Going on a family vacation, or enjoying your alumni meet? Maybe you are into professional photography and just want to be the greatest clicker!
All these goals require your engagement with photography. Getting good photos anywhere is more comfortable in today's time, thanks to the amazing technology we have in the form of camera, phones, and other such devices.
The trouble starts when you get those photos all jammed up in the device storage. Now you need a secure storage space for all those photos. Also, if you are a professional photographer, you will need a good platform to display your art gallery or photography.
All this can be done by making a website of your own and using a dedicated cloud storage service. But, not all of us are capable of that. So, the best way to tackle this issue is to use a website builder application.
Rather than a traditional site builder, we can start using a good portfolio website maker or photo sharing website. There are some photo sharing website like Instagram, 500px, Pinterest, etc. but they only offer direct uploads of your photos.
There are many dedicated portfolio and photography website builders that allow you to customize the images, sell and print them for your customers, and get many more such functionalities.
These websites are sworn for these purposes only, and so it is easier for novice users to engage in their photography dreams. Also, the amount of technical knowledge needed to make your site good is less here due to the apparent reduction of features.
- Free Trial: You can explore the application fully for two weeks with a trial
- Decent Templates and Themes: Although scarce, the themes and templates preset are up to the mark.
- Quality Image Upload: The customers can upload high-quality pics on the cloud storage.
- Decent Printing and Publishing Support: Publishing the photos and their distribution was smooth with the popular
- Easy UI: Novice users can quickly build their Portfolio site with ease and minimal knowledge.
- Client Proofing: PhotoShelter has given full client proofing support.
- Inadequate Template Stock: Only nine customizable templates are provided.
- High Pricing for Non-Professionals: The plans are a bit high for non-professionals and PhotoShelter must come up with different plans for them.
- Negligible Customization: You cannot change the elements and items on the page with more custom graphics.
- No Widgets: There is no separate widget menu to add custom elements to your
- No Backup and Restore: Except for the recycle bin of photos, no other backup is listed for an emergency
- No Video Support: There is no video uploading in the current
- Limited Storage: Unlike its contender, PhotoShelter has limited storage plans even for premium users.
Founded with the aim to improve the future of photography, PhotoShelter was formed in 2005, at New York, USA. This firm has now matured to one of the top photography management websites.
It offers all major photography related stuff like cloud storage, photo organization, workflow management of images, buying/selling and delivering photos to the clients and customers. It also offers other marketing features for professionals and E-commerce tools too.
Approaching with a two-week trial, let us now explore what features this portfolio site has to offer and see if their claims are true or a mere farce.
Time to get started!
PhotoShelter has a staunch photography vibe, and it is made precisely to serve those purposes. The major features that we have heard from many reviews are its devoted features for portfolio site with full supportive tricks for professional photographers.
To get started, let us make an account on their official website first. They have offered a free trial for two weeks, which we will be using in this review.
After the registration, unlike other web builders, where you have to choose the theme of your site first, PhotoShelter will take you to the account summary dashboard.
This main panel will take you to the Get Started section. This initial setup will prompt you to upload the images for your site. After this, it will ask to choose a desired theme from the list. You can proceed to edit the website now.
The main dashboard will show the Overview menu. This menu shows the site statistics related data. It will show the number of unique visits, top traffic sources, top locations, and account info. The resources tab consists of quick start guides, site builder details, using custom logo guide and help section.
Next tab just below it shows a Lattice section. Lattice usually means a crisscrossed structure, with a definite pattern repeating. Same is the case in lattice photography. In this mode, you can divide a photo in the shape of some lattice shapes. This type of pictures are very much in trend nowadays.
Other things you will notice in the main dashboard UI is the top menu bar. This menu is standard across most pages of your account. This menu will contain the tab links to Home, Images, Websites, Sell and Clients.
On the right end of this menu, you will see your account related info. You can click the My Site button here and see the current updated version of your website. Also, there is an Upload Button to upload all the picture to your account.
Overall, most of the website is accessible from this dashboard of the website. Moving on, we should be heading to examine the features of this photography portfolio site.
Now heading on to the templates of this site builder, we will see what variations we can get from it while making our own site. Similar to the traditional website builders, PhotoShelter also has some good templates.
