Few 20th-century photographers were more creatively and technically adept than Ansel Adams. His photography of Yosemite and the Sierras is the stuff of legend. Adams’s signature black and white images captured viewers and took them into the wilds of the American West.
Today, for Adams to achieve the same commercial success and reach, he would surely need a robust website to display his work. Many contemporary photographers, while technically proficient in their craft, might view the prospect of looking for web building solutions akin to scaling El Capitan. Fortunately, I’m here today to act as your guide into the wilds of the top website and photo hosting services for photographers.
Kicking things off is Wix. As with all the best web builders, Wix offers a wide array of templates, marketing tools, and blogging options. What sets Wix apart is many of their offerings are geared specifically toward photographers. Artists can choose from more than 40 types of galleries to display their imagery. Wix’s page protection options allow photographers to create private galleries where specific clients can log in to browse their work. Start designing with Wix for free:
- FREE signup with email or Facebook
- Drag-and-drop designing is super easy
- 1-year domain free with most plans
|Money Back Guarantee||14 days|
|Disk Space||500 MB - 20 GB|
|Best Overall Hosting Plans||www.wix.com|
Our Expert's Wix Review
As a web builder, Wix is an industry leader when it comes to ease of use, setup time, and available features. The browser-based, WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) site-building service is hands down one of the foremost brands in this industry niche, and that's not without just cause.
Getting started and familiar with the platform is a straightforward process, and the resulting websites you can build are in keeping with industry standards, as far as design and customization go. While you're not going to get the same level of support as you would from a leading web hosting service, the feature set available and included in this free service is a pretty exhaustive list. All it takes to sign up — and said signup is free — is an email or a Facebook account.
Once you're in, you can preview thousands of templates, which are all broken up into categories and then further classified by design or industry type. For example, choose the Online Store category with the Clothing & Accessories subcategory to start selling your custom-printed t-shirts. Your garage band can showcase your latest performances and let family and friends know of upcoming shows by utilizing the Music and Band categories. You can browse the most popular templates and check out the newest additions.
Once you've made your pick, you may feel a tad overwhelmed at the interface — but that's only because the functionality exceeds that of your typical drag-and-drop builder. You can manipulate and edit virtually any facet of your new website, until it perfectly matches the picture in your head.
Finally, get your finished creation noticed by search engines (and the millions of web surfers that they send to websites) using the Wix SEO Wizard. Just tell the Wizard the words or phrases you want people to search for and find your site, and Wix will spit back out a full SEO report — so you know where you stand in terms of relevant visitors being sent to your site. Wix premium plan customers can also benefit from $300-worth of search engine advertising credits, upping the chances of increased site visitors.
Anyone in any field could find themselves wanting a website at some point in their career or personal life. Whether you're a stay-at-home mom with a creative writing habit to share or a serial entrepreneur ready to profit from your next great idea, you don't want building your own website from scratch to be a strain — on your wallet, your time, or your brain. With Wix, you can be your own web designer, developer, and marketer. The interface is easy to use and the end designs are up to snuff with industry standards. When it comes to code-free website building, Wix is a leader and an innovator.collapse info -
2. WordPress Website Builder BoldGrid
Not to be outdone is WordPress — no doubt the most popular platform for publishing a website. While primarily known for blogging, the full-fledged website builder allows users to create highly customized sites without the need for web design expertise. WordPress template options abound, each accentuating a different look, feel, or industry type.
The themes with emphasis on visual elements (i.e., portfolios and slideshows) make it simple for photographers to create stunning pages that compliment their work. Add-ons, like advanced galleries and audience-building tools, get your art noticed by the masses. With a range of low prices available from well-known hosts, such as InMotion, Bluehost, and SiteGround, WordPress is a great place to broadcast your media. Our experts have tested all the top WordPress hosting services, and our leading recommendation is below:
- One-of-a-kind WordPress builder
- Good for beginners or professionals
- Drag-and-drop, WYSIWYG editing
|Money Back Guarantee||90 days|
|Domain Name||FREE (1 year)|
|Best Overall Hosting Plans||www.inmotionhosting.com|
Our Expert's BoldGrid Review
No matter how simple website builders are made, people still flock to content management systems — especially WordPress — by the millions. BoldGrid, an innovative platform created by InMotion Hosting, seeks to merge the two popular systems into one incredibly easy-to-use tool for producing vibrant, professional websites.
