Ask an Agent / Editing Images For Your Website
Ask an Agent is a regular monthly feature answering your questions about the business of photography– the photography industry’s first Agony Aunt! If you have any questions you’d like to ask a photographers agent please send them to email@example.com. Questions can be on anything to do with the photography business, such as photoshoots, marketing, professional practice, pricing, contracts, legal stuff – anything.
This month we had a question asking for advice on the best way to edit your online portfolio.
Dear Ask an Agent,
I need to give my website a bit of an update as I have shot a lot of new work recently. Can you give me some tips on editing my work? Is there any kind of formula you can recommend? I find it so hard to exclude images I’m a bit emotionally attached to even though they might not be my best shots?
Thanks for sending your question through.
When I first thought about answering this one I was going to say a lot of it is just an instinctive process. But thinking about it I guess I have developed a formula, albeit based on quite a few years of developing an understanding of what commissioners are looking for, and what is relevant to the briefs we get on a daily basis.
Looking at your website, I actually think the categories and sections work quite well so it’s just about giving the content a bit of a refresh, whilst bearing in mind that all the images should match certain criteria.
Firstly, what sort of photographer are you? Try and describe your photography in a couple of sentences. Bear in mind this should be based on the kind of work you want to be known for and hence want to be commissioned for. Is it uplifting lifestyle, emotive portraits or atmospheric landscapes, for example?
Secondly, what sets you apart from your competitors? This might just be a very subtle thing but enough to make your work distinctive. Interesting angles or punches of colour for example.
It’s amazing how an edit can change the whole picture, so it’s important to work out these two core prerequisites and keep them in mind when selecting the images to include. If you don’t the message will soon become weak and diluted.
If there are a lot of images to select from, use the ‘yes, no, maybe’ method initially to pare things down. If it’s not obvious to you whether an image should be in or out, imagine if you had to select only one to send out as a promo, would you consider this image? Is it good enough and representational enough? If the answer is no, don’t include it.
Next, start to think about a beginning, middle and end of the individual categories. Select the strongest images based on the two core criteria. You want to create an immediate impact and a lasting impression in each set of images. Commissioners (and agents) see loads of websites everyday, so it’s important to try and make things clear, succinct and memorable.
It’s easier to group the images in pairs or sets of four, or even six, from the same project or commission. Briefs from advertising and design agencies usually require more than a one off image, and seeing sets of images helps you remember the images and gives a more consistent feel.
It looks like you just need to add in your recent work and edit out some old work rather than a complete overhaul. So I suggest simply putting the new images at the beginning of the respective categories (portraits, lifestyle etc) with maybe some at the end to give a fresh, updated feel. If I was editing a website from scratch for a photographer just establishing themselves, or maybe for a photographer who has lost direction let’s say, I’d rather cut things right back so the photographer has gaps to fill, rather than include work that is not the strongest or not 100% your signature style. Best to be ruthless!
You want the message to hit home and make it clear what you can do and what you are about, but be careful not to get repetitive by including a lot of very similar images. Don’t show too many images at the same location with the same models, or still lives on the same backgrounds for example.
Juxtaposition and flow are important. Each image should lead naturally to the next. Images could be connected by colours, subject matter or tone for example. You could have an active, impactful start and then slow the pace down a bit, then pick it up, and so forth. Entice the viewer to keep clicking to the next image.
For a commercial website anywhere between 30 and 50 images is an acceptable number in the individual website categories.
Do mix personal work with commissioned work throughout your website, the work should all hold together as a consistent body of work whether it’s a commission or a personal project. A commissioner wants to be confident about what they are getting, whether you are shooting to their brief or it’s your own ideas. Your category called ‘recent work’ works well and you have some strong commissions, so hopefully you can add your recent commissions in here as well as spreading them throughout your website. I see so many photographers include images on their website just because they were commissions when sometimes they really aren’t their strongest work or even particularly representational of the photographers style and genre.
A well edited website is absolutely key to being selected for a job so always try to put yourself in the position of your potential commissioners. Hopefully this will give you a few pointers but if you are really stuck try to get a second opinion.
I spend a lot of time editing images and love that part of my job. As agents we are getting briefs coming in everyday and direct feedback from commissioners, so we are in a good position to see what images are sought after and what trends are current, or if any subtle shifts are evident. I also offer a limited number of portfolio and website reviews a month to photographers without agents, and can offer tailor made editing packages and further advice on websites if required.
To find out more about my portfolio reviews take a look here.
Whether you’re a creative director or a student, a photographer or a designer, an art buyer or an assistant, if you have any questions you’d like to ask a photographers agent please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll answer as many as we can!
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This advice should be taken as a guide only.
Lisa Pritchard, LPA and guest bloggers take no responsibility for any omissions or errors.
The images used in this article are for illustrative purposes only and do not necessarily correlate with specific facts or examples cited in the text.
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