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The Pros And Cons Of A Portfolio Slideshow

January 13, 2011

(Written and Illustrated by Thomas James)

Some Illustrators choose to display the image gallery on their website with a sleek, automated slideshow format. Ever wondered if you should do the same? Here’s a look at the pros and cons of each approach.  

For the purposes of this article, the focus will mostly be on the experience of the user. In other words, we’ll be looking at the way that an Art Director or other potential client interacts with your site and browses the work in your image gallery.


They’re professional.

Presenting your work in a slideshow can give it a slick, professional feel with little or no effort, which is never a bad thing.

They’re cool.

Let’s face it, slideshows are pretty cool looking, and they can be very tempting to use, especially if you’re setting up your portfolio website for the first time.

They protect your work (sort of).

Images in a slideshow are often slightly more protected in that people usually can’t simply drag and drop the art onto their desktop. Of course, they can always take a screenshot of the image, but their chances of getting a high-quality version to use anywhere they want are diminished.

They make navigation easier.

Slideshows usually include handy forward and backward arrows to lead the viewer through the work (although they are sometimes hidden unless the cursor hovers over the correct area).

They highlight the work.

Slideshows isolate your Illustrations by dimming (or completely blacking out) the background and putting all the focus on the images themselves. This allows the viewer to appreciate the work without any distractions or the possibility of any competing design elements on your website.


The user loses control.

Even with the handy arrows to guide the way, some people prefer to pick and choose which image they’d like to look at next based on the thumbnail that intrigues them, and they may get annoyed if you take the control out of their hands.

They disable other menu options.

Even though it’s not too difficult to get back to the main site, a slideshow generally hides your site’s navigation menu, which temporarily prevents your visitor from perusing other areas of your site. This is more of a problem for less tech-savvy users who might have trouble figuring out how to leave the slideshow.

They limit sharing and bookmarking.

Some Art Directors say that they dislike slideshows because it prevents them from bookmarking or downloading an image, or even saving an image’s individual location for further reference or sharing with a colleague. This takes away a handy tool that would otherwise help them to remember you for a future project.

Best of Both Worlds

If you choose to present your work in a slideshow format, I highly recommend making both options available. That way, you get all the benefits of the sleek presentation without the potential drawbacks.

To do this, simply offer thumbnails for your visitor to click on, while also including a link to “View in Slideshow”. Thus, your portfolio will cater to all audiences and allow your work to do the talking without turning people off.

Do you use a slideshow? Why or why not? Please share your thoughts in the comments section of this post.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. January 13, 2011 1:19 AM

    Personally, I use both, I have a slideshow at the page top and then a more indepth pop up view which more information below. The on certain images I have a more information button to go to a one page case study on the work. It offers the best of both worlds.

    • January 13, 2011 6:19 AM

      That’s interesting. I always like it when an artist offers more information on the creation of the work. Thanks for sharing.

  2. January 13, 2011 10:50 AM

    The issue of AD’s not being able to bookmark a single image on a slideshow has crossed my mind. This is why I made sure to implement the kind of slideshow where you can right-click to see the image in a new window.

    After reading this post, however, I might put a little note at the top of the slideshow to enlighten less savvy viewers that they have that option.

  3. January 13, 2011 12:16 PM

    I have a theme called ePhoto from Elegant Themes for my WordPress hosted site which includes: a slideshow in which images can be clicked to expand with more information and a series of thumbnails on the main page, as well as a Catagories button from which a menu drops down with options to go to the entire portfolio or subcategories.

    I’m just starting out (could really use feedback actually on how easy it can be navigated) but I _think_ it hits all of these needs.

  4. February 1, 2011 8:33 PM

    I came back to read this because I’m updating my portfolio and I’m torn by this very subject. A big CON dawned on me a few months ago while I was browsing through my site on my ipod and realized I couldn’t view the slide show. I also enquiries and realized that most of my clients are only looking at my blog or facebook page because they can bookmark and save stuff.

    So I’m thinking I’m going to drop the slide show, but I still want it to look profesional and be easy to mantain. I hope more people comment, so I can see what they are doing. :)

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