I have been in photography since I was 23 and I have seen a lot changed over the years, both professionally and for the amateur. One of the best developments in this field is, of course, internet connectivity. You can reach customers from across the planet without having to travel to various regions of this world, and that is a great thing. Without the internet a lot of my sales would be very limited and I would have to struggle much more than what I think I am now.
With the global market, your website and knowledge of who to use for the services you're looking for you can make a killing in sales and your client list will grow rapidly. There are several companies you can use but you have got to know what to expect; you don't want to get taken for a ride with costs.
I have done business with several companies and have been taken for “rides” that I didn't enjoy. You get reeled in with promises of unlimited anything and then when you reach the limit of their definition of unlimited you have to call their customer service, and that is rarely fun. And then the costs for exceeding these unlimited limits can sometime be ridiculous.
PhotoShelter is website that provides the professional, amateur or enthusiast photographer with a viable and inexpensive website or blog. They have templates available that can be easily manipulated to make it your very own design.
For the professional photographer this is a great place to put your work up. Your customers can easily access your portfolio, make purchases or download your images. You can easily link the payments to your paypal account; and their check out cart system is easy to integrate into your current website if you are already online.
There are three fees that come with sales of your work and the fee depends on the plan that you decide to use. The three levels differ costs for their services and they all include:
Free Telephone support
Built-in Social Network Sharing
and Secure Storage.
The cost to subscribe to their services are very reasonable at:
Pro- $49.99/month: 100 gigs of secured storage, 8% fee on all sales use and integration of your own domain, (along with 10 sub domains). You can use HTML or CSS to reskin PhotoShelter to match your existing site.
Standard- $29.99/month: 35 gigs of storage, 9% fee on all sales, (this also will get you 10 sub domains). And you also can integrate your existing website with PhotoShelter by using HTML or CSS to reskin the PhotoShelter site to your site.
Basic- $9.99/month: 10gigs of storage, 10% fee on all sales. But you won't be able to reskin the PhotoShelter with your current site nor will you be able to integrate your site with PhotoShelter.
For the photographer that likes to shoot in formats that are not JPG you can upload your images in JPG, TIF, RAW, PDF, GIF, PNG etc. This is something that I think is great, there have been many times that I have to save my work in several different formats just to upload them onto a site that only recognizes JPG and not RAW or TIF.
I have only heard of one instance that wasn't great, but was quickly resolved by their customer service, and that was the use of a coupon to upgrade an existing clients. But other than that they have a great service; (other than print size availability). Click here to read more about this.
Volusion is another company that provides the same services and have been providing service since 1999. Kevin Sproles and Clay Olivier founded the company during the infancy of ecommerce and have been a driving force along the way, (think of the shopping carts you use every time you make an online purchase).
Volusion has several different payment options and they can come with some very powerful tools you can use to help keep your business going. The five levels of plans begins at $29/month and that comes with use of a free template, 2gb of data transfer, 100 different products.
The other four are as follows:
Bronze, $39/month: 500 products, 3gb data transfer
Silver, $79/month: 1000 products, 5gb data transfer
Platinum, $179/month: unlimited products, 25gb data transfer, API access, Social Store Builder(tm), On Board Coaching.
All of the plans come with Mobil Commerce, Out Of This World(tm) service and Turbo Packs.
With Volusion you can take credit card sales, online and out in the field, and that is a very good perk. Not many ecommerce companies will enable to be able to accept payments like that and the money goes directly into your bank account without a fee, (you can't, how ever, use Paypal).
Core Commerce is the third company that peaked my interest. Their another company that can provide the services an amateur photographer or enthusiast. On the first page of their website you can see all that they've become proud of; unlimited bandwidth, no transaction fees, global compatibility and a 93% approval rating from their existing customers.
I'd love to believe all of that but I have experienced the unlimited bandwidth and noticed how fast companies will restrict that. (I have never done any business with Core Commerce and cannot say that Core Commerce is a company that will restrict this).
Their service plans are as such:
Beginner, $19.99/month: 100 products, 1gb bandwidth, 100mb storage
Starter, $24.99/month: 250 products, 2gb bandwidth, 250mb storage
Basic, $39.99/month: 500 products, 3gb bandwidth, 325mb storage
Standard, $79.99/month: 1500 products, 5gb bandwidth, 500mb storage
Pro, $129.99/month: 5000 products, 20gb bandwidth, 1gb storage.
All plans come with Facebook integration, mobile commerce and Legendary Support(tm).
Core Commerce also provides QuickBooks integration with all of the plans. This is actually a pretty good deal; many people use QuickBooks for their management and the integration is perfect for the person that uses the software.
The bottom line here with these three companies is really quite simple. These three companies are all great and all of them have their satisfied customers. Each one of these companies is perfect for the beginner/amateur, enthusist/semi professional and the professional photographer. And you can tell that with the costs of the plans and what they come with.
For the professional photographer with a truly global reach I would suggest Volusion. This company truly does have the power and tools to help you promote your business on a global basis. With their credit card payment options that go directly into your bank account you can sale in any country you like.
For the semi professional PhotoShelter is the perfect fit. This is a perfect company for the regional photographer really and with the integration of accepting payments with Paypal it is ideal. Payment is immediate and directly into your Paypal account. And, if by any chance, you can increase the size of data storage by contacting their customer service, for an additional fee.
And for the amateur photographer Core Commerce is the company for you. The only reason is their global reach seems to be limited and the storage capabilities are very limited. You would have to drop ship every sale that is greater than a 8*12 image. And that can be very time consuming, believe me, I have done that before.
Keep shooting your camera, share your creations and show the world your art with one of these three great sites.