Following on from my posts about setting up your own website and getting started with WordPress, I have had a look at some of the premium themes that can really make your blog/portfolio site stand out. The following themes are themes I have either downloaded myself, or had an extensive look at. They were all shortlisted as potential photo-blog websites and would appeal to anyone considering paying for a theme. Yes – these are premium themes. They are designed for photographers looking to showcase their images rather than deliver blog content. Don’t get me wrong – they all provide blog pages, but they’re not the main reason for the theme.
In looking at these themes, I also considered how responsive they were. By responsive, I mean how well do they scale down to smaller displays – typically the smartphone sized displays. Do you need a responsive template? the best thing to do is check Google Analytics to see what browsers are visiting your site.
Some things to watch out for when looking at a Theme:
- How do images respond when you resize the browser window? (a good test of responsiveness)
- How easy is it to modify basic colour schemes? (some will have an option field in WordPress, others will require you to edit the .css files or more!)
- How does the theme cope with images that are different sizes? That wonderful Panorama might not look so good when it’s been auto-resized to fit your screen. Even worse with portrait images!
- How do galleries cope with different sized images? Images in galleries should resize automatically – but some don’t!
- How quick does it load the pages? Whizzy html 5 code, or scripted galleries might look amazing, but if you spend more time looking at a “loading” icon that’s not great. Bear in mind, if you are uploading hi-res images, this will likely be worse.
- Look at a “Page” (i.e. “About Me”) as well as a blog post (usually “Blog” or “Latest News”) and not just the landing page.
- Does it do what you want? Think about your site as you navigate the menu.
- Social… Most themes now have social network icons built in. Do they have the ones you want? Do you know how easy it is to modify them? Can you add/remove at will?
Choosing a theme can be time consuming due to the amount of things to think about. My suggestion is to try the demo, if you like it – bookmark it. When you have your shortlist, go back to them all and read the comments to see how responsive the developer is. Double check that the latest version of the theme is compatible with your version of WordPress. Discard anything that doesn’t come up to scratch.
Anyway – here is the shortlist I came up with and tried (in some cases) before deciding on the theme you see before you today.
1. Agency Fullscreen (DEMO)
This theme is really all about displaying your work. It’s responsive, and supports the “swish” navigation of various iDevices. It’s more of a Portfolio theme than anything else and things like the “blog” (News) are not as elegant as I’d prefer. Images in the grid on the homepage are all square which might mean that landscape photos (for example) might lose their impact.
This theme was one of my favourites. It’s quite discreet, with the nav menu across the bottom and a whizzy looking slider on the home page. Background colours and patterns are all configurable from within the theme, which is excellent. For displaying photographs the user experience is “ok”. Navigating between images is done via a thumbnail column on the left of the screen, or by using the arrow keys – which prompted me to ask how one can do this on a non-desktop. The downsides for me really were the lack of description as to whether the theme is responsive or not, and the scroll bar inside the window of posts and pages. These things almost didn’t stop me buying it, because it seems to deal with unorthodox sized pictures quite well. The developer of this also manages the Chocolate theme which is responsive and well worth a look over if you like this style.
This is another great theme for photographers. The main thing about this is – once again – your image dimensions don’t all have to “fit” the theme requirements (small, large, landscape or portrait). Everything falls into a neat grid. The homepage shown here can also have a filter button allowing your visitor to instantly filter for just the images (s)he is interested in. There is excellent Gallery support with many different gallery options included, and even the blog pages have plenty of space. This would make an excellent “hybrid” site for the photographer looking to showcase their images as well as write about them!
This is a pretty looking theme, and the downsides for me were the fact that it is quite prescriptive in its look. Homepage images are either portrait or landscape with no obvious provision for square cropped images (or medium format neg scans…). The jagged crop to all your images for thumbnail purposes might get a bit annoying, but if you shoot primarily landscape or portrait shots you should be OK. The gallery is very swish, but I found there to be a bit too much clicking going on to see the image I wanted. The blog page is “functional” and not for me, but you might like it… The notes state that this is also a responsive theme – good for smartphones and other smaller devices.
This is a great theme for landscape photographers and is primarily a portfolio theme. The blog functionality isn’t great, but when it comes to displaying landscape images, this is a lovely theme. Minimalist design allows you to really showcase your shots without having intrusive menus in the way. That little “+” sign in the image pops out a small sidebar with (customisable) contact information etc. Google custom fonts are supported so don’t worry about the “sci-fi” look of the typography as it can (presumably!) be changed.
