Designing your Photography Website Portfolio

Post that can help direct our online portfolio design. Written by British Journal of Photography

What do photographic agents, curators, editors and commissioners look for on an online portfolio? Five industry professionals offer their perspectives.

The photography portfolio has, some might argue, been eclipsed by its digital counterpart. Offering an opportunity for almost limitless invention and innovation, mastering this mode of display involves a whole new set of challenges. From the colour scheme to layout, every element of a photographer’s website deserves careful consideration.

When designing a website, however, it is also important to carefully consider your audience. What is it that you want your online platform to say about you as an artist and how do you plan to communicate this? To help better understand what makes a compelling website, we asked five industry professionals about what they look for and why having a strong online portfolio is so important today.



What do you look for in a photographer’s website?

Diane Smyth, Digital Editor – British Journal of Photography: A website that’s both clear and easy to navigate – the design comes after. Images need to be large enough to see them properly, but small enough to load quickly. I don’t like seeing watermarks on images. It’s helpful if the images are divided into separate series, with text before each series giving a quick idea of what it’s about. I also like to have a quick bio of the photographer somewhere on the site and (obviously) details of how to contact them. It’s better to have a small number of really good images than a large volume that includes weaker shots.

Ken Flaherty, Founder – Doomed Gallery: I like to see the one image that really defines the photographer on their landing page. I also like to know the story behind a body of work. Photographers can be unwilling to express their ideas and motives in words; for the viewer, a brief explanation or critique, can help us look more and understand what we are seeing better.

John Wyatt-Clarke, Founder – Wyatt Clarke & Jones Photo Agency: I see a glaring divide between websites that are trying to achieve something and those that are just reflective of a photographer’s fascination with themselves. A good online platform should be designed to guide an ideal visitor towards a specific action, whether it be commissioning, buying work or enquiring about an exhibition. It’s also important to clearly distinguish the work that is most important to you, to give a sense of what direction you’re going in as an artist, and consequently, where you’ll be in a few years. As an agent, I’m interested in the future, and I want a website to give me an idea of that.

Fiona Shields, Head of Photography – The Guardian: At The Guardian we will always view an online portfolio before commissioning a photographer for the first time so it is important that we can gauge the range, breadth and style of imagery. I would always advise making contact details very prominent on the opening page and including your geographic location, along with your phone numbers, email address and Twitter account – I will often try all three if I’m looking to contact a photographer as a matter of urgency. This landing page is a shop window for your talents so be scrupulous over quality and keep the edit varied but tight.

How important is your first impression when looking at a photographer’s website? And would you say that this is dictated more by the nature of the work, or the way in which it is presented?

DS: I’m much more interested in the work itself, but if the website takes ages to load or I can’t find my way around it easily I’ll definitely come away with a bad impression.

Matt Martin, Co-Curator – Doomed Gallery: A bit of both. If the work doesn’t jump out at me immediately then it’s rare that I will look through the rest of the website. Good design and a strong lead image can help with this, but it’s also important that the site is easy to navigate.

JW-C: I spend a great deal of time on photographers’ websites. We get up to 50 emails a week from photographers looking for representation and consider each one carefully. First impressions aren’t that important because we’re trying to find people we can work closely with for years, so looking at their work more thoroughly is always necessary.

FS: Always check that your website can be found simply on a Google search under the name and keyword ‘photographer’, and that the website  loads swiftly on desktop and mobile. Any picture editor looking to make a commission immediately, or who is considering a number of photographers, will be frustrated by a complex portfolio that can’t be accessed easily.

Should a website exist solely as a platform for the featured work, or is it important that it has a distinctive aesthetic too?

DS: I don’t have much of an opinion on this one, either one is fine by me if I can find and see the work and find contact details for the photographer. It’s sometimes nice when I come across an unusual or quirky website. But in general I’d say the aesthetic of the website should come lower down a photographer’s priority list than their work.

KFI’m really interested in the idea of the virtual gallery as somewhere you can explore. I also really like it when photographers provide further insight into their work through the inclusion of interviews or short text.

JW-C: It’s the photos that count above everything else. An online platform can complement your photography but no site will ever be good enough to disguise poor work. Conversely, if your work is good enough, from the perspective of an agent, you can get away with bad presentation. It would be our job to help you improve your online presence. I’d advise devoting more attention to the architecture, signposting and navigation than the graphic design.

