Building an irresistible photography portfolio with Zenfolio.

May 31st, 2024
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Creating an impactful online portfolio can feel challenging. Many photographers simply believe that they lack the technological ability needed to create one, while others are unsure about what images they should or shouldn’t include. In either case, many of us simply forget to take advantage of the tools, tips and tricks available to them online that can set us up for success. 

The reality is that competition can be stiff in the world of photography. Thanks to advances in affordable technology making high quality cameras super accessible, and a generational push for a greater work-life-balance, it can feel like there’s a new photographer in your area every time you turn around. If you truly want to stand out to your ideal clients among your competition, an impactful online portfolio is a must. Research shows that potential clients will size you up as a great fit within seconds of visiting your website, so now is the time to make those seconds count. Just a little bit of pressure, right? 

I’ve got great news for you, my friends: Zenfolio is a one-stop shop, offering a comprehensive solution for creating that killer online portfolio that you need to win over potential clients–and then give them a great client experience that will keep them coming back! 

Section 1: The essentials of a great online portfolio website.

Let’s talk about the essentials of a great online portfolio: what are the things you absolutely need to consider as you build out a website? What should your priorities be? 

Intentional branding and design.

For starters, understand the role of visuals and design in the process of showcasing your work. To be clear, by visuals and design I mean things like layouts, templates, colors, fonts, and other stylistic elements. In their haste to get it over with, many photographers rush past developing a branding strategy, haphazardly picking fonts, colors, and page layouts without giving much thought to how it all translates in the greater context of their online portfolio or their niche of the industry in general. The truth is that this process requires more intentionality than you may think, and many web design platforms simply aren’t equipped to be as customizable as you’ll need. 

If you already have your business branded with carefully selected colors, fonts, logos and other elements, you’ll get to implement those elements as you build out your portfolio so that your website is completely on brand. If you are just getting started with your business and don’t have an official brand yet, Zenfolio has you covered with a range of options to try on for size. Have fun with this! Try different combinations of design blocks and elements to see what really helps your images sing, and to find what works to showcase who you are in the clearest way. For example, a black and white portrait photographer may choose a primarily black background for their website design if they feel it enhances the contrast of their images in an appropriate manner–as opposed to a white background which could wash the images out. 

A curated selection of your best photographs.

I can’t stress this enough; a thoughtfully selected collection of 10-20 images on your homepage that represent the work you most enjoy creating is more impactful than 50+ good images. Whether building or revamping your homepage and your portfolios, sometimes “more” can simply be distracting.

In those few seconds your website has to grab the attention of clients who connect with the work you love making, make it count. Avoid overwhelming them and focus on showcasing your photographs and your personality–your personality is often a deciding factor for new clients who are debating multiple photographers. 

Clear and simple site navigation.

Once you have their attention, you want to have a clear path, or journey, for potential clients to follow. This client journey could lead them toward contacting you, booking a photo session, or purchasing your photographic art. Organizing your site with a concise and orderly menu, CTAs, relevant text, and thoughtfully placed examples of your work will increase the amount of clients that go from simply visiting your site to taking that next step in choosing you as their photographer. 

Once your visuals, images, and navigation are set, you’ll definitely want to take advantage of the features that will make your portfolio both user-friendly and professional looking. Using the customizable content blocks to organize content efficiently and effectively is a great way to kickstart this process to ensure your images and the text surrounding translate exactly how you want it to. Once your content is arranged just right, you’ll have the opportunity to utilize other helpful Zenfolio features that will really cause your website to stand out from the competition: secure galleries, e-commerce options for your clients, and an online booking software to streamline every part of the process. 

Section 2: Setting up your Zenfolio portfolio site.

If you’re chomping at the bit to get started, it’s as easy as creating your own Zenfolio account. 

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Once you begin, you’ll be guided through a step-by-step process that’ll get things up and running. 

After you finish the initial setup, decide which next step is most important: to create galleries, or to build and customize your website? Unless you are in a rush to deliver a gallery to clients, we recommend picking your template and kicking off your website customization. 

When picking a template, you’ll want to consider which of your photography specialties are most important to you and your business, and then keep in mind that layouts (those handy content blocks we talked about) are customizable even after your template is selected. 

Once you have a template selected that meets your needs, you’ll be able to dive into making it come alive with customizable options for layout, colors and fonts. This is where you really have an opportunity to create that signature look that people will easily recognize and love, and bring it together by inserting testimonials, important information, and your personality.  

Visuals conquered? Start plugging in some of your carefully chosen images. Upload and organize multiple high quality image galleries easily with a few clicks of the mouse and watch all of your selections and your images come together. 

Section 3: Enhancing your online portfolio with Zenfolio’s features.

Tracking with me? Great–you’re ready for the next step: enhancing your portfolio with Zenfolio’s features using the Design tool. The Design tool is incredibly easy to use, and is located in the website editor. Simply stated, the Design tool is where the rubber meets the road with the visuals. It’s where you’ll carefully select things like Navbar position, website colors, accent colors, button styles and font pairings–all of those little details that add up to a big difference. 

Beyond the Design tool, you’ll have the opportunity to create unique, shareable portfolios of your specialties and public or private client galleries–a tremendous benefit for word-of-mouth marketing when you consider the ease of navigation and ability to share with friends and family. With options to share galleries by direct link, email, text message, and more, getting galleries of photos to your clients is super simple. 

Another notable feature that will set your website apart from the competition is the ability to host and utilize video footage on your website. Have you ever clicked on a wedding photographer’s website and been greeted with beautiful drone footage of a wedding day? It just gives it a little something, right? 

