4 options to have a portfolio online

Introduction

Five years ago, when I picked up photography, options to publish your work online were very limited. We had Flikr but if you wanted to differentiate the best way was to have your own web site. And I did exactly that. I would use 4images application as photo gallery, buy templates and even manually design my whole site (very poorly, I must admit). As I remember, it was a painful work that took a lot of time. And results were not always good.

Then Web 2.0 came along. Internet was flooded with multiple offerings all based on PHP, CSS and HTML. WordPress, although initially aimed for bloggers, was adopted by photographers for their web sites. A multiple number of templates, plugins and customization flexibility made it the preferred platform to these days.

At the turn of the first decade of this century we started seeing a proliferation of dedicated hosting solutions for photographers. These sites have advanced features, tools and some even include stores to sell your work.
So, we know today we have many many options to showcase our work. But, how many photo webs are enough? I asked myself this question a few days ago after setting up yet another portfolio site. I don’t know the answer but I certainly can review the ones I’m using and provide feedback and suggestions.

Let’s start listing what I’m using today:

-Personal blog, hosted in GoDaddy (this site!).
500px (awesome account)
G+
Canon Irista
Flickr
Behance

But this is only part of the story. Some of the companies above offers “portfolio” pages so the actual number of sites get increased with:

In total nine web sites to promote my work! Why do I need all of them? I dunno 🙂 I guess I like to experiment and most are for free or included in some kind of subscription.

500px_logo_blue

How it works?

500px is a site dedicated to photographers with the mission of being their online solution. A front site for their portfolios, a licensing administrator and store.

It’s all of the above, but it’s also a social network of sorts. As such it has a system whit visitors and members creating a ranking of relevance. Your photos relevance will be measured based on “likes” and “faves” and given a numeric value. This will bring your photo up the ranking and attract more followers. As any public ranking is susceptible to be “influenced”. For that 500px came with two ideas. One is to have an “Editor’s” list managed only by them. The other is to vary the numeric value of your photo over time. So to keep your photo on top you have to have a steady flow of “faves” and “likes”. And this is tracked with the statistic tool. Neat. The ranking is subdivided into categories “Upcoming”, “Fresh” and “Popular”.

Another face of 500px is their licensing model and store. This last has been renamed “Prime” and is linked to the new licensing front storeprime.500px.com

Layout/Design

500px layout is superb. I find it showcases your photos without getting in the middle. You’ll notice is 500px site but you and your work are given all the focus. No distracting elements like prominent branding, banners, adds, etc.

Once you create an account you can start uploading your photos. You can upload from your computer or import from a number of other sites (Goolgle drive, Dropbox, Flicr, Facebook, Gmail, etc). You’ll find all usual options, geo-tagging, Exif, license (500px or Creative Commons, tags, etc). Everything is clearly indicated making the upload process a breeze. After uploading a number of photos you can start managing them. Here you can manage your photo’s individually editing all data set during upload. You can create sets, assign them to your portfolio and submit photos for promotion.

500px also has a partner program to promote their brand and offers (or asks)  to use your photos as promo material. If you’re selected it will generate traffic back to your site, a win-win situation.

From your settings you have access to your information, portfolio and store. In the store you can decide which photos are available for selling and control the licensing model. You will also be notified if any submission needs your attention. This is done via e-mail as well so you don’t miss any important notification). Being a store it obviously includes a payment and sales section to keep track of your transactions.

Features

Sets

You can create collections of photos, called sets, to group them. Think of B&W, Manhattan, portraits, etc. You can even set password to your sets making them private. This is ideal if you want to show your
client a preview of your work.

Portfolio

When you pay for Awesome account you have a fully customizable portfolio page. You even have a dedicated sub domain (myname.500px.com). Layout is superb and very responsive.
It comes with a “About” page a “Contact us” form page and a main page where you can add many different “Portfolios” (like Sets). It supports Google Analytics to
get traffic statistics.

Licensing

It has its own license model or you can use your own or choose Creative Commons. Again, flexibility is the key.

Store

All accounts come with access to 500px store. This has been expanded recently to include digital downloads.

Groups

A recent addition is the the possibility to create, or just follow, groups. It is just that, self organized groups around a common interest, photographer, location, etc.
It is an attempt to stir user engagement and attract more traffic (aka sales)

Custom domain

If you have your own domain you can use it to point to your 500px account. Simple and perfect to have that extra professional look that your own domain always has.

Statistics tool

We mentioned Google Analytics but that option is only available for Portfolio. For your 500px collection there is a built in tool that provides a number of statistics. This is good enough to analyse traffic

Conclusion

500px is for the photographer that wants to promote and sell their work but does not have the time or skills to take care of all the work (setting a web site, a front store, payments, maintenance).

