Trying to determine where to host an online gallery is a pretty big deal. There are a plethora of choices, from software to host your own on your own website, to full fledged service offerings that will host all your images, maybe do some marketing for them, and offer a shopping cart system. It seems that every day a new one crops up, and one or two fold. It’s pretty difficult to keep up with them. On top of that, they all have different pricing, which factors into decisions as well.
So, what is an up and coming photographer to do? I have sat back for as long as I could and watched how other people built their sites and learned from them regarding what they did and didn’t like about certain sites. And then I decided to wait until I had to make a decision. For normal hosting of my photos, along with the community features, I really like Flickr. But Flickr doesn’t offer any ecommerce capabilities, and that site isn’t really geared towards sales at all.
Then I stumbled across Imagekind (via Flickr). They have an entry level offering that is free, so I put some pictures on it to see what happened. I linked to it from this site (“Prints For Sale“). I have 16 images there, and they have garnered 96 views, 3 comments, and 0 sales. Certainly I was hoping something would sell, but so far, nada.
Then I did the Lakewood High School cheerleader shoot last weekend, and I needed substantially more capacity, along with some other features. I took this as an opportunity to try out another service – Zenfolio. They have a two week free trial offer that gives you all of the features of the top level account, but limits you to 1GB of storage. There are some pro’s and con’s to the service, but all in all I am happy with it. So much so, that I have subscribed to it for a year. I am not 100% sure how I am going to market my prints on this site, but it definitely made it easy for me to keep the cheerleader pictures private for each girl. Additionally, I was commissioned earlier this week (at the last minute) to do a corporate headshot. I was able to quickly setup a “gallery” for the headshot proofs to go into. After the shoot, I uploaded the pics, my watermark was automatically applied, and the company was able to choose which image they wanted to buy. The bonus? That commission covered the cost of the Zenfolio site for the year. Now, anything I make off of print sales from the cheerleaders will be profit. Not too bad a deal at all.
I am aware that Smugmug is the heavy hitter in this industry, but for some reason I didn’t like what I saw there. I certainly have some issues with the Zenfolio people, but I have taken it up with them and it sounds like they are working on things. I’ll continue on there for the duration of my subscription, but I will also keep an eye out on the competition. If someone clearly does it better, at a similar price point, it would make sense to move. But if Zenfolio proves they can meet my needs, I’ll stay on, and likely become a strong advocate (for whatever that is worth). I work in a customer service type of industry too, and I know what my standards are. Let’s see if Zenfolio can keep up.
BTW – I am probably giving up on Imagekind for now. I’ll still keep the WordPress plugin for Imagekind up and running. I don’t know for sure if anyone is using it, but I suspect some are. Let me know if you do.
Also, I am going to stop writing posts on Saturdays. 5 days a week of my random thoughts, experiences, rants, raves and reviews ought to be plenty for everyone.