A few months ago I decided to do something a little different and create an iOS app to present my photography. I had been thinking about it for a while and had a vague idea of what I wanted the app to achieve and how I wanted it to work.
Portfolio websites are great for photographers to showcase their work to potential clients but unless the website has additional content, there is no reason for people to keep coming back. This is why many people add a blog to their website with behind-the-scenes or tips-and-tricks content.
As an avid Instagram user and an app developer I started thinking about the possibilities of a mobile portfolio. In the world of photography, engagement is key, so I chose to take my portfolio and put it on a platform that begs for interaction: mobile. Imagine having your photography portfolio on someone’s phone and the ability to push updates to them. It’s an interesting idea and one that I wanted to experiment with, so I began designing the app.
Initially, I searched for other photographer’s apps for inspiration. I wanted to see what features they had chosen to include to see if I might want to do the same. In the end, I really didn’t find much that helped me, so I started from scratch myself.
There are many things to consider when designing any app but for something very specific like this there needs to be a reason for people to download it and keep it on their phone. I could have just chucked my photos in an app and called it a day but no one is going to install an app just to look at someone’s photos, even if it is free. This is why adding value to the user becomes very important
I’m going to briefly talk about what I decided to put into my app and why.
Free Wallpapers (Hook)
This allows a user to set any one of my photos as their phone’s wallpaper. It’s a small thing, but I believe it’s critical to success. Immediately anyone who downloads the app can get something from it without forking out any money. It costs me nothing and should hopefully make the user more receptive to both keeping up with my updates and keeping the app installed on their phone.
Print Purchases ($$$)
Converting the user to a customer is the ideal scenario and is the ultimate aim of the app, so the ability to purchase prints from directly within the app is a great way of doing that. In addition, the prices within the app are discounted from the ones on my website, providing another reason for people to download the app.
I also wanted to make this a good experience for the purchaser so I included a live preview that changes depending on the print selections. This helps potential customers visualise the size of the prints and so they have a rough idea of what it might look like on their wall. Anything that helps overcome hesitation from the purchasing process is definitely a good thing.
This is my way of adding blog-like material to the app. The stories themselves are designed to be short and sweet and full of images with a minimal amount of text. The idea here is to give people some insight into a particular photo or event and get people interested in my process. This extra bit of content is another reason for people to download and keep the app.
If people want to share a photo, why not make it easy for them? A button press gives you access to all the iOS sharing options like Facebook, Twitter, email etc. I have made it so that any photos shared will have a watermark on them (which I try to avoid) so that this isn’t abused and so that other people can see who took the photo and come check it out. It’s not ideal but I think it’s a good compromise.
Contact (Jobs and Followers)
Making it easy for a user to contact me is obviously important so there are a number of ways to get in touch with me. Email is the best for me so there are multiple buttons carefully placed throughout the app to make that easy. Social media accounts are also easily accessible which is less about contacting me and more about driving traffic and followers to those accounts.
Push Notifications (Updates)
I’ve made sure to make use of push notifications to inform users of new content. Whether that be new photos, stories or even just a message to let them know that something interesting is going on. This should increase interaction with the app by bringing people back who haven’t used it in a while.
The aim of the app is the same as any normal photography portfolio. That is, to showcase my photography, generate work/customers and make it easy for people to contact me. An app has a few advantages over a website portfolio including faster interaction and notifications to drive engagement but one of the biggest ones is the attention given to an app.
For some reason, when people open an app they are far more receptive to the content inside then if it was on a website. I don’t know whether that is because people feel that apps are more professional, easier to use or something else entirely. In the end it doesn’t matter because the end result is the same. Stronger interaction – if you can get them to download it and use it.
I haven’t made an Android version yet because iOS apps are easier to make and I wanted to see how successful the iOS version was first. It’s something that I’ll look at doing in the future if I feel it’s worth it. You can download the iOS app from the App Store here or by doing a search for “Jeremy Somerville.”
This is something that hasn’t been done a lot so I’m curious to know what other people think. Can you see a future of personal photography portfolios on the App Store? I think it’s an interesting idea and would love to see other examples of similar ideas.
About the author: Jeremy Somerville is a ocean and surf photographer based in Lennox Head, New South Wales, Australia. He also works as a freelance iOS developer. You can find more of his work on his website.