Laying the groundwork
I've been spending some time over the last few months developing a new website. As I wrote in a recent post:
I tried using some budget-priced website creation software, but the results were no better. Then several people recently mentioned Squarespace as a good, affordable web-hosting service, with easy-to-assemble "wizardized" templates. They were right. I signed up for the free trial earlier this week, and it took me about three days to create something that looks a hundred times better than my own best previous effort, and is a thousand times easier to update. You can see it here at mike-chisholm-photo.squarespace.com. It's still under development, but I'm more than pleased with the advanced state it has reached so quickly.
Those previous months of work were not wasted, however. Because I knew what I wanted to achieve, and had already done the basic organizational groundwork and prepared sets of web-ready images, the hard part was already done. Obviously, it also helps to have a substantial body of work already edited and sorted into series and sequenced in book form, and to have recently gone through the agony of selecting your best work for an 85-picture solo exhibition. All I needed to do was put it all together, making basic guided choices about layout, navigation, and functionality. In the end, a photographer's website is a common sort of web application with well-understood requirements, so my needs were easily met by Squarespace.
As I explained to one of its early previewers, I see this new site as primarily a "calling card" rather than as a pizza-delivery flyer; a stable web presence to which I or others can refer interested parties, rather than a means of generating interest in its own right. A blog like this is too volatile to act as a reference point -- who knows what dodgy or debatable topic might be uppermost at the point anyone pays a visit? -- and good photographs quickly get shoved out of sight by the accumulation of new posts. It will be excellent to have the equivalent of a clean, well-lit and comfortably-furnished reception room in which to accommodate virtual gallery visitors.
It's also a convenient platform to point people at my Blurb books. As soon as I get hold of a pigment-ink printer and have it satisfactorily calibrated (my current printer is dye-based, and less than archival) I also intend to start selling prints more proactively, but although it does offer "web commerce" options Squarespace is not ideal for this, being entirely US-based and, oddly, not offering PayPal as one of its accepted payment options. So, I am now also starting to look at hosting operations where selling is the primary function, and if anyone has experience -- good or bad -- with this, I'd be very pleased to hear from you. The idea of offering a small porfolio of prints online on a site dedicated to web-based sales is attractive, but there are bound to be pitfalls. SupaDupa, for example, looks quite good to me, but is it?
Which reminds me: thanks to those of you who responded to my call for "signature" images. Your input has been very useful, and I'm still digesting the information you have given me. Your prints will go in the post later today! It's not too late to contribute, if you had meant to but not got around to it, and the "free print" offer still stands.