If you are visiting my site for the first time, there’s a good chance you are here because you followed a link from Photoshelter. A big percentage of my incoming web traffic comes from Photoshelter, so really I wouldn’t be surprised at all. Having strong incoming links from a heavily trafficked web site helps with Search Engine Optimizaton (SEO) ranking. Why do I know that? Because Photoshelter taught me. And this may be one of the biggest reasons, why you too should consider using Photoshelter. They are constantly evolving, following trends in photography and staying ahead of the curve. Plus, they share this information with photographers, so they in turn make you better at what you do.
I signed on with PhotoShelter when Digital Railroad went out of business in October 2008. Photoshelter offered migration assistance so that photographers who suddenly found themselves without an archive could quickly get back online. At first I used Photoshelter just as I used Digital Railroad, as a simple archive that mimicked the design of my site. After reading some interesting research online in late 2009, I decided to go for a complete remodel of my site integrating it in to Photoshelter using their customization tools. At the time I knew that I wanted two things: a non-Flash based site that could be integrated in to Photoshelter (Flash is lousy at SEO) and the ability to make direct sales to clients for licensing and print sales without having to be tied to my computer.
After interviewing a handful of web designers, I came across David Brabyn and his web design company digitaltechparis. David, a part from being a web designer, is also a photographer, so he knows how we think and what we need. Many of the other designers had worked with photographers before, but they didn’t quite GET what I wanted to do. David did. And, even though he didn’t have the immediate solution (he was using some other content management systems at the time), he understood what I was looking for.
Time passed and I continued to explore how I could better integrate Photoshelter and still have a lot of the qualities that I wanted in a web site. I researched and marked down every site that inspired me and David and I talked about them. Then one day, while in New York, we met. In a coffee shop on the Lower East Side, he explained how he thought we could finally do the site that I wanted. And in October 2009, the site became a reality. I was so happy with David that in 2010 I convinced the other members of Prime Collective that we needed him to clean up our site design prior to launch. Once again he did a wonderful job. He’s a great designer and a wonderful guy, and he’s now an official Photoshelter Certified Consultant.
A few years ago Flash sites were all the rage among photographers, but that changed with the rise of Google. I mean who cares if your site is really beautiful from a design perspective, if no one can find you. In this business, one has to stand out to be successful and one way of doing that is by focusing on Search Engine Optimization. Since my site has gone online, my SEO stats have improved dramatically and I’ve moved up the list in Google searches.
You can check it out for your self. Try different searches using a combination of the following keywords: photojournalist, photographer, Barcelona, Spain and you’ll find that I usually show up on the first page and often times I’m number one on the list. Not bad. (UPDATE: I’ve since moved from Barcelona to Boston so Google will take some time to adjust. Let’s see how long it does take for me to start showing up in Boston photographer or Boston photojournalist searches.)
One of the other things that I really love about Photoshelter is that they are continually publishing ebooks on how to improve your business, so if you want to read more about SEO on Photoshelter, go here and request Photoshelter’s SEO Cookbook. You don’t even need to be a customer.
The second thing I like about Photoshelter is the way they help you communicate with clients. Their lightbox sharing tools are great for showing work to editors or for sharing with other photographers. At Prime, we use them all the time to help each other with difficult editing decisions. Photoshelter’s e-commerce solutions have also really evolved. I recently set up limited edition print sales, which can be executed through PayPal and allow the customer to purchase prints easily. I use the custom fullfillment option, but they have added several print vendors, which I may start experimenting with soon.
As far as dealing with image buyers like magazines and newspapers, with Photoshelter, I can now license my images directly to clients without even being involved in the process. I’ve set profiles for image licensing so the client can now pay for the image and download it on the spot. Now one of the most common questions I get from photographers is are you getting sales through Photoshelter. It’s a really good question and something every photographer should evaluate prior to investing in such a customized site. The answer in simple terms is that I have received minimal direct sales through Photoshelter and I don’t anticipate getting much direct sales for licensing in the future. Why is that the case? The reason is that most photo buyers still go to big sources where they can count on quality images and those sources are the big players: Getty and Corbis. So for archival sales I still submit images from completed assignments to Corbis. Maybe one day someone will come up with a way to bring the photographer directly to the photo buyer with a fair and equitable system, but until then, one can not expect Photoshelter to deliver them high sales. It’s just not going to happen.
Those are my major thoughts on Photoshelter. I think that there are many strong reasons to use it, but check it out for yourself. You can even take a tour. And if you want to save some money on sign-up, use this link and I’ll get a credit too!