Wow, there are a few more photography specific website builders than I originally anticipated.
I can see exactly how choosing the right platform could be a very daunting task.
With that in mind, I’m here to help guide you and today we’ll be putting PhotoDeck under the microscope.
Together, we’ll uncover the pros, cons, and find out what features PhotoDeck has and what it’s missing.
By the end of this review, you’ll have a good idea of whether it’s right for your photography hobby or business.
And if it’s not…I’ll do my level best to help you find something that is!
Sound fair? Great, let’s get started.
PhotoDeck Summary (Inc. Pros & Cons)
Full Review Outline
1. Getting Started With PhotoDeck
Getting started couldn’t be easier.
Once you begin your free trial, you’ll be met with a screen asking what type of site you wish to create.
This is so they can pre-populate your site with relevant pages and features which you can edit later.
I decided to create a fictional wedding photography business.
Once you’ve made your decision (this isn’t set in stone), you’ll head over the main dashboard.
You’ll find a very helpful 8-minute video waiting for you which will walk you through the basics. I definitely recommend watching it and you’ll see why in the ease of use section!
I remember seeing somewhere PhotoDeck advising to basically just get stuck in as you can always change the smaller less important things later.
This is great advice as it’s far too easy to get bogged down in the small details. Before you know it, hours have passed and you haven’t actually achieved anything.
2. Design Templates – A Rather Limited Selection
I was really excited to see what PhotoDeck had on offer in the way of design templates as their own site is quite stunning.
It turns out they have just one and it’s not particularly attractive. Having said that, you do have a choice of 10 layouts depending on how you wish to display your content.
PhotoDeck say they pride themselves on you giving you the ability to customize your own website rather than relying on pre-designed themes (personally, I’d prefer the choice).
And they definitely live up to their promise of being able to customize your site.
You’ll have a plethora of options and settings at your disposal allowing you to;
- Change text font type, color, and size.
- Customize your site’s colors.
- Upload a logo and background images.
- Customize headers, footers, and borders.
- HTML/CSS access for advanced users.
As you’re making these changes, you can see how your site looks in real time by hitting the preview button.
3. Ease of Use – Don’t Be Like Me, Watch The Video!
PhotoDeck’s website building tools are well laid out and easy to use providing you watch the getting started video in the main dashboard.
I ignored my own advice. I bypassed the video and jumped straight in. I know, when will I learn right?
As a result, I quickly began to feel overwhelmed and a little frustrated. It took me an age to figure out how to perform simple tasks like add a new gallery and customize certain parts of my site.
When I did finally admit defeat and play the video, all of the answers were already there waiting for me.
It turns out that all you have to do is click the “customize theme” option, hover over a particular area of the page, click on the little blue tab and the relevant settings will appear as if by magic on the left-hand side of the page.
In addition to the video, there’s also a detailed step-by-step written tutorial to which you can follow along as well as a comprehensive knowledge base so if you do get stuck, it shouldn’t be for long.
Moral of the story… If you try go at it alone then you could easily end up frustrated like me. But if you take your time and soak up the training at various stages of your site, your journey will be a lot smoother!
As this point in my reviews, I usually briefly explain the menus and settings but today I won’t bother as PhotoDeck do a better job than I ever could.
4. Customize Your Mobile Site? No Problem!
I do love a platform that understands that people generally navigate websites differently on their phones and tablets.
PhotoDeck not only allows you to do that but they also let you customize your site for mobile visitors.
The only customizations that will carry over to your main desktop site are changes to your actual content such as text and images on your pages.
I will say however, even if you don’t wish to make additional customizations, it’s still worth heading over to the mobile editor to see how your site looks before going live.
I did just that and found that my website title had been cut off and I had to change the layout in order for it to fit correctly.
5. Tools & Features – What’s There, What’s Missing?
While building my test site I was pleased to see some critical features for photographers were sat there waiting for me.