FS: Consider design and allow a slick presentation for anyone navigating their way through your portfolio. If you have particular publications you admire, or would like to attract commissions from, then it’s worth paying attention to their visual sense. Equally, if your style is aesthetically distinct then do play to this strength as it may encourage a picture editor to cast you for a specific brief.

With the digital realm becoming increasingly integral to our everyday lives, would you say that having a strong online portfolio is more important than ever?

DS: Definitely – I rarely get shown physical portfolios now, in fact it seems a bit old fashioned when I do.  It’s interesting to see some of the shifts in how photographers are presenting themselves – websites used to be quite formal, presenting work projects in separate series, but on Instagram photographers tend to include more behind-the-scenes images – shots of them installing a show, for example, or photographs from their everyday life. I don’t have a preference about which is better or worse. Whichever format you use, and however you present yourself, all that really matters is that your work is online and that it includes your contact details.

MM: This boils down to the question of where are people looking at photographer’s work the most? Ultimately, I think that when it comes to photography a website is the best place to showcase your work. An online platform provides the optimum space to present images clearly and organise them to communicate any narrative running through a series. However, I do still think that it’s important to have a strong physical portfolio or book.

JW-C: I can’t imagine how anyone would get work without one. A more vital question is how do you get people to look at it? And obviously that’s where social media comes in. A site is useful as a centre for all your social media activity, a place where all these disparate platforms lead back to and where you can showcase a more comprehensive overview of your work. That’s why it’s so important to understand what you want your website to do, so you can focus all this energy in the right direction instead of dissipating it.

FS: Yes, often we are seeking to commission photographers globally who it would be difficult to meet face-to-face so an online presence is the best opportunity to review a portfolio. It is a competitive market so it’s worth spending time presenting work with consideration and keeping the portfolio up to date.

Haruka-Website Portfolio

Haruka Sakaguchi

Ursa-Premik Portfolio

Ursa Premik

If you want LinkedIn to work for you make sure you have a professional headshot that is up to the job.

Professional London studio corporate photography

A photo of you taken whilst at a pub/party/holiday/wedding, or one taken on your phone, does not present a professional image and will do more damage to your business profile than you may believe.

Facebook and Instagram photos won’t work as your professional profile pic, let’s be clear on that! Also, be careful not to have anything too cheesy, sultry or flirty. Make sure it’s also recent, if you have 30 years of experience and a picture taken just after university, then clients or employees will notice.

Remember first impressions count, so invest in having a professional corporate headshot taken.

Also you now have the ability to add a background photo so think carefully what to use and how it illustrates your business sector.

professional corporate headshots in London studio

See how we create our LinkedIn headshots.

 

Approachable & Professional Headshots.

Corporate headshots – The professional and approachable style

Corporate headshots. The professional and approachable style.

Corporate headshots. The professional and approachable style.

These headshots were taken for a client who wanted to look professional and approachable. This is a request we get frequently and it can be quite hard to pin down exactly the style the client is hoping to receive. We quoted on a shoot recently and sent over some sample headshots. When we asked if the samples meet with their requirements the client mentioned that they were really good but they were not what they were looking for as the men in the headshots had ties on. We now class the ‘professional & approachable’ style as smart relaxed headshots without a tie.

Grantly Lynch © Corporate Photography Ltd

Corporate Photographers London Website Review

Having worked as a corporate portrait photographer since the early 1990s I have gained plenty of experience from shooting commissions and also marketing and promoting my services. I recently asked for my new corporate photographers London website to be reviewed on a business forum and received some interesting feedback. On the whole the advice was positive and I took these comments on board. One comment lead me to think about my services in a new way for the first time in over 25 years.

The comment was simply ‘what will the client get from commissioning you’? At first I thought that would be fairly obvious from the website that was full of sample portraits I had spent ages selecting as my best work and sure that anyone in business would simply fall over themselves to commission and use for their marketing. Thinking about it again, I realised that my potential clients needed more information and direction as to the processes in capturing their portraits and to their end uses.

My experience had allowed me to know how to get the best result in the quickest time from any commission but unless I can convey that to potential clients who are totally unaware of my experience then how much work could I be missing out on. The more I thought about this the more samples came to mind on several questions that kept recurring when I was talking to clients about future commissions. The most common was ‘We can’t do the shoot here as our offices are a mess’. When clients say this I quickly reassure them with samples of offices we have shot in and made them look great by being selective in what we get in shot and by blurring backgrounds so that office shapes are all you can see in the portrait photos. But this left me thinking if past potential clients had not raised this question with me, how many commissions have I missed out on?

