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How to Create a Photography Portfolio: Use an Online Photo Portfolio to Boost Your Career

A photography portfolio is a necessity for every serious photographer. With a portfolio, you can position yourself for a photography job, grow your audience, and attract potential clients. But building a portfolio website from scratch can be daunting. By following these five tips, you can effectively organize and showcase your best artwork and photos that won photography competitions:

How to Create a Photography Portfolio: 5 Tips to Starting Portfolio Websites

  1. Consider Your Photography Portfolio Audience First
  2. Decide Whether to Go With a Print or Digital Portfolio – or Both
  3. Select Images for Potential Inclusion in Your Photo Portfolio
  4. Solicit Feedback to Narrow Down Image Choices for Your Portfolio Websites
  5. Showcase Your Passions and Interests Throughout your Photo Portfolio

Creating a photography portfolio is an important milestone in your journey from amateur to a professional photographer. You might want to start with a free online photography portfolio template and move into a more sophisticated approach over time. Whatever path you choose, never doubt the power and importance of a professional photography portfolio.

Every photographer is unique. And there is no one-size-fits-all approach to designing a creative photography portfolio. Still, there are specific steps you can follow to learn how to make a photography portfolio to suit your every need.

1. Consider Your Photography Portfolio Audience First

You should take a strategic and thoughtful approach to your photography portfolio design. Don’t just grab a few of your favorite photos and plug them into a photography portfolio template. Instead, carefully consider who you are as a photographer and what audience you want to reach.

Think carefully about what you want to achieve with the design of your photography portfolio. What message do you want to convey? Are you looking for a professional job or striving to portray yourself as an artistic innovator? Do you need to showcase a specific interest through an e-commerce product photography portfolio or nature-focused wildlife portfolio? Let these and other vital questions shape your ideas.

Try to put yourself in the minds of the people you want to attract, and then look for portfolio examples targeted to that audience. There are dozens of portfolio websites created by professionals that you can turn to for photography portfolio inspiration.

Once you have your vision, you can start thinking about implementation. You may even find you need multiple portfolios if you pursue different interests. This can mean using portfolio categories to filter by topic online or creating multiple portfolio books for printed versions.

Remember to update your photographer portfolio as your interests and pursuits change. You’re guaranteed to improve your photography as you expand your skills. Be sure your portfolio site and photography binder regularly reflect your growth and talent.

2. Decide Whether to Go With a Print or Digital Portfolio – or Both

In the past, print photography portfolios were the norm. Today, having a print version of your portfolio can be very helpful. But having a digital portfolio is an absolute necessity for every photographer.

There are many ways to accomplish this goal. You can set up your own photography website using WordPress photography themes, Wix, Squarespace, or another website design tool. You are likely to find ready-to-use templates that you can apply right away. Remember to always select “responsive” designs that work well when viewed via desktops, laptops, and mobile devices.

With a website portfolio, you can easily update and provide additional information to accompany your photos. You can describe your background, training, and areas of focus. Also, you can create a space for visitors or potential clients to contact you. If you really want to attract attention, start a photography design blog and discuss the latest photography news. You can optimize your portfolio website to attract visitors from search engines. If you want to go this route, you’ll also need a domain name and hosting provider.

Building your own website can seem intimidating at first. But remember that some of the best photographer portfolio sites use simple web design. You can find easy-to-use sites that can help you get started as you grow your skills. All it takes is a quick web search to uncover an in-depth article on how to make a digital photography portfolio.

Another approach is using photography sites such as Flickr, Format or Google Photos. You could even use Instagram for your photography portfolio. The big advantage to these sites is ease of use; you can get a basic online portfolio set up in a few hours. However, you may lose some opportunity for establishing professional branding.

Why is a digital photo portfolio so important? It’s a great tool to attract potential viewers from anywhere around the world. You can always be marketing your photography business and sharing your artistic vision through your online photography portfolio. If you apply for a photography job or project, a link to your photo portfolio is a great resource. Potential employers or clients can view your photographs at their convenience as they consider hiring you.

But if you build an online photography portfolio, do you still need a print version? It can certainly help, especially if you plan to sell prints of your work. A printed portfolio will help clients and customers visualize the final piece. This can be especially valuable for wedding shoots or family portrait photography. A portfolio book may also be an asset for any advertising or corporate photography jobs you may be considering. And if you’re applying to art school, an admissions committee may value printed copies of your photography work.

If you do create a print version of your work, be sure to select a high-quality photography portfolio case. A leather photography portfolio will always produce a good impression.

Many professional photographers find it helpful to have both print and digital portfolios. And they may have different portfolios for different purposes. For example, you may want to create a travel photography portfolio, a glamour portfolio or a commercial portfolio full of your drone photography. This way, you’ll be well prepared for any opportunities that arise in your areas of interest.