On the flip side, I also found some fairly basic features missing and no way to integrate them. Let’s go take a look…
Watermarking and security
You’ll be given the option to watermark any photos which you upload to your site to help prevent people from stealing them (mark with text or image). You can choose to automatically mark every image or just certain ones.
In addition to watermarking, you can protect your galleries as well as client galleries with a password. PhotoDeck can even prevent people from clicking on your photos and saving them.
I sometimes think that I’m the only person who isn’t active on social media but with PhotoDeck, you certainly can be.
Simply click on the “Social Networks” option in the menu under the “My Website” tab and begin adding your profile URL to any of the social media platforms that you wish to integrate with your site.
You’ll find Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, Facebook, Twitter and many more. You can even customize the style of the icons such as shape, position, and color.
The client proofing platform is one of my three favorite PhotoDeck features and it’s very easy to use. (the others are language options and eCommerce which we’ll get to in just a second).
Simply create a new gallery and set it “Proofing”. From there, upload your photos of the event, choose who can view it and email the client the link to their own gallery from inside the back office.
Your client(s) will be able to browse the shots, rate them on a scale of 1 to 5, leave comments, and move favorites over to a Lightbox.
You can also add a button next to the image in certain circumstances and allow them to download it right to their computer. A low-resolution download option is also available if your client prefers offline proofing.
This section is about the built-in image editor or more accurately, the lack of. This is my third portfolio builder review in a row and out of all three, only SmugMug offers this feature in the form of a PicMonkey integration.
I know it’s not make-or-break as most of the cropping or retouching can be done before uploading but it’s a handy feature to have and I’m surprised not more of these platforms have them, including PhotoDeck.
Another of my favorite features.
Not only can you use PhotoDeck in other languages such including English, French, Spanish, German, plus a few others, you can also utilize the Language Switcher feature to translate image/video titles and descriptions, as well as any other standard content such as your menus.
Just to be clear, any of your written content that you’ve added to your pages will need to be translated manually.
This handy feature does come with an additional cost of $5/month (billed annually) in addition to your main PhotoDeck package which we’ll look at a little further down the page.
Calendar & Bookings
I thought I was missing something when I couldn’t find a way to display a calendar to showing my schedule to fictitious clients so I decided to contact the support team.
It turns out I wasn’t missing anything, it’s just not possible. Neither is accepting bookings.
PhotoDeck doesn’t have a blogging platform as such but there is a workaround, albeit a fairly basic one.
You’ll need to create a new gallery with a blog layout and then you can add sub-galleries for each of your posts. It does the job for the occasional post but if you intend on blogging to help grow your business then I’m afraid it may fall short of the mark
According to PhotoDeck, the simplicity of the blog is by design so their customers don’t have to master anything too complicated.
Personally, I find this setup more confusing than any other blogging platform that I’ve come across. On the positive side, there is a way to integrate a WordPress blog if needs must.
Search Engines (SEO)
If you haven’t a clue what search engine optimization is about, then fear not as Photodeck has put together a free 14-page PDF explaining the basics.
It’ll help you get your site ready for the search engines such as Google and Bing and give yourself the best chance of ranking well in the search results.
If you already have a grasp on it, then you’ll be pleased to know that you can optimize the meta title and description on a sitewide basis as well your image ALT tags which is crucial for any photographer who’s looking for new clients via the search engines.
In addition, your site will come complete with HTTPS security (the small green padlock that pops up in your browser address bar to inform you that the site’s secure), and they’ll automatically generate a sitemap on your behalf.
One thing I couldn’t find was a way to optimize individual pages so Google will automatically use what’s on the page already.
Selling Prints & Products
When it comes to eCommerce, not only does PhotoDeck have a rock solid platform in place but they don’t take a commision on your sales.
When I tell you that other providers can take anything from a 12-15% cut, it puts it into perspective how good PhotoDeck users have it when selling online!
Sell digital downloads, physical prints, products including t-shirts and mugs and accept a variety of payment methods such as a PayPal and credit cards.
