How to Make a Photography Portfolio
If you take photos, you want someone to see them.
However, if you want to be a professional, a post on social media or becoming a member of Shutterstock isn’t going to be enough. You need to make a web photographer portfolio to attract potential clients.
Don’t know where to start? No worries. Keep on reading as we will show you all the most important tips on how to make a photography portfolio website.
Step 1: Create a photography portfolio website
What is the number one purpose of a photography portfolio?
If you think that it is to display your work, then it is time for a second opinion.
The most important function of a photography portfolio is to help a photographer find more work.
Whether you shoot commercials, make portraits, cover weddings or concerts, or photograph landscapes for sale as prints, the purpose of a portfolio is to do more of the thing that you are good at.
For that reason, a portfolio needs to be functional first and beautiful second. A quality photo can speak for itself in the same way that a poorly built website will do the same.
Luckily, portfolio websites are among the simplest websites to make as they require very few elements other than an image gallery, a contact page, and, at times, a blog to help the photographer add context.
That’s also why every website builder features numerous designer-made templates for photography portfolios to help to get you started. Once you have picked one, you may edit it to your heart’s desire.
Keep in mind that building an online portfolio is slightly different from creating a regular website, as you need to focus on photo placements. The presentation of images is everything.
Minimalistic one-page websites are a popular choice for portfolios as they remove unnecessary elements and allow your audience to focus on your best work, just how a photographer’s portfolio should be.
Step 2. Focus on a target audience and stick with it
Once you have a good website set up, it’s time to determine the focus of your photography portfolio site. It can range from wedding, architectural, travel, landscape, digital photography, or analog.
This is important, as showcasing too many different projects or too many images at once may make your portfolio site look cluttered. As a result, it’ll be hard for clients to determine the photography niche you’re specialized in.
By focusing on a topic, it’s easier to organize your portfolio photography work, and your expertise will shine.
However, if you’re a diverse photographer, you may want to include the different focuses of your photography business. In this case, you can create separate pages or menu items on your site.
Just remember to make the layout, look, and overall theme of the website consistent with that of a professional photographer.
Step 3: Showcase your best photography projects
Photographers are creatives.
As a photographer, portfolio images need to be your best work because the whole point of a photography portfolio is to show off your skills.
As such, it’s important to display your most impressive work straight on the homepage where clients can see them.
To determine which photos to display, try sharing the photos on your social media accounts to see which ones are the most popular.
This way, you can be objective and choose the best photo for each location.
Once you have a pile of suggestions, you still need to organize and eliminate photos.
Place the strongest images in the beginning and at the end of the gallery. The first picture will attract the visitors to view your portfolio, while the last image will leave a good impression and hopefully turn a visitor into a potential client.
Take a look at other photographers’ portfolios in the same niche. Observe the style and presentation of their images to get an impression of how you could lay out your photography portfolio images for full effect.
Let’s use Yasamin J Tehrani’s photography portfolio as an example.
As a documentary and fine art photographer, she’s someone who needs to showcase several collections on her site: 2021 US presidential candidates, sports events, portraits of life in Iran, and much more.
However, the main page does not display all of those images at once. She first only chooses two images from each collection and showcases them using a slider:
Meanwhile, the Luminita Photos portfolio showcases only a number of their best work as you scroll down the first page. The header also features a single photo that defines the theme of the photographs to come.
Step 4: Include relevant content and information
Yes, pictures do speak a thousand words. But sometimes, images may need information or a backstory. It’s the people that make a photograph feel more personal and real.
If you’re not much of a storyteller, it’s good enough to just mention the location, time, the object of the photo, how you got there, and maybe the way you decided to frame the image.
Your audience isn’t just professional photographers, it is also people looking for photography portfolio ideas, and your portfolio can also be a source for education and tips.
Take Anchor and Lace wedding photography, for example. Their portfolio features stories of how they met their clients and the experiences they have while they work with different people.
Story Photography is another photo portfolio that includes descriptions of the photos that the photographer took, from the occasion, place, to the clients.
Text information is always a good thing to include in your portfolio. By adding keywords to your titles and content, you can also boost your SEO and expand your prospective audience.
There’s a chance that your portfolio will rank high on search engine result pages (SERPs). A photo alone won’t help your ranking, but there are a few tips you need to know if you need help with boosting the SEO of your photography portfolios.
