Photography Portfolios 101: How To Build An Amazing Photo Portfolio

Photography Portfolios 101: How To Build An Amazing Photo Portfolio

Need to create a photography portfolio? This guide details how to make a photo portfolio that will showcase your professional photography work—and win you clients.

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Getting Started

A stellar photography portfolio can become a compelling marketing tool that can launch your hobby photography into a professional business. If you already have a business, investing time in creating a portfolio can help you become more intentional about your future client work.

To succeed in your photography business, you're going to need a photography portfolio. You might have hundreds or thousands of photos under your belt, but have you selected only the best photos for your photo portfolio? We'll explain everything you need to know about creating a truly stunning photography portfolio website. Also, read on for some amazing portfolio examples to inspire you.

Building a Photography Portfolio

If starting a website feels daunting, we’re here to break down how to make a photography portfolio in bite-sized steps, and you can get started within a matter of minutes.

No matter what kind of clients you’re trying to attract to your photography business, these photography portfolio ideas will help you create the best website for your photography business—and really stand out from the crowd. Let’s get started.

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Make Careful Considerations When Creating a Photography Portfolio

If you want your photography website to succeed, spend time thinking about what to include and how you want to present your images. Let's start with goals. What will be your focus?

The best way to understand the goals for your creative photography website is to simply write out the questions and answers. Consider these questions as you begin:

  • Who is your audience? What kind of clients are you trying to bring to your site? Companies? Publications?

  • What are your strengths? Do you enjoy shooting landscapes? Or are you more of a portrait photographer? Are you great at black-and-white film? Or do you excel at Photoshop retouching and compositing?

  • What is your best photo shoot or series? If you could pick one image to represent your work, what would it be?

  • What are your goals for your business in general? Do you need to get more shoots under your belt?

Once you have all the answers to these questions written out in front of you, you should have a better idea of what you want to achieve with your new photography portfolio website.

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Determine Your Goals in Building Your Photography Portfolio

You need to determine what your goals are for your creating a photography portfolio. What’s your focus going to be? Sit down at your desk and get out some pen and paper—writing these questions and answers out can help you clarify the goals for your creative photography website. Here are some things to consider when you’re just getting started:

  • Who is your audience? What kind of clients are you trying to bring to your site? Are they people? Companies? Publications?

  • What are your strengths? Do you love shooting landscapes? Or are you more of a portrait photographer? Are you great at black-and-white film? Or do you excel at Photoshop retouching and compositing?

  • What is your best photo shoot or series? If you could pick one image to represent your work, what would it be?

  • What are your goals for your business in general? Do you need to get more shoots under your belt? Do you want to branch out into another type of photography, like fashion or food? Is there something in your work that you want to improve?

Once you have all the answers to these questions written out in front of you, you should have a better idea of what you want to achieve with your new photography portfolio website.

Do Your Photography Portfolio Research

Still need a little inspiration to get started? Find some photographer website examples to see how they showcase their work. You just might find an idea or two that you can personalize for your own site. Check out these amazing photography portfolios examples, and be sure to check these photography website examples out as well:

After that, create a moodboard of some of the best photography websites; you should be able to see some common themes emerge that may guide you in how you can set up your own top photography website.

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Choose The Right Photography Portfolio Website Builder for Your Photo Portfolio

While you may think that which photos you present in your photo portfolio is the most important thing to consider, the way that you showcase your work can also have a big influence on the success (or lack thereof) of your photography portfolio website. In fact, a study found that the quality of your photography portfolio layout can have a huge impact on your job prospects.

With that in mind, it's essential that you devote considerable thought and time to constructing your photography website: you must show that you are professional and meticulous about your work. In order to do so, follow these design tips to help you create a photography portfolio that stands out.

Choose a photography portfolio website builder that lets you incorporate your personal design aesthetic and brand identity through themes and templates that really represent you and your work. You will simplify your process even more if you use a portfolio builder that focuses on online photography portfolios.

You don’t have to spend a huge amount of money to build your photography portfolio in order to show that you are confident in your work and that you take your photography career seriously. With prices that fit every budget, you can create a beautiful, fully customizable photo portfolio site.

Want the best site for your photography portfolio? Here are some key photography portfolio website builder features to look out for:

Gorgeous Themes:

The best sites for photographers really cater to the needs of professional photographers. Make sure the photography portfolio website builder has a large selection of photography templates to choose from so you find one that is modern, timeless, and matches your branding, and shows off your photography beautifully.

