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Friday, 04 February 2011


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We've just spent some time reconsidering a number of images for our website portfolio Mike, and couldn't agree more. We do receive positive feedback from our clients on the website, but very few comment on the specific images that appeal to them, or more importantly, the ones that don't.

Our best source of feedback comes from wedding fairs, when people generally haven't yet seen our website, and the sample albums and framed photos we present are often their first taste of our photography. As our experience of these fairs progresses, we are beginning to pinpoint particular photos that will appeal, and those that won't!

In a web gallery I'll bet you could learn a lot from how long people spent looking at each page and when they stopped paging through.

Cleverly-coded gallery pages should be able to tell you that (he said airily, not intending to write them himself).

To be fair, on the internet it is fairly straightforward to keep track of how many times a photo has been viewed -- with a potentially very larger sample of viewers.

Also, contrary to the rather constrained linear format of a drop-off portfolio, it is possible to tailor what you show to the reactions and choices of your visitor. This is essentially what recommender systems do on many commercial sites. (There is an entire area of research devoted to that!)

It is actually unfortunate that many photographers websites work hard to replicate the rather limited experience of a traditional portfolio viewing instead of taking advantage of what the medium has to offer...

A big downside with web presentations is that you never know what the viewer is really seeing. How many of them have a carefully set up or even calibrated display. Maybe folks who most often review portfolios are aware of these issues...

Google analytics? Not personal but will tell you something about your sticky pics.

Multiple websites? One for your wedding work, one for your architectural work and another for your studio portraits? Just a thought. Still doesn't fix the feedback problem though.

Interesting. One needs a website, but the business that comes from it barely covers the work and expense, for me.

I still do far better by in person contact, and the latest "proposals" I'm involved in have involved multiple personal meetings. Lots of hand holding. Not only feedback on the product, but on the person; hmmm, maybe I need a little more of me on the site?

Good observation, that has given me something to think about. How to make the etherwebs "personal", other than blobbing.

Google analitics provides information on which shots are being viewed the most, but the website navigation may bias this in multiple ways. It also is not feedback in the same sense, but it does count for something...
Flickr pro accounts provide similar information... I'm just say'in ;-)

what makes one not to stripe his web-portfolio into parts and partitions? And all that feedback-comment-rating systems can easily be implemented nowadays.

Though I do agree that even having your web-portfolio categorized into "just under 150" parts you might not get to know what to show to a potential client if it comes from a search engine (or from a link his friend sent him).


Good web analytics can tell you a lot about what people like/don't like. Look at the time that people view each image. Images that are getting longer viewing times on average reflect higher interest. If you're using individual pages for each image you can also see which ones are being bookmarked more often. Another good strategy is to add a Share This widget to each image page. Users can email a link to friends or share on social networks, plus you get excellent tracking on a per image basis. More shares = more interest.

I might gently remind folks that pros don't care what PEOPLE like. Pros care what BUYERS like. The feedback you get from an unregulated website audience might or might not tell you anything about what art directors and editors like and dislike.


If there was a way to count hit rate per photo...or perhaps if it were a business tradition that everyone would provide a small thumbnail for download below each photo, each with an embedded contact info, like a business card, which editors could collect & file. Then one could count which photos are downloaded the most...
Maybe this is too simplistic. Just thinking.

In theory, web sites ought to be great ways to generate lots of feedback. But my experience is the comments are too sparse to be anything but random. When somebody posts that they love a particular image I usually have to guess what they liked about it. And the comments are "drive bys." I always comment back my thanks but I've seldom had any further response. And there are no faces to read, no body language or tones of voice to appreciate.

I'm no expert, but I'm sure someone could write a bit of time-keeping code that monitors how long website visitors spend looking at individual images. That would be of some use, surely. Obviously, for those who rely on slideshows (which I detest, btw), it would be worse than useless, and no doubt some IP adresses would block the timer in some way, but I think the usefulness might outweigh the drudge of trolling the raw data every week or so to see what's catching peoples'eyes.

Just my $3.50 (allowing for inflation.)

Mike, have you thought of putting all your thoughts on portfolio assembly and website presentation into one place? I'm always struck by how useful all this writing is and would love to be able to point students to a place where they could buy a little book or e-book. I'll bet I'm not the only one who feels this way.

Mike, this is all part of the deplorable commoditization of photography. It's why stock photos pay so little. It's why you can see billboards with photos taken apparently with a cheap point-and-shoot set to low res by an amateur and with shockingly nasty color.

It's the client taking offense to "being sold" and preferring an anti-social "relationship," instead of getting to know who they are paying, like an HR wonk sifting through stacks of resumés to fill a cubicle. Maybe that's too harsh, but then again, bad habits have a way of becoming accepted norms.

This stuff comes down to budgets, I'd wager. The AD has no budget, either in terms of time or money, and has to find Generic Photographer X by Tuesday.

Dear Kemula,

Take my word for it, most real-life clients, including art directors and curators, do not have controlled nor calibrated viewing conditions. Sigh and double-sigh.

I really doubt I'm much worse off with online viewing of my portfolio.

pax / Ctein

Mike -

In regards to your comments about wanting to know what BUYERS like versus general audience that shows up on your site - this is very solvable. Set up a password protected site and hand out individual logins for each potential buyer you give your e-portfolio to. Then look at the web analytics for that user.

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