Build a fast photography website on WordPress: If you're like me, speed is of the utmost importance when it comes to your photography website. The problem? Professional photos are huge in size and resolution and can quickly bog down your page load times if not handled properly. The other problem? Trying to sell anything on a website usually comes at a higher monthly cost.
I've been building websites for over ten years. I have finally found the most efficient way to build a fast photography website on WordPress, which also allows me to sell prints, presets, calendars, and anything else I can dream of. If you haven't already, read my other post on the best platforms for building a photography website.
I live by the mindset that everyone should eat, so I put together this quick guide to show you how to build a photography website on WordPress without sacrificing speed, quality, customization, or spending more money. So, let's get into it.
Before building your WordPress website, I recommend purchasing a custom domain name from GoDaddy. They often have great introductory prices, like paying $1 for the first year. The only downside with GoDaddy is that their yearly charge for owning a domain typically jumps to $20 for a .com and more for other domain types.
As a little life hack, you can make a free Cloudflare account and transfer your domain to Cloudflare (after 60 days), which will cost you a mere $8.03 per year as of writing this article. Every dollar counts! Cloudflare is also a great content delivery network, but we'll get into that later.
Arguably the most important aspect of having a fast WordPress website is using the right hosting provider. Over the years, I've tried almost all of them. SiteGround was great for the price, but being a shared hosting service, I couldn't make the most out of the server. Hostmonster was decent, but when it came time to cancel my hosting plan, it took the old "change my default payment method to a Visa gift card with $0.32 left on it so they can't keep charging my debit card" tactic.
(If hosting is entirely new to you and seems a bit overwhelming, check out this great article on choosing a web hosting provider).
I can confidently say that DigitalOcean is the best hosting provider for my particular case. The only potential downside is that setting up a VPS with DO requires strong technical knowledge in web development (a solid understanding of using the CLI is also beneficial).
You can set up a Droplet for as low as $5/month, and you get a pretty solid VPS for that price. They only use solid-state drives, which makes for an overall speedier website. For more information on setting up a DigitalOcean droplet, check out this article. I highly recommend using Plesk for your control panel because they have great built-in security features, speed optimizations, and an easy-to-use interface.
Remember Cloudflare? Well, it so happens that they provide a free CDN service, which speeds up your website by caching your files and can optionally keep an "always online" version of your website in case your server goes down.
Cloudflare also uses a global network of servers to deliver your website to users based on their geolocation (it will serve them your website from the closest server farm), giving it a serious speed boost. I also find Cloudflare's security top-notch and trust all ten of my websites to be served through them.
Read this guide on how to set up a simple distribution on CloudFront.
The good news with WordPress is that there are thousands of free and premium themes that will allow users with no coding knowledge to create beautiful websites. I used Uncode for many years until recently, when I switched to Oxygen, but I highly recommend Uncode for its insane customization and dynamic usage.
Be careful with themes; many of them add so much extra bloat to your website and can seriously bog down your loading times, destroying your SEO rankings. That is why I switched to Oxygen page builder. Unlike normal page builders, Oxygen replaces the need for a theme since it taps into the core of WordPress, alleviating the unnecessary bloat of a theme.
I do not recommend using other page builders like Elementor, WP Bakery, Beaver Builder, Divi, etc., because they all seriously slow down page loading times (in my experience). And while Oxygen may seem a bit more advanced, you can tap into its full potential once you get the hang of it.
Repeat after me: I will not install an unnecessary number of useless plugins. Very good! Plugins are the number one cause of a slow WordPress website. By using Oxygen page builder, you can eliminate a theme and a large portion of plugins thanks to Oxygen's great out-of-the-box features.
To keep things short and sweet, I will list my favorite plugins for certain functionality that do not compromise speed (and, in some cases improve loading speed):
Building a fast photography website on WordPress may seem daunting, but it doesn't have to be. Sure it takes more technical knowledge than throwing something up on Squarespace, but the extra effort goes a long way when looking at things from an SEO perspective. I wanted to avoid making this a 20,000-word post, so I have omitted some extraneous details.
But if you have any questions about anything mentioned in this post, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below, and I'm happy to help! Happy WordPressing!