One of the most important marketing tools for photographers today is a well-designed photography portfolio website (see also Two Basic Steps to Promote Yourself as a Photographer).
You can be taking the most amazing pictures with the world’s best camera, but if no one knows about you and your images (your brand), then all the time you have invested into photography is without much purpose.
photo credit: thom?
Whether your goal is to sell fine art prints, stock images or perhaps promote yourself as a portrait photographer, a good photography portfolio website is vital to promote yourself and your photography.
So how should you go about creating your photography portfolio website? Good question. I have been around the block on this one.
- I have used HTML-based photography templates.
- I have built and designed my own photography website from scratch in HTML code.
- I have run my own photoblog.
- I have used a Flash-based website.
In fact I have now come full circle by changing back to a HTML-based photography template again.
Recently I quit my Flash-based website and signed up for a Photoshelter account. I will explain why I chose Photoshelter for my personal photography portfolio website at the end of this post.
Considerations to Make
In my opinion the first consideration you’ll need to make is how much time you want to spend on creating your website. While setting out to build your own website can be a lot of fun, it can also be very time consuming. By contrast you can literally be up and running in 5 minutes with a great looking website by choosing a template-based website.
If you decide to build and design your own website, Adobe Dreamweaver CS5 is probably the leading web design software on the market today (November 2010). If you have little or no coding experience consider getting Dreamweaver CS5: The Missing Manual by David Sawyer McFarland or Dreamweaver CS5 For Dummies by Janine Warner.
If you decide coding is not for you, the next consideration to make is how much flexibility of design a template-based website offers you and does it meet your requirements?
There is nothing worse than ending up with a template-based website only to discover that you can’t change and tweak it the way you want.
It is therefore also a good idea to check if you can sign up for a free trial period which allows you to “test drive” the website before you open your wallet.
Here is a quick list of things to consider before deciding on how to create your website:
- Overall appearance
- Flexibility of design
- Blogging capability
- E-commerce functionality
- Print services
- Storage space
- Password protected client area
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Cost and fee structure
- Free trials and cancellation policy
Comparison of Four Photography Portfolio Websites
As I already mentioned above I ended up choosing PhotoShelter for my personal photography portfolio website.
I decided to compare the four photography portfolio websites and here is how I scored them on the various considerations I made:
|Flexibility of design||Good||Good||Good||Good|
|Print services||Very good||Very good||Very good||Poor|
|Storage space||Excellent||Excellent||Very good||Poor|
|Cost and fee structure||Very good||Very good||Good||Good|
|Trial and cancellation||Very good||Very good||Excellent||Very good|
|Overall conclusion||Very good||Very good||Excellent||Good|
PhotoShelter is a slightly more expensive option. It’s also very feature rich and at the same time very focused on helping photographers with their search engine optimization. It also comes with a very good e-commerce solution.
Photocrati is a WordPress-based solution offering a stylish way to display your work and blog about it at the same time. However it does not come with as many of the features included in the above solutions.
Why I Chose PhotoShelter
I decided to quit my Flash-based website primarily because it offered me no e-commerce options to sell my work. It was also a fairly expensive solution at around US$600 per year. PhotoShelter’s standard plan costs US$329 per year in comparison.
It also weighed into my decision that my Flash-based website was quite slow in loading up (around 15-20 seconds) whereas my new PhotoShelter website loads up in less than 5 seconds. I had several visitors commenting on the slow nature of the Flash-based website and Google Analytics indicated that many visitors abandoned their visit as a result of the slow loading of the Flash-based website.
While I think Flash-based websites are often much more stylish than HTML-based websites, some of the points mentioned above are quite important to the success of your website. Likewise search engine optimization (SEO) of your website is also an important consideration when you’re weighing up a Flash-based website against a HTML-based website.
OK, to the point now – why PhotoShelter? Well, it’s probably easiest to list the reasons, so here is a list of my main reasons for choosing PhotoShelter:
- PhotoShelter offers professional, good looking websites with just enough customization options for my needs.
- I can very easily switch themes at no cost if I wish to get a new “look” after a while.
- In my 14 days $1 trial period I directly interacted with PhotoShelter’s CEO Allen Murabayashi through their community forum inquiring about a small design change for the Crisp theme which was then implemented only a few weeks later along with a string of other improvements (some of which had been on the cards for a while).
- PhotoShelter’s e-commerce solution is very good and incredibly flexible which was an important factor for me.
- I have the ability to use my own domain name.
- PhotoShelter is very focused on helping photographers with their search engine optimization (SEO) and this is evident throughout the entire solution that they offer. I think this shows that they “care”.
- I like the fact that PhotoShelter’s product is aimed at “serious photographers”.
- PhotoShelter’s help documentation is excellent.
- PhotoShelter also works as an archive for my most important photos.
- The product is constantly evolving, but it also seems to me (from reading the forums) that new changes are not implemented without having been thought through with careful attention to detail on all levels.
- The online community of serious photographers associated with PhotoShelter is huge and very supportive.