Where Is The Best Place To Build A Photographer Website?

April 12th, 2016

SquareSpaceGlen in North Georgia says:

You guys at PFRE are just great…superfab! I’m interested in starting a small business shooting for Realtors in North Georgia and it’s very embryonic but I found a goldmine when I found your site. Thank you and everyone that has contributed.

Where’s a good place to start a website for my portfolio? How do you feel about Facebook as well? Please share your thoughts.

Your website is a key part of your marketing. It’s your brand and will be the centerpiece of your marketing so don’t cheap out and build a free site. For around $100 a year, you can build a top quality portfolio site. It’s worth it! Here are the top places to consider:

  1. Squarespace
  2. 500px
  3. SmugMug
  4. Zenfolio
  5. Format
  6. PhotoShelter

These all have strong features to build your real estate business around. Here is an article on PetaPixel.com about a year ago the reviews all of these services in detail. I have to say that I’ve had a site at Squarespace for many years and love it! They are always on the leading edge of design and innovation.

Here is my point of view on FaceBook:
While a FaceBook site is an important way for real estate photographers to connect with and market to Realtors in their area, I don’t think it is a good way to show off your portfolio. To show off your portfolio you want a clean site that’s not jammed with distracting advertising. I’ve seen several real estate photographers that have their domain name pointed at their FaceBook page and don’t appear to have a portfolio site that they control. I think that’s a bad idea. You should have both.

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20 Responses to “Where Is The Best Place To Build A Photographer Website?”

  • There are some pitfalls to watch out for when looking to build your company web site. If you use a host’s proprietary tools, you are tied to that host and will have to rebuild your site from scratch if you decide to move to a different host.

    Hosting deals that sound too good to be true are “too good to be true”. $8ish per month is about the lowest price you will find if you are paying a year at a time. Your site will be hosted on a computer that may also be dishing out thousands of other sites at the same time. Load times and performance of any server side applications may suffer a lot. It is typical to pay more to have your site situated on a computer with fewer other customers up to the point where you are hosted on your own computer (not needed for a photo portfolio site). If the host you are thinking of using is a “one size fits all” company, look for somebody else that will give you the ability to purchase better service if you find yourself needing it.

    Alway read the fine print. A well known, very large host that I won’t name started with the business model of owning their customer’s domain names and still offers incredibly low teaser packages with the same clause. Your best bet is register your domain name with a separate company and make sure that you own and control it. Your domain name is a very valuable asset.

    Facebook is in the business of collecting personal information and reselling it according to a public statement by M. Zuckerberg before the company went public. I need customers, not “likes”. Spend the time you have on your web site and not a FB site.

  • 1. Buy a domain name and a hosting package that will host a WordPress site.
    2. Setup WordPress.
    3. Pick a photography theme and install it. https://colorlib.com/wp/photography-wordpress-themes/ has good examples
    4. Download required plugins depending on what you need.
    5. Upload your pictures to the media gallery

    This approach gives you the most control and flexibility and can easily scale if you need it to. Most theme developers are very good with helping you with any problems. You may need a little help if you don’t know anything about HTML coding but most of it is WYSIWYG.

  • Another important thing is to get a responsive theme that will scale to the size of screen site is being viewed on. Very important for Google SEO and with a photography heavy site its important to tag all your photos for keyword rich content. SEO is a whole other thing be sure to pick a keyword rich domain name being at the top of Google is by far the most important thing when making a website.

  • I actually am very happy with http://www.wix.com It allows me to customize everything, SEO, well I get leads from all over the Washington DC area daily, so SEO works and is easy to plug into Wix.com For only $150 per year and $20 for Network Solutions to hold my domain name, I love it! Just my three cents worth πŸ™‚

  • As a website developer turned photographer, I have to fully endorse Mike Turners suggestions. There may be many places where you can get a $100/year website, but they most definitely will NOT be top notch.

    I do approximately 8 – 12 shoots per week from my website. You need more than just a site that looks good, you need a site that performs. If you set your wordpress site up, and then regularly add articles (posts) that are rich in the search phrases for which you wish to be found, you will soon find yourself with a working site that produces clients. Use the desired search phrases in the article titles, in headings and in the text (don’t over do it). Also link one article to another using anchor links. Install an SEO plugin to help get your site indexed by Google ( I use Yoast).

    This is much easier than it sounds, but the hard part is actually making the regular posts required for Google to recognize you as an authority.

    In my experience the cheap, DIY websites are not worth pursuing. You may be able to make a good looking site, but what good is a nice looking site that does not perform?

    If you are nervous about setting up a wordpress site, post an ad in craigslist. WordPress is the most popular website platform inb the world, and there are resources everywhere, Youtube is rich in free resources, and Lynda is rich in tutorials for monthly subscription.

