I’ve long been a believer in the need to showcase your work. Showing your work will make you better as a photographer, whether you’re a professional or not. But what makes this different from sharing on social media?
When I started to get into photography as a hobbyist, I posted everything I could on Flickr. I didn’t have a website, a business Facebook page or any other means to showcase my work. But I soon learned that, while Flickr was great for showing off your work to the photography community, it wasn’t great at showing your images past that — to your friends, family and other communities you belong to.
Gives Your Followers an At-a-Glance Look at Your Work
The thing about Flickr, Facebook, Instagram or any other social photo sharing platform, is you post. And post again. And again. And again. Your best work gets lost in the shuffle — I know mine did. An online portfolio lets you curate what your followers see, letting them drool over your best work.
When I got started in photography, I also ran a beer blog. This caused my Flickr photostream to bloat to the point where nearly 90% of it was beer-related.
But on my website, it was a different story. While I certainly showcased some of my best beer photographs, I also put up my photos from local photowalks, which highlighted the community around me. It helped me broaden my scope, rather than appearing to have such a specific focus, like beer.
Lets You Define “You, the Photographer”
An online portfolio isn’t just about the photos. It’s about telling your story — who you are and how you’ve evolved as an artist. This can be reflected in the portfolio’s design, your text on your “about” page and of course, photo selection. This will ultimately help you brand yourself, helping you to become known for a certain style in everything you do.
Gives Your Work a Self-Critique
By only posting your best work, you continually critique how you are evolving as a photographer. Over time, this will help you improve and enhance your photography skills.
Every couple of months, I re-evaluate the work I showcase on my website. I might have shot a few other photos that I want to include on my online portfolio — something that I think speaks better to my skills as a photographer. Having an online portfolio makes me take time to reflect and critique, instead of just dumping everything I’ve shot and edited, and displaying it for the world to see.
Lets you Control the Look of Your Photos
It’s a fact that Facebook compresses our photos. Other services do too, but it’s not as noticeable. But by putting photos on a website that you control — you get to determine how they’re cropped, compressed, and ultimately, what the quality looks like. Your site also lets you get creative in how the photos are displayed on the page, and which order they appear it.
That being said, keep utilizing social media tools. Post a few of your favorites on your Facebook page, then link off to your website to have people view more. By doing so, readers are also more likely to explore your other work.
To Become Known
This is the biggest and most obvious reason. If you want to be taken seriously as a photographer, you need a website.
Even if you don’t want to be a professional, having an online portfolio makes it known that you take photography seriously, and that you enjoy it.
If you do want to become a professional, you can slowly start your way to networking more in the community with an online portfolio. I’ve never been hired because of photos that were on my Facebook or Flickr account. Likewise, if I’m approached for a job, I’m always asked what my website is. There’s a certain amount of prescribed professionalism when you have an online portfolio. If you were given the choice to hire a photographer with an online portfolio, or one who says “I don’t have one, but I’m on Facebook,” you would likely choose the former.
Where do I Start?
There are a ton of options out there for online portfolio builders. You could “DIY” and buy a domain name, find a host, and code a site from scratch, or you could use a portfolio service. If you already have an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, you can get a website at no additional charge through their Adobe Portfolio platform. The designs are modern, minimalist and really make your work shine.
Bryan is also a member of the Out of Chicago team. Learn more about Bryan at bryanesler.com.