If you’re serious about photography, then it’s vital that you have an online portfolio for your very best work.
Having your own website is the best way of showing off your photographs, standing out from the crowd, and getting found by new clients.
“But unless you’re making big bucks, you’ll more than likely want a photography website that won’t break the bank and that can grow alongside you…”
Thanks to website builders (drag + drop tools that help you create websites) it’s now easier than ever to build your own affordable and scalable photography website.
“So how do you choose the best photography website builder for your needs?”
To keep things simple, this guide will explain the essential things to consider when trying to pick the best photography website builder.
We’ll then run through the top four best photography website builders (Wix, Squarespace, Weebly and SmugMug) to consider using if you want an affordable and eye-catching way of showcasing photographs and generating bookings online.
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HOW TO PICK THE BEST PHOTOGRAPHY WEBSITE BUILDER
Finding the right website builder for your photography website can be a real challenge – with so many options to choose from, how do you even start?!
To take a bit of pressure off, we’ve identified the key things to keep an eye out for when shopping around.
So remember, the very best photography builders will:
- Help you showcase your photography
- Provide you with an affordable + scalable professional website
- Be easy to pick up and use
- Be able to store + display hi-resolution photography
- Help you gain more clients + make more money
1.Help you showcase your photography work
Website builders make it easy to show off your work and promote your website, so that others can find it to browse and enjoy.
Anyone with a camera and a Flikr account can call themselves a photographer, so it’s really important that your work stands out in a very crowded market.
Our recommended builders provide time-saving templates designed specifically for photographers, which come pre-loaded with great features you can use straightaway, such as display galleries or contact pages, or edit as you see fit!
Think of templates as like a recipe. You can use the ingredients exactly as it recommends, or you can make it your own by adding your own creative additions to the mix.
You can also integrate apps that add extra features to your website – just like on your smartphone! This can include additional gallery styles for HD photos, or even social feed integrations for promoting your images across different platforms.
As you know, exposure breeds success (excuse the pun!), which makes building your own website a great way promoting your work. However, if people cannot find you online then you will struggle to generate as much traffic or attention as you might like.
The best photography website builders can also help you improve the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) of your website. This can be super handy for adding ‘meta data’ to your webpages as well as ‘tags’ and ‘alt text’ to images – both of which are important for ranking on Google and improving your visibility in search engine results.
Using an eye-catching template is an excellent way of creating a professional-looking website in no time at all – combine this with powerful SEO boosting features and you’ll have a website that is more likely to be found by users and ensures that your work grabs their attention!
2.Provide you with an affordable + scalable professional website
“Using a website builder for your photography website is superb way of giving yourself a low cost professional website that can grow with your business.”
Unless you’re making big bucks as a professional photographer like Ai Weiwei, you probably don’t want to – or simply can’t afford to – invest significant amounts of cash into getting a website built for you.
And why would you, when for the price of a pack of film each month you can build your own professional-looking website and have it hosted?
Monthly plans tend to be relatively cheap, unless you are looking to sell products or prints, and you’ll even receive a discount if you pay the annual cost up-front. So, even with an ongoing monthly cost and additional apps and plugins, building your own photography website is a more affordable solution than hiring a professional website designer for you.
It also means you don’t need to stump up extra cash to get issues fixed if things go wrong, or to improve the site if your site traffic grows rapidly, because website builders offer a wide range of customer support and additional plans that scale as your website develops.
The website builders we consider best for photographers are not only affordable, but provide a cost-effective way of getting your photographs online.
3.Be easy to pick up and use
“Website builders make it incredibly quick and easy for you to build a stunning website without needing to know how to code.”
You don’t want to waste time sat at your desk building a website – you’ve got better things to do like touching up a shoot in Lightroom, writing invoices or sending client emails.
So in an ideal world, your website building process would be as smooth and painless as possible, right?
Fortunately, most website builders use a ‘drag and drop’ editor that lets you select elements like text, images, or even galleries and contact boxes, then drag them to wherever you want to place them on the page. It’s a very user-friendly way of working and requires no knowledge of coding.
You could start building your website just after breakfast and have it published before lunch!
Ease of use includes how simple a platform is to use as well how easy it is for you to upload and review photos. The best website builders will provide a user-friendly interface, fast upload speeds and intuitive galleries for you to manage and review photographs before you publish them.