Another query which often comes up is ‘Do you offer make-up services’? And as before I explain that this is an expensive extra and we can retouch in post production to a very high standard included in the cost of the shoot.

These simple and repeated queries are swiftly dealt with but it makes so much more sense to have the as part of my marketing and clear to see on my website. It could be said that the site might become to wordy and nobody likes to wade through lists of information especially on the internet but that is where good website design plays a major factor in getting your services across in a way that is simple on the surface but all the information is easily to hand if a client wants to find it.

The more I looked into these factors the more sense it makes. lets face it most people do not like having their photo taken. In fact I would go further and say 90% of my clients say that they need to get it done but would rather be doing anything else. So we have a client in a position where they need to get their headshot taken normally for business marketing. They don’t know the processes involved and I now understand that it is better to hold their hand with practical guidance rather than to bombard them with a portfolio of our wonderful headshots!

This leaves me in the position of having to redesign our corporate photographers website to accommodate these findings.

We supply the full range of corporate photography services but on the whole most of our work is corporate headshots. Our clients range from individuals who may want a professional LinkedIn headshot to large corporate companies that might want thousands of staff photographed in office locations all over the world. Within this service we offer a selection of five different styles of headshots.

1. Business social media profile photos. These are mainly for LinkedIn and when clients first approach us it is normally with a vague enquiry that they need to get one done, but they have not really given it much thought past the point of what it will cost. I would normally give them a price and send them a link to our corporate headshots page which has a range of different styles. What is interesting here is that they will agree to the cost but not give me any feedback on which of the styles they prefer. I can see now that this is a area where my attending to their needs and explaining the benefits of what we offer is being lost and it is an area I need to address.

LinkedIn profile photos London LinkedIn profile photography Mayfair financial sector corporate headshot

2. London location headshots. This is service we introduced about 3 years ago and was aimed at clients who wanted to show they worked in London and we would subtly feature elements/views of London in the background. These have become popular with individuals who might not have office in The City but often work in London as consultants. We have also seen interest from overseas business people who want to show they also work in the UK financial sectors. The interesting factor with these is that we have had clients who have large numbers of staff and they have requested this service. This is not always ideal as it can mean the client has to arrange the logistics of getting all their people out of the office and this can be impractical.

Corporate headshots with St Pauls by London photographers Business portrait with London backdrop Corporate headshot by The Thames

3. Photoshopped London background headshots were offered this year to get around the problem that faced large offices of people who wanted the London backdrop. It also meant the client could choice the from our range of backgrounds and the headshots would be shot in their offices against a plain wall and we would photoshop in the London views in post production. This process is visible on the site but needs to be better in the way we expalin to potential businesses the benefits of the service.

City of London headshots by corporate photographers City of London business headshots

 

4. Studio headshots. These we offer if the client wants the ‘studio’ effect with and the benefits of controlled lighting. Many of our clients assume that to get a professional photographers headshot it must be taken in a studio. This really is not the case and we often advise against this style as it is not contemporary in our eyes as we prefer to capture a flattering headshot in a real business environment. Here again I need to explain the benefits of us attending the clients offices with our pro lighting set up. It is less time consuming for the client as we can set up in a empty office and the sitter only has to attend the shoot for approx 10 -15 mins and incurs the same charges as they would if they were to take a couple of hours out of their busy day to attend our studio.

corporate headshots in London studio London studio corporate photography London studio corporate photography

5. Reportage or natural headshots. These are proving to be very popular with start-up companies and clients who like to show an open door to potential business. We have a formula that works very well and allows us to capture very natural and also known as ‘action’ shots of business people going about their day to day work. This looks simple but is in fact time consuming as the photographer is waiting for the natural moments to happen and not able to control the session as easily as posed headshots. Again this is a process I need to explain to clients as it is often assumed these take a couple of minutes to capture and that they have been staged.

reportage corporate photographers London reportage business headshots London

This leads to me to the redesign of our current corporate photographers London website. I need to site to showcase our portfolio and I need to be able to get all of the above points as well a pricing, our team of photographers, my role in the company, how commissioned shoots proceed and complete.

