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Wednesday, 16 December 2009


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Wow. No star on Simon's paper today.
Biting commentary but excellent advice all around, especially on the "tenset"...my own website, now in perpetual redesign would benefit from this.

Mike, I agree with you on all points. I know that I have expressed many of these same feelings when surfing other photo sites. When designing my site I tried to keep these things in mind. Unfortunately, I did use generic portfolio categories of Street, Nature, and Travel. When clicking on the Portfolios link from the home page, I linked the viewer directly into my most current work which is Street. Check it out. timgoodspeed.com

The interface on Simon's site is "Slideshow Pro", probably being fed by images from "Slideshow Pro Director".

I use the same setup on my own site, and I've committed the same crimes you're talking about! I must say though, it's a really convenient way to place galleries on a site, update them, and change the order they appear without having to mess with the code behind the site with every alteration.

I think the irritations you're pointing out are likely to only be felt by photographers, hopefully our potential clients won't be so easily put off!

It does depend a bit on the likely audience for a site. Perhaps most of the people viewing are regulars and are most interested in "What did you shoot last weekend?" rather than a "Best of" that they've already seen. These viewers will want the front page to make it easiest to find the new content.

Still, I agree it should be straightforward to get a "Best of" selection.

I don't understand the title of this entry. Are you trying to point us all to create a representative gallery of ten photos, arranged neatly, copyright omitted so you can get down and dirty and make your little assessment?

No, you wouldn't do that to us. Would you?

I once stumbled across a porfolio site - just a page really - made from a pretty simple HTML file with name & contact info top left & underneath a horizontal line of 10 or 20 images. All you had to do to view the next image was scroll the page a little to the right.

It was incredibly simple, to the point of being quite basic I guess, but it just worked...


I was in the process of revamping my own site, where I have 6 images displayed to give viewers a sense of what's inside. You've given me pause to consider what way to improve it. Thanks as always for the "food for thought."

I wish I had a site to suggest. Following all the links submitted yesterday myself, I quickly ran out patience for the length it took to load some of the better photographers images.


So send a note or read the blogs I suggested, eh?

And that's the other thing...
my friends tell me I should go to Twitter or or Facebook or blog somewhere or somewhere this or do the D'oh link or whatever.

Nope ain't going to happen. My sordid past is my business. Let's leave it buried.

My future, well I too read other people's blogs and comments however would much rather "they" do the legwork of keeping their world
current to us on the internet.

Remove the internet then what.
Precisely, does it really matter?
Mike Johnston you summed it up perfectly:
the internet is junk mail.

Mike -

I feel your pain.

Mr. Robinson is probably a good photographer, but I wouldn't know. His site is way too annoying to navigate.

First, I do not like it when a site tells me what browser I need to use to view it. That tells me it's not Macintosh friendly (I only use Macs).

Secondly, when I click on his "Gallery" link on the first page, it takes me to his Gallery page. The first time I clicked on it it thought there were no photos there because I had to scroll halfway down the page before the Gallery thumbs showed up. Scrolling the page just to see the thumbs is not a good idea in my book.

The site's design is pretty bad. I'm sure his photography deserves better.

"god knows (I'm not a programmer)."

And that, I believe is the problem. Most of us aren't. Nor are we graphic designers, yet we insist on doing our own design and web pages.

So what we do is have a quick stab at a website, realise how hard it is and instead of calling in the experts we buy an off the shelf program, that looks exactly like a thousand others, while giving ourselves a pat on the back for doing it on our own. We compliment ourselves on the money saved instead of worrying about the business we've lost by presenting ourselves as a clone of 1000 others with exactly the same thing.

Simon is using a Lightroom plug-in (SlideShow Pro) to create his web galleries. I use it too for my client pages, so I'm definately not criticising him. I'm just as guilty. It's a simple way to make galleries of any size but it's default settings are what you see here.

In a digital photography world where we expect every thing to be faster, better, easier, we have also applied that to our presentation techniques. Unfortunately all this will do in the long run is dilute your personal brand and make it harder for people to want to see our work.

It's kind of ironic that we all seem to present our unique vision in exactly the same way.


Oh. And for a great site have a look at www.marktucker.com


Well to be fair to the UI on Simon's site, there is a little plus sign on the bottom next to the thumbnails that allows you to navigate to the next image without moving your mouse. But in this case, UI stands for Un Intuitive.

It's an interesting question about photo-gallery interface, and one that I find very apropos after spending the whole day trying to find a good pre-build photo gallery system for presenting and distributing photos taken at my workplace. The most flexible and powerful system I've found so far is Jalbum which has many 'skins' to allow for a lot of customisation. Unfortunately, everything has flaws and compromises.

I'm very satisfied and impressed with the aminus3 photoblog system that I use to display my own photos, but it's pretty useless for presenting a tenset, especially since I insist on putting every photo I've ever taken in the 'portfolio' section. I think better use of tags might help people search more easily.

