I used to build photography portfolios websites from scratch, which required a month of coding and debugging. But now there are many CMS (content management systems) that are designed specifically for photography portfolios.
I am still looking for the best photography portfolio software but Of course they all have different strengths and in the end you must compromise. Here’s a list with my observations to help you make the best compromise.
Probably the most important part of any portfolio is the theme. Each of these solutions has a large set of themes so search around the examples section of their sites until you find something you like.
Portfolio Website Services
- These are more services than software. You pay a fee each month or year and the company will run the software on their server and update new features as they are created. It is important to chose a company that will be in business long term because if a company goes belly up so does your portfolio.
Koken is an exciting looking portfolio service created by the same people that have abandoned SlideShowPro. It recently finished beta testing so I haven’t been able to try it out, but you can see it’s features on their Vimeo video. When it becomes publicly available I would love to hear any opinions of it.
Lately, this company have become one of the default photojournalist portfolio website CMS’s. They cost $890 for the first year but they are good enough for many of the photographers in VII and even a few in Magnum. I have to admit that I haven’t actually used their service but front end always looks slick and professional.
If want to show your portfolio in a simple way with the little hassle livebooks is fast to set up and easy to update. You can have your photos up and running in a few minuets for a predictable price and with little upkeep. It is that easy because the software is all hosted on LiveBooks on server. The tradeoff for this simplicity is customisability, and control. You can only show photos in the themes they create, which aren’t too bad. I’ve just learned that livebooks can also include video. So Livebooks is about the easiest way to show your portfolio. It is also hard to build a community around since the portfolio and blogs are seperate, and they have become popular, especially among wedding photographers, so their sites don’t set you apart from the crowd because they are the crowd.
Another really good option for the photojournalist on the move because they have such robust uploading facilites. They make updating your latest story from anywhere and pushing it to the front of your site really easy. Their main feature isn’t actually the portfolio but their archive system which is impressive. They push their SEO as bringing in new leads and selling photos, but according to some forum posts (small sample size) that feature is overrated. Their claims of integrating with WordPress are disappointing. I received and email that they will be updating their system soon and say SEO improvements are in the works.
For $20 a month you can get a basic photo portfolio that just works. It doesn’t look like there are many crazy features. They do take a stab at mixing Flash with an HTML backend so that the site is easy for search engines to index. I haven’t tried the backend so I can’t really judge it though.
Cargo is a slick, active and very easy way to set up a portfolio, like livebooks but with simpler art-centric themes. Interestingly the backend appears to be a rip-off of indexhibit. It is all hosted on their servers so setup is a breeze. They make a nice minimalistic portfolio. While it is still under beta they mention that it is being built around a community but I haven’t seen that feature in use yet.
Another portfolio website management tool that has been in development for over a year but is still in beta. This is one of the more promising portfolio websites, the back end is pretty and easy to use, though limiting. The backend is slicker and easier to update than CargoCMS.
Another quality alternative that has won a few awards and gives a list of about 8 designs to choose between and then customize. They aren’t cheap though with an initial cost of $1000 followed by a monthly fee.
If you want something truly unique you can always hire your own design firm and they will build a site from scratch to your specifications. Considering that your online portfolio is your storefront it is often worth investing at least a few days of profits into making something as unique as your vision.
Dreamhost has a new free offering that allows you to set up a WordPress blog on their server with the click of a button. Straight out of the box WordPress isn’t built for portfolios but with a few simple plugins it quickly becomes the most powerful way to show photos and keep your community updated. I use wordpress with SlideShowPro, and their SlidePress plugin for this site.
Self-Hosted Portfolios – For more control you can buy your own webspace on a server and upload any of this open source portfolio software. It’s a bit more complicated but gives you complete control.
This self-hosted CMS is a little gem that I stumbled upon and built a few websites with. In it’s current state is is useful and has a few quality themes to choose from. I haven’t played with it’s newest iteration but it looks even better. I used this on two of my friends sites including my commercial site http://www.HarmoniousImage.com
This is a really interesting, vibrant, simple portfolio CMS that has an active community behind it. The coolest thing is that it is installed just by opening up your FTP program and dropping all the text files in your home folder.
Wordpress has a lot of advantages but the learning curve and customization can be a long process. There is a large community of photographers and coders constantly making the software more friendly. This website was built with WordPress which gives you an idea of what it can do. Probably the biggest advantage to WordPress is its future compatability. There is enough of a community behind it that updating will always be easy and the content you post now won’t have to be deleted to create a new look in 3 years. The easiest way to setup a wordpress blog is with DreamHost Apps which is free or includes a domain name for $10.
Leave a comment with your experiences and I’ll intigrate them into the post. If I am missing any significant options let me know.