If you are looking to shoot music, or looking to do another type of photography, a great portfolio is essential. Not only will an online site give you legitimacy when applying for jobs or assignments, it also gives you a way to curate how clients or potential clients find you online. Setting up a website of your work can take as little as an afternoon to do, and be an affordable next step towards legitimizing your photography business.


Understanding Hosting, Domain Names and Webbuilders

A photo portfolio essentially has three main components, and in many cases all three will come from the same provider. First, you will need server space or hosting, which is essentially where your images and website files are stored so they can be accessed online. Next, you will need a domain name, ideally “yourname dot come” or some variation of that. Finally, you will need a “web-builder” or system to manage your content, like Squarespace, WordPress or Wix. If you are building your first photo portfolio, you do not need to know any HTML, CSS or other coding languages.

A few platforms exist that allow you to purchase and manage all of these things at the same place. Squarespace, Wix and Cargo Collective are great examples of companies that have simplified the website building experience and allow you to complete the whole process in one place. While you may end up paying a bit more per year, the ease of use is second to none.

Take Squarespace for example — for about $120.00 / year, you can get a free custom domain, access to their easy to use website builder, and server space to store your images. Squarespace is a premium service, and you can use other options for about half-the-price per year, but it makes the process about as easy as possible.

If you want to save a bit, try using WordPress and buying a domain and server space through a platform like GoDaddy or Bluehost. This option still will simplify the set up, but also offer lower prices than an all in one option like Squarespace.


Do I Need A Custom Domain Name?

Unless you are very held back by budget restraints, the answer is yes. You can buy a custom domain for $10 or $15 per year, and it makes your portfolio seem much more legitimate. Sending an artist to “yournamephoto.com” rather than “yourname.tumblr.com” makes a big difference. If you are going to invest in one thing per year to legitimize your photo business, let it be a custom domain name.

If cost is a big concern, there are some platforms that are fairly barebones but perfectly legitimate that offer domains for very low prices. In some cases, you can even find offers for a free first year, or discounts when buying a domain for two or three years at a time. If you want a mix of good support, resources for set up, and ease of use, paired with low prices, consider Bluehost, Google Domains, GoDaddy and NameCheap.com. You will find that prices are all fairly similar across the board with these options.


What Should I Include In My Portfolio

Include enough photos so that your work and experience looks legitimate, but not so many that people will be overwhelmed. How do you do that? Well, its a balancing act and if you are a young photographer, it can be hard to find the right split. In most cases, try to just include one or two images from a single show in a portfolio, but also make sure that your portfolio has at least 12 or 15 images to show. Shooting a festival can be a great way to build up a portfolio fast.

It should be obvious, but your portfolio needs to be your absolute best images. If you are struggling to evaluate your own work, ask a friend with good taste! You also want your portfolio to show depth, meaning that you may want to shoot a few shows outside of your typical wheelhouse to have more options to include. Find a rapper to photograph if you typically shoot indie rock, or a singer-songwriter if you typically shoot EDM. Doing so will make you look more experienced, and show publicists that you are well-versed. Of course, you could also choose to specialize and only show images from a single genre, but know that doing so will pigeonhole you and mean you may only get access to certain shows. If you have enough work to do so, specializing images by genre on different pages of a site is a great way to get the best of both worlds. You could even split up work on two pages, “EDM” and “Live Acts” for example. Or, if you like shooting hip hop but also want to shoot festivals with rock or indie headliners, get a bit cheeky and label your galleries as “Rappers” and “Not Rappers”.

If you do portraiture or other types of work, put these in separate galleries as well. Consider using different portfolios for your music photography and your photography in other industries, especially if you do something like weddings or family portraiture that has a very different feel.



How To Prioritize Which Photos To Include

If you have enough work to really pick and choose, select images that will show the breadth of work you are able to cover, as well as images of the biggest talent you have photographed. For example, putting an image of Taylor Swift in your portfolio even if it is not your best shot, can show that you have been there before. You know what you are doing, have been in major photo pits, and won’t mess things up for other photographers.

At the same time, you will also want to include photos that are simply great aesthetically, even if the artist is not as well know. If you got a great shot of a smaller act, even if the publicist is less familiar with the specific talent, it is worth including because it will stand out.

Your portfolio also does not, and should not, just be images of artists on stage. Put a few images of crowds, festival grounds or other types of non-staged shots in a separate gallery or page to show that you are capable of this type of work too.


Anything Else To Include? 

A music portfolio should also include clippings or links to past published work if possible. Again, this legitimizes your work and gives the impression that you actually know what you’re doing.

You will also want to have your contact information and social profiles clear and easy to find. We recommend just putting your email in writing rather than having a contact form, which can break or can make someone less likely to contact you. If you have a domain name, you may also want to set up a custom email as well, like “taylor@taylorswift.com”, which again makes you look a bit more professional.