Really, I think photobloggers who want to show off their best work need to have a separate gallery site, because these are really two different things. The real question for me is do I have time and does anyone care apart from me and possibly my parents? Well, no to the first part; not right now.

Anyway Flickr - ugh! Don't get me started. I've never found a Flickr page that was anything but awful when trying to get a good sense of a photographer's work. I really can't think of a worse possible design than Flickr's. Perhaps someone who wanted to make a really good gallery site, could look at Flickr's UI and do the exact opposite.

It's difficult to make a "ten-set". Just for one thing, do you choose the pictures which are most important to you, or the pictures most people like?

Anyway, you asked for it, here is mine.

I guess we could ask what the purpose of the website is. Its raison d'etre. Its mission. If it's strictly to showcase a photographer, then your points are bang on. Then the question: scroll or click? You featured a woman photographer a while back whose work was viewed on her website by scrolling horizontally. I quite liked that, but I seem to remember not everyone did. Having recently suffered through a series of dodgy wireless signal as I travel, I've become leery of clicking.

My website is travel specific, built on a TypePad blog, so while I try not to post dreck, some of my pictures are merely useful, to add context or fill out a story. The presentation is aimed more at travel buffs than photography connoisseurs.

Thus it would be difficult to put a "tenset" front and center in the present structure while I'm traveling. My few readers (I assume, based on feedback) are tuning in to learn where I've gone next and to see my latest picture essay. But I'm getting a glimmer. Perhaps when the journey is over and I formalize the website, I could have a "best-of-trip" (12-20?) as an intro page. Thanks (again) for a good idea.

won't SlideShowPro.net be upset!

This is a weird coincidence, I've been redesigning my portfolio as I dislike my current generic and typical categories but it's definitely a challenge. I like the idea of projects and series instead of my best random photos thrown into a group so I'm thinking of trying that. I have watched a few of Zach Arias's website critiques and he pretty much says put no more than 10~15 of your best shots in each category and I see the organisational merit in that but it is somewhat boring.

"No star on Simon's paper today."

I'm only criticizing the template he used for his website...that's clear, isn't it? I'm criticizing someone, but it's not Simon.



I struggled with this very thing when recently updating my site. Do I create 50 galleries that speak to the diversity of my work (now, I’m fairly new so diversity to me is probably derivative to you) or do I keep it manageable by having gallery collections “Landscape”, “Wildlife”, “Urban” which contain smaller subsections “Colorado”, “Sand Dunes”, “Montana”, etc.

I began thinking last night after reading a Scott Kelby post that I should start my website slideshow with a “My Favorites” or “Recent Work” selection of 10 – 15 images. Perhaps a nice selection of what I like.

I just started with Photoshelter – I’m in the process of uploading a larger selection of my images but I like the ability to set image sizes (both main and thumbnail) and for form collections of galleries.

If you’d like here’s the link
http://www.tenuousthread.com>Tenuous Thread Photography

Cheers, Alex

How about putting ONLY the photographer's chosen best in EVERY pile he or she creates? That's the problem with web browsing. Why do I want to look at ANY images the photographer doesn't deem his or her best? How about 10 or 25 pics in the entire site? Put one on, take another lesser one off.

This is one reason why I look extensively at relatively few sites, and instead focus on my own work, on books, exhibitions and collected works.

Yes, I'm a dinosaur. (Prefer stick shifts and vinyl, too. Caved in on digital, however.)

"Are you trying to point us all to create a representative gallery of ten photos, arranged neatly, copyright omitted so you can get down and dirty and make your little assessment?"

Of course. With the exception of your "copyright omitted." Not putting a watermark in the image area does not mean you don't have copyright. A notice next to the picture is as effective as a notice ON the picture.


I find Will Steacy's site unannoying, if not ideal.


Not ideal, but a humane interface. There's no introductory n-set, but the site is clean--no muss/no fuss. It's only one page--you never navigate away from it, you just load sets into it. There are four distinct areas for menu, projects, pictures, and thumbnails. Nothing pops up! Nothing moves!

There is that menu of "Projects", but at least the first slide of every project is a description of what it is and what it means to the photographer, and the thumbnails come up very quickly.

Unfortunately, the photos are too small, which would be more annoying if Steacy's compositions were less clean and clear.

There's a link up top to his celebrated collection of "Photographs not taken".

And, oh yeah, the pictures are good. Really good.

It's long but worth it in the end and addresses Mike's valid concerns very well.

