Nowadays everything can be done yourself, and thats why in this article I will go through how to build a photography portfolio website from scratch. Ever since the beginning of the internet, things have slowly moved to online. For creatives, this means portfolios are now either on social media like Instagram or on a separate website, where you can showcase your previous work.
After studying photography intensely for years, I’ve seen multiple online and physical portfolios. Now I’m going to try to condense as much as I can in this single article.
First of all this is not a guide to use any of the website tools suggested, there are the tools I’ve used when building my online portfolio. If you want to take a closer look, you can find it here.
My first portfolio I ever put together was Tumblr and it had no pre-planning on the images or series I decided to put there. Low threshold to share my work and easy to put together. This is also true with instagram, which is especially designed to be a visual platform.
People visit your portfolio mostly because they already know that they need a photographer. Some photographers add their pricing to their site; I would suggest it to be an option if your pricing is always the same. Like for portraits or such. If they love your photography, and you’re within their price range – they’re going to hire you. You don’t need a fancy sales pitch or call to action.
The thing here is that as a photographer your skillset and pricing might vary with the season or the amount of clientele you have. So having a fixed price might be a piece of information your clients want to see, but changing it will be more problematic in the long run.
Once you learn how to build coherent series of images and combining them seamlessly together for an outstanding result, you will be able to do it over and over again, on whichever platform you choose.
Before you start building an online portfolio, an important thing to consider is learning the principles to building you series with software like Adobe Photoshop or Indesign and editing your series. After you’ve learned these steps, you’ll be able to apply that knowledge in any platform you decide to use.
It doesn’t matter whether you use WordPress, SquareSpace, WIX, Format or Adobe Portfolio to build your own website – if you’re doing it yourself, there are a few things you have to consider. Take your time in learning all of these steps in order to fully understand the importance and progress of building a website to showcase your knowledge.
I feel like there should be more high-end portfolios online and I hope this article helps you with exactly that.
What is an online portfolio for?
I can only speak for online photography portfolios but there are similar goals for all creative websites being built. The main reason is to communicate the quality and themes of your work so that people and clients and see what you are offering for them when you decide to apply for assignments.
The great portfolios can both display the work you do but also the style in it. You have to help your visitor understand whether you are the kind of photographer they’d like to work with.
Apart from questions about your business and your audience – which are also important ones to ask – is simply answer what it is that you are trying to accomplish with your online portfolio? Is it to invite more clients to work with you or is it to showcase your art to be considered for exhibitions?
Especially if you are building it yourself form scratch and you have a hard time deciding on your visual language you want to represent. Look for inspiration in other photography portfolios; photographers who’s work you like and who works as a guideline for your process to become more professional in your field.
Plan out the reasons why you want to have this portfolio out and done. How will it enforce your creative growth in the future? Some artists clearly have their site for art work only – some additional information like project information and the contact info is found there, but without links to shops or blogs they might have. This is to clarify what does your audience look for when searching your site.
Remember -what you put out in your blog is also what you will get in the future regarding clients.
There are different photographers, different styles, different clients, many, many variables. When I was looking for a specific photographer, the number 1 criteria that I used when sorting the photography portfolios – were the pictures. Ultimately your pictures are the most important part of your portfolio. The second important thing is to know what to choose to be a part of it and what to let go of.
You can either tell a story with your work, or you can decide to let the viewer in to see glimpses of your work – snapshots that might not be limited to any specific themes.
How do you build an online portfolio ?
Obviously, you’d have material you can put there. If you don’t have coherent series to show, you should at least have enough individual images which communicates your visual language.
Starting out with choosing a hosted website building platforms like Squarespace or Wix or building it yourself on WordPress. If WordPress seems daunting to you, hosted websites are a great alternative. Most of these platforms are a paid service and require you to subscribe to their service for a fixed monthly or annual charge. Apart from the custom domain name, there’s hardly anything that you need to buy.
Hence, making these platforms comparatively more cost effective than WordPress. Another good reason to use hosted platforms is they come with a gamut of features that are specifically meant to promote their work online. For instance, optimizing pictures for search engines,
The first two might be easy to put together, but WordPress will communicate a unique touch to your style a photographer – you can buy themes that go well with your visual style and build your site to be more personal. For wordpress website you will need to get a custom domain, usually one that ends with .com – more professional! I started with Bluehost, mostly because they’re so darn cheap if you’re not ready to invest hundreds right in the beginning.
And of course – content !
When you are making a selection on the content you want to put on your website, think about your ideal customer. Only out images there that will attract more similar assignments.
Size: Large images or full-screen background images should be no more than 1 MB. Most other small web graphics can be 300 KB or less.
The structure of your photography portfolio
Depending on your work and the direction you want to take with you clients, there are certain ‘rules’ to go by when building the basis of your portfolio. I do encourage everyone to make a layout that reflects their visual interests and style, but do add these in some form or another.
The most common structure that can be seen in many portfolios
- About Me (also having contact information here)
- Blog – if you have any
Get a design for your WordPress site
Design trends change around every couple of years. If you pick a modern design today, you can work with it for the next 2-3 years. But if it’s timeless enough, you might not have to even change it. Check out these designs to find amazing themes.
One thing a photographer will always be fighting for is the cropping of the original work. Once you have sent your images, whether it’s the final maternity pictures of the series or editorial images for a magazine – the framing of the image is final for the client. You need to state it out clearly that no cropping can be done unto the images, even if they don’t fit the layout. The same goes with your website.
Don’t worry, it will never be ready or perfect
With the availability of numerous portfolio building platforms, creating a website has undoubtedly been easy. However, building an effective portfolio website is still a mystery among most creative professionals.
As your work develops, so should your website. Adding more resent work there should be something a creative would do every year.
An effective portfolio website attracts visitors and eventually turns them into paying clients. It turns out that every visitor on a website shows almost the same behaviour, yet a few go on to buy or in our case hire a photographer.
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