Creating a Professional Online Photo Portfolio: Goals, Tips, Best Designs

In our high tech times, a photo portfolio (the same as any other portfolio) no longer needs to be printed. Today most photographers prefer to present their works in digital format. When a portfolio is designed right, you have the advantage over other professionals in your niche. In today’s variety of creative and catchy photo portfolios, you will have to use your best endeavors to make your presentation stand out among other great web works.

Creating a Professional Online Photo Portfolio: Goals, Tips, Best Designs


Even if the photos you are going to exhibit are highly professional and outstanding, not least important is to create a design that will get the main idea over to the viewers in the best possible way. Fortunately, today we have a rich variety of technologies and tools for achieving this goal: Flash, jQuery, Silverlight, etc… Just decide what technology will work the best for this concrete portfolio and start creating.

Of course, every designer has his own vision on how a good portfolio design should look, but there are some aspects that even a professional has to take into account while designing a photo portfolio. In this article I would like to talk about some of these important aspects.

Defining Goals and Audience

Every portfolio must have a specific objective. Before you start designing a web photo project, it is important to determine goals and purposes of the future portfolio: whether it is going to be a portfolio for commercial purposes, or showing photo works to potential employers, or just showcasing the photographer’s works to share them with friends and close people. Some photographers first think about making an all-purpose portfolio, but it is not always a good idea. If, for example, a photographer is planning to sell his works, and at the same time search for a job, it may be better for him to create a separate portfolio for each purpose and link them (if necessary).

Defining the contents of the portfolio will be much easier if you clearly understand what audience it is going to be created for. Some photographers have a small audience, and the audience of other photo artists may count thousands of potential viewers. Irrespective of how wide the circle of the photographer’s audience is, it is important to relate the photo works to the people who you are going to create a portfolio for. If the photographer has got two (or more) different audiences, as I already said, think about making separate portfolios for each audience.

Phil Borges
Phil Borges

Selecting Images

After the goals and audience are specified, it’s time to make a selection of images that are to be presented in the portfolio. If you are a web designer and develop a portfolio for a photographer, your client will alone make a selection of images, and your task will be to present them in the best possible way. But if you are a photographer and create a portfolio of your works yourself, here are some tips on how to make a better selection:

  • Scrutinize the images and select the best ones that you want to present to the audience. Divide them into categories. This is important, because a photo gallery is interesting if it offers a journey to the visitor. If there is a thread that ties the images into a whole, such a portfolio will always be interesting to the audience.
  • It is good if the photos are in a logical order. You have to prepare for a meeting with the person to whom you’ll be showing your works. So, place your photo works either in chronological order, or some other order you think they need to be placed. You should be ready to explain to your prospective client why you present your works in such a way.
  • Do not select many photos for the portfolio – employers or customers don’t have time to review a lengthy portfolio. An optimal variant is to include from 10 to 25 photos.
  • Choose those photos that will show the results of specific photographic efforts according to the goals for which the portfolio is created. It is inaccurate to say that a portfolio can only present the best works ever created by a photographer. A portfolio should be used for a concrete exact purpose, for example: “to show the works created during a definite period of time”, “to present the photographer’s skills in taking black-and-white photos”, etc.
  • As soon as the images are selected, ask for feedback from friends, family or other photographers. The opinion of another person may be very useful.

Rinze
Rinze

Photo Size

Perhaps, there is no need to talk about photo size here, because most photographers and web designers understand about sizing photos for their portfolios, but we still see portfolios with images either too big or too small. The optimal image size for the photo portfolio is between 600px and 1200px (large enough to show the details interesting to the viewers and small enough to fit on each viewer’s screen and load fast).

Bradley Franklin
Bradley Franklin

Navigation

Navigation is the most important aspect to be considered when creating an online photo portfolio. It should be designed as clearly as possible for the visitors to view the photographer’s works. Today’s web technologies offer a great variety of navigation designs. The most popular method of navigation is drop down. In Flash it is intuitive – the menu sections or image gallery is navigated by hovering the cursor over an interactive menu or gallery object, and it will open the sections or images available for browsing. This type of navigation is very convenient and widely used.

Mark Lobo
Mark Lobo

As for other photo portfolio navigation variants, there are plenty of them: you can design your photo gallery in the most creative and boldest way your rich fantasy may generate. The most important is to make the navigation not only impressive, but also convenient. Particularly, there are thumbnail image previews with horizontal scrolling (mostly used in Flash, jQuery and Silverlight based websites) and vertical scrolling (can be seen in all types of portfolios).

