How Not to Put Your Foot in It When Creating a Photo Portfolio [With 34 Examples of How to Do it Right]

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A portfolio of your works is a very important thing that every photographer has to create. As a true photography geek (or a professional photographer) you probably never part with your camera and take many photos per day. Obviously, there are good and bad shots in your reserve. So what do you do with them? It is possible to print images and present them as postcards for friends and relatives, to create prints and hang them on your walls, to sell photos on the web or exhibit them in art galleries. But the most persistent photographers create digital or printed photo portfolios.

photography-portfolios.jpg

Let’s take a closer look at what a portfolio really is. Wikipedia says that literally portfolio means “a case for carrying loose papers”. Does it mean that you can shove a pile of photos into a bag and then show them everywhere with a winning cry ìI’m the best photographer! I have a portfolio!î? It’s unlikely. A true portfolio probably is a collection of your best works which are well categorized, arranged and presented.

Printed Portfolio vs. Digital Portfolio

There is a widespread belief among ‘old school’ photographers that portfolio is not a portfolio unless it is printed on paper. On one hand it’s an ordinary psychological barrier which keep us from trying new things. On the other hand images on computer screens and on paper really look different. There are different color rendering, vividness, saturation, naturalness, etc.

So it is very possible that you’ll need both portfolio options ñ digital and printed. Remember that not all web users have well calibrated screens so be ready to prove your qualification on paper.

Portfolios Types

Probably there are numerous types of portfolios ñ everybody can categorize them according to various criteria. Here we accentuate on website content.

Simple Gallery Websites

There are innumerable quantity of such portfolios on the web. As usually when such portfolio is built, it continues to exist without any significant changes and professional maintenance. There are ‘Gallery’ page (often it is a home page of a website), ‘About’ page and ‘Contacts’. Here you can find several photographers’ portfolio websites of this type from all over the world.

1.Gughi Fassino
photo gallery website

2.Wojciech Grzanka
photo gallery website

3.Henryk photo
photo gallery website

4.Rickard Sund
photo gallery website

5.Flavio and Frank photographers
photo gallery website

6.Heidi K. Miller
photo gallery website

7.Robert Jaso
photo gallery website

8.Fredrik Clement
photo gallery website

9.Matko Stankovic
photo gallery website

10.Steve McCurry
photo gallery website

Photo portfolio + full-fledged blog, shop, etc.

There is also another kind of photographers which don’t want to go for a small thing and aspire to promote their portfolio or want to share their experience on the web. Such people arrange blogs, news blocks, online shops on their portfolio pages directly. This activity requires more money, skills and time investments, but it’s worth trying. So enjoy a few photo portfolios with full-fliedged blogs and online stores.

1.Anne Geddes
photo portfolio website

2.Ralpn Gibson
photo portfolio website

3.Ken Kaminesky
photo portfolio website

4.Nellang Photography
photo portfolio website

5.Corey Arnold
photo portfolio website

6.James and Meridith Walters
photo portfolio website

7.Will Pearson
photo portfolio website

8.David Friedman
photo portfolio website

9.Steve Carty
photo portfolio website

10.Sindi Mueller
photo portfolio website

Portfolios in special communities

Photography related communities are widely spread on the web. Such platforms unite many talented photographers and encourage them to create accounts with their portfolios and basic information included. It’s a great chance to get along with like-minded professionals, to showcase your best pictures, to inspire yourself and to keep up with the latest news of photography industry. Here you can find a few links to the world’s most popular photography communities which allow, and even encourage, a creation of photo portfolios.

Behance Network is a network for creative professionals of different fields of art including photo illustrations, photo manipulations, general photography, photojournalism, etc.

Coroflot Portfolios is considered to be the largest and very popular pool of professional creative portfolios in the world. Believe it or not, but there are thousands of photographersí portfolios from all over the world.

Flickr is an online photo management and sharing application. It’s probably one of the most popular photo resources among people who are interested in photos.

Deviant Art is a platform that allows emerging and famous artists to showcase, promote, and share their works within a community of like-minded people.

500px is a photographic community that lets people share and discover inspiring photographs.

Fotoblur is a community generated photography magazine where people can publish their most inspiring photos.

1x is an online photo gallery and social network for professional photographers. Only 1/20 of uploaded photos are published, so you can be sure that all images you see there are of the highest quality.