Although these templates are strictly for photography display purposes, you can also make some personal wedding or anniversary website over it.
Template selection is made initially in the quick set up. If you have skipped it, do not worry because you can go to the main editor and under the Site Builder, you can change the theme of your page. If you already have assigned and done some changes to a theme, changing it again will reset the website, and you will have to fill it again.
These templates are named quite differently than what they should be as per their look. The most common one are Downtown theme, Horizon, East, West, Element, sonnet, pivot, marquee, and shuffle.
These templates are designed as per the photographer’s mindset and will definitely give them good choices to display their content in some practical ways. From single portfolios to group/family photos or for your personal photography content.
To get more customization and exhibit vast arrays of images and their pattern, we will evaluate the image editor later on. When compared to other portfolio templates from SmugMug, Weebly or Wix, the templates across most of them are almost the same, and the main difference comes to the amount of editing in those templates and subsequent widgets.
Time to dig in the Site Editor
As we have discoursed above, the main functionality and control over the display of your website are aided by the site editor. How much can you edit a given part? Or how many new elements you can add to the page? These are the queries that can be answered when you check out the site editor.
The site editor that is equipped in PhotoShelter is quite average. It offers very fewer options to edit the content of the page. To check out this editor, go to the Website Tab on the top menu bar. This will open the main editor window of that page.
The editor will have some common options like changing the templates, Fonts, Colors, Page Title, and Meta Descriptions. The editable items will have a blue pencil icon over them.
You will be surprised to know that there is no separate widget function on this portfolio website. Only the preset elements are allowed to be altered.
To change the theme, you can access the template tab on the left side vertical menu. The Colors Tab will allow the users to change the color of background, Logo, Text, and Links.
The Fonts Tab has options to select a particular font for Logo, Headline and Body or you can change them as per preset pairs. If this is your first experience in site building, it is suggested to use the preset pair function in fonts and colors to avoid too much variation on the site and heighten annoyance.
Now, we should see how that pencil icon helps to edit the individual elements. The main items that can be selected via this pencil icon are the Logo of the site, Title, Navigation pages, Image Gallery, Quick Search, Social media and Contact information. You can also edit some of the form info using it.
The site will require you to upload the official logo of the site in png format. The title is the heading of that page or website. The Social Follow button will allow users to add various social media site links like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vimeo, Pinterest, 500px, etc.
The Navigation Tab has some good options, and here we can add more pages to our site. Click on the pencil icon over the top of the navigation bar of your page. As you will see, there will be a list of various navigation pages, both visible and hidden ones.
You can see pages like Portfolio, Video, About Us, Contact Us, Archive, and Blog in this menu. Users can also add new pages via the Add Navigation Button. The new navigation page will need the page title and its URL. You can also add new Link or Drop-down Menu in your navigation bar with this add button.
The contact info on the top of the image gallery has some simple details like Email ID and phone number. The search button editing has only one option that can turn on/off search function on the site.
Apart from above, you can go to the Blog Page and add Tumblr, and Instagram feeds to it. However, you cannot add your own blog feeds. This is a bit of disappointment. They could have allowed the main blog feed at the center, and other social media feeds on the side of it.
The video page in the navigation menu adds videos from direct URL links or from Vimeo account. You cannot adjust the video content in this page expect from the link input.
Editing the archive pages is most constricted here. To do so, you will need to go to the Archive Page Settings in the global website settings.
From the preferences, the users can choose to display the cart links, social sharing, enable lightbox, display download links, etc. you can also set the image pricing type for various operations like prints, products, packages, and downloads.
Further, you will see some page settings in archive settings. The changes here are abysmal and only offer the addition of meta tags and titles.
Overall, the editor function does not offer any astonishing editing functionalities. It is quite a bummer that we cannot add custom elements to the pages, and also the content editing is very restrictive. We certainly did not get a feel-good vibe from this editor.
Image Editor and Media Manager
As we have emphasized it earlier, Image editing and management is the core of any photography site. Both these areas have to be implemented with more features and usability to improve the user experience and input value to the site.
Let us start with the Media manager of PhotoShelter. To access the media manager, click on the Images Tab on the top menu bar. A window will open, displaying the collections, folders, and galleries. On the left-hand side, you will see a navigation pan similar to Windows Explorer, which has a list of all the folders, galleries, and collections.
