Back in May of 2014 I did a fairly in-depth review of Photoshelter versus Photodeck. Both companies have made some changes since then that I thought were worth posting an update. And I’ve had over a year to learn more about both systems so I’ll share some thoughts. The original review is at http://photoblog.velgos.com/2014/05/photoshelter-vs-photodeck-photography-website-review
For you folks who don’t want to go back through the original review here’s a quick refresher. There are plenty of other website options out there but if you want a hosted website platform that provides functionality for complex Rights-Managed and Royalty-Free licensing, print fulfillment, and client management, the best options are Photodeck or Photoshelter. The result of that review was that both systems are decent website platforms for photographers. My thoughts were that Photodeck had a better mobile experience, video upload support, and no commission fees. Photoshelter had a public buyer portal, virtual agency option, and more print vendors.
So What’s Changed Photoshelter and Photodeck?
- Unlimited Storage with Pro Plan – The price of this plan is still $49.95 but now includes unlimited storage where before it had a storage limit.
- Basic Plan Gets Swag – The $9.99 per month Basic Plan used to be pretty stripped down. Now it includes many of the same features as the Standard and Pro plans and I think this is a huge bonus. A couple of noteworthy changes are inclusion of Beam templates and custom domain names. Beam is the totally new interface Photoshelter launched a couple years ago to replace the Classic interface. While Standard and Pro plans got Beam’d the Basic plan was limited to the outdated Classic interface. Not anymore. Basic now includes the new mobile friendly HTML5 Beam templates. The Basic plan also used to be limited to the Photoshelter-specific website address (yourname.photoshelter.com) instead of a custom URL (e.g. yourname.com). Basic plans now include custom URL capability.
- New Lightroom Plugin – Not sure what the backstory is on this but looks like there was a plugin created by an independent developer and now Photoshelter created their own official version. You can publish images directly from Lightroom and they show up in your Photoshelter site. This is a big timesaver from having to export images from Lightroom and upload them to Photoshelter.
- New Stats and Analytics – A new stats and analytics dashboard was added. The stats functionality used to be pretty rudimentary. Now it’s a little more pretty but still kinda rudimentary. The new dashboard doesn’t really provide much in the way of depth but maybe it was just a facelift. It has some basic traffic stats and account info like how much space you’ve used and how many sales you’ve made. If you really want analytics then Google Analytics is the way to go and Photoshelter supports Google Analytics tracking codes.
- New Client Proofing Tool – This function allows you to create private areas for each of your clients to view images you’ve selected for them. Permissions can be set to control access and clients can add images to lightboxes to show which are their favorites.
- More Beam Templates – Several new website templates were added including East and Downtown.
- New Mobile App – The mobile app allow you to manage your Photoshelter website.
- No More Forums – Well, sort of. I listed all the happy new stuff so I’ll finish with a downer. Photoshelter used to have some lively forums. Maybe a bit too lively. They’ve been replaced by the Support Center (https://support.photoshelter.com/hc/en-us). An archive of the old forum is still available at http://www.photoshelter.com/mem/forum. To be fair, Photodeck never had a forum and still doesn’t as far as I know.
- Social Media Integration – This one is a nice addition. You can now share an image directly from your image catalog. Select an image, click “Share” and choose from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Google+. The image gets posted to each social media site with the image displayed and it links back to the Photodeck image page. Nice for driving traffic to your site.
- Client Proofing – Like Photoshelter, this allows you to create private client-specific areas of your website where they can view, lightbox, download or buy images. Access, permissions, and passwords can be set by user. Automated user invitations can be sent per user which includes login instructions and a link to their client area. My clients have been impressed with the experience.
- Lightroom and PhotoMechanic Integration – Manage Photodeck photos directly from Lightroom and PhotoMechanic without having to export and then upload images.
- New Stats and Analytics Dashboard – Like PhotoShelter, the new dashboard is fairly basic but Photodeck’s has more useful information for me. It includes search keywords, visitor location, and cart view quantity by license (how many times did they look at RM, RF, print). Photodeck also has integration to Google Analytics plus Addthis and Statcounter which provide additional social media and traffic analytics. If you want in-depth stats you’ll probably use Google Analytics anyway.
Some Observations Using Both Systems
After over a year of using both Photodeck and Photoshelter I’ve noticed a few things.