500px provides an excellent mix of features and sleek design to make it an excellent choice to be your main web presence. They found a balance between letting your work be the main actor and showing it is 500px who’s delivering it. This is a key factor when deciding to have your portfolio and don’t want to be drowned by a hevy branding from the site.

Everything in 500px is extremely easy to use and you’ll find yourself up and running in no time. And of course, it comes with statistic tools, a store,  an advanced store (Prime). Their system of scoring photos by “faves” and “likes” plus the categories “upcoming” “fresh” and “popular” allows you to have good exposure. As a bonus if you use Photoshop and Lightroom you can get the CC version together with an Awesome account for $13 a month, or $165 a year. Really a bargain.

Plans

Free $0

20 uploads per week: Showcase your best photos.
Earn money for your photos: License your photos through 500px Prime.

Plus $2,08 per month ($25 yearly)

Unlimited Uploads: Share an unlimited amount of your work with the 500px community.
Earn money for your photos: License your photos through 500px Prime.
Unlimited Private Sets: Organize your photos with public or private sets.
Advanced Statistics: Gain insight into your photos and make informed decisions. Put your most popular photo on your portfolio, share the right photos with the right audience.

Awesome $6,25 per month ($75 yearly)

Unlimited Uploads: Share an unlimited amount of your work with the 500px community.
Earn money for your photos: License your photos through 500px Prime.
Unlimited Private Sets: Organize your photos with public or private sets.
Advanced Statistics: Gain insight into your photos and make informed decisions. Put your most popular photo on your portfolio, share the right photos with the right audience.
Personalized Portfolio: Showcase your photos with a personal, highly customizable portfolio website. Comes with great technical support and Google Analytics.
Custom Domain Support: Host your custom portfolio on http://www.yourname.com.
Fast-track access in 500px Prime: Get your photos approved and in front of buyers faster in our premium licensing marketplace, 500px Prime.

Awesome + Adobe $13,75 per month ($165 yearly)

Same features as Awesome plus: Photoshop CC, Lightroom and Lightroom mobile.

behance-be-logo-01How it works?

Behance is part of Adobe offering. It is a free site where you can promote your work and your services. It’s a clever mix of self promotion and and job search site. The Linkedin of photographers 😉

Adobe designed Behance with an holistic approach. To share, interact and collaborate (Work in progress, discussion, teams), showcase your work (Portfolio, ProSite), and to develop your career (job section, CV tools). It also distributes work to other online galleries increasing the target of your art.

Your work is organized in projects and they can be sub categorized as “Work in progress” or (completed) “Projects”. They also cleverly added “Teams” which allows studios, schools to have a common presence.

If you’re looking for professionals or inspiration you can browse through the site using filters, popularity, time, and location. This makes it easier than just using the search function (which is also there).

Job market and self promotion are present from the Jobs section where you find job postings (offered and wanted), to specific tools included in your account settings. The main one is the “Job experience” section. It is designed in a simple but elegant CV style and you can even download it in PDF to print it or distribute soft copies.

To sum up this I’ll leave you with Behance mission statement:

OUR MISSION: TO EMPOWER THE CREATIVE WORLD TO MAKE IDEAS HAPPEN
We built a platform to remove the barriers between talent & opportunity.
The leading online platform to showcase & discover creative work. The creative world updates their work in one place to broadcast it widely and efficiently. Companies explore the work and access talent on a global scale.

To showcase your work Behance includes your own Prosite gallery (prosite.com). You have a limited number of templates to choose from and you can import your Projects directly from Behance. But more about this in the next section.

Layout/Design

Behance design is clean, direct to the point and very easy to use. So much that in the beginning is feels like a very simple site. But start using it and you’ll discover the full power of its options and customizations. After login you are brought to your portfolio page, profile section. You can edit your profile, see your collections and select your WIP (work in progress, your team or your ProSite.

On the top you’ll find the global tools, Activity, Discover, Jobs and link to your Adobe menu. You’ll also find messages and activity notifications. You don’t have to leave this page to read or access any of those.

As I mentioned earlier, Behance’s main focus is to be a marketplace for graphic designers and photographers. And as such it gets the job done, and then some more. Adobe built it but is the size and quality of the artists that makes it an exceptional place.

Tools

All tools are there to help you interact with other artists, get and provide feedback, showcase your work and find jobs. All under the recognized brand of Adobe.

WIP (work in progress). A dedicated area to share your work in progress and receive feedback. Each piece of work has its own discussion area and you can upload several different versions.

My Team. Ideal to bring together a group of designers either representing a studio, school or just collaborating. most used by design studios as a showcase of their and when hiring will show the open positions in the same page.

Collections. This feature allows you to group projects. Simple, just another layer to group your work. But you can also group other artist work you’re following.

ProSite. This is your personal web site. Seems simple and limited but do not get initial impression fool you, it has a quite powerful editing and customization features. You can tweak it significantly to make yours differentiate from all the rest.

