With the digital age in full swing, professional photographers are always looking for the next big thing, something that will give them a competitive edge in promoting their business. Creating an enticing website is one such edge. While many photographers create and manage their own sites, many more are turning to web professionals to handle the job. Studio Photography interviewed representatives from some of the top photographic web-service companies to find out what's hot, what's not, and what's next. Read on for more...
liveBooks was founded by MICHAEL COSTUROS, a photographer who recognized the need to have a website, but who also recognized the problem with actually working with a web designer to create that website. The biggest problem was that once the site was designed, four or five months later when the photographer wanted to update the site with his latest work, the designer was nowhere to be found. So Costuros created liveBooks.
Every liveBooks package comes with two parts: a personalized website and online software. "We have an in-house design staff that will build a website for you, and you'll actually work directly with our designers so that your site reflects your business aesthetic and really is in line with your work," says TRICIA GELLMAN, VP of marketing, liveBooks. "This helps the photographer build or reinforce his brand. The concept that we like to get across to them is that they actually spend a lot of time selecting the images, figuring out how they're going to sequence their images, how they're really going to take their body of work and use that to present who they are. We do that for every single photographer."
On top of that, liveBooks delivers editSuite, an online software for editing and control. "It's a complete drag-and-drop interface that allows people to upload their images, store the other images that they would want to have in their portfolio, and sequence and resequence their portfolios as often as they want," explains Gellman. "They have full control of all of the editing and updating of the content on their site at any time, anywhere in the world, as long as they have access to the internet."
In terms of trends, especially in the wedding sector, Gellman says web slideshows-where photographers take still images and set them to music-are big. "We're also seeing a growing trend for wedding photographers to mix their images with video, audio, music, everything, and create these short movies," says Gellman. "Actually, we see this as a huge trend in photojournalism as well."
Gellman says all liveBooks sites enable the photographers to upload as many movies and videos as they want onto their site. "We think it's really important because it helps photographers create deeper connections with the potential clients-to have the ability to tell the story not just through clicks of individual images, but through the emotion of the motion, music, audio, and everything else," she says.
PhotoShelter, an online photo community based in New York City, offers several types of services to its customers. The PhotoShelter Personal Archive organizes a photographer's business into one online hub, enables e-commerce channels, and provides a bulletproof online backup for their images in a way that can be integrated into the photographer's personal website, according to GROVER SANSCHAGRIN, VP of business development, PhotoShelter.
The Personal Archive can handle JPEG, TIFF, Photoshop, RAW, and hundreds of other graphical formats with no file size limits, giving the user true archiving capability. "The photographer can sell prints through the completely automated printing and shipping option (or through self-fulfillment) and offer instant digital downloads directly from the archive," says Sanschagrin. The Personal Archive also supports unattended royalty-free and rights-managed sales with the fotoQuote pricing tool. "Unlike other services, the photographer collects the funds directly at the point of sale with their PayPal or merchant account," he explains.
The PhotoShelter Collection, which launched in September 2007, is an online image marketplace that "combines the diversity of photography found across the web into a single edited professional venue built for effective searching and instant purchasing," says Sanschagrin. "In other words, it's like a cross between Flickr and Getty."
PhotoShelter's intelligent search drives form a controlled vocabulary system for highly targeted results. "Photographers keep 70 percent of their transaction proceeds, and transactions are transparent, so they can see exactly what's selling and who's buying," says Sanschagrin. Photographers also price their own rights-managed and royalty-free images at market rates and keyword their images against the controlled vocabulary.
PhotoShelter provides a geographically redundant, off-site archive that photographers can access from anywhere in the world where they have an internet connection. "They choose which images they want to make public, which images to sell, and/or which images to feature," says Sanschagrin. Images that the photographer wishes to make public can be watermarked with tools provided by PhotoShelter. "A would-be picture thief cannot save any of the low-res image preview files from the browser, because we disable that," he says. "In addition, all images (including the low-res previews) have copyright and contact metadata inserted into the file-something that will prove worthy if/when the Orphan Works Bill passes."
Sanschagrin thinks that one of the hot trends in the business is not necessarily a good thing. "There seems to be a movement toward Flash-based websites among photographers lately," he says. "It looks nice, and many services provide an integrated and easy-to-use web management and publishing system, which makes updates easier; however, these websites are little more than a fancy online portfolio." Sanschagrin claims that Flash-based websites often have trouble being indexed by Google, lack the ability to perform searches, and struggle with integrated e-commerce image sales. "Many photographers want to add a blog to their website, which isn't really possible with the Flash-based systems available," he states.
Sanschagrin says that the photographers are the ones deciding what the new trends will be. "Our customers are constantly pushing PhotoShelter's customization features into new areas of creativity-making multileveled integrated websites possible," he says.
Take the Express
Denver, CO–based ExpressDigital designs products that cater to digital photographers, labs, and large corporate photography businesses. The company offers a service called PhotoReflect.com, an internet storefront for professional photographers that allows them to sell their work online. The good news for photographers is that they can start a PhotoReflect.com website for free. The storefronts have no storage fees, no upload fees, and no monthly fees. The sites are commission based, and photographers pay a percentage on photo sales only.