Modern layout and design concepts for photo blogs

A photo blog [also written as photoblog] should not be taken as a collection of photos on a website but a professionally presented portfolio. It must show the talent and best creations of the photographer, look visually appealing, make it easy for the visitor to find what he is looking for. If the blog is used for selling the photographs, the blog should help in the buyer easily find the right photo, know the terms, easily make the payment and instantly take possession of the photo.

A proper layout helps the photo-blogger achieve his goals, as much as a bad layout confuses visitors or makes them unsure about the photographer's terms and the quality of his work.

Before you choose layout that would suit your blog the best, keep in mind that the design must achieve easy navigation (= taking a path to find something) and quick finding of resources.

For achieving intuitive navigation and resource discovery, the back end work of tagging photographs is very important. Many bloggers ignore this aspect and have to spend much more time later on in fixing problems. What you need to do is to make a list of tags which you will use for categorizing your photos. Tags should generally tell the genre of photography, type of photograph and location. (We'd come to the display of categories later, and discuss various content-related matters in a subsequent post. Please visit this post if you are interested in the best way to put tag and make use of them.)

Nothing can beat the 'menu bar' when it comes to navigation. Menu bar is a strip or a list of items that help visitors in finding resources. 

There can be two types of menu bars on photo blogs:
  1. a menu bar with links to photographer's details, other services, terms of use, etc; and
  2. a menu bar with links to various categories and sub-categories of photographs.
Menu bars can be placed on the blog at various places: 
  • A horizontal menu bar at the very top of the visual area. This area suits contact details etc. more than categories, which need a better placement of menu bar.
  • A horizontal bar under the title. If the title is in one corner, this menu bar can be on the side of the title. This is the most visible and desirable place to have a menu bar.
  • If one type of menu bar is kept on top portion of the blog, another can be placed in the lower part - just below the main photo area or as a semi-transparent strip over the photos.
  • A vertical list of menu items in the left side bar is another good place to show the main menus. The vertical menu bar can accommodate many more menu items than a horizontal bar.
    Title, though very important for any website, need not bother you as far as its placement goes. In most cases, the title goes either on top and is centrally aligned or is located on one side.

    One must choose the number and placement of photographs in relation to one another very carefully, because this is what is the main content of any photo blog. I have given three layout ideas* here, with different sizes and placements of photos. There can be more combinations based on placement of menu bar, title and image areas.

    Please have a look at the first and third diagrams. Many professional photo bloggers choose a big photo or a big photo with a few asymmetrically arranged small photos covering a big area of the blog. Mostly the photos (if more than one) are on the same subject. 

    Care is taken that even though photos cover the screen, menu bar is clearly visible.

    When a big photo takes up most of the space, other photos can be used as thumbnails, so that other types of photos do not get completely ignored. If the photographer deals with many types of photography, he can use the main area for the dominant type and use thumbs to give samples of other types. If the photo blogger has a narrow niche (e.g. bird photography), thumbs can be used to give the rich range of photos (e.g. different types of birds, in different actions/moods).

    Some bloggers prefer to place a mosaic of photographs, as shown in the second diagram. Sometimes thumbs representing different categories are displayed and sometimes each photograph shows its story when cursor is hovered over it. This type has the advantage that one can put a very large number of photos. But this makes the blog look a bit cluttered. 

    Though these arguably are the most efficient layouts for photo blogs, a photo blog's layout can be much different. A flip-card style arrangement of photos in a grid, magazine style display in which each photo gets good display and has a big caption and a front-page with a big photo that opens into a proper homepage are some other popular examples.

    The photo blog, even more than other blogs, must be designed with patience. The wire-frame or sketch must be filled with different photographs to see the best visual impact. The play of photos and space must be studied so that while there is no wastage of space, the screen should not look cluttered or suffocating. 

    Finally, it is a matter of choice. Almost all types of layouts that can display photos well - especially the three shown above - work well if these design principles are applied.

    *: If you like a more detailed discussion on the topic, please visit our photo blog series a the given link.