    The website is but one component of marketing yourself on the web. You also need a facebook page and an email campaign. You can buy realtor email addresses from the web, and send to them via mailchimp. I dont like being a spammer, but it is very, very effective. I get at least 3 jobs every time I send an email campaign (plus repeat business).

    Going to one of the DIY places for your website is the equivalent of getting a fully automatic point and shoot camera. It works, sorta, but for consistent results you need to learn how to use a more capable camera.

    If you don’t want to go to bother, then hire a developer that will work with you. Even if you have a developer set up the site, you will need to maintain it, add articles, and keep it up to date.

    The easy approach is seldom the best approach.

    Koken is also available for free, (you still have to buy hosting) and is very effective for SEO. The problem with Koken is that it is relatively unheard of and you do not have the vast network or resources that wordpress has.

    My site http://www.mike-cartwright.com, feel free to take a look. It is a wordpress site using a yootheme template and yoast for seo. Dont make the mistake of the easy route. It doesn’t work in Photography, and it doesn’t work in websites.

  • If you can find the time yourself and have the designer eye, you can literally save thousands developing your own website to your liking and creative development… However, WordPress does have limitations just like Joomla and any control outside the realm of the stratosphere must be sort after now… Happy WordPress building… http://www.linkedin.com/in/allandavidmackenzie?trk=hp-identity-name%5By WordPress

  • Been using Zenfolio for a number of years. Very happy with it–different account levels, password protected galleries, agents love how easy it is to download their photos, looks classy, very customizable.

  • Hey Mike –

    Good to hear you have had luck with WordPress.

    For most photographers I would caution against it because it is very time consuming to setup and learn. If you are a photographer just starting out and want a website quickly, the suggested services mentioned in the article are best.

    Installing a WordPress database on a host is not always easy and sometimes takes an understanding of web development. I think most photographers don’t want to be web developers.

  • I reached the max 16MB on Dropbox where having to upgrade to their premium plan, so shopped around. Zenfolio was roughly the same price as the upgrade but offered so much more. It is a clunky delivery system adding to a shopping cart and then checking out to receive an email with the link to a zip file, and some of the adding photos to shopping cart is not that intuitive. A few Realtors are not technically savvy enough to do it and am tempted to create a fictional “Ima Realtor” account and make a screen capture video that walks through the process and can be copied to every Realtor’s individual account Gallery. I do really like it and has potential for sales outside RE. Wile there is an easier way to download outside the shopping cart experience, it is original size only so would have to upload the MLS size forgoing full size, or teach them how to downsize – neither of which are appealing, so had to go through the shopping cart. Since they pre-pay, I made a custom price list the gives them the option of full size or MLS/web, both of which have a cost of $0, then added some cost options such as books, prints, etc.

    While the website is quite broad in terms of photographic genre, my RE specific site is so dated that I have it pointing to the Zenfolio site as I redevelop a new RE site. That site will be independent with the exception of a “client logon” page or link that would jump to the Zenfolio account for photo delivery. Hopefully I won’t be in the market for a new platform as I just logged on to see what level I had – one or two above “basic.” While I am set to renew this month, they apparently don’t offer that level – even as I searched on a browser that looked like I didn’t have an account. The “Pro” at $20/mo (1x annual or @28 monthly) seems to offer the same level of features as my account, but is significantly above the rate that I pay for my account.

  • You left PhotoBiz off the list. If for no other reason – their customer support and ancillary services make it a great choice – especially for those who are not web savvy. Well worth the extra monthly price for all the features, but well worth it for the basics. Some of the top architectural photographers use their site and if you want to sell from it – the E-Commerce blows the competition away.
    That being said – go with your budget, with what allows you to create the type of content that sells. None of the ones listed are a bad choice, just not my choice. http://photobiz.com (Disclosure – although I usually get paid for referrals in discounts from Photobiz – I have given you a direct link to this site – so no money for me).

  • Many choices. Since the mid 90’s I always built my own sites using GoLive then Dreamweaver. But I am technically challanged and in recent years found that my sites ended up using clunky old code and while the displayed they were bumped down the search engine indexing and would not reconfigure for mobile devices. So I went with http://www.wix.com. You can start with a template and modify them. Easy drag and drop plug ins for slide shows, links, pages, sections and simple modules to put videos on a page that will play from the page. Like all of these things, there is a little learning curve, but if you take the time, you can have a great looking site in far less time than trying to build from scratch and you have the security to know that as technology changes, so does your site without any work on your part.

