With photography website speed confirmed by Google as one of their SEO ranking factors, it’s more important than ever to have a fast loading website.
More importantly, visitors to your site are impatient, your photography site needs to be loading as quickly as possible or they’ll jump ship. Lost seconds means lost clients right!
It has never been easier to showcase high-quality photography online. Your portfolio website is the go-to tool for marketing. Google is the place potential clients will find you and your services.
However, the need for speed is vital.
You can have the most beautiful looking portfolio in the world. But those potential new clients who visit your website will quickly ‘bounce’ in frustration if it takes too long to show.
Furthermore, dropping a sloth speed site out there and search engines will turn their noses in another direction.
Yet, having an image heavy website is always going to be difficult to achieve high scores for speed.
That said, all of your competitors are in the same boat! Which makes it even more important to be ahead with super fast load times.
In this blog post, I’m going to highlight some important steps to take to ensure you have a blazing fast photography website speed.
So let’s jump in…
Step 1: Get Started by checking your current speed
Before you start ripping into your photography website speed, changing a million things it’s important to find out where your website performance scores lie.
Head over to GTmetrix.
Enter your web address, for example, https://yourwebsite.com.
The software will then analyse your website giving you results for both PageSpeed and YSlow as shown below.
Speed Test results from my client chaseecology.co.uk.
Below the results, you can find a list of recommendations on how to improve these scores.
Using the data as a starting point you can then apply the methods throughout this article to improve your ratings.
It’s worth noting that sometimes these tools may give you prompts for thing such as ‘use a CDN’ when you already use one. However, on GTmetrix you can specify your CDNs in your User Settings.
Your website host matters!
Let me start by saying WordPress Hosting is much better than it was even just 5 years ago. Yet, you will still struggle to get 90% or Grade A scores for a photography website.
This is mainly because of what we call ‘Managed Hosting”. Effectively your website shares a server with several other peoples websites.
The only true way to improve this further would be to pay a lot more money and be on a VPS or Dedicated server.
That said, even with managed hosting your provider still may not be delivering you value for money. Over the years I’ve tried 5 or 6 hosts and have always been let down at some point.
Thankfully, I’ve been with SiteGround now for 4 years without any issues.
If you find your site is still slow after applying the optimisations in this article, it would be time to switch.
Step 2: Optimise your photographs
As a photographer, the most likely thing slowing down your website speed is the one thing you need to show most.
Unnecessary image sizes are a major issue on most websites on the web, However, with an image optimisation & compression workflow, you can simplify the issue.
There are several tool options available to help with this, such as Ewww image optimizer, TinyPNG and Smush PRO!
Smush Pro is my preferred photography SEO tool.
It is the fastest, easiest and best-performing image compression plugin available for WordPress! Allowing you to automatically optimise and resize every image.
Smush Pro also has a built-in CDN to serve perfectly sized images and at .webp instead of jpegs.
I feel it is the most efficient image optimisation tool to ensure photography website speeds have fast load times.
Step 3: Lazy Load images
A large percentage of page load time for photography sites is naturally going to be taken up with delivering images.
With images being among the most popular type of content on the web, page load time on websites can easily become an issue.
Even when properly optimized, images can weigh quite a bit. This can have a negative impact on the time visitors have to wait before they can access content on your website.
Chances are, they get impatient and navigate somewhere else unless you come up with a solution to image loading that doesn’t interfere with the perception of speed.
Lazy loading does many things, as explained in the article by SitePoint.
However, basically, lazy loading enables your website to only download images as they are required to be on screen. So when a visitor scrolls down your page your image will only load when they get to that part of the webpage.
This simple bit of optimisation that can drastically increase your photography website speed.
The Lazy Load plugin is a great solution developed by Automattic, the people behind WordPress. Smush PRO! also has lazy load options too.
Step 4: Cache your pages
Caching is the real power tool that makes photography portfolio speeds reach their peak.
If you have not updated the site, the browser will use the locally cached version, instead of retrieving the entire item. Hence, speeding up your load times.
Step 5: Compress, Combine and Defer CSS & JS files
Basically, we what they are saying is to reduce the number of files loading, make them smaller, and then load them after content is shown to your visitor.
What we’re doing is making the user think the page is loaded, then immediately start including all of our usual CSS and JS content so the page quickly functions as expected.
As with caching, Hummingbird also allows you to minify, combine and compress your website files.
The problem is, it can be tricky, and the fancier things your site has, the more complicated it becomes.
However, if you do one file at a time, and check everything is working each edit you’ll be just fine. If for some reason once you’ve edited a file and something stops working, as it does happen, just undo the edits and move along the list.
Step 6: Clean up any unused files
Whenever you save a page or post in WordPress it creates a revision. This occurs in both drafts and published posts that are updated.
This very article had 21 revisions from just a couple of thousand words.
Revisions can be helpful. If you make a change you don’t like or make a mistake you can just go back a few minutes to where you were good.
However, they can also hurt the performance of your WordPress site. On larger websites, revisions can add up very quickly to thousands of entries in your database that are not required.
And the more entries means a larger database and slower server load times.
Using tools such as WP-Sweep and again Hummingbird you can clean up your website for faster performance.
Step 7: Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
Put simply, a Content Delivery Network (CDN) places multiple versions of your website throughout the world, ensuring it loads from the closest server to your visitor.
Using the power of a CDN on your site is vital when you run a photography website.
Steps to get things working on your website will vary. However, starter guides are available on most CDN providers websites.
My SEO tools Hummingbird and Smush Pro also have built-in CDN to serve perfectly sized images and your website files.
Put simply, photography website speed is most likely the single most important optimisation you can do.
Test your website, implement the steps we’ve covered today and enjoy watching your portfolio speed rocket!
If you are struggling to implement everything then please leave me a comment below and I’ll try to help…