While I don't particularly like them, Rob Haggart (from aphotoeditor.com) seems awfully proud of his Flash based folios. They can be seen here - http://aphotofolio.com

I'm with you 100% on this one Mike. In one of my too many careers I was Technical Publications Manager for a software company and before that spent too many years writing manuals in a large government organization. The major flaw I discovered in all those years (and the one you alluded to) is that too much material gets written or created by people who are not familiar with or sensitive to the user experience. All too often they seem more interested in showing off their skills and tricks and usability(???) - what's usability and what's it got to do with anything - I'm a web designer. You want usability go pick up a pound or two at your local supermarket.

well unfortunately i neither have the money to pay somebody to make a (good) website which includes all the aforementioned things, nor do i have the knowledge to write a website myself.
what is left are the templates where one usually chooses the best of the bad ones before realizing that learning how to make a website or just save up the money for somebody to do it is the better way.
I'm currently in the saving up process.

amen nonetheless, you couldn't have put it a better way on how a photographer's website is to look like.
I never interpreted your post as something that offends simon. it does offend the right people however, maybe we'll get better templates thanks to that.
but maybe templates aren't to be perfect, otherwise everybody would use templates instead of hiring somebody, right? ;)


A site I've always enjoyed for its design is: http://www.j-roumagnac.net/
Going full screen and using the navigation at the top provides a clean, easy to view collection of photos.

Plus a lot of information on each photograph is keep hidden but readily available by hovering over a photo, or expanding the side menu. Everything I want, but only when I want it.

A great application for sharing and presenting photos is http://www.pixelpost.org/ . Its primary design is to present a single image on a clean background with easy navigation for more images. With a little self editing you can always show off your best photo.

Here's mine: http://hornerbuck.smugmug.com/Photography/Gordons-Top-Ten/8554187_MdCXA#563436691_UdXpt


The thing I like best about that one is that I can easily set the background value. I have a hard time looking at pictures on black backgrounds, where the blacks in the picture bleed into the ground. I suppose it's just me, but I find it distracting. It's nice to be able to set a medium or light gray.


"anything in the way of the picture is bad in my book"

Lord, do I agree. For years I've been railing against text on top of pictures. Even in photographic magazines, which are supposedly about photos, they will make an article about a photographer they supposedly admire, and put text on top of his photos. Bad.

ok Mike, ravage me LOL. www.ericrose.com

Just remember to click on a thumbnail to see a larger image. I didn't put those instructions on my webpages as I assumed everyone knew to do that but I had one person criticize me for not telling him had to do that.

I find Mark Tuckers site dreadful. His photography is outstanding but it takes to long for all the images to load up and once you get the slide show going it just RIPS along. I felt I had ocular whiplash.

When I redesigned my site I had this really whizzy flash site all set up but then I decided against it because I felt in the end it didn't present my images in a quick and easy format.

I suppose that the ideal photobook also would have just ten images within its covers ...

well to be fair, if you just sit at the home page on SR's site, you do get a continuous show of what you have to imagine is what SR considers his 'best' in other words, the picture he wants you to see first.

And you don't need to do anything but sit there and watch it.

I agree, the circular progress bar, double thumbs with zoom and non-intuitive UI are parts of Slideshowpro that have long annoyed me. But you can remove all of it (and I have) and just use the flash component to display pictures.

It is sort of like saying you don't like a camera because of the pictures it takes...not the cameras fault. SR needs to do some customization which in Lightroom is very easy and wysiwyg.

I agree with you, web designers get caught up in designs and not in presentation of photographs. SSP is designed to serve ahem, "content" as they say, which is like saying dogfood to a dog.

Now excuse me while I go and remove the circular preloader and zoom thumbs from my gallery, and make the captions go above the picture :(....but if you visit, when you visit, you will see the 10 or so most recent pictures. Picking 10 from all time does not serve my purposes for what I want my editors to see.

good post

Gee, my website has had my favourite photos on the cover page for quite a while now. They even number exactly ten!

I like the idea of a "Ten Set". It forces one to think about what they will display to identify themselves; to set themselves apart from the rest.

Here is my Ten Set: http://photos.abckyle.com/Ten%20Set/index.html


I hope it's clear that I'm not suggesting a website have ONLY ten pictures!!!

Just that it have a lead or opening set that helps define the photographer. There can be as much else as anybody wants. I personally don't see any reason to limit the depth of the site. If you have a thousand pictures worth seeing, go for it.


I like this idea of the "tenset" very much. It focuses the viewer (remember them?) on the photographs, not the organization thereof. Clicking once to get to a large-sized photo is far better than having to click two or three times through a hierarchy. Finally, the quantity of ten is just about the right number of decently-sized images that can fit on most people's screens.

Here's one photographer's site I'd saved a while back because it seemed a very simple, readable, effective, and attractive way of showing work: http://www.lornebridgman.com/

Unfortunately, my own site points right to Flickr, which I'll admit is a pretty bad way of presenting. But perhaps over the holidays I'll actually have time to work up the photo bit of my site...

Your site works perfectly reasonably for me, especially if you can get rid of the vestigial loading pies (which I barely saw).

Nothing in the way of the pictures; slideshow not too fast; easy-to-see thumbnails that make it easy to see where you are and easy to change to something else.

Serves your pictures, which is what I think a photographer's website ought to do.


Well thank you!

Great minds think alike?