Statistics. It offers a comprehensive set of stats and you can add Behance to your Google Analytics.

Job history and CV tool. Here’s is where you build your CV (including exporting to PDF)

Job search database. Job market, search or offer work.

Plans

Free

I wish all pricing reviews where this easy 🙂

Conclusion

If you are looking for a place to collaborate with other graphic artists, promote your work and search or offer job, then this is the perfect place!.

Behance mission statement is reflected on every feature and layout of their site. At first its simplicity makes you feel there’s not much in it but after a while you’ll discover the power of their options, tools and features. It’s more than another portfolio site to show and sell your work. Adobe positioned Behance very cleverly offering what others don’t have. Since 2009 it has build a reputation that attracts the best artists and “A list” customers.

google_plus_logo-276x300What is it?

First and foremost G+ is a social network. It’s Google’s response to Facebook. Google social network had a strong adoption within photographer community since it launched. This was thanks to a clean layout that showcased your photos beautifully, collaborating tools, video hangouts and above all it was free. Not a minor thing because back on those days Flickr was the standard site for photographers but it was paid if you wanted the useful features. Their free account had very limited storage and also limited the number of photos you could upload. Facebook was also there but it was about connecting friends and family and sharing pictures of your cat (yikes!).

So from the very start G+ had a massive number of professionals joining and even greater number of photo enthusiasts. Since then Google has evolved the layout and added some nice features, but I’m getting ahead of myself now.

How it works?

I don’t know if it was done on purpose but Google came out with a set of features that made it an instant hit to photographers. They layout was simple back then and despite evolving into a more complex one it remains miles away simpler than Facebook. However, when compared with other photo-centric offerings (Flickr, 500px, etc.) it lags behind. It’s fair to say that it was never Google’s intention to target photographers alone. So, with that in mind, how does it feel?

As any other social network you have the main section where all posts are shown (yours and your friends). Google calls it the “Stream”. You can comment, re-share and “+” it . Your information is under the “Profile” section. here people can find all your posts, your “About” information and all your photos. You are in complete control of what is shown publicly, what is shown to friends and what is private.

Being Google everything is connected to your Gdrive, Youtube and Photos (former Picasa). This can be seen as Google pushing their tools, but it actually gives you the opportunity to use them to your benefit. Being an artist you can add short “how to” videos, interviews and reviews to your profile. It requires more work but it add something the other sites do not have.

Google added a few collaboration tools. Communities is Google’s version of groups. Events, a kind of project/activity tool that takes place during a specific period of time. Pages, which is your “professional” site away from the social stream. And Hangouts. I want to take some lines to talk about Hangouts.

Before Hangouts came out thinking of having multiple simultaneous video conferences with as good quality as your Internet connection allowed and for free was unthinkable. Se here was Google offering this feature freely for everybody. It immediately trigger a spur of spontaneous get-together activities. It was exciting times and everyone was happy to participate and meet colleagues face to face.

With time Google added even more features to Hangout. Now you can record the session for later playback. Imagine yourself giving a lecture, class or workshop to an audience and having it recorded and offered in your web site (G+ or otherwise). Cool, right?

And you can do this by using all tools offered by Google. Set your presence in G+ community, invite followers to an Event in Hangouts, record the event and distribute it through your pages. Powerful promotion tool.

And lastly Pages. It is your professional front page. it has the same features as your normal G+ site but you can use it separately, so your daily posts won;t come to your pro-site.

Layout

Google uses white and their corporate RGB colours everywhere. It looks like a trademark and it gives all sections of G+ an unifying look. It also means you’ll have little room to brand yourself and you can’t escape being someone using Google’s tools.

Conclusion

I’ve been using G+ since it came out and experienced the growing pains. But my experience has been positive and even if some changes puzzled me I got used to it. It’s free and it offers unique features. It has a big community of photographers, pro and amateur. And most brands have come to G+ to engage and promote themselves. And most importantly, Google brings this to everyone, whether you are Adobe or a local pro photographer.

it turned out G+ is a Facebook killer, but only for the small segment of people that happen to be crazy about great photography. And you won’t find kittens in G+!

So, who won?

After reviewing these three options I came to the conclusion that there  isn’t a best or worst one. And it’s not about saying everybody wins either. If you’re into photography as professional, advanced or just amateur you should use them all.

With 500px you will showcase your work and sell it through their store. In Behance you’ll promote yourself, offer your services and search for jobs. And with G+ you’ll engage with your followers, audience and clients.

Other options

There are other options out there which I haven’t tried yet but I’ll do and post a version 2 of this review.

Photoshelter
Old trusted webhosting and WordPress combo
Flickr (it had an amazing comeback)
SmugSmug
Pixieset
IM-Creator

flickr-smug-shelter

These are just a small sample, there are many other’s outside. Feel free to send me comments about your favorites, these or others.

Thanks!!