Your photography website is essential to winning clients. It is typically the first place your clients will look to familiarise themselves with your work and determine whether you are worth hiring. For these reasons and more, your site must make a solid first impression.
Finding the Right Website Format for Your Photography Portfolio
Before you can begin designing your website, you have first to select a website builder. There are many options available that will enable you to set up a well-designed portfolio without either having to learn how to code or spend money hiring a professional. The Format is a great website platform option for professional photographers who want to create simple, beautiful websites. The website designs contain various useful technical and design options that include client proofing, blogging, and an online store. The intuitive interface also makes it quick and easy for anyone to build an online portfolio to show off their work. With a website platform such as Format, you can design a simple, clean website that will present your photography beautifully and pull attention to your work. Check out our extensive list of Wedding Photographers in Melbourne to help capture your special moments.
Create a Photography Highlight Reel
Shooting great photography is the first step to creating a solid photography website and portfolio; curating your work is the second-half battle. Primarily if you shoot digital photos, you can easily have hundreds (or even thousands) of favourite images to choose from. When selecting the essential pictures for your website, it’s far too easy to go overboard. This begs the question,
“How do you cull all your best photos down into a well-edited selection that shows off your photography skills? “
A portfolio that is crammed full of images can quickly feel overwhelming to visitors. In contrast, a portfolio that’s pared down to just a few engaging shots will leave the viewer curious to learn more about your work.
A great culling exercise is to start by selecting just twenty images for your online portfolio. This may seem like a tiny number but creating a highlight reel is just the beginning; you can always add more photos later. Paring your work down to just twenty standout photos is a great way to understand your strengths better, and this small collection will work perfectly as your first gallery and even the introductory gallery on your homepage.
Create a Portfolio Mvp (Minimum Viable Product)
Trying to offer a complete representation of your photographic career in one gallery can feel overwhelming and quickly slow you down as you start designing your website, so don’t worry about that right away; start small. You can launch an entire website with just one culled gallery (your highlight reel, for example), your biography, and your contact information; these are the vital elements of a professional website. Once you’ve launched your website, you can always build upon it with more images and additional information to make your site more robust. Creating a foundation first is a method that allows you to publish your website quickly and provides you with a solid foundation as you establish your online presence.
For a wedding photographer, creating a compelling portfolio can be the difference between your business’s success and failure. A strong portfolio helps clients fall in love with your art before they ever speak to you, serving not only as a marketing tool but also a way of building consensus with your clients on things like style and intention. A strong wedding photography portfolio doesn’t happen by accident, though. You might be asking yourself: “How do I curate the perfect wedding portfolio?” There are three key considerations you have to understand about your work and objectives before you begin to build your portfolio:
- Technical considerations
If you’re looking to get started with wedding photography or are trying to improve your business prospects in the industry, creating a solid portfolio is a critical step. Check out these tips to start building a fantastic set of images that are sure to wow your future clients!
The fundamental questions behind a photography portfolio can be summed up as “What do I want this to represent, and who is my intended audience?”. Answering these questions can help you make intelligent decisions about every aspect of your portfolio, from the images chosen to the way the portfolio is designed.
For most wedding photographers, the answer to the first part of that question will be, “I want this to represent the style of wedding photography I like to shoot”, and what’s important about that answer is the question of style. You might be a very formal and traditional wedding photographer, creating very classic images. You might instead be an available-light, journalistically minded wedding photographer – you’ll end up making very different portfolio decisions compared to that classically minded photographer, and that’s ok. A good portfolio isn’t just supposed to drive inquiries but instead help you find the right clients. Misrepresenting your style, experience, or intentions is just going to result in unhappy clients.
The question of an audience might seem relatively simple. After all, the answer is probably “couples planning a wedding”. In reality, there’s more to it than that. As mentioned in the style point, you can turn your portfolio into a powerful marketing and customer service tool with a bit of thought. If you’ve got a strong local connection, make sure to feature some local landmarks in your portfolio prominently. If, instead, your desired clients are planning destination weddings, take the chance to show off how you’ve adapted your art to a variety of locales. By better understanding who you want to work with, you can refine your portfolio to help those clients find you without even having to force the issue.
As you build your mental picture of what your portfolio should represent and who your ideal client is, you might run into the first issue. If you’ve got a couple of answers to those questions, it’s understandable. The wedding market is competitive, and you might be reluctant to leave potential customers out. In that way, you might try and fit a ton of images into your portfolio, hoping to have something that appeals to everyone. After all, websites make it easy to upload an entire Lightroom catalogue’s worth of images. This isn’t a viable strategy, however. Too many photos in a single gallery are challenging to navigate, slows page load times, and takes the focus away from any single image.
