I have been a member for a long time on this site and after viewing countless uploads of “Fullscreen Photography Background” and other such themes, I thought Id share my opinion as a fulltime Agency Photographer who shoots everything between Fashion and Commercial to Weddings and Portraits.
Now – I am 100% certain I will offend people with this post – and it is not my intent. My intent is to tell you what the medium/high end photographers are looking for and what does not work for us either. Some of the themes help some of the people – but so many of them are impractical and will not likely benefit the photographer.
So take this with 2c and with good thought.
1. FULLSCREEN IS TOO MUCH.
Its too much. The Overlays generally do not sit nicely. It makes the site WAY too busy for your average client/viewer. It detracts from the portfolio. Clients generally don’t even look there, and it slows the site down. When integrated into the portfolio, it doesn’t work that well either for the reason you’ll read down below.
Which relates to the next point –
2. A “HORIZONTAL ORIENTATED IMAGES ONLY” GALLERY DOES NOT WORK.This is my most common gripe.
As a photographer, it is highly unlikely that every single image you take will be landscape. In fact – if you are shooting for magazines, you generally shoot portrait orientated images, not landscape. Majority of the times, you will not have a landscape image that fits that exact ratio perfectly. So what happens next ?
You have your wonderful future clients looking at pictures of cropped off headless people OR with ugly space on either side with no real purpose or aesthetic.http://themes.themegoods.com/?theme=Keres http://www.photogra.themenesia.com/project_categories/fashion/?post_type=project
While you may choose to have in your galleries containing only Landscape Images, as the design looks fantastic, I can assure you that even if we merge two portrait orientated images together – it will not look right nor will it fit.
So what about scaling it so that the portrait image sits perfectly in the middle of the page, leaving giant empty spaces on either side ?
Well, its better than nothing. But try and figure some other option out, as it does not give your images justice when it looks all scared and alone – and NOT in a designed “negative space” way. And the Ken Burns Dramatic Zoom ? For.The.Love.Of.All.That.Is.Good.PLEASE.No.
Imagine if you are looking at the someone’s website , trying to read their CV, and it automatically scrolls diagonally away – forever leaving you unable to just read the damn thing.
As a photographer, that image is our CV. We need our clients to read it EASILY AND THOROUGHLY.
3. LOADING TIMES ARE KING. EASE OF VIEWING TOO.Most of you are aware of this – some are not. On an average portfolio – there are between 10 – 40 images. They are broken up into photography genres – such as Portraits, Fashion, Retouching ETC. Anywhere between 3 to 10 categories. We “generally” do not have “BLACK AND WHITE SERIES OF BIANCA” with only 3 images. As that would mean our clients would have to click 90 times to see everything VS clicking once. One of my favorite themes were guilty of this – http://pexetothemes.com/demos/photolux_wp/#1662 I LOVE this theme, it does EVERYTHING right. Except, the loading times were so insane that It was not a feasible option. Its like watching a 5 minute Youtube AD before you can see something for 20 seconds. Its not worth it. You click away.
So while fantastic little Java thingies can do all sorts of wonderful tricks – its worth investigating faster loading options. I consulting a programmer on the above theme and he stated there would be a way for faster loading times with more code and less JS integration. I would rebuy that theme RIGHT NOW if it did.
THE LESSON : “We work on genres, not individual projects. So loading times need to be quick when loading multiple images, along with minimal clicks to go between.”
I know many of you have taken that jump and I am so glad you have.
We are on the go for 8 hours of a day, and more often than not – away from a computer but on a location. A location with the model/client, and possibly the art director of that magazine. We only have 3 minutes to get that site-up before distraction kicks in. And then, the site wont load correctly.
A photographers studio is where his camera is – and where his camera is – is his phone/iPad/Tablet Device. We need good responsive design.
5. CRAZY DESIGNS VS MINIMALISTIC
Well – this is a tricky one. Some photographers love a wild specific design, some like super clean and basic.
It can be both a fantastic or terrible thing to make something so specific that it only caters to one small niche target market. However, it might just fill a very real need in that market for good themes and web-designs ( hint : Wedding Photography Portfolios )
But on a general par – less is way more.http://test.wpworks.net/wpw_mediabook/?post_type=para_theme&p=4
Mediabook is one of my favorite themes, it handled everything very well and did so quickly and intuitively. I used it for a long time until speaking to a master-photographer and a creative director of one of the biggest agencies in my country – they stated it was too much.
