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How to build an online photography portfolio website - The Photography Express

How to build an online photography portfolio website

photography portfolio website

Are you thinking of building a photography portfolio website but don’t know what to do? Are you struggling with the technical skills or don’t have the computer coding skill in order to build a portfolio website? If any of the above questions are in your mind then you are at the right place!

In this post I’m going to walk you through step by step on how to set up a “.com” website from scratch without any coding skills or software installed into your computer. These can all be done as long as you have an internet browser, internet connection, and roughly 30 minutes of your time (minus the time choosing design and domain name). Once your portfolio site is built you can customize it any way you want for your business needs.

Before going into the details this is solely my personal approach and I’m sure there are many internet gurus that do a much better job. However, the results are the same. You are going to have a website built and you are going to share your beautiful images to your clients and to the world!

Ok, Let’s jump into today’s topic!

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This is my photography portfolio website at www.garylun.com I am going to show you how to build a website like this right here in this blog post!

1) Hosting account

When I first started creating my own website I had no idea about website hosting. I thought I just have to pay somebody for the domain name (also known as URL) then everything is up and running. I was totally wrong.

If you are at this point, don’t feel bad I was in the exactly situation not long ago. So what exactly does a hosting account do?

It store your website online in the hosting company’s server.

Think of it as an email account. If you want to get Gmail you must first register with Google. Hosting account is like buying part of Google’s server space so that you can store your Gmail account (which is your website in this example).

There are way too many different hosting companies out there and I can spend an entire article describing the different companies later if you need. But for now I’m just going to recommend the one and only one hosting company you need:

Bluehost (this is the one I am using right now. In this very website you are reading). This is an affiliate link which means if you decided to go with Bluehost I’ll get a commission at no additional cost to you.

Sign up to the bluehost annual plan (it has a monthly fee) and you will need to choose a domain name before your application is complete. Which is the next step below.

2) Get domain name

Below is a quick summary from my experience in choosing a good domain name. Note: this is for a photography portfolio website only. It may not work as well if you are doing this for a blog or company website.

  • Use your name as the domain name. YourName.com should always be the #1 choice. This is similar to a doctor and lawyer; your name is your brand. You should also find this domain name easy to get (no one used it before) unless you have a very popular name.
  • Add photography as the domain name. If your name is already taken, add (youname)photography.com to see if it’s available. If this is also taken, try (yourname)photo.com
  • Use .ORG or .NET. This is your last resort. If nothing else is available use .org as the domain address. If this is also taken, try .net or other country’s domain such as .ca and .au etc. However, you should avoid those type of address as much as possible because they are a lot harder to be picked up by search engines.

Once you choose your domain name and finished the registration with Bluehost you should be able to get inside the C panel.

This is the place in Bluehost where you manage the website. This is NOT the place for writing content and posting pictures, this is the place for MANAGING the behind the scenes of your website account.

3) Install WordPress

WordPress is a content management system. It is the place where you add picture and new post to your website. This is also the place where you spend most of your time building the platform.

So how do you install WordPress to your hosting account (in this case Bluehost)?

install wordpress

The easiest way is to click on the ‘install wordpress’ icon just like the image above and follow the step. If you are confused check this video.

Now you have your hosting account and wordpress which means you have a website! You have now completed the most difficult part of building a photography portfolio website!

4) Install theme

Now to the fun part and that is to install and customize theme.

What is a theme? It’s basically like a template of your website where all the designs were done for you. You just need to add the content to the appropriate places.

There are lots of free themes to choose from in WordPress. However, as much as I want to save you money, this is NOT the place to go cheap and use free theme to set up your portfolio website.

Why? Because there is NO guarantee when the developer is going to stop updating this theme for you. Most of them work on these templates for free and I don’t want you to spend the time and end up with a design that may crash without support.

Now you question must be “where can I find a good theme?”

