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5 tips for building a photography portfolio that brings in new clients.

Build a freelance photography portfolio that makes a good first impression.

Your quick-start guide to curated photography portfolios.

  • Decide on how you want to organize your photos online.
  • Ensure your photos are the right size for your website.
  • Showcase only your best work.

Why every photographer needs a portfolio.

Portfolios are a creative demonstration of skill that doubles as a shareable marketing effort that’s essential for finding clients. In a visual medium like photography, word of mouth and referrals only go so far. A recommendation from an existing client is huge, but people will want to see your work. A portfolio is the elevator pitch of the creative.

 

When potential clients are looking for photography services to hire, most of them will skip a disorganized portfolio or one that does not showcase how you can meet their needs. Good portfolios capture who you are as a professional photographer and what you have to offer — and the best ones do it almost immediately.

 

Portfolios are also a powerful marketing strategy, providing an easy way for a past (or future) client to refer you for more business. Whether you’re looking to improve your portfolio or create one entirely from scratch, learn more about the portfolio creation process and how you can use it to net more clients and expand your skill set. 

A woman working intently at a laptop while standing as if she is so focused on the work as to not need a chair

1. Get photography clients with an amazing portfolio.

The portfolio is one of your primary marketing tools to bring in new customers as a photographer, and it’s important for a visitor to get a sense of what you and your work are about. 

 

Put yourself in the shoes of the ideal client, and imagine how a first-time visitor to your digital portfolio would react. It’s not that different from entering a physical gallery — visitors need to know where to go and what to look at. 

 

Make sure that you have clean, visible navigation throughout your portfolio, so users can enhance and browse the photos. Here are some examples for potential ways to sort your work.

Subject matter

Headshots, landscapes, city photography, lunar photography

Color

photos sorted by palettes like cool tones, neutral colors, bright and vibrant, etc.

Thematic content

Consistent examples of your skills and style (for example, people in motion)

Many photographers choose to lead with what they view as their best work, but this can often lead to being cast as a particular type of photographer. It’s essential to showcase the work you want to get hired for.

2. Learn from other photography websites.

When it comes to making a standout portfolio, it never hurts to get a little inspiration.

 

Other photographers, graphic designers, and visual artists can provide plenty of inspiration for creating a portfolio. Don’t be hesitant to use another photographer’s portfolio as a starting place for yours, but remember to make it your own. A cookie-cutter template that someone has seen before on other photography portfolios won’t inspire anyone.

 

Behance is your go-to for templates to start from — you can use it as a wellspring of ideas for what your portfolio might look like. Browse and search for different examples for inspiration and guidance.

3. Speed up and optimize your site.

This is a technical innovation rather than a stylistic one — visitors to a portfolio won’t stick around if it’s loading slow.

 

Images that are too large or not properly formatted for the web can slow down load times on your site and lead to broken images on your portfolio. For a visitor who’s interested in your work, sites that don’t have fast-loading and crisp images are often passed over as unprofessional.

 

Using the compression tools in Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Photoshop, you can export and update images that are compressed to smaller file sizes with minimal loss of quality. It’s a process you can do in a few steps. If you have a PDF portfolio, for example, Acrobat Pro has an optimization feature called Fast Web View, which optimizes a PDF to load a page at a time. Visitors to your site will be treated to a seamless experience of your work without major load times.

 

On top of that, make sure that you’ve tried to apply some basic search engine optimization (SEO) practices to help people find your work through a search engine. It’s an excellent way to increase visitors to your site. More visitors means more clients.

A woman preparing photo lookbooks on a laptop while listening to music outside on a college campus patio

4. Make lookbooks.

A lookbook is a sort of sub-portfolio for visitors — one that can showcase specific types of photo sessions to potential paying clients.

 

For example, if your subject matter is eclectic and you’re both a wedding photographer and a portrait photographer, having a lookbook with the different styles of photo shoots can be a great help. Just remember to keep them in an easily accessible place and keep the file sizes down.

