photographer's camera and computer

SEO for Photographers

Photography websites are naturally image rich, so as Google can’t (yet) interpret the contents of a photograph, these sites need special care in their search engine optimisation (SEO).

If you are new to SEO, it will help if you first read our post on basic search engine optimisation for any website. But to recap briefly on the basics:

  1. Research the keywords your prospective customers are using to search for the types of photography services you offer.
  2. Choose a good domain name, ideally one which includes one or two of your keywords, but most importantly is memorable and includes your brand name.
  3. Use a reliable hosting company, which has it’s servers in the same country that you are based (assuming you sell mainly within your own country)
  4. Ensure your website is optimised for quick page loading, and that the pages are mobile friendly
  5. Choose your page titles with care, they should contain keywords for that page, but should also read well
  6. Make sure your web page’s internal URLs (permalinks) are meaningful – ie contain your keywords rather than random numbers and letters
  7. Write a meta description for each page which contains your keywords, and which will entice Google searchers to click on your page
  8. Use keywords in your page heading, and a good smattering in the text of your page
  9. Try to build quality links to your site and be active on social media – making sure you link to your website from all your social media platforms

Now that the basics are taken care of, lets look at the specifics of SEO on a largely image-based website.


Image SEO

As photographs will form a large part of your site, it’s obviously vital that they are fully optimised, both to enhance the SEO of the page they appear on, and to be found as an image in it’s own right. Brides often use Google image searches to look for photos of wedding venues. If you are a wedding photographer, this could provide a significant amount of traffic to your site. However, because your photos will appear in Google image search, it’s worth watermarking them to ensure your name stays with the image if downloaded and saved.

File Name

One of the things Google looks at for ranking purposes is an image’s file name. Get into the good habit of renaming your images when exporting from Lightroom or other photo editor. Use meaningful keywords which someone searching for a photo like that may type. Separate each word with a hyphen, not an underscore. Replace your camera’s default file name with something like:
If someone wanted a photo of the Mewstone (the name of the island), off Wembury in Devon, and at sunset – those are the words they might use! Google gives most weight to the keywords near the beginning, so I’ve put the place names first because, with most landscape photos, the location is more likely to be searched for than something more generic like ‘sunset’.

The Mewstone Island off the Devon coast at Wembury Point
Use keywords in a photos file name, and a description of the photo for Alt text

Alt Text

Alt text, or alternative text, is added to an image file on a website as an ‘alternative’ or substitute for the image itself. For example, if an image fails to load on a page because of a slow internet connection, the text should be shown instead. Or for the visually impaired accessing a website, a special piece of software called a screen reader will read the text of a page out loud, and also the alt text of an image, so they can ‘see’ what a photo is about.



In my view, captions under photos can spoil the aesthetics when used in a gallery, however, for single photos positioned within text as above, I think the look is acceptable. Google will notice keywords near an image, if they tie up with keywords in the file name and Alt text, this will reinforce their strength.


Speaking of Galleries…

With lots of (sometimes similar) images on one page, would using the same alt text on each photo be seen by Google as keyword spamming? Quite possibly, so I recommend using long tail keywords to make each slightly different. If you’re not familiar with the long tail keyword, there is more about it in our general SEO article. But briefly, long tail keywords are a longer, more detailed phrases which you are more likely to be able to rank on than more generalised ones. For example, it would be difficult to rank an image on the keywords ‘beach sunset’ – too much competition. But using the keywords ‘Newquay Cornwall beach sunset’ would be much easier.

So if you have a page with a gallery of beach sunsets, use slight different, detailed alt text on each one – give a location, and/or mention other content in the photo, eg. ‘Newquay surfer at sunset’. Adding a caption would also help, as would telling a story on the page about how the photos were taken – anything which may be of value to visitors to the page, and which mentions your keywords.

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