Join Nick Onken for an in-depth discussion in this video In depth: Website portfolio, part of The Creative Spark: Nick Onken, Travel and Lifestyle Photographer.
Nick: When I was first starting, doing the printed portfolios, you would have to, when somebody calls your portfolio in, it's like fifty bucks to overnight it to them. It comes out of your pocket. And the industry is definitely shifting towards websites, because now it's a filter. I mean, there's so many photographers out there, and people don't have time to just call in books or meet with everyone, so they're going to filter you the second they see your website, whether, do I want to meet with this guy, does he, is it not worth my time? So the first thing I wanted, I wanted them to be able to see an image, like upon typing in my URL.
So, and I wanted them I wanted my branding on it. So I basically had my logo type come up right over an image. Once it loads the first image it starts pulling up and then just cycles through. And I can update this, the slideshow, really easily. I can just keep adding images to it. I can pull. I can change the order. It's always changing. If somebody goes on the site twice it may be different you know, from a week apart or two weeks apart. Another big feature is the full screen, so you can almost get a full-screen experience.
And when you just leave it on the site, it's the most like a screen saver because the branding, the navigation's super minimal at the top, which is a big part of it. I want it totally image-focused. One of the key elements to creating the galleries was, since my work is very story-driven, we wanted kind of a scroll. The sites that load in between each image, art directors are like done. They don't, they don't want to wait in between. They just want to, they want to keep it going. They don't have time, they need to click. So, my site has really different points of navigation.
You can click right. You can click back. You can click on a thumbnail. Like, if you want to come here and click to a certain image. You can do a view all, which shows the whole gallery in thumbnails. And say I want to click on-- I want to see this shot right here. This is another feature. This is the search. There's 2500 images in the database that I can keep adding to, so you can search keywords. You shouldn't have to explain to somebody where to click and what to see, so that's why I incorporated just the easy navigation.
Even with the navigation in the galleries it's, the big arrow pops up. It's super in-your-face, and I think that was a big key component, because it is your first point of contact, and nowadays a lot of times people are hiring you based off of your work on your website, and books are slowly getting called in. Sending your book sent in is definitely a different impression because it's a physical printed format. But when I started to develop the site, you know if I'm looking 3-5 years ahead, probably five years from now, books are hardly going to be called in.
It's going to be all about the websites. So I wanted to put, invest in the website and put as much effort and energy into it as I can. And I mean I've I spent more than my car on this website. And it's definitely made its money back. I mean, I've been hired directly based off the website without even my book being called in.
Nick was originally educated as a graphic designer but ultimately found that making images with a camera was more fulfilling—and you can see that he didn't leave his design skills behind when he picked up the camera. We follow Nick around New York City as he meets with Cosmopolitan's photo editor, photographs a fashion model, and returns to his home in Brooklyn to share his story with us. We also meet the founder of Pencils of Promise, a nonprofit organization that builds schools in underdeveloped countries, and uses Nick's photographs as the centerpiece of its fundraising efforts. Then we're off to Guatemala to watch him create his magic.
Nick shows us how he has evolved as an artist and how the business of photography has changed—for example, using an online portfolio as opposed to the traditional "book" that art directors review. He's energetic, motivated, and talented. We've captured him for the lynda.com Creative Spark series but it was no easy task getting him to sit still.