One of the big challenges you will face in your decision to become a professional photographer is building your business website. In order to better market yourself, you need to have one to showcase your work and have portfolios available for potential clients to view.
In this day and age, Social Media is king, it’s true, but without a proper website to go hand in hand with your Social Media efforts, you can be left out in the cold. When choosing your platform for hosting you photography site, you need to consider a few things.
- Do they offer unlimited storage?
- Do they offer unlimited bandwidth?
- Do they have eCommerce capabilities?
- Do they offer lab integration?
- How much do they charge?
- How do they stack up to the industry?
These 6 items are the main ones you should be concerned with when choosing your photography website platform for your new business. I am going to cover a few of them in this week’s post and the Pros and Cons.
SmugMug – SmugMug is without a doubt one of the big boys out there in the photography web hosting business. They have powerful servers and great uptime. They allow you unlimited storage and bandwidth, but only for the full one business accounts. They offer lab integration for selling prints without hassle and all the big labs are available. They offer price lists and you can make coupon codes for your clients. They also have the ability to create password protected or hidden galleries for your clients to view your work and they offer a wide selection of templates that you can customize. On the down side, SmugMug is not cheap at close to $400 per year. The other big down side I saw as someone who used to use them is they also take a percentage of the money you make when you sell either prints or digital downloads.
Zenfolio – Zenfolio is similar to SmugMug, but to me their site looks a bit cheesy and needs a serious overhaul. They too offer pretty much all of the same features as SmugMug and like SmugMug, they cost close to $400 per year and take a percentage of the money you make when selling your work. Zenfolio offers an assortment of templates as well, but from what I have heard, they are harder to tweak and customize for non-web developers.
SquareSpace – SquareSpace is another of the heavy-weights when it comes to photography hosting, and they are extremely popular. They offer lots of customization that is easy to do and to my knowledge, unlimited bandwidth and storage as well. The downside I see to SquareSpace is they offer eCommerce, but it’s limited. I believe you can sell digital downloads easily, but they still do not offer lab integration and probably never will, and they cost as much as SmugMug and Zenfolio, both of which offer both digital and lab sales.
500px.com – 500px.com is a nice one as well, they offer unlimited uploads, storage and bandwidth if you are a paid member. Their plans are $25 and $75 per year, but they do take a good chunk of the profits to offset their cost. If you sell a Royalty-Free download, which is $250, set by them, you get $175 and they keep the other $75. The nice thing is, someone of their clients are major magazines and publishers, the downside of that is when you images sell, they will not tell you who bought them so you can see the final product.
WIX – WIX is a newer contender in this arena and they are free, but I am not sure if there is a catch as far as storage and bandwidth. I have a few friends that use them and like them, but they don’t offer any eCommerce at all, neither lab integration nor digital download sales. This one is a good option if you are short on funds and just need something to show clients to get started. Their templates are highly customizable and friends that I know that use them say they are easy to work with. Now WIX offers paid plans as well, and on the free ones, you have to put up with them running ads on your site.
This is just a small collection of photography site hosting providers, there is also FineArt America, and many others, but these 5 are some of the best known ones. When it comes to choosing your hosting provider you really need to do your research and compare them before pulling the trigger. I was using SmugMug for quite a while but didn’t like that they charge me monthly and take a portion of all of my sales, so I dropped them this week, as for me, I found a better option.
I personally already have a regular web hosting account with GoDaddy for my other personal sites and some non-profits I help out and I have moved my photography hosting to GoDaddy and built my new site using WordPress. WordPress is well known and been around for quite some time. I coupled that with a company that makes an awesome WordPress theme called Photocratic, that has eCommerce built in. Now, it’s not full blown yet, currently you can sell downloads or prints, but have to do the work yourself, but you don’t lose any of the money to them. Their theme is $59, one time purchase, on sale right now, down from $89. The theme is easy to install and customize and they offer awesome support as well. The plus side is they are rolling out the fully automated digital download eCommerce update next month and then following that up with FULL lab integration a couple months after that, so once both of those happen, I will be GOLDEN!
Now, I don’t recommend this option for everyone as WordPress and the theme system does require some coding abilities, but if you know someone well versed in WordPress, it might be the way to go. For me personally, I have been a developer for 35 years and am fluent in around 20 computer languages including HTML and PHP so the WordPress option was a no brainer for me.
Sorry this week’s post is so long, but this is both a large and important topic to cover. If you have any questions, please comment and I will do my best to answer them for you!