When I had my first website designed, I consciously chose to show only after photos in my portfolio. I did this because when I looked at interior design portfolios that I admired, I saw just one pretty picture after another.
My advice is to show just the after, keep your website as pretty as possible. The reason why Pinterest is the hottest social networking site on the planet right now is because it’s all just one pretty image after another. We have enough stuff and spaces that are not as perfect as we’d like so why would we get on the web just to look at ugly?
Here are the exceptions to just showing ‘after’ photos:
1. When we’re new decorators/designers, we end up usually working with what people have in the beginning and making it look as pretty as possible. Then we might think we have to show the ‘before’ because while it’s probably a lot nicer than it was before we arrived, it may not be to our taste.
It can take years before you get enough experience where a client just gives you an empty room or house to decorate so that you can showcase your style.
2. If you are a stager or re-designer.
As a stager you’re are often working with existing furniture in addition to adding rented pieces to make the space look as inviting as possible.
In either of these cases where it’s necessary to show before photos, I would keep them much smaller than the after and on the same page as the after photo so that it’s very clear which one is after. When a client lands on your website and the first image they see is an ugly before photo, it can be an immediate turn-off.
Also if you are a blogger, choose your images carefully. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. People want to look at pretty.
Finally I can’t emphasize enough the importance of professional photography for your website. I hear designers say things like “I didn’t make enough money on that job to photograph it”. Your website is your business card. If you are proud of a project you did, that is the one you should showcase on your website regardless of whether you made money or not.
Even five pretty images that you have styled and paid a professional to photograph is 100 times better than 20 badly photographed spaces. Photograph your own house if necessary. The first website I had designed, I had my photographer shoot four spaces in two days and I spent the previous week shopping for extra accessories and flowers to make sure each space looked as good as possible. See my Styled Interiors board on Pinterest for ideas on styling tablescapes and bookshelves.
And don’t forget to shoot vignettes (above). Close-up photos are many times much prettier than a whole room shot, that’s where fresh greens and flowers look really good.
If you have a professionally shot portfolio on your website, make sure you link to it below.