Instead, try and focus on your strengths. Make sure that your portfolio represents the breadth of your skill and style, but consider pruning weaker images so that your winners get a chance to shine. Even with just 20 or 30 images, you can show colour and black and white work, portraits, detail shots, candids, and a few unique shots. It can be tough to eliminate those shots that you may feel connected to, but try to look at things clinically and evaluate each shot’s message to a potential client.
Also, consider the opportunity represented by having your portfolio online: it’s easy to update things continuously. As your style evolves and you have more opportunities to shoot, it’s easy to drop in new images and remove older pieces that are no longer representative. By doing this, you can keep improving your portfolio and remain well adapted to the market.
One of the most common tools for curating and also digital asset management tool is Lightroom. If you use a single master catalogue for all your shoots, Lightroom makes it very easy to maintain a manual collection of your portfolio-worthy shots. If, instead, you find that Lightroom works best for you with various individual catalogues, perhaps per event, you can still export your images with XMP enabled and create a little log just for portfolio purposes.
One of the big reasons why Lightroom works so well for wedding photography portfolio curation is the variety of ways you can visualise and organise your work. Using a custom sort in grid view makes it easy to see how a page of thumbnails would look, while the variety of flags, stars, and colour labels help you organise your images into subgroups.
Once you’ve got your images selected, Lightroom also has several convenient ways to export your images. Besides direct support for publishing to the web via Publish Services, the export dialogue gives you great control over the image file’s technical aspects, including things like metadata, colour space, and size.
If you’re not already a Lightroom user but are looking for a similar tool, consider Darktable. This open-source option offers many of the same features as Lightroom, making it a great way to get started with organising your photos.
A final tip is don’t try and pick your final 30ish images from your entire catalogue in one pass. Instead, start by selecting 100 or 200 shots that are solid images and represent your style well. Then, try to cut that in half, perhaps by running similar images head to head and retaining the more robust option. If you still need to cut further, consider prioritising ideas by how well they work together, as well as individually. Looking for the best Wedding Photographer in Melbourne? Check out our ultimate list here.
Once you know what kind of photos you’re looking for and gathered them together, next comes the critical step of creating a final image file that works well from a technical perspective. While your website’s setup may influence the finer points of how this is done, in broad terms, a good image for web use should be in the sRGB colour space, appropriately sized, and sharpened with that new size in mind.
Colour space is one of the most important things to get right. While colour management on the web and devices has come a long way in the last few years, colour space issues can ruin your images’ appearance in an unusual way. These problems can leave your images looking washed out or garishly oversaturated. Fortunately, they’re easy to avoid. Just make sure that your final image is set up for the sRGB colour space – broad colour spaces like AdobeRGB and ProPhoto can be great for more advanced editing but are not a good choice for consumer use on the web.
For size, I think the conventional expectations have grown outdated. In the past, web sizes were typically something like 1000 or 1500 pixels on the long side. These days, even phone’s displays can exceed that resolution, with Retina displays and 4K monitors increasingly common. As a result, consider uploading a larger size image. NextGEN Gallery offers easy resizing, making it possible to upload one size, then tweak it as needed.
If your website’s setup doesn’t support dynamically resizing, instead consider exporting at 2000 or 2500 pixels long, which offers a good tradeoff between user experience, download times, and upload times. While less a consideration for wedding photographers when compared to some other photography genres, image theft can still be an issue. Larger images are potentially more attractive to steal, so it can be a factor when considering what size to choose. A good compromise may be to upload your wedding photography portfolio images at a larger size while displaying things like proofing galleries at a smaller size or with a more prominent watermark.
For export sharpening, keep things simple for web use. Lightroom allows you to apply an amount of sharpening on export, calibrated explicitly for screen use. If you’re not using Lightroom, instead consider opening your image in Photoshop or your image editor of choice and applying sharpening to taste after you’ve set your image’s final size.
When preparing your wedding photography portfolio images for export, one last consideration is to tweak the brightness, contrast, and saturation. If your work is more subtle, uncalibrated consumer’s displays may leave it looking lifeless – consider combating this by adding a bump to brightness, contrast, and saturation. This step can be overdone, but it may be necessary to help your images retain the same visual impact compared to the hyper-saturated content that your viewers may be used to seeing.
The choice of whether to use watermarks or leave your images unmarked is a personal question. Some photographers insist on having a large, noticeable watermark on every photograph they publish. For wedding photographers, whose work is often shared widely on social media, it might be worth adding them.
For proofs, free images to share on social media, or other promotionally focused shots, put a small, legible, but still artistic watermark in one corner of the picture. This way, you don’t have to worry about having your clients spell your URL or tag you in the post. Lightroom offers great features regarding watermarking, including letting you build it right into one of your export presets. Still, the same functionality is easily accomplished in Photoshop by adding a text layer and adjusting the opacity.