On top of this navigation pan, you will see a search button to find any individual image, folder, or file. Just below this search button, there are two buttons to create a new collection or a new gallery. In this manager, collection can be compared as a folder and gallery as the list of files.
There is an action tab on the top that allows you to do some actions like moving the gallery and collection, hide the collection/gallery from the website, enable watermark and delete the content. You can lock the gallery from here or restrict the access to anyone.
Click on one of the galleries, and it will open the list of pictures saved in it. In this window, you will see a variety of options for your image set up. The right-side pan window has all these options. It will display the URL of that gallery, upload more images button, share button, Name, and Thumbnail of that gallery. All these items can be edited as per user preferences.
The first tab in this menu is Visibility and Access. This tab can set permission on who can access that gallery. You can create a password for that gallery or Add specific people who can access that gallery, or you choose to display it to everyone or no one. Further, you can add download permission to it as above.
Next tab is used to add Description to the gallery. This description will be visible on the main site and that gallery. Client Photo Proofing is another good thing provided in PhotoShelter. With this feature, the owners can send the pictures to their clients and ask for confirmation on those photos.
This allows clients to verify the photos themselves and avoids any mishaps, especially when something is to be printed on a large scale. You can also mark some clients as favorites and use that ID quickly for future proofing.
The last two tabs here will show you the details of that gallery like the date created, watermark status, and location in the media manager.
Now let us look the customization provided in the individual images. Click on any image to see the options given for that image. In the same right-side pan window, it will display all the image data and items to modify it. You will see small icon viz. $ sign to add pricing of that image, searchability, hide/view, and model/property release.
You can also add a rating to that image or flag it from here. The first tab here will show Basic Info about that image like its size, date modified, uploaded date, and unique image ID.
The next tab will display the IPTC Meta Data. Now, what is this IPTC metadata? Most of the people may not have heard of it unless they are in the photography field, like we know that metadata is a collection of specific data that will give information about the other sets of data.
Photo metadata can send some useful information attached with it that can be used by any devices, in any format. Nowadays, most cameras and photo editing application are programmed by default to set such metadata while engaging with image files.
All these metadata can be scrambled in any order, and some of them may not have the same data fields. To avoid this randomness, IPTC set the MetaData standards. Using these set of preset data, it is easier to manage the image properties across various fields like photography, press, internet, etc.
What fields can we fill in this IPTC metadata tab? As you can see, there are extensive data to be inputted from standard SEO types like Image Title, Headline, Description, Keyword to different information like address data, copyright data, provider data, Author title, and his address and contact data, and finally usage rights and subject codes. As we can see, this will help to identify the source of the image to the core and can help in plagiarism and Copyright issues.
Similar to the above tab, the next tab will display the EXIF data. Contrary to IPTC data, EXIF data describes the technical aspect of the photo taken. This includes the information that is usually used by photographers in the lightroom.
It will contain information like camera makers, model, exposure time, ISO speed, Max aperture, focal length, and metering mode. You can search for these terms yourself to learn more about them, and if you are a professional, you are already familiar with them.
The next two options for image settings are Public Views and Folder Location. Additonal option you will see in the image organizer are Quick Send button and Add to lightbox. Using the quick send button, you can send the image file to one of the clients directly. LightBox is also the same feature except that it has more control over the shared photos, and you can manage many clients from that panel.
Now comes a bit unsatisfactory part. As we had expected before, PhotoShelter does not have a basic image editor application. We do not expect them to add Photoshop level application for editing, but a basic level editing similar to Picasa, Lightroom, etc. could have been helpful.
Also, there is no video support on their platform in the current version. This again may push back some enthusiasts. Overall, the image management functions were quite remarkable in PhotoShelter while the basic image editing is missing from it. We would certainly like PhotoShelter to add more features for image management and especially the editor and video support in future updates.
Now comes the money-making part for our photography nerds. With all those stashes of images stored on their server, our next logical step would be increasing the money stash from them.
Remember that getting paid for your work or appraised for it largely depends on the type and quality of photos you have clicked. PhotoShelter can only provide you a photo sharing and selling platform, it can at most help you promote your content, but it will not magically make you rich in photography.
