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

If you want to get more photography jobs and take your photography business to the next level, you’re going to need a photography portfolio. You may have hundreds or thousands of photos under your belt, but have you actually gone through and identified which ones would make the most powerful photo portfolio? We’re going to break down everything you need to know about how to put together a truly stunning photography portfolio website. Plus, keep reading for some amazing photography portfolio examples to inspire you.

Building a Photography Portfolio

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.

Make Careful Considerations When Creating a Photography Portfolio

If you really want your photography website to succeed, make sure to take your time in considering not just what you want to include, but how you want to present it. There are a lot of elements that go into building a photography portfolio, so it’s important to take your time and carefully consider every single detail of your photography portfolio website, from the photos you choose to the way you present them. First: let’s talk goals.

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.

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 extremely important that you put a lot of thought and effort into the way you present your photography site: you need to show that you are professional and that you put great care into your work. In order to do so, there are certain design tips that you can follow to help you create a photography portfolio that stands out.

You need to choose a photography portfolio website builder that enables you to insert your own personal design aesthetic and brand identity through themes and templates that truly represent you and your work in the best light. Using a portfolio builder that specializes in online photography portfolios will simplify your experience even more, especially if you’re new to creating an online portfolio.

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:

You definitely want to have Google Analytics enabled on your online portfolio so you can have access to all that handy data on who is visiting your professional photography portfolio. Your website builder should optimize your site for SEO, so potential clients can 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.

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.

  • Ensure that you are using the same fonts throughout, and prioritize clarity and readability over bright flashy design. When it comes to websites for photographers, your graphic design choices should, above all, be easily readable, and should bring the viewer’s focus to your images, rather than distracting or pulling focus away.

  • 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.

Add image captions to your professional photography website where possible, as they can be a big help in grabbing viewers’ attention and personalizing the work. You can discuss the camera you used to shoot the image, where it was shot, or some behind-the-scenes details about the subject, shoot, or post-production manipulations. You could even just go with the standard format of image title, year created, material, and size. This is also where you can credit the rest of your team, like your stylist or prop team. Don’t forget to add alt-text as well; this is the text on the back-end that describes the image, which helps Google “see” it: it’s great for SEO, and makes your photography portfolio layout more accessible, too.

What to Include in Your Photography Portfolio

One of the biggest challenges when it comes to creating a photography portfolio website is the question of how to choose the images to include in your portfolio. It can be tempting to choose photos for your portfolio based on your personal preference, but this isn’t the only thing to consider when building your photo portfolio. Below, we’ll focus in on how to effectively curate your photography portfolio and what to include alongside your photographs.

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

As one of the most-visited pages on your photography portfolio site, your About Me page or bio page is a great place to really help your clients get to know you and your brand. People are often more inclined to hire photographers that they feel a personal connection with, and an honest, authentic bio will help establish that connection and encourage brand loyalty. Let’s get into some tips on how to craft an amazing About Me page for your professional 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. Make sure your opening sentence is well-crafted and, ideally, an 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 great for SEO, and will help more people find your photo portfolio faster via Google.

  • Include a self-portrait. Folks 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. Use 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.

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 spent hours working on your photography portfolio, it might be hard to take a step back and be objective about selecting the best examples of your work. Here comes the hard part: how do you choose which images to feature in your photography portfolio layout? This can be tough. But we have a few tips that will help you narrow down your selects and ensure that you showcase only your best work. You don’t want to overwhelm photo portfolio visitors with pages and pages of photos.

  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. You really want to make sure you’re picking the best of the best. A recent study revealed that potential employers decide whether they want to work with you or not in the first six seconds of viewing your photo portfolio—so you better make sure you’re wowing them with your very best work, and the best photography portfolio possible.

  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. Once that you’ve got your initial picks, you probably want to narrow it down even further. But how do you do that? One trick you can use is to pretend you’re someone else. Put yourself in the shoes of a potential client or photo editor or creative director: which images would stick out for them most? Another trick is to look back through your work for the pieces that have already gotten some validation, whether it’s an award or nomination, or some press 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. 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 may offer some amazing perspective on which images really pop—and which don't.

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? Feel free to include some entries in your photography portfolio that represent a variety of technical skills…including those that happen after the pictures 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:

Use Your Photo Portfolio to Showcase Your Adaptability

Here’s the thing: if you’re a freelance photographer, it’s often necessary to focus in on your particular niche in order to find your ideal clients. However, when you’re creating a photography portfolio, it’s also important to demonstrate your flexibility when it comes to creating a wide variety of 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 opportunity to demonstrate a wide range of abilities and photographic skills, and prove that you can deliver high-quality content regardless of the brief you’re given—emphasize your ability and willingness to bring the client’s vision to life, rather than focusing too narrowly on your own artistic preferences.

Challenge yourself to include a variety of unique styles in your photography portfolio, along with your technical skills. Consider including examples of nighttime photography or long exposure, each of which showcases a certain set of specific skills and shows that you’ve put in the time and effort to teach yourself proactively. You can also showcase both indoor and outdoor photography, and a mix of color and black and white, in order to show your understanding of the technical aspects of different types of photography and of the equipment you work with.

This way, you let your future clients know that you can adapt quickly and provide high-quality photography no matter what situation you find yourself in. It’s also a good idea to show that you think about the themes and meaning behind your work, and not just about capturing a pretty picture.

Why Not Create Multiple Photography Portfolios?

Have a few different styles you’re dying to showcase? You may want to set up a couple photography portfolios. This can be an extremely savvy business move. Do you have two or more different photography hustles going on? 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.

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. 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 demo. You wouldn’t use the slang term “fam,” for example, if you’re trying to sell formal family group portrait packages.

  • 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.

  • Utilize vivid, sensory describing words, and avoid jargon. Use strong adjectives and be as descriptive as possible. You can even keep a list of describing words on hand; there are a lot of lists online that you can use as a resource.

  • Evoke emotion. Write descriptions that call up feelings in the viewer, whether it’s sharing a heart-tugging story about the subject or using terms like “awe” and “wonder” and “majesty” to describe breath-taking landscapes.

  • Don't forget to harness the power of SEO for your photography portfolio website. 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.

  • Show the customer on your photo portfolio how the 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. You can also use an app that will create an image of how a space would look with the work hanging on the wall; this will help customers really see your photography 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.

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.

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.

Now get started on that photography portfolio—we can’t wait to see what you come up with.

Updated on June 3, 2020 | By Steph Davidson

Shot by member Mark Clennon