As a professional photographer, your post-production time has increased. The cost of doing business has increased and you know you need more opportunities to make sales. The current state of the economy and the fact that professional photographers are competing with hobbyists certainly doesn't help matters. So, you do more: more branding, more marketing, more optimizing for SEO. You may even be mastering audio, learning Final Cut Pro and making pictures. Whew.
I can’t help with Final Cut Pro but as a web designer looking to help you make smart decisions about your websites (your best 24/7 marketing tool), I spend a lot of time researching to find the best tools.
One great platform is Photoshelter. After integrating a few websites with Photoshelter, I’m convinced it is the best all-in-one solution for e-commerce, archiving and image sharing/delivery for photographers today.
Here’s why (in no particular order):
Image Viewing, Delivery, Licensing is Simple
Photographers who use Photoshelter’s image delivery features get a major thumbs up from me. I've had experience going through a workflow process with a few photographers and I love how easily I can download comps and high resolution images with a click of a button. Viewing images as a group or individually is faster than any Photoshop generated gallery page and the interface is very user-friendly. It saves me time. It can save your customers time. It can save you time.
Ease of Use and Brand Message
When we buy a certain camera or buy a certain car or even an iphone, our purchases say something about us. We naturally put each other into groups and attach labels. The choices we make when purchasing goods and services communicates several messages about us, our brand. This may be a small factor and as more buyers gain familiarity with Photoshelter, I’m betting there’s a benefit to photographers. Why? Because Photoshelter is associated with “professional photographers” who make the hassle of viewing, buying and searching for images easier. You = High quality images + Easy-to-use website + Easy delivery of images = Happy Art Director. Remember, brand is not just about logos. It is a promise; an experience.
Search Engine Friendly
Photoshelter has put a lot of resources into making their software work hard for their members. They understand “the fundamental construction of a website can help attract visitors”. They know the value of solid coding; that the title tag; heading tags; keywords, descriptions, alt tags and unique urls create maximum receptiveness to organic search methods. Photoshelter has created a tool to help photographers update, modify and adjust your content in order to maximize your archives as a viable marketing tool. Mileage varies of course and a solid foundation makes it easier for you.
Photoshelter resource: 2009 SEO Cookbook for Photographers
Quick, Robust Website Solution
If you are looking for a quick base solution with robust features, Photoshelter is a great way to get up and running. Remember, your photographs are your greatest asset (content). Ease of use and quality of content is far more important than fancy Flash moves. Keep the design simple (minimalist always wins, imho), get a domain name and increase your opportunities to bid (a.k.a “Lead Generation”). Seriously, if you have a tight budget, Graph Paper Press just released several more Photoshelter-friendly Wordpress themes worth checking out. The combination of an open-source blogging tool and Photoshelter is a win-win solution for photographers on a budget.
Customization of Templates is Available
I’ve shared my two cents with Photoshelter on how it could be better (phasing out all those table tags among other things) and its nice to know they value feedback. Why is this important? It is mutually beneficial for both Photoshelter and the community at large. Just like photographers, there are many web designers. Your preference in working with a designer/developer with a particular style, personality, skill set, experience, etc. is personal. It has to be a good match. The more designers/developers who offer Photoshelter services means more choices for photographers.
Documentation is Excellent, Support is Available
Sometimes I get stumped by a question from a photographer about a function or feature unique to Photoshelter. Enter their Help section and voila! 9 times out of 10, I am able to find the help I need without having to contact support. Having an excellent user manual for users and developers is telling about a business. They seem to be up-to-date and if I am still unable to find an answer, I can always contact customer support. It's always nicer having a conversation with a human.
E-commerce Made Easier and Cost Effective
Sure, you could host your own archive and integrate it with say PayPal or any other payment solution but why? There are so many headaches with maintaining your own database and heaven help you if your server has a meltdown with no redundancy. Add to that the cost of hiring a designer and developer to implement and integrate a custom e-commerce solution. Integrating Photoshelter is going to be more friendly to your wallet than a custom, start-from-scratch database solution. Leave the worrying about servers to Photoshelter. Go make pictures!
Photoshelter Makes it Easier to Pool Resources
Photo collective Luceo Images, Wild Photography, Holmes & Johnson, and Snowboard Photosare just a few examples where pooling your resources and talents into one marketing effort can payoff for the whole. Each photographer controls his/her own archive as well as monetary transactions (depending on your collective agreements) and benefits from the power of multiple photographers marketing with a shared, common mission.
The Focus is on Photographers
Photoshelter does an amazing job giving shoutouts to Photoshelter members. They place an emphasis on photographers and how they can help you market, sell and get exposure for your images. You work hard making your images. Photoshelter works hard helping you show and sell. Between the A Picture’s Worth blog and their twitter account, Photoshelter actively promotes their users, features and even helps source other useful resources/tools for all photographers.
Smart Decisions and Direction
I remember thinking that closing the Photoshelter Collection a few years ago was a smart move. Their core business mission is more focused and they continue to further develop a great product.Photoshelter helps photographers with easy-to-understand, and easy-to-implement tactics to market their photographic archives. Some think Photoshelter is too spendy. I think you have to choose wisely.