So you’ve successfully started your photography business. One of the most important next steps is to build a portfolio website to represent your work. In this post, we will cover everything you need to know.
Portfolio websites are a convenient way to showcase work for a photographer. For pro as well as amateur photographers, a portfolio website is equally useful. However, very few photographers have a portfolio website while the rest choose to be happy with a Facebook page, Instagram account or a 500px account. Though these are good options to start with, these are certainly not the way to go for an independent photographer who is trying to build a business. Before I delve into the finer details of building a portfolio website let me explain why portfolio websites are important.
Reasons why a photographer needs a portfolio website
Your photography website often is the first interaction you may have with clients. A strong portfolio is an excellent way to introduce clients to your work. It helps establish your brand and showcases your unique skills. It serves as an essential marketing tool for your business.
You may be thinking there are many ways to present my photographs, why do I need a website? Let’s look at some of the most popular choices that photographers opt for over portfolio websites, and how they limit the growth of a photographer. Then we will cover why a portfolio website is a better option.
Dedicated social media photography accounts
500px, Facebook, and Instagram are currently the top communities where most aspiring photographers flock. The major disadvantage of these platforms is they are ‘closed’ communities which mean a photographer’s work can’t be seen outside these communities. The other reason is these communities are almost non-existent outside photographers network. It’s highly unlikely that a person with no interest in photography would look for a photographer on these communities which is an important aspect for a photographer to consider if one is looking to build a business.
These communities are mostly for photographers looking at other photographer’s work.
Directory listing & marketplaces
The other popular option that photographers go for over portfolio website are directory listings and marketplaces. For instance, wedding marketplaces, are hugely popular among wedding photographers. Most of them prefer to share the links to these directories with prospective clients. I have listed down a few reasons why this is a not so good practice to follow.
Why should a photographer avoid sharing a link to a directory?
It’s a general practice among the photographers to share the link to their portfolios on directories when asked for sample photographs. Unknowingly, these photographers are making it tougher for themselves to be hired. The three most prevalent psychological biases here are at play are:
Availability of too many photographers doesn’t make it any easier for visitors to make a choice. Instead, it’s overwhelming for most of them. So they either end up leaving the directory without contacting a photographer or looking at other photographer’s pictures.
Decision fatigue is caused due to repeated decision making. Most people looking for photographers (not referred clients) are either working professionals or self-employed and are always making decisions. Sharing the link to a directory with them adds another decision making to their work that more often than not results in a bad decision since they don’t think it through.
You can learn more about decision fatigue on Wikipedia.
Lack of branding opportunities
Branding is an important part of building a business. It’s nothing less true for photographers. Every photographer has a unique style that’s represented in the photographs they take, to keep it that way branding is essential to tell one’s style from others. Most directories lack features that fail to bring out the uniqueness in a photographer’s style.
Now that we know relying on marketplaces and directories is not a good idea, let’s look at how photographers can build their portfolio website.
So how do you build an impressive portfolio website?
Websites are an important part of branding. Unlike other businesses a photographer’s website has to be more functional and more dynamic to give out desired returns which in this case is customers. Let me make it more clear.
Most photographers build portfolio websites for the sake of having one. For a photographer bent on building a business, websites are a means to reach out to clients. Your goal should be to build a visually stunning and search engine optimized website. (because your portfolio needs to be discovered and attract customers).
The two most common approaches to building a portfolio website (or any website for that matter) are WordPress and hosted website building platforms. I will discuss the two methods below, and you can choose which you are more comfortable with.
Building a portfolio website with WordPress
WordPress is the world’s leading publishing platform. It’s mostly preferred by pro bloggers to manage the content on their website. However, it’s a highly demanding platform. To build a portfolio website with WordPress, you would need a domain name, a hosting service provider, a portfolio-centric theme, and a designer to give shape to your website.
The other way to build a portfolio website is to use a hosted website building platform.
If WordPress seems daunting to you, these are a great alternative. Most of these platforms are a paid service and require you to subscribe to their service for a fixed monthly or annual charge. Apart from the custom domain name, there’s hardly anything that you need to buy. Hence, making these platforms comparatively more cost effective than WordPress.
Building a portfolio website with hosted website building platforms
There are thousands of website building platforms. In case, you may be thinking that their usability is limited, let me tell you that these are extremely versatile and are capable of helping anyone with a little know-how of websites to build a top notch website that is nothing short of the sites created by professional designers. Most of these platforms cater to a vast audience, but there are some that specifically cater to creative professionals like photographers, artists, fashion models and more.
Another good reason to use hosted platforms is they come with a gamut of features that are specifically meant to promote their work online. For instance, optimizing pictures for search engines, putting the pictures in clear frames for better visibility, local SEO optimization and more.
Key elements of a photographer’s portfolio website
With the availability of numerous portfolio building platforms, creating a website has undoubtedly been easy. However, building an effective portfolio website is still a mystery among most creative professionals. An effective portfolio website attracts visitors and eventually turns them into paying clients. Well, at least that’s what we expect. It turns out that every visitor on a website shows almost the same behavior, yet a few go on to buy or in our case hire a photographer.
Consumer psychology is too vast to predict which visitor will hire a photographer while on their website. Thankfully, you don’t have to worry about that. Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is a process that understands these challenges and addresses these problems. Most of the time changes in website design are the only solution to overcome these issues.
Based on the best practices to optimize conversion rate, there are few elements that photographers must take care of while building their portfolio website.
These key elements are:
The size of a processed photograph normally ranges between 12-15 MB, by web standards, it’s too heavy to be used on a website. Firstly, it will negatively impact the speed of a portfolio website. It’s better to compress the photographs (which retains the quality but reduces their size).
Another important thing to note while optimizing photographs is to add alt text (short for alternate text) to each photograph. Search engines like Google, Bing, and others can’t read images, and alt text helps them to understand a photograph. This increases the chances for photographs to show up in image searches.
Tablets and smartphones are now used comparatively more than PCs for personal research. Though the websites created with most platforms are mobile optimized, there could still be glitches like unaligned photo frames, distorted pixels, and more that you might see on mobile. These glitches are a result of variations in CSS/HTML code that are generally caused by the size of photographs put up on the website. Seeking support from the platform’s team is the ideal option in such cases. It typically takes about a minute to 5 minutes for them to fix it. Also, ensure that you learn the cause, so you upload your photographs accordingly in the future.
Visitors on a portfolio website sometimes are apprehensive about hiring a photographer especially when they have discovered them on the Internet unless they have been referred to them by a credible source. Testimonials from clients can help eliminate those inhibitions. Identify your best and most satisfied clients and ask for a testimonial or reference you can publish. Most people will be happy to help, especially if they are a satisfied client. Once you have secured a few testimonials, publish them on your site to add credibility and social proof.
Hopefully, you’ve learned the key points about building your portfolio. Go ahead and surprise your prospective clients with a stunning portfolio website.
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