Are you struggling, like most photographers, to create an online portfolio? I understand how you feel because I’ve been there too.
In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about making a professional photography portfolio. Even as a beginner, you’ll have no problem following along.
What is a photography portfolio?
A photography portfolio is a collection of your best work presented in a book, magazine or online. A portfolio consists of images, but some photographers also use videos or audio recordings instead. Therefore, we create portfolios to showcase our work and either sell or show off.
Photographers create a portfolio to demonstrate their skills to potential clients or to share their work with friends and family. Regardless of the reason, creating a portfolio is a great way to make money from photography.
What is the purpose of a photography portfolio?
A professional digital portfolio serves many purposes:
- Share the best work with potential clients and customers.
- Sell art.
- Convey creativity by showcasing your talents.
- Convince clients to book photoshoots.
- Represent your work (CV).
- Get recognised by photo and fine-art galleries.
- Send wedding photography to the bride and groom.
Regardless of the reason for creating a portfolio, master the basics first. That includes knowing which images to include, what to write, and how to build them.
What to write in a photography portfolio?
If you make a portfolio available online, your photos will not stand out, no matter how good they are. Fierce competition among commercial photographers floods clients with wonderful photos every day, and you keep adding more.
So, learn how to sell yourself as an artist. And that’s what you put in a portfolio.
Do not just add short descriptions and keywords to the images, add a story. People love a good story. So if you tell them how a particular shot came about or how you felt, you’ll win their hearts – and their wallets.
How to make an online photography portfolio?
I know building your first portfolio seems difficult, but I removed all the guesswork in the following steps. If you’re still not confident in yourself after reading this article, email me, and I’ll help you.
1. Pick a fitting domain name
Choosing a good name for your photography business is an often-overlooked step. A good name conveys what you do without leaving the client in the dark. Consider the name “Burger King”; they sell burgers. That is what you should strive for with your company name.
You have two options for your domain name: include or exclude your name. Both are viable options, and which one you choose depends on how personal you want it to be.
For example, “Emmasweddings.com” would be a good business name for a wedding photographer named Emma. Also, you can concatenate two words, as I did with Photutorial = Photo + Tutorial.
2. Choose a hosting
Every website needs a hosting server, but many good options to choose from exist. The following are the absolute best, according to my experience:
- Build a WordPress site with Kinsta hosting.
- Choose Pixpa as your website builder and host.
Many other existing options are inferior. Here’s why:
Option 1: Build and host a WordPress site with Kinsta
WordPress is a popular content management system for building websites. Many plugins and themes make WordPress easy to use because you don’t have to code.
For hosting, I recommend the fastest hosting provider, Kinsta (they host Photutorial). In addition to being effortless to set up, Kinsta is overall cheaper than its competitors. Despite the hosting being more expensive, the total expenses are smaller.
For example, you need other services, such as CDNs, firewalls, and caching plugins, when hosting a website. But all of that is already part of Kinsta. Furthermore, the features are enterprise-grade, meaning you get better services than if you bought them yourself. Ultimately, when you sign up for the yearly plan, you receive two months of free service.
- More control over your website.
- More suitable for non-portfolio sites.
- Faster site loading.
- More expensive.
- Requires some setting up.
Option 2: Build a portfolio with Pixpa
Pixpa helps you avoid the complexities of learning a programming language. All you have to do is create a free account and begin adding content. With the click of a button, you can create new pages, select a template, and begin writing a blog post or uploading images for a portfolio.
However, Pixpa is not the best choice if you need an entire business site. Despite being able to add pages, galleries, and blog posts, having more control over a business site helps in the long run. And for that, WordPress with Kinsta is the way to go.
- Easy to use & setup.
- No need to take care of the backend.
- Suitable only for portfolio sites and client galleries.
- Slow site loading.
3. Choose a theme/template
If you use WordPress, you will need to pick a theme or a template for Pixpa. Despite different names, they serve the same purpose—to give a basic framework. Both allow further customisation through simple sliders and building blocks.
Pixpa sites load slowly, while you can optimise WordPress sites for faster loading. I recommend the same theme I’m using—GeneratePress. It’s one of the faster WordPress themes while being adaptive.
4. Create a portfolio
Next, add your best work, which is straightforward in Pixpa. Go to galleries, import photos and descriptions.
In WordPress, you need to add a gallery plugin. I recommend Modula, which has everything you need to create an online photography portfolio website, including lightboxes, hover effects, and image loading effects.
What makes a good photography portfolio?
The primary goal of designing a photographic portfolio is to capture your client’s attention and then get shortlisted for the work. To find the most success, try thinking outside the box and being one step ahead of the competition.
First, organise your images with some thought. Make sure that the first shot is excellent, thus enticing your viewer to browse the entire portfolio. Then, keep alternating between the best and not-so-good pieces of work. This way, you keep them guessing what comes next.
