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Photo Hosting Sites Comparison

May 23rd, 2012 No comments

My work in video and photography is mainly in post-production as a graphic designer, digital artist and general technology assistant. I was helping a photographer to set up a professional photo site to sell his images, so here is a comparison.

All of these photo sites have the following features:

  • encourage social media sharing and give tools to help users and fans to share photos.
  • gallery and collection options.
  • a certain level of photo security from casual theft and re-use.
  • site customization
  • no infringement on your copyright
  • digital download pricing and print pricing
  • community of photographers and clients

Photoshelter

I have a free account on Photoshelter, vix.photoshelter.com but I think they have stopped providing free long-term accounts. When I signed up, I was able to store a small amount of images without paying, but now, after a short trial period, you must select a hosting plan. This is the largest and most established professional photo hosting and sales site.

The prices for hosting are quite reasonable because they protect your photos with the best anti-theft technology – a transparent layer over each photo. This means that anyone attempting to copy the image will only copy the cover layer. In addition, they provide the option of watermarking the images so a screen capture will be ruined.

One thing I found a bit bothersome, is that a commission is charged on all sales through the site. The commission rate changes depending on the level of hosting and more expensive plans pay less sales fees. This would not be an issue if this was posted on the sign-up page, but I only found out about these charges when I was preparing to price the photos. The photographer I was working for was aware of this practice, but for me it was a surprise.

Adorama, the industry standard in photo printing located in NYC fulfills all print orders directly from the site, or you can arrange to have the prints made yourself.

Smugmug

SmugMug also provides watermarking, and they use Amazon storage, known as one of the most secure clouds in the industry. They offer a “vault” membership option if you only want to use the cloud storage instead of displaying your images.

Three photo printing company options, four paper/print combinations and an expanded selection of merchandise to decorate with photos can be ordered. Once photos are in the shopping cart print quotes from each company can be compared before the order is placed.

I was not able to discover if they charge a commission on sales. A free trial period can be activated, but then, a hosting account must be purchased. They do prominently post their great return policy and full refund if prints or products are unsatisfactory.

500px

The most generous of the top three hosting sites, 500px offers a permanent free account to photographers. However, the pricing structure of photos sold in the market set by the company. All the photos sold in the 500px market are the same price, unlike the other two sites, which allow photographers to set their own prices and sell independently. Click here for a copy of the 500 px pricing guide. If the pricing structure works for you, then this could be a good thing.

Instagram

This Smart Phone app deserves a mention as it is one of the fastest growing photo sharing sites today. If you have an iPhone and are not interested in prints, the price is right – Free.

All of these sites are a great place to look at really excellent photos.

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