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Case Study: Catherine Lashbrooke Photography

Written by Hugh Lashbrooke on April 10, 2013 Customer Stories, News.

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Building a photography website that stands out from all the others of its ilk can be a tough thing to do these days – that’s why, when my wife needed a new website built, I spent ages trying to work out how to make it special. In the end, she conceptualised and designed it herself and I simply implemented her ideas. The result is something unique and memorable that was only made possible by using a few of the awesome tools that we provide at WooThemes.

A comparison between the site's homepage and Canvas' default look
A comparison between the site’s homepage and Canvas’ default look

Capitalising on Canvas

As a developer, when building a custom-designed website in WordPress, its pretty much a no-brainer to pick Canvas as your base theme – given its assortment of hooks and filters. This is exactly what I did here and I handled all the customisations using a child theme that I set up.

The design of the home page required a fairly creative use of CSS and images to get things looking just right – to achieve the ‘hanging’ polaroids effect I made good use of CSS positioning and the transform property to handle the rotation of each mini-slider, choosing to apply the CSS to the parent element of each one so that each child element was rotated to the exact same degree.

Here’s an example of the use of CSS position and transform on one of the sliders:

#polaroid {
  position: absolute;
  top: 55px;
  left: 44px;
  transform: rotate(-10deg);
  -webkit-transform: rotate(-10deg);
  -ms-transform: rotate(-10deg);
  -moz-transform: rotate(-10deg);
  -o-transform: rotate(-10deg);
  filter: progid:DXImageTransform.Microsoft.BasicImage(rotation=1.5);

Isotope's masonry layout
Isotope’s masonry layout
The portfolio functionality of Canvas was entirely suitable for the site’s needs – I simply made some CSS changes as well as some large modifications to the layout of the individual shoot pages using a masonry layout powered by the Isotope jQuery library.

Working with WooSlider

WooSlider is exceptionally powerful and incredibly easy to customise, as I discovered when working on this site. To create the homepage sliders, I followed our guide on using the WooSlider API and created my own custom slide type that displays images exactly how I need them to be displayed.

My major concern with doing this was that having four sliders on the home page of the site would drastically increase page load times, but in the end I had nothing to worry about as WooSlider allows you to have as many sliders on one page as you like without affecting the overall load times.

Integrating Instagram

Because this is a photography site, it made sense to integrate Instagram to some degree. Luckily, WooDojo comes with a built-in Instagram widget for easily displaying your photos. All I needed to do was modify the default CSS provided by WooDojo and it was good to go. So simple.

The Instagram widget powered by WooDojo
The Instagram widget powered by WooDojo

Lightening the Load

With any photography site, there is a concern about constantly loading large images and how that will affect the user experience. On this site, there are two main areas where a large number of images are loaded and they all need to be loaded quickly: the home page sliders and the individual shoot pages. Fortunately, the image sizes for both of these areas are not huge, so the only issue is that there are quite a few that need to be loaded on each page.

To deal with this I created two new image sizes using WordPress’ add_image_size() function and used the WooFramework’s woo_image() function to display them appropriately. The result is that all the images loaded are sized correctly on the server so that there is no unnecessary excess loading performed.


While there are other tools out there that could potentially be used to create the same effects, I found the combination of Canvas, WooSlider and WooDojo to be an incredibly powerful mix. Without the huge potential for customisation that these tools provide it would have been exponentially more difficult to realise a site like this one.

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17 Responses

  1. Christer Erngren (@nukokarjag)
    April 10, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

    What a neat page. I tried to center my header and menu in Canvas for three months. Then I gave up and switched to a free theme. Where to find tricks for this?

    • Jon Preston
      April 10, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

      For header, you must be talking about the logo? If so, that div is #logo { float: none; width: auto; margin: auto;} should do the trick.

      For the navigation, it’s pretty much the same. I float mine to the right all the time. #navigation { width: auto; float: right; } or for center, you’d get rid of { float: right; } and do {margin: auto; }

      Using Chrome’s element inspector to figure out what class or id does the styling for your element is a huge help.

      • Jon Preston
        April 10, 2013 at 5:02 pm #

        Looking at his site though, it looks like he went in and styled the .site-title class and all of that, instead of using a graphic for a logo. The #logo div has a width of 100% and a background image that is using CSS3 to make sure that the image is centered. Pretty nifty tricks. The spiffy text is a web font… I’m not sure if it’s a google web font.

        • Hugh Lashbrooke
          April 11, 2013 at 7:29 am #

          The text is a custom font, but it isn’t from the Google font library 🙂

          • JPStudios0106
            April 13, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

            I saw it on dafont actually when I showed this site to a client of mine who I’m going to be developing a photography site for. I don’t think I’ll come close to much of this style because she’s really wanting to make sure it goes well in to mobile though. However, I did find some good fonts through there that I know I can convert on fontsquirrel.

          • Lisa
            April 14, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

            Gorgeous site. I’ve been sitting on this theme waiting to do something really creative and you’ve inspired me:)

            When you specify font-weight: normal in @font-face, mobile Safari does unattractive “faux-bolding” by doubling it on the iPad, if the font you use does not have a bold.

            I’ve worked around this by just calling out again as normal rather than bold for my headings.

  2. wkriesel
    April 10, 2013 at 4:46 pm #

    Great case study! Christer – Have you seen this: – check #23 for centering navigation.

  3. Jon Preston
    April 10, 2013 at 4:59 pm #

    Did you make a custom homepage template for your child theme? Or just use the widgets page template? I do the custom homepage template all of the time to do a slider area above my content… sometimes having 2 widgets on top of my content in the case of my latest two sites.

    • Hugh Lashbrooke
      April 11, 2013 at 7:23 am #

      This was a custom homepage template inside the child theme – the widgets page template is powerful, but my needs were somewhat unique here so it didn’t quite work how I needed it to work.

  4. Dave
    April 10, 2013 at 7:04 pm #

    The slider is awesome ! Great job !

  5. Tom
    April 10, 2013 at 8:30 pm #

    I have list of websites which are based on canvas theme. Where I can add it? Maybe you will find something interesting.

    • Mark Forrester
      April 10, 2013 at 9:48 pm #

      Please do send us an email with some links.

    • nicsans
      April 11, 2013 at 2:21 am #

      Would love to see this for some ideas 🙂

  6. Mathew Porter
    April 12, 2013 at 5:47 pm #

    Nice case study, nice to have a quick read about how users utilise WP.

  7. Paris Isom
    May 5, 2013 at 5:44 am #

    You guys are pretty good. You nailed that issue no problem at all. I was wondering if you might even want to consider helping out on ErrorForums? We could sure use the help over here.

  8. Thomas
    May 24, 2013 at 3:57 pm #

    This may be out of place… but I have a scrollider theme installed and I’m trying to get the menu centered. Can anyone actually paste the full css needed to make the navigation centered? I can’t seem to get any of the suggestions to work and I’m wondering if I’m just not using them correctly.

    Thank You!