4.Be able to store + display hi-resolution photography
“Some website builders automatically resize and ‘optimize’ images for the web, which can result in photos that are squashed, pixelated, and washed out – which won’t do your talent justice at all.”
It is very important that the website builder you choose places minimal restrictions on the type of file size or dimensions of the photographs you can upload. It would be a terrible shame to upload a high resolution photo only for it to be auto-resized to something smaller and less impactful.
It’s also worth bearing in mind how much storage space you get with your website builder as this directly impacts how many photos you can upload and host online – you don’t want to be caught short for space when uploading a client shoot for approval!
Free plans provide limited storage space, which gets eaten up fast by large, hi-res photographs. Premium plans tend to offer unlimited storage, which can lift a weight from your shoulders if you intend to upload lots of images.
The best photography builders will enable you to upload hi-resolution images with a full colour palette, no restriction on file size or dimension, and provide enough storage for you to upload hundreds – if not thousands – of images to your website.
5.Help you gain more clients + make more money
Your website isn’t just a showcase of images – it’s a great opportunity to build interest in your work and potentially gain new business contacts.
Many website builders make it easy to add contact forms to your webpages with just a few clicks. You might even consider adding a booking calendar to your website, where clients could directly book slots in your diary at a set rate. This could streamline your booking process, help you to manage your workload and let clients know when you are + aren’t busy.
Wouldn’t it be much more convenient for you and any interested parties if enquiries could be sent directly to you from your website?
Aside from winning new clients, building your own website is also a great way to become a photography entrepreneur.
You can use apps to integrate selling platforms like Etsy, or subscribe to an ecommerce plan and start selling prints and products directly – it’s easy to set up and could be a great way to earn some extra cash alongside your regular bookings.
The best photography website builders make it easy to add contact forms to your website at the click of a button, which can help generate business enquiries. You can also monetize your photography by integrating external sales platforms, or by subscribing to ecommerce plans and selling directly.
THE 4 BEST PHOTOGRAPHY WEBSITE BUILDERS
“Choosing the right website builder is essential in maximizing your online visibility, the quality of your photography portfolio, and how much business you can generate.”
Having a website is a great way of storing and showcasing your high-quality photos, backing them up in the cloud for added peace of mind, and even making a bit of extra money from your hobby.
But unless you intend to spend thousands of dollars on a professional website designer, then you will need an affordable way of creating your own website that doesn’t require lots of technical knowledge, like knowing how to code!
So how do you pick the best photography website builder for your specific needs?
To make your decision easier, we’ve shortlisted our top picks for the 4 best photography website builders below.
The website building platforms we’ve reviewed will help you create a stunning showcase of your work, help you get found online with SEO-boosting help, and also enable you to potentially generate more clients.
1) Wix (110+ million websites)
Wix is a user-friendly and versatile website builder. It is very easy to pick up and use, provides you with a huge array of templates to pick from and is surprisingly good at uploading and storing high-quality photos.
Compared to the potential costs of creating a website from scratch, Wix is an excellent choice for your photography website. At the most basic level you can enjoy a completely free website with inclusive free hosting – the storage may be a little limited and there will be Wix advertising at the bottom of each webpage and in your URL (your website’s address, sort of like a postcode to your site), but if you are set on a small, simple photography site then this should tick pretty much every box.
However, it’s definitely worth considering a premium plan for a small monthly investment. For the price of a cup of coffee, you can add your own custom domain and URL (e.g. www.tomsphotos.com), remove all of Wix’s advertising and access a wider pool of templates and tools.
You’ll also benefit from increased storage, allowing you to upload a greater number of high quality photographs and helping your site to grow.
Opting for a premium plan is the best decision to make your website stand out and ensure a great first impression.
We are huge fans of the Wix editor at WBE. Not only is it incredibly easy to pick up and use, but if you do get lost there tooltips everywhere. Just hover over and discover what a tool or function does – it couldn’t be easier.
The editor is a ‘drag and drop’ number that lets you place elements like text and images anywhere you want on the page. This means that how your website looks in the editor is exactly how it will look to a visitor – it’s a very efficient way to work and you know exactly how your galleries and images will look to those you need to impress most.
Wix also makes it incredibly easy to upload, review, edit and manage your photographs. It takes just two clicks to reach your image upload manager and you can quickly upload as many images as you need to. Once uploaded, you can sort, rename and edit photos as you see fit.
