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Creating a photography portfolio

One of the best ways to make a strong impression as a photographer is to have a solid, well-optimized photography portfolio...

What is a photography portfolio?

A photography portfolio is a collection of images with the goal of quickly highlighting who you are as a photographer in terms of style and consistency. Let’s take a closer look at those two words – style and consistency.

When it comes to style, every photographer and artist, for that matter, has their style. Examples of styles could be bright and airy, moody, black and white, “cinematic,” etc.

As we’ll touch on later, you want your portfolio to follow a certain style and be consistent throughout so the potential client can get a sense of the images you produce.

When it comes to consistency, this means consistency in style as we just mentioned, consistency in image quality, consistency in composition, and consistency in overall editing as well.

How to make a photography portfolio

When it comes to creating a photography portfolio, there are seven steps that you should consider if you want to build the best possible portfolio.

1. Figure out your medium

The first step in building a photography portfolio is to figure out your medium. What I mean by “medium” is the platform.

For example, certain mediums you often see portfolios on include social media platforms such as Instagram, Flickr, Unsplash, Tumblr, etc. Another medium, and the one I suggest, is a website.

However, there are also different ways to create a website, such as coding your own from scratch or using a CMS (Content Management System) like WordPress, Squarespace, or Wix.

Personally, I highly recommend going the WordPress route and creating your photography website.

I recommend WordPress because it offers customization and the ability to think “outside the box” in terms of SEO and technical capabilities (if you eventually have courses or a blog that drives traffic to your website).

The only caveat with WordPress is that it does have a slightly higher learning curve. But once you take the time to learn it (~ it takes a full day to learn, I feel), you’re in free-roam mode and not bound to certain restraints that other CMS platforms impose.

If you do not care to have your blog drive traffic through SEO, then going the Squarespace or Wix route is a great option if you just want to use your site for portfolio purposes.

For those wondering, my website is on Wordpress; I’ll most likely make a guide and video in the future on how to create a Wordpress website for photographers.

As previously mentioned, you can share your portfolio on multiple mediums, such as Instagram, Flickr, and a website, but I highly recommend that you have a website.

Once you decide on the mediums for your photography portfolio, you can then determine your style and ideal client.

2. Determine your style and ideal client

In marketing, there is a process that is called positioning your product or service. This means identifying your target audience and creating an image of your product/service that fills an unfilled need of your target audience.


As photographers, our target audience is potential clients who see our photos, and our product/service is our photos and knowledge of photography.

With that being said, we need to create an image of our product (our photos) that fills an unfilled need in the minds of our target audience.

Whether that’s having the photos we take of them help them land that job they’re looking for, find a potential partner, or just improve their overall personal brand image.

We create this image of our product/service by displaying a photography portfolio that essentially tells our ideal client – “these photos that I take are the type of photos that you are looking for to have for yourself.”

We do this by having a style to our portfolio based on our ideal target client.

If you don’t know who your ideal target client or customer is, then you need to do more market research and self-analysis into the type of photographer you want to be.

For example, if you are a wedding photographer, your style may be more on the lighter, airy side with brighter, sharp looking images. If you are a headshot photographer for actors, your style may consist of studio light setups that focus on sharpness and clarity.

Here's another example from my portfolio.

My style and target audience lean towards portrait and lifestyle photography for people who want photos for social media platforms. Due to this, I try to keep my images sharp and minimal, which works well for social media platforms:

Example of a photography portfolio.
Photography portfolio example

Your style needs to match the style of whoever you want your ideal client to be. If you’re still having trouble, simply search for photographers who service the same clients you want and take a look at their style.

I’m not saying to copy their style because every photographer has their style, but I’m saying to take an overall look at it. Is it black and white? Moody? More bright? Film-like with lots of grain? Etc.

3. Pick the best photos

There is a saying that your photography portfolio is only as good as your worst photo. This means that you only want to present your best work in your portfolio.

If there is an image on your portfolio that you aren’t that proud of but want to include anyway just to take up more space, I’d recommend leaving it out. Put yourself in the shoes of the viewer.

