Photo Hosting Service

Those who have followed my main site at know that I went through a change of service providers just over a year ago. I posted some information about that change back then, but I thought it would be good to spotlight the change here on Gear Talk.

There are many options for photographs who want their own website. There are some very good systems and some pretty poor systems available. I was using a site called ExposureManager for my photo hosting service before switching this past year. I wasn’t completely happy with their service and that led me to the switch. My main concern was with the sales portion, so that won’t even be an issue for many people. It happened to be a big issue for me.

Most of the services out there offer a professional service and a hobby service. Make sure you know what you are looking for before you decide on a service. If you aren’t going to be selling your work, you don’t need to worry about the sales side of things and will have no need for the professional service plans. If you plan on selling your work, pay particular attention to the features and services offered in the professional plans and be prepared to pay some money for a good hosting service.

I am not going to go through all of the details involved in selecting a hosting service, but you will want to spend some time comparing the different options. This is the part that requires you to really know what you want before you make a selection. If you don’t know what you want, you can’t really analyze the options and make the best choice for your particular needs.

Here are some of the things I was looking for in a hosting service:

  1. Easy and Professional Sales Service
  2. Customization of the Site
  3. Storage Capacity as a Backup of Photographs
  4. Integration with my Current System

The service would do me no good if I couldn’t sell my photographs and provide a quality product to my customers. I wanted complete control over the buying experience and the ability to sell images both through the system and offline if needed. Along with this service, I required prompt shipping and several shipping choices to be available to my customers based on their needs.  This is the main reason I changed from my previous hosting service. The shipping was inconsistent and the quality wasn’t always what I expected. Interestingly the quality wasn’t as much of an issue to my customers as was the shipping. I had far more complaints about shipping times than quality. The quality was more of an issue that I had as I wanted to provide better quality even though I wasn’t receiving complaints.

Customization and integration were important as well. I had a domain name and website and didn’t want to change those. I needed a system that would integrate and work with what I already had. Most sites allow integration and customization, so this part was fairly equal with most systems.

The one piece that I hadn’t really planned for was to be able to use the system as a backup for my images. I had all of my images on my computer system and various external hard drives in the past, so I really didn’t see a need for a system that would double as a backup system. That is until I had a hard drive stop working and the backup to it started to have major problems, eventually failing as well. While I thought I had redundancy built into my system, I learned the hard way that I needed more.  I changed the way I used my hosting service because of the problems with hard drives.

With all of these needs, I decided on a hosting service called Zenfolio (Zenfolio – elegant photo hosting). I had seen demonstrations of the site at a trade show along with a demonstration of SmugMugPro. After researching those sites, along with others, I decided that Zenfolio provided what I wanted at a reasonable price. There are a few things I miss from my old hosting service, but I have far more features that I enjoy now with the change. I am very happy with the choice I made and I believe this system provides the best service to my customers in the areas that were important to me as a business owner. I would not hesitate to recommend Zenfolio to anyone searching for a hosting service for their photograph.