The editing is basic compared to programs like Lightroom and Photoshop, but is a handy quick-fix if needed. Wix doesn’t wash out colours or auto-optimize images either, which can be a frustration on other platforms.
Photo upload speeds are impressive, which saves a lot of time when bulk-uploading snaps and you can continue editing while uploads occur in the background. This is even more handy when subscribed to a premium plan with a large file storage limit – just upload whole albums while you edit your site’s design.
We even tested the upload speeds by timing how long it took to upload a collection of 10 high-resolution images totalling 37mb in size. We found:
- Test 1 – 65 seconds to upload
- Test 2 – 26 seconds to upload
- Test 3 – 60 seconds to upload
As you can see, Wix uploads large photographs very quickly indeed.
Once photographs are uploaded, you can add ‘alt tags’ for each image, helping Google to index them and improve on-site SEO. Wix even helps you optimize for SEO on a site-wide level – ideal for pushing your way up the rankings and getting your photography found by appreciative fans or paying clients.
But as we’ve discussed previously – getting found is only half the battle. You need to grab the attention and keep visitors on the page too!
So the fact that Wix provides more than 500 professionally-designed templates for you to use as a jumping off point is a massive plus point for any budding photographer in need of a website. This also includes more than 30 templates specifically-designed for photographers!
This is an ideal time-saver as you can simply change the text and update the images in the pre-existing galleries before calling it a day and publishing to the web. Wix may be really good at making things easy for you, but don’t feel obliged not to be adventurous! You’re a creative after all – there’s nothing stopping you from really going to town on a template and creating something incredible and unique.
There are numerous gallery options to showcase collections, from tight clustered thumbnails of ‘Urban Photography’ to the minimalist framing of ‘Art Portfolio’. There’s even different styles of gallery to explore for a stand-out flourish, interactive slideshows, and lightboxes to make images pop. It’s definitely worth digging around to find the features that can best represent of your work.
As well as various ways to make your photography stand out and catch the eye of visitors, Wix also makes it super simple to add contact forms and social media connections to your pages.
Just drag the form, amend the settings and – voila! – you’re ready to accept speculative emails from potential clients! So the next time you book a job through your website, consider the return on investment for the 12 seconds it took to drag, drop and place that form – not bad at all, huh!
Wix also makes it possible to sell products through your site if you subscribe to a more expensive VIP or eCommerce plan, or integrate with another platform like Etsy. This is handy if you’re hoping to make a few extra bucks on the side by potentially selling prints of your photographs or other merchandise you might have, e.g. hardcover photo albums or collections.
2) Squarespace (1+ million websites)
Squarespace is a website builder known for creating stunning, mobile responsive websites. Its range of templates + tools isn’t as vast as Wix’s, but Squarespace is the best platform to choose if you want a website that looks professional and has a polished, high-end feel to it.
Squarespace is a popular choice with photographers because its premium plans are inexpensive and the platform is relatively easy to use. Even on the cheapest monthly plan (‘Personal plan’), you gain unlimited bandwidth and storage, which immediately removes any concerns you may have about uploading and storing lots of high-resolution photos with large file sizes – not bad for just $12 a month!
Squarespace premium plans give you unlimited storage – perfect for storing as many high-quality photos as you need to. It also means you won’t need to delete old images to make room for new ones.
Premium plans also let you connect your own custom domain (personalized website address), which can make your site more professional and memorable. With extra space, features and personalization options available, opting for a Squarespace paid plan is a sound way of ensuring your website has room to grow in the future.
The Squarespace editor is slightly harder to use than Wix’s and Weebly’s, but it’s not so complex that you can’t get to grips with after a brief explore. In fact, once you’ve familiarised yourself with the editor, you’ll quickly realize that one of Squarespace’s major benefit for photographers is how convenient it is.
You don’t need to know how to code or write HTML, you just pick a theme from the many available, add your content and your site is ready to publish.
One of Squarespace’s best benefits is the choice of themes on offer, they really are some of the most beautiful photography templates around. Each and every theme is mobile-responsive, which ensures that your photos look amazing on any device.
Template designs are sharp, professional, and laser-focused on helping your photographs look incredible – whether this is with a gorgeous full-screen background or a collage-style wall of photos like ‘Flatiron’ (above), there are dozens of eye-catching design styles to flick through.
Squarespace even makes it easy to switch templates if you want to refresh your site design at any point.