Now forging their own path, the BoldGrid team is fine-tuning and growing a platform that introduces drag-and-drop simplicity to the limitless power and functionality of WordPress.
Unlike other site builders, BoldGrid is free. Because it integrates with WordPress, you'll need a separate hosting account. Currently, you must be hosting your website on one of BoldGrid's approved partners (we recommend InMotion) to use the full platform. Fairly experienced WordPress users hosting elsewhere, however, can download a somewhat limited version and installation instructions.
BoldGrid quickly shows newbies and experienced pros the path to website inspiration with a plugin that steers you to the right design, features, and content you may need. That's right — instead of nonsensical dummy content, BoldGrid gives you the images and text relevant to your industry, goal, or idea.
From there, you have free rein to make the site your own. Customize colors, fonts, menus, and more with a WYSIWYG (or, What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get) builder interface that's as simple as any of the more established platforms. BoldGrid provides SEO tools and even a staging area to ensure your site is absolutely perfect before you publish.collapse info -
Photographers new to website creation find a friend in Weebly’s intuitive drag-and-drop builder. Weebly’s elegant themes add an aesthetic appeal to portfolios, making them sure to stand out to potential clients. The biggest draw? More than 40 million entrepreneurs are using Weebly’s eCommerce tools to successfully market and sell their products — a testament to how Weebly can help you get prints out to the public and grow your business.
- Fully hosted online web builder lets you design by dragging and dropping
- Access to hundreds of free, sleek, and professional-looking themes
- Display and sell 10, 25, or unlimited products for your online store
|Money Back Guarantee||30 days|
|Disk Space||500 MB - Unlimited|
|Domain Name||FREE (w/ paid plans)|
|Best Overall Hosting Plans||www.weebly.com|
Our Expert's Weebly Review
If you're new to the world of web building, welcome! Weebly is just the thing to ease you into establishing your personal or professional web presence. Best-known for the browser-based, drag-and-drop website editor available for free online, the Weebly software is now available as a value-add on some of the web's leading hosting plans. Whether you sign up for fully hosted Weebly.com directly or opt for a Weebly-friendly plan with a third-party host, this interface is ideal for first-time site owners.
It all begins with a theme. The Weebly website carries hundreds of beautiful, creative website templates that can be customized to meet your intended aesthetic. Once you select a theme, click "Start Editing," and you're off! Text, images, buttons, product displays, and other site elements can be selected from the lefthand sidebar. Just drag the item into place on the righthand visual representation of your site — and what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG)! While sites hosted on the free Weebly.com plan will display Weebly ads and come with a Weebly.com subdomain, all paid plans are ad-free with a complementary domain name included. Free plan users get 500MB of storage while all other plan holders feel the freedom of unlimited bandwidth and storage.
If you're an aspiring online store owner, know that eCommerce-specific features advance with each plan upgrade. While the option to display up to 10 products with a 3% transaction fee comes standard, you can get up to unlimited products, zero transaction fees, and advanced shipping and inventory options with higher-tier packages.
Weebly is wonderful for beginners. Once you outgrow the basic plans, however, it would behoove you to consider migrating to a host that includes Weebly in its packages. It'll be more cost-effective as your site traffic and revenue increase. Happy web building!collapse info -
At Squarespace, it seems to be all about teamwork. Expert photographers who need a bit of help conceptualizing and executing website builds get up to speed with the site’s award-winning template design team. Squarespace’s Customer Care Advisors are available around the clock to answer technical, design, or deployment questions, basically acting as your own IT department.
In addition to access to a dedicated team, Squarespace’s web builder provides an easy venue to publish your content online. Photographers can tell their stories through comprehensive blogging functionalities that include multiple features such as galleries, video, and a built-in RSS feed.
A free portfolio app is also available, giving artists the ability to show potential clients their work on the go, even without an internet connection. Squarespace’s calendar tool is ideal for artists holding openings or hosting shows, as it provides a list of events viewers can RSVP to directly on your site.
