5 ways to make your photography portfolio stand out

The printed portfolio is dead! Or at least it has transformed… But that doesn’t mean creating a portfolio has become any easier, in fact how you showcase your work is more important than ever before and it seems that with online sharing there’s a constant hunger for new and better ways of looking at photos. So here are some top tips on how to create a better portfolio that meets your clients’ expectations.

1. Website

Let’s start with the obvious – you need a website. This will be the first thing anyone asks for and it’s the absolute best platform to give a quick overview of your professional experience and your contact details. Before creating your website you should have a clear idea of what it will look like. You should ask yourself what your aims are, who you are targeting and why those people should choose you as a photographer. Be a harsh curator and only select the best of your work, even if this means your website will not cover everything you do as a photographer.

Your website should create the same effortless feeling as a day in a museum. Think about how the exhibition will naturally take you through the rooms. Your website should be laid out in the same way so the different projects naturally lead the viewer in a circle without encountering a dead end.

Choose your website platform wisely and make it’s as easy as possible to update. Although a website needs less attention than a blog, it’s important to regularly update it with new work to entice clients. Check out WordPress and Squarespace to start with if you’re after a platform where you can have a lot of freedom in terms of design without having to know how to code.

2. Blog

Why should you keep a blog if you already have a website? Keeping a blog is an incredible marketing tool. Think about expectations and habits of your audience. If somebody has clicked through to your blog from your website it’s because they want to know you better and dig deeper into your work. Let them have this. A blog allows you to be more personal and can work a bit like an icebreaker between you and your clients. The content you share on your blog can be much more widespread, so think about how you can use the blog to educate and inspire the viewer through your work. Say you’re sharing a “behind the scenes” photo from your your most recent photoshoot with a short text on what you’ve been shooting, how you did it and for whom. By taking ten minutes creating this post you’ve optimized your chances for new client relationships because a certain trust has already been created. With a blog you also get to promote all aspects of your photography and not just the pictures themselves. If your photographs are exhibited or published, take great looking photos of the end-product too and share it as an additional layer to your work. Find more info on how to optimize your blog with photos here.

Close-up of screen printing frame on table in bag factory
© Apelöga AB / Alamy Stock Photo


Saying the days of the printed portfolio are over is not completely true – although it works well as a dramatic opening for a blog post – but the classic black leather case and its plastic pockets have seen better days.

In this fast-paced online age, where a home-curated digital collection can be sent in the blink of an eye, prints have taken a new role. The ability to give a client a product which shows your work in context is what can set you apart. For a food photographer to print on fibre-based paper could allow them to create an organic feel that a digital file just can’t reproduce. If you’re a lifestyle or fashion photographer why not try a magazine format for your portfolio? Postcards are also an excellent way to spread your brand at networking events and can be on hand for the unexpected ‘elevator pitch’.

4. Social media

Social media is increasingly as much about building business relationships as it is for your personal use. Instagram is an essential tool for the 21st century photographer, and you should embrace it. No other medium can put your photos in front of as many people as fast. Instagram has around 300 million active monthly users and around 48% of them are professionals so it’s a natural place people look when they want to discover new work. You can use it as you like, some people prefer to keep it business only whilst others may mix and match between personal and professional photos. Both are fine as long as you are true to your style and use your #hashtags right. While Instagram can work as a day-to-day tool to update and add to your photography portfolio, Twitter and Facebook are better at linking people back to your blog and website. We recently posted a blog full of tips on social media for businesses, you can read it here.

5. New media

The rise of timelapse, drone footage and stopmotion are demanding us to think smarter and challenge our creativity when it comes to online portfolios. Diversifying beyond only still photography gives you the chance to make a more interactive connection with your potential clients. An excellent example of this growing trend is this award-winning website from Christopher Ireland, which breaks down our traditional distinction between still and moving image.

Studies show that we are evolving with the smartphone – instinctively we have started to scroll before even looking for buttons to click. This is an essential thing to bear in mind when designing your online gallery. Thinking vertically frames your photos in a new type of storyboard and the speed at which we scroll means that striking photos or multimedia elements can help hold the viewer’s attention. Flickr recently announced that they are working on integrating virtual reality to their photo galleries. Virtual reality artificially creates another dimension of space and invites you to have a sensory and physical experience when viewing things online. Can you imagine what this will do to the viewers habits and expectations when looking at photos in the future? And at last how will all this effect your portfolio? As a final thought on this, check out the short video below showing how former Disney animation artist Glen Keane demonstrates how the virtual reality space can be used in art, the possibilities are endless.