There are many many many too many places to go but I filtered out the best 3 for you below:

1) Themeforest

2) Wootheme

3) Studiopress

The current theme you see in this blog is purchased form Themeforest. I like it because it’s a one time (lifetime) purchase. For WooTheme and Studiopress you may need to pay annual fee in order to get their update and customer support.

The theme you see in my photography portfolio website is call “Core Minimalist Photography Portfolio” in Themesforest. You don’t need to follow mine and choose your own theme (You have many choices to choose from).

5) You are done!

The customization part of your theme vary depending on what theme you choose. Therefore, I am not going to the details here. If you need help you can always let me know in email or twitter me @thephotoexpress.

Congratulations! You now officially have your own website! Share it to your client and to the world!

Most common question: Why not other platforms such as squarespace?

What a great question and I knew this is coming!

If you are not familiar with squarespace (also many other similar companies) it is an excellent platform to build your photography portfolio website. It is easier to set up, get your domain name and your website going. You also get 24/7 customer support.

However, this is the catch…

If you are planning to keep your portfolio site longer than 1 year, build your own site using Bluehost and wordpress will cost less in the long run.

At the time I am writing this article Squarespace cost $8 per month for the most basic package. That includes theme, domain name, hosting fee, and limited 20 pages of galleries and blog post.

For WordPress it is $3.95 per month for hosting fee. A theme in themeforest cost an average $50, domain name annual registration cost $25. You get unlimited galleries, pages, sales pages etc.

Total 1st year cost for Squarespace is $96. WordPress is $122.4.

Total 2nd year cost for squarespace is still $96. But now WordPress dropped down to $72.4. 

Above is just rough math. Things could change here and there anytime. However, WordPress is going to save you around $24 per year if you are not planning to change theme in the short term.

Also, even though squarespace let you change theme anytime but I rather use wordpress because it let me customize my website anyway I want. I can add unlimited amount of blog post, galleries, sales page, and advertisements with no limitation. I rather have this feature than being able to choose more theme designs.

Above is just my personal opinion and choosing which service provider really depends on your situation. You are welcome to ask me questions anytime.

I hope you get a lot from this post and have the information/resources to build a portfolio website that you dreamed of. If you have any experience or comment you’d like to share with the community feel free to leave your message below.

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About Gary

A passionate photographer with goals to fulfill your photography passion and motivate you to take pictures even when life is busy!


  1. This truly is some great information for photographer’s looking to set up a photography portfolio! I wish I had this information when I was starting out!

    • Heather thank you for your kind words. Yes I wish I had this information when I was starting out that’s why I created this post. Really hope newer photographers can benefit from it. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Gary, I consider myself a pretty geek photographer. My day job is an interaction designer and I’ve been in the web design field for 18 years. Technologies change so fast. The days to code a static html website is long gone. This is a very well written article. You explained every single step in detail. I would forward it to any fellow photographers who want to build a portfolio, but don’t know where to start. For future inspirations, you may write another article for setting up a website and maintaining a website. I feel the setting up a website with the right hierarchy and content is the most important step and it could be the longest one. Maintaining and upgrading could also be time consuming and challenging.

    • Hi Lai, thank you! I’ll definitely take your suggestion to write an article on setting up and maintaining a website. Just like your said technologies are changing so fast these days so it’s going to help photographers who are struggling in this area. Also thank you for sharing this post to your fellow photographers. I greatly appreciate it 🙂 Have a great day Lai!

  3. wow these are great tips, what a wonderful resource for a Budding photographer or really anyone putting together a website!

    • Thanks Rochelle! Building a website is one of the most common struggle I heard from photographers. Hope this article is going to help as many people as possible 🙂

  4. Love the breakdown of cost between Square and WordPress! Totally agree with your opinion!

    • Thanks Eden! Yes I’m just going to be un-bias and go straight to the fact. Don’t want anyone to spin their wheels figuring what the best price etc. Glad you like that too!

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