Specifically, video footage can provide irreplaceable storytelling context–something that every photographer should take advantage of in their website presentation. Aside from it being a tremendous option for your client to offer video services, the ability to display it on your website is a huge benefit in terms of creating a dynamic portfolio experience. 

One final thing to make note of as you consider Zenfolio’s features are the upload options; the desktop uploader app, Lightroom Plugin, or directly to the gallery. Every photographer knows that culling, editing, uploading and organizing can be a bear, so the ability to edit your photos and upload to your website in a streamlined way is a must!

Section 4: Engaging potential clients through your portfolio website.

Once you’ve got your clients interested, they’ll be pleased to experience the streamlined booking process available on your website, which happens to be a one-stop shop for session scheduling and consultation. No more back and forth emails and calendar headaches–with the client booking and scheduling tool you’re able to accept client bookings directly from your website based on your pre-set calendar availability. 

You can even set up your services to automatically create and connect a client’s booking to a new gallery in your Zenfolio account, making the selection and approval process post-shoot super streamlined and easy for everyone. Finally, optimizing sales has never been easier when you take advantage of the client marketing campaigns, whether you customize your own or use one of the automated seasonal campaigns.

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Section 5: Turning your portfolio into an online store.

Speaking of optimizing sales, let’s camp out on the benefits of the other e-commerce options. Whether you’re a wedding photographer, a school portrait photographer, a landscape photographer, or anything in between–there is an e-commerce option that will work to convert your leads to dollars. 

Did you know that you are actually able to sell prints and digital products directly from your Zenfolio hosted website? Not only that, but you can set it up so that you can do all of this without ever lifting a finger when you utilize automated workflows for marketing and order fulfillment. 

In addition, a self-fulfillment option is available for photographers who want more control over the process, or have a favorite local lab you want to keep using for certain products. Regardless of your method of fulfillment, you can rest assured that the prints and products your customers will end up with are high quality, as Zenfolio is fully integrated with high quality global print labs and a range of product offerings. 

The set up for selling is even a breeze for high volume photographers–think: college graduations, wave pools, motocross events, and little league action shots and portraits–but with the gallery preset feature, you can save all your settings for the store, downloads, gallery access, and more and apply them to new galleries with a single click. Combine that with the uploader tool that allows you to upload hierarchies of pre-organized folders and images directly from your desktop and say hello to your efficient new workflow. When it comes to high-volume photography, time is money; the more you save, the better! 

Section 6: Leveraging Zenfolio’s tools to stand out.

If you want to stand out from the competition, you’ll need to be wise about saving time so that you can focus your time, effort and energy on what really matters: your clients, their experience with you, and their images. Zenfolio has a ton of tools that will help in this process, from the website design blocks to the uploader tools to the smart pricing suggestions in your online store, and more. 

The blog feature is one important way to help your website stand out. This particular tool makes consistently updating and refreshing your online portfolio content an approachable task–a real win considering keeping a fresh portfolio is a crucial part of placing your website higher in the search engine rankings and standing out from your competition. Whether you create a blog for every session, highlight your favorite new wildlife images, or include tips for your clients, blog posts shared on a regular basis can be a quick way to share new work and help more people find your site. 

Though word of mouth is a fantastic marketing tool and will often result in your best converting clients, it’s great to know that Zenfolio also has an entire suite of tools created to enhance search engine optimization and drive traffic to your website. Things like the ability to edit page descriptions, add ALT-text to your public portfolio and blog images, update your website description and social media descriptions can all contribute to boosting your website’s ranking in a search engine effortlessly with minimal time and effort on your part. 

Section 7: Zenfolio for different types of photographers.

All things considered, it’s simply a no-brainer: Zenfolio is a great match for a wide range of consumer photographers. Whether you’re a wedding photographer catering to one client at a time in the quality over quantity niche of the industry, or a high-volume sports or school photographer where you’re serving hundreds or thousands of clients at any given time, you’ll be able to make the customizable templates, layouts, visuals, client gallery experiences, and e-commerce options work in your favor. 

It’s all you need to thrive and stand out as a photographer, but please don’t take my word for it. Create that free trial if you haven’t already, and spend some time poking around your new account. Discover the refreshing reality that our team–many of whom are photographers themselves–have thought of everything you need to build and maintain that irresistible online portfolio: customizable templates, layouts and design tools to build a beautiful showcase for your images, a booking feature, unique and secure gallery customization, e-commerce options, and automated marketing tools–all to provide a streamlined, simply brilliant client experience. 

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Take the first step in elevating your photography business with Zenfolio. I can assure you that when you do, you’ll be met with a stellar community for additional tips and support via the fantastic Customer Experience team. If you feel like you might want a little more hand-holding while getting started, book a free 1:1 consultation with a Customer Success Specialist who can walk you through the process in a direct way that’s customized to answer your questions and meet your needs. Fancy yourself more of a “figure it out on your own” type of photog? Take a deep dive head first into the Support Center resources–you’ll undoubtedly find the help you need via one of the many tutorials, videos, webinars, or support articles that detail Zenfolio’s capabilities.


  • Elizabeth T

    Elizabeth has been with a camera in her hand since she graduated with her degree in Photojournalism from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2011. She currently lives in North Carolina, where she photographs Families, Births, and Newborns all over the state. Her work has been featured in various publications including The Fount Collective, Style Me Pretty Living, Southern Weddings Magazine, PDN, and Pursuit Magazine. She enjoys shooting Medium Format Film alongside digital, and when she’s not photographing families and little ones, she loves spending time outdoors with her husband, 6-year old twins, and 8-month old baby. 

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