WordPress is the most popular content management system on the internet today accounting for more than 30% of the worlds websites.
By using WordPress you can have your photography website up and running in no time. But first there are a few things that you need to know.
Why Do I Have a Website?
Before creating a website of your own it might be helpful to think about why you want one in the first place.
There are a number of reasons why photographers have websites, these are mine:
Somewhere to host my photographs
I want somewhere that I can upload my best work. I hope that my images will inspire others either to improve their own landscape photography or to visit the Lake District.
My online portfolio acts as showcase of my best work and helps others to assess my proficiency as a photographer.
Somewhere to host my articles
I enjoy writing articles like this one, articles that are designed to help people and to share my experiences and what I have learned.
My blog contains all of the articles that I have written over the past year. It acts as an archive which I hope will eventually grow into a useful resource for any aspiring landscape photographer.
A way of selling my photographs
Photography can be an expensive business, particularly if you are as clumsy as I have been recently. Check out this video on YouTube about my broken camera gear.
Having a website gives me the opportunity to raise a bit of money by selling my photographs. My shop allows people to purchase prints of my best photos.
A way for people to contact me
My about page has a form that allows people to send me an email directly without me having to publish the address and therefore placing myself at the mercy of the spammers.
Having established why I need a website we can now address the questions what is WordPress and why do I use it.
What is WordPress?
Put simply WordPress is a tool that allows you to create a website.
A website is essentially a collection of web pages that people can access over the internet. WordPress allows you to create, update, organise and publish the pages that combine to create your website.
You can think of web pages as the ‘content’ of your website and WordPress as a content management system or CMS for short.
WordPress allows you to define which pages make up your website and what appears on those pages.
Why Do I Use WordPress?
There are a number of reasons why I chose WordPress. Lets take a look at them now.
It is very popular
According to this article published in January 2019 32% of the entire internet is hosted on WordPress. That is nearly a third of all of the sites in the world. That is an astonishing figure!
That many people can’t be wrong, it just isn’t possible.
It’s popularity has one main advantage – it is very well documented. You can find out how to do almost anything in WordPress simply by searching Google.
It is free
WordPress is what is called opensource software. This means that is free for anyone to use and even to change in order to meet their exact requirements.
I have been around software for long enough now to know that the old adage “you get what you pay for” is not always the case.
It is highly customisable
Arguably WordPress’s most powerful feature is the scope for customisation.
There are countless themes available that can be used to change the look and feel of your site as well as plugins that control how your site behaves.
Today there are many successful companies who’s whole business is based creating themes and plugins for WordPress. It is very nearly the case that what is possible with a WordPress website is limited only by your imagination.
We’ll look more closely at themes and plugins in a moment.
WordPress.com and WordPress.org
There are two flavours of WordPress – one that is hosted for you and one that you have to host yourself.
WordPress.com is the hosted version of WordPress. This essentially means that your website runs on WordPress’s own servers.
This has the huge advantage of being very simple indeed; you do not need to worry about arranging your own hosting. If you are a bit of a technophobe then this is probably the best option for you.
And just because it is a hosted solution don’t think that it is expensive. A basic account is completely free although you will need to pay at least £36 a year if you want to use your own domain name.
You can read more about the cost of WordPress.com hosting here.
WordPress.org is the self hosted version of WordPress. This means that you have to purchase a separate hosting plan from an internet service provide and install WordPress yourself.
Whilst this is more complicated it is the most cost effective. For the price of 1 basic WordPress.com account I can host many, many instances of WordPress.org using an ISP like Pickaweb.
As I already had a hosting package that I used for my email accounts and for my wife’s website I chose to manage the hosting of WordPress myself.
You can read more about the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org here.
Having decided between WordPress.com and WordPress.org it is time to think about creating some content, choosing a theme and installing a few plugins.
Create Some Content
Before you can do anything else you need to create some pages that will be the content for your website.
As a photographer you will need to create at least three pages for your website: a home page, a gallery page and an about page.
The home page is the first page that a person lands on when they visit your site. It is arguably the most important page of any website.
