Make your portfolio images look amazing for less

As a designer, your portfolio is your calling card - a carefully curated selection of your work that should show you at your very best.

When it comes to presenting projects, don't settle for flat artwork. Whether it's a range of branding collateral, a brochure, a website, or an app design, mocking it up in situ makes a huge difference.

In an ideal world, you'd bring all your work into a studio and art direct your portfolio beautifully and consistently. But not everyone has the time or the budget to do so.

Fortunately, you can achieve a professional effect using some premium stock images and a bit of mock-up time in Photoshop.

So read on for our guide to the best images to use for five common portfolio tasks, complete with top recommendations from iStock by Getty Images.

Branding collateral

Selection of branding materials on a desk

Click to view image on iStock

You're working on a new brand identity for a client that incorporates everything from a business card to a website. How do you show it off in your portfolio?

Individual images of the different components is one way, but a single hero image that pulls everything together is much more effective.

There are many premium stock images available that could work as a hero image across common brand applications. Once you choose one, you just need to mock up your final designs onto blank templates. And, if you have an additional design that’s more unusual or bespoke, you might want to show it off separately.

Responsive websites

Blank laptop and tablet with man tapping screen

Click to view image on iStock

All the best websites are fully responsive, but you can't expect potential clients browsing your portfolio to follow links and bother testing it out in all those different contexts.

To show how your design works across devices instantly, a premium stock image featuring a laptop, a tablet, and a smartphone is a great starting point.

Just mock up screengrabs onto the different screens, placing particular emphasis on pages of the website that scale most noticeably.

Posters and billboards

Blank ad poster on bus stop

Click to view image on iStock

Digital ads may just need an in-situ screengrab, but if you've designed something tangible—whether it's an A1 poster, or a 96-sheet billboard—make the effort to give it some context.

There are many premium stock images available that show blank advertising hoardings, or posters in interesting looking studio settings.

It's much more engaging than just showing the flat artwork, without the time, cost, and hassle of scouting an actual location.

App designs

Blank Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and iPhone 6 phones

Click to view image on iStock

Screengrabs and icons are all very well on the App Store or Google Play, but if you're featuring an app design in your portfolio, make the extra effort to mock it up it on a phone.

After all, if you've designed an app that works across iOS, Android, and other platforms, a high-quality promotional image that shows it in situ on different devices will tell that story immediately.

Best of all, there are plenty of premium stock images available that show multiple devices in one shot - such as the one above.

Brochures and annual reports

Blank report cover on desk with laptop and phone

Click to view image on iStock

Although brochures, annual reports, and other printed materials are standard in the design industry, that doesn’t mean they have to look bland—think outside the box, and try to make them look as visually appealing as possible.

Best of all, they are likely to conform to a standard size and aspect ratio, such as A4—meaning you're spoiled for choice when it comes to premium stock images on which to mock up your design.

Blank open publication showing spread

Click to view image on iStock

You should include a stylish shot of your cover and place it in an environment where it can take centre stage. Also, take the time to create some particularly engaging internal spreads to show off your ability to mock up consistent, on-brand designs.

If the images above could fit nicely into your own portfolio, you're in luck: iStock by Getty Images is offering new customers 12% off all credits by using code 12CBLOQNEW at checkout. Good luck revamping your portfolio!

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Nick Carson

Nick is a content strategist and copywriter. He has worked with world-class agencies including Superunion, Wolff Olins and Vault49 on brand storytelling, tone of voice and verbal strategy for global brands such as Virgin, Pepsi and TikTok. Nick launched the Brand Impact Awards in 2013 while editor of Computer Arts, and remains chair of judges. He's written for Creative Bloq on design and branding matters since the site's launch.