Did you know that PhotoShelter has been around since 2005 and has 800,00+ members?
I didn’t but having said that, I’m not surprised.
You see, I’ve been reviewing photography specific website builders for weeks now and during that time, PhotoShelter’s name has cropped time and time again.
In fact, I’m excited about this review as everything so far has either come with a fairly steep learning curve or has been missing vital features.
Is PhotoShelter about to change that?
I sincerely hope so but there’s only one way to find out!
PhotoShelter Summary – (Incl. Pros & Cons)
1. Getting Started With Photoshelter
Have your images ready as one of the first things you’ll be prompted to do is to create your first gallery and begin uploading.
Not ready? No problem, you can always come back and do it later.
When you’re done uploading (or not as the case may be), you’ll find yourself over at the Resources section where you can get better acquainted with PhotoShelter.
From inside the Resources screen, you can;
- Watch a 2-minute quick start video or access a written tutorial of your first steps.
- Watch a more detailed 43-minute webinar replay.
- Upload images.
- Upload a logo.
- Pick a template.
- Jump straight into designing your site.
- Get inspirations from real photography site created using PhotoShelter.
2. Templates – Elegant But Quite Static Designs
There aren’t a ton of designs to choose from, actually, there are only 9.
Having said that, they’re clean, elegant, mobile-friendly and you can easily bend them to suit whatever photography niche you’re in simply by uploading your own photos in place of the sample ones.
When you’re browsing the templates, each one has a brief intro and explains who it’s ideal for.
I chose the Marquee design for the purposes of my test site. A design suited to commercial and fine art photography.
And for a fictional family portrait business, it sounded perfect.
When it comes to customizing your template, you have control over the basic site colors and text fonts but other than that, you’re pretty much restricted to the confines of your chosen design.
3. Ease of Use – A Breath of Fresh Air
I don’t mind admitting that I’ve had my frustrations recently when getting to grips with other photography builders.
In comparison, PhotoShelter’s well laid out and intuitive editor made for a refreshing change!
The main menu’s located at the top of the screen and this is where you’ll find all of your tools, features and options.
Let’s take a brief look at each of the options;
Images: Pretty self-explanatory, this is where you’ll upload your pictures as well as creating new galleries and collections to house them in.
Website: Access the main site builder and begin customizing your website. You’ll also find the general & security settings here (including watermarking) as well as your visitor stats.
Sell: When you’ve got the foundation of your website in place, this is where you’ll come if you intend to sell your prints or products. We’ll be taking a closer look at the eCommerce settings a little further down the page.
Clients: Create an address book of client details, create and share Lightboxes, and browse stats including downloads and customer shopping cart details.
My Site: Hit this button to see how your site will look when live on the internet.
When editing your site, you’ll quickly find that you aren’t able to simply drag and drop elements around like you can with generic website builders like Wix.
Instead, you click on the blue pencil icons which brings up the relevant settings in the control panel on the left-hand side of the page. It’s here that you make your changes.
For example, I clicked on the icon next to the main site navigation bar. This brought up the pages menu as you can see below allowing me to add, delete or re-order how they appeared on my test site.
3. Tools & Features – What’s There, What’s Missing?
Watermarking and security
The last thing you want when showcasing your beautiful photos online is to have to worry about people stealing them or making illegal copies.
Fear not as PhotoShelter allows you to add a text-based watermark or image to all of your images or just certain galleries.
For further protection, PhotoShelter can also prevent people from saving your pictures to their computer.
If you’re concerned about privacy, you can choose exactly who’s allowed to view your galleries and even discourage the search engines from visiting your site altogether if you wish.
Your site will come with social media follow buttons already integrated. Where they’re located depends on your template and they can’t be moved.
Once you’ve found them you just have to click on the blue pencil icon and add in your profile URL’s for any platforms that you wish to display from the list.
You’ll also find a social share button inside your galleries which will allow users to share them across their own social networks.
Do you require your clients to proof your work before proceeding? No problem.
Simply create a fresh new gallery and upload the photos from the event or shoot. You can group certain shots together if necessary.
From there, send your client a personalized email directly from inside PhotoShelter with a link to the gallery which they’ll be able to browse from a desktop or mobile device.
The proofing gallery will be separate from your main site so not to cause confusion and they can easily mark their favorites and review them at any time.
One the clients happy, it’s back over to you. Print the photos or make them available for your clients to download themselves.
Unfortunately, PhotoShelter doesn’t support other languages, it’s English or nothing. PhotoDeck on the other hand, is the best option I’ve seen for a multi-lingual photography site.
Calendar and bookings
PhotoShelter doesn’t have a native calendar or booking system. However, you can grab the HTML code from your Google calendar and drop it into a new page so it’s visible to your visitors.
