Where should you host your photography website?
It’s hard not to look at a beautifully presented photography website like, say 500PX or SmugMug – and think if I could have my photography here I’d have an instant marketplace of people who’d see (and buy) my work.
If that’s you, then I understand, because those sites are attractive and often as photogs we’re moved by ‘visual’ stimulation.
The mistake a lot of entrepreneurs, photographers and creatives make is that they build their whole business on one of these photo websites, or YouTube, Facebook (etc).
What happens when one of these delete your account (incl. your photos and social metadata) with no warning?
The way to be smart about this is to build on an asset you own and then put all of that (external) stuff to work for you.
In my humble opinion, at the end of the day you want to make sure you have your own independent website. This is why I own MartinHurley.com. It’s my brand HQ, the headquarters for creating and promoting my brand.
It’s a bulletproof platform, and as long as I keep renewing the domain and continue to get it hosted, I can keep building on it.
You can buy a domain for around $10 a year. Get your whole website hosted for like $3-$10 a month.So why wouldn’t you want your own brand authority?
If you are a photographer, I suggest you go and register your own name.com / name-of-your-business.com as soon as possible… You can host your website here and grab your domain name here (hit me up if you need ideas about your domain name).
Drink More Red Bull
It all starts with you.
Your unique identity, the unique photos you take, your unique viewpoint on the world.
Keep that domain for later, or run WordPress (free) on it (as I do) and just use it as a sort of online notebook for all the stuff you’re doing (which conveniently links to your other photo portfolios, like Smugmug, or your Youtube channel etc).
I guess they call this blogging, but whatever it’s called, the main thing is to get it happening, and manage your assets in one place. Become the reference point others look to.
They can namedrop your website rather than pointing to a Facebook page that might be gone in the near future.
Keep it simple. Once you’ve got your website/blog up you can set up a separate photo gallery / portfolio on Smugsmug (etc) and sell prints, get found, create limited edition photo books of your work, and so on. When you have spare time utilize your blog, let your customers, clients, fans & followers know what you’re up to — build the brand — get found in search engines etc — you don’t have to “blog” every day – just be consistent.
Once you have your HQ setup, you might want a presence on those portal sites we mentioned that keep hundreds of photography portfolios together in one area. More so if you’re a professional or commercial photographer out there looking for assignments. Do both.
A basic photo hosting plan on Smugmug starts at a mere $5 a month (see Plans At a Glance above).
What’s your agenda? In my case I’m planning to use Smugmug because I want their portfolio capabilities and they have a shopping cart system setup to sell limited edition prints.
But you might need professional buyers and assignment editors to find you (searching for photographers by genre, speciality and/or location), and these buyers often start with specific photo sites.
Build on your platform.
Not on other people’s platforms. Use other platforms to bring people to your HQ.
The Photo Websites Rundown
Why would you choose to host images online?
So you can sell your images as prints, photo books, photo artwork etc, to friends, family and to an international market. Or you’re after a commercial system to license your digital images and create a full range of products.
Then again, you might just need to back up images offsite.
Whatever your needs, here’s the most common:
Free image hosting services available:
Most of these sites also offer extra features on a subscription or fee basis.
The grand daddy of image hosting sites, Flickr is a wildly popular image hosting website and web services suite that was acquired by Yahoo in 2005.
A popular website for users to share and upload personal photographs with a strong, interactive online community, Flickr is widely used by photo researchers and by bloggers to host images that they use in blogs and social media.
Points to note:
- 87 million registered members and more than 3.5 million new images uploaded daily
- Host your images on a Free account or Pro account (unlimited space, no advertisements and the ability to upload HD video)
- License your images using the various creative commons licenses or maintain full control with the All Rights Reserved license
- Closely integrated with Getty Images so you can mark your images for use as stock
- Allows images up to 20MB
- Universal layout (all users’ photostreams look similar)
- Unlimited uploads for $25 a year
At first glance the Toronto based 500PX is impressive. Describing itself as an online photography community powered by creative people worldwide that lets you discover, share, buy and sell inspiring photographs, 500px is seen as a place to gain exposure, find inspiration and connect photographers with one another.
