How to Create an Amazing Student Photography Portfolio

If you want to apply to art school to pursue a career in photography, you need a portfolio that stands out. Here’s how to create the best student portfolio.

student with books

There's no getting around it: a student online portfolio is a necessity if you want to work in a creative field like photography. Whether you need to create a photography portfolio website in order to apply to an art university or college or you just want to document your progress in a photography course, we've got all of the tips you'll need for creating a high quality photography website.

If you're new to photography and don't have a lot of experience (or photography work) under your belt, now is the time to focus your attention on practicing your skills and building up a repertoire of photos that show what you can do. Once you have a variety of images to choose from, it's time to curate it down to the very best photography work that you've done.

Creating your own photography portfolio might seem overwhelming right now, but don't worry! We've designed this in-depth guide for complete beginners to learn everything they need to know about making a photography website that gets you noticed.

What is a Student Portfolio?

If you want to get into art school, you are going to need a photography portfolio that you can submit along with your transcripts and other required information. Once you become a student at your dream photography school, it's also a good idea to keep updating your portfolio with new projects that you're working on in school to track your academic and artistic growth.

Even though you may still be a student, that doesn't mean that you can't be hired as a photographer too! A professional photography portfolio can help to position you as an expert in your field.

Why are Portfolios Important for Students?

As an aspiring art school student, an online photography portfolio allows you to create an easily accessible and endlessly shareable record of your best work. Your photography website is how potential schools, clients, and collaborators will get their first impression of who you are as a photographer. Site viewers will make a judgment of your skills and abilities based on everything from your photography work itself to the fonts, colors, and layouts you use when you design your photography portfolio, so you should put a lot of careful thought into every single decision that you make.

How To Make a Student Portfolio

You already know what a photo portfolio is and why you need one, but how do you actually choose what to include in your portfolio for college or university? While there are a lot of small details to consider, the main point of your portfolio is to feature your very best work. If you're not confident when it comes to identifying which of your photos are most successful, don't be afraid to ask for advice from an art teacher, your classmates, or anyone you may know who has attended a college for photography.

In addition to showcasing your best photographs, successful photography portfolios will also provide an overview of your progress as a photographer. If you want to tell a story of your growth, it may make sense to display your images in chronological order.

You should be very intentional about which photos you choose to include in your photography portfolio. Include a written reflection about each photo to explain the concept behind it and why you think that it is a good example of your photography work. If you want to express your knowledge of camera technology, you can even choose to include the settings used to create each photo and where it was taken.

What to Include in Your Photography Portfolio

It's definitely important to carefully select which images to include in your photo portfolio for college and university, but there are usually other requirements as well. In fact, each college and university may have its own set of specifications for your application, so make sure that you pay close attention to exactly what they are asking for from you. Since each school will require a photo portfolio tailored to their application requirements, you can create a new gallery page for each college and university. When you fulfill the specifications set out by the school, you demonstrate your attention to detail and prevent yourself from being disqualified over a silly administrative error.

As well as your photos, you may be asked to include a resume with your educational background and any relevant experience or achievements related to photography. Many schools require you to write an artist statement or biography, and some may provide specific prompts for you to respond to. You should also make sure to include your contact information and any social media links.

How To Create a Digital Portfolio for Students

We've already gone over what photography portfolios should include, but how do you translate that into a functional website? Luckily, these days it is easier than ever to create a high quality portfolio using a website builder in 3 easy steps.

1. Choose a theme.

Start by selecting a website template theme that compliments the aesthetic of your photos. Make your portfolio user friendly by using the same fonts and colors throughout. Emphasize your photography skills when making your design choices rather than going over the top with flashy details that may take away from your work.

2. Upload your photos.

An intuitive website builder makes it easy to create photo galleries and organize your images however you want. Create a new gallery, upload your photos, and include optional captions.

