We look at the best website hosting companies that create and host websites solely for photographers.
Choosing the right hosting company can be a tricky process as they all have their own individual strengths and weaknesses. Some have integrated printing partnerships that allows for the fulfillment of print orders ordered from your website, while others don’t offer any e-commerce services at all. Some give you unlimited space, while others give you a free .com domain. The trick, as ever, is to decide what’s most important to you and go with a company that caters most specifically to your need.
With the one exception of WordPress – whose inclusion here is easily justified by its sheer size, flexibility and almost limitless number of custom templates – the one thing we would advise is to stick with a website host that caters specifically for photographers.
The main reason for this is that the focus of these companies is to create and host websites solely for photographers.
More specifically, going with one of these companies – as opposed to a more generic website hosting partner – will allow you to access the tools and services that can be so useful to photographers.
In addition, there’s another reason why it’s worth sticking with a photography-focused website hosting partner.
The reason is, their customer service department and online resources will be much more geared towards dealing with the specific kinds of issues encountered by photographers – whether it’s getting a gallery to display the way you want it to or adjusting the mark-up prices of your images sold through your website.
Need more advice about building a website, see our sister site’s article, building a website.
Best website hosts for photography websites
Price: £2.30 – £17.30 per month (if paid annually)
SmugMug is one of the biggest and most popular photographic website hosting companies on the market and currently offers four distinct plans: Basic, Power, Pro and Business. While none of these are free, SmugMug does operate a 14-day free trial that allows you to try before you buy.
The Basic plan costs £2.30 a month if paid annually in advance, for which you get full access to the range of ad-free SmugMug website templates, unlimited photo and video uploads, plus the ability to create private images and password-protected galleries. Basic plan holders can sell their images, with all orders fulfilled by USA-based printer EZ Prints. Those on more advanced plans, meanwhile, can choose between BayPhotos and WHCC (also from the USA), or UK-based Loxley Colour. If you want to use a personalised domain name without smugmug in the website address then you’ll need to subscribe to a Power plan or higher. If you’ve purchased your domain name from GoDaddy then SmugMug provides an easy-to-use linking tool.
The actual website-building process is simple; SmugMug provides you with a generous range of templates that can be customised as you see fit. The choice of templates is excellent and encompasses everything from minimal layouts to more complex and busy styles. You can also rearrange these templates, or build your own pages entirely from scratch using placeholder image and text blocks. Users who are more advanced can also input custom HTML or CSS code if they want to.
Price: £5.50 – £12 per month (if paid annually)
While Squarespace does not specifically target photographers or offer any integrated printing fulfillment services, it does provide a huge range of stylish templates along with an easy-to-use drag-and-drop website-building platform. For these reasons Squarespace is better suited to those photographers looking to create a personal website purely for portfolio and image backup purposes. More commercially minded photographers who require integrated print fulfillment services or other bespoke client-facing services will find better options elsewhere.
Squarespace offers two plans: Personal and Business.The Personal plan is limited to 20 pages, whereas the Business plan comes with unlimited pages. One perk of going with Squarespace is that customers who subscribe to an annual billing plan can take advantage of a free personalised domain name as part of their package. This is something that would otherwise cost you around £10-20 to buy direct from the likes of GoDaddy. Domains offered include the catch-all ‘.com’ top level domain, which essentially allows you to create a website with the address www.yourname.com – unless, of course, your name is already taken!
Another big reason to opt for Squarespace is that they offer over 40 website templates to choose from. Squarespace’s bespoke website-building tools are easy to use, too – once you’ve populated your site you can even switch templates and the site will automatically rearrange all your content to fit the new template.
Price: £9.99 – £49.99 per month (if paid annually)
Launched in 2009, Photodeck is a relative newcomer to the personalised website building industry, yet has already gained a fantastic reputation among photographers. Unlike many leading website-building platforms that are more general in their outlook, Photodeck caters solely to photographers. While Photodeck isn’t by any means the cheapest website building platform on the market, it does offer a huge range of tools and services that cater specifically to the needs of photographers.
At present the company offers three plans: Folio, Pro and Studio. Folio users enjoy 10GB of storage, Pro users get 60GB and Studio users get 100GB. The main difference between the three plans is that the basic Folio plan does not have any integrated e-commerce or printing services, nor can you create any private or password protected galleries for use by clients. Those on the Pro and Studio plans can sell prints and other photo gifts directly through their website, with orders fulfilled by professional print labs WHCC (USA) and One Vision Imaging (UK). Better still, Photodeck takes 0% commission from all online orders – to our knowledge they are the only website hosting company to offer this.