Which lead me to research some of the top photographers and portfolios. (Ill post a link for references down below ). They were SIMPLE. But classy. They were open to the PHOTOGRAPHERS creative direction, not limited to the construct of the theme.
What we need is simple but strong design. Minimal and open enough to let the images make the impact. The theme is so important to how that impact is conveyed and without the two working together, it is very hard to work.
6. HAVING TO GO INTO HARD-CODING TO ADJUST IMAGE SIZES & NON-AUTOMATIC RESIZING ON SCREENSIZE WITHIN THE GALLERY
This is most commonly found in Horizontal Slider Galleries. You are able to responsively look at the site, but then the gallery images are 500px on an 30inch iMac screen – which renders them absolutely MINISCULE.
Or in the case of many themes, you have to go into EDITOR to adjust the “max-height” of the images to make it slightly bigger or smaller.
Treat us as if we were 7 year old’s, we are not always good at hunting for things like that. Maybe an option in the Theme Options Menu could help ?
7. EACH IMAGE IS AN INDIVIDUALLY MADE POST ITEM
Can you imagine trying to maintain 100 items and swapping them around on a weekly/monthly basis ? Using the built in WP Image Manager as the core Image Management System makes life easier almost 10 fold, where we can upload an image and just rearrange and the rest will follow.
Its not even an option anymore , when you start working in weddings with almost 50 – 100 images to showcase ( which, with clients these days, are more and more often what is asked for )
LIKES AND INSPIRATIONSWell, I did a poll and feedback session with a lot of photographers in all forms of photography in all kinds of places.
Horizontal and Masonry Built Galleries. Upload images to the page and it automatically generates the rest. We LOVE that.
Customization Options There are Millions of Photographers, and whatever we do, we need to stand out from the rest. While we are talking about Template Themes, the more customization one can do to a theme, the more likely we will buy it and use it.
Good Blog Design + Typography Whilst we often fail at doing this – we all secretly want to be top bloggers too. And often I have not bought a theme because the blog design is SO BAD, where the portfolio system is so brilliant. Dont make that mistake.
All those hundreds of Shortcodes you can integrate into your page/post – we LOVE those. Make them customizable in some way and we’ll love you forever.
Fast Loading Times with quick access to portfolio’s with TIDY URLS. I have 10 different clients, who hire me for different things. Some are FASHION AND BEAUTY Clients, some are WEDDING and some are PORTRAITS. What we love is to be able to send them to the RIGHT page from the get-go – aka – send them a link to www.kylegoulden.com/PORTRAITS Not some – www.kylegoulden.com/portfolio/pages123%#1_f@fashon11
And if they don’t load fast ? Well – if there are 900 photographers all contacting a place ( one model agency I work with has this in a month ) , you have to load fast and be quick.
One Big LOVE on this
I have had a theme or two where it loads images staggered. First the fastest and then loads them subsequently as you scroll across/down. It worked so fantastically well. I think it was an AJAX Image Load plugin, but I stand corrected.
Now for some inspiration and links
Now below are some links to various portfolios. These are some portfolios of some of the top photographers in the current market. Some of the sites are flash-based but can be made Wordpress and Device Friendly.http://zhangjingna.com/ Absolutely amazing and done right. Horizontal Slider with style. http://www.larajade.co.uk/ Masonry portfolio done well. http://www.michaellewisphotography.com/#/people/real%20people/1/thumbs Whilst it could stand some adjustments, it is professional and clean. His work is the key focus, all themes should do. http://www.prophotoblogs.com/ This is a BIG gripe of mine. The Theme is wonderful yet super simple. It is very basic. Look at the showcase. It is basically a blog with a wide array of customization options. Which even if you cut in half would be nice. BUT THAT PRICE ? No.
Almost EVERY Wedding Photographer has that theme – I would too if it were more affordable. And all that it does, is be customizable and SIMPLE.http://www.missaniela.com/ecology Very simple, yet effective to create a strong impact. http://melissarodwell.com/album.php?id=11 1. That URL is NASTY. 2. It loads too long. 3. Aside from that – the look and functionality is quite wonderful.
That is the core of what we as the some of the photographers you make themes for – what to say. I will be updating, rewording and adjusting this topic with new insights and ideas as time goes on. Id love feedback as to what YOU have to say and whether you agree or disagree. I will also be rewording some sections as I am sure some of them can be articulated better.