To access the Sell and Publishing features of PhotoShelter, head on to the main navigation bar on the top of your account panel and click the Sell tab from there.
The first option you will see in the sales menu is My Sales. This tab will give details about all the sales transaction till date. This will also allow you to see the items in the current customer’s cart. You can see the status for pending payments, pending prints and order approvals. The users can also use the Self-Fulfilment option to publish their work by themselves rather than using one of the labs from the PhotoShelter stock.
One of the most important part before starting the photo sales is deciding the pricing factor for them. This includes having different charges and perks that you will provide the customer with a purchase.
To do this seamlessly, PhotoShelter has given a feature under the Sale Option as pricing profiles. In this option, you will have to input various details related to the order viz. order description, internal description, image crop preferences, vendor assignment, prince addition for each size of photo frame, etc.
The most vital part of this segment is to choose the correct vendor. The list of significant vendors given by PhotoShelter is AdoramaPix, BWC Photo Imaging, EZ Prints, Loxley Colour, White House Custom Colour. Other than that, you can also choose to add a personal vendor manually outside of the above for self-printing and distribution.
When selecting any of the above vendors, it will ask to fill items like auto color correction, size adjustments, etc. as per the vendor print facility. You can also compare various vendors using the compare button and choose the best vendor that serves your purpose and also is affordable for you and customers.
The last option in this section will ask to input details of the pricing for every size of the photo. In this, you can see the size of the frame, vendor name, finish type, and wholesale rates. This will help you resolve how you want to set the costs as per your profit pricing.
Since you have decided on the pricing of the different items, now let us create image packages for customers so that they can directly pick one without scrolling over tons of sizes. You can access this in the same Sale Drop down menu on the top bar.
From here, add the package name, description, Product SKU, and package content. To add the package contents, click the Add Products button on this page.
You will see the new pop up window with a list of all the vendors, type of frames and their respective sizes for the print. All the items have checkboxes in front of them, and so you can select the size of the required products. Add this to the packages accordingly. You can also add the quantity of the items chosen above.
This feature is like the combo or package deals we generally see in the market, like one for one, three in one package, etc. With varied sizes, it is easier for customers to pick a package than go through every size. You can add a small photo frame, a collage, a prominent portrait, and their frame types and make a good package for your customers along with some discount on selected packages.
As the name advocates, Self-Fulfilled products are part of those products that you do not want to print via any of the given vendors. Using this option, users can be self-reliant to set up their own printing house.
To set up the self-fulfilled products, select the button Self-Fulfilled on the navigation bar. You will then be incited to fill the details like Product name, Item type, SKU, Description, production time, an image of the product, and the standards size of the frame you want to add.
Then select the type of finish or frame you want for your custom product. After this, you will need to add the shipping details like shipping country, method, base fee, additional fee and size designation.
The entire process to add vendors and custom order was seamless, and we did not find any trouble setting up multiple custom sales prints.
Similarly, you can find out the list of several vendors across the region via the Vendors option. You need to input the area code of your place and then sort out the list of available vendors around you within 100 miles radius.
Another essential task left now is deciding the tax rates. To access the taxes, go to the navigation bar and click the Sales Taxes button. In the next popup window, you will need to input the taxation related details like VAT details, invoice generation, and country wise tax rates. Also, you can add to input taxes for prints and products only, only digital prints only or disable taxing.
Another thing that you can add to the sale function is the coupons, just like we get coupons for the items in the market. Add the coupons from the coupon’s menu. Input the details like coupon name, coupon event details, date expired, discount, minimum purchase limit, max uses/person and total max uses.
The last option in the sales tab is the Sales Settings. This setting deals with setting up of the payment processors and gateways. PhotoShelter has Net billing and Authorize.net as their primary gateway account set up. After configuring your account with one of them, you will be able to access the payment option of your product.
Moreover, you can also use Stripe and PayPal as your payment processors. Add the sales Invoice address of your company, the currency used, and invoice payment instructions.
Unfortunately, this feature is not available in the trial version, but if you are planning to set up your site, you will need to get a premium subscription to start selling of your product.
Since most of the things we discussed above were a part of the seller market, we now head on to the client area. Now, what exactly is this client area?
