Business Matters – How To Create An Online Photography Portfolio
Displaying your creative talents online is now an essential part of marketing a photography business. Rosemary Ann Ogilvie provides some advice about how to do this most effectively and efficiently.
Presenting images online is an increasingly important component of any photographer’s marketing strategy. Rosemary Ann Ogilvie provides some advice about how to create an effective online portfolio.
To attract new clients, it’s essential to have an online portfolio of your work. To sell yourself to prospective clients, your portfolio must be strong. So the first rule in creating your gallery is to be ruthless when selecting the photographs – choose only the most superb examples of your work.
If you have multiple specialties, separate your work into sub galleries to ensure each is properly highlighted. Limit each gallery to a maximum of 12 images as this is far more powerful than having 20 or 30 pieces that are just OK. Unless your gallery is telling a story – such as a wedding from beginning to end – position the strongest of these strong images at the beginning and one or two at the end, as these are the points where they hit the viewer hardest.
As you select the images for display, keep your ideal client – or clients for those with multiple specialties – in front of mind to ensure those you choose are targeted to them and address their needs.
In many instances, images work best when showcased against a black or grey background as this provides greater contrast and also helps bring out the colours of the photographs, making the images appear more vivid. However, black may not work as well with any form of outdoor photography or with portraiture, so experiment to see whether your images look better against a white background.
If you do use black, be sure to leaven it with a splash of colour – your logo may be sufficient, or you might use it on the navigation buttons. On this subject, ensure your site navigation is as easy and natural to use as possible. Navigation is not the area to take your creativity to the limit. Keep it simple so the viewer’s attention remains on the pictures.
Be careful about using coloured text against a black background as it can be very difficult to read if the contrast is poor – and screen resolutions vary hugely. Remember, people don’t have the patience to persevere with a difficult site.
High-resolution images really showcase your work, but there are some downsides to using them. They’re more tempting to ‘lift’ and the site will take longer to load, which may test the viewer’s perseverance. For this reason, avoid Flash introductions as they further slow the loading process. Moreover, Flash is not search-engine friendly and can’t be used on certain devices. An alternative option is to post low-res versions or thumbnails, but provide links to high-res versions.
Unless you’re happy for your photographs to be shared across the Web, you’ll need to add some protection. The first and most important thing is to make clear on your portfolio site – or any website where your pictures appear – that your images are copyright and that some, or all, rights to their use are reserved. Failing to state that you are reserving rights may lead people to believe they have open slather to do whatever they wish with them.
Another option is to embed watermarks onto each photo so if they are stolen, the watermark is always there – and the bigger the watermark, the more difficult it is to remove. But the downside is this does impact the quality of the images. You may even consider using copyright information – such as ‘Copyright 2015 All Rights Reserved’ – as the watermark. So, if the images do make their way elsewhere, the copyright notice sticks.
High-resolution images really showcase your work, but there are some downsides to using them. They’re more tempting to ‘lift’ and the site will take longer to load, which may test the viewer’s perseverance.
However, those with the knowledge can easily go to the navigation menu and select ‘ View Source’ to find the image path.
Some photographers tile their images, cropping them into four or more ‘tiles’ and putting them back together. The displayed image still appears to be a single photo, but if someone tries to drag-and-drop or right- click it, they get just a small part. It’s effective, but time-consuming if you have numerous images to load.
Or you can post a transparent image and use CSS to put your photo in the background (info about this included in the previous link). If someone right- clicks or tries to drag-and-drop the image, they’ll get only the transparent graphic in the foreground. However, once again it’s easy to view the source of the page to find the image path.
Essential Extras Before a Web designer makes even the first mouse click to set up a live Website, they typically create a ‘wireframe’ which is an initial rough sketch of the layout of each page to share with the client and others involved in creating the site. This is sound practice that applies equally to building an online gallery as it helps ensure you remain focused on your objectives. It can also highlight where you may need to make changes to improve aspects such as the layout, the number of photos in a row or the size of the photographs.
An ‘About Us’ page is essential as, while your work tells your prospective clients a great deal about you, they still want to know something about the creative talent behind the camera. Detail your relevant education, background, experience and aesthetic, a list of publications and clients, along with one-line extracts from a couple of glowing testimonials.
Include links to some of your online work used in Websites or blogs, as this enables potential clients to view examples of your work in context.
Ideally, display your contact details on every page to make it easy for potential clients to contact you. At the very least, create a ‘Contact Us’ page and include a link on every page. Ensure this link is clear because people quickly lose patience if they have to search for key information.
SEO Search engine optimisation (SEO) is vital to ensure clients can find you. We’ve covered this subject in detail in the past, but basically SEO is about matching keywords within your content to the keywords that prospective clients type into search engines. To find out these terms, see Wordtracker (www. wordtracker.com) and the Google Adwords Keyword Tool (https://adwords.google.com/ KeywordPlanner).
One of the most effective SEO tools is to add ‘Alt’ and ‘ Title’ tags to every photograph displayed on your gallery – meta tags that tell Google what the photo is about. This is the text displayed when you hover the pointer over a picture on a Website.
Feedback Once you’ve completed your site and finetuned it to the greatest extent possible, ask others to review it and provide honest feedback. Family and friends can be involved, but because they may be biased be sure to also ask people outside your immediate circle.
Aim to have your gallery viewed on as many devices as possible – desktops, laptops, netbooks, tablets, hybrids and mobile phones – to ensure it works well on all. And keep in mind that people now are more likely to conduct their purchasing research on a mobile device, so it needs to showcase brilliantly on these devices.
Ideally, show your gallery to an industry professional as well, as they can provide insights into omissions or areas that need to be beefed up, or bugs you may have missed.
Refresh Regularly Finally, keep the gallery fresh by replacing a few photos every couple of months. Extra work, yes, but essential to keep people returning – so it’s important the platform you choose allows for easy updating.
However, there is a caveat: update your portfolio only if the new work is even stronger than the old. Continual improvement defines a good photographer, and your portfolio needs to demonstrate this.