10 Things You Never Want To Do With Your Online Photography Portfolio

As a photographer, your most important marketing tool is your online photography portfolio. On your website or your blog, this is what’s going to showcase your work, and get you hired. Yet I see mistakes all the time. And I have a ton of questions like, “Why isn’t my site getting any traffic?” and “Why aren’t people contacting me online?” Here are 10 mistakes I see frequently – do you see yourself here?

1. Enter Page
Do you really need to divide up your site, and dedicate one whole page to making your visitors choose? If they type in your URL, they want to see your site. They want to start learning about you immediately, not have to decide if they want to visit your Flash site, Mobile site, Fast site, Slow site, Blog, Flickr portfolio, etc. Yes, you can weave things into your site, and have things on the side of your content that allows them to navigate elsewhere. But don’t make your first impression just a choice.

2. Photo Size
Have you ever gone to a photographer’s site, only to wait 30 seconds for it to load a huge file thousands of pixels in size? Boring. This is the web. You don’t need large files – the smaller the better for loading, and to protect you from clients downloading them to manipulate them. Stick to an image that is between 500-1000 pixels on the long edge, depending on how you are grouping them together.

3. Music

Um, no. Just don’t do it. There is no such thing as setting the mood or creating ambiance. If a visitor heads into your site at work on their lunch hour, you better believe they will back out quickly when the music starts. The web is visual, unless you find a video you choose to watch.

4. Photo Quantity
A portfolio is what you make of it. You can have a flash gallery that creates a slide presentation. Or you can choose to sort by category, client or niche, and showcase a great deal of your imagery. This isn’t a place to put every image from the shoot – showcase what made the shoot special. For a portrait setting, we may have put up 10 to 20 images. For a wedding, around 200 (we shot 2000-3000 images at every event PJ style). There is no such thing as too many photographs, IF you tell a story with what you have.

5. Fill It Up
Every photographer has to start somewhere. If you really want to get into weddings and you’ve only done one, by all means put it up. But don’t forget to quickly put up every other wedding you do as well. A potential client really wonders when they visit your wedding gallery, and only finds one bride.

6. Pay, Don’t Go Free
With all the options you have available to you today, there really is no reason to not have a classy, custom made web presence. Don’t opt for a Facebook or Flickr presence only. You have to control your portfolio, and give it your unique style.

7. Make It Easy
Create navigation that’s easy to follow. Don’t load it up with 30 choices; make it easy for me to decide where to go to next. Don’t label things with “cute” wordings. Go for the normal, and follow what the big stores do. People are used to commonality here, so don’t confuse them by trying to be different. Be different in your photography style, or the way you offer customer service. Don’t go for the cute on things you can’t control – like the way they move around your site.

8. Flash
If you’ve been on this site before, you know my feeling towards Flash sites. Don’t do it. It makes things difficult to control, difficult to navigate, and difficult for the search engines to find. I don’t mind the occasional Flash splashes to show off some of your work. But don’t put your entire portfolio into a Flash presentation. They will always have to start at the beginning, and can’t be specific about images they like. “I like the image at this URL, clicking the 3 category, the 15th image in” makes it a little hard to communicate.

9. Think Sales
I’ve been on photography sites where there is no contact information. Period. The idea of having a site is to make connections, and let anyone and everyone connect with you. Have a contact us form. Put your email on every page. Put your phone number right near your header. Put your address and a map to your studio. Put your Facebook, Twitter and Flickr connections on every page. Tell them how to connect with you.

10. Be Original
Don’t look through photographers sites to find one to mimic. Go to a different industry. Check out architecture, authors or sculptures. Look through Amazon, Oprah and Martha Stewart. Find things you like, and pull from a variety of sources. You don’t want a potential client to show up and say, “this site was just like X’s site”. You want them to say, “WOW”.

12 thoughts on “10 Things You Never Want To Do With Your Online Photography Portfolio”

  1. Great tips, thanks! Especially nice to hear your view about Flash…that seems to be such a huge thing, it’s nice to hear another view.

  2. I totally agree about the flash sites. I once had someone design one for me and I hated it. If something takes more than a few seconds to upload, I move on. So many people don’t realize that.

  3. This is such a great article. Thank you. I’ve been warned away from Flickr several times. I use it, because I’m an amateur photographer and it’s a great way to connect with other amateurs.

    I’ve also used SmugMug, which is a more professional website. It’s been suggested that I include a portfolio on my website that I update regularly. It’ll be interesting how that change improves how my site looks.

  4. Great post!! I completely agree with you about no flash and no music. They are the most horrific features on websites and completely deter people. Flash doesn’t work on iPhones/iPads and it’s just way too gimicky and slow. Funnily enough, web designers are often most guilty of it!

  5. Great article. Smugmug was a quick way for me to seperate my portfolio from my general site, which was originally intended for an entertainment and nightlife audience.

  6. I agree with EVERYTHING here (especially your thoughts on Flash!) EXCEPT the comment in #4, “There is no such thing as too many photographs, IF you tell a story with what you have.”

    Yes, there IS such a thing as too many photographs. I don’t think ANY talented photographer needs 200 photos to tell ANY story that happened in one day (such as a wedding). I know that if I were shopping for a wedding photographer, there’s no way I’d wade through 200 images of one event. In fact, I don’t think I’d wade through 200 images on any one site. Nothing could be THAT captivating.

    (Or maybe I just have better ways to spend my time? That could be, too.)

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that the best way to show off your skills as a photographer is to show off your BEST work and JUST that. Sometimes less IS more. Don’t bore them. Make them WANT to see more.

    Just my two cents.

    • Interesting take Maria.

      In many ways, its the final product that matters most as well. With our weddings, we would take 2000 images at each event, and show almost all of them to our clients. But we would put them in storyboard software, and show them how they would look in final albums. We would produce 4 to 6 albums at every event, and have 200-300 images in each album because of how we put them together to tell the story. And many of our clients bought every album, with almost every image – because of the story they told.

      That of course wouldn’t work for a portrait – but it worked well for weddings because we “saw” the final product, and photographed accordingly.

      Thanks again for your comments!

  7. Agreed especially on no-flash, no-music and no-splashpage.

    Also: be navigable. The People don’t want to have to trawl through 30 views of a tree; chances are your artistic vision is not pigeon-holed into genres such as “landscape”, “portraiture”, “macros” etc so don’t use that as a way to split things down.


Leave a Comment