The Essential Elements of a Portfolio Website

Professionals in the photography industry are feeling the heat when it comes to demonstrating the value their work can impart. Whether it’s winning an assignment with a top-rate photography magazine, being hired by a client or seeking a photographer’s job role at the daily newspaper – the indispensable role of a photography portfolio cannot be ignored.

As personalized, web-based collection of work, the portfolio becomes a platform wherein your diverse talents as a photographer are displayed. For someone on the hiring end, viewable samples of your work can provide a comprehensive idea of your potential.

As a client, they’ll be greatly influenced by your past work, particularly if they’ve come in through a reference. Which brings us to an important point of discussion, and perhaps the first when beginning with a portfolio – is this going to be a personal portfolio or a professional one?

As a work in progress, an online portfolio is always dynamic, never static. It is rarely a finished product. Having said that, the need to constantly update your work and keeping yourself abreast of trends in portfolio setup is a task that demands your constant attention.

“The Medium is the Message – Marshall McLuhan”

The Medium is the Message

Nowadays, majority of the smart lot of photographers have an online portfolio. So understanding the web as very different from a print portfolio is necessary – the latter being much more challenging and offering new dimensions of showcasing work. In such a case, the medium, or the web becomes a potent tool to put your message forward. Electronic portfolios offer numerous advantages over their paper-based counterparts. These include higher interactivity, portability, durability and the fact that it’s technologically scalable.

An inherently vital part of the message is knowing the audience. Who are you making the portfolio for? What is it that they’d like to see on your site? What do you have to offer to them? Why is it that they’ve come to your site, and might choose you over other competitors? As a photographer, do you have a USP? Having answered these questions will give you a clearer picture of how exactly to get started. It’ll help you prioritize and plan your portfolio better.

Below is a checklist you must adhere to for a portfolio that meets your goal best.

Before you begin: Checklist for an e-portfolio

Checklist for an e-portfolio

  1. Visual Content: Decide what you’re going to be putting up. Make a separate folder for all the rich, high-quality, visually attractive images that will be a part of your portfolio. Go slow with this. Choosing your best images might not happen over the coffee table in one night! Take your time in selecting your best work. Sit around with your best critics perhaps – if that works!
  2. Worded Content: Have the content ready for what you wish to share with the world to know about yourself. This should include your skills and accomplishments, the kind of work you’re looking for, the genres that are your forte, etc. Remember, like in every profession, you will have to market yourself. And what you tell the world about yourself, is what they know about you.
  3. Choose a professional Portfolio Website Builder: This can really put it all together for you. Bring pen to paper and begin with listing your requirements. Look up popular portfolio websites and prioritize. See which fits your needs and bills. Don’t compromise on the money aspect, if a site is really worth your investment. Read reviews and see live sites already being hosted by the portfolio builder.
  4. Schedule updates: Keeping your site current and updated is crucial to the ‘life’ of your portfolio. Ensuring that your recent work is well-highlighted, perhaps even follow a timeline basis when uploading your photos.
  5. The Legalities: Decide on what the legalities will be. What kind of rights are you going to give to your clients? Copyrights, credits, disclaimers, etc should ideally be drafted prior to your site goes live.

Essential Elements To Build A Successful Online Portfolio

Essential Elements of Online Portfolio

Here are the essential elements to help you build a successful online portfolio. However, there are some essential elements (in no particular order) that can help you build a successful online portfolio to add to your professional development. These include:

1. A Leaned-out Layout:

Opt for a simple, bold, minimal, dynamic, friendly, visually stimulating, unusual or innovative layout. The person who lands on your site should feels ‘connected’ instantly, as it’s the first thing they will notice about the site. The layout should be compatible with what you’re going to be displaying on the site. So if you’re a sports photographer, a great kick captured should be your primary photograph. Whether it’s a fixed width or a full width layout, nothing works better than a beautiful single page portfolio layout. Accessibility and functionality are key aspects of layout and if these two are met to a certain degree, your site will surely have done have the job well.

2. Use an Intelligent Theme:

Ideally, if you’re a photographer who engages in wedding photography, a site that is all black and white, might fail to appeal. Connect occasions, and spaces to color. Typeface, design and visual elements should not overpower your work, at the same time, the selected theme should be able to balance out all elements well.