While Squarespace offers a range of ways to make your photos stand out on the page, it does struggle a little in other areas. We repeated the same upload speed test that we performed on Wix and found the following:
- Test 1 – 5 minutes to upload
- Test 2 – 4 minutes 8 seconds to upload
- Test 3 – 4 minutes 6 seconds to upload
This is significantly slower than Wix and seems to indicate that Squarespace struggles if you upload too many images with large file sizes at any one time – which isn’t ideal if you need to upload photographs in bulk.
This may be due to the fact that Squarespace creates 7 versions of any image you upload, each a different size and optimized for different uses, e.g. thumbnail, favicon, standard image, large image, etc.
The intention behind this may be good (they want to optimize your site for you and keep it loading quickly for visitors), but it can mean that the hi-res shot you upload is inadvertently over-optimized and has its quality reduced when displayed online…! Squarespace do have an optimization guide that may solve this, but it’s definitely something worth being aware of.
To my mind, this makes Squarespace a very good choice for personal photography portfolios with a smaller selection of choice shots, rather than a busy professional who needs to run hundreds of images past a client.
Thankfully, once uploaded, it’s easy to review and edit your images in the sidebar media gallery, where you can add descriptions and Alt Tags to improve on-site SEO.
Helpful guides hold your hand through further SEO improvements you can make (such as using tags or using keywords in headings), while it’s also easy to add on-page elements like a blog for fresh content or a contact form to accept enquiries.
To build your brand and potentially make some some extra cash, you can subscribe to an ecommerce plan and sell prints and other goods you may have directly through your site, or you can create menu navigation links to other selling platforms you may already use elsewhere like Etsy.
3) Weebly (40+ million websites)
Weebly is one of the easiest website builders to use and is great if you are looking for a straightforward website building experience. It has a very simple user interface, isn’t overloaded or crammed with features, and generally embraces user-friendliness.
Like other website builders, Weebly’s free plans aren’t to be scoffed at if you are looking for a quick and easy fix to get your photography online. However, it’s definitely worth looking into the premium plans, which offer unlimited storage, custom domain connection, and additional access to more site stats and tools.
As we noted above, unlimited storage should be a big draw for any photographer – just think how convenient it would be to store all your images online, worry-free in case something occurs to your hard-drive.
Having so much space also removes potential barriers to growth as you have unlimited room to keep adding more photos and expanding your collections.
Weebly prides itself on simplicity and its editor keeps the website building process straight-forward and easy
Like Wix, Weebly is a pure ‘drag & drop’ builder, so you have a good degree of freedom in shaping a website to your liking – whether you start from a template or from a blank slate.
The ease with which you can upload and add photographs to your website helps put your images front & centre.
It takes just two clicks to add a gallery and start uploading images, which keeps things simple and saves you a lot of time. You can also carry on editing your site while uploads continue in the background, which can save even more time if uploading lots of shots at once.
Weebly’s upload speeds are decent – certainly faster than Squarespace’s, but not quite up there with Wix.In our upload speed test. Weebly produced the following results:
- Test 1 – 1 minute 44 seconds to upload
- Test 2 – 1 minutes 48 seconds to upload
- Test 3 – 1 minutes 50 seconds to upload
I’m sure you’ll agree that the consistency is impressive, and the wait isn’t too bad considering the filesize of some of the images we used. This bodes well if you intend on uploading a lot of client photoshoots to your website.
Weebly also doesn’t impose dimension limitations on uploaded photos, so there’s no need to worry about your 4,000px-wide image being resized. Weebly does recommend best-practice and optimal sizes in the on-site guides, but does not enforce these recommendations, leaving the choice up to you.
One thing to bear in mind though is that Weebly auto-optimize images for the web when uploading. This can wash out your colour palette a little bit, so it’s important that after editing in Lightroom, you export images in sRGB and potentially embed a color profile to the image to prevent the vibrancy of images diminishing.
Weebly’s designs have definitely improved in recent years but their templates still don’t match the eye-catching quality of Wix or Squarespace. Designs are simpler and more basic, ideal if you struggle technically, but if you’re looking for something a bit more standout then you’ll need to look further afield.
It might be worth considering an independent third-party Weebly template, which tend to be a lot more professional-looking and attention-grabbing than the default ones Weebly provides – especially for photography websites!