Flexible Layouts:

There are so many options to choose from when you’re designing your photography portfolio. And, when you’re a photographer, the photography portfolio layout can make or break your photo portfolio site. Look for a website builder that is optimized for mobile and has numerous different layouts available, including grid, gallery, full-screen, tile, and horizontal scroll options. The horizontal scroll layout is a great option for beginner photographers as it looks stunning even with a small number of shots.

Full Customizability:

You want your photography portfolio site to stand out from the rest—and that means you need to be able to customize everything, from favicons to typography. Font-wise, you want to be able to modify the size, weight, color, and positioning of your typography.

Video Support:

As more and more photographers expand into videography, more and more photographers are showcasing their video portfolio as well.

Client Proofing:

Every photographer knows that client back-and-forth can eat up a lot of time. One way to reduce these endless e-mails is to run your client proofing right from your photo portfolio. Client proofing galleries allow clients to view and approve proofs directly from your photography portfolio.

Google Analytics Support and SEO Boosting:

Enabling Google Analytics on your online portfolio allows you to see detailed statistics on who is visiting your professional photography portfolio. Your website builder should aim to help clients find you with ease.

Built-In Blog:

The best photography sites for photographers have blogging functionality. A blog is great for your photography business in many ways. It can help your clients get to know you a little more—and increase their brand loyalty. It can also help boost your SEO—make it easier for potential clients to find your photo portfolio via search engine. And it can help you establish yourself as an industry expert, by sharing your expertise and a behind-the-scenes look at your process.

Just don’t forget to proofread everything on your blog. Even the best photography portfolio website can be sunk by sloppy copy.

24/7 Customer Support:

It’s always helpful to have a support team at your service around the clock; the best platforms for photography portfolios have top-tier customer success teams in place for any site questions, no matter what time it is.

Free Trial:

Finally, you want to pick a photography portfolio that offers some kind of test period so you can try it first and ensure that the photo portfolio is a perfect fit for your photography business.

Need help creating a photography portfolio? There are plenty of resources online to avoid or fix common portfolio mistakes as well as tools to improve your portfolio. And if you require a little extra help, you can choose a photography portfolio website builder that will offer services to help you build a photography portfolio for you.

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Make Your Photography Portfolio User-Friendly

Create a positive and memorable experience for potential employers and clients viewing your photography portfolio by making sure your design fundamentals are solid throughout your photography portfolio presentation. Here are a few website design tips to help you create the best photography site:

  • Since your homepage is the first thing every visitor sees, you want to make sure that page really shines. Showcase your very best image or two here to really grab visitors’ attention. Have a few great shots to share? Go for a grid pattern and show off a handful of your most attention-grabbing photos to set the tone for the rest of your photography portfolio website.

  • Consistency in fonts, above all else, is essential to readability and comprehension. Your graphic design choices should emphasize your images above all else. Keep the focus on your images and allow others to find what they are looking for.

  • If the photos in your photography portfolio tell a story, make sure you display them in an order that makes sense to the viewer. If each photo stands alone, however, it may make more sense to group them by portrait and landscape orientation so as not to distract by switching back and forth.

Try and ensure that there is some order to the sections of your photography portfolio site. Some organization options include:

  • Subject matter

  • Type of work

  • Clients

  • Medium

  • Location

  • Series

Still feel like your galleries are a little overstuffed? Go through each one and remove half the images. Trust us: you want each gallery to feature only your best work.

Applying image captions to your professional photography website helps you to capture attention to your work. Discuss the camera you used to take the image, where it was shot, or anything that was done post-production to the image. The basic image format is title, year created, material, and size. This is also where you can thank your stylist and prop team. Additionally, provide an alt-text; this is the text on the back-end that describes the image, which assists in Google "seeing" it, which would enable more people on the web to see it too.

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What to Include in Your Photography Portfolio

Now that you’ve got some photography website ideas, learn how to start a photography portfolio of your own.

When it comes to building a photography portfolio website, one of the biggest challenges is choosing which images to include. Sometimes it's tempting to choose portfolio photos based on your personal preference, but a strategic approach to curating your photography portfolio will help you tell a better story.

Craft An Attention-Grabbing About Me Page for Your Photo Portfolio

Your About Me page or bio page will become one of your most visited pages on your online portfolio because it's where your potential clients learn more about you and your brand. People like to hire photographers that they feel connected to, and a genuine biography can serve to foster trust and loyalty. Learn more about how to construct an impressive About Me page for your photography portfolio:

  • If you need inspiration, check out some of the best portfolio websites examples; see which bios grab you—and which ones you don’t love.

  • Start off by introducing yourself: your name, what you do, and where you’re based. The opening sentence should be a well-crafted, attention-grabber. Include your brand keywords in there, like, “I’m Logan Kendall, a New York fashion photographer specializing in plus-size shoots.” This is clear and concise, which is great for SEO.