    I found the user interface more intuitive than Squarespace but that is just a personal comment. And there are standard drop in icons linking to any of the social media you decide to use. Although in my market, I have never gotten any jobs from my FaceBook page. In my market, I also find that the site does not bring my jobs but locks personal sales contacts into being. More of a supportive marketing tool rather than a “reach out and touch someone” tool. But then I work in a market where it is as much the personal relations that result in work as the work itself. So for me, the site is a confidence builder rather than a hard selling tool. You need to work out a marketing strategy and figure out what tools will work for you in your market before picking the ones to use and how to use them.

  • @ Mike Cartright – I’ve been trying your site for the last few minutes and all I get is a plain white screen!

    I’ve tried Zenfolio, Photoshelter, Photodeck, Squarespace and probably one or two others, but the only one that has clicked with my very fussy requirements has been AphotoFolio, who I have now settled on. This is for my main portfolio site only, and I use Smugmug for client delivery.

    I’m not aware that I’ve ever got work through someone finding me via my website, so SEO is not necessarily important for some of us. To a large degree I like to choose my clients, and while I can’t force them all to work with me I would prefer to target specific people and companies rather than wait and hope that they find me on the net.

  • @Mike Cartwright

    As a web developer you might want to check your website…..its a blank page in Chrome, Edge, IE and FF πŸ™‚

    ViewSource shows:

    Real Estate Photography Tampa Clearwater St Petersburg

  • Damn, looks like the blog cut out the code, here is a screenshot: https://drive.google.com/a/virtualviewing.ca/file/d/0B9vduyH1hkjTZUpQX0JxSVZxTU0/view

  • I also highly recommend a self-hosted WordPress site — register the domain you want, then head to http://Imagely.com to get the best hosting for photographers around – the set up WordPress for you, along with their themes and all the essential WP plugins. Bonus? It includes their NextGen plugin for incredible slideshows and a cart to sell prints if you want. All bundled together, quick & easy!

  • I had a Zenfolio account for almost seven years, and it worked pretty well, although their galleries are much more conducive to brokered print orders (where people can order prints and you get a check for your set price, minus cost and commission) than digital downloads. I tried Zenfolio for file delivery on my first two real estate shoots then immediately went to another provider for file delivery as the process was much too cumbersome, not to mention trying to manually build and deploy property websites using Dreamweaver and Zenfolio’s embedded slideshow functionality. Zenfolio has gotten more expensive in the last couple years, and hasn’t added any features that I would say should appeal to photographers who don’t sell a high volume of prints as a major component of their business model.

    My Squarespace site is still in progress but the cover page is up with my contact info and examples of past work. I like their platform as it is largely error-proof but allows for an expert developer to inject additional code as needed. It’s affordable and their themes look really nice. WordPress and other do-it-yourself CMSs are an option, but I think it’s overkill when there are plenty of solutions out there like Squarespace that are basically the same price as the DIY option and they handle all platform upgrades and other issues that come up.

  • @ Christian and @matt
    My site is set up to reject all countries except for the USA. I use geoblocking because of the daily attacks from China, India, Pakistan and Russia. I do not do any business outside of the USA, so it was an easy choice.

    My apologies to the readers of this blog who have tried to access my site from other countries. You won’t be able to unless you use a proxy with USA origin.

  • Here is my formula for success!
    1. Buy a domain name. I use Godaddy
    2. Buy a Smugmug Power account for $60/year (www.smugmug.com/plans)
    3. Set up your Smugmug website (check out my site at http://www.repics.ca)
    4. Install the Smugmug plugin into Lightroom and sync your new website
    5. Create a folder for each year (2016) and this is where you post your hidden galleries of your photos for online previews. These are protected, private and hidden to the internet to protect the listing and your client.

    Now we have a website so what is our workflow?
    1. Shoot the home
    2. Process the images in Lightroom
    3. Export your final jpeg images to a subfolder
    4. Publish your final jpeg images to a new Smugmug private gallery using the address as the name
    5. After the images are published, check the online gallery and create a link for a zip file to download the gallery images (or use the Download All button)
    6. Email your client a link to the online private gallery and the download link for their files

    This is just a quick overview. Maybe I will have to create a workshop on the full business workflow.

  • I agree with what Christine said – a WordPress site hosted with Imagely is your best option. The Next Gen Gallery feature and themes that are included with the hosting package makes it an exceptional value.

    Especially when it comes to a user friendly and SEO optimized image gallery, Next Gen Gallery is really good. Their Managed hosting option is specifically geared for photographers, and they take of technical parts of hosting like optimization and security.

    It’s like getting the simplicity of Squarespace but you get the power of WordPress which is capable of far more.

  • I spend half my life in WordPress since this blog is a self-hosted WordPress site and as others above have already pointed out, for the vast majority of photographers WordPress is not appropriate. Sure it’s powerful but there is much more to learn to manage a WordPress site than most photographers want to invest in time and energy. This is why I never recommend WordPress sites for real estate photographers.

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