Sunday, 18 January 2009

Creating photographic websites

I was reminded of my frustrations after following the TOP recommendation for Jean-Yves Lemoigne's new site. Great work, poor presentation.

I'm no expert in website design, and certainly no very little of HTML, XML and the rest but there are some basic aspects of presenting photographs that I can grasp. So here are my top tips/rants on photographic websites:

The top thing is speed - pages and images need to load fast. If it's much slower than turning the pages of a book (on a decent broadband connection) then it's slow.

Keep the presentation simple. If you really have to use Flash (which is a triumph of style over content), keep it really simple. minimal transitions, no floating scrolling nonsense. The best presentations are usually just HTML thumbnails that launch larger versions. Screen-optimised pdf works well, too. Slow sites can get dismissed after only a couple of images.

I'd prefer to be able to view the photos in any order, so fixed order slideshows can get in the way. This is especially true if you're displaying a lot of images. And on that note, keep the numbers down. Above about 25 in gallery and it starts to feel like a chore viewing them all.If you're going to display lots, the images had better serve almost instantly - I'm more inclined to bookmark the site and come back for more. I can't remember ever having bookmarked a flash-based photo ite: they're too slow and universally have annoying interfaces.

Keep image file sizes small. For Screen display (typically in the 1000x800 pixel range), jpeg files only need to be 100-200kB in size, often smaller. That means resizing and compressing the files. High quality jpeg images are not really necessary for on-screen display. If you're not sure, do a bunch of tests for image quality versus compression.

The last point is about writing. Please, have someone proof-read and edit your writing. Photographers, like engineers, make poor writers. And noone is as good a writer as they think. Spelling, punctuation, grammar and style all need checking. This goes double for non-native speakers. If your writing is littered with mistakes or written poorly, I'm going to give up reading it.


  1. Hail to that. I had the exact same reaction to it.

    As a non-native inglish speaker, I must say that prof reading must have a high priority. At least for pages that are static. Blog posts are just behind.

    When it comes to flash sites, I do not dislike them just for being flash, it is just that it seems like everyone who uses it must go way over the top. Maybe they feel they must make it look even better than java based sites or something. And speaking of. Java is my preferred solution for making galleries that actually works, and look fairly good.

    It's strange when a guy who makes such advertising shots manage to make such an annoying site.

  2. I have to add my opinion on Flash. You usually lose all capability to scroll with your mouse/trackpad and worse yet, it's impossible to email a link to a specific photo or essay, let alone bookmark it. And if you want to open a photo in a new window, forget it.

    For a site which is supposed to expose your work to as many people as possible, Flash is probably the worst solution ever.

    Anyway, just wanted to say hi and introduce myself. I found your site after searching for LX3 reviews (surprise surprise) and have been reading faithfully ever since! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on photography. It's rare to find a site more concerned with the creativity and the 'why' behind taking a photo over the technical and the 'how'!

  3. Your last paragraph on writing and editing has a typo that detracts from your overall point, i.e., "noone"

  4. Brilliant!
    I take back my comment

  5. @doonster

    right...except there's 3 other typos in the last paragraph...

  6. Thanks, now corrected (only found 2 mistakes).


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