Wednesday, 16 April 2014

A Web Gallery

I have been designing a website to display my work. I was aware before starting that many photographers are trying to get their work 'out there' as well. Therefore I decided I would try to make my photography web gallery look captivating yet minimal, at least in the way it was presented.

   I have been scrutinising other photographers' websites (some famous and others not so well known) and I have tried to take what I considered the 'best' elements from each site and incorporate it into my own design; refining them where possible. It would be worth noting that while I primarily was visiting these websites for ideas concerning presentation, I often ended up coming away with inspiration regarding what kind of content/categories would work best in my own web gallery. For example: http://www.chrisgloag.com/2012/#/HOME (accessed 10/1/2014), incorporated a comprehensive content sidebar and an appropriate set of categories. The content (much of which I hadn't previously considered) would include: ongoing projects (rather than just separate photographs), contact details, links to this blog, an 'About' page and possibly older projects. The categories I intended to include  myself would be: portraits, seascapes, night landscapes and nature.

   In terms of navigation, I would endeavour to keep it as simple and uncluttered as possible. This was a key principle resonating in the guides to building a photography website, which I had also been reading online. For example, http://blog.photoshelter.com/2011/01/10-secrets-to-successful-online-photo-portfolios/ (accessed 10/1/2014) stated: 'Your photos are supposed to be the star of the show, so don’t clutter it up with useless design elements'. Starting from one of the most fundamental parts of the website, the theme, I decided a light theme would work better for my usage than a dark one. This was because light themes had the quality of minimalism and were also passable for looking at a variety of images/text for longer moments. In contrast, dark backgrounds were in my opinion more impactful for landscape images. For example: http://www.joseramos.com/ (accessed 10/1/2014), was an example of a nature/landscape photographers' website, which I thought worked very well because of the content it displayed). However, I felt since there was a fair number of my images that were not landscapes, a light theme would work better overall.

   One tip I found was not to use 'pure' white as the background with 'pure' black text for the content (or visa versa) but rather something in between. This was so that looking at the website didn't strain the prospective viewers' eyes: 'The first basic rule is to never use pure-white/black on the opposite color.' - http://www.1stwebdesigner.com/design/introduction-dark-website-design/ (accessed 8/2/2014).

   I also preferred an automated navigation system (but with a slideshow only for the home page) so the viewer was encouraged to enter  the rest of the website. Many photographers' websites followed this design trait on their homepage - a couple of examples being: http://www.tunaonder.com/ (accessed 20/1/2014) and http://simoncroberts.com/?homepage=1 (accessed 8/2/2014). However I would probably use a slow-changing slideshow speed just because in my experience the photographs had the habit of changing just when I was beginning to grasp a certain photograph's allure.

   So far as displaying the images was concerned, I imagined a simple gallery, featuring large, unchallenged photographs once opened. One reason for this was I felt, generally speaking, detail was a strength of my photographs and so a large displaying format would help to show this off. A layout trait of the website, backing up these large-displayed photographs would be that it featured generous amounts of 'white space' - a website design term that basically consists of how much 'empty' space there is between each element of the layout of the page. I read about this in an online article: http://webdesignledger.com/tips/whitespace-the-underutilized-design-element (accessed 10/1/2014) and was sure it would be a key feature to keep in mind. If I could try to make sure of sufficient white space between important parts, like the header and main photographs, I felt I could have an aesthetically pleasing website layout.

   Another website I looked at was an environmental portrait photographer's called Jonathan Bielaski (found at http://www.jonathanbielaski.com/ (accessed 8/2/2014)). While I would like to have more image separation than Jonathan Bielaski's homepage contained, again the white background seemed very professional and a good navigation system had been implemented.

   Finally, the last website I made notes about was the photographer Thomas Struth's (found at http://www.thomasstruth32.com/bigsize/index.html (accessed 8/2/2014)). With Thomas Struth's website I was impressed by how clean it looked but wasn’t too keen on the navigation system. On one hand I was inclined to look at each photograph for a longer moment because of the navigation system, where you had to click on the image itself to get back to the set. For my tastes though I would prefer my website to have a filmstrip for the relevant photos of the set beneath or behind the current selected image within the set.

   After implementing these points as well as I could I now have a web gallery up and running, with the url of: www.johnathanhallphotography.co.uk

   There still exists elements of the web gallery I would like to make more comprehensive or streamlined: for example the 'Portraits' section of the gallery could be bolstered considerably for content and the web gallery could be a bit more polished in terms of loading times for photographs and display quality on other media devices.

   However, I was pleased with the navigation within the different genres and I felt there were a few nice touches like the textured backgrounds so the viewer wasn't looking at pure white backgrounds and the sharing options evident could potentially increase the traffic to the web gallery.