A new website is born!

It's all a bit exciting! Exciting enough to warrant a couple of exclamation marks!! With a simple post out to Facebook, I launched my photography website, www.melaniesurplice.com this morning. 

I had been wanting to build one for a while, having trialled several of the Australian hosted photography website services. I either found them too slow for uploading photos or just too difficult to set up - and I reckon I'm reasonably tech-savvy.

Then I came across the US hosting service, PhotoShelter, which offers template-based websites for photographers, as well as a pretty impressive searchable library of images. It cost the grand old total of USD$1 (or AUD$0.90) for a two week trial, so I spent a week setting it up.

It was all fairly intuitive - I didn't watch any of the (many) tutorials they have about setting sites up. Throughout the set up process, it's a matter of simply adding written content to the pages where you need that, and uploading photos to create galleries.

There are HEAPS of templates to choose from, or you can customise your own. I went for a crisp, simple white design.

You basically choose a monthly payment plan depending on how much storage space you think you'll need for your galleries. The more you pay, the less commission Photoshelter takes from sales of prints through your site. The sites are packed with all sorts of features such as image ordering, shopping carts and direct integration with Paypal - I had all of that set up in about an hour - and it will charge in Australian dollars even though it's an American hosted service.

I loved that throughout the set up process, anything that affects SEO (search engine optimisation), is highlighted - so the more content you add to these areas, the better the site is likely to rank in the search engines.

You can set specific properties for specific galleries - so for example, I can offer free downloadable postcards and funcards in one in one gallery, and purchasable prints in other galleries, which I'll activate in the near future.

PhotoShelter sites have the all-important social media sharing features built in - so if you're looking at one of my photos and decide you really like it, you can share it via Facebook, Twitter or a raft of other social media platforms. This can be really fiddly to set up yourself - so Photoshelter takes all the hassle out of embedding code and tech speak, tech speak, tech speak.

The site also lets me designate galleries as private, or invitation only - so I can upload client photos from a shoot, send them the link to the private gallery with automatically generated log-in details, and they can view the gallery in their own time. Again, I could make these photos available for them to download for free, or I allow them to order prints from either my own printer or one of PhotoShelter's printing affiliates. There aren't yet any Australian printing affiliates, so the printing is done out of the US or UK. That's all still to be discovered!

Anyway, after a week of testing and playing with my PhotoShelter site, I can say I'm pretty impressed  with it so far. I reckon it's good value and you get a LOT of features that would be very costly to commission to a web designer to build.

So - we'll see how this new mission in my photography career pans out. I've also got a spiffy new Facebook page too. Head on over there and say hi!

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