Thoughts On Web Galleries and Finding Themes In Our Work

Charlotte Antique and Classic Boat Show at Queens Landing in Mooresville, North Carolina

I’ve been working recently (with both “working” and “recently” having quite a broad definition 😉 ) on a long-overdue update to the galleries on my website, and it has been an interesting project.  Years ago when I was doing assignment work, teaching classes and giving talks to photo groups, I thought of my website as more of a way to show off my work and validate my skills, and never really looked at it as a marketing tool.  I would occasionally sell a print, or have an art consultant contact me about buying prints or licensing some images.  All of that worked pretty well despite the fact that I really hadn’t set it up as a sales site.  I suppose I could have worked harder at it and turned it into something, but I was working at the time and just didn’t feel inclined.

Abandoned boat on Stumpy Point, North Carolina

At this point in my photographic journey, I’ve gotten away from anything that looks, feels or smells like running a business.  I’m retired and want to keep it that way.  I photograph for fun, share my work with a few people who appreciate it, and don’t expect people to pay me money (but not complaining when they insist!).  My website is still the public face of my photography, and I think a lot about what I want that to be for me.  In the past I have tried to limit the work on my website to my “serious” work, preferring to put my “vacation snaps” on my blog or on another website such as Google Photos, or now, Adobe Portfolio.  Do I change that and put all of my photos on my website?  Do I ditch the website altogether and use one of the free (or less-costly) services?  Part of me says that since I’m paying for my website I should use it for everything, part of me thinks I’m paying a lot of money unnecessarily but yet another part of me thinks I should keep things as-is, with my website devoted to my more serious stuff and using Adobe Portfolio for my “snapshots.”

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The main advantage to using Adobe Portfolio is how well it integrates with Lightroom on my computer.  I can create a Synced Collection of photos that automatically uploads Smart Previews to the online version of Lightroom.  From there I can quickly create a gallery in Adobe Portfolio to share with others.  There aren’t a lot of options, but it’s OK for my use.  Uploading to my website requires a few extra steps and is a little clunky.  It works OK but isn’t ideal for frequent updates or high volume galleries.

Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia

I don’t have web skills and don’t know my WWW from my HTTP or my SQL (assuming I even have those!).  So I rely on a template-based site that gives me a few good layout options and generally just makes some nice looking galleries.  Years ago I started with Neon Sky, a Charlotte-based web company that several of my friends were using.  It’s not as fancy as some of the more heavily advertised services, they aren’t as quick with updates as I would like, and it probably costs more than I need to spend for what I do.  But it works for me and I don’t really want to invest more time and effort into making a switch.

Hall’s Harbour, Nova Scotia

But as the title of this post suggests, what I really want to do is to come up with a better way to organize my photos.  My current galleries consist of simple subject names: Color, Glory, Flow, Form and Peace plus a bunch of galleries under the heading of Projects.  It feels to me like one of those graffiti rocks that have had so many layers of paint added to it over the years to the point where you can’t tell what the original shape was.  Most of what I post fits into those broad categories, but I feel like there should or could be so much more.  What about the Rust and Peeling Paint?  How about the abstracts, or the close-ups, or candid people shots?  I’ve got critters and signs and urban landscapes and more, but without ending up with 20 or 30 galleries that would confuse the heck out of people and make them give up and go back to YouTube, how can I classify my photos more specifically in order to make my galleries into cohesive “bodies of work?”  I’ve been working on that, and it has been a challenge in a number of ways.

Neil’s Harbour, Nova Scotia

Starting from scratch with a collection of 80,000 images is overwhelming, so my first challenge was how to start with a much smaller sample.  Fortunately I’ve been pretty diligent over the years with using Collections in Lightroom, and I have a well-developed method for rating my photos.  I’ve also been diligent about using captions and keywords to help me locate and organize my photos.  Using star ratings I narrowed the first pass down to about 6,500 photos – still a daunting task but somewhat more manageable than 80,000.

Neil’s Harbour, Nova Scotia

I’ve made lists and lists of possible theme titles and have given a lot of thought to what the definitions should be for each theme.  Then comes the hard part – going through my photos to figure out which ones fall into which categories and making sure I have enough decent photos to properly fill out a gallery for each one.  For someone prone to overthinking and second guessing (me!) that can be especially challenging.  For example, one of my potential themes is “Nautica,” which I have defined as “Boats, parts of boats and boat stuff.”  In my mind I’m thinking more of the details – ropes, sails, ornamentation, etc. and less about pictures of boats themselves.  But what do I do with the boat pictures?  Do lighthouses go there or somewhere else?  How about cruise ships?  Landscape photos that have boats in them?  Crab pots or buoys?  Of course the answers to all those questions are “it depends” and “they’re my rules, it’s up to me.”  Sheesh.   A few of my favorites accompany this post.

Yacht “Phoenix” in St Martin

It’s interesting how many ways there can be to slice and dice photos.  A number of them will fall into multiple categories.  Do I put some of them in several galleries or decide which one is “best?”  Decisions, decisions.  This has been an interesting exercise so far.  I’m nowhere near the end and it still seems awfully overwhelming, but I hope the results are worth the effort when I’m done.  I make no promises for when that might be! 😉

4 thoughts on “Thoughts On Web Galleries and Finding Themes In Our Work”

  1. I’ll be interested to see what you come up with. I’ve struggled with this ever since I started my website. I think part of. the problem is that we both seem eclectic in our photographic subjects which makes it difficult to find the right gallery. It would be so much easier if I just did portrait or botanicals.

    …and then do you have separate B&W and Color galleries? It’s maddening…

    1. If you are using ‘eclectic’ as a kind substitute for ‘scatterbrained’ then that’s me! 😉 Truly though, our preferences, tastes and approaches change over time, and it is a constant battle to try and keep up with those changes on something like a website. Neither of us wants to spend our time in front of the computer any more than we need to!

      For me, I don’t usually distinguish between color and black and white because I see that as more of a processing decision based on the individual image and don’t consider it to be a distinct subset of my photography. Sometimes a photo works better one way or the other, sometimes I like and keep both. But I don’t consider myself to be a “color photographer” or a “B&W photographer”

  2. I’ve struggled with the same thoughts, still struggle. I’m not interested in selling on my blog. My blog is also my website. I do not have a desire to write code of any kind. I too enjoy sharing what I see with my cameras and why I have a blog. I’m now spending more time with writing along with the images. I want to keep it simple! Eclectic is a good word for my images. My images also represent my focus in life. All of that is good. I read some thoughts along this same line by Alex Kunz and how he feels a change may be in the works for him (

    1. Interesting article, Monte. Thanks for sharing! A lot of what he writes is gobbledygook because I don’t dig that deeply into the WordPress side of things. My website plan includes access to WordPress, but I am only using it for very basic blogging with a few plugins. My blog functions only as my blog, and I use my website for a more permanent place to display my work. It sounds like Kunz is using it more as an online photo archive, which I don’t care about.

      When I create a new gallery on my website, I export a whole new batch of photos from Lightroom to upload to my website, even if there are versions already on the site. I continually delete all of the unused files, because otherwise I would have a big mess!

      If anything, Kunz’s itemization of all the various costs associated with a WordPress site make the amount I pay to NeonSky quite reasonable!

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