To be fair, Mike, almost every criticism you have the Simon's use of SlideShow Pro can be remedied from within the program. Most of what you see is default behaviors but the title can be centered bottom (or top or right or left) outside the photo, the thumbnails don't need to inflate, the photos can be any size you want (larger, and the progress wheel is optional. What you see here is an almost default use of the tool. Looks like Simon is like many of the rest of us - not really conversant in Flash and html/css.

There are many sites that use Slideshow Pro where is is quite effective. Here is one example.

Joe Quint

Hello Mike... The Betterphoto.com website seems to address a lot of your concerns, but I guess the proof of the pudding is in the eating...so, while not looking for feedback on content (Out of shyness I suppose), perhaps the engine for presentation would meet with your approval. www.siamimagesltd.com

I like your idea of a "tenset" although that's geared towards portfolio sites. Photo blogs, on the other hand, are linear and chronological -- photos appear as they are posted.

I've been (word) blogging for nine years, and "photoblogging" since 2004. I'm not a pro photographer (no need for a portfolio), so when I decided to put photos on the web it seemed natural to go with the photo blog format.

I do sometimes think I should create some kind of "tenset gallery" within the photo blog. In my case, I post only one photo a week on that photoblog (I have another photoblog too, but that's a different story), which isn't all that prolific, so I don't suffer from the "overload" problem that a lot of photobloggers have. But at the same time I sometimes go a few weeks were the most recent photos are not the most interesting, and I worry that new visitors will be turned off right away because the first few clicks don't bring up the best images.

Now you got me thinking. I really need to do that gallery thing. But how do I do it as both a gallery and a photoblog? (And still make it usable?)

I'm not a fan of any photographer's website that has any sort of pop-up windows, and I really get tired of websites that look like they came from the same ol' template. The categorization that the original poster mentioned (abstract, portrait, etc) is the worst. Makes it look like a photo student's first portfolio website and lacks any imagination at all.

I've gotten a lot of compliments on the design of my site.


I wanted something that suited my style and wasn't like everything else out there. The only complaint has been that everything isn't laid out right in front of a person, but that was sort of my goal. A little randomness to my organization.

Just give me a nice clean website without any nonsense. And leave the obnoxious copyright crap off the images.

The trouble with the 'ten best' approach is that it is not a given that the photographs work 'together'. To use a parallel from music, 'best of' albums are normally weak. The 'classic album' is almost always better (White Album vs. Beatles Singles, for example...). I do allow for some debate here though...

I have a smug mug site. The reason for this is that I am not a technical internet bloke and prefer to shoot rather than mess around on the web. I also don't consider my online pictures a 'finished product' as I might a bound portfolio of work. I'm also lazy and I don't update it as often as I should. But the point is that Smug Mug allows you to choose up to four portfolios to highlight on the first page. This means that some of the best work (or, most recent work, but at least representative work) is pushed to the top of the pile. An alternative to the tenset?

For simplicity I like Ed Leys' site, California Light and Structure at http://www.blackmallard.com/cal_ls/


Boxed Light . . . Photography by Jim Radcliffe
presents enjoyable photos with a pleasant user interface.
No clicking to close the picture you just looked at.
No searching for a meandering direction arrow.
No pop-up windowettes.
In short — elegant.

Although many would deem it beneath them, with the right apps and scripts, Flickr can become a valid venue for finding remarkable photography with a nonintrusive interface. Although Explore itself has become useless, there are other methods of finding good photographers and quickly finding (at least what flickr thinks is) the most popular of their work in one convenient viewspace.

As a portrait and wedding photographer I know (drummed in to me at every marketing seminar I take) that you have less than 15 seconds to grab a potential client. If you don't they will quickly move on.

Having a site based on flash (web browsers don't crawl flash) that you need a HTML front entrance page, that's one click. Now your in and the next thing you see is 13 (I think) of my favorite images from the last season.

Then on to the portfolio. Interestingly I had just fixed an issue with too many clicks to get to the galleries (4) and now have it down to 2.

It is simple logic that if you can't grab some one early they wont stick around but this isn't just for photographic sites, this applies to any site. Including this one, don't grab my attention right away and I'll leave for something that does. But knowing Mike's writing style I know that I sometimes I need to read on the get the meat of his message. And like this one, I enjoy it immensely.


"Boxed Light" is full of yummy, fun, and good stuff.

One thing I like about "California Light and Structure" is that it has that gray boundary line so you know when the whole picture is loaded. Have you ever noticed that on some sites where the picture loads from the top down, slowly, you're sometimes not quite sure if and when the whole picture has loaded? Sometimes I'll be looking at what I think is the whole picture and then, whoops, Another little bit gets added at the bottom.


If I remember correctly, Brett Weston used to have a set of photos - it might have been ten - in the foyer in his house. They were printed to his high standards, framed, and hung carefully; and his rule for himself was that none of them were ever older than six months old.