3. Select Images for Potential Inclusion in Your Photo Portfolio

The next step in building a photography portfolio is to decide which images to include. For many photographers, this can be a time-consuming process. Plan to set aside a few hours to take a critical look at your work.

If you’re an active photographer, you might have thousands of pictures to consider. One helpful idea is to use Lightroom to review and curate your photos. You can use Lightroom’s Auto-Advance feature to peruse your entire photo library and assign a rating to each image. This process will help you choose the very best pictures to include in your photography portfolio.

You may find your older images are less relevant. They may not reflect your current skill level or pursuits. If so, discarding old images can help speed up your review process.

If you focus on several different photography styles, you may need to do some further organizing. You can use Lightroom’s color or flag features to create category groupings. This is especially helpful if you have widely divergent interests and need a separate portfolio for each one.

At this stage, your goal is to select more than enough shots than you will ultimately need. In fact, you may only want your final portfolio to be a small selection of your very best images in each category. Often, 20 images per category are enough to show your skill in a particular area. The next step will help you exclude some of your personal favorites and showcase the very best examples of your work.

4. Solicit Feedback to Narrow Down Image Choices for Your Portfolio Websites

Now it’s time to make final selections for your portfolio. At this stage, it is a good idea to look at other photography portfolio examples again. Research your competitors and observe how many images are showcased on their photography websites. Aim to visualize how you’ll set yourself apart. Then take another pass at narrowing down your pictures again.

As a next step, you should solicit feedback from a wider audience. You can use your photography blog or social media to accomplish your goal. For example, you can post theme collections of your uploaded images to Facebook and ask your contacts to “like” their favorites. This will give you new insight into what shots appeal to a general viewer.

As a final image review step, you should seek the input of a professional photographer. While a good friend may offer encouragement, you want someone who will be honest with you about your work. Someone with a professional eye can provide immensely valuable feedback on how to build a balanced and robust portfolio. This is one of the hardest steps, as criticism can be hard to swallow– but candid feedback can be extremely insightful.

Ultimately, you’ll want to end up with 15 to 20 professional photos for each theme of your photography portfolio website. This will be enough to highlight your skill and style, while not overwhelming viewers. And remember, you can keep some other uploaded images in reserve in case someone wants to see more examples of your work.

If you are creating a portfolio for a specific theme, be sure to follow any guidelines exactly. For example, when applying for certain jobs or projects, you may receive a request to submit 10 images. In those scenarios, create a photography portfolio with the exact number of images—no more, no less. You may believe you should submit more, but you can frustrate reviewers if you do. Conforming to their portfolio requirements shows that you know how to follow directions and satisfy customers.

5. Showcase Your Passions and Interests Throughout your Photo Portfolio

One of the most important things to remember when building a photography portfolio is to showcase what inspires you. Think of some of the most successful people you know—both in real life and the media. You’ll often find it’s their passion that sets them apart and helps them achieve their goals.

You can reveal your passions in your online portfolio by adding notes and comments to every photo. Tell your visitors what inspired you to take this particular photograph. Maybe you have a funny story to share about its origin. Or maybe there are special meanings behind the photography props used in your images. Give them context on who is in the image and where it was taken. This can help your audience connect with your pictures and understand what makes you unique as a photographer.

Learn How to Make a Photography Portfolio for Your Best Photos

Have you spent time admiring photo portfolios on photographer websites and wished you could emulate their example? You certainly can. Today, every photographer can learn how to create a portfolio that presents their skill to a wide audience. There are tools to create free photography portfolio websites to help you get started right away.

Learning how to make a photography portfolio online is an important step in every photographer’s journey. You should start by considering your audience and understand how to speak to them with your photography. While photography websites are a must for every photographer, you may want printed copies of your portfolio, too. Keep this in mind when considering how to make a portfolio.

Look at online portfolio examples for website inspiration. And remember that some of the best personal websites were created by photographers with limited website design skill. If they can do it, so can you! You can find quality website templates through popular portfolio-building tools like WordPress. Many photographers use these low-cost tools to craft personal portfolio websites.

Narrowing down images for your portfolio can be challenging and time-consuming. You’ll want to take a first pass at curating images yourself but be sure to solicit feedback from others. If possible, seek the advice of a professional photographer to make those difficult final selections. A good approach is to limit the size of your photography portfolio to 15-20 images per category.

A professional portfolio is within your reach. It takes some time, some know-how, and some honest feedback. With a portfolio, you’ll be able to apply for photography jobs, build an audience, and attract customers. Start with a free photography portfolio today—and envision the possibilities.

Now that you know where to print your prized photos, let’s make sure you have the resources to take amazing photos.  Check out a few of our free professional guides: