This is your on-line portfolio, your presentation and sales tool, your public exhibition. It is without doubt the most important asset that any photographer can have. Before you can hope to get a commission from anyone you will have to present your photographs to potential clients for them to see if they like your work.
In the ‘old’ days you would drive to every potential client and take your portfolio with you, and there were no guarantees that you would even get the assignment, so this was an expensive but essential part of the photographer’s unpaid work (unless you were very lucky and successful enough to have an agent).
The original portfolio consisted of a large black A3 or A4 ring bound folder with transparent sleeves into which you would insert meticulous spotted and corrected prints and tear-sheets (actual published pages of your work) carefully mounted on card (either black or white). This portfolio would be constantly updated with the very best of your latest work in order to compete with all the other photographers visiting the same client for the same assignment.
You only had a few minutes in front of the client to present and discuss your portfolio, so you had to limit the number of pages to a dozen or so, and every page had to ‘knock their socks off’ if you had any chance of getting the job.
Today, the only thing that has changed is the way your portfolio is presented to your potential clients… ie: your website photo gallery. Yes, it is much easier and cheaper to display your portfolio on a website, and yes, it is so easy to add hundreds of photos and dozens of galleries and slide-shows etc. But, and here is the big rub…
… you now only get a few SECONDS to present your work AND ‘knock their socks off’
Important visitors to website (ie: your potential clients) have no patience to trawl through hundreds of photos or hang around for long slide shows, or search for photos. They have much more important things to be doing with their lives. The only people who will search through all your galleries are other photographers who admire your work, looking for inspiration, which is fine and dandy, but they are not the ones who will be paying you for your next assignment.
Your important visitors need to open your website and be blown away with the very first photo they see on your home page. You could use a short slideshow, but beware that every slide MUST be as equally impressive as the first, and don’t include more than half a dozen or so slides (remember… visitors have no patience). This is the equivalent of the client turning to the first page of your portfolio, and I can’t emphasise enough how important this is. As everyone knows… first impressions count.
Once you have the visitor hooked they may browse a few more photos in your galleries, but only a few, so don’t ruin the impression you have just made by including average or poor shots in your galleries. EVERY photo in all your galleries MUST be of the same standard as the ones on your home page. If they are not, then you will lose the client because they realise you are a ‘one shot wonder’. Anyone can produce a great shot every now and then, but would you hire a ‘one shot wonder’?
To sum up… think of your website photo gallery as an old style portfolio, and treat it with the same care and respect. Update it regularly and remove the average shots, even if it reduces your gallery to only a dozen photos. Put your absolute ‘knock out photos‘ on your home page and keep your slide shows short and sweet. Remember… in website terms… every second counts.