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You’ve put together a pretty impressive photography portfolio, and you’re finally at the stage where you want to show your work to the world. Maybe you just want to share your work for critique, or even more likely, you’d like to lure potential clients in with examples of your photography, or maybe you just want to try pursuing a career actually directly selling your work. Whatever the reason, most of us have come to realize that an online portfolio is perhaps the most elegant way to pursue all of the objectives above. Your own personal site can be customized to your own aesthetics, not limited to just any ol’ photosharing site’s layout. A personal site is more distinguished, it says something to clients – it hints at a certain degree of professionalism and seriousness. And frankly a personal portfolio site is just a lot cooler, nothing beats the cache and simplicity of providing folks with your own “www.johnsmithphotography.com” URL name.
Likewise, I’ve also been wanting to have a place where I can show some of the work I do. Unfortunately one problem kept reoccurring that prevented me from going forward, that being I just don’t have the technical know-how to create my own site. Of course there are a number of solutions around that, starting with a brushing up of my HTML skills, but I really just don’t have the time. Besides, most of the portfolio sites I’ve looked at and liked were flash based, and that’s definitely beyond me. This lack of technical skills naturally means for me, and I suspect most photographers, having to seek the abilities of a web designer. There’s certainly nothing wrong with this approach, it’s just a matter of affordability. A really nice website, especially a flash-based design isn’t cheap, not to mention you’ll be beholden to the designer going forward if you need to make changes to your site, which again can be expensive.
Enter liveBooks (www.livebooks.com). liveBooks provides photographers, designers, and other imaging related artists a means to having a professional looking website, while shielding the user from all the technical details. The basic premise involves offering you a website (chosen from a number of slick templates), web hosting, a simple drag and drop portfolio editor, and the ability to bolt-on a number of additional features…if you desire. The cost for all of that is $39 a month, though they do have discounted prices for annual or lifetime users. There are several services similar to this one, but one thing that stands out with liveBooks is their excellent clientèle, photographers like Art Wolfe, and the Richard Avedon Foundation use liveBooks created websites, and I also like their emphasis on search engine optimization, a critically important aspect to getting your work recognized. Recently I took advantage of a free trial offered by liveBooks (they offer a 14 day free trial of their service) and I thought I’d share the process and the results here at DPS where I imagine, like me, many of you are keenly interested in having a portfolio of your work online (or possibly a better one?).
The first step in creating your website at liveBooks is picking out one of the predesigned websites. Generally one hears the word “template” and gets a bit nervous, but I can truly say that the liveBooks offerings are actually very cool. There’s currently 75 designs to choose from, in a range of styles and color combinations, and in a number of different looks. The majority of them border on the slick to contemporary in look, but there are several with more organic or textured looks. Each design comes in three variants. Typically these will be in some combination of white, grey, or black, but there are many designs with full blown color or color accents, and as I found out later, you can tweak portions of your design’s color scheme from your “editSuite”. I was torn between several looks, but eventually settled on the “Loft” design. It’s important to note that these templates aren’t simply just one architecture redecorated, many are structurally distinct, with navigational elements in different areas, or with choices between full time image thumbnails for navigation, or without them. On the potentially negative side (not for me though) most of the designs are on the modern or classic side of things, but with 75 choices, each with 3 variants and the ability to further custom tweak, there’s a good chance you can get your site looking very much like you want it. Also, liveBooks’ website makes it easy to take each design for a full tour, so that you can get a feel for exactly how your site will work.
After you pick out a site design, liveBooks moves you on to signing up for their service. As we mentioned above, the cost for the site and the hosting is $39 a month (after paying $117 for the first three). This price also includes email, shopping cart functionality (set prices, shipping, and hook up to your paypal), and 500MB of FTP space for uploading files for potential clients to dowload or view via a login link. The process is seamless and includes the step of creating a username and password for setting up your site. Shortly after signing up, you get an email confirmation which includes a link to your editSuite.
liveBooks “editSuite” is essentially your administrative backend to your liveBooks created website. This is where you upload your images, create and edit portfolios, setup your shopping cart, fill in your bio information, etc. For me this is the coolest part of the liveBooks service, as the editSuite is simple to use, easy to understand, and provides instantaneous results. You can put an image up, check your website, and the image is instantly there, all flashed out and everything. editSuite is also drag and drop friendly, you can just click and move images into their respective portfolios. editSuite also allows users to customize their site somewhat (design template depending) by changing background colors, etc., and finally the editSuite is where users can fill in their search engine optimization information, so that you can target Google with your specific keywords and site title. editSuite can resize images to fit your site design, but for optimal results users will want to follow liveBooks recommendations and resize images (and adjust color spaces) before uploading through editSuite. Not doing so could lead to less than sharp photos or color issues in certain browsers, but liveBooks provides a nice help section with downloadable guides and some video help to walk you through any issues that may arise.
After getting your portfolios arranged and images uploaded, it’s time to “go live” with your website. During the setup process you’re able to access your website at a liveBooks hosted temporary domain. To truly “go live” though, you have to register a domain name, a step that liveBooks will refer you to your choice of domain registrars. I hit up GoDaddy.com for my domain (patrickdeanphotography.com is available! YES!) and then submitted my username and password for that domain to liveBooks, who then take over the process of moving the DNS servers to their hosting service. After submitting that info, it took one day for liveBooks to contact me that my site was now live, a click confirmed http://www.patrickdeanphotography.com was now on the web.
Over the coming weeks I’ll be honing my portfolio, and editSuite will continue to make it easy to update my work and create new portfolios if need be. When I master the art of making movies with my DSLR, I’ll also be able to share those on my site as well (liveBooks supports multimedia), and of course I’m curious about the prospects of selling some of my work online too. One thing’s for certain though, I’m very happy with my new site. liveBooks made the whole process very easy, their entire system has been polished and thought out quite well, and though it may be based on a “template” I genuinely love the way the site looks. If you’re looking to finally have your own professionally designed online portfolio, that’s easy to create and maintain, I certainly “Highly Recommend” liveBooks.com. Could it be done cheaper? Yes, but liveBooks attention to detail behind the scenes, their customization, and pre-built designs that really emphasize YOUR work (and not the liveBooks service) make it easily worth the relatively low cost.
Find out more about liveBooks: http://www.livebooks.com