Suggestions

So if we were rather successful to convince you of a necessity of digital photo portfolio then we hope you wouldn’t mind getting several suggestions on how to create a killer photo portfolio and not to put your foot in it.

Know well your audience and goals

Just stop for a while and think about the results you want to get. Do you want people to buy your photos or do you just need to promote yourself and spread the world about your name? You can also be interested in showcasing results of some special photography events (only black and white photos, photos taken at night or in some specific place) ñ it depends on goals for which the portfolio is created.

Christian Oth
photo portfolio

Rebecca Ruth
photo portfolio

Present only the best photos

There is a widely spread mistake of creative people: they showcase pictures (as well as music, paintings, videos, etc.) which they like by themselves, but not those ones which are really well done. Those things arenít always the same.Your portfolio is a place for your best works, but not for giving vent to your emotions.

And remember that the first and the last photos are the most memorable. So even if not all your photos are perfectly done, pay special attention to the first and the last one.

Organize your photos clearly, in some order

It would be good if photos were in a logical, chronological or topical order. If you think that the order of pictures is quite understandable (not just for you, but for others too) then your portfolio is probably well done.

Photo Size and Orientation

It is quite understandable that photos should be large enough to people to see all details clearly and effortlessly, and small enough to fit on each viewerís screen. But how large exactly should your pictures be? There is a common view that the ideal image size for the portfolio is between 600px and 1200px. Also it would be good if you chose only one orientation for all photos: album or landscape. But of course it’s up to you.

There are also some photo portfolios which allow you to upload images of different sizes and orientations, so that they look nice.

Jenny Lopes
photo portfolio

You can also find some designs with a zoom function which allows to showcase large photos without having to crop or resize them.

Harry Vorsteher
photo portfolio

Kate & Andrew
photo portfolio

Supplement images with some additional information

It is not a compulsory condition to write a few words about every photo in your portfolio. Indeed, not every portfolio needs such feature. If you’re going to present numerous photos in several sub-galleries then it may be very interesting to know the story of every picture or where it was taken.

Mierzejewski Michal
digital portfolio for photographers

Andreas Smetana
digital portfolio for photographers

Navigation

It’s not a secret that there is a strong competition in the photography world. But don’t try to impress your visitors with complexity when itís about website navigation. It is not the best time and place for such experiments.

You should engage your visitors in your portfolio within the first 10 seconds otherwise they will leave you for somebody else. So don’t make people look for your pictures during this time. Let them view your artworks or find your contacts. It will benefit you many times in future.
By the way, one of the most popular and convenient methods of website navigation is a drop down menu. It is easy to use and quite understandable because every time you hover the mouse pointer over menus there opens an additional section which is available for browsing.

Millticket Media
digital portfolio for photographers

Kristi Telnov
digital portfolio for photographers

Think over the ‘About’ page

First of all, let people know your name! It sounds strange but still there are many creative and talented photographers who forget to mention their name on their website pages. It’s not a widespread mistake, but it can seriously puzzle visitors.

Just let people have a clear vision of who you are and which type of photography you prefer. Maybe you’re a lucky winner of photo contests or an owner of some great photography-related award. You can also create a ‘Hire Me’ page which is especially appropriate when your portfolio is larger then a simple gallery of your works.

‘Contact’ page

Please let us remind you that your contacts should be easy to find and to use. It would be not bad at all if you place your contact information on every page. But it’s alright if your portfolio theme doesn’t allow you to do so. Make sure that you contacts are rather clear and they include all required information:

  • your full name/pen name/nickname;
  • physical address and path to your office;
  • phone number(-s);
  • email;
  • Skype, ICQ, Jabber, etc.

There are vigourous discussions about the necessity and reasonability of contact forms on ‘Contact Us’ pages. On one hand there are many people who prefer to communicate within their mail boxes. These people are more likely to copy/paste your email address to save this correspondence in the mail history. On the other hand there are many of those who write a short message here and now and wait for the answer. The unquestionable fact is that custom contact forms enable you to get more information about potential customers. Anyway there is nothing wrong in mentioning your email in addition to the fully functional contact form.

Chris Jordan
digital photo portfolio

Defrozo
digital photo portfolio

Joon Brandt
digital photo portfolio

We just want to draw your attention to email addresses you write on portfolio pages. There are spam bots which are looking for such easy to grab addresses. So if you don’t want to be spammed by them it is possible to display your email address as an image. In this case it will be visible for all human-visitors, but it will be almost impossible for spam bots to steal the email.

