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Sending Mixed Messages in Online Portfolios

Question: Should work shown online be mixed together in one main portfolio or be broken down into very specific portfolios according to subject matter? Does anyone take the time to look at individual portfolios?

Last winter I held a presentation about building online portfolios at ASMP's Strictly Business workshops. A question that came up again and again during the Q&A portion was how to organize different genres of images within an online portfolio.

You can find the answer by watching a three year old playing with similar objects but of different colors and sizes. The first thing many children do is put the objects in different groups. I watched a friend's child organize fabric samples by color in just this fashion while trying to amuse himself in a room of adults.

Rule of Thumb for Portfolio Design

The human brain seeks organization. So when organizing photos for your online portfolio, use a rule from childhood: "like goes with like." You could organize by color, but since most of your prospects want to see how you handle different photographic challenges, its best to organize by subject or type (still life, portrait, etc.).

Multiple Portfolios or Multiple Websites

If you want to be known for both editorial and commercial work, you might want to have two separate websites, but I don’t recommend it. The crossover in style from editorial to advertising means that you might miss a key job with a prospect missing one or the other URL's.

If you want ad work and you also do weddings and family portraits, by all means, have separate sites! You can give the commercial URL to consumers so they can see the level of your commercial work, but don't let the art buyers see the consumer site unless they are planning a wedding.

The Marketing Lab Priscilla Gragg Portfolio Design resized 600Priscilla Gragg, working with consultant Amanda Sosa Stone, chose to have two separate portfolio sites, one for her commercial work and a second for the clients she wants to attract from for family portraits and weddings.

You shouldn’t have more than 5 or 6 individual portfolios within the site. Limiting yourself is a smart thing to do; you'll avoid putting up less than stellar work in order to fill up the slots, as well as avoid making clients wade through subject matter that they aren't interested in. Remember, a one-man band has never made it to Carnegie Hall.

And If You Shoot Stock...

Want to license stock direct to your site’s visitors? Others will differ but I believe that having a good, hands free stock area bolted on to your portfolio site is a good idea. However, remember that stock does not equal slock. Only put images in the stock area that you are proud of. You might find that you will be judged by the weakest image on your website.

About Ellen

Ellen Boughn guides photographers through the maze of options and pitfalls in today's stock photo marketplace. Her approach is personalized, strategic and considers all current options, including direct licensing. Ellen utilizes 30 years of experience gained at Corbis, Getty (Stone), The Image Bank (Artville) and the creative agency After-Image that she started in Los Angeles. She is currently writing a book about the industry. Ellen Boughn

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2. Printed Portfolios vs. Digital Portfolios