Photojournalist Lynn Johnson’s Website Redesign

Last week photojournalist and National Geographic contract photographer’s new website was launched. Squarespace was the platform I used to give we online portfolio and presence a complete refresh.

The standard for most photographers in the 1990s and early-to-mid-2000s was to build a website using Flash. I remember LiveBooks being super popular along with BigFolio and a few others. Most photography website companies back then offered Flash-based templates. Oh, how presentation and marketing has changed!

Lynn’s former website served her well and she felt it was time to finally update. So when she engaged me to redesign her website I was excited and of course extremely flattered.


Every website I work on starts with research. I have loads of questions so we discussed a lot of options: budget, structure, content, marketing and maintenance; all of which overlap and how I determine the best solution. Time is precious and she wasn’t keen on spending a lot of it updating software, plugins, backing up her site, security, etc. Naturally she wanted to focus on people and stories — her passion.

Note: Of course there are ways to automate backup, security, etc. but those require additional and typically on-going costs.



Squarespace was the best option and after several rounds and tests of the various templates they offer, we moved forward with the Fulton template. CSS was used to tweak the template. 

Template Limitations

We ran into a few frustrations or “not crazy about” aspects of working with a template but both of us did our best to come to terms with those limitations. Designing websites can be a tremendous challenge because it is often about working with constraints. There is always the dream scenario but in most cases, that is not an option. Still, the best part of the job is figuring out creative ways to get around constraints.

The one section where I had to compromise was the “Library”. It contains an archive of selected stories that she has published over the years. It is quite a body of work and I wanted to give it the real estate it deserved.

I started in one direction but realized I was making it too complicated for her to do on her own. Working around the built-in functions to present the content differently would require too many steps. So, the best option was to stick with a baked-in format. It’s a bummer that we’ve already had some feedback that the Library section is confusing so it’s my hope to revisit after we do some training, review the analytics and do some training. Perhaps it won’t be too complicated (crossing fingers).

Dream Client

Working with Lynn was incredibly satisfying and flat-out fun. She placed a great deal of trust in me and that felt great. It was a true collaboration; my favorite type of relationship.

Congratulations Lynn!

Multimedia Photojournalist Janet Jarman’s Website Redesign

Presenting my collaboration with Janet Jarman, Kati McCoy and Alex Kendrick on the redesign of

I’m excited to present Janet Jarman’s new website!

She announced the launch last week but I’ve been so busy with another website project and finishing up the details of my personal branding and marketing course that I just haven’t had the time! It’s all good stuff of course 😉


Janet, her assistant Kati, our developer Alex and I worked on the redesign for nearly two years. Gasp if you will but Janet has been pretty damn busy working which naturally shifted her focus to making pictures; something she cannot afford to not do! It was a bit like ships passing in the night but we finally made it happen and I’m excited for her and proud of what we were able to accomplish.

Reception to her site has been positive — yay!

Content Relationships

A website redesign of course is not without its challenges. In terms of design and development, Alex and I had to figure out a way to present her video and still photography in a way that met her requirements: one type of media format needs to takes priority over another but there could be a situation where only one type of content was published.

Meaning: If say a video for a story was the featured format type but she had a still photo gallery version of the same story, she wanted the video to be presented first and the still gallery presented second. It could also be reversed or there could be only a video or only a still gallery.

HonestlyI was super confused at first because when I hear the term “related content” I immediate think “related stories or articles”; content that could be related in terms of topic but not the same story in a different format. You know, like “Other Stories You May Like”.

Our language while the same meant different things! So it took awhile to hash it out since we were working primarily via email and Basecamp. Alex is based in the Midwest, Janet in Mexico and I’m in Syracuse!

But, because the content also drives the direction of development — a reason why development or developers should be involved in the project as soon as it begins — it was critical to reach an understanding. I was trying to avoid was the possibility of a major CMS implementation nightmare.

We eventually created 4 different templates which I believe works but it was an intense point of discussion since the actual presentation of secondary content was purposefully designed not to be consistent.


Janet’s new website is fully responsive thanks to Alex’s mad skills. Mobile use surpassed desktop last year and it will continue in that direction so building a responsive website was one of the most important requirements. Her previous Flash-based website wouldn’t even show up. A mobile-friendly website imho is a non-negotiable for website owners.


We used a BEAM template to create the archives section of her website and we had a few limitations. 

  1. The URL for the logo cannot be modified to be linked to an external web page
  2. Templates have a lot of customization limitations.

