Online Portfolios

Like most 'artists', I obsess over how people see my work. Designing and redesigning my website, and doing constant iterations of what images are on it and as prints in my book. It's a stressful process that is often helped by an objective pair of eyes.  I for one have redesigned my website at least 4 times in the past couple of years. To be fair, before I was a photographer I was an art director and flash programmer, so there is an element of fun in it for me as well, but that's not to say that I'm ever satisfied.

Years ago, in an attempt to make it easy for me to post random images, I sat down one night and started coding what became PhotoFolio. It worked well and I kept adding features and started letting people download and use it.  For a while I used it on my own site, but eventually I wanted something I bit more customized for my own use.

My current site, at billwadman.com, is based on a horizontal scroll mode.  Grab the red bar and drag is to the right to see more images. I saw another photographer's site about a year ago and kind of fell for the way it felt. Her images were more airy and fashion than mine so it felt a little less cluttered. I'm also kind of over the 'sections' at the bottom. I'm thinking less images, higher overall quality. More of a paper portfolio on the web.  One image on the screen at a time.  Also, for those with higher-res screens, I want to be able to have larger images because I think my work looks better when you see into the images a bit more. 500 pixels tall doesn't quite cut it. Of course, it also doesn't help that most of my images are of a portrait orientation.

A few days ago I was looking at my monster talented friend Craig Ward's new site at wordsarepictures.co.uk and liked the simplicity of the column of text and the image, and thought I'd give a similar look a shot. Initially I was thinking of doing the site in HTML, or to be more specific, HTML5 or at least a lot of js/css.  But after fiddling with a php template read from an xml file for a while I got thoroughly frustrated.  Seriously, doesn't everything you want to do in dHTML have to be some kludgy workaround? Hey, W3C, how about an alignment attribute to 'center' things with?  Thanks in advance.

That led me back to Flash, and I remembered that one of the things I didn't like with flash in the past is that my images color shifted a bit. I export them as sRGB and everything else I can do to minimize it, but I end up with some weird saturation issues, especially reds in skintones.  Remembering that the latest flash player and Actionscript 3 have some kind of support for color management, I threw myself into the task of building my idea in AS3.  Now, I've done a lot of Actionscripting in my day, but all AS2.  Any time I've dabbled in AS3 I've felt like I forgot how to do basic things like walk. Today was no different.  I'm sure for people with computer science degrees, a lot of the things I found frustrating and annoying and confusing and downright incomprehensible, would to them be a breath of fresh air, or at least comforting.  For me however, it was an exercise in humility.  It was all I could do to get an xml file loaded and parsed, and pull in smoothed and resized jpegs on the fly. Huge snaps to my good friend Hardin Gray for the assist.

Anyway, what I've come up with is a greatly simplified site, and still in a pre-beta stage.  But if you've got flash player 10 and want to take a look:  http://www.billwadman.com/proto

I like the big images, I like the openness. It still needs some work. For example, I've got to have the big image size up or down on the fly if you resize the browser. But the obvious functionality is there.

So how do you guys feel about this issue? HTML or Flash? Are thumbnails a necessity? How many images are enough? How many are too many?  Are templates like the ones in iWeb or Simpleviewer good enough?  Light or dark background?  Tough questions and I'm sure, open to many opinions. I'm not even sure where I stand on most of them.

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Oh and I almost forgot... About that Flash 10 color management stuff, I found it very hit or miss. Testing the site in flash player on my windows box produces correct colors.  Loading into a browser plug-in does not.  In either FF3 (with color management enabled) or IE7.  Flash says they're not capable of using color profiles.  Interestingly enough, the flash plug-in says the same thing in FF and Safari on the Mac, however it 'seemed' as though it was rendering the colors correctly.  I'm not sure what all this means, but it somewhat defeats the purpose of me using AS3 in the first place.  Argghhhghgh.