The creative component is vital since anyone with a camera can shoot photos nowadays. But your images should stand out if you want to get noticed. Curate your ideas so that they reflect your style and type of photography.
3. No mistakes
A clear turnoff for a potential customer is noticing fundamental photography flaws in your images. For instance, faulty exposure, wrong framing, or an unnatural-looking edit are all no go. Avoid making such blunders when establishing your one-of-a-kind portfolio.
Photography portfolio requirements
A professional portfolio should be organised, beautiful, and easy to skim. Also, it should reflect your type of photography and the prospective clients. All these combined give the portfolio a professional look that attracts potential prospects.
We create portfolios for businesses and gain recognition from many potential clients. You should include some of your most excellent work in your portfolio as a photographer. But you must also introduce yourself and work in that text. Make sure that a customer likes your images and personality. Include a brief introduction, explain each photo with a small caption, and include contact information at the end.
Traditional ways of getting a tangible copy of your portfolio are long gone. Construct one that is flexible enough to allow adaptation. But most businesses now use machine learning to detect portfolios based on their needs, so tailor it to the prospective company or client by including keywords from the job opening letter. You may do this by hand or with an AI-based digital photo portfolio creator.
What should a photography portfolio look like?
A photographic portfolio should be attractive, containing 15–30 images with a one-sentence caption. Keep it short with your best work only, so a potential customer doesn’t get bored with looking through your work.
So, try to include some unique photographic concepts. Apart from improving it for various customers at different times, there are no formal rules. Also, you don’t have to adhere to any format. However, it is best to start with a brief introduction of yourself followed by the images.
Finally, describe your opinion about the work. Make a prospective client trust you and your efforts. You should also avoid complicating by using various patterns or colours on the pages. Keep it simple, so more focus falls on your images and content.
The best portfolio website builders
You don’t need a website builder to create an online portfolio. A professional photographer may choose either to enhance their online presence.
The simplest approach is using a website builder, which does the hard work for you, so you can work on building your photography business.
- Price: $3-$18/month
Pixpa is a powerful portfolio website builder thanks to its useful features, simplicity, and beautiful templates. Also, it’s one of the cheapest options and doesn’t take a cut off your sales—what you earn is yours.
You can create galleries, client galleries (only users with links can see them), blogs, and other website pages, like the about and contact pages. Client galleries are ideal for wedding photographers who can share images privately.
Like most other photography portfolio websites, Pixpa takes long to load. For example, Photutorial loads in 0.5s, Pixpa loads in 1.5s. Also, the free trial doesn’t allow you to publish the website. So, to publish photography websites with Pixpa, buy a subscription plan.
Finally, I like Pixpa for its many integrations, which expand its functionality. For example, you can enjoy Google Analytics integration, social media accounts, and performs search engine optimisation. The integration allows sharing posts from social media platforms to your site.
- Very easy to use.
- Beautiful templates.
- Free trial.
- Numerous integrations.
- Somewhat slow loading.
- Price: $12.99/month
You can also build a professional photography portfolio, starting with its wide range of unique templates and layouts. All you have to do, is drag and drop photos to upload and resize them to suit the layout and enhance the portfolio look.
The photo quality does not get reduced if uploaded in the original size. Canva allows customisation of almost everything in the layout but requires a subscription.
- Great customisability.
- Good range of templates.
- Very easy to work on.
- Some templates are vague and useless.
- Canva Pro is necessary for full-fledged editing.
3. Adobe Portfolio
- Price: $9.99/month
Adobe Portfolio is a website design tool that makes creating a website simple. You can build your website from scratch or use one of Portfolio’s pre-made templates. Begin by deciding how you want your site to look and feel. Then, add photos and videos, text boxes, and even change the colours. It’s a one-stop-shop, allowing you to build a website without ever leaving Adobe Portfolio.
The tool also provides a variety of templates from which to choose. Begin by searching for the industry you work in, so Portfolio can show you a list of related and optimised templates. Starting from scratch is also possible, but you’ll have to put in more effort and time. Also, you can pick colours, fonts, and several other options, such as a slider and a parallax effect.
- Connected to Lightroom.
- Free with Adobe Creative Cloud.
- Automatic image resize.
- Cannot sell images.
- Redirects traffic.
- Low customisability.
- Price: $7-$42/month
SmugMug is a code-free web portfolio builder. By paying a reasonable price, you can access a range of templates. Templates give you a basic outline, each with a different layout. Every template is optimised to ensure your images load fast and do not degrade.
Setting up a SmugMug account is quick and easy. After signing up, you can publish photos from your phone. You get the default layout after posting pictures, which you can edit later. However, the problem is that SmugMug uses a system of ‘content blocks’ that can’t be resized by dragging the edges. So, there’s no way to reposition the photos inside the blocks other than trial and error.
- Easy set up within minutes.
- Best display on all devices and screens.
- Professional and minimalistic templates.
- Only three templates are available.
- Only for pro members.
