Author Topic: Portfolio and website critique  (Read 2918 times)

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Justin Parsons

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Portfolio and website critique
« on: August 18, 2012, 07:52 PM »

I've just recently graduated SAIT's photojournalism program and am about three months into my career, currently working at the Banff Crag & Canyon and Canmore Leader.

I figure I've had a while to tweak my website and would like to get some feedback. Any critique on layout, organization and esthetics would be welcome. Also, since a few individuals in the media industry seem to share my name, I'd welcome any comments or suggestions on search engine optimization.

Any input on my portfolio would also be appreciated. I've tried to showcase a little versatility, but my main interests are news, portraiture and "travel" photography, and my primary short-term career goal is to continue shooting for newspapers before hopefully branching out down the road.

My website can be found at

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to any responses.


Offline Warren Toda

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Re: Portfolio and website critique
« Reply #1 on: August 19, 2012, 08:23 PM »
Quote from: Justin Parsons
... since a few individuals in the media industry seem to share my name, I'd welcome any comments or suggestions on search engine optimization.

Change your name to Justin Bieber then you'll get tons of hits.  :D

Search engine optimization is not about people searching your name. It's about being found by people who don't know you at all.

In your case, I would suggest that you optimize your website, (I hate that phrase), for terms such as canmore photographer, canmore news photographer, canmore portrait photographer, etc. I'd also use other nearby city/town names.

To help optimize your site, you must use text and you must use it regularly. This means have a blog and update it at least weekly. Moan and groan all you want about blogs but they do work.

In your blog, regularly use your search terms (but don't go overboard). For example, instead of writing: "Here are some pictures I shot yesterday", use something like: "Here's some Banff portrait photography I did for a Canmore newspaper."

A far as your web site and photography go, I don't see any major issues.

Maybe make the text a tad bigger on the About and Contact pages??

Add more text to the About page.

Page title uses your name twice. Unless you change your name as mentioned earlier, I don't think people really care that much about your name.  :)   

Add appropriate search terms to your title. Instead of "Justin Parsons Editorial Photography | Justin Parsons" maybe try something like "Canmore news photographer | Justin Parsons Editorial Photography". Use a different title on each page and have the more important words at the beginning of each title (i.e. your name isn't that important).

Some pictures could be edited better (brightness, contrast, crop, sharpness). This is just a minor criticism but it's still an important thing to get right.

Animator1.jpg is a very nice portrait but right next to it is bhikshu1.jpg which is, uh, not so nice and it detracts from animator1.

Nice picture of a guy lighting a cigar (smoking1) but it's shown alongside a baby picture??

A few quibbles:

Stations1.jpg: a third of the picture shows people in the background doing nothing. I know it's difficult but a better camera angle would've been nice.

Occupy2.jpg: there's a yellow sign partially cut off on the right, a woman partially cut off on the left and in the middle, there's someone picking his teeth and a camera guy leaning in. There's too much confusion and no real point to this picture.  The picture should've been about the guy holding the big, bright sign and his staring face. Perhaps a longer-lensed shot of this guy with blurred surroundings would've had more impact.

Remembranceday1.jpg is a photo of people's backs, two partial flag poles and a building (yawn). A scene-setter might be important to the paper but not for your web site. You do have a "LEST WE FOPGET" picture. Any version of this without the wisp of smoke and the pole?

All in all, there's nothing wrong or bad happening, except maybe the need for some better editing here and there.

And now, one of my personal pet peeves:

nickdavies1.jpg:   A lot of photographers use this lighting style because they own two flashes and they think it looks cool. And it can look good if executed correctly. But otherwise, it just looks like a (front) flash didn't fire.

The point to this style of lighting is to bring out, or emphasize, shape and to create a sense of foreboding drama. But used incorrectly, (and many photographers get this lighting wrong), the lighting only exaggerates facial flaws, bags under the eyes and blacks out the eyes.

This lighting style usually requires on-axis fill, unless there's usable ambient. The exception is if the person is shot in profile or the person is not looking directly at the camera. With the person looking at the camera, the viewer *wants* to see the eyes.

On-axis fill can be ~two stops below exposure, maybe even a bit more. One stop below is too hot and will minimize the effect, although it might still produce a nice look.

The on-axis light can even be the little pop-up flash, if the camera has one. Otherwise, it's a third light in an umbrella (for broad fill), or a flash in a snoot or a grid for face-only fill.

What if you don't have a third flash? Pull the two side flashes back, slightly behind the subject, and use front reflector(s) to bounce the sidelights into the face and to shield the lens from flare.  Yes, you need reflectors and stands –> more stuff  to carry. :(

Canadian (but US-based) photographer Brad Trent is well-known for this style of lighting (two sidelights and an on-axis fill). Examples: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and there are many more on his site.

Same two-light side-lighting, but with no on-axis fill, by Joe McNally. Note in each case that the athlete's face is turned towards a sidelight: 1, 2.

« Last Edit: August 20, 2012, 04:28 AM by Warren Toda »

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Justin Parsons

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Re: Portfolio and website critique
« Reply #2 on: August 20, 2012, 11:36 AM »

Thanks for your critique. I appreciate you taking the time.

I'm still working on fully understanding what I can modify within the photoshelter theme structure. I may be able to add different footer text to each gallery rather than having my name twice. I think perhaps I was just trying to fill space instead of utilizing it. As for the sequencing of images, this was actually something I didn't even consider in the slightest when putting things together. I'll have to take another look at this. I believe I can disable the 2-up feature for portrait-oriented photos, which might help solve this problem as well. I'll also have to have a look at my font size options.

Thanks also for your input on my portfolio. I've had a few of the same items in it for a while, some of which I've been on the fence about lately. I think when I put the website together I was worried about not having enough content, and I agree that some more self-editing would probably be beneficial. I've been debating changing or consolidating a few of the portfolio themes, and since I feel my portfolio is relatively slim right now, perhaps I'd benefit from a "less is more" approach.

Thanks again,