With the rising love of digital photography, and even the rising world of computers and scanning devices that enable you to digitize those paper prints, new and old photographers alike keep on asking “What’s a good way for me to showcase my images?”
It’s actually rather easy, and there are a lot of ways to do it.
Online Hosting Services:
The two most popular hosting services among photographers (both of which are not free but are definitely worthwhile investments if you plan on storing your photography online for the long haul):
- SmugMug is a very highly regarded gallery that not only lets you share your photos, but also handles sales of your photos as well. You set a price; SmugMug takes care of the rest. Your personalized site is extremely customizable and enables you to create galleries and even publish an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed. With a pro account, you get the power of selling your photos without worrying about having to go to the printer and do it yourself (maybe you’re not there yet, but plenty people I know do!) Also, SmugMug hosts the well known forum Digital Grin where you can ask the experts anything. For good measure, here’s a SmugMug gallery.
- PBase is another well known photography gallery. It doesn’t include a shopping cart but allows for user interaction and also has a relatively powerful search and good tagging functionality. The only gripe with PBase as of late is that it can often be either inaccessible or too slow. But that doesn’t stop some photographers from publishing their works through PBase: here is an example of some excellent photographs.
There are also newcomers to the online photo community, such as:
- Zenfolio, which nobody I know actually uses, but has a good chunk of functionality and has plans to integrate a shopping cart mechanism in the future. However, I’ll be quick to note that Zenfolio’s terms specify the following:
“By transmitting images or any other media to Zenfolio, You grant Zenfolio a nonexclusive, royalty-free right to publish, display, and distribute the images or other media as deemed appropriate by Zenfolio in order to provide You with our Services.”“By transmitting images or any other media to Zenfolio, You grant Zenfolio a nonexclusive, royalty-free right to publish, display, and distribute the images or other media as deemed appropriate by Zenfolio for the sole purpose of providing You with the service.” That has been a turnoff for a lot of people I know.
And finally, there’s the famous photo sharing Web 2.0 that is heavily based on social networking:
- Flickr is based primarily on its network of photographers. Flickr stands out in the fact that it’s not necessarily only used by photographers; due to its nature as the biggest socially networked photography repository, non-photographers share their photos through Flickr, too. Furthermore, it’s very heavily based on tagging.
The Do It Yourself Way
There’s also the conventional means of buying your own domain. This is my preference on my photoblog. You will have to purchase a domain through one of several providers; the most standard ones are NetworkSolutions, GoDaddy, and NameCheap. While NameCheap is really not as well known as the former two registrars, it provides an extra benefit, WhoisGuard, which enables you to protect your domain name registration information for free by keeping your name and address private.
Once you buy the domain, you need to look for a hosting provider so you can actually put your content somewhere. I strongly recommend one of the following:
I’ve personally worked with both, and I honestly can’t think of much to say, except if you’re familiar at all with the cPanel administrative backend, you might want to go with BlueHost. DreamHost, however, gives its customers incentives, similar to Gmail’s mailbox size, where your storage space and bandwidth allocation get larger weekly.
Now, how exactly do you upload your photos? Well, you could use the standard FTP method, and you’ll probably want to buy software, such as FlashFXP (my personal favorite), for it. You ultimately will need to upload some files via FTP, so having such an application is a necessity.
But there are customizable galleries too… only with less functionality than the online services — and all of which are free. Still, this is actually my preference, and I’m in the middle of working on a personal portfolio based on one of the platforms I feature below:
- CopperMine is a favorite for many photographers. It is a solid application with a lot of different features. You can also install addons and plugins and make it look just the way you want. The only downside to CopperMine is that there are occasional vulnerabilities, just like there are in Microsoft Windows or Macintosh (though less often in the latter case). These vulnerabilities are only worth mentioning because since you are having a web presence and your site is exploited through a vulnerability, people are going to know about it if your site is frequented often. That said, you should keep on top of security updates and patch the application accordingly. (Hey, don’t be detered! This is the one I use!)
- Gallery is also well known. In fact, I’ve been using Gallery on my personal experimental (non-live) web server since version 1.1 or so. Gallery is in version 2 now, and I personally don’t like it as much as v1, which was much simpler to use. But it packs a lot of features; I just haven’t had time to tinker with it yet.
- For photobloggers, there’s Pixelpost. This is generally intended for showcasing a single photo a day. You can see it in action at my photoblog.
There are plenty of other services, scripts, and hosts available, but these are the predominant ones for photographers from the novice to the professional. Each has its pros and cons, but all of the aforementioned ones are preferred by a good amount of people. Try them out and see what methods you like best. Then, settle. Your presence on the Internet is a critical one for getting the exposure you need beyond your geographic community.
Update 01/03/07: Thanks to Alex for the revised Zenfolio clause.