What makes the best client photo galleries? (Full guide)
If you are reading this article, you probably are a professional photographer or videographer regularly delivering images or video clips to your customers.
You might have used online file transfer services but found them a bit unprofessional, or too limited. Or you might want to sell your work online to those clients?
A proper platform for client photo galleries is a fundamental tool for the working pro, and this guide will break down what it should offer and how, so that you can truly reap its benefits.
When creating client photo galleries, you are faced with dozen of choices and it is easy to drown in the details. This guide is about keeping in mind the big picture and helping you focus on what matters to you and your work.
First and foremost, what should you try to achieve? What are the main benefits you should target?
This key question is what should drive everything, from your choice of platform to how you setup and use it.
In essence, client photo galleries help you achieve three objectives:
- Make an impression on your clients
- Simplify your life
- Help you earn more
Let’s dig into these benefits in turn and what they mean in the context of client galleries.
Make an impression on your clients
You’ve got the job already. You’re paid to produce images the client is happy with, not to got out of your way to look particularly good or professional. Right? Perhaps - if you’re not planning to continue working for a long time.
For most photographers though, an assignment is also a new sales opportunity:
- You might want the same client to hire you again in the future - it is much easier to turn a client into a repeat customer than to get a new client. It’s a no-brainer for corporate photographers. If you’re a wedding photographer, chances are that repeat business is not the main target, but after all, people still remarry more and more often…
- Word of mouth is the best marketing: you want the client to speak highly of you to other potential clients and recommend you.
That is why you want to try to exceed the clients’ expectation, and online photo galleries can play a significant role.
In fact, we know of photographers that were hired because they happened to show their client galleries to prospective clients when pitching their services - the client was that impressed by the service offered.
The best client photo galleries go a long way into wowing clients and reinforce your image of a top-class professional who cares for quality and details.
Conversely, dumping images to a client over a file-sharing service is a wasted opportunity.
Champagne tastes better in crystal glasses
Regardless of how good your work is, it will always look better when its presentation is well thought of.
To provide a unique overall experience and to make sure their customers enjoy what they paid for, some photographers organize for them private viewing sessions where they project the commissioned images on a large screen.
Without going to this extreme, it is doubtless helpful to make sure that your client galleries nicely enhance the photos and videos you produced.
What does it mean in practice?
It is nowadays luckily easy to find online gallery tools that look good, and the main thing is that their design stay out of the way and let the work do the talking.
It’s hard to go wrong with minimalist designs, plenty of white space, and large images.
It is important to keep in mind that you want to make an impact through your work, not your website design. The more unique your website design is, the more it risks being difficult to use and that it becomes a distraction.
Assignments can vary in nature, and it is important that you can style individual galleries (or groups of galleries) in different ways depending on the client.
For instance, private individuals might enjoy large thumbnails and full-screen slideshows, while corporate clients will prefer a more utilitarian interface.
People need to be reminded of your brand
Client photo galleries are a great opportunity to reinforce your brand.
And that is very important for future work: clients might remember your images, but that isn’t so helpful if they don’t remember your name or where to find you online.
So make sure that your client galleries work for your brand and your identity: a prominent and distinctive logo, careful choice of colors and typography, and an Internet address (URL) under your own domain name.
You’re not hired (just) to shoot pictures
You don’t judge a restaurant just by its food. Things like how pleasant the room is, how nicely the personal treats you, and how long you have to wait between dishes are all part of the experience you’re paying for.
Photo galleries are like a restaurant: clients should find “the meat“ (your work) and its presentation attractive, and they should also feel comfortable and treated well. In practice, this means that the following matters:
- Galleries, images and pages should load fast;
- Everything should work perfectly on mobile too, especially when serving private customers;
- The selection / ordering / downloading / purchasing process, whatever it is your clients are meant to do on your website, should be intuitive and polished;
- The helpful features should be available, the unnecessary ones should be hidden: for example, it might be very useful to allow people to comment or rate images in some client proofing galleries, but not in others. Once again, flexibility of the platform is key to easily customize the experience to different clients and projects!
“That was easy” is as valuable a praise as “what a great shot”!
Simplify your life
The actual client galleries are just the tip of the iceberg. It is equally important that the platform used to create them fits you, as it is an essential tool you will be using frequently, perhaps daily.
Creating photo galleries for clients shouldn’t be an additional burden. It should be part of your workflow, make you more efficient, and reduce rather than add stress.
The best client galleries platforms:
- integrate with your existing workflow;
- help centralize things to reduce the number of apps and systems you use.
An optimized workflow
If it is well integrated with your workflow, uploading images and videos into the client galleries should be seamless.
If you normally use Lightroom to catalog and edit images, you should be able to easily synchronize with the client galleries from within Lr. If you organize images in subfolders on your computer, you should be able to synchronize the folders on the gallery platform. If you shoot time-critical events, you might want to upload directly by FTP from the camera to the client gallery.
