Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Make A Fantastic Photography Website Quickly & Easily With SmugMug + Sell Your Pictures!

I just finished making a website for my photography using SmugMug, and right away I've been asked multiple times to explain how I did it. I've received tons of compliments about how great it looks and how well it is designed. Someone was surprised when I told him that I did it myself (he thought it had been created by a professional).

I'm far from savvy on these type of things. Even though I have two photography blogs, I'm only able to muddle my way through html learning as I go--I'm not a tech kind of guy at all. But setting up the website from start-to-finish was not hard and it didn't take nearly as much time as one might think. After I was finished I had to wonder why I didn't do this many months ago.

When I set out to create a website for my photography I didn't really know where to start. Several years ago I made a website using Wix, but I was dissatisfied with it. It wasn't what I was looking for and it didn't meet my needs (but it was free). I kept it for about one year and then removed it.

This time around I did some research. I asked some other photographers what they had used to create their websites and I did some web searches. SmugMug kept coming up. It wasn't free, but it did seem to meet all of my needs.

What are those needs? I wanted to upload hundreds of high-resolution images to be displayed on the website. I wanted my own domain name. I wanted something that looked really good. I wanted easy navigation. I wanted a top-notch web-store where I could effortlessly sell my images. I wanted good security so that my photographs wouldn't be stolen. I wanted it all to be simple and fast to create. And I didn't want to spend a bunch of money.

As you can imagine there are not many options available that would satisfy all of those requirements. But I did have a couple of options. I had seen several really nice websites by other photographers who had used SmugMug. What they had created for their photography was exactly what I wanted to create for my photography. So I decided to go with SmugMug, and so far that has proven to be an excellent choice.

Perhaps you are in the same shoes that I was in just a couple of weeks ago. You might be thinking about making your own photography website and you're trying to figure out the best options. Maybe you're looking into this whole SmugMug thing. Then this post is for you.

To get started with SmugMug, visit their website. If you use this link (click here) you'll receive 20% off whichever plan you choose. Who doesn't like saving money?

They have four price options: Basic ($40 per year), Power ($60 per year), Portfolio ($150 per year) and Business ($300 per year). Basic is more for personal use than business--think of it like Flickr, but better and not free. If you have no interest in a web-store (you just want a website), Power might be a good choice. The second two options are the ones that you want to consider if you plan to sell your images. Portfolio is sufficient for most people and it's the choice that I selected. Business gives you a few more pricing and marketing options, and (as the name suggests) is a good plan for those who intend to sell a lot of photographs through their website.

When you sign up, your web address will have SmugMug's name in the url (such as www.roeschphotography.smugmug.com). If you want a custom domain (such as www.roeschphotography.com) you have to go get one. I used GoDaddy for mine, but there are other options, as well. My domain costs $10 a year, and I think that is money well spent (it certainly looks more professional). Once you have a custom domain, you simply enter it into the appropriate place within the settings.

SmugMug has a number of nice-looking website templates for you to choose from. After playing around with a few of them, I went with Pixie for the simple and clean look of it. I appreciated that on the homepage the images keep coming as you scroll down, which reminds me of  how some social media sites work. You can pick which gallery will be displayed on the homepage.

The templates can be customized, and I took advantage of that. It's a little tricky at first (at least it was for me), but it's not hard once you get the hang of it. SmugMug has a great help page with lots of good information, which proved to be an invaluable resource when trying to figure out how to do different things.

It didn't take long for my website to have its own unique look. Having a website that is distinctly yours (viewers recognize immediately that it belongs to you and you alone) is important because it is similar to a trademark or logo--it's an aspect of branding. This is easily achieved with SmugMug.

I set up the galleries in a slideshow format. Since the homepage had so many images, I thought that simplicity was needed for the galleries. Once visitors open a gallery, nothing more is required since it automatically scrolls through the images. With one click the slideshow becomes full-page.

I placed important links at the top of the page. Visitors can click to this blog and my other photography blog. There's a link to my galleries. I included a search page in case there's something specific that someone's looking for. There's a "contact me" form (which wasn't immediately obvious how to set up). I also included a link to buy my photographs. It's not always apparent on SmugMug websites that one can buy photographs, so it was important to include that link right on the top of the front page. Viewers know right away that images are for sale and can access the web-store with one click.

A big reason that I made a website for my photography was to sell photographs. I needed a place to send potential customers where they could buy my images. SmugMug has a first-class store. They use some different vendors that you can choose from. I picked Bay Photo Labs because they're one of the best labs around.

You can choose what products to sell, including prints, canvas prints and digital downloads (with a use license), plus all sorts of other things. There are more options than you'll want to include. You can set the pricing to whatever you want. You can choose which galleries are for sale and which ones are not. You have a lot of control over the whole process. SmugMug keeps 15% of the profits, but they handle everything, which seems worth that 15%.

I think that how much commercial success one has with a SmugMug site depends on the quality of the photographs combined with the quantity of advertisement. In other words, if your pictures aren't good no one will buy them. If your pictures are good but if no one knows that they can buy them no one will. You have to get the word out. My webpage has been complete for less than a week, and I've already had a couple of customers.

SmugMug has included a ton of security options to help ensure that your photographs aren't stolen. You can choose which options you want to enable or disable. You can disable right-click and even include a custom right-click message. You can make galleries private, hidden and even password protected. The most security-minded photographers should be satisfied with the options SmugMug has made available to protect their photographs.

My website was online in less than two hours. It took a week of working on the website in my spare time to finish it. I probably put in eight hours total, and most of that was uploading images.

Because I used a 20% off coupon (like what you receive when you click here), the total cost was $130 ($120 for SmugMug and $10 for the custom domain). Looking at the website and how good it turned out, especially considering the great web-store, I would have expected to pay much more than that. It seems like a bargain! If you are a photographer considering your options for a website and a web-store, SmugMug is a great choice that I certainly recommend.

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