3. Be Sure of Your Content:

Content isn’t called king for no reason. When you’re giving taglines and captions, ensure the content is as descriptive as can be. At the same time, photographs are subjective. Allow viewers to draw their own meaning from what they see. Writing captions beyond 2-3 lines takes away from the charm of delving deeper into the picture. Even your tagline should be short and crisp – summing up the who, what, why and where. This tagline can go a long way in encouraging a viewer to go ahead and take a look at your gallery. Perhaps the only section wherein you can, and should write longer is in the ‘about me’ section. Here, you can include your education and experience, along with projects and assignments that you have been a part of. Many photographers choose to put completely different pictures of themselves as compared to what they shoot, perhaps one with their family in a happy moment. And it never fails to touch base with just about everyone. Having a camera in your hand against the setting sun is not always a good idea for the image in the About Me – that’s not all that defines you, or does it?

4. Bet on an Inspirational Blog:

The blog is quite an essential feature quite of your portfolio website. You can write about the stories behind your photographs, and how moment that you were in when clicking it. People tend to connect with the photographs more when they read of the stories behind the frames. The Search for the Afghan Girl is a perfect example of ‘stories from behind the frame’. So if you were on an Alaskan Cruise and had an interesting story to share behind the shot of a grizzly bear, that’s bound to qualify for a great story too! Readers would definitely want to know how, using which equipment and tools did you manage to get a prized shot. Besides inspiration, you can also tell the world about your work in greater detail. If you’ve done an assignment for a major corporate, name the company, put in some details about the project, related essential media etc. Feel free to link your previous websites, old blogs, inspiration galleries and works of artists that have influenced you.

5. Attract with Great Multimedia Content:

Photo galleries, slideshows and videos are a great way to showcase your work. Ascertain the size of the images before you upload, look for any restrictions that the site may offer when it comes to limiting the number of images that may be uploaded and choose which formats suits you best. Conversion from RAW to JPG or JPEG might mean a slight decrease in quality, so choose accordingly. Slideshows can make the site a slow loading one, so figure how you see a slideshow serving your purpose. Eventually, a simple, fast-loading and neat portfolio takes the cake. Moreover, in an ideal situation, the work speaks for itself!

6. Ease of Navigation:

Smooth navigation and resulting accessibility makes for able sites and should be the primary aim when setting up an online portfolio. The core idea behind great navigation is to access the content on the site easily. This can be done by color coding navigation areas, or in a way highlighting them to stand out on the site, and avoiding the use of horizontal scrolling. The process of navigation should successfully merge the concept of usability with aesthetics. Effective navigation is one that is consistent with other design elements of the website and enables click through easily to each page on the website. However, be wary to limit the number of links, clicks and scrolling and other aspects that will lead to poor navigation. Cumbersome navigation often leads to loss in traffic, whereas a pleasant user experience can greatly increase chances of returning visitors.

7. Indispensable Social Media Integration:

An interesting way to keep the site updated is by integrating it with your social media accounts. Updating the site too often might not be feasible, but your updates on social media accounts such as Facebook and twitter, can help you maintain communication with your clients. Besides, it can help you get exposure to new client base as well as help search engines find you better.

8. Put out Those Testimonials:

Everyone loves some good praise! And with the praise garnering more appreciation and work, it couldn’t be better! Including a diverse testimonials section within your website ensure that all reviews about you are found in one place. The client will largely depend on testimonials to know ‘how great’ are your services. Moreover, as a photographer, testimonials can be the most affordable marketing tools. As the online word of mouth, their authenticity gives rise to uncontested credibility. If you have a varied photography portfolio, let a wedding photographer, a sportsman, a local newspaper or your previous employee pen some credentials for you.

9. Dig the Gold Mine:

Contact info on your page is like a gold mine uncovered for your business. It’s quite an important element in the midst of these, yet it’s importance often undervalued. Besides linking to your social media accounts, do also give your mail (a professional mail id), and a contact number – whatever your preference might be. While contact details must be provided, mentions on multiple pages can make you sound a tad bit desperate. The idea is to be as accessible to the client as possible without overdoing it. An inviting tone, with correct contact information acts like a customer support that’s just as vital to your business as to anyone else.


Consider your portfolio your playing field. You’ve got to give your best performance. At the same time, be wary of any information overload you might possibly be indulging in. Be prepared to understand evolving technology, and face challenges in the realms of privacy and copyright. However, a portfolio is a useful and powerful medium – not one to be ignored nowadays. So get one and be ready to embark on a lifelong journey of learning and experience with your portfolio. It’ll be incredibly overwhelming to see how you’ve grown as a photographer, a few years down the line.

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  1. Great article . Thanks for sharing this .
    I agree that portfolio is one of the most important things not only for photographers but
    also for coders and designers . It`s how the client will see your best work .

  2. Thanks for your post Udita, I thought it’s worth to share this more contemporary approach to freelancers’ website and what they should include nowadays. This might be your readers’ attention.

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