I am about to set up a website, and am looking for companies that have online print and digital services. I have looked at both PhotoShelter and Smugmug. I like Smugmug because it is half the cost, has unlimited upload amounts, and does not require a merchant account. I like PhotoShelter because it seems to be more professional, and Nancy Rotenberg recommended it to me at the Rhode Island Road Show.
Has anyone had any experience with either company, or is there another you would recommend that I look into?
I've struggled with that question too Kerry. While my online print volume is still low enough that I'm able to handle it by myself I've been looking into a better solution. I think that a lot of it comes down to just how much involvement you want in the process. If you want it to be hands-off then I think that Photoshelter makes very good sense.
Another alternative is to put yourself in the middle of the process and use something like White House Custom Color (WHCC) or MPix to handle fulfillment. Both offer services that allow the prints to have come directly from you.
I use smugmug and have been very happy with them. The only downside is they only sell unmatted prints and the only way to sign them is by delaying shipment then uploading a new copy of the print cropped to the size purchased and signed with a brush in photoshop.
I have a PhotoShelter account - though I didn't pay for it, I got it as a gift. Photoshelter is nice in that it's easy to upload and manage, but the downside there is that there aren't many people browsing their websites. It is intended more as a gallery, and not an advertisement.
It is good if you have clients who you will be specifically pointing to it, but I find that my personal site, http://www.klassphoto.com, gets many more visitors. I don't specifically sell prints, so this is more of a general response, but I just wanted to make clear that Photoshelter, though it looks more professional is not a silver bullet, but rather a place you can point customers you already have to.
I think that after my year is up, I will not be returning to Photoshelter - it's nothing they did, just the fact that I don't think they're worth the cost.
Thanks for the responses.
Dougotto, I will take a peek at the two services you mentioned. Wilco, good point about the signature.
I will be setting up my own website rather than just setting up on one of the services I mentioned. We've owned the URL for a year now, and are finally ready to actually use it. One of the nice thing about both services is also that they let you sell digital downloads. Do any of you do that on your own?
I primarily sell my images to magazines / stock / publishers. Typically I deliver them as digital downloads, or get requests to upload them to their servers. I don't sell anything royalty free, or on a micro-stock licensing model. I have Photoshelter which will facilitate the digital download sale, but I find that most of my clients want to work with me to find the image they're looking for.
The issue with offering digital downloads via a personal website is that it will be very expensive for several reasons - first you need a lot of bandwidth to support the transfering back and forth of files - secondly, you'll need a secure site, and thirdly I would guess that you'll need what's called a dedicated server, as the images will likely choke up a machine serving multiple sites.
I guess if you look at it in a practical perspective, very few of the top photographers are selling digital downloads - I figure if Art Wolfe can't make that work, then what chance do I have - It's possible he has the volume to make it work, but I know that the occassional sale here and there isn't going to make this practical. The extra expense in website etc., for this type of service would likely be at least $100 more per month, and possibly more than that - there's also maintenance and development. With the average stock sale close to $100, I don't see this as very practical unless you sell a lot.
You might be better off joining Alamy, or another stock agent if online sales is something you want to facilitate.
Re: Online Storage - You can manage the online storage issue easily and cheaply by utilizing the storage "clouds" offered by Amazon, Google, Rackspace, etc. Amazon S3 storage (for example) is only $0.15 per GB/Mo up to 50 TB. So, 500GB would cost $75/mo.
However, you need to add bandwidth charges to that at $0.15 per GB/Mth. But that's gravy... If you use a lot of bandwidth it's because you've made a lot of sales. So the bandwidth sorta pays for itself.
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