Photographers, Your Website Design Needs More Substance — and Less Flash

There are some excellent photographer websites out there, but the vast majority of them fall short in demonstrating their owner’s best work.

My biggest complaint is the use of Flash. Although Flash is great for showing motion and other effects on the web, it is not a good medium for showing photographs.

First, there is the temptation to take advantage of all those wipes, smears, pop-ups, “Burns Effects” and reveals that Flash has to offer. It might be cool for some disciplines, but in photography, I think these effects are vastly overused.

Try to imagine looking through a picture book, but before you turn every page you have to turn the book over upside down, flip it up in the air, blink three times and only then you can see the next page. That’s Flash.

It’s the same for a photojournalist or fine art photographer; the sequencing of your photographs is of utmost importance. You want your audience to view each image in a series or sequence to tell your “story” and there should be little distraction as you go from one photo to the next.

Effects Aren’t Special

Since most photographers are not Flash programmers, they buy or subscribe to these generic sites online and then customize them to suit their needs. The result is an endless assortment of bells, whistles and special effects designed to appeal to a very broad audience.

They may look slick, but you must ask yourself how this works for your prospective customers. Is this how you want them to see your work?

Some photographers may have friends who are programmers, or even have the funds to hire one. This is a far better solution, but there is still the temptation for a programmer to try to impress his friend/client by utilizing all the effects outlined above.

When designing a website to show your work, the best approach is to view the site through the eyes of your audience from the start.

So how does one do this? I will share some ideas in tomorrow’s post.

14 Responses to “Photographers, Your Website Design Needs More Substance — and Less Flash”

  1. There's a temptation to "stand out" by using all that Flash has to offer. The appeal of Google's search page is it's simplicity and they've done pretty well with that style. But if you use Flash animations with discretion and hold to good form it can be memorable. Just check out Tony D'Orio's website
    Or mine that I built myself.
    P.S. Another upside is it is harder to steal my images using Flash.

  2. I would like to check it out but i cannot use flash on my ipad. That is another reason.

  3. I totally agree. I checked the website suggested by Christian Parley - okay, its nice, its cool, but my first reaction is why do i have to spend time waiting for the effects of those yellow patches to fall into place. The presentation is cool, but myself and some clients I know who are busy people don't care about wasting time seeing all the effects. They've come to see your work and not fancy gift wrapper one puts around it. I do know of one client who has shared exactly that, he says when creatives sends him a link to their page and he has to wait through fancy effects he just skips it all together. Some flash sites just take too long to load. And of course, as David Saxe mentioned, flash sites are useless on an ipad.

  4. I love me flash site. It was designed to show off my images, my personality, and style. It keeps the viewers looking and my site is on the fist page of google under multiple key phrases. But I also have a phone/ iPad friendly site. Like the flash one better. Besides the blog is always there. and the second site is commercial and is currently flash only.

  5. And ... I want to look at the photos at my speed. Not a pre-established speed determined by a webmaster

  6. My original site was created in Flash by a talented web designer who followed my wishes in the overall concept of the site. However, when I asked him to put an HTML component on the site he said he only worked in Flash. I am an architectural/ fine arts photographer whose clients prefer to see the images rather than a "Flash show." I had to have the site redone by another web designer. It was an expensive lesson in the web for me, but worth it in the end. Flash does not, as David mentioned, appear on iphones, ipads, etc. My site is where people can SEE my work, not an entertainment.

  7. It's really all about how you want to be perceived. A well designed flash site can work really well for certain photography genres. The best thing about Flash is the seamlessly of how content can be loaded. In in a really well coded javascript heavy website it's hard to match flash in this respect.

    I have a flash website for my main website and I redirect to my photoshelter (client proofing) website for iPad users. It is no loss of time or effort for me because I'd be using Photoshelter no matter if my main website was in HTML or Flash. I have gotten inquiries from both sites and since my redesign I've gotten more higher quality clients.

    What's really interesting is users spend about 6 minutes on my flash site on various galleries. They spend about 1 minute on my blog and about 3 minutes on my Photoshelter site. When I had a totally HTML website users spent on average about 2 minutes on my site. So it's working for me.

  8. Flash isn't all that bad. Google can index all the text in there now so as long as you have meaningful content in there, you should be fine.

    For photographers, there is an upside for them as someone previously mentioned that the pictures are also harder to steal. Flash sites are usually programmed in a way that links to a folder full of images and the site automatically updates to show those pictures in the folder on the site. This also makes it really easy for photographers who are not web designers to update their porfolios while still looking professiobal.

    Just my two cents anyway.

  9. Flash + iphone = lost visit x lost client

    Flash + ipad = lost visit x lost client

    Ultimately, users don't care nearly as much about whether you have lovely image slideshows and animations on your website instead of whether or not they can see your images at all.

    Keep it simple and as accessible as humanly possible.

    Whether we like it or not, Apple dictate so much of what is happening in technology and the internet so arguments about why Flash is not available on their handheld devices is a mute point.

  10. It's OK to have an awesome flash website that is visually amazing and impresses visitors but its no use if people can't find you in the first place.

    Your website is a marketing tool. If you put a lot of awesome effects on it, people will forget to look at your images!

  11. I'm honestly not sure how you can give advice regarding website design on this here platform. This may sound harsh, but I've had a really difficult time reading the content due to a lack of contract between text and background colours.
    The slider to the top of the website is very distracting. and links posted in the comments section end up on occasion (the even posts) being invisible as the colour matches the background.

    Rule 1 is to present the content in an easy digestible form for the users. this rule applies to websites both flash and hmtl. but this site unfortunately fails it.

  12. I am not sure what site you are looking at but it is not mine. My site ( does not have a comments section.

  13. this site.

  14. This site? This is "Blackstar Rising" which I am a contributor only. I have nothing to do with it's design. Actually this site and many others like it are WordPress blogs. The users have very little control over their appearance. As a blog, it more than serves its purpose.

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