In 2018, we saw more photographers than ever living their dream by showing off their photographs online with stock images and the like. However, if you want to get your work noticed, you really ought to start thinking about making a portfolio.
Looking at some of the bigger photographers out there - or even perhaps some of the smaller ones that you follow on Instagram - there’s one theme that runs through. That’s the fact they have clean, fancy, minimalistic websites that promote their best work, contact information, and occasionally a little bit of personal information.
You see, online photography portfolios are a combination of branding, self-marketing, and staying behind the camera. A photographer’s portfolio gets to, first and foremost, show off their work. It’s almost like the age-old adage of “a picture says a thousand words” is actually true in this case.
With all that said, it’s not actually all too hard to create a decent and cool-looking professional photography portfolio. You just need a little guidance, is all.
Every cloud needs a silver lining and every website needs a hosting platform.
There are free platforms out there that are much more advanced than they were back in the day, and we’re not talking Flickr or Picasa either. There are also simple paid services on which you don’t even need to know a lick of HTML or CSS in order to make a great looking photography portfolio.
Hosting options for your new photography portfolio
If you’re genuinely looking to expand your photography into a career or a business, you should probably think about moving to a hosting platform.
Many hosting providers such as HostGator, 1&1, and BlueHost have WordPress integration options and Squarespace, as you’ll know if you listen to podcasts, is its own brand of magic.
That said, bigger, community-based websites like Flickr do have their SEO benefits, as well.
Easily the most used hosting platform around these days, there’s a WordPress template and plugin for just about any kind of website you’re looking to create. You don’t need to learn a lick of code. Although if you’re looking for a straightforward photography portfolio, it might not be worth the $4-or-so to buy hosting and a domain name.
Then again, having a domain name is always going to be a benefit for you and your brand.
Price: Free, although you will have to shell out money for the hosting and/or domain name via a hosting provider.
Squarespace has a handle on the current streamlined, high-end aesthetic that most brands and individuals are going for these days. Their layouts are simple, elegant, and really easy to put together. Their themes are actively stunning and if you want a luxury theme that looks the part without needing to put a lot of work into it, then Squarespace might be worth considering.
Price: $12/m up to 20 pages, $18/m for unlimited pages, but this does come with a domain name and discounts if you’re paying annually.
Lesser-known than either WordPress or Squarespace, Wix is a platform that's easy to use and features that are exclusively designed with professional photographers in mind. Wix offers up an abundance of modern templates and an incredibly easy platform on which to do it. Recently, the company has also implemented the use of AI to help you build the website you want by simply answering a few questions. It's a simple builder for busy people that still looks and works great. On top of this, you can also use some of the tools that also make it impossible for anyone to steal a photo.
Price: Free, however, you can choose to upgrade to a Premium plan starting at just $5
How to Make Your Portfolio Stand Out
Once you have your website and layout sorted, it’s time to think about how you want your portfolio to look. Although it is ultimately your choice, two of the facts we really like to stand by are that you should watermark your work and you should also keep it as minimalistic as possible.
Most photographers choose only a few of their standout photographs to display on their portfolios; the shots that say, “This is my style, this is what I want to do, and if you want to see more, hire me.” However, even amateur photographers can think about doing this. Don’t make people search for your best shots - give it to them.
As for watermarking, it’s incredibly important to ensure that your photographs actually get attributed to you. With sites out there such as Pinterest and Tumblr, the idea of royalties goes out of the window. Having a watermark on your work is a clear, classy way to say, “I took this, isn’t it great?”
What you need on your photography portfolio
- An ABOUT section: Give a quick summary on you, yourself, and what you’re about.
- Select PHOTOGRAPHS: Pick photographs that highlight your style of photography and your expertise.
- CONTACT information: Contact information like an email address, socials, etc, are important for networking. How can somebody tell you they’d like to commission you for some work if you don’t have any contact info available?
Everything else - even blog sections - can be read as static.
How to know which photos to highlight
We get it. It’s as hard to be as proud of your photographs as it is to pick one when they all seem good. That said, the pictures you choose to show off as part of your portfolio should be the ones that show off your expertise, your skills, or even your vibe.
A good way of selecting shots is to look at it as though you’re putting together an exhibition. Technically, although it may be an online exhibition, you are. Your portfolio is your exhibition, and you want photographs that will always be relayed back to you.
A photography portfolio in a nutshell
The great thing about having an online portfolio is also that, if you’re proud of it, you never really have to visit it again yourself unless you want to. Like if you’re updating information or gearing up to switch an older shot for a newer one.
All that means is you have more time for doing what you love: actually taking the photographs.