That seems like a useful approach to a tenset. As Mr. Waddingham says, my ten favorite photos ever might not fit well together; but my ten favorite from the last six months are much more likely to.

I'm about to redesign my own portfolio site, after a few years of neglect; I think I'll try this approach.

Interesting parallel between these comments, and the recent Nikonians podcast (#106). In that segment, O'Dell and Walker were discussing the tendency of some people to use the web a a repository for everything they shoot. (A "photo dump" if you will, but those are my words.) The likened this habit to the co-worker of old who would bring in piles and piles of double-printed family vacation photos, and expect everyone to look at them with the same enthusiasm. (I wish Gary Larson was still making cartoons-there is a funny topic in here.) Then as now, if you do not present a few really captivating pics, the audience just gets bored and tunes everything out.

I realize from this post that the editing of photos and written work are very similar processes. Choose your topics well, use your evocative expressions with a deft hand, and get to the point. Your audience will appreciate it.

Yeah, I think time categories work quite well, usually. I actually like format and camera categories, too, but then I'm a photo geek.

I once threatened to do a book with the pictures divided according to the lenses they were taken with [g]. That would probably not work even for me.

I seem to remember a site where the work was divided into years. It made a lot of sense, because you naturally look at the current work first, then keep going back in time until you've had enough. I wonder who that was...I recall some of the pictures but not the name of the photographer.


"Uncluttered and unimpeded, please."


Maybe next year, if I can afford it. This year I'll have to settle for *relatively* uncluttered and unimpeded, at $60/year with unlimited storage.

I've just redesigned my site with UI in mind. Here's the main elements that guided me:

  1. Prev/Next links in the top left, static, which I think is a web site's closest approximation to the Fitts Law concept of the magic corner.
  2. Big picture, 1024 longest dimension.
  3. Hide-able extraneous elements. Everything but the picture and the title is extraneous.
  4. Keyboard shortcuts for navigation: (n)ext, (p)rev, (c)urrent, (r)andom, (i)nfo, (h)ide/show extraneous stuff.

I had to code my own site and databases to achieve this. I find all the off-the-shelf photoblog software inherently lacking.

I did put in a Best of section in my Gallery. I'm afraid it's far larger than 10 pics, more like 80. Either I'm that good, or I'm that timid a judge.

I think the best part of the redesign is the keyboard shortcuts, but the most difficult thing is expressing them to the end user. I have a hover that indicates the shortcuts, but I don't know how many people stop to read hover titles.

Coming up with "interesting" categories for your pictures is hazardous. What's interesting to me (I have a gallery called "Detritus") probably sounds pretentious to you. Besides, you've railed against: "Falklands" as being meaningless to you in terms of deciding what to look at. OK, but somebody might think it's clever and new. "Street" is unimaginative, yes, but you at least know you have an idea what you'll be looking at it.

Having a gallery called "The Decisive Moment" would have been brilliant. Back in the 40's. Today, you can walk past a gallery and there's a sign with a clever exhibit title, that is usually syntactically meaningless until you ponder the artist's statement (ugh). I really don't know that infinite diversity here helps in terms of guiding the end user.

And, please, you can scarcely decide to get on the internet to look at pictures without knowing that there's going to be derivative work out there. If that thought depresses you into inaction, it's time to give it up.

...believe it or not I just fixed all that. no more pie! as much as l like pie, just to eat.

I have not heeded my advice to photographers: the site you see is v5 or so now. If I consider all the time I have invested in learning (not worthless, but not taking pictures either) and designing and testing it is way beyond what it would have taken to hire someone or use a commercial solution, the likes of which are getting cheaper all the time, and are kept updated.

Works for me.

I don't even mind the 80-shot tenset. Still tells me where to look first to get an idea who you are. (Photographically speaking.)


Not only do I quite like text on or above a photo, but am grateful when said text tells me what I should think of the same, as well as giving me the exif, GPS and PESMOC (Photographer's Emotional State at the MOment of Capture) data.

Hopefully, the next generation of Canikons will give us this automatically, thus allowing us all to display our talents (sic) on a level playing field.


I have been using a variation on the tenset for my primitive website for many years. Feeling somewhat indequate compared to the fancy tech sites. I have been meaning to get one of those fancy flash sites, but maybe I'll just try the 80-set idea.

(click on my name below to see my site)

thenarrative - matt o'sullivan's photoblog - has the best photographic GUI that i`ve seen.
And the content is 1st class.


You showed my website in a TOP blog entry back in January 2007. Since that time I've taken the less is more approach. After a minor rework, I have removed more photos than I added. I'm now down to 41 images for the entire site. Also, each photo is now larger. Now I just need to add some written content...that's another challenge in it's own right!


Great feedback. I'm redoing my web site right now and about to create galleries, etc. I will pay heed to some of this juicy stuff.

I am pretty happy with SmugMug. It is far from perfect, but so is every other engine that I've seen.

A top-10 rough edit is linked to my name.