The first kinda drives me bonkers. The second I can live with. In the end it was a decision based on priority. We went with mobile-friendly over customization. So, it isn’t an ideal set-up but as always you gotta work within constraints and I personally do not feel that every section of a website or web page these days needs to be feel like an exact match.

What I Love Most

Perhaps it is bad form to share what I love about my own design but I feel like I gotta say how glad I am that it has some warmth and texture. It feels approachable just like Janet.

Personal Branding & Marketing Course at Newhouse

It’s official: Craft Your Image is on.

For the spring semester (2015) I’ll continue to teach personal branding and marketing for photography graduate students in the Multimedia Photography & Design department at the Newhouse School, Syracuse University.

I’m thrilled to continue to teach.

Photo by Stefano Principato Photo by Stefano Principato

It’s official: Craft Your Image is on.

I wasn’t sure up until this point whether I would continue to teach “Craft Your Image”, a course I designed and launched in the spring of 2013, to photography graduate students at the Newhouse School, Syracuse University.

The course is designed to do just some of the following:

  • Help students feel more comfortable and confident entering the freelance world
  • Educate the basics of managing finances (personal and professional)
  • Create a website presence
  • Get more clarity of their brand
  • Zero in on their niche and specialized topics
  • Wrap their heads around social media tools and its value

There’s more!


I’ve only taught this course for two semesters now and I took the feedback from the first class to apply to the spring 2014 class.

So, last spring, a few undergraduate design majors joined us. I’m proud to share that at least one photographer/picture editor and designer collaboration has turned into a more long-term partnership. It’s an outcome that makes me giddy.

And, I also brought in more speakers and more lectures on contracts, pricing, legal matters.

Guest Speakers

I was also able to bring in a few professionals to help fill in with their expertise:

  • Seth Resnick, D-65 (Thank you Nikon, B&H. Seth also gave a talk on creativity to a larger crowd at night.)
  • Matt Slaby, LUCEO
  • Jen Lombardi, Kiwi Creative
  • Alexis Lambert, Office of Mayor Alvin Brown

Next year I hope to bring in more great talent into the classroom via Skype.


Not everyone in the class felt the class was a success or that I was good at teaching. It’s never easy to hear that someone doesn’t like you or the way you do things (I’ve shared the more negative review below, too) but I was pleased to learn that most were extremely satisfied and felt it was worth their time and money.

Below are what the students had to say.

On the beneficial aspects of the course:

“This course is crucial for any creative venturing into business. Unlike a typical business class, this class doesn’t just talk about business but guides you through the introspective process of determining at your core who you are, what your values are, where your passions lie, and then critically evaluating your business dreams to shape a plan to align your values and passions into a viable business plan.”

“I was able to learn skills and tools that will allow me to move forward in my branding and identity journey independently and from a more informed place.”

On whether the course made one think:

“It definitely has made me think, I never really realized all the work that goes into design and how hard it is. I have a whole new appreciation for design and designers.”

“This course has definitely made me think. It really helped me get a direction to reach for in the future… Ie what where I want to go, what I want to do. It helped me focus where I should be focusing. But it made me really think about how I want my brand to be perceived and how everything fits together to create an image and brand. It also made me think more with design amongst other things to make the brand the most effective it can be.”

On whether the course would be recommended:

“I would definitely recommend this course to a friend. This course covered such valuable material that I think any creative type should be required to take in Newhouse.”

“Yes, it gets you to research not only the photography industry, but who you yourself are as a person. It forces you to question what will make you happy and how to do it. It”

On my strengths as a teacher:

“She is passionate and knowledgeable about her field, She can work with designer/filmmakers/photographers interchangeably. She provide a framework and knowledge base for students to look for the path to a rewarding career. She facilitates open discussion and asks important questions.”

“Debs greatest strengths is that she knows her stuff and the business. She has real life experience. She is also super helpful, kind, supportive. Deb is a great teacher. She pushes you to do better work and improve your branding. She also gives feedback that is constructive and helpful. She teaches in a very clear way while showing us real life examples”

“The teacher’s greatest strengths are her clear, concise presentation style, her enthusiasm for the subject matter and her compassion for students.”

From what seems like the one person who didn’t like me, my teaching style or what I had to offer:

“The teaching style, the delivery can be overbearing at times. It can be a drawback.. Not to be as harsh. It’s honesty off-putting and makes us feel less wanting to be engaged, compared to other professors who make the learning environment more welcoming. I really would encourage her to be more welcoming in the classroom environment. If this could be improved, I would recommend this class without hesitation.”

