I visited a couple of photographers sites, and the single pictures were in the MB range. My typical post/page comes in a less than 1.2mb~2.4mb which is a lot less than many contemporary sites. In fact, my welcome page loads at 450kb+/-… I tried smushing before like I said with the WordPress plugin…
It ended in a very poor quality experience of images that were very sub-par in quality… and created an overall poor experience for the user. Which is why I went back to LR and turned off all smushing permanently on THIS site. I’m looking at trimming to about 200Kb for most images, but I want to keep the larger dimensions of 1600 pixels on the long side. It’s not typical now, but I’m hoping my site will still be decent in a few years time.
I couldn’t care a toss about Google rankings, esp. after the hammering some of my other sites took in Google. Generally speaking, for photography sites without much text, SEO isn’t a very effective game to play right now anyway unless AI-based spiders become real. It’s better to build brand and chase real eyeballs… and what both need is decent pictures. So yes, I might lose those on slow connections, that’s true. But chasing the slowest users isn’t going to be a viable audience building plan, IMHO.
So this is what I use:
VPS plus DB server for the back end. The VPS is running on Apache right now, though I’ve tried NGINX, too.
PHP 7.2.3 running WP and a small number of plugins and light theme. It’s not a photography theme, but I can make it work right now. Supplemented by a couple of enhancements on the front end for galleries; and lots of back end caching. At one point I was loading a page in 600ms… there are quite a few tweaks, but I haven’t ironed out the full range of interference bugs. So right now I get a full page loaded in about 1.5s~2.5s with between 6 and 24 requests. (recently upped to 50 requests because of changes to the front page!)
BTW, thanks for your insight… I realize a lot of people care about smushing a lot as you do, but I don’t … perhaps my server is a little different from most people’s. I really admire Square Space’s servers… they seem F…A…S…T… so my target is to get my site to run at that speed. I’ve investigated using NGINX as a possibility, too… not sure what impact that would have yet.