I’ve just reviewed three of the major photography site builders in quick succession and do you know what I found?
None of them so far has quite managed to tick all of the boxes when it comes to satisfying the needs of a professional photographer.
With that in mind, I’m eager to start pitting them against each other to help you decide which platform will suit your best.
We’ll start by taking a brief look at how these platforms are similar and then we’ll examine the advantages of each.
I’ll keep this comparison as brief as possible and you’ll have the option of reading a thorough review at the end if you want to get to know one of them more intimately.
Disclosure: To be completely upfront, I may be compensated if you sign-up using the links in this article. My top priority is, and always will be to help you and my opinions/recommendations will never be swayed by a potential commision.
Similarities Between PhotoDeck and SmugMug
# Ease of use: I found there to be a slight learning curve with both platforms. My advice is to spend 45 minutes to an hour familiarizing yourself with the website editor and soaking up some of the getting-started tutorials before diving in.
# Client proofing: Both offer a rock-solid, easy to use proofing platform. Create a password protected client gallery, allow them to mark favorites and download directly. PhotoDeck also allows clients to rate images and add comments.
# Blogging: Neither has a purpose-built blog but there are workarounds. They involve creating a gallery to house the blog and using a sub-gallery for each post.
# Protect your work: When uploading images, PhotoDeck and SmugMug allow you to easily add watermarks, password protect your galleries and disable the right click feature to make it harder for people to save your photos without permission.
# eCommerce tools: I was surprised at how easy both platforms make it for you to sell downloadable images, prints and products.
# Order fulfillment: If you don’t wish to handle customer orders yourself, you have the option of utilizing one of the integrated print labs to fulfill the orders on your behalf. PhotoDeck also allows you to use a lab of your choice in addition to the integrations.
# Free trial: PhotoDeck and SmugMug offer a 14-day free trial which lets you explore all they have to offer before deciding whether or not to commit.
4 Advantages of Using PhotoDeck
1. Commision Free Sales
If you intend to sell your work through your site which I know many of you will, you’ll be pleased to hear that PhotoDeck doesn’t take a commision on your sale.
“I wouldn’t expect them to” I hear you say…
Maybe not, but SmugMug takes a 15% cut on all of your sales similar to other platforms.
2. Customize your mobile site
PhotoDeck has a separate editor which allows you to make changes to your mobile site such as colors and layout without affecting the desktop version.
I love this feature and SmugMug doesn’t have it.
3. Site languages
SmugMug offers the standard “Google Translate” features which is okay but it’s not the best solution.
PhotoDeck offers multi-language support and has already translated any native text (such as menus) into a variety of different languages.
The feature costs an additional $5/month when paying for a year upfront.
Whenever you add content such as custom menus, written text in the form of pages or image description & titles, you can translate it and then store it.
From there, simply add the Language Switcher feature to your site and allow visitors to browse your galleries in their own language.
4. Optimize your images for the search engines
A crucial feature for any photographer hoping to get their images found in search engines is the ability to utilize ALT tags.
This means giving them an informative title and description as this is what Google and Bing will pick up on as they can’t read the images themselves.
PhotoDeck allows you to do this while SmugMug only lets you add a caption to your images and says that Google will use that instead.
It’s hardly ideal, especially if you don’t want to display captions under each of your images.
4 Advantages of using SmugMug
1. Choice of design templates
When you first step inside SmugMug, you can start creating your site using the standard SmugMug template.
Don’t like it? I didn’t either but luckily they have 26 designs in total for you can choose from.
Each design has a choice of layouts and can be customized by adding and deleting “blocks” of content such as text blocks.
You’ll also be able to switch designs at any time if you fancy a new look.
PhotoDeck only has one standard theme that everyone starts with and a choice of 10 different layouts.
2. Ready to go on mobile
SmugMug doesn’t have a fancy mobile editor (which I said was an advantage for PhotoDeck) and you won’t be able to customize your site separately for phone and tablets.
So why am I listing this as an advantage?
Simply because I know many of you won’t make use of the mobile editor anyway and would prefer that your site works automatically out-of-the-box without any additional effort.
3. Integrated Image editor
SmugMug has a very useful PicMonkey editor full integrated into your back office.
Usually, PickMonkey comes with a monthly fee but as a SmugMug customer, you can use all of the tools for free.
PhotoDeck doesn’t have any kind of image editor so all of your edits and retouches will need to be done before uploading.
4. Live customer support
I’ve needed to contact the support team with various questions on all three platforms that I’ve tested so far.
While SmugMug doesn’t have a phone number, they do offer a live chat feature on certain plans.
I don’t know about you, but knowing that I can get help in real time if I need it would certainly help me sleep a little easier at night.
PhotoDeck doesn’t have any phone or live support in place officially although they did tell me that a call could be arranged in certain circumstances depending on time zones etc.
Conclusion – It’s Decision Time!
Well folks, there you have it.
Regardless of whether you choose PhotoDeck or SmugMug, you’ll have…
- A fantastic client proofing platform.
- 14-day free trial.
- Watermarking to help protect your work.
- Blogging capabilities.
- Easy to use eCommerce tools to help you set up shop.
- Integrated print labs for order fulfillment.