Future Plans

  • Offer a similar course geared specifically for MPD (Multimedia Photography & Design) Design majors
  • An online course for professionals, recent grads or recent freelancers

Interested in any of my future plans? Please let me know in the comments so I can go to the powers that be and show them real interest! 

Thank you ASMP & Photographers

So I just finished my first webinar with ASMP about content strategy for photographers.

And I have some people to thank because I could not have pulled this off.

Thank you, thank you

Judy Herrmann (amazing voice and support for photographers) for holding my hand through this process. ASMP is lucky to have this woman running Business as unUsual

So I just finished my first webinar with ASMP about content strategy for photographers.

And I have some people to thank because I could not have pulled this off.

Thank you, thank you

Judy Herrmann (amazing voice and support for photographers) for holding my hand through this process. ASMP is lucky to have this woman running Business as unUsual

The photographers who took their time to answer my questions about workflow, strategy, marketing and sending me images of their work. I truly wanted to share so much more of what you shared with me but time goes fast and I wanted to at least mention all of you instead of editing any one of you out!

So, a major big thank you to: 

And those of you who attended the webinar … It wouldn’t have been a webinar without you.

Content strategy is no small endeavor. It can feel huge but it is doable.

Please, say hello and let me know if you’d like more!


Web Design: I Made This for Us

I Made This for Us was a website birthday present from independent radio reporter Mara Zepeda to photojournalist Amanda Lucier — two close friends separated by distance..

I was thrilled and flattered to be asked to help with the design.

I Made This for Us was a website birthday present from independent radio reporter Mara Zepeda to photojournalist Amanda Lucier — two close friends separated by distance..

I was thrilled and flattered to be asked to help with the design.

heck out their first post for the week. The pairing of image with audio is quite beautiful and touching.

Thank you Mara and Amanda. I look forward to your continued conversation.

Squarespace website design for photographer Amanda Lucier and radio reporter Mara Zepeda. 

Speaking at B&H Photo Video

Mike Davis and I are speaking at B&H Photo Video’s Event Space!

How to Easily Present Your Photography Online with With a Professional Website

Date: Februrary 14, 2013 (Yes Valentine’s Day)
Location: B&H, Super Store, 2nd Floor, 420 9th Ave, New York, NY 10001
Time: 4:00–6:00 p.m.

The event in sponsored by one of my favorite website building platforms, Squarespace.

One of Squarespace's templates, Frontrow.
One of Squarespace’s templates, Frontrow.

You can learn more about our talk at B&H’s Event Space listing.

Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar: Branding & Marketing for Photographers

Mike Davis and I are in Atlanta and totally excited to be at the 2011 Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar.

There’s a great lineup of photography workshops and speakers.

Every time we attend a workshop it’s this amazing opportunity to reunite with old friends and make some new ones (Hello, marketing!)

Mike Davis and I are in Atlanta and totally excited to be at the 2011 Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar.

There’s a great lineup of photography workshops and speakers.

Every time we attend a workshop it’s this amazing opportunity to reunite with old friends and make some new ones (Hello, marketing!)

Jonathan Newton and me calling Peggy Peattie.And speaking of the so-called dirty “M” word…

Join me for a workshop on branding and marketing tomorrow afternoon.


Students and photographers making (or thinking) about making the leap into business

This workshop is about getting in the right mindset to help set you personal foundation and make your efforts more targeted and less willy nilly.

Photographers feeling stuck or skeptical about branding & marketing

I hope to make you think and challenge any preconceived ideas you might have about either or both. Please come with an open mind!

What to Expect:

  • Be prepared to interact and ask yourself some hard questions
  • Worksheets! (Because it’s a workshop.)
  • What is branding?
  • What is marketing?
  • Why are they important?
  • Common gripes and excuses why you aren’t marketing.
  • Tools to help you with marketing
  • Takeaways for the beginner photographer
  • Takeaways for the mid-career photographer
  • Q&A session

My hope is that you’ll feel more confident about branding and marketing when you go out the door.

There are 2 sessions back-to-back in the afternoon so remember to bring some fuel.

Website and Marketing Reviews, too!

AND… during the portfolio reviews on Saturday, I’ll be available to review your website and marketing materials so please bring what you can!

View and download the schedule.