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As a beginner photographer, I put most of my time and energy into the product side of my business. I need to practice, improve my shooting and post processing skills, and just grow as a photographer. However, I have a strong intention to make photography my full-time job and be successful in it, which is hardly possible without a business strategy. Besides, with over five years of experience in social media and content marketing, I know for sure that establishing a sound online presence and effective marketing channels may not show you the money today, but it will shape your business in the long run.
In this article, I’m sharing the results of my recent research on the online marketing and workflow organizing tools for photographers. I use some of these services on a daily basis; others are carefully stored in my bookmarks, eagerly waiting for the moment to come in handy. Each tool category includes several noteworthy options (both big players and lesser known tools), so that you can use this article as a catalog to refer to in your marketing pursuits.
Since I was looking for a self-hosted solution with no additional costs for the tools I don’t need just yet, this one worked perfectly for me. For $139, I got a modern website template based on the quite powerful MotoCMS. Among the key features are advanced drag-and-drop website editor, SEO & social media tools, e-commerce widget, etc.
Squarespace offers 25 modern-looking templates with e-commerce integration, custom domains (no self-hosting, though), mobile-ready websites and support. There’s no free plan, but prices start from $8 per month, and you have 14 days to give it a try for free.
There’s a free account option allowing you to select a clean template and fill it with up to 40 images. A $6.90/month Pro plan (paid yearly) with Portolfiobox includes more design and marketing options, as well as a custom domain name and email.
The free plan includes a wide gallery of templates, unlimited pages and hosting. Premium plans start from $4.08/month, but your website will carry Wix brand ads both on desktop and mobile.
Pixpa offers hosted portfolios with private galleries, ec-ommerce with Fotomoto, custom domains, social media sharing and other features. All-inclusive plans start from $4.00/month (billed annually) with a 50% discount available for students.
A custom domain is included in Portfolio Lounge’s free plan, which is nice! Upgrading to the Pro ($7.99/month) and Max ($16.99/month) will get you extra storage space. This is quite a simple service with no pricing gimmicks and overwhelming feature sets.
Folio Websites templates are based on WordPress, which is quite a benefit these days. There’s just one plan available – $175/year, and your decision to sign up may only be based on examples and promises since there’s no trial period offered.
Carbonmade is a kinda hipster among portfolio builders – its design is funky, the words are fun, and the service is on trend. Opting in for the free “Meh” plan, you get a 35-image portfolio on the carbonmade.com domain. Upgrade to the $12/month “Whoo!” plan, and you get 500 images and 10 video slots, domain binding, ad-free site, private projects and tech support.
Editor’s note: I personally use Zenfolio for my portfolio, and have for several years. The benefits of choosing something like Zenfolio over just a portfolio site is that they also offer a way to sell your images, preview them for clients, have locked or private galleries and even a blog element. Their Basic Plan is only $30/year but if you want unlimited uploads, and the ability to price your own work go for the Premium at $140/year. This can also act as you backup as well with unlimited storage of images. They do offer a free trial. I get NOTHING for mentioning this, no kickback or referral fee. I only recommend them because I think they’re one of the best options available.
Have you ever wondered why crappy photographers do better than you? It’s because they know that both creative and business sides of photography are critical for success.
With a colossal 1TB of free storage on the table, Flickr remains a first-class service for photographers of all levels. I’m using it to store my photos, too. However, I really hope their sluggish interface will be updated very soon.
Streamnation supports a pile of photo file formats, including RAW and C2R – a feature any photographer would appreciate. 20GB of storage is free. The price varies from $4/month for 100GB to $19/month for unlimited space biled annually.
While Dropbox’s experience for photographers still feels half-baked, it’s definitely a solution to consider since, unlike your average cloud hosting startup, the established service provides welcome peace of mind.
You can store up to 15GB in Google+ Photos, Gmail, and Google Drive for free and then pay for additional storage (up to 16TB) as your account grows. A neat thing about Google’s offer is that, unless your photos exceed 2,048 pixels by width, Google won’t count them against your total amount of available space.
A neat feature about Crashplan is that you can recover a deleted file no matter how much time has passed. Prices for unlimited online backup to the Crashplan cloud start at $5/month with annual billing.
Unlike most cloud hosting services, Zoolz is a long-term storage unit designed for storing your data on the cloud for a lifetime. With a 5-year subscription you can have your photos reside on reliable Amazon AWS servers for as low as $2/month.
Pixieset is my number one tool to create beautiful client galleries. It has all the key features to help you deliver, proof, and sell your work (unlimited galleries, proofing system, instant download, password protection, audio, just to name a few). The best part is that all this is available in their free plan. If you’d like more space and a custom domain, you can upgrade your plan (prices range from $8/month for 10GB to $40/month for 1TB).
Nextproof a pay-as-you-go service with a $0 plan (1GB of space and a 15% transaction fee) on the table and a free 30-day trial available for every paid plan (ranging from $9-99/month).
There’s a single, $29/month plan you can buy. Among the key features are slideshows, mobile app and a shopping cart. Online Picture Proof is a simple yet professional picture proofing and sales solution.
If your website runs on the WordPress platform, you can make use of this free WP plugin, ProofBuddy, to activate a fully-functional proofing system built to show your proofs and accept orders from clients.
With ShootProof, you can create public or private galleries that work equally well on desktop and mobile devices. The great feature is that each visitor’s activity is displayed in detail to you. ShootProof has a flexible payment plan (commission-free $10-50/month) as well as a free plan allowing up to 100 uploads.
