7 Common Portfolio Mistakes You Should Avoid
After many hours of learning, shooting and editing, the time has finally come to create an outstanding photography website to showcase your work to the world. So exciting! You probably have a million ideas in your mind and can’t wait to put all of them into practice. Sadly, things that look great on paper sometimes end up being complete failures when executed.
We have seen hundreds of thousands of examples of photography portfolios. We soon realized that a significant part of them were made with so much care and soul, but committed mistakes that drove visitors away without giving their work a second chance. Because we want your portfolio to be successful and expand the reach of your creations all across the Internet, we have selected the five most common web design mistakes – so you can stay far away from them. Sit down, grab a pen and paper (or open your phone’s note app) and read on to learn what you should never do when designing your online portfolio.
Choosing quantity over quality
There’s a widely spread photography myth that claims portfolios should have as many examples of your work as possible in order to catch the attention of potential clients. While you should definitely display a diverse sample of your photographs, there’s a limit to how many shots of the same subject people can handle.
The best way to keep your visitors interested is creating an organized portfolio that categorizes your work into different sections that viewers can choose from. This way, they decide which kind of photos they want to see and are likely to spend more time browsing your site. If you photograph a wide range of genres and want to offer a general view of your work rather than a full breakdown, select the best examples of each category and create a main gallery with no more than 20 to 30 images.
Extra tip: In the case that you are an event or portrait photographer, you can easily share photos with your clients using Wix Photo Albums, which will allow you to keep a clean portfolio without having to limit the number of photo shoot or event photos your customers can see online.
Not branding your site
It is very usual for photographers to forget that they should be perceived as a brand, rather than just another artist. In many cases, this distinction is where potential customers draw the line between amateur and professional photographers – no matter how stunning your work is and how many years you have of experience.
The first step is getting a proper domain name, this will give your portfolio more authority and considerably improve your traffic from search engines (Google, Bing, etc.). Afterwards, invest in creating the perfect photography logo for your business – you can even create your own with Wix Logo Maker the same way you’d create your portfolio: intuitively, with the best features, and with no design requirements asked! The third and last step is making sure your brand is consistent across all platforms, from your social media accounts to your business cards. Note: Consistency is the key to success.
Impose a marked path
Visitors want to feel like they have control over your website. This does not mean you should publish your account’s username and password for anyone to be able to edit, but rather that you should design your site in a way that it leads viewers where you want them to go without being too obvious. In other words, use proper calls-to-action instead of restricting your visitors’ navigation.
The most common mistake in this category is using slide galleries that autoplay on loading and do not have navigation arrows. While they are a great way to dynamically display your photos on a minimalist setting, the ultimate result is that visitors are stuck watching images at a set pace, while not being able to browse the whole selection or stay longer admiring specific images. Instead, dedicate a good amount of time to finding a layout for your portfolio that has all the visual characteristics you’re looking for without endangering your visitors’ experience.
Another huge web design fail you should avoid at all costs is autoplay videos (with sound) and background songs. Just like no one is happy with the one person who listens to music without headphones on the bus, don’t expect to see a smile on your visitors’ face if they’re forced to listen to your site’s music. Assuming you have a video gallery or think certain music can improve your visitors’ experiences, simply give them the option to start playing it whenever they want.
Hiding your contact information
Ultimately, the goal of your photography website is to expand your audience and grow your client list. And yet, one of the main mistakes photographers make on their sites is not properly displaying their contact information. You should see this as one of the key elements of your portfolio, and simply adding a social link at the footer of your site and listing an email on your homepage just won’t do.
Start by getting visitors to know more about you. Writing a killer ‘About Me’ page may seem the least of your problems, but this personal section can have a decisive effect on the final decision of potential customers. Take advantage of this newfound relationship with viewers by directing them to your contact page or directly adding all your contact information within this section.
What does ‘all your contact information’ include exactly? Well, that depends on your work and goals. If you are looking for customers in your area, boost your local SEO by including your photography business name, address, and phone number. For better results, these three pieces of data should appear on every page of your website and across all your social media channels. Furthermore, when aiming for a broader audience, be sure to include at least your country and email address.
In any case, it is also highly recommended to include a contact form and links to your social media channels. Make sure all accounts you link are active; you would be surprised to hear how many photographers are losing business opportunities because their websites link to the wrong (or outdated) email addresses or profiles!
Thinking that the images will do all the talking
A picture is worth a thousand words, but even the best photographers can’t get away with not writing any text on their websites. We already mentioned how offering your viewers some information about the person behind the camera can have a positive effect on your business, but what about the story behind the images? It may sound obvious, but a lot of photographers forget to add a description about who they are and what they do on the very home page of their portfolio.
Mastering the underrated art of writing alt text for your photos will give you the chance of appearing on Google images, increasing your site’s traffic, boosting your search engine ranking results and allowing visually impaired visitors to understand what’s on your page.
If you’re feeling brave and want to take this “story behind the images” thing one step further, you should start your own photography blog! This is the ultimate tool to connect with your community, which can also have a great impact on your social engagement and SEO results.
Designing for desktops (only)
Unless you have been sleeping or hiding in a cave for the last few years, you must be well aware of how important mobile devices have become in terms of online browsing. In fact, chances are that you are actually reading this on your phone right now. Over half of the overall web traffic comes from mobile devices, and if you haven’t done so yet it is finally time to create a mobile-friendly website.
A bad mobile experience is likely to turn any visitor away and have a dramatic effect on your business opportunities. With an infinite pool of photographers to choose from, no one outside of your family and close circle of friends will want to make an effort to look past a bad mobile design to know more about your work.
Letting it go
Once your portfolio is finally out there for the world to see, it is likely to fall to the bottom of things you must take care of. You spent so many hours curating every detail that now you can just relax and sit back while customers reach out to you, right? Sadly, no.
There are two main reasons why you should be updating your website regularly. First of all, your work is constantly changing and improving and you should always showcase your best photos. Lastly, no one will visit your portfolio more than twice if they realize the content you display is always the same.
If you simply just cannot find any time to upload new content every now and then, you might be interested in the possibility of integrating your Instagram feed into your portfolio. With this tool, any image you upload to your account will automatically be shown on your website. You can use it as the main gallery or simply as a sample of your most recent work.
In addition to regularly updating the photos showcased on your portfolio, you should stay abreast of photography website design trends to keep up with the everchanging online styles and update your website to match the current hype.
By Judit Ruiz Ricart
Photography Expert for the Wix Blog & Social Media Team