Designing A Photography Site Photoblogs have the very best looking content, no doubt about it. Why then can it be so hard to design a photoblog well? Surely the photos alone look good enough?

These 10 tips discuss the theme and design for the blog/gallery, and I’ll be following it up later with a post on how to organize and display the images well.

My 10 Tips for Styling Your Blog

  • Use neutral colors. When photographing people, you never know what they will wear so you use a neutral background. The same applies to your design. You need a background color that works with all your photos (e.g. The black background here is perfect against the Northern Light photos of all colors.)
  • Fast loading is crucial. Most first-time viewers will skip from one photo to the next. Their reserve of patience runs lower all the time, and even a few seconds between each image will get on a person’s nerves quickly.
  • Let your latest photo speak for you. There is no need for fancy imagery in the banner. It will only compete with other images on the page. Use a solid, plain logo and let the photo on the page sell your skills for you (Stuck in Customs is an example of image clashes).
  • Do your photos have a style? This doesn’t really apply to photography tutorial blogs or general galleries, but for photography portfolios it can be very effective. A photography style can take years to develop but once you have it, its your trademark. Can that style be emphasised by a good design? (Example: Look at the style of Mr Toledano)
  • Don’t follow all the usual text blog advice. Photos are so different to articles that not all the normal advice applies. For instance, does your blog actually need a sidebar? Text blogs normally do, but when you get down to it, what purpose does it serve for a photoblog?
  • Display camera information unobtrusively. It’s good to know the camera/lens combination that you used for a shot, but it doesn’t all need to be repeated on every page. You can simply name the camera and have link that to a certain section of your "My Cameras" page.
  • Provide an RSS feed. This seems to be lacking in most photoblogs. RSS isn’t just for articles. I keep up with galleries and even comics in my feed reader. Why not with a certain photographer as well?
  • Add post captions. It’s true that a photo can speak for itself, but why not get the conversation started? A quick one-liner about the photo and why you took the shot adds a whole new level of interest and gets the comments flowing.
  • Splash pages are dead. A lot of galleries have a splash page, but none of them are very useful. Having a large shot of your most recent image on your home page has the same effect of displaying your photography, but the user doesn’t have to work out how to enter your site (A lot of them have tiny "Enter" text, e.g. Stefan Loeliger)
  • Are monthly archives useful here? I’m normally against having monthly archives, but in a photoblog, perhaps they are actually useful? I find it interesting to see how a photographer has developed and changed from even a year or two ago. Would you agree?

Photoblogs are unique. They don’t have as many bells and whistles to fit into a design, and their content is much, much more interesting to look at. The best designs accept this fact and disappear into the background, letting the photography steal the show.

I’ve used a few examples of good photography blogs here. Do you have any others to share?

I’ll start. James Tall is the guy who inspired this post, and his own blog is well worth looking at.

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