In some more complex cases, automation features could help you automatically get the right images into the right galleries.
Your workflow should be just that - a flow. Having to do the same things twice (like creating subfolders or captioning images) in different places increases the risk of errors and stress.
And of course, once a client has selected images, they shouldn’t need you to re-upload those images elsewhere for sending/download.
This applies also to images that need editing or retouching before delivery: when you create a photo gallery for the client to select a few files to retouch among hundreds, it should not only be easy for the client, but also for you to replace the selected/ordered files by the final ones prior to delivery, all through the same platform.
It is essential that your client proofing tool works well for your normal way of working, but it also should work for some less-frequent cases you might face. Client projects sometimes come in all shapes and sizes and in the long run, flexibility is key!
Streamlined admin work
A good client photo gallery platform not only lets you easily upload and deliver files, but also helps with the day-to-day followup of assignments and clients.
And a lot of it is in the details.
For example, the list of orders placed by clients should help you see at a glance if a payment or a delivery is pending some action. The platform should help you see if clients have accessed a protected gallery, when they’ve logged in, what they’ve downloaded, etc…
If you sell through your website (and we’ll get back to this in a moment), you want a tool that also lets you issue regulatory receipts/invoices automatically and export data easily for book-keeping.
The objective is both to better support your clients when needed, and to keep things centralized so that rely as little as possible on disconnected tools like Excel workbooks for notes and follow-up.
Appropriate security, easily
You must be able to easily protect client images from both viewing and downloading. Confidentiality is important for corporate clients, but also for private customers, especially if images of children are involved, and it might be required by law.
The platform should allow for different kinds of protections. Sometimes just hiding a client gallery from public view (and sharing a secret link without additional authentication) is enough, sometimes robust access control is required and galleries should be protected by individual client logins.
If screen captures may be a problem, security also means being able to automatically watermark images in the galleries, without affecting delivered files.
You must be confident that your proofing galleries are secure. The platform should also make it easy for you to manage the security of galleries flexibly, and keep you sleeping well at night!
No maintenance burden
Making your life easier and keeping your peace of mind also means a platform that is frequently updated, without you having to even think about it.
Obsolete systems, or ones that require that you manage their maintenance (for example self-managed WordPress setups) open the door to wasted time, and more importantly, to security issues with potentially adverse consequences.
Earn more through additional sales
The best client photo galleries help you earn more simply by reinforcing your professional image and your branding, and therefore helping get new clients.
It goes well beyond that when you sell your work on your website -- and that is something to consider even if you charge a flat fee for the session / shot.
For example, if you shoot weddings or portraits, you might sell a package that includes the session and a certain number of digital images. In addition, you might also sell additional downloads or prints at a per-image cost or as new packages, but purchased after the shoot.
If you do corporate work, selling additional downloads (i.e. rights to additional images or video clips) on top of the initial assignment fee can be lucrative. The initial fee might include a few images, but the client might need more, now or in the future.
Going even further, if you keep working with the same client, you could host a photo library for him when they are able to download previously licensed files, but also order (and pay for) new ones. In some cases, the library itself might be something the client might be willing to pay for.
In all cases, those additional sales are much more likely to happen if purchasing online is made very easy for the client.
Supporting different ways to sell
Here again, the client gallery platform should allow you to sell in multiple ways, and that is especially crucial if you work with different kinds of clients. It should allow you to:
- sell individual files as both downloads in different sizes and prints on different supports (ideally with automated fulfilling);
- sell images and videos;
- sell services for individual files, like retouching / editing, with a delivery workflow that is smart enough to allow you to manage the whole process though the platform;
- sell packages of multiple files and create discount coupons as ways to increase sales;
- sell complete galleries at once;
- send ad-hoc quotations and invoices.
Beware of sales commissions!
If you sell more than occasionally, make sure your client gallery provider doesn’t take any commission on your sales. Not only is it a questionable practice, it also eats up very significantly your own profitability.
Payment providers take commissions, at that is largely unavoidable if you wish to integrate payments in the online workflow. On the other hand, if your gallery platform is also able to handle offline payments in a clean way (checks, bank transfers), it provides additional flexibility and helps avoid payment commissions altogether when timing is not critical, while keeping the delivery integrated and professional.
Dedicated client photo galleries can do a lot for your business, in ways basic portfolio websites or file sharing platforms can’t.
By making you look good and reinforcing your brand, they help delight your clients and get new business. They make your life easier so you can same time and focus on what matters. Finally, they provide opportunities to better monetize your work.
But not all gallery platforms are created equal, and it is essential that you pick one that adapts to your way of working and integrates to your workflow. The flexibility it may (or may not) provide is a key long-term criteria, especially considering that clients and shoots come in different shapes and sizes!
Since 2010, PhotoDeck has been helping professional photographers and videographers work better and save time.
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