  • Include a self-portrait. People want to see the face that goes with the name—and it’s a smart way to show off your portrait skills. Choose a photo that really exemplifies your brand.

  • Use an approachable, friendly tone. Authenticity and personality really resonate with people; this is the place to show off what makes you you. This is why it’s a good idea to sprinkle in a few little personal details, whether it’s the number of countries you’ve visited, a photo of your cats, or your new Italian cooking hobby. It’ll help make your photo portfolio site more memorable.

  • This isn’t a resume. se your About Me page to describe your work and what makes it unique, and give a succinct overview of your experience, accomplishments, and awards. People will get bogged down in too much detail, so just stick to the top highlights. You can always link out to other press mentions, too, to help keep it short.

Don’t forget to include your contact info, either on your About Me page, or on a separate contact information page. You can include your social handles here as well.

Don’t Forget the Photography Portfolio Pricing Page

If you’re trying to attract new clients, you should definitely have a pricing page on your photography portfolio website. Even if you’re just including your starting prices, it’s smart business to have one. Why? Well, most visitors to your photo portfolio site don’t want to bother taking the extra step to call or e-mail about prices. And, if you have a pricing page on your professional photography portfolio, you know that any potential clients that do contact you are most likely fine with your price-range and won’t haggle too much.

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Choose Your Best Work for Your Photo Portfolio

Sometimes it can be challenging to separate your best work from photos that you have a personal attachment to, or that bring up positive memories. Try to approach creating your photography portfolio as objectively as you can, prioritizing images of high technical skill and emotional resonance rather than whatever emotions you might have tied up with your work. Just because you love a photo does not mean that it necessarily belongs in your photography portfolio.

Prioritize quality, not quantity. Choose which photos to include carefully. If you really can’t dig up enough good photos to include in your photography portfolio website, it’s time to grab your camera and start producing some new work that represents where you’re really at in your photography journey.

Once you've invested a lot of time on your photography portfolio, it might be difficult to judge whether your best work is selected. Now the hard part: How do you decide which images to use in your portfolio layout? This is hard. Here are a few tips that will help you select only your best work:

  1. Select only your best images. This means going through all your shoots, all your series, all your shots and picking out the best ones. Pick the very best among all of them. Employers make their decision on whether or not they want to work with you in the first six seconds of looking at your photo portfolio.

  2. Make sure that every image you pick is on-brand for your brand. Let’s say you specialize in urban street photography. You might be really proud of that wedding you shot upstate last year, but it’ll look a little strange on your photography portfolio—best just to leave that one your archive for now.

  3. Do another pass. If you have your initial candidates, you'll want to focus even further. That's rather difficult. Try imagining yourself as someone else and consider what a potential client, photo editor, or creative director would look for in an image. Looking back over your work, find the pieces that have already gotten validation—awards or nominations, or attention in a cool art publication. Those shots may not be your favorite, but they clearly have some special appeal for others.

  4. Look at the numbers. Now comes the question of how many photos you should include in your professional photography portfolio. Well, there is no magic number. We recommend getting it down to 10% of your output to start, then paring it down from there to your very best shots.

  5. Don’t Add Watermarks. It’s understandable that you want to protect your work from online theft. However, adding watermarks to your portfolio images is distracting, and can take away from the viewer fully appreciating the image. Another way to legally protect your work is to add your copyright claims to the metadata of your photos.

  6. Get a second opinion. That means it’s time to call in your most trusted friends and colleagues—fellow photographers are ideal, but pals with a good eye and an interest in photography can help, too. Ask them to review your shortlist and pick out their own selects. It might reveal which photos really stand out from the rest.

Now you should have a small collection of your very best work. From here, you should go back to your piece of paper where you wrote down all your goals. Reviewing the target industries, agencies, and photography types you’re after should help you narrow it down even further.

High-fashion shoots may look great, but they won’t help you get commercial food photography gigs. If you mainly shoot weddings but want to get into fashion photography, only feature your more high-fashion bridal shots.

You want to showcase the images that will help you get the most work in the areas you are most passionate about. And don’t worry—you can fill these target areas in with personal shoots or TFP shoots when you’re first starting out.

Showcase Your Post-Production Skills

Do you have photos that you’ve edited into panoramas or GIFs? Maybe you’ve recolored a photograph in Photoshop or a similar program to emphasize certain elements?

Photography portfolios should showcase a wide range of technical skills, including ones that occur after the photos have been taken. Even if you’re just starting out with your photography business, you can learn a lot of helpful Photoshop skills really quickly using online tutorials: the more you know, the more in-demand your services will be.