For the portfolio, however, a watermark is unnecessary. Firstly, your potential visitors are already on your site, eliminating the marketing potential of the mark. Secondly, while watermarks can discourage casual image misappropriation, they have to be far too intrusive to ward off more determined image thefts instead of considering using an image tracking service like Pixsy to find instances of image misuse.
The last point of contention when using watermarks relates to those images shared on social media. Watermarking an image ties it very closely to your brand, which can be both good and bad. As discussed, it can be helpful to refer viewers back to your web presence, but it can also present problems. Once you’ve distributed that watermarked image, your clients may further edit it or add filters. While letting go of that creative control isn’t a critical issue for images just used by your clients, it can be problematic when combined with your watermark. Now, viewers’ first impression of your work may be significantly altered from what your style is.
Tips for Culling Your Photography Portfolio
Selecting your website portfolio images can be a daunting task. Here are a few critical questions to consider; keep these in mind as you sift through your favourite pictures and make your selections. These questions should make it easier for you to decide which of your photos deserve a place in your website portfolio.
Who Is the Intended Audience of Your Website?
Are you trying to attract new clients with your portfolio? Will you be using it to apply for jobs (i.e. pitching editors, etc.)? Think about your intended audience and what you want them to notice when they look at your portfolio.
For example, if you hope to attract new portrait photography clients with your website, your curation’s focus should be on displaying compelling portrait images. Instead of including six different complete galleries of vacations you’ve photographed, choose only the best portraits from all those collections and create one portrait-focused gallery instead.
What Are Your Strengths as a Photographer?
Think about more than just your genre of photography (“I’m a wedding photographer”) and think about the specific skills you have that make your photography stand out (“I’m skilled at photographing the energy and mood of crowded events”). Your photography portfolio is your chance to highlight your very best work.
Focus on just a few skills and select images that demonstrate those strengths.
Do You Have One Project or Photoshoot That Stands Out as Your Best Work?
As you go through your photo archives, think about a specific project, series, or even a single image that you believe demonstrates your best work; consider highlighting this work on your website. Remember, your best work isn’t necessarily the shots that were most fun or interesting to create. Try to evaluate your work as objectively as possible; ask your friends for input and think back to the exceptionally well-received work by your clients or audiences.
What Is the Next Step for You as a Photographer?
Curating your website is a great time to think about the big-picture goals you have for your photography. Do you want to get published in National Geographic? Are there any awards or grants you hope to receive? Beyond recognition and career goals, what are your creative goals as a photographer? Are you, for example, planning to learn a new type of photography that you haven’t done before? Would you like to expand your portfolio with more editorial shoots? Think carefully about your goals as a photographer and keep them in mind as you select images for your website. Every photo you include in your online portfolio should be a reflection of your goals.
Less Is Always More
As you build your website and establish your online presence, always remember that less is more. Suppose you are as objective as possible while curating your photography and feature only your best work in your portfolio. In that case, you’ll be sure to create a perfectly edited website that represents who you are as a photographer and pushes you toward your goals.
The galleries in your portfolio only need a few highlights from the event or project. If you’re a wedding photographer, that’s about 25-40 images from the event. You don’t need to show every aspect of a wedding day to “prove” to site visitors; you can shoot in all situations. If they want to see more images from a day, they’ll ask!
Not only do big galleries slow down your site and load more slowly, with shorter attention spans, it’s also pretty unlikely that visitors will look at every image in that gallery. So if you only have seconds to capture their attention, make sure they see your best work and not the images you feel like you “have” to show.
We only showed the highlights from a wedding day or shot on our site because less is more. And then, when people inquired, we sent them links to three total wedding day galleries along with some questions to learn more details about their event and begin a conversation.
Carefully consider every single image that you include in your portfolio and audit your selections. One way to audit your website for good photo curation is to look at every photo and ask yourself, “Does this image represent who I am as a photographer?” It can be tough to evaluate your work, as emotions and memories can easily lead you to emphasise a photo that an uninformed viewer may not find as noteworthy. For example, a picture of your beloved family dog may be significant to you, but that doesn’t mean it’s a strong representation of your photographic work. Looking for the Best Photographers in Melbourne? We have compiled an exclusive list of some of Melbourne’s best photographers to capture your special day.
Curating the perfect wedding portfolio doesn’t have to be complicated – consider it an exciting opportunity to understand both your work and your clients better. Fortunately, there are great tools like Lightroom and Darktable to make sorting through your library more accessible, and their great export options make it easy to create the perfect finished files. Once you’ve got your images in mind, consider creating a website to share them.