Creating a showcase of photographs is not an easy task and most of the time the photographers have basic or no knowledge of design at all. Moreover, creating such a portfolio in which the images have to be in focus is a tricky task and even the more experienced designers might fail providing a good layout, therefore I thought of sharing with you a list of tips for designing photography portfolios.
The difference between a web design portfolio and a photography showcase is huge. The focus has to be on pictures, not on content, while the normal way of designing, with the header, content box, sidebar and footer changes totally from a layout to another. The more inspired and original you can be, the better your design will be. When you are a photographer, it is very important to have a platform where you can show clients your work – this has the same importance as for a web designer.
Most of the time the photography portfolios are heavily reduced to a showcase – which can be the home page, a contact section and maybe an “about me” page. It sounds simple, but there are still many things to figure out before being able to design properly such a layout.
1. Think of your target
Yes, you’ve heard this before so many times – and I know it annoys you. It is so simple to just overlook it and why not do it? In the end all of us want as many clients as possible and don’t want to make our audience narrow. Well, I tend not to agree with you, and I would suggest you to think seriously about who you want to work with.
A good example is a wedding photographer – this page would be totally different from the one of a roadshow photographer. It will probably be white, including many circles (which suggest continuity), will have maybe floral arrangements and might be full of happiness and sunshine. If you are a roadshow photographer, you might want to design with a darker color, keeping a balance between organized and chaotic (although do not get too close to organized) and so on. Think of what kind of clients you want to attract and then design for them. It is so important!
2. Think of the number of images
You have to do this because most of the layouts look good with a small number of pictures uploaded, but how will it look when you will have an odd number of pictures to show? There needs to be a balance between the number of pictures on the page and the negative space you leave between or around them. If you have many pictures, consider using pagination or categories to separate them – and do it for the sake of the user. Don’t forget that they never saw you pictures before and if you are really interested in them, it takes a lot of effort for the human eye to analyze them. Don’t make it even more difficult for the visitors.
3. Make the images stand out
When I say this, I usually mean keeping a high contrast between the pictures and the background; and I usually recommend having black as background, because there is most of the time more contrast than when viewing the showcase on white. This tip is good for bringing out the contrast of the photos and it is also a good idea to try to look at the pictures on different backgrounds, so that you make the best out of them.
4. Consider the quality
When I visit a photography portfolio or even a showcase, I expect all the time to be able to see the pictures in full size if I click on them – and it would better be huge. I want the pictures to look good and fit my screen if I would like to have it as a desktop background. And not only about this – but if I want to see all the details, I can’t do it properly on a small picture.
5. Be flexible
According to official statistics, less than 1% of the internet users have 800×600 displays. However, this does not mean 800×600 is the smallest resolution you have to design for – think of mobile devices as well. It is not highly probable that a potential client will want to use his bandwidth with your pictures, but what if they are on a wireless connection? This means you have to think about all the possible resolutions.
You can do this by making you pictures be 100% of the width of the div which displays them, and the height can be set to auto. This will make the pictures resize according to the screen. It is not difficult to do and is very useful, so why not spend few more seconds to customize this?
6. Show only the best work
This is also for the web designers, not only for photographers. It is always good to make a point fast and then let the visitor make a decision – the World is moving fast and we don’t have time to view all the crap work people have done. Therefore only show the top-notch work and let the potential client move on, if he wants to. Don’t keep him tight – he will leave without seeing every piece of your work anyway.
Is is also a good idea to order your pictures. Even if you select your best work, some of your pictures simply have to stand out. Put them first and leave the other good ones for the second page.
7. Describe the photos
When potential clients look at pictures, they want to know who it is they are looking at. They might also want to hire one of the models, which is not a bad thing either. Write short notes about each one of your pictures and let the client know what is he looking at. It is also much more important to give each picture a short description than a title. Naming the tools you’ve used for shooting and post-processing might be a good idea too.
8. Emphasize the contact information
Sure, the most important thing is to show your work, but how does this help if you do not get clients? It is important to lead the visitor to your contact page if possible, otherwise always make it clear that he can contact you right away. Having the e-mail address in the footer might work too, but it depends a lot on your layout. It is entirely your decision which information you give out, but I would also show them I am present and active on social media.
9. Ask for feedback
I never release a website before asking for feedback – it is just in the manual. Always ask the others – experts or not – about their opinion on how your site looks. It is really important to know what the others think, especially because after hours and hours of looking and analyzing your portfolio, you do not notice the small details anymore – and this is crucial. Never release a website before asking people for opinions.
10. Keep it dynamic
By this I mean that you have to keep your portfolio updated. It is not difficult to do this anymore thanks to the bunch of tools we have at our disposal. Nobody wants to see a good photographer not uploading his latest work and potential clients do not enjoy this for sure. Never replace old strong images with bad ones. Don’t forget about tip #6, showing only the best work.
Having to design a photography portfolio is not an easy task, as said in the beginning, not even for an experienced designer. There are many small tips you have to take into consideration and I hope this list helps all of you in designing better for our fellow photographers out there. With this is mind, I share with you a list of good links on the same topic.
8 Tips for a Great Photography Portfolio on I Shoot Shows
Great Photography Portfolios for Your Inspiration on The Photo Argus
10 Cool Photo Portfolios and Gallery WordPress Themes on Inspired M
Top Five Photography Portfolio Tips on All Art Schools
Five Tips for Building Your Photography Portfolio on Digital Photography School
Christian Vasile is an enthuziastic Romanian web designer currently living in Denmark. He is passionate for the industry and writes about design, usability, coding and freelancing and is a regular publisher here at 1WD. You can follow him on Twitter at @christianvasile or visit his web portfolio by clicking on the link above.