OpEd: The Portfolio Magazine

Normally when photographers announce a redesign of their website I don’t really bother unless I know them personally. Usually the design will follow a standard template – main photograph in the center, navigation on the left, top or bottom.  But when Andrew Hetherington announced his update I was a bit more curious because he’s done some innovative things on the web with his blog and such.  So I checked it out, and immediately the new layout caught my attention.  It was a hybrid of a standard portfolio site and a blog.  And I thought it was brilliant.

What came to mind was that it looked and felt more like a magazine featuring his work than a standard, stale portfolio site.  The scrolling features gave the instant impression of activity, of a photographer that was producing new work frequently.

That impression is important, in fact it’s enormously important.  Most of the time the recent work is buried a few clicks away, but here on Andrew’s site, it’s right there. We know immediately what he’s been up to.  For photo editors this has to be a dream.

I was talking about this with James over the weekend, and he thought it was certainly good for commercial photographers.  I said, it would also be good for documentary and fine art photographers.  Again, it shows immediately that you’re actively producing work.  I know most photographers have blogs where they update their audience on current work, but again, they’re sometimes buried, and in many cases infrequently updated which can actually send the wrong impression.

Andrew’s approach eliminates the need for an infrequently updated blog, or even a news page.  Could this work for someone who blogs more frequently? I’m not sure. Andrew tackles that problem by having a separately branded blog, ‘What’s the Jackanory?’ that’s more frequently updated with his day to day production.

Perhaps I’m making too much of this or maybe I’m just unaware of other sites that have done this but I think this approach is on the money, and I suspect we’ll see more photographers move in this direction.  Too many photographer’s websites feel static. I don’t think that’s the type of impression you want to send out to your audience or clients.  I’ve been calling this ‘The Portfolio Magazine’ approach because ‘portfolio blog’ just doesn’t seem to fit. ‘Portfolio stream’ might be another way to describe it.

Whatever you want to call it, I think its a sign of what’s to come.

  • http://www.stuartleech.com Stuart Leech

    I think you might be partly right about the concept but I don’t think AH’s site demonstrates that.

    His site has a professional blog as the homepage and a typical static portfolio attached.

    I find going to that website painful because all I want to see is images (like a PE would I guess) and the navigation is not instinctive. It also hasn’t been updated for over a month so that part of the argument has fallen down.

    I don’t see what differentiates from his website to a regularly updated portfolio website with a blog of work attached, as far as I can see its just that its the first thing you browse to. It’s different to the norm for sure but I don’t think it actually translate to anything in the real world.

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  • http://bryanformhals.com/ Bryan Formhals

    I’m sure he’ll address the flash issue, that’s really just software. What he’s done with the design is change the philosophy of portfolio sites.

    You don’t need to be verbose to pull this off, not at all. In fact the visual impression is what’s important. The layout.

    I’m pretty much willing to bet that within 2 years we’ll scoffing at the old days when people had static portfolio sites. The web is about the stream these days, and that’s reflected in just about every news website you see these days.

    There’s no reason working photographers shouldn’t embrace this. In fact, I think they’ll have to if they want a sustainable career.

  • http://waxyphotography.com Waxy

    I think you’re pretty much on the mark. I like the design though Hetherington’s reliance on Flash, if that’s what he’s using for his galleries, it likely problematic given the Apple-Adobe war and the release of the iPad.

    As someone who has been fighting with his own re-design, as you know, I would like to go in the ‘zine direction. That said, Andrew Hetherington is verbose in both words and pictures and even video. Thus, I’m not sure every photographer can manage a magazine styled approach… even if it is the way to go.