If you’re looking for a community with whom to share your photos and passions, 500px houses a network of more than 9 million photographers who are connecting with colleagues and customers. The platform gets photographers up and running with a personalized home feed where they can exhibit work in galleries and blogs. Users can follow other professionals and friends to see updated photos. It’s a great way to grow your following and client base.
Probably the most popular feature offered by 500px is their Marketplace. Here, photographers can submit their work and license it for use as stock photography. This, coupled with a complete business suite, expands reach, gets photographers assignments, and grows bottom lines.
With templates perfect for any genre of photography, Zenfolio is versatile and can be used to display images ranging from conceptual fine art and landscape to fashion and food. Unlimited storage for all plans means photographers don’t have to worry about maintaining an online storehouse of high-resolution images.
For pros working weddings and bar mitzvahs, Zenfolio’s client proofing portal allows customers to access work privately and choose the images they like best. Add in an integrated shopping cart and partnership with top print labs, and Zenfolio is a great platform for photographers to run successful businesses.
If you’re in the photography business, you probably care about brand integrity. It’s paramount to create an online presence that displays your creations in a way that maintains the core style of your art. Format knows this and provides an exceptional venue for creatives to design and build compelling websites.
Format prides themselves on giving artists the ability to employ themes on their sites that are tailored to their body of work. One big reason photographers are drawn to Format is because they offer completely integrated storefronts. The eCommerce solution is available with every plan, and Format doesn’t take a cut of the earnings, making for a great way to scale creative businesses. For more information, see our feature story on how Format empowers creatives to showcase their work online.
An ideal starting point for novice or expert photographers to showcase their work, SmugMug allows users to customize websites with full-screen galleries with numerous layout options. There is no coding needed to create a personalized feel. Artists can choose from more than 20 premade site designs, or use the intuitive user interface and drag-and-drop organizer to give their sites a unique feel.
The support team at SmugMug is available to help with any type of question 24 hours per day, seven days per week, and 364 days per year. (The team has to take at least one annual day off!) Plans are all reasonably priced and come with unlimited photo uploads.
PhotoDeck aims to help photographers and videographers cut through the clutter with a minimalist approach to web design that lets portfolios shine through. PhotoDeck makes it simple to get your photos out to the audiences you’re trying to reach — and do it fast. According to the PhotoDeck website, Pingdom speed testing revealed sites built via PhotoDeck are faster than 92% of other tested URLs.
For professionals who offer a mix of photography and videography, the platform allows the display of video clips with still images together in galleries. Both videos and stills can be downloaded and sold through PhotoDeck.
Photographers seeking effective tools to exhibit, organize, share, and sell creative pieces can find more than 100 of them at Photoshelter. From image delivery and eCommerce to high-capacity cloud storage and SEO features, Photoshelter has everything a photography business needs to be successful online.
As with other popular web building platforms, Photoshelter sites are completely customizable and can be personalized to your specifications. Social media is integrated, so you can notify all your Twitter and Facebook followers when new images or galleries are added.
In many cases, users only want to spend a few minutes getting their photos on the web — publish and move on! BlueMelon allows you to add albums, set up pricing, and share your photos with clients in just a few clicks. The BlueMelon team prides itself on making it simpler to sell photos, without compromising the quality of the customer experience or jeopardizing the safety of your artistic material.
“BlueMelon believes in freedom, so we allow users to upload videos of up to 10GB in any resolution,” according to BlueMelon team member Miroslav Liska. “Combine that with copyright protection, blog and social media integrations, and payment processors for instant access to your profits, and you have a formidable omnitool to grow your business.”
Best Web Hosting for Photographers vs. Free Photo Hosting Sites
Like you, if Ansel Adams were around today, he’d be looking for the best web hosting for his photography website. The options listed above all provide unique and effective venues for novices and pros alike to broadcast their art to the world.
For those who’d like to get their work online but don’t want a full-fledged website, you can sign up for an account with a free photo storage site. A few of the most popular photo hosting sites are Flickr, Imgur, Google Photos, and PhotoBucket.
While these sites allow users to house photos online, they’re not much more than glorified storage spaces. They lack customization options, unique domain names, and eCommerce solutions. To get your art to market — really have your photos noticed (and purchased) — you need a professional-grade website. While a free photo hosting site may sound good in theory, it’s no substitute for the quality website builder services we recommend.
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