Let me start with the team of photographers. There are eight in total and all have the ‘in house’ style for shooting our headshots and corporate events. In the past I have had a page for the photographers with sample portfolios for each photographer. This did not work as at no point did a client request any particular photographer. I feel now that clients coming to our site do not have the time to go over eight portfolios and therefore this has to be changed to showing that we have a great team with strength in numbers and able to cover all commissions on any dates, but also not swamp the client with portfolios of individual photographers.

Pricing is a difficult area as 90% of our competition do not show their rates on their website. Currently we do not display our fees but we need to give the client an idea of pricing structures, how we charge our time, what is included in the quote and what extra expenses will or maybe charged. Then there is post production rates which need to be explained as often clients will not be aware of what can be done and how much it will cost.

Although I still undertake corporate photography commissions my role is now more handling quotes, assigning photographers to jobs and handling post production and invoicing.

This is a simple process of a single commission.

Pre shoot procedure.

Please wear something you are comfortable in and avoid wearing white shirts if you are not going to be wearing a jacket as they appear too bright in the final images and can look washed out.

Please advise us if you have a certain style or background you require for your headshot and if it has a particular usage. Unless otherwise directed we will replicate the style found on our website.

Shoot procedure.

It takes 10 mins to set up equipment and normally 15-20 mins per person for a portfolio of approx 20 images. Within these 20 photographs we will do a variety of poses and expressions so you have a good choice to select from.

Post shoot procedure.

We will email you a full portfolio of preview images with our invoice. Once the invoice is paid we will email a high res image download link.

After you have made a selection of 2 images from the high res please email the original file numbers to us and we will standard retouch the images and return them.

I am currently looking and working with website designers to restructure our current site and interested in talking to any web designers who have ideas and processes that could assist me with my new aims. Past experience with working on photographers sites is not important but an understanding of my aims and creative input to some of the areas I need to address is required.

Please see our client reviews on our corporate photographer London page.

Profile portrait at St Paul’s

Profile portrait at St Pauls London

The client called us in the morning and asked if we could do a shoot that afternoon in the St Paul’s area as he needed to send a portrait off that evening for a magazine article he was to be featured in. We did the shoot mid afternoon and had the finished image back to him and the journalist by close of play that same day.

© Corporate Photographers London

Fly On The Wall Office Photography

Commission for Sumitomo Corporation Europe Ltd who asked us to capture some ‘fly on the wall’ photography at their offices in Vintners Place on Upper Thames Street.

London office photography Sumitomo Corporation

Sumitomo-Corporation-office-photography-London-2

Sumitomo-Corporation-office-photography-London-4

Sumitomo-Corporation-office-photography-London-5

Sumitomo-Corporation-office-photography-London-6

Our photographer Jason had worked with Sumitomo before and had captured a range of headshots for their online marketing. These were to be used on their website and as a part of a new brochure which was using their people as part of the new corporate branding.

© Corporate Photography Ltd

Fly On The Wall Office Photography

Corporate Office Headshots

corporate-photographer-Jason-1 Photographer Jason

Commission this week for Acadian Asset Management at their offices in Cannon Street. We used the boardroom wall as a backdrop and the natural light to create a less traditional style corporate headshot.

office corporate photography cannon Street London

Boardroom corporate photography cannon Street London

Natural corporate photography cannon Street London

© Corporate Photography Ltd

Corporate Team Photography

Corporate-photographer-Alex-1 Photographer Alex

Commission for Logos who contacted us and required a team photo the following day. Their offices are in St Pauls Churchyard and we used the steps at the front of the catherdral to arrange the partners and frame the photo.

Corporate team photo at St Pauls

© Corporate Photography Ltd

Business Magazine Photography

Commission for The Big Partnership Agency who asked us to take some portraits for The Glasgow Herald Business Magazine who were running a feature on a Scottish developer who was now working in London.

London skyline portrait for business magazine

© Corporate Photography Ltd.

Corporate Action Photography

corporate-photographer-Jason-1 Photographer Jason
Reportage corporate photography commission for Lean Construction at their event meeting in Moorgate. They asked us to capture some action photos of their team in discussion for their partner profile pages on their website.

corporate office action photos in London

corporate meeting action photos in London

corporate meeting action photos in London offices

corporate office action photos in London

corporate office people action photos in London

© Corporate Photography Ltd.