Welcome! Just before we jump into things, I’d first like to address the “elephant in the room”.
I’m not a photographer. There, I said it!
But…I do know a thing or two about do-it-yourself website software.
With that in mind, I’ve spent the last few weeks “in-the-trenches” reviewing the best photography site builders that the internet has to offer.
My goal was to help you find the ultimate, one-size-fits-all solution that I could recommend to all of my readers and be safe in the knowledge you’d all have exactly what you’re looking for.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find it.
Don’t get me wrong, the website builders mentioned throughout this article are fantastic but as with everything in life, they each come with their own set of pros and cons.
Today, we’ll be taking a brief look at all 5 along the advantages and disadvantages of each to help you find the right one for your hobby or business.
If you’re in a hurry, you’ll find a table of contents below which allows you to jump to a “mini-review” of a particular platform.
For the rest of you, I took the liberty of compiling a list of essential features that should be considered when making your decision which we’ll take a look at first.
Choosing a Photography Website Builder – A Few Things To Consider
If you’re just starting out, it can be easy to forget some of the features mentioned below.
By planning ahead and choosing a platform that has everything you need right now as well as in the future, will almost certainly save you a lot of headaches down the road.
# Ease of Use
I get it. You’re a photographer not a web designer right?
The last thing you want to be doing is spending days or possibly weeks trying to figure out how everything works.
Fortunately, the options listed here work on a “drag and drop” or “point and click” basis and all come with training tutorials and videos.
Even so, it goes without saying that some are easier than others and there will be a slight learning curve regardless of which platform you choose.
# Beautiful Designs To Showcase work
Each website builders comes with at least one pre-designed template that you can customize to make it your own.
Some have a much larger selection (30+) and come complete with galleries and sample pages which you can easily swap out with your own text and of course, photos.
As you’re going at it alone, I completely understand you want to keep costs to a minimum, otherwise, it would be a heck of a lot easier to have hired a web designer in the first place.
You’ll only find one free option below (Wix) which comes with limitations unless you upgrade. The others vary in price depending on which features you require and come with a choice of payment options.
# Client proofing
If you require the ability for clients to be able to proof photos before proceeding with the job, then you’ll need a platform that allows this and 4 out of the 5 below offer this feature.
Simply create a new gallery for your client, add a featured image, event details, custom web address and email it to your client. They can then select their favorites and even make comments before handing it back over to you.
# Sell digital prints & products
There’s a good chance that you’ll want to sell your images and if not now, possibly down the road.
In that case, you’ll need an integrated eCommerce platform to help you do just that. All of the builders below allow you to sell digital downloads, physical prints as well as other products.
If you don’t have the means to fulfill the orders yourself then some of them have partnered with recognized print labs who can fulfill the orders for you and deliver to either to you or direct to your client, whichever you prefer.
# Store and display hi-res photos
It’s useful to have an idea of exactly how much storage space you’ll need upfront.
While some website builders offer unlimited space, others offer a certain amount and then charge you extra should you run out.
# Multi-lingual capabilities
Not all providers make it easy, or even possible for that matter for you to convert your website into another language (think weddings where the family of the bride or groom may not speak English).
If this is important to you then you’ll need a platform which allows you to translate from English to other languages making it a seamless process for your visitors.
One builder easily outshines the others when it comes to multilingual sites.
# User & Search engine friendly
Unless your website is going to be solely for personal use, then it’s a good idea to make it easy for both your users and search engines to find their way around and understand your content.
This includes categorizing your images by adding “tags” and informative text to your image titles and descriptions.
If you’ve shared your photos online in the past then it’s quite possible that you may have had people steal them and use them for their own personal or even commercial use without an ounce of remorse.
If this hasn’t happened to you yet, just know it’s a real possibility.
One way to help prevent this is with a well-placed watermark which would make it almost impossible for anyone to remove which should help you sleep a little easier at night!
Option 1. SmugMug (The Best All-Rounder)
If you’ve done any research prior to this article then I’d be willing to bet that the name SmugMug has cropped up.
It’s one of the most well know photography builders on the market today so let’s go and see what it has to offer.
The first thing to note here is that SmugMug offers unlimited photo storage so you never have to worry about running out of space. You’ll also find 20+ design templates that will act as a starting point for your website which you can then customize from your PC or mobile device.
SmugMug boasts an easy to use client proofing platform, watermarking facility, PickMonkey image editor integration, and all of the tools you’ll need to start selling your work online whether it’s digital downloads, prints, photo books, wall art or other gifts.
You can choose to fulfill the orders yourself or utilize one of the well-known integrated print labs such as EX Prints, Bay Photo, Loxley, or WHCC which are based in the US and Uk.
The chances are you’ll want to purchase your own domain name (web address) at some point to give your site a more professional look without the SmugMug branding which will set you back around $10 – $20 per year.
SmugMug along with Wix, are the only two builders on this list that allow you to purchase a domain name directly which is easier than going through a third-party registrar and then having to link your new domain to your website.
