Many years ago in a galaxy far far away… I had an account with PhotoShelter, a website with LiveBooks (running in Flash), and a blog running on WordPress. Don’t forget an account with every social media platform you could think of. Like many photographers out there, I was struggling to figure out how I was managing photos online. It was at this point that I made some executive decisions to go in a very singular direction. I created my entire online presence within the CMS of WordPress. WordPress has its drawbacks, but it also has a limitless functionality attached to it. Basically, if you can dream it up, you or a developer can implement just about anything within the WordPress environment. This singular statement is changing, at the speed of the internet though.
Managing Photos Online Organization
Digital cameras have definitely changed the way the photographer works. Film had costs on the frontend and on the backend. While I do romance the thought of the film days, as a photographer trying to compete with so many other great creatives out there, digital has allowed me a speed and efficiency to managing photos online never seen back in the day. The last couple of years have introduced new issues. I have been struggling with internal photo management, social media presence, and yes, managing photos online.
When you literally have 248,677 photos on a hard drive, you have to think about the end point in a very large way. You need to manage hard drive space, online space, and be able to manage the photos themselves in a timely fashion. Enter big changes.
Trouble in Paradise
I still believe that Capture One Pro is a better photo editing/management solution than Lightroom, but it lacks many features that allow efficiency in a professional photography office and managing photos online. For starters, do you know about Lightroom’s builtin Publish Service? The Publish Service within the Library Module allows you to send your photos to a variety of locations to better help with managing photos online without ever leaving Lightroom. You can send photos to WordPress or upload your photos to an online destination like PhotoShelter or even send those shots to social media. Insert record needle scratch across the vinyl here.
Wait. What? Yes, this was the quiet realization when trying to adjust how I was dealing with my company’s assets. What are a professional photographer’s assets? I know you are thinking, cameras, cash on hand in the bank, etc., etc. The greatest asset that I have is a collection of almost a quarter million photographs from around the globe. The problem here though, is that if no one ever sees those photographs are they really assets?
Truly Managing Photos Online
I absolutely loved the brand integration I had with WordPress. I had my portfolio website, stock photo website, photo store website, and a top secret proposal website that only a select few know about, all in one location. However, the stock site was just too hard to manage in an effective way for me using WordPress. Mainly because to host a WordPress website on a server large enough and fast enough to house the gigabytes for even a small amount of online photo storage has become extremely costly. Like $150 per month costly.
Yes, I understand that is part of the cost of doing business, but I am continually looking for a better way.
I will flat out tell you that I am a photo editing slacker. Out of the 248,677, only 9,671 have been completely mastered. Close to 60,000 photos have been selected and a whopping 180,000 still need some serious hard work on my part. Does this mean that I cannot find something in my quarter million strong catalog if I need to? Absolutely not. Even though I am an editing slacker, I am still pretty organized when it comes to photo management. This circles directly back to, “if you never see those photographs, are they really assets?” In my mind, no.
While l truly love Capture One Pro, it has limitations with how well it can handle 248,677 photos. It also has a far more sophisticated post-processing system than Lightroom, so it cannot read your Lightroom Develop edits. In addition, I discovered a bug within Capture One, that my current group of editors (read clients), Capture One Support, and I cannot figure out. C1 adds something to a photo’s metadata that has colors going berserk when a tiff is re-imported into Lightroom after processing in Capture One. This had all of my editors telling me that my photos were over processed cause the colors were wacko.
Processing photos well and realistic has always been part of my professional brand. So back to the drawing board.
A New Lightroom Hope
No this isn’t Star Wars Episode IV, but somewhat of an epic tale of good and evil. Earlier this year Adobe gave me hope, and some serious LSD, when they released Lightroom CC and turned what we all had known up to that point as Lightroom CC into Lightroom Classic CC. Phew, that was a lot to get out in one sentence. I tested and wrote about this here on the Pro Journal and the whole process instilled a bit of internal hope with me that Lightroom was back and seemingly turbo charged. Don’t get me wrong, to this day I think Lightroom still possesses the ugliest UI in the industry and its processing capabilities need work, but it has other features that I actually need. Really need. Mainly, on the organizational front.
Managing Photos Online the WordPress Contingency
If you don’t run your blog or photography website on WordPress, you probably don’t know about a big change coming towards the end of this month (November 2018). It’s called Gutenberg and it is an integrated page layout functionality that is set to change how the user designs websites in WordPress in a big way. This change is going affect how many of the current WP plugins work and potentially stop working. One of the plugins I was using for stock photo management wasn’t updating with all of the WordPress changes so I became worried about my management capabilities of stock photography in WordPress.