Client Ease of Use
I’ve had more people contacting me needing help with my Photoshelter website. Two places seem to throw people off. The cart page and Paypal payment. After you click “Add to Cart”, the cart page has tabs for Prints, Products, and Downloads that don’t seem to be overly obvious to users. My default is set to show “Prints” and I get emails asking how to buy digital downloads. The tabs aren’t really obvious up in the top right corner. With Photodeck, shown further below, the Buy Print or Buy Download icons are on the image page and right in your face. With Photodeck you can also configure the icon text and if they are displayed on the top, side, bottom, or auto-hidden. So as of now, Photodeck seems a little easier for users to figure out how to find and select products without needing help.
For payment, Photoshelter offers multiple options but you still can only display one payment method to the client. So if you have both a Paypal and a Stripe account, you can only choose one to display on your checkout page. The Stripe interface is effortlessly simple. Using a credit card with Paypal can be confusing for people who aren’t heavy Paypal users. So Paypal’s confusing interface isn’t really a Photoshelter problem but if you have to choose between only using Stripe or Paypal you’d probably choose Paypal. I did an experiment where I switched my Photoshelter website from offering only Paypal to only Stripe credit card and my sales dropped dramatically. Buyers clearly like Paypal and will not buy something if Paypal isn’t an option. Photodeck allows you to display multiple options and let the buyer chose “Pay with Paypal” or “Pay with Credit Card”. Check it out below. I’ve found buyers use both options about equally and I think offering both Paypal and credit card is a good approach.
With Photoshelter whenever I’ve used their support they’ve been responsive and helpful. The only problem I’ve really had was related to Graph Paper Press and it just seems like the GPP/PS relationship never really progressed to being fully integrated for the long term.
With Photodeck the support has been very good. Whenever I’ve found a problem or have suggested a change they’ve responded quickly and have even made changes quickly. And in some cases the Photodeck founder J-F Maion handles the support incident.
Rights-Managed versus Royalty-Free could probably be a topic for its own post. Rights-Managed was how licensing was handled by most traditional agencies before Royalty-Free came along. Most of my recent images have a Rights-Managed license so this function is important to me. Both Photodeck and Photoshelter have the calculator style Rights-Managed functionality found at many photo agencies and each is configurable to a certain extent.
Photoshelter’s is based on Cradoc’s FotoQuote software. The licensing is configurable in that you can enable or disable regions and usage rights. You can also set what percentage of the FotoQuote pricing you would like to use. 100% means using the standard FotoQuote pricing and 50% means half of the standard FotoQuote pricing. So the pricing is flexible but licensing options are controlled by the FotoQuote engine.
Photodeck offers a single Rights-Managed system with two initial template based options for pricing. One template is based on the PLUS licensing model and the other template seems to be a custom model created by Photodeck. Both are ready to use as-is and are totally customizable including licensing options and pricing. I prefer the RM model but it seems to be a bit clunky as a buyer trying to navigate through all of the usage options. Many buyers have gotten used to using the Royalty-Free model which is very simple and easy to use. For my website I made a copy of the Photodeck template and totally customized it to simplify it and make it easier for buyers. As shown below you can create new license types (ex. Social Media, etc) and as many sub-options (ex. Duration, Location, Exclusivity, etc) as you want for each license type. Like Photoshelter, there’s also the ability to adjust overall pricing up or down.
I think options for customization is where Photodeck and Photoshelter differ quite a bit. Both offer options for templates, color changes, and other basic changes. But that’s about where Photoshelter’s customization options end. In some cases this may be a benefit such as if you know nothing about web design. You simply pick a template, choose colors, upload images and your website is ready to go. If you’re someone who likes to really tweak a lot of little settings and expects some level of customization then Photodeck offers more flexibility.
Photoshelter’s Beam interface is simple, clean, and easy to use. It has a Site Builder tool that allows you to click on areas you want to make changes to and quickly make basic modifications.
Photodeck has a ton of options for tweaks. You can specify image size, thumbnail size, thumbnail spacing, icon names, title prefix and suffixes and too much stuff to list here. I’d suggest setting up a trial for both to see which better fits your needs. Here’s one of the settings pages for just the image page. Further below is an Advanced area to have custom CSS, edit theme HTML, or edit the theme CSS.
I still think both of these systems offer excellent platforms for photographers which is why I still use both. Each has its own advantages and which one is better for you will depend on which one offers features that better meet your needs. Both companies have made some significant changes over the past year that make choosing between the two a little harder.
My Photodeck Website: www.velgos.com
My Photoshelter Website: paulvelgos.photoshelter.com
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If you found this information helpful and you decide to go with either of these systems we can both get a discount if you use the referral information below.
Photodeck: 50% On Your First Month
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Photoshelter: $5-$50 Discount
Promo Code: PA5VE65V6N