3. Customize your website.

Once you've got your photos up, all that's left to do is play around with the design and personalize it to fit your unique style and point of view. Once it looks perfect, you're ready to publish your online portfolio and start applying to college and university!

What Features Should You Look for When Creating Your Online Photography Portfolio?

Here are some of the main features that you should look for when you choose which website builder to use for your photo portfolio.

  • Professionally designed templates to show your work in the best light.

  • Intuitive, easy to use design tools to save you time and effort with no coding knowledge whatsoever.

  • Total customization to suit your unique needs.

  • Mobile optimized websites so your photos look amazing no matter what device your site viewers are using.

  • High resolution images make a huge difference in how your photographs are experienced.

  • Online store with no commission fees where you can sell your photography services and photo prints.

Types of Portfolios for Students

Online portfolios are used for a number of different creative disciplines in addition to photography. Here are some of the many career paths which may require a portfolio, as well as some photography portfolio examples to get you inspired.

Photography

Most college and university admissions offices ask for online applications these days, so there's no longer any need to spend money printing out your best photos. Use your photography portfolio to express who you are as a photographer through your photos as well as by writing about your background, inspirations, and process. It's great when photographers can demonstrate versatility with their images, but focusing on one specific niche, whether its portraits or products, will make your site appear more cohesive to schools and potential clients alike.

Design

There are many different types of design, but they all have one thing in common: if you want to be successful, you need an online portfolio where you can show your creative skills through images. Case studies are an important part of portfolios for many design disciplines, as they demonstrate your ability to address a brief and execute your concept.

Make sure that you adjust your portfolio depending on the type of design college you are applying for. Here are a couple of examples of how to create a design portfolio for specific programs or niches.

Interior design

Carefully choose a website template that goes with the images you're including in your interior design portfolio. Even if you have limited professional experience with interior design, you can use your own home as a canvas to try out ideas and document them for your online portfolio.

Graphic design

Since you're applying to a graphic design program, your graphic design portfolio website is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate your design ideas and skills. Select your fonts and colors and keep them consistent throughout your website.

Illustration

It can be difficult for some artists to narrow down which projects to include in illustration portfolio websites, but it's important that you feature no more than 20 works. That way, when someone is browsing your images they will be able to focus on all of the careful work and detail you've included rather than becoming overwhelmed by too much visual clutter.

Art

In the past, fine art was much less accessible to the masses than it is today. Now you can reach a new audience of people and businesses who want to collect your work with your online art portfolio website. While it can be tempting to include artwork from a variety of disciplines, there should be a central theme connecting all of your images, whether that is the medium you used, the subject rendered, or the concept behind the work.

Architecture

Since an architecture project goes through so many stages to get from a concept to a finished project, it's a good idea to include images of each step in your architecture portfolio, from rough sketches to 3D rendering to the final execution. Detail your experience in architecture by listing your education and any relevant experience, and don't be afraid to name drop any big clients you've worked for to up your credibility.

Model

Social media is overrun by amateur and professional models alike, so stand out with a professional, high quality online modeling portfolio of your very best modeling work. Unlike a traditional physical modeling portfolio, you can easily update your images to represent your most recent work.

Choose one or two niches of modeling that you're interested in getting into, and only showcase images that fit within that genre. For example, if you want to be a fashion photography model, you may want to remove any photos that don't showcase your fashion modeling skills.

Video

Video is an experiential medium, which means it is super important that your video portfolio can handle large file sizes without sacrificing quality or page load times. While you can present longer videos on separate pages, it's also a good idea to create a short 1-3 minute film reel where you piece together highlights from the video work you've done that best represents you.

Now that you know all about online student portfolios and how to make yours stand out, you're ready to upload your photos and start applying to your dream schools and photography jobs!

Want more tips on creating an amazing photography portfolio to get into art school?

Advice from Professors and Grads on Creating an Art Portfolio for School

How to Make a Photography Portfolio for College and University

Our Ultimate Portfolio Inspiration List