Here are some techniques to consider including on your portfolio:

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Use Your Photo Portfolio to Showcase Your Adaptability

Here's the thing: if you're a freelance photographer, finding your ideal clients means narrowing in on your particular niche. However, when you’re creating a photography portfolio, it is also important to demonstrate your versatility in creating various types of photographic content.

With this in mind, include photos in your photography portfolio that show the many different sides to your work. If you love shooting still lifes in an indoor studio environment, by all means, include examples of that. However, this shouldn’t be the only type of photography you showcase in your photography portfolio. Instead, include some wildlife photography, or head out to a club event to really add variety to the type of photography you are presenting on your photo portfolio site.

This is your chance to demonstrate a wide range of skills and photographic abilities, and to show that you can deliver top-quality content no matter the brief.

Challenge yourself to incorporate a variety of different styles into your photography portfolio, alongside your technical skill. Conceivably, examples of nighttime photography or long exposure could accompany your portfolio. You can also showcase both indoor and outdoor photography, and a mix of color and black and white to demonstrate your understanding of different kinds of photography and equipment.

This way, you let your future clients know that you can adapt quickly and provide quality photography in any situation. Showing that you're sensitive to themes and meaning is also helpful.

Why Not Create Multiple Photography Portfolios?

Have a few different styles you’re dying to showcase? You may want to set up a couple of photography portfolios. This can be an extremely savvy business move.

Maybe you run a successful portrait studio and you also offer travel photography tours on the side. It’s a good idea to keep these businesses separate, and that means a different professional photography portfolio for each; the best photography portfolio websites target customers strategically and keep their focus tight.

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Set Up an Online Store on Your Photography Portfolio Website

Want to sell more photos? Pick a photography portfolio website builder that has an online store built right in, or consider using a photography-based marketplace. Another nice-to-have: the ability to create and manage customer email lists, right from your photo portfolio.

Make sure you can do everything you want to with the store, even offer sales to your customers, complete with discount codes. You can sell prints, of course, but remember: there’s a lot of other products you can sell on your photography portfolio website, too—developing a passive income stream for you.

There are the teaching options, including:

And the product options, like:

No matter what you’re selling, your product descriptions need to be really strong to close that sale. Here are our best pointers on crafting product descriptions that sell:

  • Keep your audience in mind. Use the keywords and writing style that will appeal to your target demographic. Using the word “fam” in an attempt to sell family portrait packages would be inappropriate.

  • Include detailed specs and measurements. Tour or workshop itineraries; or print sizing and resolution for all your products so clients will know exactly what they’re getting when they’re shopping your photography portfolio.

  • Use your product description to tell a story. Talk about how a childhood museum visit inspired a particular series, or embed some video to show the behind-the-scenes process of how this shot came to be.

  • Use vivid, sensory language, and avoid jargon. Use strong adjectives and be as descriptive as possible.

  • Evoke emotions. describe subjects in a way that evokes strong emotions in the reader.

  • Consider SEO best practices. Be specific in your descriptions. If something is a dog portrait, label it a dog portrait. And use bullet points and paragraph breaks, so they’re clear and easily readable, too.

  • Help customers visualize how your work will exist in their space. Talk about what a conversation piece it will be, or how this print could elevate an entire photography collection. Let customers imagine how your photography will sit in their home or office.

  • Leverage that social proof in your favour. Did this particular shot win an award, or get featured on a prominent art blog? Mention it—people love seeing that validation.

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Get A Second Opinion on Your Photography Portfolio

Now it’s time for the final step: showing your photography portfolio site to people you trust. Recruit some photography colleagues and some friends—honest friends—to do a thorough review of your photo portfolio. Ask them to be brutally honest.

Are there too many images?

Not enough images?

Are the product descriptions or pricing page too vague?

Once you make those final edits, you’re done.

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Update Your Photo Portfolio Regularly

Don’t forget to set aside some time every month to update your photography portfolio layout: write and schedule some blog posts, add any new press mentions to your bio, and upload any fresh work you’re particularly proud of.

Consider removing some old work for every new series you add to your professional photography portfolio—remember, you always want to curate your site to be the best photography portfolio website possible. It should be your best work, not where you store all your work.

Build Your Photographer Portfolio Site Today

Thanks to easy-to-use website builders, you can create your own website without hiring a web designer or developer.

The most important things to remember when setting up your online portfolio is to keep the user’s experience front of mind and to showcase your strongest body of work. We hope this comprehensive guide has given you some helpful photography portfolio website ideas and ironed out any of the bumps you may run into as you work on building your portfolio.

Updated on May 27, 2021 | By Steph Davidson

Shot by member Mark Clennon
Shot by member Mark Clennon