Regarding horizontal scrolling navigation, I think you will agree with me that it is much more convenient for a viewer to scroll with a scrolling wheel than by dragging the gallery horizontally with the left mouse button. So, as soon as your online photo portfolio is finished, I would recommend you ask a friend or colleague to navigate through your newly-made website in order to test its functionality and make sure of the navigation convenience.

Contact Details

I have seen some photo portfolios that have no way of contacting the photographer. What do you think, why? To tell the truth, I personally do not know. I can’t understand why a photographer exhibits excellent outstanding works and doesn’t give the viewers a chance to contact him. Perhaps, one of our readers could help me answer this question. As for photographers, who prefer to include contact details, they usually use contact forms or just specify the contact e-mail on the “About” page (some people prefer to send an e-mail instead of filling out contact forms).

Wide Eye
Wide Eye

Photo Portfolio Showcase

Web designers are always in search of inspiration. They often browse through the websites of other designers in order to find some fresh ideas for their own works. It is a very good practice; sometimes one single detail that a designer has seen on some website can exalt his fantasy and inspire him to create new outstanding works.

Please see the showcase of web photo portfolios below. Some of them are just killing from start to finish, some include one or two unusual, stylish or creative elements, and some are just amusing. But for me, all of them are worth viewing. The collection is divided into two categories: Flash Photo Portfolios and HTML/jQuery/Other Photo Portfolios. In addition to web designs, you will see plenty of amazing photo works. It is a really interesting diversion.

Flash

With Flash you can make a portfolio with interactive elements, intuitive navigation, a multifunctional gallery, unusual image previews, etc. Some web designers prefer to use a Flash content management system for easier development, and a customer can then edit his photo portfolio without a web professional’s help.

Henryk Lobaczewski
The Flash website of Australian fashion photographer Henryk Lobaczewski. The portfolio is equipped with a slideshow gallery and a thumbnail image preview that is navigated by means of the "prev" and “next” arrow buttons. A really stunning piece of Flash.

Henrykphoto

Flash Photo Portfolio with Sliding Gallery

This Flash photo portfolio with transitional effect is equipped with a large sized horizontal gallery that easily slides when you hover the mouse over it.

Franz Shwarz
Franz Shwarz

Corey Fishes
The Flash portfolio of a photographer and commercial fisherman from Alaska. It has some unusual design solutions: the photo works of the photographer are placed randomly on the page. The interactive menu is really expressive and convenient.

Corey Fishes

Jim Newberry
The portfolio of Jim Newberry, a photographer from Chicago. The photo gallery navigation is really simple. There is no image thumbnail preview – the photos can be viewed by clicking on the current image.

Jim Newberry

Multifunctional Flash Photo Gallery

What I really like about this photo gallery is the ability to add a description to each image: it can be seen when a visitor points the mouse over a thumbnail. Full screen mode is available.

Photo Portfolio
Photo Portfolio

Paul S. Bartholomew
Paul S. Bartholomew specializes in architectural, interior design and travel photography. The portfolio is interesting for an unobtrusive clean design. The gallery presents the photos in different sizes.

Paul S. Bartholomew

Andrea Chisesi
The Flash portfolio of Andrea Chisesi, a talented Italian photographer. His clients include many well known people and top magazines. His Flash website is presented in a clean style looks really stylish.

Andrea Chisesi

Christophe Huet
This photo portfolio is definitely worth your attention. Great impressive photo works of talented photographers are presented in the best possible way. Every single detail of this Flash website is impressive and inspiring.

Christophe Huet

David Tan
The Flash photo portfolio of incredibly talented David Tan, a famous photo artist. His professional portfolio looks really great. In addition to the convenient photo preview, the gallery is equipped with the “Autoplay” function, with which you can view the photo works in slideshow mode.

David Tan

Marcel Gonzalez-Ortiz
This attractive Flash portfolio belongs to Marcel Gonzalez-Ortiz, a photographer presently based in Rio-de-Janeiro. His photo works are presented in a simple but really cool manner: to view the next photo we just need to click on the current one.

Marcel Gonzalez-Ortiz

Kikor
A professionally designed and stylish Flash photo portfolio with slideshow mode. The drop down menu allows easy navigation of the website. Also, a viewer can add the photo works he likes to the “Lightbox” section and then share them with friends by submitting a “Send your lightbox to a friend” form. A very creative and useful design solution, for me.