Privacy policy and watermarks

Such copyright protection will save your photos from stealing. It also allows you to present extra gifts for your audience such as free-to-use photos and illustrations. There are also people who don’t pay attention to privacy policy: watermarks can be cropped out or photos can be placed in Flash galleries and password-protected websites where it is almost impossible to track them. But there are numerous web serfers who respect copyrights and they will never neglect your intellectual property.

Kea Photography
digital photo portfolio

Chris Case Photography
digital photo portfolio

Just decide how much your personal information and your works would be open for free sharing and how your audience may use this information.

Promote your portfolio

There is a strong competition between photographers on the web and this market grows very fast. Why should you let all these people pass you ahead?

When your portfolio is almost ready start to communicate with professional and amateur photographers on different forums and social networks. The more popular you are the more people will want to cooperate with you.

The next step you should take is to ask your customers about feedback. People will gladly share their experience. But be ready to face some negative feedback and defend your honor and do it politely and carefully, so that your customers will never be upset.

Find several minutes a day to answer questions. Thereby, people will know that you’re open for communication and cooperation. An ordinary fellow is always more preferable than a haughty photographer with a capital P.

Be creative and donít lose self-confidence – the success will follow!

P.S. Please don’t forget about your portfolio after it’s been created. Renew it! Nobody is interested in monotonous websites. Create an unforgettable viewing experience and youíll be a famous photographer with a fabulous photo portfolio.

Ann Davlin is an inspired copywriter , blogger and social media explorer working at MotoCMS – an advanced Flash CMS and Flash templates provider. She’s also crazy about photography and you can always chat with her on Twitter.

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  • Hi

    Excellent article as always – learned a bunch. Although we have a website, it is our blog that draws the most attention as it updated almost every day and is our working Portfolio. People tend to enjoy following our adventures through this Blog. We recently completed an entire series of tips about Boudoir and now are going to Maui for some well deserved fun.

    Here is a shot from the beach!

    http://kerstenbeckphotoart.wordpress.com/2011/12/07/honolua-bay-maui/

  • Very well put together and comprehensive post with great examples. Thank you whoever the guest contributor was for the effort.

    One thing I like to see in an online portfolio (slideshow) is the ability to control the slideshow. I like to be able to pause on an image for as long as I want as well as to be able to go forwards and backwards. I have built this feature into my own portfolio:

    http://jasoncollinphotography.com

    The one thing I did not see (may have missed it) was the number of photos to include in one’s portfolio. I have been told 10 images for the home page portfolio. It seems most people do not spend the time looking through even all ten and upon landing on the home page then click on to the specific type of photography they are interested in where there are other gallery portfolios that can contain as many images as desired.

    Any suggestions on the number of images to include on the home page? Any further stats about how far into a slideshow visitors typically make it?

  • What great tips for beginners

  • Just about every single one of those websites are in Flash. Flash is dead. You cannot view Flash websites on tablets, the future of computing. I would urge everyone reading this to steer as far away from Flash as possible. It’s not searchable, it’s cannot be indexed by Google, it’s a total waste of time.

    Use a blog like WordPress and skin it. There are thousands of WordPress themes on the internet for free as well as many companies creating professional themes for as little at $30 each.

    The main advantage of a WordPress portfolio site is that it will be indexed by Google within hours of you updating it, the content management system is simple and easy to use and you can view it on any Internet device out there.

  • raghavendra

    this indeed a good tips.
    Putting multiple pictures on a portfolio may be clumsy
    One after another may be right.
    raghavendra-mobilephotography.blogspot.com
    slide shows and category wise may be visual treat.

  • Kit

    I wholly disagree with the tip to do your email as an image on your contact page. If you’re worried about spam bots, linking the image to a mailto href will still get picked up by bots. Bots simply look at source code, not what’s displayed on the page.

    If you don’t link with a mailto, then you won’t get much, if any, email from the website. It’s the simple truth. A tiny fraction of your potential customers will take the time to retype an email they memorized from your web page.

    Solutions? 1. Get comfortable with ROT13 encoding or something else to obfuscate the code in the source. (my favorite solution — best for the customer, worst for the bots).
    2. Get used to a little bit of spam trickling in. Less of a concern these days anyway with gmail and other mail services using very robust spam filtering for all accounts.
    3. Hire a competent web developer to build you a contact form. My least favorite option because bots can abuse these too, and forms require more interaction from the customer beyond a simple click.