All the themes I have mentioned, I have personally bought and played with, and I have to state that I personally LOVE them. I have spoken to many of the authors and whilst it may sound like I dislike them, I am merely pointing out areas where all of these themes can improve – which means happier customers and more sales for you.
This is my current theme – www.kylegoulden.com While it is super-basic, free and has some interesting customization options, it lacks that design edge that could make it so much more. BUT. It has helped me get some huge clients, by fulfilling all the above prerequisites. I would love to see an advanced version of this one day.
Fantastic post. This level of insight is golden and I appreciate you taking the time to write this.
Fantastic post. This level of insight is golden and I appreciate you taking the time to write this.
Paul - I am pretty certain that there are many places I can go in deeper and possibly word better, but I appreciate your support and I sincerely hope this helps all those awesome designers and coders out there.
I for one really want to find “the right theme” that will help me showcase my work best, and I have no doubt it will be found here.
Thanks for the support again !
Kyrelimit, thanks a lot for sharing your opinion. I mostly focus on the creation of photography themes because this is something that I’m passionate about and your post will definitely influence my next design. Even though I agree with all the points, every photographer needs something unique, therefore it will be quite hard to please everyone (yet your feedback is of enormous help).
Pixelous - I hope it helps !
MihaiMarcuta- Of course ! 100% and by no means is this the gospel or the only way. But what I think the common line is – there are some things to avoid, and often, if you can help the photographer in that you layout customization options for the user to play with, you will be 100% on track.
Keep up the epic work and thanks again for the support.
First of all, your post is invaluable to all Themeforest developers!
But I just wanted to point out one little thing – you just can’t say that $199 is a “NO”. A custom made site would be with three zeros, maybe even with four. And those zeros determine the uniqueness and functionality of a site. It is very hard to please everyone with a commercial theme, but as I said, your post helps a lot.
Again, thank you!
Hiya Kris !
You’re 100% spot on – and maybe I need to reword that to make my point – which is this. The theme does not warrant anything more than what the wonderful developers on Themeforest do. I cannot see any more VALUE to that theme over the multitude of themes that are on this site – aside from a wider customization array.
Which is my point - Giving the user the ability to customize the theme more, allows them the ability to define themselves and their brand in a way that no “super”specific” theme could. Unless the theme is precisely in-line with their brand – which means HUNDREDS are not.
Thanks for your feedback and I hope we can develop this article into something that is truely fair and informative.
Hey Great stuff. @Kyrelimit As for the http://zhangjingna.com/ this is made in flash just right click the slider. Same goes for Michael Lewis Photography. the menu on this site is broken. Missaniela site is cool but i do not think it would get excepted on TF. Mellisa Rodwell is ok.
Now check out this link I have been working on this Photography template. with a lot of options but unfortunately it’s not WP but it could be converted. The template is not 100% complete just for an example.
Check it out and let me know what you thinkhttp://lementstudios.com/photography_template/index.html
Yes, most of those sites are FLASH based, but what draws me and clients of mine in – is that simplicity and ease of use. Zemotion / Zhang Jinga’s site being one of those key ones to show this,
That sidebar could be made with JS, the screen and menu positioning could be coded, the left side area could be widgetized footer area of the page.
Same with Michal Lewis’s site. Yes its flash, but can it be done in WP/HTML – of course. I’ve used sites that are close to that, but not quite on the ball.
As for your site – if I am brutally honest – kinda does most of the do-nots on the page.
1. “Fullscreen Background Image” is not something photographers generally can use, as it overshadows the portfolio. 2. The actually gallery layout doesn’t allow Portrait Images – BIG no. 3. The Ken Burns “dramatic pan across images” effect on the gallery one items doesn’t allow the viewer to READ the image. This is our CV, we need them static. Its nice if you have the option of using one in a page, but not as the MAIN portfolio. 4. The little thumbnails on the side doesn’t translate into a professional website.
It could work fantastically well if the background was a pure color – ( maybe an option ) and the gallery was more of the focus of the page. Its our main focus to show that off, and not in a little cramped box.
I think from a photographers point of view, I would’nt be able to use it. Maybe as a design portfolio, it could work, but No one could just see MY images nicely spaced, clearly and easily.
Like I said earlier – I hope this doesn’t offend as that is not my point. My point is to share the views of photographers and what we REALLY need and what we do not. Ultimately, you will have more sales, and we will have better sites. Its a win-win