But sometime around the late 2000s, things began to change. With the advent of smartphones and social media came apps and new content platforms. Blog posts, video, and images were no longer tied to a static URL—they could be shared, uploaded, and repurposed on places like Facebook, Tumblr, and YouTube.
Simultaneously, search engines improved their algorithms to index online conversation in real-time. More and more people started browsing the Internet through their mobile devices. All-inclusive publishers and ready-made alternatives like Medium, Squarespace, and WordPress rose in prominence. Simplified site-building tools gave access to an influx of late technology adopters who drove up hosting prices, increased competition for traffic, and spurred a shift in web design toward even greater automation and convenience.
In short, the Internet no longer resembles its former self. And, as a result, a website just isn’t the valuable piece of digital real estate it once was.
I won’t venture to declare websites “dead,” per se, but it’s time we recognize their obsolescence. For many independent photographers, the cost–benefit analysis has shifted to a point where running a website is no longer a necessity, or even profitable.
That’s right: it’s 2016, and you don’t need a professional photography website. Let that sink in. It’s kind of a relief, isn’t it? Here are 13 reasons why:
You’ll Save Money
Hosting, design, and troubleshooting are significant expenses—especially for a self-employed photographer, who may be dealing with hundreds of high-resolution images at a time. Even if you’re only paying, say, $5 per month, that’s money you could be saving toward marketing and production, not to mention better equipment.
There are also costs associated with design and maintenance. Solopreneurs often have to depend on web designers to tweak and update their websites when a feature needs fixing or a page is out of date, and those hours add up.
You’ll Save Time
And then there are the hours it takes to load those high-resolution images onto your site. How many days have you
wasted spent re-uploading, resizing, and rearranging your portfolio; or chasing down whatever misbehaving plugin or line of code is breaking your design? And if you work with a web designer, how long do you typically have to wait for even minor changes to take effect?
Your Online Presence Won’t Go Stale
Websites show their age at a faster rate than they used to. It isn’t just an aesthetic issue, but a usability problem as well: consider how once-ubiquitous software like Adobe Flash causes old sites to crash. As trends evolve, browsers update, and devices change, you may find yourself scrambling to keep pace or risk falling behind the times. In other words, the Internet’s ecosystem is already killing your website for you.
Good Content Shines Everywhere
Fortunately, it’s not killing your content. Between Reddit, Imgur, Instagram, Tumblr, Flickr, and Facebook, original photography thrives on the modern Internet, finding new fans and earning praise and feedback from communities large and small. Audiences are always hungry for new content, but they’re probably not Googling your website to find what they’re looking for.
It Doesn’t Stop Unauthorized Use
While it’s true the sites enumerated above sometimes enable users to steal or misuse photography, your website can hardly discourage copyright infringement regardless. There are plenty of ways visitors can get around security measures, and methods of recourse are unreliable and expensive.
There Are Smarter Ways to Reach Your Target Audience
If you make your living as a photographer, unauthorized use may be the least of your worries. Most likely, your chief concern is getting people to find and stay on your site. This is a fundamental flaw in website design: it hinges on others coming to you, rather than your content reaching them where they’re already active. Even if you have a killer website, you still have to optimize it for search, and few solopreneurs can afford a professional SEO team.
Websites Are Slow
Remember those pesky high-resolution images? They’re also crippling your website’s speed. For every second it takes a page to load, a portion of your audience is losing interest and closing the tab. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Hosting Facts, 40% of web users will abandon a website if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load.
Websites Are Clunky
Another reason you’re losing traffic: websites are a pain to navigate. Since there’s no real universal law for web design—only best practices—websites can and do look like anything, frequently ignoring accessibility and usability standards—which, in turn, are constantly developing and may be difficult to implement.
You’ll Have More Time for Social Media
Think of all the time and energy you’ll have by forgoing a website. Now, imagine doubling your social media output. With Instagram alone commanding 400 million active users’ worth of monthly traffic, and offering tools to target your audience by location and interest, your social accounts are probably worth more attention anyway.
You Won’t Have to Worry About Mobile Optimization
Plus, social networks are built for mobile users. A website, on the other hand, might need a complete overhaul to look good on a mobile device. Even then, it could be rife with glitches and would still require an update whenever new consumer technology hit the market
…Or Keyword Optimization
The idiom “A picture is worth a thousand words” has never been more true than in the context of keyword optimization. If you’ve dipped your toes into SEO, you know how much effort it takes to fill each page with relevant verbiage: How many different ways can you say “wedding photography”?
In theory, ecommerce is a great idea for an independent photographer or photography studio. In practice, however, setting up a shopping cart and determining charges—after factoring in international buyers—is a bewildering and shaky process. Then, after you’ve put in all that work, no one visits your site because it’s not optimized for search or mobile, loads slowly, looks outdated… You get the idea.
There Are Plenty of Better Alternatives
Aside from social media platforms, there are countless existing sites for photographers to show off their portfolios and book clients. Check out 500px, Zenfolio, and Format to see some of the most popular options. Bloom offers one solution with a ton of upsides: our platform allows photographers to upload their portfolios, list their rates, build service packages, find clients, track their progress, get paid, and basically do everything they could do on a personal website—and more—without the overhead.