- Price: $6.49-$12.99/month
500px is a popular photo-sharing platform among freelance photographers. A new service allows pro members to build galleries showing their pictures outside of the 500px website. They claim that setting up a separate portfolio takes a few minutes and requires no web building experience or knowledge.
The new feature comes with three different templates dedicated to displaying photos. The simple templates do not distract the viewer from the photos.
There are light and dark modes to alter the background and change the mood of the gallery. The templates are flexible enough to work well on all devices and screens. You can also measure the traffic on a website using Google Analytics.
- Easy set up within minutes.
- Best display on all devices and screens.
- Professional and minimalistic templates.
- Only three templates are available.
- Only for pro members.
- Price: $5-$25/month
Zenfolio is an online website and portfolio builder platform tailored for professional photographers. It aims to help its users show their photos with ease while remaining practical and easy to maintain.
The platform launched three plans – Portfolio, PortfolioPlus, and ProSuite. The Portfolio plan is ideal for creating a simple portfolio website and making shareable client galleries. But you can’t sell your work online or use multi-page templates. The PortfolioPlus plan lets you create a multi-page website that includes eCommerce features. The ProSuite plan, on the other hand, has automated client bookings, sells prepaid packages, and enables auto-fulfilment. This way you can spend more time working than managing clients and orders.
- A value for money platform.
- It is easy to set up.
- Feature loaded.
- Printing services are limited to the US.
- There are a few templates.
- Price: $9.99/month
Behance is a social network for artists and creatives. It’s a place where creatives can showcase their work, meet and collaborate with other creatives, and find jobs. It’s a place where you can promote your work and network with other creatives. You can create a free account and upload your work.
Or you can sign up for a paid account that offers a host of other tools. That includes being able to share your work via social media channels, adding a portfolio and blog, tagging your work, and collaborating with other creatives.
You can share projects in progress for feedback, pin your favourite work to boards, log in with Facebook to keep up with new work and events, search for other movers and shakers in your field, collaborate on projects with others from around the world, and download content onto another website.
- An easy portfolio set up on a budget.
- Minimalist design.
- Part of the Adobe Creative Cloud plan.
- Everything appears to look similar.
- The gallery is limited to Behance and partner networks.
8. IM Creator
- Price: $8-$30/month
IM Creator provides a more complicated design experience. Therefore, beginners and non-coders might have issues using it. But a creative photographer with coding knowledge can do a lot with this platform.
The coding makes it more time-consuming, but you can create any design. There is also an array of templates, which you can’t change after publishing. But, there is no drag-and-drop feature. Photo upload is quite slow.
- Customise the portfolio as desired.
- Good range of amazing templates.
- Build unique designs and custom templates.
- Requires good coding knowledge.
- Takes longer to create portfolios.
How to take portfolio pictures?
How and what to photograph depends on the type of photography, but there are a couple of common denominators.
1. Be original by…
Instead of copying someone’s work, find new motives and angles. The most successful portfolios are those that stand out the most. By being innovative, potential customers will spot you in no time.
2. Nail the exposure.
Over- and underexposure are two basic mistakes that should be absent from every photo gallery. Even if you fail the exposure with a camera, it’s fixable in post-processing.
3. Use a tripod (if you must).
Using a tripod is a double-edged sword. On one hand, tripod ensures sharp photos, which are a must. But it limits creativity and mobility, making it’s impossible to use one in fashion photography.
4. Go sharp or go home.
Never upload blurry photos. It’s better to share fewer good photos than many blurry ones. When you can’t use a tripod, increase ISO or use a wider aperture.
How many images should be in a photography portfolio?
Photography portfolios must have at least 10 images. Whatever number of images you display, they must be enough to show your talent and versatility. For example, by including 12 images, you can photograph four models in various places and add three photos from each session. By employing a few images, you will prove your diversity and experience. If you have over 30 images, organise them into multiple galleries.
How to make a photography portfolio for college admission?
Various institutions provide a university portfolio guideline outlining specific themes or subjects to focus on. To maximise your chances of success against fierce competition, try thinking outside the box. Colleges do not expect technical knowledge. Instead, they seek candidates with innovative and distinctive photographic concepts. But don’t forget to include an introduction and captions and try not to be too simplistic.
How to make a photography portfolio in PDF?
Photographic portfolio creation services can assist you in creating a portfolio and saving it in a range of formats, including PDF. If you have saved your portfolio in another format, find an online converter by typing “[your format] to PDF converter” into Google.
How to prepare a photography portfolio?
Create a daring and attractive portfolio that stands out from the crowd. Keep it concise but interesting. Do not repeat any photography scene or pose. Also, keep in mind that the goal is to attract potential clients.
After reading this article, you have all the knowledge you need to create your first professional photography portfolio. Naturally, you can’t learn everything in advance. When your business grows, you’ll gain more knowledge on the fly.
If you have questions or if you need help to set your first site, reach out to me.
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