I’ve written before about how there’s a variety of different software available for editing and processing photos, but what about displaying them on the online? There’s basically three different routes photographers can go: Flickr.com, 500px.com and setting up your own website.
While cost is different between all these options, I’d suggest they’re competitive enough that price shouldn’t be your primary driver. With that said, let’s talk price/limits real fast, just to get that out of the way.
Photo Sharing Services
- Free: 1tb, 200mb max photo size, no upload limits, ads
- $50/year: 1tb, 200mb max photo size, no upload limits, no ads
- Doublr ($500/year): 2tb, 200mb max photo size, no upload limits, no ads
- Basic: Free, with 2 gb of space
- Pro: 9.99/month, with 1tb of space
- Free: Unlimited storage, 20 uploads per 7 days, minimal organization tools
- Plus: $25/year, unlimited uploads, private sets, advanced statistics and Google Analytics
- Awesome: $75/year, all the above and personalized portfolio/custom domain support
Your Own Website
Criteria for selecting a photo sharing service
Ok, so with price covered, what are the criteria for selecting a service? I’d guess your reasons for wanting your photos online fall into one of these buckets:
- I want a quick, cheap way to upload lots of photos of friends and family.
- I want a slick, professional portfolio option with minimal fuss.
- I want full control over how my photos are displayed, with the ability to perhaps build out supplemental pages around my portfolio.
I want a quick, cheap way to upload lots of photos of friends and family.
Option 1, your likely best best: Flickr is likely to be your best bet. You can upload a ton of images, organize them and even set privacy options on some sets so only your friends are able to see them. You’re unlikely to hit the 1tb limit anytime soon, and if you do, perhaps consider culling your collection.
Option 2: Dropbox. The file syncing service that I’ve used since 2009 is great for a variety of purposes, but it also gives you drop-dead simple portfolios with no control as to their appearance. What you see (to the right) is what you get.
I want a slick, professional portfolio option with minimal fuss.
Although not as easy to set up and maintain as I would like, 500px’s options are the way to go here. There’s a weird learning curve here to use their portfolio service, as they’ve set it up in a way that make it very difficult to navigate to and manipulate the settings, but in terms of displaying with your photos in a cool way using well-designed templates that you don’t have to touch the code on, I’ve not found a better solution. Here’s my portfolio, using one of their standard templates: jstovall.500px.com.
Worth noting, if you want your own my-website-name.com address, you’ll need to go with the Plus option.
I want full control over how my photos are displayed, with the ability to perhaps build out supplemental pages around my portfolio.
If you’re in this category, then you probably already know this, but you’re going to want to buy your down domain and set up your own instance of a CMS, probably WordPress. That’s what this and my professional site are running on. I happily use Dreamhost for hosting, WordPress as my CMS and the Photo Gallery plugin to display photos. There’s a multitude of services to obtain your domain name from. I won’t get too far into the details of how to set up a site because there’s plenty of resources available to help you along that path:
One thing to note here: Services dedicated to displaying your images, like 500px, are highly optimized to for fast delivery of big images. If you’re going to put your portfolio on your own site, you’ll almost certainly see a performance hit. It likely won’t be terrible, but you’ll still need a little understanding of file sizes and resolution to manage it. You can also do the same thing I do, which is feature a lot of photos on your site, but link off to 500px for a formal portfolio.
Other factors to consider
Strong online communities can be one of the beginning photographer’s best friends. They can offer constructive critique, equipment advice and, most likely, someone in your chosen community has already solved whatever problem you’re facing. In this regard, Flickr wins hands-down. 500px is attempting to build communities, but they’re low-volume and the participants tend to not be overly friendly to beginners.
Exposure to lots of high-quality images can also be a huge driver for beginning photographers. In this case, I’d recommend digging through Flickr and finding some good photographers and following them. Yes, 500px does have a preponderance of very experienced and accomplished shooters, but I have three problems with the images of 500px:
- As a beginner, it’s going to be very hard to get the results many of these folks, who have years of experience and thousands invested in equipment, are getting and I don’t want beginner photographers to et discouraged.
- Lots of HDR. Loootttaaa HDR. I’m not of the mindset that the HDR movement is ruining photography, but again, it’s not an effect a beginner is going to be able to easily achieve and it’s not going to help you develop an accurate eye for what you’ll get snapping away on your own.
- Art-sy-ness. Composites, post-processing, models and photo manipulations are all over 500px. Again, the beginning photographer is probably not tromping out into the woods at 5am with a model and external flashes in tow in order to get something like this or this.
Fine, 500px wins here. Follow through some categories, set up a couple searches and there are pages and pages of inspiration here. Just remember those results are hard to get.
I guess some people still use Picasa?
This is a pretty simplistic overview of the options out there written for a pretty specific audience. If you’re reading this, you’re most likely a beginner/moderately experienced amateur who’s shooting for fun and personal satisfaction. In fact, you’ll notice I don’t cover anything having to do with selling photos or advertising your services; I really just want to make the first steps of getting your photos online accessible and give you an idea of the direction more advanced photographers might be going.
Let me know if you have questions/other suggestions for this sort of thing. Thanks for reading!