Another one for landscape photographers, this is a portfolio site with a slightly better blog layout than Zoom above. The sidebar folds nicely out of the way to allow a better showcase for your images. There is no mention of responsiveness though in the theme notes, so I’m not sure how well this would translate onto a small device. the clean, minimalistic styling though works very well.
7. Studio Zen (DEMO)
Another inventive and swishy looking theme with navigation that really seems to sit “over” your images. Lots of custom functions in here including control over how the slides appear and the ability to toggle on/off all distractions to allow the viewer to see just the images. The blog pages work well with the background images as do other custom pages although looking at pictures displayed on a background images – things can get a bit distracting. I guess the key thing here is to have a blank background on the gallery pages…
Where would a review be without a review of King Size. I liked it so much I bought it! There’s really not a lot wrong with this theme. It looks very pretty, the navigation is extremely straightforward and discreet (it can be tucked out of the way for proper image showcasing) and the blog presentation also works well. The reason I’m not still using it is because the blog is a tad narrow for my tastes. Updates and documentation are excellent. Big thumbs up for this theme.
9. Photopassion (DEMO)
Another theme that I have downloaded and paid for, Photopassion is a really good hybrid/blogging theme for photographers. It is clean and minimalistic and it’s “newbie friendly” in terms of actually putting some of these fancy effects into posts and pages. This clean style makes it easy to read posts and the various gallery options make displaying your images very easy. I wouldn’t choose this theme though if I were just after a portfolio site. That’s why it’s important to know what you want from your website (and ultimately your theme!) before purchasing anything!
10. Black Label (DEMO)
Another great portfolio theme for photographers. Black Label is very minimalist, allowing those landscape images to really shine. The Blog aspect is also very serviceable, however the slideshow background can be distracting (it’s optional!) Black Label does require a degree of work though to get it looking just how you like and I must admit that my attempts with it never really came to fruition. It’s now available with a white skin (White Label) which adds some options, but as a blogger primarily, this isn’t an ideal choice. Black Label also comes with a variety of Gallery options allowing you a degree of choice over how to display your images.
11. Clean Space (DEMO)
You might recognise aspects of this theme as it’s the current theme here at Shuttercount. My reasons for choosing this were mainly due to the minimalist design which is really clean. It’s also very simple to configure with drag ‘n’ drop boxes to layout pages. The responsiveness on other devices is excellent, and the full page spread really gives me a lot of room to arrange my writing. I haven’t yet uncovered or exploited all the features but I’m working on it! It’s a very “blog” oriented theme, but has the capability to add some really impressive slideshows with the Layer Slider gallery feature. If you’re after a more portfolio style feel from the same author, then the John Doe theme is well worth a look.
12. Self Titled (DEMO)
Just a quick look now at a couple of themes that cater for portrait style images rather than just landscape. Self-Titled is another minimalist and responsive theme that has an impressive looking home page. Posts and Pages within the site look a little narrow, so this again is more about displaying your images than putting written content at the forefront of your site.
13. Softymedia (DEMO)
Much like Clean Space above, this theme looks really professional, elegant and clean. It’s a responsive theme and it’s well worth having a look at the Projects page and the Blog page to see how they look. This is more a theme for blogging photographers as the focus is clearly on written content, but the large landscape style sliders across the top of the pages make it possible to have some lovely images alongside your words.
I did it! I found another theme that can display portfolio images that aren’t just landscape! I really quite like this theme despite a few shortcomings. Getting the “bad” over with first… Hmm… I can’t think of anything. Maybe the fact I can only have a light & dark template… Or maybe the niggle that there’s no real room for a header image. Even that seems mean. Navigation is really simple, which means I can find what I want very quickly. This is always a bonus! Looks like images all have to be the same height, but they can be really narrow or really wide and everything seems to slot together nicely. Have a play with the various portfolios on the bottom left nav. Social icons are fun to play with too and apparently you can add your own. I really like this and can see me giving it a field trial in the not too distant future.
This theme has grown on me as I’ve had a look around and I’d recommend you do the same. Galleries can be set to “fit to height” so that whatever the crop on your images, they will always fit. Blog-wise it’s a bit poor, but if all you want are pages and some way to showcase your photographs, you’re in for a bit of a treat. Well worth a poke around as there seem to be many ways of adapting the style to work in a variety of ways. The menus can be hidden (light bulb on the left hand edge) and the drop-down arrow on the top right pulls down essential information about you and/or your site. It feels clean and responsive and as with the other themes here – I can get to what I need to get to quickly.
So there we have it. 15 themes for you to have a think about. I really hope you enjoyed looking through these. Finding the right theme can be time consuming and I found so many of this type of post helpful, so decided to do one of my own!
Thanks for reading!