In order to have the biggest impact your homepage should include:
- A clear headline that explains what your site is about
- A couple of examples of your best work to grab your visitors attention
- Links to other important pages on your site
Homepage design is an art form and I still have much to do in order to create a homepage that I am happy with. I found this article very helpful when deciding what I should include on my homepage.
The gallery page
Every photographer’s website should have a gallery where they showcase their work.
Fortunately WordPress comes with everything that you need to build an online portfolio allowing you to upload your images to your site and create a gallery that can be inserted into any page.
My portfolio page consists of a simple grid of images. Clicking on one of the images loads an elegant slideshow allowing the user scroll through my best photographs.
The about page
The chances are that someone who visits your website will want to learn a little bit about you. After the homepage, the about page is often the most visited page on a website.
Here it is a good idea to include a little biography about you and even the odd photograph of you out and about with your camera. Now do you see why I take so many selfies?! 🙂
My about page also has a contact form that allows people to send me an email but there is still a huge amount of room for improvement.
The blog page
A blog is a collection of articles that share a common theme. On my website I have a blog containing articles that I have written on the subject of landscape photography.
Blogging is at the heart of WordPress. Most people think of WordPress first and foremost as a blogging platform.
If you decide to create a blog of your own then it is a good idea to include a page in your website containing a list of the posts that you have written.
My blog page contains a list my most recent articles displayed in reverse chronological order.
Choosing a Theme
Arguably the most important part of creating a website with WordPress is selecting an appropriate theme. Unfortunately that is easier said than done.
There are literally thousands of themes to choose from, each one with their own strengths and weaknesses. Finding the right one for you can be difficult but the official WordPress theme directory is as good a place to start as any.
One of the nicest features of WordPress is that it allows you to preview what your site would look like using a theme without updating the live site.
As with my photography I am a great believer that when it comes to website design the simpler the better. At the moment I am using the Twenty Sixteen theme made by WordPress themselves.
If like me your are comfortable writing code (I used to be a programmer back in the day) you might want to develop a theme of your own.
There is actually a lot of work in creating a WordPress theme from scratch so often the best approach is to create a child theme. This allows you to start with an existing theme and amend it to your specific requirements.
Whilst I decided to use the ‘Twenty Sixteen’ theme it wasn’t perfect for my needs so I made a few cosmetic changes by creating my own child theme.
Now that you have added some pages to your website and chosen a theme you can add some plugins.
Plugins are used to extend the functionality or add new features to your website. You can read more about WordPress plugins here.
There are plugins for almost anything. Want to increase the security of your website? There’s a plugin for that. Want to add your Instagram feed to your homepage? There’s a plugin for that. Want to add Google Analytics to your website? Well, you get the picture.
At the time of writing there are 54,396 plugins available for WordPress. You can search them here.
I am now going to talk about my 3 favourite plugins.
Traditionally there was more functionality in WordPress.com (hosted WordPress) than there was in WordPress.org (self-hosted WordPress). Jetpack addresses this.
Made by Automattic, the creators of WordPress, Jetpack introduces an impressive array of new functionality including:
- Performance optimisations
- Site statistics
- Like and social media sharing buttons
- Blog subscriptions
- Protection against malicious attacks
Jetpack is always the first plugin that I install.
Having gone to the effort of creating your website your are going to want to do what ever you can to help people to find it.
Search Engine Optimisation is the process of improving how search engines such as Google crawl your website to learn what it is about so that it can feature it in relevant search results.
SEO is a bit of a black art but fortunately the Yoast plugin for WordPress guides you through the process of optimising page titles, descriptions and keywords to increase you changes of ranking in search results.
SEO is new to me but I am in the process of optimising my site so that I rank for a number of key search terms. It is still early days but I will update you with my progress in due course.
WooCommerce is another plugin made by Automattic, the creators of WordPress.
Is is an all-in-one solution for setting up and managing an online store allowing you to:
- Create a product catalogue
- Manage orders
- Process online payments
For more information about WooCommerce check out this article about how I set up my online store.
WordPress is an excellent tool for managing your website. It can help you to build an online gallery, create photography blog or even to sell prints.
If you have any questions about WordPress please leave a comment below and I will try to answer them.