hosting/
WordPress themes for photographers
Unless you are a web developer or intend to use one to build you a custom theme, the quickest and cheapest way to get a WordPress website up and running is to use a pre-built third party photography theme. Themes provide the overall look and feel that visitors will see when visiting your website. They also provide part of the back end management interface you will use to populate and format your content.
There are too many WordPress photography themes available to even begin to count. Themes can be purchased for anywhere from $20 upwards. I would expect to pay $60 – $100 for a well built theme that offers the majority of base functionality a photographer will require.
Over the past couple of years there has been a big move in the WordPress development community towards using and building interfaces like Visual Composer which offer drag and drop functionality and a very simple way of implementing features into the look and feel of your website. This makes the process much easier with minimal coding requirements to customise your photography website. Also look for theme that come with some form of image gallery functionality that is already pre-built into the theme. There are plenty of image gallery plugins available, but quite often additional styling and coding may be required to incorporate it into the look and feel of the rest of your website.
Photography WordPress themes – https://colorlib.com/wp/photography-wordpress-themes/
More WordPress photography themes – https://athemes.com/collections/best-photography-wordpress-themes/
WordPress e-commerce for photographers
The ability to have e-commerce functionality in a WordPress website allows photographers to monetise their images, prints, workshops, tutorials and many other commercial ideas very easily. There is a bit of a learning curve to maintaining and setting up most of the major e-commerce plugins. One of the obvious things you will require is some form of payment gateway such as PayPal or other credit card processing system to be able to receive online payments.
I have personally used most of the major WordPress e-commerce solutions across different projects and generally recommend Woocommerce. But beware – the functionality can be quite complex to initially set up especially when you have variable products such as photo prints that come in different sizes or print types. But once it is up and running it is quite simple to roll out new products and other revenue generating opportunities. The add-ons for shipping, product management, analytics and other additional functionality make Woocommerce the go to option in my opinion.
Recommended WordPress e-commerce plugin – Woocommerce
Recommended compatible e-commerce solution – Shopify.com
WordPress search engine optimisation for photographers
Once you have a WordPress photography website getting traffic to it is a key factor to helping you grow your business. Search engine optimisation is the process of making your website visible across as many keyword search terms as possible.
WordPress is generally considered a great platform for SEO requirements. The core WordPress installation will require some plugins to help generate some of the required tags in the code and to make the process of optimising your photography website content easier. There are also plugins to assist in “minifying” (compressing) your CSS files and generally assisting in page load speeds and monitoring of your incoming traffic. Below are the plugins and resources I would recommend as a starting point.
Recommended WordPress SEO Plugin – Yoast SEO
Recommended Google Analytics Plugin – Monster Insights
Recommended Photography SEO resources – Project RAWcast Episode 18 : SEO for photographers
WordPress photography image size optimisation
Slow websites offer a bad user experience especially in mobile devices. Getting your images to load quickly is going to be a key element for not just user experience but also for SEO. I would recommend getting your images below 200kb / image and even less when possible. Even at this size, when there are a lot of images this will impact your load speeds substantially. Saving your images properly to begin with is a good start. The addition of a good WordPress image optimisation plugin that runs automatically after uploading your images and compresses them based on a set of algorithms that run in the “cloud” is also something I recommend.
WordPress Photography Image Optimisation Plugin – EWWW Image Optimisation
Guide to saving images for online use – http://enviragallery.com/how-to-optimize-your-images-for-web/
Website page load speed test – https://www.webpagetest.org/
WordPress Email Lead Capturing Forms
So you are getting traffic, creating awesome content, hosting workshops and other events and maybe even creating online photography tutorials. Being able to instantly tell people about all of this awesome stuff is going to assist you in generating long term traffic and revenue for your business.
An often overlooked marketing opportunity are email lists. With the shift to social media marketing many photographers have neglected the potential that capturing email leads can offer. There are so many great email list management platforms like Mailchimp, Campaign Manager and Get Response.
It is very easy to implement forms from any of these services directly into your website, but I highly recommend using forms that are independent of these platforms to get around the double opt-in requirements many of them have and take full control of where and how you can use your email database. If you capture email addresses within WordPress via a single opt-in method you can them import them to whichever platform you choose to send your email marketing campaigns.
Recommended WordPress Email List Plugin – ConvertPlus
Recommended Email List Platform – Mailchimp
WordPress security / Firewall / CDN for photographers
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, security for your WordPress website is a very important thing to consider. Because of it’s widespread use, and the fact it is built on a scripting language (PHP), hackers specifically target WordPress for a number of reasons. The most common reasons are to install their own scripts to send bulk emails or to host files that perform automated brute force attacks on other websites using the resources of your server / hosting account.
I know this sounds a bit scary and worrisome to inexperienced website developers. And I am sure you would prefer to be focussing on your photography than worrying about whether your website is secure. But it doesn’t have to be scary or complex. Securing your WordPress website is quite simple once you know the major entry points and methods that are being used to compromise them. There are plenty of plugins available to lock down the log in forms, to secure and protect the directory and file structure, prevent the ability to upload or execute scripts and lock down core components of the website to very specific devices and IP addresses.
I highly recommend using a third party firewall service and content delivery network to protect your website from unauthorised access. A firewall (also known as a Web Application Firewall) will effectively ensure that the traffic requests you are receiving are genuine requests. Anything that is seen as an attempt to access files in a way that is not a genuine web page request will be filtered out and blocked. There are a lot of different firewall providers and from my personal experience Sucuri does an excellent job at protecting your website from malicious traffic for a very reasonable price.
Recommended WordPress Web Application Firewall – Sucuri.net
Sucuri WordPress Plugin – https://wordpress.org/plugins/sucuri-scanner/
Wordfence WordPress Plugin – https://www.wordfence.com/
Login Lockdown WordPress Plugin – https://wordpress.org/plugins/login-lockdown/