Where do I build my portfolio?

I see this questions again and again in the forums. “Where do I build my portfolio?”

There are so many places to choose from that the choice is simply mind boggling. As with so many things it really depends on what you want to use your portfolio for. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do I want to:

    • Sell photographs?
    • Book portrait sittings?
    • Make prints?

    • A canvas print, framed print and an art print.

      Prints and Greeting Cards

  2. What are the features I’m looking for?

    • Do I want a slide show or do I want static images?
    • Can I have control over who sees which images?
    • Am I selling from my site, do they have payment options for my clients or do I have to set that up myself?

  3. What are my associated costs?

    • Will a free site work for me?
    • Should I host my own site or use a subdomain?
    • If I have my own domain do I have to have a third party source to monetize my site?

    • NOTE:

      A subdomain is a site that is hosted under another sites domain name. For example: www.yourname.hostsname.com.

These are just a few of the questions you should be asking. Remember that you don’t have to have only one portfolio, you can separate your images depending on what you want to do with them. (I have several different portfolios for different kinds of images and different clients.)

Looking at the options.

So let’s look at a few of the options out there.

Pay Sites:

If you are a professional or serious photographer I suggest you look at these options first. Pay sites do a lot of your work for you. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is built in as are shopping carts for products, (but do watch their markup). Do your homework. Decide what you want. Set up an excel spread sheet with your must have options and then decide what’s best for you.


Again and again in customer service satisfaction surveys SmugMug comes in either first or second place. You can try them free for two weeks and then you have the choice of three levels of membership Basic, Power, and Pro. Starting at $40.00 a year and going to $150 (monthly payment options between $5 and $20) this site has all the bells and whistles.


Photoshelter and SmugMug usually battle it out for first and second place in the favorites game. They also offer a two week free trial and have three levels of membership basic, standard and pro. Photoshelter has a month to month option starting at $9.99 and going to $49.99


Also has a free 14 day trial period and you can upgrade to one of four plans. Their Basic Plus starts at just $30.00 a year, Unlimited at $60, Premium at $120, and Premium Business at $250.00 per year.

Start out for free with the option to upgrade.

So… by this time you’ve looked through some of the options and your mind is completely boggled. You love the look and feel of the paid sites but you don’t want to commit. There are good free sites out there. Don’t overlook sites that you already belong to. Don’t forget that you are not committed for life.

Yes that’s right, create your free Adobe account at Photoshop.com and you have also have a free web gallery with 2 GB of storage. You can upgrade later if you need more storage.


Have a LinkedIn account? You also have access to Behance.net create a free portfolio and show your work on LinkedIn.

Deviant Art and Deviant Art Portfolio

Deviant Art is a social site for artists and photographers where you can display and talk about your work. Aimed mostly at a younger crowd it does have a free portfolio site for members at Portfolio.DeviantArt.com.

Other sites to consider.

Fine Art America

Fine Art America sometimes gets overlooked by photographers. Start off with a free site and upgrade for only $30.00 a year. Sell your images and set your own price.
They have lots of tools at your disposal and the chance to interact with fellow photographers. A great place to start if you are on a limited budget.


Carbonmade is a nice easy to use site. When I first started out with graphic design this was the site I used. I still use the free version for demonstration purposes.

Sample of portfolio at Carbonmade
You get up to 5 portfolios and can use up to 35 images for free. Upgrade to 50 projects of 500 images and 10 videos for $12.00 a month.

What about Flickr and Picassa?

Absolutely have an account on both but don’t use either of them for your professional photography. Why because if you read the Terms of Service both Yahoo (Flickr) and Google (Picassa) have the right to do what they want with your publicly accessible files. So go ahead and make private albums to share with your family and friends, photo groups and clubs but keep control of any image you might want to use exclusively.

Conclusions or Confussion.

These are just a few of the options available, and I’ve mentioned them because either I am now or have in the past used their services, and because these are the sites that again and again come up in third party recommendations. What if none of these are right for you? You want to do your own thing and have total control. You’ve been told that WordPress, Tumblr, or Blogger are the sites to be on. Well next week I’ll look at the options for setting up your own site from scratch.

Footnote/Disclaimer: All prices quoted are in US Dollars and were correct on the 17 May 2012. It is the readers responsibility to check current pricing and terms of service.

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