Photographer’s Corner: An expert look at customization

July 16th, 2013

An Expert Look at Customization By Shari Warren

The lion’s share of a photographer’s time is spent shooting and selling photography. With this in mind, it’s imperative that you have a strong website to display your photos to your existing and potential clients. You work hard to make sure that your photos capture your unique and creative vision. Now ask yourself, does the design of your website look individual and professional? Does your website really showcase your photography, making a viewer say wow?

Start with a theme

As a designer who helps Zenfolio users perfect their website customizations, I look at the best ways to highlight a photographer’s work in a unique and interesting way. One method is to create a theme that includes coordinating colors and fonts, a well-designed logo, and layouts that maximize the beauty of your photography. With all of these elements in place you can truly make your Web presence more impressive and powerful. For a real wow factor, whether you want a simple, modern, or more decorative look for your website, you can create a custom look based on colors and elements found in your photography. Let’s look at a few examples.

Dive in, or up

Abdulla Al-Mehairi specializes in underwater photography. With my assistance, he created a website theme that highlights the sea colors found in his photos. With this design viewers experience his adventures of diving and shooting that capture his unique images of sea life. Using a photo of himself in action as a background image really makes viewers feel like they are on an underwater journey as they view his photographs.
Skydiving photographer Norman Kent specializes in aerial photography. In his case it was an easy decision to use one of his amazing sky photos taken during one of his aerial sessions as a custom background image. Again, viewers are taken on a journey from Norman’s point of view, high in the sky, as they view his amazing photography. If adding a background image like this will enhance the experience of your website, take a look at this page for instructions on how to accomplish this with a custom theme.

John Hilliard shoots a variety of images for both personal and commercial clients. John’s photography has an artistic point of view, and he wanted a website theme to complement his aesthetic. Using one of his landscape photos with an extreme blur effect applied creates a background image showing variation in tone and texture. Another way that he has made his site design stand out is with a unique logo that includes a low opacity portrait of himself with a camera. A memorable logo like this can really help to set a website apart from the pack. For info on how to use a custom logo with a Zenfolio website, take a look at the instructions listed here.

Fine art photographer Susan Brown specializes in images of the sea and pools. Her photography is very bold, yet quiet. A minimal white theme was a natural choice for her. Displaying Susan’s photos as large as possible on her Zenfolio site using the XX-large display size gives her photography maximum impact. If you want to try this display size on your website, check out the easy instructions for changing display size here.

Play with texture

Robert Cornett is a fine art photographer who loves to shoot with his iPhone. His photography has a nice urban edge with lots of texture. Rather than go with a solid color background he used one of his own photographs that had an irregular pattern as the  custom background. Taking out the color and applying tone to this pattern gives the background image a lot of texture and depth. After mocking-up dark to light variations of this background, Robert decided the dark gray version was the one to really showcase his photography. His logo also features a simple and edgy version of his iPhone with his initials. If you are interested in uploading an image from your smart phone to use as a custom background, check out how to do this with one of the available mobile apps.

As a portrait and wedding photographer, Lee Price wanted a handcrafted vintage scrapbook feel for the branding of her website. Using a custom background of aged paper with a white border around each photo truly achieves this charming look. Lee’s custom logo featuring a small irregular piece of paper with tape also gives her website homepage a subtle dimension.

Explore layout options

Works In Print is a company that specializes in rental exhibitions of artwork and photography for commercial, private, and public spaces. It was important to the company that the look and feel of its website was consistent with its printed marketing materials and brochures. Works In Print chose to showcase its clients and testimonials as overlays on the photos for its homepage slideshow. Custom pages within its site design also show slideshows with type overlays and a background photo in monotone of one of its most popular images. Even the thumbnail images in its galleries are all the same size with type overlays, giving its website a sleek and professional look.
To maximize the dynamics of its homepage slideshow, Sol to Soul Photography has chosen to display related photos in a collage format. This look can be achieved by creating a collage image in a program like Photoshop. For more information on how to configure a homepage slideshow, please see the instructions on this page.

Try different ideas

Now that we have taken a look at a few ways to make your photography website unique, take a fresh look at your own photography and website. Think about using a graphics program such as Photoshop to experiment with different background ideas based on your own images or textures. Create mock-ups of your website with different backgrounds and see which of these really showcases your photography and point of view.

Once you have the perfect background to showcase your photography you can upload a JPEG or PNG file right into the Zenfolio Theme Designer. From there you can build a custom color scheme for all your website elements. This includes things like text, borders, links, and buttons for a truly color coordinated custom website theme. You will also want to be sure to apply your theme to all your website pages and galleries for consistency. Consider trying some type overlays for your slideshow images and even create your own unique logo.

Customizing your website does take some time and patience. If you find yourself to be a better photographer than a graphic designer, or are just too busy running your business, consider using the services of a professional designer. With their help you can create a custom theme for your website that will better showcase your unique photography. Whether you decide to do the work yourself or hire help, making the commitment to have a well-designed, professional looking website is one of the best business decisions you can make. You might even make yourself say wow!

Shari Warren of Warren Creative Design not only helps Zenfolio users with their websites, she is a very accomplished illustrator and artist. Her charming and whimsical artwork has been featured in magazines, children’s books, calendars, greeting cards, on coffee mugs and more. More information on her design services is available here: