Saturday, May 16, 2009

Professional Photography Web Hosting Roundup: Conclusion (6 of 6)–RETIRED


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THIS ARTICLE HAS BECOME TOO OLD AND OUTDATED. I now use Zenfolio exclusively for my personal portfolio and now only points to my Zenfolio site. Click here to read my Zenfolio review and learn why I feel it’s the best service available now.

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Ron Martinsen Photography - liveBooks
liveBooks on
Through the end of May ‘09 when you mention this blog
you can save $600 off the Unlimited Package
and $300 off the Select Package when you sign up.
Ron Martinsen Photography - FolioSnap
FolioSnap on
Extend your trial to 30 days
Ron Martinsen Photography - SiteWelder
SiteWelder on
$75 off your setup fee - special code RMART
Ron Martinsen Photography - Smugmug Pro
Smugmug Pro on
Discount: 20% off first year

After two months of evaluating the services featured in this series, I’ve reached my conclusion about which service is right for me. However, I encourage you to recognize that what is right for me may not necessarily be right for you. Read on to see what I recommend and how a different service might be just what you are looking for.

Article Recap

If you missed any of the articles in this series, I encourage you to go back and read them before you continue to read this article. Here’s a complete list of previous articles:

  1. Professional Photography Web Hosting Roundup: Intro
  2. liveBooks Review
  3. FolioSnap Review
  4. SiteWelder Review
  5. Smugmug Review
  6. Conclusion

Ron’s Opinion Of What Service Might Be Right For You

The cool thing about this series is that there’s no real loser, because all of these services are very good. There is something I really like about every one that I wish the other services offered, so you’re takeaway should be that you match your needs to the appropriate service that best suites those needs. With that in mind, here’s a quick rundown of each:

Ron Martinsen Photography on liveBooks

liveBooks – The Best in Presentation

If you want a site that looks like you are a world class photographer, then liveBooks will deliver on that. If you look at the sites of their top clients you see some unique and fantastic presentations, so I believe their design team is without equal. I also loved the level of control that editSuite offered as well as the way their thumbnails work. If you can afford it, I highly recommend liveBooks for a world class Internet presence. If I had the money to do it, I know I would. To help with the cost liveBooks has release a special offer through the end of May ‘09 - when you mention this blog you can save $600 off the Unlimited Package and $300 off the Select Package when you sign up.

 Ron Martinsen Photography on FolioSnap

FolioSnap – Fast Setup without Flash

Of the four sites I created, none was working faster than FolioSnap. I literally got it up and going in about 20 minutes. What’s more, it worked brilliantly with my iPhone using the same site design that non-mobile users would see. I liked that A LOT. If you are in a hurry to get your site online or you need a solution that avoids the use of flash, then I highly recommend FolioSnap. I encourage you to try it out and extend your trial to 30 days just by entering the promo code RONMART when you sign up.

Ron Martinsen Photography on SiteWelder

SiteWelder – Excellent Template Layouts with a Can Do Attitude

Of the sites reviewed, nobody offered the volume of custom template layouts like SiteWelder. Once you choose your template layout you aren’t done because their “Can Do” attitude will serve you well to create a custom experience that goes beyond the initial template layout to create something unique from other SiteWelder users. I loved the fact that the template was only a starting point and that they were willing to make reasonable changes at no additional cost. In addition, they were the only site advertising that they would migrate your existing site from another service which could be useful for those stuck paying to much for their current solution. Get $75 off your setup fee when you use the special code RMART.

Ron Martinsen Photography on Smugmug Pro

Smugmug Pro – The Value and Customization Leader with Best in Class Support

$59.95 to $149.95 per year for all of this??? – WOW! Smugmug Pro offers many features the others in this series haven’t even began to think about yet, and its customer support doesn’t seem to have the word “no” in its vocabulary. In addition, it offers access to its CSS which means you can do a tremendous amount of customization. However, the key word here is YOU. If you aren’t the type that can learn how to program for the web, then its Easy Customizer will give you nice results for local photographer work but not for the big leagues. It’s private gallery support is definitely the best – bar none – for wedding and portrait photographers, and if you don’t do your own printing then its shopping cart integration with third parties is the only game in town. Smugmug used to be compared to rival Zenfolio for general purpose to prosumer photo sharing, but its now in the big leagues and certainly competent enough for pro web hosting. Get a discount of 20% off first year when you use the coupon code SmugRon.

And the new hosting service for is:

Smugmug Pro on

I chose Smugmug Pro because I’m comfortable doing web programming to tweak my site to get the exact results I want and because it offers a value that meets my current budget. I don’t do self-fulfillment, so the shopping carts integration with EzPrints and BayPhoto really met my order fulfillment needs. In addition, I love how quickly I can get my photos online and share them with clients. I wish it had a better thumbnail presentation like liveBooks, and I really wish it would take a cue from FolioSnap and do a non-Flash slideshow. However, Smugmug surprised me here and offered something that I never thought was possible at the beginning of this series.

Runner Up

liveBooks on

I wish I could have gone through the entire design process and created a compelling site with liveBooks like a normal customer would do. I felt like this service offers a very professional presentation that results in a world class presentation, albeit for the highest cost in this series. It truly is the Porsche of professional photography web hosting services, so if you can afford it then I’m fairly confident you won’t be disappointed.

SEO Follow Up Article

As of May 16th, 2009 at 10:54 PM, the search results for the sites created in this article with the big three search engines were as follows:

  1. SiteWelder
  2. Smugmug
  3. liveBooks – not found
  4. FolioSnap – not found
  1. SiteWelder
  2. FolioSnap
  3. liveBooks – not found
  4. Smugmug – not found
  • No sites found

I continue to monitor this, and if the results change in a month I’ll be sure to post a follow up article that shows who is winning in search engine results. Right now it appears that SiteWelder is the big winner. This is something to consider when choosing your hosting service because your site is useless if nobody can find you!

UPDATE: Here’s the follow up article on SEO and Smugmug wins big again!

Thoughts from the Pros Follow Up

At the conclusion of this series I had hoped to include the opinions of some top photographers as to their thoughts of the sites created for this series. Unfortunately busy schedules precluded that from happening, so I will try to write a follow up article at some point should I get enough responses back. In the meantime, here’s what two pros had to say:

Scott Robinson
Gary Parker

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This blog is intended for freelance writing and sharing of opinions and is not a representative of any of the companies whose links are provided on this site.

The opinions provided are of Ron Martinsen alone and do not reflect the view of any other entity

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Ron -

When I was getting ready to choose a photo hosting site, I ran across your article in a Google search.
I just wanted to drop you a line to thank you for the effort you put into the review. It was very helpful.

I wound up choosing a Power User account at SmugMug (I'm only interested in doing self-fulfilled orders), and doing the site "myself" along with a lot of generous help from the folks at the Dgrin customization forum.

Drop by the site when you get some time. And again, thank you kindly.

All best,
Dave Reichert