    So, work out the best option for yourself, but if you want to get customers to contact you, you need to make it as easy for them as possible. Fewer clicks == more customers.

  • Great tips! I would also like to offer one more and it’s about having music or a video playing on the home page. I see this on a lot of sites and it drives me absolutely nuts! And, typically drives me away from any website. I hate having to look for the button to turn music off, or stop the video auto play… really annoying.

    I’m sure I’m not the only one to feel this way, so please avoid this feature. Just because it’s offered doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea.

    OK ranting done… thanks for reading.

    🙂

    DC

  • @kit — thanks for the info, I did not know that bots scan the source code itself for the mailto: tag. I use a contact page on my website anyway and get no spam inquiries from it. Then once someone contacts me via that page I have their e-mail address and reply to them normally with my e-mail client.

    I think having a contact page is a definite must!

    What people above said about flash is totally true too. The slideshows on my site are still flash based until I can find a better solution and Squarespace gets its own HTML5 slideshow feature sorted out. Still, the flash slideshows are a small piece of an overall HTML page that can still be viewed on any device and indexed by Google.

  • ccting

    Wow, very nice literature review..

  • What an amazing read

  • mazing images

  • Alexander Rose

    Most of these websites shown here are commercially available themes for WordPress.

  • Thanks for the advice and showing the diverse range of formats out there. I found it helpful, will definately use some of those tips in the near future.

  • Robert Bedson

    I am in the process of updating my portfoilio, or book Asti is often called. So this is useful, I will be using a website in WordPress (getting rid of the. Flash site I have now), a printed version in a nice leather cover and a digital one on an iPad, which is what I am typing this on.

  • Walter Pike

    The comment above is correct – don’t do a flash website. Even Adobe accepts that flash is dead for the web.

  • I totally agree with Darren C. Music on a website drives me away immediately.

    http://julianht.smugmug.com/

    http://www.pbase.com/julianht/

  • B

    This should accurately be titled “…Creating an Online Photo Portfolio”. It may be “old school” to print your portfolio, but folks who are searching for advice on physical portfolio selection/construction/design when applying for things like grants and fellowships that require a hard copy won’t find what they need here.

  • great article, I wonder who’s the “Guest Contributor” …..

  • Thanks for all these kind words! I’m really glad that you, guys, like the article.

  • @ChrisAdamval, this guest contributor is me. Probably there is some misunderstanding and I’m sure the blog editor will improve it.

Some Older Comments

  • Ann Davlin December 13, 2011 07:27 pm

    @ChrisAdamval, this guest contributor is me. Probably there is some misunderstanding and I'm sure the blog editor will improve it.

  • Ann Davlin December 12, 2011 08:10 pm

    Thanks for all these kind words! I'm really glad that you, guys, like the article.

  • ChrisAdval December 11, 2011 04:34 pm

    great article, I wonder who's the "Guest Contributor" .....

  • B December 10, 2011 07:52 am

    This should accurately be titled "...Creating an Online Photo Portfolio". It may be "old school" to print your portfolio, but folks who are searching for advice on physical portfolio selection/construction/design when applying for things like grants and fellowships that require a hard copy won't find what they need here.

  • Julian Hebbrecht December 9, 2011 02:44 pm

    I totally agree with Darren C. Music on a website drives me away immediately.

    http://julianht.smugmug.com/

    http://www.pbase.com/julianht/

  • Walter Pike December 9, 2011 03:37 am

    The comment above is correct - don't do a flash website. Even Adobe accepts that flash is dead for the web.

  • Robert Bedson December 9, 2011 03:11 am

    I am in the process of updating my portfoilio, or book Asti is often called. So this is useful, I will be using a website in Wordpress (getting rid of the. Flash site I have now), a printed version in a nice leather cover and a digital one on an iPad, which is what I am typing this on.

  • Alannah December 9, 2011 01:03 am

    Thanks for the advice and showing the diverse range of formats out there. I found it helpful, will definately use some of those tips in the near future.

  • Alexander Rose December 8, 2011 09:00 pm

    Most of these websites shown here are commercially available themes for Wordpress.

  • bycostello December 8, 2011 08:58 pm

    mazing images

  • Allie MIller December 8, 2011 11:49 am

    What an amazing read

  • ccting December 8, 2011 11:20 am

    Wow, very nice literature review..

