So far in this series, we’ve looked at various ways to increase the visibility of your images, putting them in front of an online audience. And as we have seen, there are a number of ways to do this, including using a website builder service. Building a photography website is actually easier than you might initially think, so find out how to do it below.
But for those who are happy with the idea of going behind the curtain and spending time digging into the back end of a website, there is an alternative: create your photography site using a content management system (CMS).
A CMS is that which contains the content of a website and is driven by a database. This is where your images, and the relevant information to accompany them, are stored; the CMS accepts requests from a remote computer and requests the server to send the data.
WordPress or Drupal are two popular CMS; both offer plenty of customization options, so you can extend your site’s reach even further.
Although Drupal – see part 4 of this tutorial series – is the more sophisticated of the two systems, WordPress is the more widely used and will comfortably meet the needs of most users.
As the name suggests, WordPress is widely regarded as a tool for bloggers. But continual updates have extended its functionality and it is well suited for setting up photography sites.
A default WordPress site won’t do more than host a blog; you add functionality through themes (what the site looks like) and plugins (what it can do).
With around 20,000 themes suitable for building a photography website, out of a total of 500,000, you’re sure to find something that will meet your needs, whether it’s posting a portfolio, sell some of your favorite images or market your photography business.
What you’ll need to create a photos website in WordPress
- Internet access
- Images ready to download
- Development application (MAMP PRO or Laravel Homestead, for example)
- Duration: 1 day (build)
Some key concepts before you start
1. Do you host your site yourself or ask WordPress to host it?
There are two options for hosting WordPress sites – hosted by you or hosted by WordPress.
If you’d rather make the hosting arrangements yourself, download the WordPress core from wordpress.org. (You will also need a domain name for your site – visit Domain.com, Bluehost, www.123-reg.co.uk or search online for a provider.)
If you want WordPress to host your site for you then go to wordpress.com
2. Why you should develop your site locally
Developing your site on your own computer (in a local environment, using lingo) gives you full control of the process. You can build the site at your own pace, honing your problem-solving skills as you resolve any issues that arise.
3. Deploy your site to the host site
When your site is ready, you can deploy it to your host. Transferring the files to the host site and configuring all the settings can take up to a day, your photos website is now ready for its big reveal …
Create a WordPress Photo Website in 10 Steps
We use an application called MAMP to develop our site in a local environment, before testing it completely, before further deployment on a website hosting platform …
01 Define your site and choose a theme
First, think about how you want to organize the images on your WordPress site. Unlike social media or photo sharing sites, you have full control over the placement of images, so decide what theme you want first.
Go to wordpress.org/themes, click on Feature Filter and make a selection through the three category columns: Layout, Features and Subject.
02 Choose a local server environment
While you can blog at wordpress.com, we will be developing our photo website “locally” on our own computer. This way, we can choose our own custom website address and perfect the site without having to connect to the internet, before deploying it to a web hosting provider.
We use MAMP for our local server, which runs on macOS or Windows. (Windows users can also use Laravel Homestead.)
03 Download your environment
MAMP is free software, but MAMP Pro (which we are using in this example) is chargeable (£ 69 / $ 79). MAMP lets you have the essential tools for building websites in one place: Apache (the web server that serves website pages), MySQL (database software) and PHP (the scripting language) .
MAMP is simple to set up and use, but if you get stuck there are plenty of useful tutorial videos available online.
04 Configure your local host
The first step in the process is to configure your local host. (The main difference between the two versions of MAMP is that MAMP Pro allows you to configure multiple hosts – and therefore multiple development sites – simultaneously.)
Click the “+” button at the bottom of the host panel to create a new host. Fill out the information you are prompted for, including the name of your local host. We use ‘johnspriggsphoto’, standing for John Spriggs Photography.
05 Download and install WordPress
As mentioned, MAMP is an “all in the box” solution and makes it simple. To download WordPress, click on the ‘+’ at the bottom of ‘Extras’ and select WordPress.
When prompted, provide an email address and complete the other required fields. Go back to the General tab, click on the arrow and you now have a working local WordPress installation on your computer, using the default theme.
06 Now install the WordPress theme of your choice
To start customizing your site, go to the dashboard and sign in using your admin name and password. In step 1, we identified a theme that we liked and can now install it.
Follow the prompts on the dashboard, then add one of the suggested plugins that will be relevant to your site. We chose “Hitchcock,” a free theme that features mosaic galleries and easy social media integration.
Starting from the beginning, let’s customize the home page. Click Customize your site, go to Header Image and click Choose Image, then upload a photo that you think best summarizes your site.
You don’t have to have a single image: if you prefer to use a selection of remarkable shots, you can upload multiple files and switch between them on the
home page by selecting Randomize Uploaded Headers.
08 Start creating your image galleries
We will organize our images into three galleries which can be formed from individual posts: “Street”, “Travel” and “Fashion”. WordPress sites are built from “blocks”, and blocks can serve as containers for galleries.
Go to Create Post, name it, select Gallery in the block type and start adding images. When you’re done, go to the home page and refresh it, and the images will be displayed.
After you have created an article and an image gallery called “Travel”, it is time to choose the image that will be displayed on the thumbnail of the gallery home page.
Go to the right sidebar, click on Advanced, and choose a header image from one of the images you just downloaded.
We can now repeat our last steps to create the other two galleries. Once done, go to the homepage, refresh and see what things look like.
Next, let’s customize the home page menu. Click on Dashboard, go to Appearance / Menus and create a menu called “Top Menu”. Under Theme locations, give it main menu status and start adding posts, pages, galleries or links to it.
Then configure the homepage social media buttons by adding a new menu, giving it social menu status, and adding the relevant URLs. Our basic build is complete – enjoy!
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