Imagine they’re scrolling through your portfolio, loving all the images, and they land on 1-2 semi-blurry photos or, let’s just say, not the best.

They could think to themselves, “Well, maybe those will be the kind of photos this photographer will take of me.”


You don’t want them to think that, so it’s best only to highlight and showcase your best work.

As photographers, we know that not every shot we take is award-winning or our best.

Some of the photos I often take on photoshoots are sometimes blurry. But I usually make a point of taking multiple shots during a single pose just in case some of them are blurry or the lighting or angle isn’t right.

But I digress - the main point is: You want to put your best foot forward.

4. Be consistent

The fourth step in creating a strong photography portfolio is to be consistent with your images. This ties into the previous two steps regarding style and putting only your best work on your photography portfolio.

In terms of style, it’s important to have a consistent style throughout your photography portfolio. For example, you don't have to want one photo to be film-like grainy and the next one to be high-contrast, overly saturated.

If this is the case, the viewer and potential client of your photography portfolio may get confused about how their photo will end up looking and not book you.


If you wish to showcase different styles, I recommend having separate sections in your portfolio with headings that state the different styles.

This will let the viewer of your portfolio know it’s intentional and that you are actually a versatile photographer.

This way, too, if a client calls you or has questions, you could even ask them which style they prefer.

In terms of consistency when putting your best images, this one is fairly straightforward and has already been touched upon in the previous section. You want to put your best work only on your portfolio consistently.

5. Ask for feedback

The fifth step when it comes to creating a great photography portfolio is to ask for feedback.

This can be one of the most nervous parts that you put off because you may be worried about what others feel about your portfolio.

Here's the bottom line, you must put your nerves aside and ask friends, family members, or similar-niched photographers what they think about your portfolio. You’ll want to ask people who will be objective with your portfolio without putting you down.

Although it may feel good to hear your portfolio looks great, be sure to ask people to be objective and not sugar-coat anything. Especially if you ask close family members or friends. They may be afraid to say something negative because they like you as a person.

But you have to tell them to tell the truth, or it won’t help you. Questions you’ll want to ask them include:

  • What style does my photography portfolio give off? Analyzing Responses: Is this the style you want to give off with your portfolio?

  • What emotions do you have when looking at my photography portfolio? Analyzing Responses: Are these the emotions you want people to have when viewing your portfolio?

  • What’s your favorite photo on my portfolio? Analyzing Responses: Do people all agree on one favorite photo? Ask them why it’s their favorite, and you might want to analyze what you did in that photo to have others like it so much.

  • What’s your least favorite photo on my portfolio? Analyzing Responses: Do people all agree on a least favorite photo? Maybe you should remove that one from your portfolio.

  • Is it easy to navigate my portfolio through a desktop view? Analyzing Responses: You will want to know that your portfolio is easily accessible through desktops.

  • Is it easy to navigate my portfolio through a mobile view? Analyzing Responses: You will want to know that your portfolio is easily accessible through mobile phones.

  • Does my portfolio load fast for you on your desktop? Analyzing Responses: You will want to ensure your portfolio loads quickly for users on the desktop.

  • Does my portfolio load fast for you on mobile? Analyzing Responses: You will want to ensure your portfolio loads quickly for users on mobile.

Based on the responses to some of these questions, you may need to adjust your portfolio.

Once you do that, ask them again for feedback and keep updating and changing things around until the general consensus is that you have a great photography portfolio!

As you may have noticed, some of these last questions revolve around the viewer’s experience viewing your portfolio and the page speed. This leads us to your next step.

6. Have good UX and pagespeed

The sixth step to having a great photography portfolio is to ensure a good portfolio UX (User Experience) and that the portfolio loads fairly quickly for your viewers.

Coming from an SEO background, I’ve seen the difference that a fast-loading page can have over a slow-loading page regarding conversions or booked demos, sign-ups, trials, etc.

I talk more about the importance of site speed in my Technical SEO for Photographers Guide. In fact, website conversion rates drop by an average of 2.11% with each additional second of load time (between seconds 0-9). (Portent, 2019).