Kikor

Cyril Lagel
Cyril Lagel is a professional photographer, an artist from France. So sensitive and a perfection lover, he’s created his own world of beauty. The portfolio fully reflects the uniqueness of the photographer. A stunning music creates a mystery around the artist’s personality and makes the portfolio even more stylish and attractive.

Cyril Lagel

Maha's Photo Portfolio
From the first view, while this Flash website is downloading, you can feel the unique style of the photographer. Such an effect is achieved due to a stylish font and a black background. The photo gallery is really creative: the works can be previewed via a convenient thumbnail gallery. Due to the zoom function, the photos can be examined in detail.

Maha's Photo Portfolio

Javier Galue
Another clean style Flash photo portfolio. Neat, stylish and unobtrusive.

Javier Galue

Denis Rouvre
A great, great Flash work… So many stylish details and unusual solutions. The gallery navigation is intuitive: you don’t even need to click on the thumbnail to view a photo you like – just scroll the thumbnail preview, that’s all.

Denis Rouvre

Joey Lawrence
Another stylish Flash work. The floating thumbnail gallery is scrolled when you just mouse over it. The thumbs are dark, but when you point the cursor over an image, it becomes bright.

Joeyl

LaChapelle Studio
A great Flash photo portfolio with slideshow effect. I was impressed with the gallery’s high functionality and great interactivity.

LaChapelle Studio

Alberto Oviedo
A wonderful photo portfolio presented in minimalistic style with a full size scrolling image gallery. There is an opportunity to build a custom lightbox and then share the photos with a friend.

Alberto Oviedo

Miezejewski Michal
A stylish Flash portfolio with a very convenient photo gallery. The gallery sections are created as a separate menu; to view the photos you just select a section from the left side bar, and the section thumbnail preview will open on the right.

Miezejewski Michal

SF-Photography
For this Flash portfolio the designer used a textured background that is very popular today. The gallery thumb preview opens from the menu sections.

SF-Photography

Zosia Zija
If you are a fan of dark websites, you will like this Flash portfolio. A deep sensitive idea that goes through the portfolio makes the visitors feel the uniqueness of the photographer. The gallery navigation is really creative.

Zosia Zija

Julia Fullerton – Batten
This amazing Flash portfolio was definitely designed by a professional: tasteful, neat, stylish and extremely functional. The photo gallery can be navigated by means of either the hidden thumbnail preview (that can be revealed when you mouse over the page) or arrow buttons.

Julia Fullerton – Batten

Tim Flach
A stylish clean Flash design. The home page imitates glass, as if you are sitting under a big glass surface and watching a dog running around the surface, over your head. A really impressive effect. The gallery is presented as a slideshow. If you are a dog lover, you will especially appreciate this portfolio with plenty of cute creatures photos.

Tim Flach

Carl De Keyzer
A rich splendid photo portfolio. The intro is displayed as a movie created by combining the photographer’s works. The photo gallery is enriched with the “info” function that allows visitors to get some info about each photo.

Carl De Keyzer

Will Pearson
The Flash website of Will Pearson, a panoramic photographer. One of the coolest features of this photo portfolio is that the visitors can view gigapixel panoramic images at high quality, even if they are zoomed in.

Will Pearson

HTML/jQuery/Others

For some portfolios web designers use jQuery or Silverlight - another technology, with the help of which it is also possible to create slideshow galleries and image previews for portfolios. Below is a showcase of some pretty interesting solutions.

Dave Hill
A great photo portfolio with an attractive thumb preview. The designer used black background; due to this the viewer’s attention is focused on the photo works.

Dave Hill

Bob Ribokas
A good photo portfolio with a really nice background and catchy typography. The full size images open in a new window.

Bob Ribokas

Andrea Figallo
Andrea Figallo is a glamor and artistic nude photographer living in Italy. His photo portfolio is created in a clean style; the gallery can be viewed with a horizontal scrollbar.

Andrea Figallo

Eolo Perfido
Eolo Perfido is a French-born photographer now based in Rome. He works all over the world taking photos for many well-known magazines and journals. The top “flowers” of his portfolio is the photo works.

Eolo Perfido

Chris Jordan
The photo portfolio of Chris Jordan, a photographic artist, presented in a clean style. The gallery navigation is simple, by means of the arrow buttons; it is possible to zoom into the photo to view it in more detail.

Chris Jordan

Michael Muller
The light website of Michael Muller. The portfolio is divided into categories; each category has its own thumb preview that can be viewed by vertical scrolling.