Managing Photos Online Research
As I scoured the internet looking for potential solutions to my photo management dilemma, PhotoShelter kept coming up. When I closed my PhotoShelter account many years ago, they were in a state of upgrading how their system worked. A cost analysis kept putting WordPress as a more affordable solution back then, however those times are changing. Google is forcing websites to have super fast load times for SEO. This means you need fast, clean server environments. Fast and clean costs money.
My website IS my business. It sends me out to the world in a faster and more efficient way than any other promotional tool. Again though, a photo is only an asset if people see it and it takes time to get photo processed and released.
One of the main upgrades that I noticed for PhotoShelter while researching was that their Pro accounts have unlimited storage for a mere $45 per month – if you pay for the year in full, $50 per month if you don’t. Gears turning.
Paying $150 per month for web hosting to basically have 1200 photos on my self produced stock site wasn’t bad. Unlimited storage meant that I could eventually house all of my photos in one place with selling potential, offsite backup, and searchability. Bottomline, the more metadata complete photos that I have online, the more I will come up in search engines and the more work people will see of mine.
Keeping a $150 per month website hosting package for WordPress and adding a $50 per month storage package with PhotoShelter was not cost effective. I decided that if I no longer hosted my own stock site, I could substantially change how my WordPress websites were hosted and probably pay less for a larger online presence.
The Other Feature Sirens
Two other features that caught my attention with PhotoShelter were their Publish Service integration with Lightroom and their PhotoShelter app available on iOS.
The publishing service integration meant that I could edit the way that I edit and push photos into PhotoShelter by never leaving Lightroom. I am basically creating a synced collection using the PhotoShelter Publish Service in Lightroom. If I change metadata or reprocess a photo in Lightroom, the Publish Service will queue me to Re-Publish the next time I am in that corresponding collection/gallery.
PhotoShelter’s Lightroom integration also allows me to create and edit new collections or galleries in Lightroom and they will automatically populate to my live PhotoShelter site. This allows me to manage a stock photo collection right from my desktop every day that I am in the office.
Whenever I am traveling though, PhotoShelter’s iOS app means that I can sell, share, upload or distribute photos from my iPhone anywhere that I have a network connection. This is HUGE because my iPhone is almost always in my pocket.
Managing Photos Online Goal
PhotoShelter offers a free, no bullshit, no restrictions trial period of 14 days. I quickly came up with a goal to see if this massive change in managing photos online could work for me. Get ALL 9,671 completely mastered photos into my PhotoShelter account in 14 days. If I could do this, all of the other changes necessary to make this work, could also fall into place.
Now remember, I also had to fix a bunch of color issues as I brought my catalog back into Lightroom from Capture One Pro as well.
Within minutes of setting up my new PhotoShelter account I had a live website, and was creating new galleries to house the 9,000 photos. I ran some quick workflow tests to figure out how I would edit, master, and upload future photos as well. Within 4 hours of rejoining PhotoShelter, I began uploading photos. In fact, in one 24 hour period, I uploaded more than half of the 9,000 photos, priced them, and verified their searchability! My aging iMac and internet connection weren’t particularly happy with this event, but it happened without any disconnect or failure. That is pretty impressive.
My 14 day trial period expired as my last photos were being uploaded from Lightroom. During that 14 day period, I also sought out more economical hosting for my WordPress sites. By Deleting my stock site out of WordPress and moving all of those photos into Lightroom and then publishing what I could right now into PhotoShelter, I decreased my WordPress footprint by 75%.
This allowed me to pick a high-speed VPS server with the first hosting company that I ever had. They moved my sites over to their platform free of charge in a mere 30 minutes and I was off to the races. This all happened way too easily. In a round about way though, isn’t that what we want to happen?
Oh, and by making this change, I am now running my PhotoShelter Stock Photo website, WordPress store and portfolio websites with a $50 per month savings. I have cut my managing photos online costs by a third. Well maybe by a bit more… In addition, I am saving $15 per month by not continuing my Capture One Pro license. So $65 per month makes me feel even better.
One other positive to note is that I have almost 130GB of photos into PhotoShelter. Great for SEO, but also great for offsite backup of some of my favorite photos ever taken.
I am one of those guys who hated school and research. However, running my own creative company has forced me to keep learning. This has given me a knowledge base that allows me to keep up with the ever changing environment of digital photography. If I didn’t have the knowledge of multiple platform functionality, I couldn’t have made the educated decision to go back to where I started.
Since I have an in-depth knowledge of WordPress, Lightroom and now PhotoShelter, I can use my new/old system to plan for the future even more so. For this brief moment I am going to gloat at having 9,000 photos on the old interwebs. Well, for about 5 minutes, then I need to start editing those 180,000 photos and get them into PhotoShelter. You said UNLIMITED and I am going to push your servers to an inch of their lives.
NOTE: This post is part of a new category here on the Pro Journal – The Changing Photography Landscape. We are planning dozens of articles in the coming year about how to manage a photography business in a quickly changing technology environment.