Christina Gandolfo is a Glendale, California-based photographer specializing in portraiture, animals, brand narrative, and reportage photography. Earlier this year, Christina reached out for a web assessment. When she came to us, her goals were to shoot larger productions for corporate, financial, and pet brands and to reach larger, national newspapers. To achieve these goals, she wanted to learn how she can better organize and edit her work to target those clients.
Upon first glance, I immediately saw that she had a fun and colorful personality that shined through her images. Christina has the ability to bring that personality out of her subjects, both human and non-human. That authenticity and personability appeals to potential clients.
As I dug deeper into her site, I noticed that she had a wide variety of work with different styles and voices that started to clash with each other. It became harder to understand who she was as a photographer and what clients she was targeting. Unfortunately, this kind of effect can cool a client’s interest in a photographer’s work if they cannot predict the results of a shoot. Christina also included a lot of images in her galleries that can inadvertently water down the quality of stronger images if not tightly sequenced and edited. These areas became the main focus of our assessment.
First, we talked about the overview page and then surveyed each gallery. I typically recommend replacing overview-type pages with one gallery or project that represents the kind of work a photographer wants to do the most or a New Projects folder of, well, new projects. In this case, I felt it was best for Christina to replace her overview page with either a portraiture gallery or animals gallery. These galleries had stood out to me the most because they felt more consistent with her personality and brand. With a tighter edit that highlighted her best images, she would be able to draw focus to the work that she wants to do the most, whether it’s portraiture or animals, and connect with her goal clients more immediately.
In her corporate gallery, she had strong portraits mixed in with some potential lifestyle/brand narrative stories. This sudden shift from single portraits to groups of stories felt abrupt. By grouping in these projects together, the site missed the opportunity for clients to view these images as fully fleshed out stories for brands, rather than individual lifestyle/portrait/corporate-esque images.
For story-driven photographers (photojournalists/lifestyle/etc.), project-based galleries stand out more to clients than specialty-based galleries. It also provides the opportunity for photographers to name drop the clients they’ve previously worked for that would be relevant to dream clients. In this case, I recommended separating these out into individual projects sub-galleries underneath a Brand Stories gallery.
I also really enjoyed Christina’s reportage work but again found a mix of different styles and voices. Much like the corporate gallery, it was important for her to focus on the most important projects she wants to show clients with the style and voice that feels authentic to her. Stories with a colorful palette and a hard flash style felt more cohesive with her more established work (animals and portraiture) in contrast to the darker, more neutral style. I also wanted to emphasize her ability to create complete projects by collecting wide, detail, and action shots and sequencing those images in a story.
Christina’s site also had a personal gallery. These kinds of galleries are nice to show clients a bit more of her personality and interests. However, the overall quality and content of these projects didn’t cohere with that of the rest of her work (with the exception of the cow curious gallery).
We then completed the web assessment with some notes on tearsheets, about, and contact pages, comments on her branding, and recommendations of other Squarespace templates that she might like.
As with each assessment, we followed up with a call to address any questions or concerns. We spent most of our call chatting about the overview page and people and animals galleries, to which she immediately made changes based on my recommendations. After chatting, Christina also wanted to work with me on a project edit! So, I edited her portraiture, animals/studio, and animals/life galleries and two brand stories.
Since we had already worked together, it was easier to dive right into the edit. Since it was also a shorter version of our web edits, she sent me a smaller batch of images, all of which were already on her site as well as a few extra images she wanted me to consider.
After culling the images, I found a good flow and sequence for Christina’s work. For me, stories are typically easier to put together once I find a good opening shot for the story. Then, I can start weaving the beginning, middle, and end.
For animals/studio, animals/lifestyle, and portraiture galleries, these required more time (especially animals, because really, how can you say no to a cute animal?!). After composing myself and trying not to be wooed by these cute animals, I sequenced the images using color, context, and subject as my guide. For animals/studio I focused on images displaying Christina’s colorful personality and humor. For animals/lifestyle, I was a bit more practical in that I sought to create an edit attractive to pet brands who would be more likely to use these images on their website or packaging. That way, she had a good mix of both client-friendly work and creative work.
In portraiture, we ran into a slight hiccup. I was really drawn to her celebrity work, which unintentionally took up majority of the edit. It was important for Christina to be able to show more diversity since she works for a wide range of publications. We swapped images to find the right balance that would appeal to both news, culture, and entertainment magazines. Christina had already switched to the SquareSpace Wells template, so it was easy for us to test how the images looked on her website. Because Wells has a tendency to switch the images out of order in the thumbnail view, we made slight adjustments to keep the flow.
The challenges Christina faced while putting her portfolio together are very common among photographers, and it can be easy to get stuck in that rut. This is where getting an outside perspective can really help you develop your work!
My goal for Christina’s assessment was for her to feel more confident about her work and see where her strengths lie while taking advantage of areas of opportunity. This way, she walks away with a clearer view of how she’d like to expand her work, build her business, and further her career in photography.
Christina was ultimately pleased with the project as well:
The web assessment exceeded my expectations in terms of how specific Jemma was about breaking down my site. Once I started thinking about their suggestions I knew that working together on a web edit would produce a much more dynamic result than just taking their suggestions and trying to implement them on my own (even though I felt more equipped to do so after their assessment).
It was an absolute pleasure working with Christina, and I’m looking forward to seeing her portfolio grow!
If you ready for a web assessment with Jemma or any of our consultants, please email us or give us a call at 610 260 0200!