Documentary Photographer Crystal Street: Why I Switched to Beam

Documentary Photographer Crystal Street: Why I Switched to Beam


Documentary photographer Crystal Street is constantly on the move. Ever since she graduated college, she’s been working throughout the developing world documenting the cultural preservation of post-conflict communities – in Nepal, India, Indonesia, Egypt, Israel, and more.

“My passion lies in documenting the human condition, in its most natural and uninhibited form,” says Crystal. “My style is based on this belief and my job is to document the story, with any and all means necessary.”

Given her somewhat nomadic lifestyle, Crystal has worked to build a steady and holistic presence online. In addition to her online portfolio, she also had a WordPress blog, Tumblr blog, Vimeo, and over a thousand followers on Twitter. Crystal is also a longtime PhotoShelter member, but she was looking for a way to combine her presence on all platforms into one single location.

That’s when Beam caught her attention. The new platform, powered by PhotoShelter, gave Crystal a way to marry all of her content and online presence. Now her portfolio, blog, videos, and archive live under one site – thanks to the new integrations offered by Beam.

We spoke with Crystal to learn more about her decision to “switch” to Beam:

What was your first impression of the new designs on Beam?

I loved the new designs! I had no intention of redesigning my site until I saw the new templates – and then I just couldn’t resist. The layouts are clean, minimalist and display the visual content in an appealing and logical manner. Most of my work is black and white and has a lot of visual content to digest, so the layout allows people to sit with the image without distractions or a multitude of links to draw them away from the image.

The portfolio page on Beam’s “Promenade” template features a photo wall collage of thumbnails from all featured galleries.

Why did you choose the “Promenade” template for your new Beam website?

The homepage is what sold me on the Promenade template. I like the juxtaposition between the homepage and the tiled portfolio page. I also like the full-width layout of just one image. Many sites use a full width layout of the entire portfolio as the homepage and can bog the site down before you even get a feel for the type of artwork being presented. If I have to wait for content to load (which I really don’t like having to do) I want to know that this content fits the style I’m seeking.

When viewing a single image, viewers can use the filmstrip at the bottom to scroll through the gallery.

How do you think your clients will perceive the new design?

I’m hoping they’ll like the design for the same reasons I do – clean, simple layout with easy navigation elements.

What new Beam integrations do you find most exciting?

The video integration [with Vimeo] was by far the most useful feature for me. The last time I built my PhotoShelter site, I remember spending hours importing the Vimeo embed code into the page and wrestling with the layouts. For that reason, I never kept that portion of my site updated. Now, the automatic import from Vimeo does all the work. And it looks fantastic!

Crystal uses Beam’s integration with Vimeo to showcase her videos.

The mobile responsiveness on my iPad is also fabulous. Having a responsive site is essential and it’s nice to have my PhotoShelter site functioning well on mobile devices. I strongly believe that businesses and artists are losing a lot of traffic due to non-responsive websites. Last time I checked my analytics, more than half of my traffic was arriving on my site from a mobile device – that’s huge!

How did you find the process of building and customizing your new site?

The switch to Beam took me less than an hour. And part of that time was spent tinkering with blog feeds and reorganizing some old galleries. I build WordPress sites for clients needing basic websites and I truly wish the experience was this simple. If Beam had been around years ago, I wouldn’t have even bothered learning WordPress. I think the challenge for me will be not changing the site with each theme update. I tend to renovate my photography websites the same way some women redecorate their bathrooms- so I think Beam could be dangerous for me – in a good way.

Beyond the new website templates, what’s your favorite PhotoShelter feature?

I love having my database of images at my fingertips whenever – and wherever – I need them. For a documentary photographer who travels often, this is essential. As is the ability to connect that database with buyers and clients. Knowing that I can simply send them a private gallery of their images or connect them with the image they are seeking is huge. I’m also launching a documentary family sessions project to help fund more documentary work and PhotoShelter’s e-commerce capability is a huge component in my workflow. The improvements made to the shopping cart functions over the years have been great, and I’m loving the way the self-filled orders and partner vendors are set up. And the customer service rocks! I’ve been a happy customer since 2007, so I really love just about all of PhotoShelter.

Crystal has a fine art gallery that priced for print sales using PhotoShelter’s built-in shopping cart.

Check out more from Crystal Street’s new portfolio website, powered by Beam, at

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