Hi Mike,

I've been doing something very similar for a while now. Right upfront, before you go any further, there's a slideshow of my six current favourites. When you click on galleries you can then see (as the first two options) 'New Work' and 'Best of 2008' (soon to be 'Best of 2009'). 'New Work' is a bit of a grab-bag, admittedly, but the 'Best of...' contains around 10-15 carefully selected images taken in that particular year.

It's nice to see that someone else thinks this is a good idea!

A very good example is the site of Elliot Erwitt.

I think I agree with Paul about the categories. Ideally, yes, all my categories would be creative and new categories with interesting and obscure names. The problem with this is the viewer has no idea what they will be taken to, and usually the viewer wants to know where they're going. If I come across links with names that don't mean anything to me, I might try clicking on one randomly, but more than likely I'm just going to leave quicker.

I have very generic gallery names on my website, and though it was sometimes very hard to categorize one of my pictures, I tried hard to do it as a service to my viewers. Maybe I'm wrong?

Anyway, the tenset is brilliant and I wish everyone would do it. Mine is a nineteen set and has been for a while, but I'm pretty happy with it.

Mouse over a picture, and the caption drops into the picture area; convenient in terms of access, admittedly—but why put it on top of the image? Couldn't it just as easily pop out just above the image?

Weeeeellll, theoretically, yes. But--

You need to know CSS/Javascript/Flash (take your pick) first. Then, all the browsers should render the page in the same way, which still doesn't happen.

Except Flash, but I mostly hate Flash-only sites as they break the usual browser behaviour. Plus, various Flash-gallery solutions differ wildly in their ability to preload pictures so you often get the annoying wait. And don't start me on small fonts... 11-pixel font is not the same apparent size on a 1024x768 screen as on my 1600x1200.

True, not all of us are programmers. And web designers are usually not photographers. It's not that photos are unimportant for them, it's that photos are just one of design elements.

I was looking at a list of best designed websites just yesterday. And whaddaya know, not a single one of them was a photo gallery. :) Some marvelous and beautiful designs but the closest they came to a gallery was a shoe-manufacturer site. It was praised because it was designed so people look at the shoes the way they look in a shop -- horizontally.

Anyway, however you design your site or get it designed, you will run into the problem of varying screen resolutions. Do you design it for people with smaller screens (I've had people looking at my site on iPhones) and have acres of empty space around or for people who have bigger screens so that those with smaller screens have to scroll?

Problems, problems.

And very little solutions around.

Good discussion about the subject here: http://www.aphotoeditor.com/2008/01/31/portfolio-website-design/

Ands that is from the viewpoint of a former photo editor.

I like the design of this photograpgers site a lot: http://eliotshepard.com/
Pure html, and just sidescrolling galleries.

I use flickr's slide show feature to embed slideshows on my website. And it is guilty of covering a portion of the top and bottom of the image with a band of thumbnails or whatever. The beauty of it however is that it's free and easy, and also, if you let go of the mouse, the band at the top and bottom disappear, and the slideshow plays. Even better, the slideshow can play full screen, and again the top and bottom bands disappear. Admittedly it's far from perfect, but I guess the not being a programmer problem holdds true. Thing is it's quite easy to set up a webpage for free using some blogger and gallery software. It's way harder to design a really good looking professional website with fast moving unadulterated galleries. Hence they cost money! Oh, and while I'm at it, Magnum comes at the top of the list of sites guily of badly presented photos with copyright information all over them! And they should know better ...

Hm.... Mike, great minds think alike ;)
I did the same as you (spent a better part of day yesterday visiting all those linked photosites), and my reaction was more or less the same: many of those photo sites left me quite irritated, and I never even saw any photos presented. The UI was like a poke in the eye, and I left before "being served" what those photo sites actually try to "serve" (photos).
And I'm a voracious consumer of photography :)

I don't have a personal photo site, either :)

I use simpleviewer, which, as the name would imply, is really simple, and free, too. Though, it does not lend itself well to categories. Anyway, it can be seen on the simpleviewer website, or you can click on my name, and see my gallery.

Hi Mike,

what do you think of this photo presentation: "Faces that tell a Story"

Navigation Options

* To switch from the thumbnails to the large images, click on any thumbnail.
* To advance to the next image, press 'n' or the right keyboard-arrow. Or click in the right half of the image.
* To return to the previous image, press 'p' or the left keyboard-arrow. Or click in the left half of the image.
* To return to the thumbnails, press 'x' or 'Escape' or click on the dark area outside the image or on the word 'Close'.

when i designed my professional portfolio (see link) i was exactly trying to do that - a very quick way to get an overview of my work. thumbs big enough to get a clue what the image is about. image and thumbs in one page. everything is navigation, try it. can you find the elements that you cant click on? super fast loading. no flash, no scripts, nothing. barrierfree, meaning a blind person can navigate my page. i only get negative feedback on my self-coded design from flash-fans. most people just comment on the images. :)

mine's a bit like something you suggested and someone above related... walls of pics running horizontally. I have about 9 pics (I probably meant to do 10 but can't count!) then a button to get to the next 'wall'. Haven't updated it for ages, it's probably 'due'! If you want look, http://www.nlandgl.com/1.html

Just looked at several of the sites mentioned above. I used to use a layout similar to Will's but done with frames which these days are deemed a no-no, so here's another old one of mine... http://unite.com.au/~u3819a/gallery/gallery.html

I agree with your points, Mike. The quickest way to get me to abandon a website is slow loading photos. It's so easy to fix, why won't people do it?