Admittedly these do come at a slight cost (circa $35-$50), but as a photographer, you know that your work needs to speak for itself – it is a visual medium after all! So while simple and functional designs may be fine for hobbyists, you’ll probably need something a bit more standout if you are pursuing photography professionally and independent templates are one way of solving this.
Weebly provides a lot of apps in its App Store tailored to SEO for your website. These are mostly only available to premium plan subscribers, which may make upgrading to a paid plan even more of a logical step depending on your ambitions. It’s also simple to add alt text to uploaded photos and and tweak your site settings to further optimize your site and help it rank higher in search engines.
Weebly’s editor has a built in form editor, which helps you to quickly build a contact form and add it to your website, enabling visitors to get in touch with enquiries. This can be handy in generating clients or potentially answering queries about products you’re selling on your site, such as prints or photo-albums you may have imported from Etsy or elsewhere.
SmugMug is a photography website builder that provides an easy way to showcase and sell your photographs. As a specialized builder, SmugMug is very good at what it does but can feel limited in comparison to more versatile builders like Wix or Squarespace.
SmugMug is the only photography website builder on our list to not offer a free plan. You get a 14-day free trial and then have to subscribe to premium plan, ranging from $4 per month for a basic plan to $25 per month for business plan aimed at pro photographers.
You’re offered the (by now) standard unlimited upload space and unlimited bandwidth, so SmugMug matches its competitors here. It’s perfectly equipped to handle images up to 150mb in size, which makes it a great platform to store your photography on.
Unfortunately though, you can’t use your own domain on the cheapest plan, you need to step up to the 2nd tier ‘Power’ plan for this option. This is a little frustrating as paid plans usually offer this as a standard selling point. On the other hand, there’s no on-page advertising, which is a big plus and keeps your website clutter-free.
As a specialized photography website builder, SmugMug offers some brilliant features that sets it apart from more all-round platforms. These include:
- Syncing your photo library with Lightroom
- Adding custom watermarks + right-click messages for added image protection
- Partnerships with professional printers so visitors can order prints/products directly from your site with no need for additional integrations
This just scratches the surface, so it’s worth comparing plans closely to see what you get for your monthly fee.
Upload speeds are equally impressive, with the results of our test coming in at:
- Test 1 – 32 seconds to upload
- Test 2 – 33 seconds to upload
- Test 3 – 31 seconds to upload
This makes SmugMug even faster than Wix, which is great news for photographers who need to upload lots of snaps quickly.
There’s no learning curve with SmugMug. After choosing a template, you’re taken to an editor not unlike Weebly and Squarespace (e.g. sidebar menu populated with design options and tools), where you can navigate through pages and add elements.
SmugMug isn’t a pure ‘drag & drop’ editor, but more of ‘drop & choose’ editor. You still have the ease of use in dragging elements to where you want them, but you get a lot of fine-tuning options, like selecting the type of grid you’d like to use for your gallery, or the pixel spacing between photos.
There are only 20 or so available templates, but with the editor’s ability to tweak little details – your pool of design options grows considerably. However, this might prove a bit too time-consuming for more casual users.
Templates vary between showcasing gorgeous full-screen hero images and mosaic-like thumbnail galleries, both options proving exceptionally eye-catching, which you can see in the image below. Image display options might seem restrained, with galleries, folders and pages the only options available – but this puts the impetus on you to edit styles and make them your own.
SmugMug promotes itself as your photography business partner and encourages you to grow your business. It’s painless to create a contact page for enquiries and SmugMug even asks you to verify the account with your own email first to ensure everything is above board. This is a nice touch and provides peace of mind as it shows you that if people submit enquires, you’re going to get them!
Business growth is further supported by SEO features that let you tag your images with descriptions and keywords, amend meta data for individual pages (a description of a webpage similar to a blurb on the back of a book, which Google’s bots use to index + sort search results), and create sitemaps to submit to Google that act as a directory for your site. Unfortunately you can’t add a blog, but can link one via a subdomain if so inclined.
The real advantage SmugMug has over competitors is that it is ready to help you sell straight out of the box! You can charge per photo download, create custom price lists for clients, and sell prints and gifts directly with no need for extra integrations.
This presents a fantastic opportunity to build your brand and visibility among visitors, which can be further improved by adding custom watermarks to your shots too. Add to this the fact you get to keep 85% of the profits and SmugMug is a very attractive platform to monetize your photography skills on.