Editor’s note: see above for Zenfolio info under the website section, also works for image proofing and sales.
Getting started with Setmore is very easy thanks to a clean, intuitive interface and wizard-like design. Standard features are free to use and include unlimited appointments, services and customers, as well as the ability to add up to 20 staff members to your account. Upgrading to $25/month brings you to the premium level with Google Calendar sync, unlimited SMS (text) reminders and recurring appointments.
Ubooq makes it easy for clients to schedule an appointment with an easy-to-use, online reception page. Appointment ticket and reminders help avoid no-shows. You can schedule up to 30 appointments in Ubooq for free, and then, if you like it, pick a plan that suits your needs. There is a 5-grade plan system, with prices starting at $19 for the monthly service.
A pretty cool feature in BookedIn, that I didn’t see on similar services, is that you can add a booking app to your Facebook timeline. Payment plans include a pay-as-you-go model (you purchase a block of booking for 50 cents each) and a monthly plan costing $20/month. You can try out the complete set of features for free during 30 days.
For $29/month (billed annually) with Simply Studio you get a full-fledged, web-based CRM system with client-money task management, accounting, invoicing and bookkeeping, online proofing, polls and email marketing. All features are included in a free trial version available for 15 days. My workflow of a newbie obviously does not require such software yet, but I surely love the features-price ratio of Simply Studio, as well as the simplicity of its interface. So Simply Studio is already in my bookmarks waiting for my photography business to grow and call for it.
StudioCloud is free desktop software for photography studios. Standard features include cloud syncing, a client database, scheduling, billing, order management and other business-management tools. While the basic functionality (which is quite rich, though), is free to download, some extra tools, such as multiple users, online proofing and automatic client reminders, will cost you between $10-60 per month.
ShootQ offers the most comprehensive list of management tools, which naturally reflects in pricing. There are three all-inclusive and monthly plans to choose from, and prices range from $39.95 to $79.95 depending on the desired number of users, pages and amount of storage.
This brilliant service saves me lots of time for shooting. Using IFTTT’s straight-forward formula, you can automate a variety of tasks, such as tweeting your new blog posts or notifying you of the latest dPS posts.
A dead simple, yet useful tool, to schedule your social media posts. If you’re a heavy social network user, Hootsuite might work for you better, but if you just don’t want your Twitter and Facebook get dusty while you’re on vacation, Buffer has you covered.
Nutcache enables you to easily create unlimited number of invoices, do estimates, and track time. Great tool to operate your photo business in the cloud. It’s also multilingual.
You won’t believe how many tasks you can manage with some organization and system put in the process.
Myphotoapp boasts the widest library of tools among mobile photo gallery builders. Client email collection, integration with MailChimp and advanced app analytics are some really neat features that make this service my number one choice. I hope, though, the usability of the administrative panel will be soon revised towards a simpler and more intuitive interface.
Create mobile photo apps that your clients can save on their iPhones, iPads and most Android devices using Sticky Albums. Features include custom branding, built-in Facebook sharing, password protected albums, photo album hosting and sharing via SMS. Prices start at $19/month with a free, 14-day trial available.
If you’re a Lightroom diehard, it’s an easy winner here. ProImageShare lets you publish and host your own web app that can be downloaded on iOS devices with the appearance of a custom app. With a one-time payment of $69, you can publish as many apps as you want to your own unlimited, shared-web host.
Brides will definitely appreciate a custom app with their wedding pictures. Expect referrals to come your way!
I bet you’ve heard about Photoshelter, as it’s one of the industry’s “big dawgs”. Portfolio websites, integrated e-commerce, cloud storage and client-proofing system are the tools you can find under this shelter. Prices vary from $9.99/month for the basic feature set, to $49.99/month for the premium toolbox.
Zenfolio is another giant in the field of digital marketing for photographers. The number of features here is impressive, too. One of the recently added ones is Photo Books (order and sell). Prices start from $30/year with a free, 14-day trial on hand.
Built around Quensberry’s range of print products, Workspace enables you to create, organize, and market your online presence, as well as order and sell photo books, albums, frames, etc. Its basic version is available for free and you can upgrade from $4 monthly.
Editor’s note: once upon a time I was a consultant for Queensberry Albums (for 9 years) and I can attest to their dedication to quality albums, products and software. They also make Photojunction, a powerful album design tool.
Another biggie in this area is SmugMug. Slightly more than Zenfolio with many of the same features.
I didn’t include Defrozo on the round-up because currently it’s a private beta, but the features listed on the “coming soon” page make it so worth mentioning.
Website builder, Media Library, Image Delivery and Proofing, Scheduling, E-commerce, CRM system, and Websites for Clients make the initial toolbox Defrozo is going to deliver from the start. Moreover, photo book design tools and retouch services are scheduled to be added to the products’ following updates. How do I know that? Well, I subscribed for early access and received an invitation from the Defrozo team to join the focus group of photographers from 30 countries worldwide. I recommend that you sign up, too, since a new player on the market will likely offer something extraordinary to attract users. There are good chances that it’s gonna be a freemium or at least offer extra benefits to early adopters.
Defrozo seems to have a potential to be the ultimate weapon for your business to reach zen.
I hope my research will come in handy, and I’m sure there are a lot of other tools and services worth mentioning here that I missed. What do you use to manage your photography workflow and business? Is there any all-in-one tool out there you could recommend? Please share your suggestions and experience in the comments below.