Back when 28K modems were state-of-the-art, a photographer friend sent me a link to his new "professional" website. I typed in the URL and a patterned background GIF loaded, with painful sluggishness. Then a large title GIF loaded. Then a subtitle GIF. Link button GIFs loaded next, but they were inactive.
Minutes had passed, still no photos. Then a hit counter loaded at the bottom of the page. Finally, I thought, we were done.
And then the effin' site started loading some background music!
I did not wait around to find out what was going to load next.
Fast forward to the present. Photographers sometimes lose track of their objective: getting people to look at their photographs and see them in the best light. There are numerous ways to show one's photos, but you need to pick a way that's appropriate to the material. Here are two basic and common mistakes.
1) A slide show is wrong for a work in progress that is unsorted and incoherent. Think of a slide show as being a lot like a book that readers can't even flip through easily. Consider the recent column on making a photo book in a month. A book is not a haphazard jumble of photographs; it needs to have a structure or people won't enjoy looking at and it won't tell the story the photographer wants to tell. A disorganized slide show is too much like sitting through an obligatory viewing of the neighbors' vacation photos or a public lecture by someone who rambles pointlessly (one can ramble purposefully).
2) Regardless of how well-organized your content, keep things brief! Nobody needs to see more than two dozen photographs to figure out if they're interested in your work. If people like the two dozen, they can follow links to a lot more. If they don't like that two dozen, they won't like having several hundred photographs dumped in their laps. Two dozen won't show the entire project, but it's enough to be representative and sufficient for people to figure out if they care to see more.
If you're trying to build a website that presents your work in the best possible way, think about it from the audience's point of view. Learn to think less about what you want to show them and more about what they'd want to see. That's the key and it's tough, no question. There's the overwhelming urge to add "just one more" photo to the presentation, because it's so damn good. Hence 24 becomes 25 and soon 30, 40, or more.
Fight the urge! Don't think about how great that 25th photo is. Instead, ask yourself, "If I didn't sell them on my work with the other 24 photos, do I really think this one will change their minds?" The answer's so rarely affirmative that you may consider this a rhetorical question.
Not so incidentally, this is a case of "do as I say, not as I do." Ofttimes I fail to follow my own good advice. As an instructional author I try to tell you the right way to do things, but I don't run a cult of personality and you should not emulate me. (In my wet darkroom I use a blade-type paper cutter in pitch darkness, I don't wear gloves when I process prints, I eat and drink, the ventilation is substantially inadequate, and the wet area is adjacent to the dry area. After 40 years of doing this, I am still healthy and whole, but if you think I would ever recommend those practices to others, you're out of your mind!) Similarly, do not look to my website to see this column's sage counsel implemented.