The Ultimate Guide to Photoblogging With WordPress
Are you a photographer or a blogger who likes sharing photos on your website? Are you looking to start a photoblog using WordPress?
If so, then congratulations! You have come to the right place: in this article, I shall be taking a look at certain key points that one must bear in mind when creating a photoblog using WordPress.
1. Ok, So Do I Need To Do Any Homework?
Apparently, yes. Before you actually upload the images (and, more importantly, while you are uploading your images), you need to take care of certain points, starting with the following:
Before uploading the files, make sure you resize them to a proper dimension (which can vary on the basis of the theme you are using). Uploading photos directly off your camera, without any resizing, means you are posting your original high-resolution images on your blog — this will not only put your original photos at risk but also slow down your website owing to bigger file sizes.
Always ensure that the images and photos you upload have properly defined Alt and Title attributes. Most of the time, search engines rely on Alt and Title attributes of images to decipher their “content” and therefore, having such info attached to your images can help you get a better page rank. In fact, way back in 2007, Google talked at great length about Alt tags.
Next, it is better to rename your image files before uploading them. When renaming, though, make sure that the file names are relevant and crisp (neither too long, nor too short, and possibly including some relevant keywords). Thus, “tahrir-square-egypt.png” is better than “DSC000834983.png”. Also, instead of spaces, consider using dashes or underscores (- or _).
2. How About Caching and CDN?
Speed is essential for blogs that are rich in images and other media content. As a result, using a good caching plugin has become essential for any type of website, let alone a photoblog. A cached website can load considerably faster than one without a caching plugin and thus, for your photoblog, you must rely on a good caching plugin.
Perhaps one of the best known caching plugins for WordPress is W3 Total Cache, which can significantly improve the performance of your website. Furthermore, to get better performance and page loading speeds, you can even rely on minification.
Also, you should know that the closer your visitors are to the server, the faster your images will load for them. For example, if your website gets many visitors from Asia, having a CDN provider with a server in Hong Kong or Singapore will provide better performance as compared to relying entirely on your US-based hosting servers.
Now, since we are talking about photoblogging, Jetpack’s Photon CDN service deserves a special mention. Basically, Photon is a CDN service especially meant for those WordPress users who share a lot of images on their websites. It works with images and serves content dynamically from WP.com cloud servers, thereby providing your visitors with a faster experience when browsing your website. As of now, Photon works only with PNG, JPG and GIF formats (no animated GIFs, though). Obviously, Photon can be a really useful free service to speed up your photoblog. If you wish to know about Photon and other CDN services to further boost page load speeds for your blog, we have got you covered here as well!
3. Did I Hear “Themes”?
WordPress has several themes especially designed for photography websites. WPMU has covered them innumerable times: here, here, here and here. Naturally, you will not find yourself running short of choice with respect to photoblogging themes.
Another interesting trend nowadays is the emergence of various WP theme providers who specialize in themes meant for photographers and photobloggers. Photocrati and Graph Paper Press are two most noteworthy examples of this trend.
Beyond that, if you decide to search for a photobloggers’ theme from scratch, opt for one with neutral colors. Though this depends on the nature of your photos, a neutral color generally blends well with most types of photographs and also puts the focus on the images instead of the background design. The key note here is that good design should blend in the background, and allow the photos and content to do the talking.
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If you do not wish to go for a dedicated ‘photography theme’, the next best option is to choose a tumblogging theme. All tumblog themes come with support for post formats, and they can display images quite well. Furthermore, tumblog themes do away with the rather-annoying concept of splash pages (that some photography themes tend to retain), and help your visitors focus straight on your work.
4. Wait… Tell Me About Responsive Galleries!
Well, of course!
With the addition of the gallery feature in WordPress, it has become extremely easy for users to add multiple images to their blogs in a clean and efficient manner. However, the default gallery feature in WordPress, though really amazing, does not get full marks when performing on mobile platforms. Even if you are working with a responsive theme, the gallery layout and appearance can definitely use a bit of face-lift.
This is where plugins such as JM HTML5 Responsive Gallery come into play! Simply put, this plugin does not have much to configure. All you need to do is install and activate it, and it will replace the default gallery markup in WP with HTML5. Boom! Your photo galleries on mobile devices never looked so good, did they?
Need more info about this plugin and its performance? Check this out!
Another plugin worthy of mention here is MaxGalleria by MAX Foundry. It helps you create responsive galleries (supports both photos and videos) on your WP website. You can tweak and configure a number of options — layout, templates, Lightboxes, and so on! It integrates well with the WP Media Gallery and if you are looking for an advanced plugin to help you setup responsive galleries, MaxGalleria might be the ideal tool for the job!
However, MaxGalleria is not free — Personal License for one website comes for $19, whereas the Ultimate License for unlimited websites and Multisite support will set you back by $99.
5. Erm… Anything Else?
Yes, there are certain other things that you can bear in mind, such as:
- If you are aiming for lead generation, make sure your photoblog has some info about yourself — possibly an About page and a Contact form. If you do not wish to have an About page, you can use a widget plugin to place your short bio in the footer.
- Plus, make sure your posts have Featured Images assigned to them. In fact, most themes nowadays rely on Featured Images to grab thumbnails and previews for posts. Similarly, post captions too can serve as a good mechanism of grabbing the attention of your visitors.
- While you can argue either for or against this statement, it is a smarter choice to opt for HTML5 over Flash (oh, and a disclaimer: unlike the widespread belief, Flash is actually searchable). However, HTML5 brings various additional benefits to the table: cleaner code, easier maintenance of websites (for instance, you just need to place the URL to a video in the post), and so on. Plus, certain popular devices such as those by Apple do not support Flash either.
- Try to understand the special design needs of your photoblogging website. For instance, for a photography blog, you do not need super sophisticated and fancy images or banners in the header. You can experiment with a simple and minimal logo — after all, the focus of your visitors will be on the actual photography.
- If you experiment often with your cameras, try to provide such information along with the images in an unobtrusive manner (pop-ups are horrible, trust me). On the other hand, if you have a constant gear of cameras, and you accomplish all your clicks using them, you might as well speak about them on a separate page, instead of appending the same camera details with each image.
- Another thing that you should consider is image compression in WordPress, especially when working with JPEG files. By default, WordPress applies JPEG compression level 90 to resized images. You can, of course, change this setting if you need to. WP Answers and WP Beginner have a simple guide explaining how to accomplish this.
With that, we come to the end of this article. What are your thoughts regarding setting up a photoblog with WordPress, and points that need to be kept in mind (or overlooked)? Share your views with us in the comments below!