As with virtually all of the big website building companies, Photodeck offers a good range of templates for you to get started with, along with plenty of customisation options. In addition they also support integrated blog and social media functionality that enables you to run your blog and add new content directly from your Photodeck website.
Price: £5 – £25 per month (if paid annually)
Zenfolio is another well-respected website creation and hosting company that caters specifically for photographers. At present Zenfolio offers three plans: Starter, Pro and Advanced. While none of these are free, the company offers a 14-day free trial.
While the Pro and Advanced plans cater primarily to professionals, the Starter plan is an easy and cost-effective way to get your images online and comes with unlimited storage. You can set your images to be public or private, and can also create private galleries. Unlike SmugMug, Zenfolio also gives you all the tools you need to create and maintain a blog on your website – rather than linking to an externally hosted one. If you would like to use a personalised domain name then this is also possible too – even for those on the Starter plan. Zenfolio provides detailed instructions on how to do this for a number of popular domain registration services including GoDaddy. In addition, Zenfolio also provides comprehensive online support for just about everything you might need to build and maintain your website, including numerous tutorials and ‘how-to’ videos.
Zenfolio customers can sell prints and photo gifts directly through PhotoBox. Those on the Pro and Advanced plans can also choose to use One Vision Imaging (UK-based). When creating your website, you won’t need any coding skills whatsoever – simply choose a template and follow the instructions. While Zenfolio’s website-building tools aren’t quite as extensive or flexible as SmugMug’s, some claim they are easier to work with.
Price: £4.30 – £11.50 per month (if paid annually)
While 500px is primarily an online photography community in the same vein as Flickr, one big difference between the two is that 500px users can take advantage of the company’s bespoke Portfolio service to create their own bespoke websites. Portfolio websites are hosted completely separately from 500px public profiles and are not subject to comments or ratings. The Portfolio option is only available to those 500px users subscribing to the company’s Awesome plan or higher. The main benefits to a 500px Portfolio website include unlimited uploads, the ability to use a personalised domain name at no extra cost, and the ability to sell your images though the 500px Marketplace.
One thing to note about signing up to a 500px Portfolio website is that you won’t be able to sell prints directly from your website. This is because the 500px Marketplace only deals in royalty-free licenses for stock images rather than ready-to-hang prints and wall mounts. At the time of writing, 500px’s commission for Marketplace sales is listed as 40% of the total sale price. This arrangement will undoubtedly suit certain types of photographer much more than others.
Price: £5.50 – £31.15 per month (if paid annually)
Photoshelter currently hosts around 80,000 photography websites around the world, and is especially popular with professionals on account of the company’s extensive e-commerce and client-facing services. In fact, Photoshelter even allows you to submit your images to its own stock library, from which third parties can buy rights-managed images.
Photoshelter currently offers three plans: Basic, Standard and Pro. Basic users are limited to 4GB of storage, while Standard users get 100GB. Pro users, meanwhile, get unlimited storage. Protection against right-click image theft is provided as standard, along with the ability to make individual images or galleries private. Photographers looking to sell their work through Photoshelter have access to a number of printing services including Loxley Colour in the UK.
While Photoshelter only offers nine basic templates, each of them is highly customisable. You can can change background colours, fonts, rearrange the layout, add your own logo and much more. Built-in social network integration allows you to link directly to your Facebook and Twitter profiles. All three plans allow you to use your own personalised domain name at no extra cost. While Photoshelter does not provide any built-in blogging tools of its own, you can easily link to blogging platforms such as WordPress and Tumblr directly from your website. Under the hood Photoshelter runs on HTML5, which means websites built with it will automatically scale to fit tablet and other mobile screens perfectly.
Price: Free – £20
WordPress is by far the biggest content management system in the world and currently powers around a quarter of all websites. As it is an open source application, those with the requisite skills can download the latest WordPress release free of charge, choose their own website hosting partner and set themselves up completely independently.
However, given that this is beyond the scope of most people, WordPress also offers its own range of free and paid plans via WordPress.com which greatly simplifies the whole process by putting everything you need in one place with a fixed monthly price.
At present, WordPress offers three distinct plans. The Free plan is exactly that and provides a great way to get started, although storage is limited to 3GB and you cannot use a custom domain name. For £7 a month the Premium plan gives you 13GB of storage, unlimited ad-free pages and blog posts, along with the ability to use a custom domain name that can be registered directly through WordPress for around £15 per year. For £20 a month you can upgrade to the Business plan, which offers everything included in the Premium plan plus unlimited storage.
While WordPress is not specifically tailored to photographers, the sheer number of stylish templates and useful plug-ins available make it a fantastic and highly-cost effective way to build yourself a simple portfolio website with. Better still, you can take advantage of the WordPress platform to incorporate a blog directly into your site to give it a more personable feel.