I’m a Control Freak!

Following on from last weeks blog, Where do I build my Portfolio you’ve looked at the options of hosted sites but you have decided you want to do it yourself.

Building your own website.

You’ve looked at the options and decided you want complete control over your website but….you don’t know where to start.

You have choices, in fact probably too many. Don’t worry let’s look at your options.

First of all:

  1. You can hire someone, ie a Web Designer
  2. You can do it yourself

But wait! Even before you make this decision you need your own domain name.

Choosing a domain.

Your domain name is your brand. (What you want to call yourself and how you want to be known.) Even if you are hiring someone else to do the work for you I strongly suggest you register your own domain name. In fact, even if you are hosting your site at one of the photography sites mentioned last week, your own domain name is always a good idea.


About ten years ago, before I knew better, I found myself in the situation where the designer I had hired for a company I was with, allowed the registering company to register our domain in their name. It took several months to get our name back and then only because the designer was being nice and had other clients in the same position. You may not be so lucky.

When possible your name should be short, easy to spell and descriptive. This is probably the most important decision you will make. Remember you are going to have to live with this. If you already have an established name by all means use it.

Buying your own domain is relatively easy shop around as deals and special can change weekly.

Try any of the following:

If you have the option, go for .com but don’t be bullied into getting the .net, .info, .name etc that will be offered unless you know that you actually want to use them.

The exception to this might be if you can’t get the name you want but you can get your country. For example: your name is John Smith you try
JohnSmithPhotography.com but it already belongs to someone else, try, for example:

  • johnsmithPhotography.co.uk if you live in the UK
  • johnsmithPhotography.ca if you live in Canada

The other exception for buying multiple names is if you have a name that is commonly spelled more than one way. JaneMcdonaldPhotography.com, and JaneMacDonaldPhotography.com would be an example of this. You can have the wrong spelling set up to point to the other site.

At the time of writing You should be able to get the name of your choice for under $20.00, in most cases under $10.00. It is a good idea to add privacy to your listing but you don’t have to if you don’t want to at this point.

You do not have to host your sight where you buy your domain although this can be a good idea. (If you subscribe to the Creative Cloud domain hosting is included for up to five domains.)

Hiring a professional

There are lots of good reasons to hire someone to do the work for you but don’t expect it to be cheap and don’t expect that you’ll be completely off the hook for as far as making decision are concerned. A good web designer can be worth their weight in gold. If you’re not technically inclined and you don’t want to do the web work yourself, (and you have the budget) by all means hire someone and concentrate on your photography.

Expect to sit down and discuss, colors, styles, logos, fonts and feel. Look at sites you like for ideas. Be prepared to spend at least a couple of hours talking to your web designer. Ask your designer what he/she has done before and ask for references. (Just because you don’t like some of the sites a designer has done you shouldn’t rule them out if they have good references; their client may have wanted lime green with fluorescent pink and orange spots. Your choices may seem quirky to others too.) Don’t be frightened to get more than one quote but don’t necessarily go for the cheapest option.

Ask for a breakdown of services and costs before you start. Make sure that you will be able to change and add to your images. If you are going to sell from your sight look at the options for shopping carts. Make sure that SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is included.

Hiring a Student

No, I’m not talking about your next door neighbors ten year old (although they may be really good). Schools and collages often have students that will make your site for you at a reduced cost as part of their curriculum. Expect to go through exactly the same steps as you would with a professional web designer but expect the process to take longer. Make sure that the Teacher or Professor will also be available if they run into problems.

Doing it yourself.

I’m going to presume that if you have got this far you are fairly comfortable with the idea of either coding, using templates, including blogging platforms such as Tumblr or WordPress or using a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor such as Adobe Dreamweaver or Microsoft FrontPage.

There are literally thousands of templates that you can download for free or a small fee. Places to start looking are:

Most hosting sites also offer templates/themes as do WordPress.org and Tumblr.

With the launch of Adobe’s Creative Cloud subscribers can now host up to five websites. Depending on how many photographs you have this may be an option for you. If your subscribing to the cloud you also have access to Dreamweaver and Muse for designing your site.

For tutorials on web design and html coding try Lynda.com, Web Monkey, IWA/HTML Writers Guild, and, of course, the W3C.org (World Wide Web Consortium).

With a little research, you can find your comfort level and soon have the site you want.

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