 

A lookbook that’s compressed into a PDF file and is easily shareable with potential customers is another great way to get your portfolio out there. On top of that, you can create custom lookbooks geared to clients, themes, or other modes of presentation. Adobe Acrobat Pro can provide powerful assistance in preparing lookbooks for prime time.

5. Use crisp, compelling descriptions.

When you’re running a photography business, you have to communicate what you offer in an easy-to-understand and transparent way.

 

You can run an entire photography business through a portfolio site (many photographers do this, and it can make the experience of hiring you a one-stop shop), but visitors need to know where to go to hire you and what you charge. A page about inquiries and what kinds of photography you do for hire is a useful section in any portfolio. 

 

If you’re using Facebook ads or other ad services, make sure that the writing and images in your advertising don’t promise something that you don’t do. Finding new business can be difficult, and while it can be tempting to cast a wide net with your photography marketing, it can often create unnecessary busywork for a small business owner. Make sure your portfolio and any social media accounts are geared toward your target clients.

 

Make sure you outline what you charge for various services, like family portraits, wedding photography, or sports photography. With the appropriate organization, you’ll be able to follow up and do other administrative tasks more easily so you can focus on your photography. 

Instagram might be the best way to share photos in your portfolio with clients.

Use social media to gain new photography clients.

You can use social media as a platform for an online photography portfolio. An Instagram account, for example, might even be the best way to share images with clients. While a website doesn’t get traction unless you share it with known contacts, social media has built-in shareability. It’s designed for networking. For that reason, your social media photography portfolio should do more than showcase your work — it should focus on people, specifically the people you hope to gain and keep as clients.

 

Your social media strategy should engage current and potential clients with high-value content and multiple touchpoints. That might sound overwhelming, but you can do it by following a few steps: 


1. Identify your specialty.

You don’t need to have just one, but you want to think clearly about the kind of photography you hope to get paid for. Different types can include wedding, portrait, sports, events, fashion, commercial, nature, drone, journalistic, travel, or food photography. And within one area, you might identify a smaller niche such as a particular type of event or a unique style. Identify the content you can share via social media that will help you create a unique and recognizable brand. 


2. Identify your clients.

In some cases, this step might happen first. By working with a few clients in one area, you might develop some expertise in a certain kind of photography or style and then decide to pursue it further. Either way, you need to understand the people willing to pay for this kind of work, and you need to know how they use social media. Different clients will gravitate to different apps and channels. Find out which ones your ideal clients are using.


3. Make a plan.

Identify a goal for your marketing efforts and set aside time for maintaining the account you’ve decided to build, with a focus on activities that will help you move toward that goal. 


4. Socialize.

Social media is for socializing. Meaningful interaction will get you further than a stream of all the photos you’ve taken. Use social media to provide content that’s relevant to your niche audience, to provide a glimpse of your unique personality, to ask and answer questions, and to participate in communities. Join a Facebook group for photographers with similar interests. Create seed content that other accounts will be motivated to post. Invite others to create guest posts. Research trending and popular hashtags specific to types of photography clients you’re looking for. Post at strategic times to ensure that people see your posts.


Elevate your portfolio.

No matter what kind of portfolio you’re creating, Adobe has the tools and tutorials to help you make it shine. With Adobe Document Cloud storage and Adobe Acrobat Pro, you’ll be able to store, sort, and organize your photographic work in a digital environment, making changes and updates on the fly. 

 

From there, use Acrobat to build an easily accessible and shareable PDF portfolio that will give you a highly optimized collection of your work that’s ready to show to an audience. 

Share your work.

Once your new portfolio is complete, it’s time to help it work for you. Use any email lists you have to share the update with your client base. You can compress a PDF version of your portfolio with high-quality images to ensure it’s easy to share. Post links to your new portfolio to social media platforms with tags that will draw in your target audience. And if you need to share your work confidentially, Acrobat Pro allows you to password-protect documents so you can make sure only the right eyes see what you share. 

 

With a freshened-up portfolio in your back pocket it’s time to use it to build relationships to drum up new business. 

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