Your skills are in photography, so no one is expecting you to be an SEO copywriter too.
Still, by correctly labeling the alt-tags on your portfolio images, you will be able to effectively describe to Google what is being shown in the image, and this will boost your SEO rating.
Better yet, try using the Google Keyword Planner to find relevant keywords for your photography business and use them on your website.
While you might struggle to rank for something generic like “photographer in California,” you might have some luck with a more specific term such as “commercial photographer in Sacramento.” Use the keyword planner to understand what your audience is searching for and match it with your copy.
Step 5: Create a clean navigation and user interface
A photography portfolio is expected to be full of pictures already. Therefore, your site interface should be clean and clear. You don’t want to overwhelm your visitors or potential clients.
Keep it simple. That means no animations, pop-ups, ads, or widget lists on the side. Implement white spaces and reduce your written content — at least on your homepage.
The focus of your portfolio should be your photos. You can add a title or short description but keep it to the minimum. Direct visitors to another page for the backstory if you need to.
If you have quite a number of pages, be sure to use the hamburger button for the navigation menu.
Great photography portfolio websites for inspiration
If you need ideas on how to layout and design your photography website, check out the way these photographers have made their portfolios work:
1. Gavin Gough
Gavin Gough is an editorial, humanitarian, and travel photographer. His career has been very successful, and his clients are NGOs and large travel magazines, and his portfolio reflects that.
He categorizes his works based on the places he has been and the events he has witnessed.
Each category is represented by an image, and there aren’t many negative spaces except for the simple header and footer.
When you scroll through a project, the full-screen picture asks you to focus on a photo at a time.
You’ll also find bits of descriptions between the photos explaining the situation and introducing the locals.
This portfolio has a pleasant user experience as well. It loads fast, and Gavin is kind enough to place a link directing to the next collection at the end of every batch.
Jeremy Cowart’s portfolio is a good example of a clean and clear interface.
When you visit his site, you are greeted with a gallery of his photos and nothing more. For his name, Jeremy uses a stylish font to give a bit of a personal touch to his work.
Links directing to different pages, from photographs of different categories to his profile, are organized in a simple drop-down menu at the top of the portfolio.
What’s more, the footer only consists of icons that link to his social media. Namely, his Pinterest and Instagram accounts which are more visual-first sites that are ideal for photographers to display more work, outside of their main portfolio.
It’s worth a look if you need inspiration on laying out a simple portfolio.
Northlandscapes is a website by Jan Erik Waider, who focuses his work on landscapes.
Striking photographs like these work best when contrasted with simple themes and Jan has implemented the Instagram grid layout to showcase his photos.
Since he has quite a collection, it’s very effective when visitors want to scroll through the portfolio and check out his projects.
Other than creative titles, there’s a very brief explanation or quotes from other professionals accompanying the pictures.
He also uses clean fonts that complement one another for the written content, filling in the white spaces.
4. Love + Water
A photography portfolio that’s based in Hawaii, Love + Water is definitely going for the aesthetics. Their focus is on weddings, the land, sea, and sky portraits.
The website is a prime example when it comes to presenting your best work. Its overall design is very pleasing and clean — from the colors and layout to the fonts and tones.
What’s more, the images are organized based on their color scheme, whether it’s monochromatic, pastel, or greens. Visitors can’t help but to stay and look through the photos.
There’s also a sticky side and top menu that makes it easier for you to navigate through the site, especially the galleries and featured categories.
See more photography website examples here.
5. Eric Akashi
Eric Akashi’s portfolio focuses on his work as a photo editor for digital photography.
While he is a successful photographer in his own right, many people are looking for tips or professional photo editing services for their own images.
Diversifying your skillset on your portfolio can be a good idea to attract a new type of client.
The majority of his photo editorial work shows his images in print context, this a great way to display your work to people looking for different services.
If your portfolio website will also offer tutorials on photography, or related software like lightroom or photoshop, remember to add these things to your meta tags so that all your skills will appear on a Google search.
If you are going to offer people different services such as tutorials or tips, you could consider adding this info into your website domain name to let people know what your business is all about.
Launching your photography portfolio
As a professional photographer, an online portfolio is one thing that you absolutely need to have. It will boost your visibility and make it easier for potential clients to find you.
Creating one is not as hard as you might think it is. Just remember to keep it simple, focus on your business niche, display your best photos, add a bit of a story, and your business will be going from strength to strength in no time.