How to build a photography portfolio website

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Create an online photography portfolio

Ready to build a photography portfolio website? Use a free photography website template and follow the steps below to get started.

Step 1. Getting started

Set your goal

Set the goal for your photography website and ask yourself, why do you need a photography portfolio website? Is it to:

If you answer yes to any of the above then a SmugMug photography website is exactly what you need. 

Sign up

Sign up to start creating your photography portfolio website with SmugMug, try it free for 14 days. Credit card details are not required. 

Step 2. Upload photos

Upload to SmugMug

To build a photography portfolio website with SmugMug you need to upload your photos to a SmugMug gallery. Then you can easily add the photos onto the website.

How to choose images for a photography portfolio

A few tips for choosing the right photos for your photography portfolio.

It is easy to upload photos into a SmugMug gallery, just hit upload and upload your photos. You don’t need to limit yourself to uploading just your photography portfolio images. This is because with SmugMug you can also store an unlimited amount of photos and videos online within the SmugMug galleries, and raw files too if you add on SmugMug source to your plan .  
I have a full video Upload to SmugMug on my tutorials page >

Step 3. Check contact information

Once your photos are uploaded. 
Next check your contact information is correct, this information is used for your contact form which is already made for you. 
To do this go to the top right corner of your website where there will be a profile icon.
Click the icon and select edit my profile.
Here is where you can choose a photo for your profile icon, this photo will appear on the contact form too. You can change the cover photo here and you can also change the email address where emails from the visitors to the website will go to. 
I have a blog post how to customise a SmugMug contact form here too >

Step 4. Choose a photography website template

Free photography website templates

You can easily create your own unique design for your photography portfolio website with SmugMug. Or use one of the free photography website templates which are available. No codes are required to make these websites which is brilliant and so easy, you really do just add your photos.
I’ve used the Duke template from the SmugMug website templates to create my own show dog’s website, because the templates are so easy to use. The templates are designed for any type of photography from –

All the way to Boudoir photography, Fine art and any other photography.

SmugMug templates

There are plenty of photography website templates to choose from and customise to match your brand or your own unique style of photography. Whether you you looking for a  

Or any other type of photography website template.

How to find the SmugMug website templates

To find the free SmugMug website templates you need to be on the  Site of your SmugMug website which is the homepage. Or click Site in the top bar to get to them all.
Next in the top right corner underneath your profile photo, there are 3 dots in a vertical line click those dots.
In the drop down menu click new site design.
This will take you through to all the free templates just click one of the templates to preview the design. If you don’t like the design just go back and choose another to change the SmugMug template. 
Happy with the template click choose this design, then either customize to customise the design or publish now and your photography portfolio will be live online.

Step 5. Change the photos on the template

Customise the website template

The template which you have chosen can easily be customised to suit your photography and branding. The photos and amount of photos which appear on the template can be changed too. 
This is known as customising a SmugMug website.
To change the photos which appear, click Customize Design in the top bar on the Site
Look for the wrench icon on the content block.

Change the photos within the content block

Click the wrench or (tool) icon and the content block settings box will appear. 
Depending which content block is used on the template will depend which settings are available.
To change the photos displayed, on the settings box in select from you have a choice from recent photos, popular photos, keywords, a single gallery or photos. Make a choice then depending what you choose as your setting will determine which photos are displayed.

how to build a photography portfolio website

Multiple photos content block

Within the content block settings you can change the layout of the content block within the basic settings. In this example with the multiple photos content block, the photos can be displayed either in a

Change the size of the photos

You can then decide which size the photos are displayed at. 
In the display section of the settings you can change the amount of spacing in between the photos. 

If the images on the SmugMug template are set to a square shape and you are a landscape photographer looking to display panoramic images. Don’t dismiss the template because you can see how easy it is to change the settings of the shape of your photos displayed. 

Step 6. Theme of the website template

Once you are happy with the photos which are displayed.
You can change the colours of the website if you would like to make your photography portfolio unique and get creative this is easy to do with the SmugMug theme.
Unlike a WordPress theme which is the whole look and style of the website with a new WordPress theme to install which will change the whole appearance of the website. 

SmugMug theme

On a SmugMug website the SmugMug themes are the just the colours and font styles on the website which can easily be changed.
To change the colours or the font on the website template or on the SmugMug theme just click Customize in the top bar on the Site.
A  customise panel will appear down the side of the website. In the customise panel look for Theme.  

Active theme

The Active Theme within the Theme section is the SmugMug theme which you are using. Which means colours and font style on your SmugMug website is coming from the active theme which can be changed. 
By clicking on the wrench icon in the active theme section you will bring up another settings box where you can change the colours and font.

Change SmugMug theme

You can also change the SmugMug theme. To do this again in the Theme section look for Available Themes.
Here you will find lots of different SmugMug themes to choose from and try out. There are bokeh backgrounds, different colours, abstract backgrounds, textures, patterns and more. There is also the standard SmugMug dark and SmugMug light to choose between. Which is the classic SmugMug website nearly black and the light is an off white if you would like a brighter website for your portfolio.


Use plain and simple colours for your photography portfolio website for more impact. This way your photography will be the main focus of the website. 

tips for building a wedding portfolio website

Step 7. Create a page

Easily create pages for your photography portfolio website by going to the organise area.
Click Organize in the top bar to get there. 
In the left top corner look for Create or the + button, here you can create a gallery, folder or web page.
Choose Web page to create a page for the website.
There are 10 different page types to choose from, including a custom page which is a blank page.
Pre made template pages for your about page, photography services you offer and more templates for displaying photos.
The pages on the website can be customised exactly the same way as the homepage, just drag and drop content blocks onto the web page.

Step 8. Add pages into the navigation menu

Easily add the pages which you create into the navigation menu. 
Custom URL’s can be added too into the navigation menu. A search box can also. be added so visitors to the website can search by keywords to find your photos. 

Step 9. Custom domain name

If you would like or have a custom domain name you can add it to your SmugMug website.
I have step by step instructions how to do this here >

SEO for photographers

Apply some simple SEO (search engine optimisation) steps to your SmugMug website. I have a useful SmugMug SEO blog post which will help you set up the SEO for your photography portfolio.

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