Just say ‘No’ to Before Shots

July 5th, 2011   •   No Comments   

There was a fair amount of response to my last blog regarding my suggestion to remove ‘Before’ photos from your web portfolio, so I’m adding some follow-up comments here…

A professional portfolio gives viewers an opportunity to see your best work. The ultimate goal is for viewers to experience your style, depth of design detailing, and frankly, a guess at who your ideal client might be. They are asking themselves, ‘Is this designer right for us?’ You want the answer to be ‘Yes, Yes, Yes!’ In order to arrive at this answer, don’t confuse the viewer with a lot of explanation or irrelevant photography, just dazzle them with your brilliance. Projects with immature plants which are not well-focused or well-framed won’t send a professional message and, more often than not when coupled with ‘Before’ shots, further confuse your viewer.

‘Before’ shots do have a purpose. Consider adding a Case Study page to your website. This is the perfect opportunity to educate the viewer about your process. Use a STARs Analysis (Situation, Tasks, Action, Results) to explain your project methodology. Save your portfolio page for only your best work and use your beautiful detail shots for interesting inserts within your web copy.

Here are a few suggestions if hiring a professional photographer is not within your budget this year:

  1. Select gardens with mature plants. Resist the urge to use the photos taken immediately after installation. Wait a year or more if possible.
  2. Style each shot. A portfolio shot should be ‘magazine ready’ with mature plants, well-placed furniture, pillows, and potted plants. Maybe even a well-placed bottle of wine bottle and a couple of stemmed glasses are appropriate.
  3. Frame each shot so that the viewers eye moves in a ‘Z’ pattern across the image.
  4. Use a tripod.
  5. Shoot numerous shots and choose only the best. Use different exposures and angles to capture a mood or visual story.
  6. Add people to the shots whenever possible.
  7. Shadows should be soft. Schedule the photo shoot for a partly cloudy day. Shoot in early morning or evening for best results.
  8. Frame the photo with the rule of thirds: foreground, middle ground, background. Usually foreground or background is weighted heavier.
  9. Select photos that showcase all that you do (i.e. softscape, hardscape, and landscape amenities).
  10. Ask for constructive criticism from someone who doesn’t love you (i.e. someone who will tell you the truth).
  11. Read this article for more information on shooting like a pro.

Lastly, continue to compare your website portfolio with your competitor’s work so you understand what your clients might be seeing and can speak knowledgeably about your differences.

Now, go do good work!



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