  • Jason St. Petersburg Photographer December 8, 2011 05:05 am

    @kit -- thanks for the info, I did not know that bots scan the source code itself for the mailto: tag. I use a contact page on my website anyway and get no spam inquiries from it. Then once someone contacts me via that page I have their e-mail address and reply to them normally with my e-mail client.

    I think having a contact page is a definite must!

    What people above said about flash is totally true too. The slideshows on my site are still flash based until I can find a better solution and Squarespace gets its own HTML5 slideshow feature sorted out. Still, the flash slideshows are a small piece of an overall HTML page that can still be viewed on any device and indexed by Google.

  • darren_c December 8, 2011 04:58 am

    Great tips! I would also like to offer one more and it's about having music or a video playing on the home page. I see this on a lot of sites and it drives me absolutely nuts! And, typically drives me away from any website. I hate having to look for the button to turn music off, or stop the video auto play... really annoying.

    I'm sure I'm not the only one to feel this way, so please avoid this feature. Just because it's offered doesn't mean that it's a good idea.

    OK ranting done... thanks for reading.

    :)

    DC

  • Kit December 8, 2011 04:40 am

    I wholly disagree with the tip to do your email as an image on your contact page. If you're worried about spam bots, linking the image to a mailto href will still get picked up by bots. Bots simply look at source code, not what's displayed on the page.

    If you don't link with a mailto, then you won't get much, if any, email from the website. It's the simple truth. A tiny fraction of your potential customers will take the time to retype an email they memorized from your web page.

    Solutions? 1. Get comfortable with ROT13 encoding or something else to obfuscate the code in the source. (my favorite solution -- best for the customer, worst for the bots).
    2. Get used to a little bit of spam trickling in. Less of a concern these days anyway with gmail and other mail services using very robust spam filtering for all accounts.
    3. Hire a competent web developer to build you a contact form. My least favorite option because bots can abuse these too, and forms require more interaction from the customer beyond a simple click.

    So, work out the best option for yourself, but if you want to get customers to contact you, you need to make it as easy for them as possible. Fewer clicks == more customers.

  • raghavendra December 8, 2011 03:58 am

    this indeed a good tips.
    Putting multiple pictures on a portfolio may be clumsy
    One after another may be right.
    raghavendra-mobilephotography.blogspot.com
    slide shows and category wise may be visual treat.

  • Ed Walker December 8, 2011 03:41 am

    Just about every single one of those websites are in Flash. Flash is dead. You cannot view Flash websites on tablets, the future of computing. I would urge everyone reading this to steer as far away from Flash as possible. It's not searchable, it's cannot be indexed by Google, it's a total waste of time.

    Use a blog like Wordpress and skin it. There are thousands of Wordpress themes on the internet for free as well as many companies creating professional themes for as little at $30 each.

    The main advantage of a Wordpress portfolio site is that it will be indexed by Google within hours of you updating it, the content management system is simple and easy to use and you can view it on any Internet device out there.

  • Oscar Lira December 8, 2011 03:33 am

    What great tips for beginners

  • Jason St. Petersburg Photographer December 8, 2011 02:41 am

    Very well put together and comprehensive post with great examples. Thank you whoever the guest contributor was for the effort.

    One thing I like to see in an online portfolio (slideshow) is the ability to control the slideshow. I like to be able to pause on an image for as long as I want as well as to be able to go forwards and backwards. I have built this feature into my own portfolio:

    http://jasoncollinphotography.com

    The one thing I did not see (may have missed it) was the number of photos to include in one's portfolio. I have been told 10 images for the home page portfolio. It seems most people do not spend the time looking through even all ten and upon landing on the home page then click on to the specific type of photography they are interested in where there are other gallery portfolios that can contain as many images as desired.

    Any suggestions on the number of images to include on the home page? Any further stats about how far into a slideshow visitors typically make it?

  • Erik Kerstenbeck December 8, 2011 02:36 am

    Hi

    Excellent article as always - learned a bunch. Although we have a website, it is our blog that draws the most attention as it updated almost every day and is our working Portfolio. People tend to enjoy following our adventures through this Blog. We recently completed an entire series of tips about Boudoir and now are going to Maui for some well deserved fun.

    Here is a shot from the beach!

    http://kerstenbeckphotoart.wordpress.com/2011/12/07/honolua-bay-maui/

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