Best Website Builder for Photographers
A website is critical for any business and especially important in the visual world of photography. Just 10 years ago, building a beautiful and functional photography website took specialized knowledge or a substantial investment to hire designers or coders.
Fast forward to today and creating a website for your photography business is easier than ever thanks to consumer friendly platforms like Format, Squarespace and Wix along with advancements in WordPress. Below are a list of the best Website builders for photographers, updated annually.
Thirty percent of all websites on the internet are run on WordPress, including the one you’re reading now. As an open source CMS (content management system), WordPress is completely customizable and free to use. While WordPress is free, you still have to pay for hosting with a company like GoDaddy or Bluehost. In addition, you can either choose to use a free theme or a paid theme, which may add to the cost.
Being 100% customizable has its pros and cons. The main benefit is that you can pretty much do anything you want. You just have to do the research, install the right plugins, and find a reliable theme. The con is that it’s not dummy proof. Plugins can conflict, updates to WordPress can break features, and you can experience downtime if you fall victim to hackers. And when that happens you don’t have a customer support team to call, though there are lots of resources out there to help.
If you’re willing to invest some time into learning WordPress, then it’s a great option. The massive library of plugins allows you to add almost any feature to your site, and if you want to customize the SEO of your site, you’ll appreciate the freedom and capabilities you have with WordPress.
Format is a great website builder for creating a beautiful portfolio website quickly and easily. Unlike WordPress, Format includes hosting, themes, and all of the features for a monthly fee (from $6 to $25/month).
Format was created with Photographers in mind with a few notable features that make it one of our favorite website builders. Here are a few:
- Lightroom and Capture One Plugins – The ability to publish and update your portfolio and client proofing galleries directly from Lightroom and Capture One.
- iPhone App – The ability to manage your gallery pages with the Format iPhone app.
- Client Proofing – The ability to proof, manage and deliver client work directly from your site.
In addition, Format features a wide selection of beautiful themes.
Since Format is not as widely used as Squarespace, you’re not as likely to see other photographers with the same look and feel if you choose Format.
Squarespace is one of the most popular website builders for photographers and for good reason. It starts with their themes or what they call “templates.” Each one is beautiful and functional, featuring great typography, spacing, and overall design sense.
In addition, their backend is intuitive and their pricing (from $12 to $40) is very reasonable for the amount of features and support you receive.
Also, Squarespace is the only website builder that offers email marketing. While all of them will integrate with Mailchimp and other newsletter services, Squarespace has the functionality built in, saving you the additional cost of these other services.
The primary downside of Squarespace as a website builder for photographers is its popularity. It’s not uncommon to see multiple photographers utilize the same template. But honestly, do your clients care? Probably not.
Wix prides itself in its ease of use and customizability. It utilizes a WYSIWYG editor that allows you to drag, drop, and arrange your website any way you want. Of course, they also offer professionally designed templates to get your photography portfolio up and running.
Like Format and Squarespace, Wix also offers reasonable pricing (from $11 to $29 per month) and includes all of the features you’d reasonably need to run a photography website.
Unlike most of its competitors, Wix offers a forever free plan that displays ads on your website. To remove the ads, you have to upgrade to premium plan. The free option is great if you’re a cash strapped photographer who doesn’t mind ad display on your website until your business becomes more profitable.
Our REcommendations | how to choose?
To determine the best photography website builder, think about yourself, your strengths, weaknesses, and where you are in your business.
- For The Techie – If you have the ability to sign up for hosting, install WordPress, choose a theme, set up the theme, install the right plugins and spend a little bit of time managing your website every month, then WordPress is the right choice for you. Having full control over your website, from the look to the SEO, is a great luxury to have. You never know what features you’ll want to add to your site as your business grows.
- For Those Who Value Simplicity – If you value simplicity and you’d rather minimize the time you spend on your website, Format, Squarespace or Wix are better options than WordPress. For a monthly fee, you get customer support, beautifully designed themes, SEO features and more.
- For Those Who Value Integrations – If you’re looking for integrations in your workflow, Format is the best choice for you because of its client proofing feature, Lightroom plugin, and Capture One Plugin.
- For Those Who want Email Marketing Built In – If email marketing is a part of your process, Squarespace is a great choice for you. Having those features built in will save you the additional money of signing up for another service.
Note: We’ll be discussing the following in the next section:
Free Website Builders for Photographers
Blogger.com, WordPress.com, and others offer the ability to create a custom blog for free on their publishing platform. There is no cost to creating the site, customizing the site, or hosting the site. In addition, since the domain is going to be a subdomain of each of these sites, you don’t have to register a domain either. While 100% free always sounds great, this is not the best option for the serious photographer. Here are the primary reasons:
- Limited customization – While WordPress.com and Blogger.com offer the ability to customize your website, you are going to be limited to customizing via templates and the options available within their existing framework.
- Unprofessional domain name – While it is possible to customize your domain name, it’s going to be registered as a “.blogspot.com” or “.WordPress.com” website. This makes your business seem like a hobby rather than a serious business.
- Lack of SEO Tools – With a custom website, there are more SEO, marketing, and analytics tools available to help in marketing and growing a website. So while it will cost you more to set up a custom website, you are going to be better off in the long run.
Besides Squarespace, Format, Wix, and WordPress, there are a few other hosting services and content management systems for photographers. Imagely,com, and SITE123 come to mind.
SITE123 is doing some interesting things and deserves some consideration. They have a good selection of modern galleries in their free website builder; and they have a free plan as well as a paid plan. Like the others on our list, their websites are fully responsive and work well on all devices.
Need more options? See this breakdown by Beautiful Life of the Best Website Builders.