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Building photograph portfolios and the importance of narrative with 22Slides

Building photograph portfolios and the importance of narrative with 22Slides

Miguel Amado
“Visual artists have special demands and shouldn’t have to compromise”. This is one of the sentences in the homepage of 22Slides, a website builder specifically for photographers that want to show their portfolio to the world.

In this interview for Website Planet we talked with Bryan Buchanan, Founder of 22Slides to know more about his idea, what is prioritized in this builder and why photographers should have websites in the first place.

When did you have the idea of creating 22Slides? When analyzing the market the conclusion was “there’s not a single solution for photographers out there” or “there are many website builders, but none is good”?

I’d like to be able to say the decision was that deliberate, but the truth is that I was working as a freelance web designer and photographer and just thought it’d be fun to try and make a product that combined those two things.

I forced a couple of my friends to use it, and by virtue of a little time and a few word-of-mouth referrals, it grew into an actual business.

Looking great is not the only thing that matters for a photography website. What are the other points that you prioritize in your builder?

The tools. I want 22Slides to feel like a precision tool that’s almost fun to use, like a brand-new perfectly-milled camera body, with responsive controls, and a carefully-thought-out and comfortable form. The product should be beautiful and demand appreciation when idle, but should disappear when it’s in use.

Support is another priority. Being an outgrowth of my freelance career, our relationship with people is more similar to a small firm and its “clients”, rather than a typical SaaS and its sea of faceless “users”.

What “non-obvious” aspect should a photographer pay attention to when creating their website?

Narrative. I’ve seen photographers put amazing-but-otherwise-unrelated and uncomplimentary images all together, then wonder why the sum somehow lacks in comparison to the individual parts. Just like a good song tells a story, a sequence of images can, and should do the same.

There are some social media platforms that highlight images, like Instagram and Pinterest. Why should a photographer create a website?

That’s a great question! Compared to a decade ago, a website is less likely to be solely responsible for leaving a first impression with prospective clients.

What that shift has done, though, is transform the state of having a website from the bare minimum that’s expected, to an elevated symbol of individuality and professional distinction. A website tends to signal that you have your stuff together a little more than an Instagram account.

Both are important, though. When used together, social media grants access to markets you otherwise wouldn’t reach, and a website sells your service in a way social media can’t.

When you hear feedback from your clients, what are their main concerns and issues?

We provide a relatively simple service and try to take care of every single client as well as we can. As a result, our customers tend to stick around much longer than is the industry norm, and a somewhat common concern people express is their reluctance to use another website builder when their business grows so much that their needs change.

This isn’t something we get too upset about, though, since it just means our service did its job to help our clients grow. Ideally, we’d be able to scale our offerings so that no one ever outgrows out platform, but that takes a lot of time. It’s that compromise in doing only a few things and doing them well that grants us much of our appeal.

What are 22Slides’ plans for the next few years?

To grow. We’ve been perfectly happy with our small corner of the market for the last ten years, but now we’re itching to increase the value of the service we provide and make our corner a little bigger. We’ll be adding more features regularly that provide working photographers more value for their subscription.

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Really the best website creator for photography out there. Super easy to use an lots of clever features. Customer service is way beyond average
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