Points to note:
- Aimed at aspiring and professional photographers
- Community photo site that encourages members to upload their best work
- Currently 500PX has 2.5 million registered users and over 10 million monthly active users
The king of all photo sharing sites, SmugMug is a paid digital photo sharing website which allows you to upload both HD photos and videos to your unique SmugMug portal site.
Includes fanatical support, a clean user-interface that shows your photos elegantly, and a great photographer based community. No free account option.
Basic $5/month, Power $8/month, Portfolio $20/month, Business $35/month.
Points to note:
- Family owned operation, launched in 2002
- Focuses on both amateur as well as professional photographers
- Offers tools which facilitates the selling of digital and print media
- Clean user interface – Your photos are truly the center of attention
- Excellent support
- Doubles as cloud-backup – access your full-res photos in bulk. (Uses Amazon’s S3 storage)
- Great photographer community. Get feedback on your work or get help with specific challenges
- Less social than the Flickr community
Smugmug is a profitable business with a proven track record (12 years online).
Founded in 2009 by four Dutch brothers, Viewbook (see pic above) enables image creators to design and manage their portfolio websites and show their work on the web, iPad and iPhone in a flexible and beautiful way.
Together with a team of designers, programmers and other creative types Viewbook continuously evolves and improves; to incorporate the latest technologies that are of benefit to the visual creative.
$19/month, $190/year. Points to note:
- Portfolio website builder
- Can use your own domain name
- Album, gallery, text and video pages
- Unlimited websites
- Unlimited albums
- Pad & iPhone mobile portfolio app
- 5.000 hi-res images
PhotoShelter is an all-in-one online system that helps amateur, aspiring and pro photographers build a following and grow a photo business.
Customizable portfolio website, backed by advanced marketing and sales tools, online image delivery features and secure photo hosting / backup.
$9/month to $49/month. Points to note:
- Built-in shopping cart for prints, products, licenses & personal use downloads
- Marketing & client management tools to grow your business
- A professional and customizable portfolio website
- Over 70,000 photographers worldwide use PhotoShelter to show and sell their work
- Educates photographers about the business side of photography. (Free reports, monthly webinars and blog)
PhotoDeck is a platform to build and host professional websites for photographers. It includes e-commerce to sell photos online or build a stock photography website.
Each website includes client proofing features and secure photo galleries. Website hosting and photo hosting are included in all plans, video hosting available if needed.
Lite $9.99/month, Pro $29.99/month, Studio (videos) $79.99/month
Google’s Picasa is an image organizer and image viewer for organizing and editing digital photos, plus an integrated photo-sharing website. Organize, edit, and upload your photos in quick, easy steps. (You wouldn’t actually host your photography website with Picasa – you would use it just for organizing your images).
100GB $4.99 up to 16TB $799.00
- Nice photo layout, good looking photos
- Integrates with the Android phone OS
- 1GB for free to start
- No social experience or traditional “photo stream” style layout like Flickr
A service specifically designed for photographers that allows you to easily and quickly have your own website to display, share and sell photos. No technical skills (HTML, CSS, PHP or SQL) needed. Photium hosts your photography website completely.
$11/month to $27/month
Customizable websites for photographers to display, share, and sell their work online. Every Zenfolio account includes unique organizational tools and an easy to use e-commerce platform.
Store, sell and show your photos from your own ZenFolio website.
AUD$40/year to AUD$240/year
Instagram is an online photo-sharing, video-sharing and social networking service that lets you apply digital filters to the pictures and videos you take. You can then share these images on social networking services such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr.
Users are also able to record and share short videos lasting for up to 15 seconds. A relatively new photo sharing community that’s become hugely popular.
You wouldn’t host your photography website with Instagram, so it’s here, but not on the list, if you know what I mean.
What’s the best solution for me to setup and host my own site where I can sell digital and print photos?
Answered in point form:
- Get your own name.com (domain name) so YOU control it
- Host it for $3-$10/month (you control this too)
- Create a portfolio of images on 500PX, Smugmug or ViewBook (etc)
- Link your image portfolio to your own photo blog / website
- Get your website noticed, talk about your stuff etc
- Develop a list of customers & fans
- Sell your photos, photo books & photo products on your image portfolio
- Repeat from number 5 until you have reached your monthly goals
There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs. – Ansel Adams
So now you should know the answer to where should I host my photography website? ☺