Building an Awe-Inspiring Online Portfolio in 5 Easy Steps

Building a portfolio is easy. There are hundreds of free tools available that allow you to throw together a few photographs, and use that to show your work to potential customers.

The hard part is making it good.

A great portfolio does more than just showcase your work. It converts visitors from lookers into paying clients. It allows them to not only see what you do, but become so motivated by it that they can’t help but take the next step.

And best of all, to be a truly spectacular online portfolio, it must also help you put everything together quickly and efficiently, giving you more time to do what you love.

How do you know where to start? Lets walk through 5 steps that will help you put the whole thing together

Start With A Question

Let me ask you a question. How would you define the word “portfolio”?

In many cases, a photographer will say their portfolio is a gallery of their best images, ready to showcase the work they’ve completed for other customers.

And I would agree – that’s the starting definition. But it’s truly more than that. A portfolio is a collection of creative works that are used to showcase your skills, and hopefully motivate the viewer with enough information they agree to buy.

Using that definition, your portfolio becomes more than just your gallery of images. It becomes the entire presentation you use within your online presence to motivate and showcase who you are, in hopes they move to the next step.

So in order to build a truly awe-inspiring portfolio, you have to ask yourself:

What do people truly need from my portfolio in order to move from looker to client?

Stay Simple

Have you ever been on a site where the navigation grows into the hundreds? Very quickly you are overwhelmed, and you have no idea where to go next.

It’s easy to do. You have a great idea, and can’t find a place to put something, so you add a new word or phrase to your navigation. Soon it’s out of control, and you have no idea how to fix it.

Staying simple means having a clear vision of what’s important to your viewers, and knowing what will motivate them to move to the next step. They won’t know what to do unless you tell them.

If you are a wedding photographer, it may be as simple as a graphic in the sidebar asking “Find out if we’re still available for your wedding date”.

Never assume they will know what to do next. Make it perfectly clear, and create the path for them.

Giving Them Options

Your web presence is there for the world to see. Some may visit because they are potential customers. Some may visit because they are current clients, and they are trying to find their images. Some may be surfing, and found your site with no real purpose in mind.

Realize that upfront, and give people what they want. If they want to look at wedding images, give them a ton – let them choose how long they stay looking on your site. If they want more information about you, make sure you have a dynamic About Us page that brings them in and tells them the story of why you are a photographer. If they want to know pricing, make sure you have a page that describes your services, what they get, and your pricing structure (you don’t have to reveal your entire price list – even a “starting at $xxx” can help them move forward).

Dig Deeper: 5 Ways To Boost The Most Important Page On Your Site

Tell Stories

Photographs are amazing – that’s why people come to your site. But if you combine that with a story – even a simple story, a few sentences or less – can give you an added boost over your competition.

An easy way to tell a story is to have your customers write out testimonials. Why did they choose you? Why did they enjoy your services? Send them out a pre-postage paid postcard asking a few questions. Then use those with their photographs to create a dynamic presentation that people will become enthralled with.


As photographers, we only spend a portion of our time photographing. The rest of the time we spend with customers, production work, marketing, and web and social design. It takes time to create a blog post, filter photographs into each post and social account, write out stories, and connect with prospects.

The more you can automate the process, the better you will utilize your time.

Don’t be afraid to use things that can save you time, even if they cost a bit upfront.

One example is SmugMug. SmugMug provides you with a host of tools specifically for showcasing your images, and creating a dynamic presentation conducive to selling. The Pro version is very low priced for all of the benefits you gain. From customizing the look and feel of your sales presentation, to incorporating your photographs into social sites with slideshows, to protecting your images with right click and print protection, to special commerce solutions that allow you to sell you images in a variety of ways, this is one workhorse program that can truly help you get more done in a shorter period of time.

4 thoughts on “Building an Awe-Inspiring Online Portfolio in 5 Easy Steps”

  1. Just wanted to suggest ProSite for building an online portfolio. You can create a fully customizable design, and it syncs with which has millions of visitors seeking top creative talent. Also has unlimited hosting, unlimited projects, and no programming required. More info, video, tour, examples, etc. at


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