Presentations: Photo Portfolios with WordPress


I presented this talk at the third Vienna WordPress Meet-up. Unfortunately we didn’t record a video of the presentation but you can follow the script for every slide. Enjoy!

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My name is Luca Sartoni, I’m a marketing manager, photographer and blogger. In the last few years I published about 200 pictures per month and at the moment I have 11 thousand pictures published on Flickr.

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One of my latest project is Heisenberg Media, a cooperative photography project that I started with my friend Dan Taylor.

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As online marketer I cannot understand why photographers are making the same mistakes that the music and film industry made 20 years ago, trying to fight against theInternet economy, failing big times. The music industry finally accepted the new reality and Spotify is one of the examples of this revolution. Unfortunately photographers are unable to learn the lesson and still now are doing it wrong. With this presentation I’ll explain why WordPress is the best choice for online portfolios and how photographers can take advantage of the new opportunities offered by the Internet.

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Let’s say you are a photographer or a visual artist and you want to display your images online. Why would you do that? This is the first question to ask yourself. If the answer is not “to show my art to a wide audience and get opportunities out of it” just don’t do it. If you want to have a private place where only a selected minority of people can see your stuff don’t go online: print a paper portfolio. It’s beautiful, it’s much more rewarding and people will love it. Internet is not for you.

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But if you take your stuff online do it with the purpose of getting traffic, exposure, interaction with your visitors. To do so you have to make sure that your content is easy to find, easy to share, easy to discuss. Having a private website is liking having a car without wheels. Yeah but I have to go nowhere. Fine, don’t buy a car then.

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When you decide to open an online photo portfolio you have two main choices: sign up for a ready made service or develop it from scratch.

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On one hand Facebook, Google+, 500px, Flickr and similar websites are very easy to use, on the other having your custom made portfolio can offer much more flexibility in terms of look and feel, but it’s definitely more expensive and difficult to maintain. Image credits: Spadgy on Flickr

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Let’s have a look at some example of ready made services that can be used as online portfolios

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Facebook is very easy to use and having your friend base as audience is definitely a win. Unfortunately it’s damn ugly and pictures look really bad on it. Sometimes they are resized and they loose quality, the look and feel is really not enhancing your art.

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On Facebook all the pictures are displayed the same way. There is no room for personalization.

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Images look great on Google+ unfortunately there is no audience there. You cannot even have a vanity URL to put on your business card.

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As a general rule, ready made services are not customizable and they can be frustrating if you want to provide a special experience to your visitors.

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The alternative is to develop a custom made portfolio. If you have coding skills you can to it yourself, otherwise you can hire a developer or a design firm to complete the task. This can be seriously expensive in terms of time and money.

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One of the risks of coding your own portfolio site is to try to be pixel perfect on every aspect of it. The very same level of detail that you put in your art tend to be put into your portfolio site. Remember that is not the frame around your picture that will define your art and a portfolio site is just a way to present it. It needs to be good enough, perfection does not belong to the online world.

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Is there anything that can be easy to use like Facebook, G+ or flickr and powerful and customizable like a self developed portfolio site? Yes: WordPress

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For the purpose of this presentation there is no difference between (self-hosted) or (SaaS).

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On WordPress we can choose on of the thousand themes available. Many of them are for free. Many others are commercial. Pick one that you like and stick to it.

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Just find a theme that is matching what you want to express with your images. If you don’t like it, change it!

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Awesome featuresWordPress is also offering amazing features for image manipulation, organization and distribution.

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For instance if you develop your own website and you optimize it for 1024×768 with all of your pictures perfectly resized and then you want to increase your resolution in order to be gorgeous on retina displays, you will probably have to start all over because your pics are too small. With WordPress you can be future proof on this matter.

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With Photon, a feature offered by default on (and available with Jetpack on you can upload your images in full-res and use the plugin to resize the images on-the-fly. Photon is also taking care of the distribution, offering a powerful CDN for your pictures for free. Isn’t it amazing?

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The very same result can be done using Flickr as image repository and embedding it on your pages/posts. You can also go for more complicated solutions based on Amazon Web Services like S3 or CloudFront. They are more sophisticated but definitely more expensive.

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I also want to give you three tips, not necessary technology related, to enhance your online presence as photographer. There we go!

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Keep your workflow as simple as possible. Stick to standards. Don’t reinvent the wheel.

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You don’t need 75 different widgets on your sidebar, you don’t need fancy transitions for your photo galleries, you don’t need anything more that a standard theme can offer you. Start very simple and eventually evolve. Go live with your portfolio as soon as possible. Don’t wait for it to be perfect. As already said: “perfection does not belong to the online world”.

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If you want to have a portfolio just for you and your close friends don’t go online. Print it on a very expensive paper, make a photo book: it’s much better. If you go online you need traffic and circulation of your content.

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WordPress is offering all the tools you need to become popular. Just use them properly!

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With just two features available by default on (and with JetPack on you can automatically share your posts on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and many other distribution platforms like Pinterest. Take advantage of it!

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Being online requires to adapt your attitude to the environment. Being open is very necessary if you want to have the chance to be seen and followed.

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Don’t kill the chances you have to become popular, keeping yourself from the biggest opportunity for an artist: being remixed. Let other people remix your art. Yes you loose a bit of control but at the same time you can take advantage of other people’s contribution to enhance your visibility.

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Maybe’s time to rething your licensing if you decide to embrace the online world. How can you expect people to reshare your work and promote your art if you clearly state “ALL RIGHTS RESERVED” on every single picture, on every single page of your portfolio?

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“All rights reserved” means literally “all rights reserved”. Therefore people cannot share your pics, cannot use them on their websites for any purpose, cannot use their channels to promote your work. There is not a single reason to limit other people’s willing to help you. Rethink your attitude and your licensing!

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Creative Commons offer you a complete set of license that can protect your intellectual property without cutting you off the online world of opportunities. Have a look at them!

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I recently switched my photo portfolio to WordPress and I’m very happy.

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Not only my personal photo work in on WordPress. Heisenberg Media, our commercial project is running on WordPress as well!

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WordPress is a win. Always!

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Do you have any question regarding this topic? ask me on twitter @lucasartoni or write me at Don’t forget to drop a comment!

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Thank you very much!

Check out this presentation on Slideshare.