What a Photography Portfolio Is & How to Make One

Whether or not to create a portfolio is something every creative will consider at some point. Before you make that decision, you first need to understand what exactly a portfolio is.

A photographer’s portfolio is a collection of work highlighting their ability, serving as a visual resume for potential clients and employers. It exists to showcase photographers’ skills and past projects.

Keep reading as I explain what a portfolio is and how to create one for free!

What Does Portfolio Mean In Photography?

In photography, a portfolio is a collection showcasing the work a photographer wishes to highlight. Photographers use portfolios to supplement resumés displaying their work to prospective clients and employers.

A portfolio can be as simple as a Google Drive link or a collection of work shared on a flash drive. Given the purpose of portfolios photographers often create their portfolios in public and shareable formats such as websites or social media profiles.

When someone asks a photographer to see their portfolio what they’re asking is to gauge the photographer’s ability. This can be useful for clients wanting to understand the possible value of contracting said photographer. It can even be useful to show your portfolio to people who aren’t potential clinets. But, more about that in the next section.

Do Photographers Need A Portfolio?

It is possible for photographers to find work without organized portfolios, but it is difficult to do so. Clients want to know for a fact that your style aligns with their vision. Without a portfolio, clients rely on the reviews of your past clients to make decisions. In an age of technology, where building a portfolio can take less than an hour, there really isn’t an excuse not to have one. The lack of a portfolio can lead clients to pick other photographers who do showcase their work.

Think of your portfolio as your resumé of sorts. You really only hand out your resumé if you’re looking for work. Though, on the other hand, it’s not a band thing to have a resumé on hand, just in case.

If you’re a hobbyist photographer who’s not actively looking for work, consider creating a portfolio for free using one of the options outlined in the next section. If you’re looking to upgrade from hobbyist to professional, consider three things; which portfolio format will have the most reach? Which portfolio format looks the most professional from the clients’ perspective? And, finally, what is your budget for creating and maintaining a portfolio?

Does your portfolio need to look clean and professional? Not necessarily. At its core, photography is about your art as a creative, not the container in which it is displayed. But, as you gain a larger audience and client base, you begin to realize that the manner in which your photos are displayed is also a reflection of your creative abilities and your commitment.

For example, if you have a website that is poorly formatted with clashing colours, this will reflect poorly on your creative abilities. In contrast, a well made website with a design that follows colour theory gives clients confidence in your judgement as a creative. To level up even more, you can integrate your photos into the design and background of your website.

How Do I Create A Photography Portfolio?

When creating a portfolio, you really do get what you put in. The more effort you put in, the better it will look. Your portfolio doesn’t need to live on one specific platform. Instead, consider spreading it across different platforms to example your reach as a creative. With that being said, I’ve listed four options for creating a portfolio below as well as the estimated cost for each.

1. Instagram Page – Price: Free

Instagram pages are a great way for photographers to expand the reach of their photography, and can be done in conjunction with other methods. Instagram allows photographers to reach people across the world, and more exposure can lead to more clients.

Instagram also allows for engagement with users. This means potential clients can comment or direct message photographers for more information. Photographers can also connect with other photographers through Instagram, possibly leading to work opportunities.

The ease of use and accessibility of Instagram makes it ideal for photographers wanting to showcase their work. I recommend every photographer set up and Instagram account, it’s easy to pick your favourite few photos from a shoot and upload it with a quick caption.

2. Adobe Portfolio – Price: Free* (Included with Creative Cloud)

Adobe Portfolio is a service that comes with any creative cloud subscription, meaning it can cost as low as $9.99 per month. Many photographers use Lightroom and Photoshop to edit their photos. If you’re one of these photographers, you can access Adobe Portfolio at no additional charge.

If you’re wondering what editing software to use, check out my article breaking down three of the best editing software for photographers.

The way it works is, once you have access, you follow the steps to create a portfolio site through Adobe’s website. You create a subdomain on Adobe’s website, what this means is that you can have a personalized link to share with others. It’s similar to having your own custom website, only that you don’t have your own domain. What this means is that, instead of your portfolio being located at www.wordpress-901406-3130242.cloudwaysapps.com, it will be located at www.creativesforchrist.myportfolio.com.

One of the key benefits to Adobe Portfolio is the fact that it comes at no extra cost above your Creative Cloud subscription, but it has a few other great features also. First of all, it has visually appealing templates to quickly set up your portfolio. Next, is the subdomain support I mentioned earlier. A custom subdomain means you can share your work with links or QR codes.

If you would like to further personalize your portfolio site, you can link it to a custom domain. This means you can go from www.creativesforchrist.myportfolio.com to www.wordpress-901406-3130242.cloudwaysapps.com if you own a domain.

Since it is a feature of Adobe, Adobe Portfolio integrates with Creative Cloud. You can access lightroom photos directly from Adobe Portfolio and access Adobe Fonts to customize your site even more. One of the best parts of Adobe Portfolio, though, is that it automatically optimizes your site for desktop, tablet, and phone.

3. Playbook – Price: Free

Playbook is a platform that allows photographers to “organize, share, and collaborate on creative files and projects with [their] clients and team” (source). Playbook stores the work of photographers and displays it in a visually appealing manner.

The base plan is completely free and includes 100GB of cloud storage. If you have a portfolio hosted somewhere else, Adobe Portfolio for example, you can apply for a free upgrade to 4TB of cloud storage.

Playbook has an intuitive file organization system that also looks great. If you have a website alongside your Playbook account, you can embed specific folders onto your site to save space on your website’s server.

Playbook is the best free alternative to Google Drive or Dropbox for creatives because it’s built specifically for us.

4. Custom Website

This portfolio format takes the most amount of time and money, but also looks the most professional. The cost for your website will vary, but can cost around $11 USD per month for hosting (if hosted on Cloudways) and roughly $10 per year for domain registration (if registered through Cloudflare).

Domain registration is the process of buying (licensing) a domain from whats called a registrar, Cloudflare for example. A domain can be simplified and thought of as the name of a website, wordpress-901406-3130242.cloudwaysapps.com for example. One you have access to this domain, you need somewhere to host all of the information of a website. The simplest and safest way to do this is to essentially rent access to a server that handles information storage as well as processing power for you, on Cloudways for example.

Custom websites look very professional and can serve more purposes than simply showcasing your work as a photographer. With a website, you can showcase your work and tell clients about yourself with an “About” page. You can also direct clients to reach out through a “Contact” page.

You can also set up a business page on Google that directs people to your site. This way, if someone searches “photographer near me”, you’ll show up and have your work readily available for them to view as well as a way for them to contact you.

To save money on your monthly hosting fee, you can store your photos on Playbook, and embed your galleries onto your website.

Jeremy Goh

Jeremy grew up volunteering at church and has also worked in a church setting. Along with working as a freelance creative, Jeremy is studying for a business degree in finance and international business.

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