This article is part 3 of this Creative Transmissions guide to launching a professional photography website. You can find part 1 here: How To Launch A Professional Photography Website With No Free Time.
A theme determines what your website will look like. Layout, fonts and colours and all other visual aspects of the website come from the theme. Choosing a theme for your website is one of the most fun parts of setting it up.
Beware Theme Selection as Procrastination
Due to the huge amount of choice choosing a theme can appear to be a long and difficult task. If you are prone to perfectionism then even more so.
It is human nature to put off long or difficult tasks so to avoid theme choice becoming a roadblock I would recommend setting a strict limit on the amount of time or the number of themes you try out. You could allocate 2-3 hours and make a short list of themes and when time is up choose your favorite.
Themes can be customized in many ways so your choice does not have to be perfect right now. Don’t get stuck forever in theme choice limbo and end up never launching your website. Get up and running first and make improvements as you go along.
Searching For Themes in the WordPress Theme Directory
There are thousands of amazing professional photography website themes available for free.
A great place to start when you are first trying out themes is the official WordPress Theme Directory. This is built into WordPress so makes browsing themes really easy.
All the themes in the directory have been tested to meet certain quality standards so you can ensure they will work well will modern browsing devices.
You can install these themes directly from your WordPress Dashboard by following these steps:
- Click on Appearance
- Click on Themes
- You will now see the themes that are already installed on your server
- Click on the Add New button
From here you can now browse categories or search by keyword to see the available themes.
You could start by searching for the keyword “photography”. As WordPress is a multi-purpose CMS many themes are for blogs or company websites so it’s important to choose one that is designed to show off pictures.
The installation process for themes from other sources is a little different. The Install Themes page also has an Upload option. If you choose a theme from another website you will have downloaded a zip files containing the theme files. The Upload button will allow you to select the file for upload from your hard drive and once it has been uploaded WordPress will install it for you.
Infinite Theme Choices
WordPress theme development is a huge industry so if you do a simple search on Google for “free wordpress photography themes” you will find that the WordPress directory is just the tip of the iceberg and the search results for themes go on for ever.
With such a huge choice it can be hard to know where to start. I would recommend looking at some reputable web design and photography blogs for theme reviews. Reviews and list posts will help you filter out the themes which are not relevant to photography. Web design professionals who understand the latest web technology are qualified to help you to find a well build and robust theme that meets your needs.
A great starting point is this article from pencilscoop which features over 70 themes.
I will also be setting up a page on the Creative Transmissions website for free photography themes that I have tried personally and that I recommend.
Update:I am now collecting themes for the upcoming theme review section so you can browse through the themes I have collected so far or suggest a theme for review here:
6 Tips To Narrow Down Your Search for Photography Themes
- Simplicity is Everything.
Your visitors come to your website to look at your photographs. The website is just a means for them to do this. Look for themes which have simple layouts and and are easy to navigate. Nothing should draw the visitors attention from your work.
- Choose neutral colours.
As a photographer this may be obvious but it is an important point. Photographs can contain any number of colours so colorful themes will distract from your photographs and may clash. Black, white, grey or subtle shades of color will work best. Think of your theme as the picture frame your photo will be displayed in.
- Look at the themes home page, individual photo page and category page.
These will be your most used landing pages, in other words these pages are where your visitors will arrive when they discover your search via Google so it is important that they make a good impression.
- Choose look over function.
Themes are all about appearance. Many themes bundle other functions with the theme such as layout builders, colour scheme choosers, slideshows and social tools. The websites functions are provided elsewhere by Plugins which almost always do a better job than bundled tools so don’t make functions a factor in making your decision
- Speed matters.
A slow loading website will cause a percentage of your potential visitors to leave your website. Google also penalise slow sites and do not rank them so highly in their search. Photography based websites face a challenge here due to the large size of image files and can be slow to load if they are not well designed. If you try a theme and it takes more than a few seconds to load or to move between pages with the WordPress test content then it will be even slower when you have added your photographs so slow loading themes are best avoided.
- Responsive is good.
When a theme description says it is responsive this means the theme is designed so that visitors looking at your website on a mobile device such as a phone or tablet, the website layout will rearrange to make navigating your website easier on a smaller screen. We are getting to a point where more people browse the web on mobile devices than on computer screens so if you can find a suitable theme which is also responsive then that will serve you well in the future.
The great thing about themes is that you can very quickly give you website a completely different look. They can help you think creatively and give you new ideas about how to showcase your photography online. Changing your theme is also easy so your choice need not be forever so have fun experimenting, get creative and you will soon find yourself with a photography website that surpasses your expectations.