As a not very good self promoter, the notion of having a web site sat with me for a long time: how to project myself and, more importantly to whom. Ideally I would have perhaps at least two sites, one for local/regional print sales and one for what I consider to be more personal expressions of art photography almost wholly in toned black and white. What I did was try to combine them into one site - the interface of which (from Clikpic) I like for its simplicity - e.g. an intro page with slide show of selected images.
What I now have to do is edit out the pictures that dilute my style (if I have one) and detract from the work I am most keen on. This is probably the most significant task for any photographer presenting work and really requires objective input from others - not always easy to get. Hence, there are many sites cobbled together just to get stuff out there, like mine, which then require modifying and streamlining and which most photographers let lapse because they aren't web minded. Well I resolve to act upon your timely wake up call, Mike, so thankyou.

Yes, "The Narrative" is good, and I'll tell you how I know...because about ten frames in, I'd forgotten all about the UI and was completely engrossed in the pictures.


John Friar,
Very clean. I like it.



Oh. And for a great site have a look at www.marktucker.com


It seems to be a good site, but it seems as if the owner has opted for photographs to blaze by (perhaps to prevent unauthorized use?). I guess he's well-known enough that potential clients only need a glimpse; but for just the casual observer like myself the speed says "go away!" Perhaps I haven't found how to slow down the viewing ....

Photoshelter "published" an interesting whitepaper some time ago. The reports are at http://www.photoshelter.com/mkt/research/. They are mainly focused on selling photographs to editors, so they surveyed editors on what kind of web site they are likely to buy photographs from. Not the same audience as is being discussed here but still very interesting. They host several photographers websites and the interfaces are in general good.

The site I mentioned yesterday Transient Light in its current version works very well for me, and it has a "My best dozen" gallery, although it is just one more gallery, the last one at the bottom of the galleries index page. This gallery shows 12 photographs picked from the other galleries. From the link at the bottom of the pages. You can find out who designed it: WideRange Galleries.

Just spent an hour visiting some of my favourite photographer's sites. People like Alec Soth and Doug Dubois and few of them meet your criteria, you've got to do a bit of digging to get to Jörg Colberg's work, which is a bit of a surprise. I guess those guys are big enough not have to concern themselves which such things

That windblown tree near Greenough is amazing....


Here is a photographer and a web site that I find very good


Excellent photos, simple design (I like the colors), efficient.



@Ben Mathis (Featured Comment) Yours wasn't the site I referred to earlier but it's exactly the kind of style I was talking about - yours is much less basic & much more pleasing to the eye though! Really nice...

How to design a website for photographs takes a long time. My goal was to have you (1.) know what you were going to see and (2.) get to the "good stuff" in less than two mouse clicks. And then be able to either view my photographic projects or download the pdf book.

Still, 80% of my visitors are "gone in 60 seconds..."

You have a truly valid point. I'm sure people would get better retention and revisits if the sites were kept simple. My personal pet hate is flash sites; not all of us are using fast and reliable adsl. A simple easy to navigate site is all that is required. We tried to do that with ours, which is still not brillant but reasonably easy to navigate.

My, my... all these fine photographers lamenting that they are not programmers.

Well, I'm a programmer, and have tried various ways of putting together a gallery, and have the ability to do absolutely anything I want.

What I don't have is the great photos! (They're OK, but not great.)

Be careful what you wish for...


Ben, I saw your page before I saw this entry, and I totally didn't understand that the '<- scroll ->' thing under the images meant use the scroll bar. I was trying to click it, to drag it, to drag the pictures, it never occurred to me to use the scroll bar (which is very discrete in my browser). Since almost all photo galleries use an in-page scroll system, I was expecting that this was an extra sneaky one of its kind. While I agree that using what the browser provides is a good idea (one can discuss the merits of each picture standing alone), it's so uncommon to use it now that it's not actually intuitive.

Tough call. Your idea sounds right for a "showoff" site, with a front page where you advertize your business (or maybe not a business as such). This is the equivalent (I think) of the portfolio you bring with you when knocking on art gallery doors. But maybe not everyone wants or needs that, maybe they just need a catalog site (à la pbase or flickr).

Web sites may fulfill different roles, a first-time come-on page, or something else.
Phone messages have a similar dilemma. I sometimes listen to long voice mail messages that give all the details you need to make a decision about what to do next, now that the person is not there. But what if you're calling your wife or buddy for the thousandth time, then sitting through the same 2 minute speech can get to be a pain.

