I don't normally post entries endorsing a product or service unless I am ecstatic with it. PhotoShelter happens to be one of those services. When I set out to create my new web site, I knew I needed to have a fully hosted solution that also had a good ecommerce component. Though I've done so in the past, I didn't want to have to worry about a server and if my MYSQL database was functioning properly, etc.
As a designer myself, the user interface was important. If the product was not easy to use, then it would extend my workflow instead of shorten it. I also needed a service that I could interface with my Squarespace blog I was building at the same time, so design flexibility was also important. Of the three services I actually tested during my evaluation period, PhotoShelter had the best user interface... hands down (the others were not even close). As for the site design component, I was able to best design my site to interface with my blog with Squarespace. The other two services came up short. One of them was almost impossible to work with, and the other had too many restrictions that would have prevented me from building out the pages in the same manner as I had on Squarespace.
Once I made the decision to go with PhotoShelter for my photo hosting and ecommerce solution I quickly discovered that they had far more to offer than just a turn-key print service for my photos. PhotoShelter is a company that isn't satisfied once they have your business. They want to keep it. How? By always adapting and engaging their clients to find out how they can help to support their business growth. Some of the features that PhotoShelter had or has added that are now extremely integral to my workflow are as follows:
- Social networking links on every gallery and image page (so site visitors can easily share with friends)
- Back-end link tools to help post new galleries on Facebook and Twitter
- Back-end uploading services to upload photos to Facebook or Flickr... this is HUGE for SEO
- Self fulfillment so I can create my own products such as canvases or framed prints
- Coupon codes to offer promotions and boost sales
- Three separate print vendors, giving me lots of flexibility in quality and type of print products I can offer
- Order approval prior to order... so I can be sure that the cropping on an image is correct
There are other features I use with PhotoShelter, but these are the main features that have now become key for me in reducing the duration of my workflow and providing the best possible services and prints to my clients.
For the developers out there, PhotoShelter also offers the PhotoShelter API which I am going to use to add a feature to my site that also utilizes the Google Maps API. More on this exciting project later.
Basically, PhotoShelter is the way to go if you are a photographer looking for the best way to get your site up and running, with great SEO and with all of the bells and whistles that you didn't know you needed. Luckily for me, they did.