Hacking it as a photographer is tough. Between the perils of aperture, shutter speed and troublesome editing software, getting the technical side of things right can be a mission in itself.
Not to mention the task of getting your snaps to stand out against a growing sea of competitors.
As of July 2014, there were some 194.6 million Tumblr blogs, and over 92 million users on Flickr. And that’s not even counting the amount of private photography domains or content profiles out there.
To get noticed, you’re going to need more than great content. You’re going to need a strategy.
Submitting your photos to the right website gives you the opportunity to curate, present and share your own content across key networks of prospective clients, other professionals and enthusiasts.
It’s your chance to build up contacts, uniquely showcase your work and really let your personality as a creative demand attention. This, after all, is what’s going to set you apart.
Here are the six best websites to help you do just that.
And if you take advantage of the resources they offer, you’ll find that cutting through the digital noise really isn’t so hard.
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1 – SmugMug
SmugMug’s main strength lies in its vast degree of customisable features. Content is always king, and this ready opportunity to add a personalised flair to your portfolio paves way for your individuality to take the spotlight.
With over 70 themes, easy user interface and high-resolution, full screen photo display options, there’s almost an endless array of ways to organise your portfolio.
The site is also strong on its wealth of sharing functions. For each of the photos on your profile, you can get a custom URL for each photo or text section on your page that clicks through directly to a ‘buy’ page.
You can also get a link for each photo you upload to that will let you embed it into any of your other blogs or websites.
Do you blog? Great—link your profiles. Facebook? Twitter? Same.
Be especially sure to publish SmugMug content on your Google+ profile, as it’ll help build what Google calls your ‘author profile’, which will boost your credibility when people search for you using Google.
In July this year, 445 sites in the top one million of total internet sites featured profiles or pictures from SmugMug.
2 – 500px
Like SmugMug, 500px’s user interface is readily accessible and allows for high resolution photo display. 500px may offer less customisable features, but is a hugely popular networking tool amongst professionals.
And as new networking features roll out, keeping a finger on the pulse of what your competition is up to will become second nature.
This transparency is not to be underestimated: you’ve got unfettered access to what you’re competition is doing and how people are reacting to their work.
You can see what’s popular, what sorts of things people want to buy and identify gaps in what’s being produced. And, what’s more, the site lets you directly get in touch with them.
There’s no space to by shy on the internet: reach out and introduce yourself to other photographers whose work you like, or, more importantly, who you think you might want to work with.
Perhaps they have an industry lead you could pursue, or have a particular photo you can see is generating a lot of attention? Why don’t you get in touch and ask how they took it?
3 – SlickPic
SlickPic echoes many of SmugMug and 500px’s praises: it’s readily sharable, easy to use and allows for full-screen photo display that’s easy to scroll through.
Again, you’re able to make your own customised gallery, but are able to batch upload your images from camera phone or email. You can also upload video clips, if you’d like.
The site is fairly new, having only being launched in September 2010, but has marked steady growth in its user base.
SlickPic’s secret weapon is the curation filters you can add to your page, i.e. ‘Most viewed’. This might not seem revolutionary, but labels are a funny thing.
People are instantly drawn to things that they’re told are popular, and if you organise your work with labels like ‘most popular’ then you’re directing your audience through your site by showing them that other people want to be there, too.
Supplement this with some clever social media shares (i.e. “Most popular picture on my site this week, what do you think?”) and you might just go viral.
As with 500px, SlickPic is a very social site. Visit other profiles, comment and connect with other minds in your industry. Remember: online, your profile is directly clickable from everything you do.
4 – Zenfolio
To put it simply: Zenfolio wins awards. As well as being given a spate of customisable content creative avenues—a website for your photos, a mobile website and a photoblog— page designs are minimal and allow easy organisation of your pictures.
Including, of course, high quality full screen gallery options.
Zenfolio is unique in the marketing and SEO (search engine optimisation) advice it gives you. When you build a site, Zenfolio automatically submits it to all major search engines, and offer advice on how to organise your page so as to rank higher.
You can monitor traffic to your page, and figure out what kinds of people are looking at your work. From here, you can get crafty in connecting with them.
What’s more, Zenfolio allows you to list your profile on Photographer Central, a professional photography directory from which new clients can search and contact you directly.
As well as adding ‘share’ buttons for all your social media profiles on all your pages, you can easily set up an e-commerce function on your website and mobile site for up to 500 of your photos.
5 – jAlbum
jAlbum is technically more software then it is just a website, but is just as useful an asset in building yourself a profile.
jAlbum lets you present your photos as groups of albums that you can either use a jAlbum site to host, or upload directly onto any other site on the web if you’d prefer not to use a jAlbum site to host them.
This is particularly useful if you want to pitch a particular photo project, or showcase a particular part of your portfolio.
You can add text pages to your jAlbum site, as well include a shopping cart function that lets you sell the work you put up. Like Zenfolio, jAlbum carries a bit of industry prestige, and has been mentioned in key magazines PhotoPro, Shutterbug and Photo Life.
Whilst jAlbum doesn’t lend itself to network building as readily as 500px or SlickPic, it’s an incredibly strong profiling site that really lets you get into the nitty-gritty of curating your work as groups of photos and projects, and allows you to easily share them as they are.
This degree of creative control really gives you the tools to showcase your work in a spectrum of different ways.
6 – Picasa
The main strength of Picasa is that it’s a Google brainchild, and so can be directly linked to your Google+ account. This is hugely useful in making your content rank higher in Google searches, which, frankly, is a pretty big deal.
When you publish content that’s linked to your Google+ account, it adds meat to your Google author profile. As that grows, Google begins to trust you more as a producer of quality content rather than spam, and you’ll rank higher in Google searches.
Of course, there’s more to ranking higher in Google than using Picasa, but it’s free and really will help your cause. So if you’re serious, there’s not really much of a reason not to use it.
Picasa leans more towards social photo sharing then professionally plugging your work, but is a useful additional profile to build up and maintain to gain some extra traction.
You can also create high quality picture collages with customisable colour options to craft decorative pieces you might use to head a pitch or as a decorative header for one of your other social media profiles.
Your work is more than a collection of your ideas: together you’re a brand, a personality, and one that people will need to get on board with if you want to get noticed. And armed with the curation, design, networking and sharing platforms these sites offer, you’ve got what you need to push out your work.
It takes more than just having a blog to make things happen: it will take time, effort and patience. But if you keep at it and keep adding content regularly, you’ll start to see things happen.
Monica Karpinski is a London-based writer and digital content producer. A keen arts and culture enthusiast, photography is one of the main areas she produces content for. She’s also tried her hand at amateur photography between other creative projects.
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