My website has been based on WordPress since roughly 2009. Over that time period, I’ve seen many themes and pagebuilders come and go. The most recent major shift in the photography space was the end of Flothemes, who I used many times over the past 6 or so years. I’ve used everything from Photocrati, to Genesis, to Elementor, to Kadence.
I wanted to quickly write a post about my current thoughts on WordPress and the available themes in 2023/2024.
What Makes WordPress a Good Choice for Photographers?
I have many reasons that make WordPress the best choice for myself. If these resonate with you, it might be the best platform for your business as well.
Long-term Data Ownership
As many people realized with the recent Flothemes event, you don’t want to lose your data on the whim of another companies decision to end your platform. One of the major benefits of WordPress is that you can self-host your site and keep your own offsite backups. You can import data and store it as you’d like from many sources. You can even export that data to many other platforms if you desire. It’s an open source project, not a for profit project that might decide to cease operations.
This is why I strongly recommend researching any third party pagebuilder or block plugins before using them extensively across your site. Make sure that they give you an easy option to export back to native WordPress blocks upon deactivation.
When publishing content on WordPress, you can feel secure that your data will be visible for as long as you’d like to keep it online.
Compare with $39/mo for Showit’s advanced blog, the cost is not even close.
You can simply do anything with WordPress. If you have an idea for a feature, there is likely somebody that has already figured it out and likely a free plugin. I have multiple WordPress e-commerce sites, podcasts, consulting workflows, courses, and online communities. None of those sites would be as feature rich and capable if I attempted to build them on Squarespace or Showit.
Finally, the reason you’re all probably going to be waiting for.. SEO.
It’s true, I can attribute the majority of my SEO success over the years to techniques and strategies that were made possible or easier to accomplish on WordPress. For many years, platforms like Squarespace had such significant technical SEO issues that I didn’t consider to them to be legitimate competition. It’s still quite difficult to find a platform that allows you to quickly create content, structure it well for users and search engines, publish it, and keep it organized long-term.
The Best Free WordPress themes for Photographers
This is my go to recommendation for WordPress in 2023. This may change in the future as WordPress moves towards Full-Site Editing / Block Themes, but I’ve been closely following how Kadence expects to make that transition and like their current trajectory.
The free theme and blocks are good enough for most photography sites, but the pro theme and pro blocks have some great additional features. I almost always recommend starting with free, then upgrading if you find yourself running into limitations.
Corey and I did a podcast episode on why Kadence is our current favorite free WordPress theme for photographers, listen to that here. I also spoke at a Kadence Conference last year on how Kadence can help your SEO.
This is a block theme from the creators of the popular Astra WordPress theme. It’s worth taking a look at and giving a shot. I don’t think that block themes are quite ready for most photographers’ needs, but this will be a strong contender in the coming months / years.
Best Premium WordPress Themes for Photographers
I might be slightly biased, due to creating these themes.. but they came after years of auditing and consulting on countless photography sites. I found myself telling people why they shouldn’t use specific themes, page builders, plugins, or developers.. but not having a great option to give them to replace those. Finally, I broke down and designed the perfect themes for my needs, creating Sightsee Design.
These themes have every SEO and performance trick I can think of. The designs are meant to be simple and clean. We use the Kadence Cloud Library to allow users to quickly build content from existing sections and full pages. The SEO results have been spectacular, with Jess ranking in the top 3 for “Portland Family Photographer” within weeks. My site is also showing early improvement. We’ve now helped 20+ photographers migrate from other platforms or themes over to these premium Kadence based themes.
After years of prompting Melissa Love of The Design Space to build photography themes using Kadence, she recently launched a collection of themes and a cloud library subscription under the brand Stylecloud. Her designs are top notch and she backs them up with fantastic support.
Wait.. you didn’t mention *Insert Theme / Pagebuilder Here*
Unfortunately, there is a long list of photography themes and platforms that I would not recommend in 2023. They’re already behind the times now, and will only be further behind as we transition to block themes.
Theme Chop Shops
This includes the typical inexpensive themes you’ll see on Themeforest, Creative Market, and Envato. Stay away from these cheap themes that are typically using ancient bloated pagebuilders and offer a terrible user experience.
Pagebuilders like Elementor or Divi. I see far too many issues when working on those sites and don’t see them improving significantly going forward. These are the sites that I see that still have issues with almost every WordPress or plugin update. Funky rendering bugs, terrible backend experiences, and issues with long-term data ownership.
They’re also at an inflection point, where they’re no longer following the direction of WordPress. I see them more as a separate stand alone platform than true WordPress.
The final WordPress theme for photographers that I haven’t mentioned is ProPhoto. They moved towards a managed model this year, which is probably better for some people. The downside is that I’ve never found there platform to be user friendly for the typical photographer. I’ve had countless calls with their users that simply can’t figure out how to edit their sites how they’d like. They’re another theme/builder that has been slow to keep up with changes in the web and WordPress ecosystem. I don’t see them keeping up with the current block editor and future block themes/full-site editing.