In our case as photographers, a conversion would mean landing on our portfolio page and then deciding whether or not to contact us to book a session.

Graphic showing the conversion rate of a photography portfolio.
Photography portfolio conversion rate

If you’re wondering how to view the page speed of your site there are two methods:

The first method is to just do your visual test by going to the page and seeing if it takes a while for the images to show up.

If we want to get more technical, the second method involves running your portfolio page through a page speed tester such as Google Pagespeed Insights.

Here's the thing, if you find that your portfolio page is loading too slowly, then the biggest culprit is most likely due to the images.

As photographers, since we have very image-heavy sites, this is often our biggest weakness regarding page speed. To optimize this, the solution is to use a lossless image compression tool.

This will essentially make the file size on your images smaller without losing much quality in the image. I recommend using an online tool such as Optimizilla,, or Colorcinch.

To use it, just upload your image on the site, do a lossless compression, and then re-download the newly compressed image and upload that to your site, replacing the old one.

Here's an example of my portfolio. When I run it through the Pagespeed test, as you can see, the performance score is high and well-optimized:

Screenshot of pagespeed score of a photography portfolio.
Photography portfolio pagespeed

If you need help with your SEO and site speed optimization, be sure to:

7. Add analytics and monitor

The seventh and final step is adding an analytics platform to your website.

Did I mention I come from a marketing background? You may not have seen other guides talk about doing this, but this is the final touch to building and maintaining an amazing photography portfolio.

You see, many photographers get the part of creating a great photography portfolio right, bbut when it comes to actually understanding how your portfolio is performing backed by data, that’s where they fall short.

There are many analytics platforms out there, and some are most likely built into your CMS if you use Squarespace, Wix, or WordPress.

I use and recommend Google Analytics, which is the industry standard for getting free website analytics data. I won’t be diving into how to set up an account and connect GA (Google Analytics) to your website. There are many great tutorials out there.

Once you have it connected, the most valuable metrics you’ll want to pay attention to include average session duration on your portfolio page for both desktop and mobile.

As you can see from this screenshot, I have an average of a minute duration for the time on a page that people spend on my portfolio, which means they like looking through it!:

Screenshot of time on page of a photography portfolio.
Photography portfolio time on page

This number will give you an idea of how long people stay on your portfolio page. The longer the time, the better because that means they’re taking their time to look at your photos.

If the time is short, the fifth step I mentioned regarding asking for feedback may uncover why people spend such a short time looking at your photography portfolio.

Perhaps it’s because your images are loading slowly so they get frustrated and just leave. Or perhaps your lack of consistency in style is confusing viewers, so they leave your site and go to another photographer.

Although we are artists, understanding how your portfolio and site, for that matter, is crucial to improving the business side of things.

In the future, I may create a separate guide on other key metrics to look at, but for right now, start with what I stated above.

Do photographers need a portfolio?

I’ve seen this question asked, and I think people often refer to whether they need a portfolio on a website. Because every photographer should have a portfolio of some sort.

But as mentioned, I think they’re referring to using their social media pages as their portfolio.

This can certainly be done, but I don’t like it for three reasons.

First, if you have a portfolio on your website, then it’s easier to track certain metrics. Metrics such as average time on the page will give you an idea of whether your portfolio is resonating with the viewers of that page.

Second, if your portfolio is on your social media channels, a potential client could be negatively influenced by likes, followers, or comments. This could take away from the actual image itself.

For example, if you don’t have many followers or a certain image does not get many likes, the viewer could be focusing on vanity metrics instead of the image's actual quality.

Third, I believe having a portfolio on a website is just a lot more professional, as your contact page will already be on the website, etc.

Now I’m not saying that you can’t get business through social media, I’m just saying that you should have a photography portfolio on a website as well.

In conclusion, a strong photography portfolio often prevents a website viewer from converting into an actual paying client. There are key steps that you should consider as a photographer when creating and maintaining your portfolio.

I hope you took away something new and valuable from these steps and implemented most, if not all, of them. Good luck, and happy photographing!

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