Top 10 tips for creating an online photography portfolio

In this guest post by Style Factory’s Chris Singleton, we look at some top tips for creating a stunning online photography portfolio.

1. Define your audience

Before you even start to build a website to showcase your photography, ask yourself a very basic question: who are you showcasing your photography to? Answering this question accurately is going to fundamentally inform the tone of your portfolio and ultimately determine its success (or lack thereof). You might be a wedding photographer, hoping to show off your wares to recently engaged couples; a photojournalist, wishing to get more commissions from respected publications; an agency, hoping to gain corporate clients; or a music photographer, aiming to be hired by well-known bands. These are all very different types of audiences and may require very different types of websites. To ensure you build the right sort of portfolio site, you have to define your audience very clearly.

2. Research your competitors’ portfolios

If you’re new to web design, or intending to use a website builder like Pixpa to create your own portfolio site, it’s important to take a look at what other photographers are doing first. Take a detailed look at how successful photographers working in your genre have presented their images online. Keep an eye out for the sort of photographs they are foregrounding on the home page; the typefaces used; the layouts that they employ to present their images (slideshows or static grids etc.); what sort of site navigation are featured; and any visual tricks they might be using to make their images stand out.

A great place to see examples of well-made portfolio websites is Pixpa’s examples page.

3. Be ruthless with your photography selection

Having defined your audience and taken a look at a host of photography websites, you might be thinking that it’s now time to dive in and start building your online photography portfolio. But you’d be wrong. It’s time to spend hours going through your images and picking out the absolute best ones to use. Try to be as objective as possible with this – be ruthless with your selection and only include the best. If you’re having trouble deciding what to include, consider asking another photographer whose opinion you trust to help you. The aim of all this is to arrive at a situation where your portfolio site contains extraordinarily strong content and nothing else.

Atul pratap Couple shoot photographer Pre wedding shoots Kerala Wedding Photography

4. Optimize your photography for web

Having picked the images you’re going to use for your online portfolio, it’s time to make sure that they’re going to look as good as possible online. This generally means ensuring that your images are high-res and that they have been through a post-production process which makes them look their best. In terms of file sizes, there is always a balance to be struck between file size and image quality – it’s best to avoid ridiculously long download times, but you will need to use fairly large files to ensure that the photographs on display look good.

5. Sketch out some ideas

Surely it must be time to get online and get cracking with the web designing bit? No, it’s time to get a pen and paper out and doing some sketches of your ideal portfolio layout. Depending on your web design skills and the platform you’re using to build your site, you may not be able to exactly replicate this layout – but sketching things out (or working with a web designer to do so) will help you get an idea of the kind of portfolio design that you’d like to arrive at, and – if using a solution like Pixpa – pick templates that are hopefully fairly close to your vision.

6. Start building your portfolio

Once you’ve sorted all the above out, yes, it’s finally time to actually start designing your site. No matter whether you’re hard-coding your site or using an online website building tool like Pixpa to put it together, there’s a few key things to bear in mind:

  • Photos generally look better on minimalistic sites – try to avoid clutter on your portfolio.
  • Experiment with both black and white backgrounds for your images, to see which works best (note that choosing one over the other might mean some re-processing of your images is a good idea – cranking up or taking down the contrast, for example).
  • Make the most of your screen ‘real estate’ – your photographs will generally look at their best when blown up large. So, for example, rather than trying to cram a lot of small images onto one page, think about how you can allow the user to flick easily through full-size photographs.

Bright Summer Studios --Site By Pixpa

7. Ensure your portfolio site is responsive

Given the large number of different device types that your portfolio site will potentially be seen on – desktops, smart TVs, mobile phones and tablets – it’s vital that the site you build to showcase your photography is ‘responsive’ (this means that the site will automatically be resized to suit the device in use) and is easy to navigate no matter what the user is using to access it. It’s all very well having a portfolio that looks wonderful on a 27” iMac, but if it falls over on an 5” smartphone (which, chances are, more people are going to be using to access it) you’re in trouble.


8. Optimize your online portfolio for search

Having a beautiful online photography portfolio is entirely useless if nobody ever finds it. You need to follow best practice when it comes to search engine optimization or SEO – this basically involves:

  • using page titles and meta data correctly
  • optimizing your URLs
  • blogging regularly about the area you are working in
  • creating backlinks to your site.

For more detailed help with this, check out my tips on how to make your site visible in Google.

9. Ensure your contact details are highly visible

You wouldn’t believe the number of websites I’ve come across which contain stunning content – but laughably well-hidden contact details. Don’t miss out on opportunities by making users work hard to find out how to contact you: ensure that a contact option is prominently displayed in your navigation and that you include ‘contact me’ call to actions in key parts of your site. If you use social media to promote your work, make sure you include prominent links to your profiles too.

10. Update your portfolio after it goes live

Once you’ve built your online photography portfolio, don’t rest on your laurels. Remember to update it periodically, especially if down the line you end up with a collection of images that are better than the ones you originally uploaded to your site. You should also always keep an eye on web design trends, and at least once a year review your site to see if its design is still contemporary and fit for purpose.

Chris Singleton is Director of Style Factory, a digital consultancy that works particularly closely with startups to ensure that their business performs well online. You can read more of his tips and tutorials on the Style Factory website.

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