Create great visuals for your portfolio

Updated: Oct 6


From scoping sessions to hours in front of the computer, we all spend a lot of time thinking and creating. With day to day business though, it is easy to prioritise new work over showcasing our past projects. If you would like to attract a different type of customer or simply more of them, updating your portfolio can be a great place to start.



OVERVIEW

  • Telling the story

  • Photographing your designs

  • Using mockups

  • Showreel secrets

  • Portfolio inspiration


Telling the story


Giving context to your work often helps clients understand the amount of work and thought that goes in to design. This will help attract serious clients who care about quality and see design as an investment.


The balance of text to images is up to you. Strong imagery can tell most of the story but in some cases, revealing the challenges and how they were overcome can help show your skill. Companies looking for designers often feels stuck and if they recognise themselves in the before scenario, they will need less convincing later on.


When telling the project story, incorporating real people and showing the end result can make the design more memorable. If you can, ask your clients if you can come by their store or office to take some photographs. Video testimonials is also one of the best ways to build trust.


Photographing your designs


If you design packaging, print or products that have a unique shape, photography is often the best way to showcase your work.


There are two main strategies, using a so called Beauty shot or photographing a scene. A Beauty shot showcases the item on a white background and is often used to show off details or to ensure the design is the hero. To achieve the white background, either use a backdrop that contrasts your design and remove it in Photoshop or use a light box to avoid shadows created by directional light.


Scenes often include a background, other items to set the mood and occasionally people. If you are comfortable with Photoshop, you do not necessarily need to capture everything in one shot. Below is an example of how two images were combined to create a cohesive scene.



Once you have taken your initial photos, create a proof sheet. It should include the top choices from your shoot in one place to allow you to compare them next to each other. This is especially helpful if you are collaborating on the project.


Some items like food are more complex to get right. Consider hiring a professional photographer who specialises in the area and be prepared with multiple copies of your design in case any get damaged.


Using mockups


If you are creating designs for online use, or if you are not comfortable with photography, mockups are a great way to show off your work.

You can create your own mockups, purchase pre made templates to edit or use an online service.


Making your own mockups gives you more control in the sense that you can choose the exact items and settings you would like to include. For a good guide to get started, have a look at this tutorial from PHLEARN.


If you use Adobe Creative Cloud, you will have access to Adobe Dimension CC. This is a software that allows you to create 3D mockups by placing your design on existing shapes such as boxes, bags or apparel. It is very intuitive and allows you to rotate the camera to showcase your designs from any angle. It also comes with a range of textures like metal or wood that you can apply to any shape. Many of the common items are included in the software but if you have special requirements, the Adobe stock store also provides more options for purchase.



If you don’t have the time to invest in creating your own mockups, there are a range of free and paid options. This is a great alternative for concept meetings when you need to show the context of your design without investing too much time. Here are some great places to get started:

Free mockup from ceacle.com

Ceacle

Creative market

Creative booster


All of the above alternatives require you to use some form of software, typically Photoshop to create your mockups. If this is not an option, you can try an online mockup generator. Here are some options:


Place it

Smartmockups

Mockuper


Showreel secrets


A showreel is a great way to showcase a variety of work and video in general generates more traffic than static images.


Before you get started, consider your target audience and set an intent. Some studios decide to only show designs while some also include shots of their people and process. If you will be meeting with clients in person, it could be good for them to get a feeling for how you will be to work with. If all your projects are over email, perhaps focusing on the end result makes more sense. A showreel is essentially an ad for your business and you can also consider including a video testimonial.


How can you make static designs work in a video format? This is something many designers struggle with and you want to avoid feeling like you are having a slideshow. There are a few great tricks to use to make your showreel feel more dynamic.


  • Play with timing. All items of a scene do not need to appear at once.

  • Use text to create sections in your showreel

  • Use different perspectives and zooming to create the appearance of motion

  • Time changes and movement with your music

  • If you need more movement, consider branding short stock videos

Studio Visuale and Salad creative have both incorporated these techniques and are a great source of inspiration to get you started.


Portfolio inspiration


Portfolios are ultimately a reflection of your skill, but first and foremost need to appeal to your target audience. Consider mixing close ups, settings, people and process photos to show variety and give depth to your site. Using gifs for a few of your project thumbnails can also help draw the eye around the page. Have a look at these sites if you feel stuck or in the mood for some inspiration.


Lotta Nieminen Studio

Toyfight

Jane Song

Root Studio

Pollen

Bleed


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