PhotoDeck has seamlessly integrated WHCC, One Vision Imaging and Picto print labs meaning that you can have them fulfill and ship orders to customers on your behalf.
These labs are located in the US, UK and France respectively.
If you live outside of these areas or already have a relationship with a particular lab, you can have them create a free PhotoDeck account and email over your orders (providing they accept orders in this way).
6. Customer Support
When building out your site you’ll notice a small green help button in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen.
When clicked, it’ll give you links to the written step-by-step walkthrough as well as the help center where you browse topics to find your answer.
You can only contact the support team via email. There isn’t a phone number or live chat. Most platforms I’ve tested usually offer at least one form of live help (Pixpa offers live chat).
When sending an email PhotoDeck says that you’ll receive a reply within 24 hours. I’ve contacted them twice now and had a reply in under 10 hours each time.
They definitely stick to their time frame but it’s hardly ideal if your site goes down and you need to talk to someone immediately.
7. What Do Others Think?
At this point in the review, I usually take to Google to hunt down customer reviews.
PhotoDeck has very few visible user reviews online so I’ve done the best I could with what I could find.
Quentin from Fstoppers said the multilingual feature helped him earn more money in his photography business as he’s now able to translate his galleries for non-English speaking clients.
Quentin also refers to PhotoDeck as…
One of the Most Powerful Proofing and Gallery Systems
Review site Comparakeet scores PhotoDeck a very solid 9.8 out of 10.
They liked the ease of use, customization options, search engine friendliness, client proofing and ordering system. They didn’t like the additional cost for multilingual support.
8. Pricing – Which Plan is Right For You?
Once you create your account you’ll have a full 14-days to test things out without having to hand over your card details.
If you like PhotoDeck and wish to continue after your trial there are only three simple pricing plans to choose from.
Actually, there are four but you’ll only see the fourth option (Lite plan) when you’re logged into your account and are about to upgrade.
Note: Prices are in US dollars and various payment options are available. Head over to PhotoDeck to see a full plan breakdown or prices in your currency.
Plan 1) Lite – best for people who just want basic eCommerce features and not much else.
Details: This is a no-frills plan that’s not listed on the table above. You’ll have access to the eCommerce tools but won’t be able to customize your site, add watermarks or use the proofing platform.
- 1-year plan – $108 billed upfront ($9/month)
- 3 months – $29.97 billed upfront ($9.99/month)
- No month-to-month option.
Plan 2) Folio – best for personal use with no eCommerce or proofing.
Highlights: Customize your site, visitor stats, SEO tools, social media integration, and 10gb storage which according to Photodeck is enough for 1000 -2000 images depending on file size.
- 1-year plan – $144 billed upfront ($12/month)
- 3 months – $44 billed upfront ($14.99/month)
- No month-to-month option.
Plan 3) Pro – best for professionals who want client proofing and eCommerce tools
*PhotoDeck say it’s their most popular plan.
Highlights: All of the above with a Client database, newsletter tool, 60gb storage (Photdeck says 6,000 – 9,000 images), complete client proofing platform and full access to eCommerce tools.
- 1-year – $300 billed upfront ($25/month)
- 3 months – $89.97 billed upfront ($29.99/month)
- Monthly – $29.99
Plan 4) Studio – best for power users with lots of videos and large files.
Highlights: All of the above, 100gb storage with unlimited video uploads.
- 1-year – $720 billed upfront ($60.00/month)
- 3 months – $239.97 billed upfront ($79.99/month)
- Monthly- $79.99
Don’t forget your domain name: When you get started, PhotoDeck will give you a free website address such as leesphotography.photodeck.com.
It’s okay for getting started but if you’re a business then at some point you’ll want to purchase your own without the PhotoDeck branding. A domain usually costs around $15/year and you’ll need to purchase from a third-party registrar such as GoDaddy.
Final Verdict – Should You Use PhotoDeck?
If you’re a professional photographer that’s looking to grow your business online, then PhotoDeck can definitely help you achieve it.