They would then have to call or email to book an appointment. Pixpa has a built-in calendar and people can email you directly after clicking on a particular date.
PhotoShelter doesn’t offer any way to create a blog which I find a little disappointing.
If you have an existing Tumblr or WordPress blog then you can display your posts on your PhotoShelter site.
I know many of you reading this will be wanting to start a blog to help drive visitors to your site. If you fall into that category then Pixpa has a native blogging platform.
PhotoShelter gives you access to all of the settings you need to “optimize” your pages, galleries, and images for Google and Bing.
By adding relevant titles and descriptions, you increase your chances of people finding them in the search results.
Visitors will also be safe in the knowledge that your website’s secure as it’ll display a small green padlock icon in their browser.
In addition, you can mark up your images with a whole host of other information that I haven’t seen included on any other photography builder including your contact details and copyright info.
4. eCommerce – Sell Downloads, Prints & Products
PhotoShelter makes it easy to turn your site from a digital photo book into a fully functional selling machine thanks to their built-in eCommerce platform.
I managed to list my first fictional product including shipping options in less than 5 minutes having never used it before.
Here are a few of my favorite features;
- Sell digital images, canvas prints, photo books, mugs and t-shirts.
- Add a download or buy now buttons next to your images.
- Offer a standard price list or customize for individual clients.
- Offer package deals, discounts and coupons.
- Specify product size, weight, finish and production time.
- Set tax and shipping rates for a particular region/country.
- Accept payments through PayPal or credit cards using the Stripe payment processor.
The canvas print I listed above was setup to be fulfilled by myself but that’s not the only option. If you’d rather, you can utilize one of the 180+ integrated print labs and have them fulfill the order and send it to you or directly to your customer.
Labs include WHCC, AdoramaPix, EZPrints and Loxley plus many, many more.
Note: PhotoShelter charges a commision on all of your sales ranging from 8% to 10% depending on your plan (covered shortly in the pricing section).
5. Customer Support
I saw a few grumbles about PhotoShelters backend support during my research (covered next) but I have to say I found it very good.
When you need help, you can start by browsing the support center and community forum.
If you still can’t find what you’re looking for, you can contact the Photoshelter support team via email or phone.
Phone support is available 9am – 6pm Mon-Fri EDT.
As I’m from the UK and didn’t fancy calling New York at some ungodly hour, I decided to fire off no less than 3 emails asking various questions.
I received replies to all three in less than 8 hours each from a different person.
They were friendly, very helpful, and answered my questions in-depth rather than simply sending me a link to a tutorial which is quite often the case.
6. What Do Others Think?
It’s always a good idea to get the opinions of as many people as possible for a well-rounded, balanced review.
With that in mind, I’ve dug around online and compiled some of the “highlights” from other reviewers as well as photoShelter users below.
What people liked;
- Really easy to use right off the bat (user review)
- With PhotoShelter, everything you need to manage your business is hosted under one single roof (professional review)
- Lots of helpful material for beginners (user review)
- PhotoShelter’s eCommerce features are a godsend (professional review)
What people weren’t so keen on;
- No drag and drop tools (user review)
- Could be more customizable (user review)
- PhotoShelter doesn’t have anyone working for them that knows about web building (user review)
- A bit expensive (professional review)
Note: Reviews correct as of 05/19/2018.
7. Pricing – Which Plan is Right For You?
Before choosing a premium plan I recommend taking advantage of the 14-day free trial.
This will give you plenty of time to put it through its paces and decide if it’s right for you and your business.
Below, you’ll find a breakdown of the plans along with my thoughts on each.
Plan 1) Basic – best for lite users who don’t need client proofing
Highlights: 4gb storage space, mobile-friendly, social media integration, eCommerce tools and access to all 9 templates.
- 1-year – $120 billed upfront ($10/month)
- Monthly – $12.99
- 10% commission fee on sales
Plan 2) Standard – More space and client proofing
Highlights: All from the Basic plan, 100gb storage space, client proofing tools, and 20gb bandwidth for client downloads.
- 1-year – $300 billed upfront ($25/month)
- Monthly – $29.99
- 9% commission on sales
Plan 3) – Pro- best for established photographers with lots of high-quality images
Highlights: All from previous plans plus unlimited storage space, unlimited client downloads and a live one-on-one consultation to help you set up your website.
- 1-year- $540 billed upfront ($45/month)
- Monthly – $49.99
- 8% commision on sales
Don’t forget your domain!
PhotoShelter will give you a free address for your website that looks something like leesphotography.photoshelter.com.
If you already have your own branded domain name, you can attach it to your site with any plan. If not, you can purchase your own which costs around $15 – $20 per year.
The Final Verdict!
I think you’ll agree, there’s plenty to love about PhotoShelter.