Michael Muller

Colin Portfolio
An unusual concept for a portfolio: the gallery is divided into “the past”, “the present” and “the future” works of the photographer. The thumb images are kind of thrown on dark background.

Colin Portfolio

David Friedman
The portfolio of David Friedman in grey colors. The gallery concept is quite simple, but unusual: the photos can be viewed by clicking on the numbered buttons.

David Friedman

Cole Rise
A simple photo portfolio with a clear navigation: just scroll the page down to view the photos. For me, the portfolio looks really good; great photos on a dark background.

Cole Rise

Steve Carty
The cool portfolio of a great photographer. The home page design reminds me a little of a newspaper. The navigation is vertical scrolling.

Steve Carty

Maciej Duczynski
A Polish photographer Maciej Duczynski’s portfolio. The home page is displayed in black-and white that makes the visitor feel the photographer’s individuality deeper. A good idea was to publish the list of the equipment the photographer uses in his work.

Maciej Duczynski

Tobias Zeising
This photo portfolio is a good example of how one single element can make a clean design really catchy: a small icon in combination with a creative font looks stylish and invites visitors to browse the website in more detail.

Aditu

Ralph Gibson
Ralph Gibson’s portfolio with slideshow mode and drop down menu… But you know, while viewing the works, I didn’t see anything except the Photos - so I liked this presentation very much.

Ralph Gibson

Matt Stuart
This photo portfolio really made my day. The design is quite simple, but the headings of each gallery category are so funny that I was captured at once.

Matt Stuart

Botelho Studios
A nice photo portfolio with a convenient image gallery. There are a lot of great works that are worth viewing.

Botelho Studios

Glenn Feron
What a good looking gallery design: bright multicolored thumb previews on a white background. You can browse the gallery either by clicking on the thumbs or with the “back” and “next” buttons (if you wish to view the photos one by one).

Glenn Feron

Philip Ritchie
A creative portfolio with an intuitive navigation menu; you just hover the cursor over a gallery category, and the related image will open.

Philip Ritchie

David Bickley
A clean design with a horizontal scrolling gallery. A creative logo and catchy interactive menu makes the portfolio rather interesting.

David Bickley

David Leslie Anthony
The minimalistic photo portfolio of David Leslie Anthony, a well known photographer working all over the world with many famous brands. The home page is absolutely clean, but it looks so stylish.

David Leslie Anthony

Santillo Photography
Will Santillo’s photo portfolio. A hidden drop down thumb gallery becomes visible when you mouse over the page. For adults only.

Santillo Photography

Baldur Bragason
The creative portfolio of a freelance photographer Baldur Bragason is presented as a slideshow. You can view the slideshow or choose the photos from the bottom thumbnail bar.

Baldur Bragason

Steve Craft
A simple but eye-catching photo portfolio. The thumbs are all placed on the home page; they are interactive and of different size. We click on a thumbnail, and a full size photos open. To come back to the preview just click on the page.

Steve Craft

Holger Pooten
A clean style photo portfolio. As soon as the home page is loaded, we see a white page with a single element – a small menu button on the left top of the page. Hover the cursor over the menu, and you will see the website contents.

Holgerpooten

Jose Ramos
This stunning photo portfolio belongs to a nature/landscape photographer from Portugal. You can browse the images by clicking on the numbered buttons below the gallery preview. There is the “Show all” function that allows you to view all the photos on one page. If you click on an image, it will open in full size along with another thumb preview that you can also use to select the images.

Jose Ramos

Bruno Mercier
Bruno Mercier is a French award winning fine art photographer now living in Carteret, Normandy. In his portfolio black-and-white works only are presented. The website looks extremely stylish and professional.

Bruno Mercier

Conclusion

As a conclusion, I’ll name some additional points that should be kept in mind when designing a photo portfolio and after it goes live.

  • A photo portfolio should start and end strong. Think about the “title” and “cover image” – it is the face of your online presentation and should grab the viewer’s attention from the first second. And the last image is a conclusion of what that the viewer has seen before. So, there is a position where your stand out image goes.
  • Provide the photos with all necessary info. Place a title or the image info below (or near) the photo. It will be much easier for your customer or viewer who is interested in your works to specify exactly what photos exactly they mean when contacting you.
  • Keep the portfolio fresh. Update it as often as necessary – it should always be up to date, and it is not about the photos only. The web design of the portfolio should also be improved or polished from time to time, as technologies develop rapidly.
  • A photographer has all rights to protect his works from copying. Include a copyright disclaimer in the page footer or upload it in a separate file on the website.

Further Resources