The Client Area is basically used to interact with a client directly via a common platform to share the images and videos and have different access level on it. This is usually used for those members who want to share their work directly to the company and have more control over the publishing process.
In the Client’s Area, the first thing you can add is an Address Book. In this address book, the owners can add the contact details of their clients. This includes the Email ID, company name, trusted client, and client permission.
You can create groups to distribute your client across them. Also, utilize the import function to bring contacts from Google and Yahoo. This feature can later help to sort out the clients while using their lightbox feature directly.
There are times when your client, who is adept in photography may want to collaborate with you to manage and publish his work, or simply speaking may want full involvement in publishing his pictures.
For this, we need a separate panel where only you and the allowed client can come together, have some access to various images, and then start publishing the work with mutual support. Such a feature is given in PhotoShelter and is named as LightBox.
Just like Lightroom, LightBox is an area where you and your client, group some images and edit, rate or comment on them. It is similar to social media sharing except the data exchanged is highly protected and not accessible by the third party.
From this panel, the client can directly purchase, download, or edit the photos. To access this feature, click the LightBox option in the navigation bar. This will open the main lightbox panel. On this, you can see the total number of lightboxes formed, clients shared, images, and shared lightbox.
Click on one of the lightboxes you created, and you will see the list of all the images that were shared with your client. Click on one of the images in the lightbox. You will see the various info about it and permissions like download, share, etc. You can also see the contact info of the author. This can help to find out the human source of the image.
On the same screen, the owners and clients can add comments and ratings on that particular image. You can directly share the image via mail to the client/friend. There is a URL for that image too so that you can access it directly into the client area.
Overall, the lightbox area is mostly for client-owner partnership purpose. This is a secure way to share and handle the photos you and your client share.
Isn’t the store revenue depending on one of the crucial factors called statistics? Without the sales statistics, it can become a burdensome task to manage the store. Counting each sale, its location, pricing and more can be quite a mess.
For this, the users can access the Statistics Tab on the top navigation bar. The statistics tab will contain typical info about the download logs, Shopping cart details, and account Signups.
The first tab here will show the download logs. It will show the number of downloads of the files, monthly bandwidth used, transfer data past 90 days, IP address, and time of download by the viewers.
Then comes the Customer Cart. This tab will have info about the cart of any customer updated within 60 days. It will tell the number of items sold, number of buyers and total value in carts. Similarly, the account Signup will list all the registration done on your site. From here, you can manage the registered IDs on your website, and they modify or remove them.
Finally, the last tab that you will see in the client section is FTP. This FTP system is used to exchange the information via the FTP servers. You can upload files to any remote FTP server after you have successfully added your FTP server account to it. You can also see the FTP transfer over the last 30 days from here.
As we are heading to the final conclusion of our article, we will share our honest user experience. Initially, picking from the list of top website builders for portfolio and photo sharing, we had positive vibes from PhotoShelter.
The entire setup to make a fast, impressive portfolio website was seamless. The response time of the editor was good, and in our use from heavy images to multiple gallery loadouts, we got a lag-free response.
The stock of templates gave us a bit of disappointment. They were the only a handful and also had no proper categorization. Many more templates can be added along with proper grouping.
The UI was good and novice-friendly. Furthermore, there was a help icon on top of every page which will redirect the users to help menu. The help and support section was decent. They offered ticket support and phone support. However, one thing we noted was that the guide section needs an update since it still lacks a detailed guide with images on many internal features and also needs proper grouping.
The security features like HTTPS on their main domain, image theft protection, low res downloads, and watermarks were amazing. The custom code was free for trial users and with every base pack.
The pricing is decent among the industry standards and also more affordable than some of the top portfolio site builders. However, one thing we pined for was the lack of widget section.
Even though it is supposed to be a click and modify kind of site building, a drag and drop widgets section will add to the value of PhotoShelter. Sites like SmugMug have provided a separate section for widgets, and it is always helpful to add some custom items on your page.
Lastly, the printing and publishing section, as we discussed above were on par with top contenders in the portfolio site builder’s market.
Overall, our opinion on PhotoShelter is that it has managed to get in our good guy list. The features and pricing perfectly resonate and given the ease of user interface.
We would recommend the readers to try out this amazing portfolio site builder. Try the two weeks free trial version and explore it in depth and then decide if this is worth the shot.