When a first-time visitor arrives at a photo page, having an attractive "tenset" can be a good grabber, unless the rest of the site's pics don't measure up; sometimes it's more fun to find buried treasure. But if you're going to the site regularly, you're going to get sick of those pics in a hurry.

I have no good design ideas on the subject, but I did like the idea from one of the early comments about no flash and only single-layer menus.

I get you, Mike.

I like what viewbook has to offer. Not as customizable as I would like, but its simple interface avoids the most irritating pitfalls that you describe. Here's mine.


I used Wordpress as a CMS for the whole of my site when I redesigned it recently. All I wanted was speed and simplicity. I like the blog arrangement for fotos - everyone is familiar with it.

Very nice and quick to update, quick to load, and customisable.

Now all I need is the time to finish it and upload some more fotos, but you can get an idea from www.hughalison.com

On Simon Robinson - different colours on websites

Firefox and Safari support colour management, IE does not. That makes the difference with the colours. If your fotos look right on a calibrated screen through Firefox or Safari, everybody in the world would see the same (through his Firefox or Safari on his calibrated system). But not through IE, whether calibrated or not. On a Windows system the pictures only look right throug Photoshop for example when it is colour calibrated.

Greetings from Germany, Uli


I like the idea of the Tenset. Can we see yours?
(not being facetious, genuinely interested)

The Boxed Light website almost gets it right - a tight collection of really good pictures presented right at the front. No loading time, no interaction required. Only two problems are that a) there's a lot of text that pushes the pictures down below the edge of the browser (including a list of cameras - not important here!), and b) the pictures are not links to galleries of similar theme/style. I'll have to go home and redesign.

I like the Zenphoto gallery software (at least with some of the templates!). I haven't switched to it myself, though; I'm still using my own home-brew static HTML (well, there's a cgi app for displaying individual photos) that dates back to before there was much of anything general available.

I probably try to do too much as a photographer. But then, it's a hobby, not a sacred calling, for me. Makes it hard to pick a set of "representative" pictures that mean anything, though.

My last stab at a formal portfolio is embedded here; the site is promoting both web design / development and photographic services. Which I'm not actually much available for these days, being too tied up with teh day job. It was great fun designing the site, especially since it's set up so that I can hand it out on a mini-CD business card (with custom printing on it) as well as on the web.

Ah Mike, now you are talking. Actually a tenset or fiveset or even a slideshow is OK as long as it captures my attention immediately and tells me what to expect.

People make the same mistake with resumes, synopses and portfolios. If you want someone to read page 2, then you had better make page 1 interesting. The person reading it probably has another 200 to go through that afternoon and you may be #178.

I shall indeed take your advice when building my new travel site. They should be part of "the photo site builders manual".

Having said all that, here is proof that genius transcends conventional wisdom. This gentlemen needs no introduction from me but despite heavy use of flash, stylistic overkill and no tenset you can't help being drawn in...like a virgin at a vampire convention.


I found the jalbum: http://jalbum.net/ is very good. It takes a lot of the slog out of trying to code your own photo gallery. Hell, it's not perfect, but nothing ever is.
I used it on my own site in case you want to see what it looks like in action? www.tikephotos.org

A picture on the net is a doomed one.
I recommend photographers to 1) keep the keepers away from the net, unless they have a book published.
2) if you can't resist, use a nom de plume and show them on a popular web site such as the leica forum, canon forum or whatever (don't forget to remove the exif data first) in any case it doesn't really matter, whether you own a particular brand or not. Even then, only show your second best work. Remind you, if your work has some power you can watch the copycats pop up very quickly. Use this as an indication that you're on the right track. Return to rule No 1.

Actually I think I am only sorta Guilty. My wife built my website 3 years ago for a class she was taking.

I designed it, and that is where it suffered. It's pretty simple but it has way too many designy elements that add nothing to the experience of viewing photos. I also have buttons that do nothing and go nowhere. I hate how big the fonts are and the added color of some of the structure of the pages. People ask me all the time why it's called 63images? Honestly I just wanted something besides my name, and I was born in 1963.

I do think that once you get to the photos it's simple and easy to deal with. Again, it admittedly does have too many elements that are useless. Why do I have to have a title? Why does my silly file naming conventions have to show up?

What I really wanted was a blank white page with nothing but images and a link to an email address. The problem was, I thought, if we had done that my wife may have failed her class!

Someday Karen will have the time to strip it all down, and get to where I want to be with it. That said, I sometimes wonder why I have the thing at all, but that is another story.

I also have a photo blog (who doesn't) that I dump all my junk into on a sometimes daily basis.

If anybody (seriously) has any constructive criticism on how my site functions, have at it.




Thanks for the tenset idea.

Any ideas you could share on how to edit, sort and group the types of pictures that generally get put in the pat categories?


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