If you’re a freelance photographer, you need a great portfolio.
Thankfully it’s easy create your own website and launch it online using WordPress.
But this still comes with a learning curve and a few important decisions. Most notably, how will you display your photos so they’re easy to browse? And what features do you need for a great photography portfolio?
A while ago I covered design trends for photography portfolios, but I never got into resources to replicate these designs. So let’s dive into the best resources for photography sites and look at how you can launch your own portfolio ASAP.
The very first thing you should look into is finding a great theme. This defines how visitors see your website and how they interact with the content.
You can browse through free WordPress themes for photographers, but some of these are more suited for photography than others. If you want to pack a punch with your site then take a look at these photography-centric portfolio themes.
Azalea comes with a bunch of different homepages ranging from masonry grids to full-size background headers. Right away this gives you options on how you want your website to look.
But this theme also comes with features specially-made for photographers. You can design portfolio pages around past clients and even create albums from specific photos shoots.
Each photo gallery comes with a dynamic lightbox effect where photos load dynamically without refreshing the page. It offers a real smooth user experience which is perfect for any creative professional.
Plus the theme even comes with two premium plugins for free included with the price. You get Slider Revolution for image rotation and the Visual Composer for drag & drop editing.
By far one of the best photography themes you’ll find, and with the two included plugins this thing is a steal.
The Napoli theme is exceptionally minimalist relying on white backgrounds and black text for strong contrast. This is standard for photography themes so most visitors will expect something like this for your design.
Napoli also comes with a handful of homepage styles including a fullscreen slider, album thumbnails, and a blog-style homepage.
With over a dozen unique gallery styles you also have a lot of control over how photos display on the page. Photographers want unique features on their site but also want to create a usable experience.
With Napoli you get the best of both worlds and a clean responsive layout to boot.
Surprisingly the Vega theme dates back quite a few years and it’s still updated every few months. This theme is fantastic for an all-around portfolio site that needs a lot of features.
You can setup your own blog, different photo galleries, slideshow pages, and your own online shop using WooCommerce.
On the backend you can make your own private galleries to share with clients using passwords. This is perfect for showing final project work before releasing the full images.
And this theme comes with a custom content builder so you can restyle this layout with zero coding knowledge.
Some photographers like the vertical sidebar navigation placed alongside the main page. It’s one of the most common layouts for photography sites and Bow matches this style brilliantly.
It’s also fully responsive and uses the white/black color scheme for high contrast. The on-page photo galleries don’t use animations which is great if you prefer a speedy user experience.
And this is definitely one of the simpler portfolio themes since it doesn’t come with as many options compared to others. The Bow theme works for anyone who just wants to get a simple website online to showcase their photos.
View more photography WordPress themes
Portfolio Slideshow Plugins
Sometimes premium portfolio themes won’t make sense and you’ll opt towards a free theme instead. And that’s totally OK!
But the vast majority of free WordPress themes do not support galleries by default.
In this case you’ll need to get a nice portfolio/slideshow plugin to add photos onto your homepage. There are tons of plugins that do this but here are my top two recommendations.
I used the Huge-IT Portfolio plugin with my old portfolio site and it was so easy to use. Out of the box it comes with dozens of options from custom album grouping to photo details like alt/title tags.
You can even style how the gallery should appear on the page changing the rows/columns and image thumbnail sizes. The entire thing works on a drag & drop interface so anyone can learn to use this plugin.
It does have an optional pro version but the free plugin offers more than enough for any basic photography gallery.
Easy Photography Portfolio
This live demo runs on the Twenty Seventeen theme so you could just install WordPress and use the default theme with this plugin. Works like a charm and wouldn’t cost you a dime.
Every slideshow gallery is fully responsive and each photo is touch-enabled so users can swipe around the gallery with ease. This is a nice free plugin and it fits perfectly on any new photography portfolio site.
Custom Contact Form
Every portfolio website needs a contact page. This is the only way clients can reach out and inquire about your services, and without clients you don’t make money!
You’ll want a simple and easy contact page that encourages people to send messages, but also lets you customize the design without any coding skills.
The plugin that fits this to a tee is Contact Form 7.
It’s a completely free plugin and it’s one of the most popular contact forms for WordPress.
It does support custom HTML/CSS code but you can also build your contact page with the visual editor. These forms work best on a single contact page supporting as many fields as needed.
But you may also want something like the Ninja Kick Form plugin which adds a floating contact box on the side of the screen for each page. This way people can send you messages from any page on your site at the click of a button.
This works more like a “request order” form so it’s a great plugin to try if you’re trying to increase client outreach.
But it can also detract from the experience of your gallery so this won’t work for every portfolio site.
If you do professional photography then you absolutely need an Instagram. This works like a mini-portfolio and brings your work to people all over the world.
Once you’ve been posting on Instagram for a while you might want to embed those photos onto your portfolio website. There are a couple plugins I recommend for this and they’re both easy to setup.
Instagram Feed works like a full gallery of your IG photos. It lets you filter based on hashtags or locations so you can even build custom feeds for different pages.
All images are pulled right from Instagram and the gallery is fully responsive. It’s also touch-enabled so mobile users can swipe through your photo gallery on smartphones and tablets.
This is by far the most complete in-page IG gallery plugin you’ll find. It supports 16 languages and can even pull from multiple accounts with different filters for each one.
But if you’re just looking for a simple IG embedded widget then Instagram Widget plugin is a little simpler.
This adds a small IG profile item onto your portfolio site anywhere that supports widgets.
With this profile badge you can show all photos or just certain hashtags from your profile. It works just like a small Instagram webapp embedded right into your page so it gives visitors full access to your IG account.
Both are great options and it just depends how much you want to promote your IG photos locally on your website.
Crafting Your Site
If you start with the right WP theme you should have more than enough features for a great photography website.
Just remember to keep the user experience first and to place yourself into the minds of your clients. What would they be looking for on your portfolio? If you can find a theme that offers a great experience you’ll be sure to land more projects and draw more attention to your photography work.
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This article was inspired by a question in our forums from a photographer in Melbourne, Australia.