I enjoyed creating my test site with SmugMug even though I found certain things a little more fiddly than I would have liked. Adding a simple contact form is one thing that springs to mind.
When it comes to selling through your website, SmugMug charges a 15% commision on all of your sales.
If you require your orders to be fulfilled on your behalf then you’ll need to use one of the listed print labs as there isn’t an option to use any others.
Finally, another thing that bugs me is that to add a description to your image that will help the search engines understand it and index it in their search results, you can only do so in the form of a caption that will always be visible to your visitors which is hardly ideal.
14-day free trial. Premium plans range from $3.99 – $29.99/month when billed for a year upfront. Monthly plans also available.
Option 2. Pixpa (Almost Perfect, Just Missing One Thing)
Pixpa was a website builder that I stumbled upon and thought “I’ll review it at some point when I get a chance”.
When I finally got round to it, I quickly realized what I’d been missing!
The standout features of Pixpa for me are the selection of 37 customizable templates, the best customer support that I’ve received out of any other platform on this page, simplistic client proofing feature and a full arsenal of eCommerce tools.
Oh, and you might like to know that Pixpa doesn’t take a commision from your sales!
In addition, you’ll also find a fully integrated blogging platform, watermarking, and a calendar to show your availability.
Clients can simply click on the calendar and they’ll be presented with a contact form to request an appointment for that particular date.
Currently, there aren’t any integrated print labs which I know for many of you will be a deal breaker as it means you’ll need to fulfill all orders yourself.
I’ve spoken with the team and they’ve assured me they’re working on this feature but can’t give me an exact date at this time.
I for one, am very much looking forward to this update!
Students can grab a free site and for the rest of us, there’s a 15-day free trial.
Plans range from $5 to $20/month when paid annually. Monthly options are also available but cost a little more.
Option 3. PhotoDeck (Great For Multi-lingual sites)
If you need multi-language support or wish to send orders to your preferred print lab which you already use, then PhotoDeck could be exactly what you’re looking for.
As with the others, PhotoDeck provides you with a full range of tools to help you sell your work online and they won’t charge you any commisions.
You’ll find all the main features that you’d expect such as watermarking, client proofing, and easy social media integration. You’ll even have the option to customize your mobile website separately if you wish.
60gb of storage available on the top plan, and you’ll have to purchase more if you need it.
There isn’t a way to display your calendar, no live chat or phone support (email only), and no choice of designs as everyone starts with the same and you’ll need to customize it to make it your own.
14-day free trial, Premium plans range from $9 – $60/month when purchased annually. Quarterly and monthly payment options also available but again, cost a little more.
Option 4. PhotoShelter (Easy To Use)
Not to be confused with PhotoDeck above, PhotoShelter is a whole different animal.
The easiest to use of all of all the specialist photography builders on this page with the exception of Wix which we’ll be taking a look at next.
A choice of 9 designs to help you get started, watermarking capabilities, eCommerce and client proofing platforms.
One of my other favorite things about PhotoShelter is the whopping selection of around 180 print labs enabling you to offer a wider range of products and have them fulfilled on your behalf.
You won’t find a ton of customization options here and there isn’t a way to create a blog.
If you intend to set-up-shop on your site you’ll need to pay a commision on your sales ranging from 8% to 10% depending on your plan.
In fact, PhotoShelter is the most expensive option on the list when you take into account what you get for your money.
For unlimited storage, you’ll need to opt for the top plan.
14-day free trial. Premium plans range from $10 – $45/month when billed annually. A pay monthly option is also available at a slightly higher price.
Option 5. Wix (A Simpler Option)
Wix is the only “generic” website builder on the list.
It’s an altogether simpler option but whether it’s any good for you will depend on your requirements.
Wix boasts the shortest learning curve and offers a beautiful selection of photography orientated templates to help you hit the ground running.
You’ll have free reign when it comes to customizing your site by simply dragging and dropping your images and text around the screen and dropping them wherever you fancy.
It’s a sense of freedom you simply won’t find with any of the other options listed here.
You can easily add a booking form (Wix Bookings) which allows potential clients to automatically schedule appointments according to your calendar.
You’ll also have the option of starting a blog as well as utilizing Wix’s powerful eCommerce tools to sell physical and digital products.
Unfortunately, the features mentioned above come at a price.
If you want to watermark your images, you’ll need to do it before uploading them. You won’t find any client proofing tools or print lab integrations.
Free website option which comes with restrictions. Premium plans range from $5 – $25/month for an annual plan. Monthly plans also available.
As I said in the beginning, I struggled to find a one-size fit’s all platform and I’m sure you can appreciate why.
Hopefully, at least one, maybe even two jumped off the page at you in which case I highly recommend taking advantage of the free trials and spending a little time with them.
That’s the only real way to be sure which will suit you best.
If you’re still unsure, I’ve left you a little summary of each below;