We love working with small businesses to find the technology solutions to fit each of their unique needs. These aren’t always straightforward, and they’re not always WordPress necessarily.
Recently a photographer we work with came to us with her business needs. Her website is a key marketing tool to promote her to potential clients, but she also has a whole other side of her business that’s online and very key to her growth. The sales of prints and the hosting of galleries is a critical part of a modern photographers business model. Many photographers use services like Pixiset, SmugMug, or something of the same genre to take care of their website and their galleries. We set out to find the best possible solution for our client. Here’s what we found.
Keep It in WordPress?
Of course, our first instinct was not to enter another ecosphere that is constricting. If we can keep it in WordPress, let’s do it. If we can offload images to Amazon (AWS) and use an intuitive plugin to tie into a top-of-the-line print house, that’s perfect. The thing is, no one quite does this yet. We discovered that selling online prints is a tricky beast, and the plugins that are supposed to make this so instantaneously nice and smooth are just kind of clunky.
We looked into Imagely & NextGenPro Gallery. Here’s what we found:
We liked the idea of using NextGenPro for the gallery functionality. It’s not hard to see why! It’s beautiful, the demos are stunning. And in a Facebook chat with Scott Kivowitz (of the Imagely company), he recently assured me they are 90% there to make their plugin integrate with WHCC for prints. Wow! Sounds good. Except they’re running rather behind and can’t promise a launch date for that functionality. But knowing it’s on the horizon was exciting!
The problem is, NextGenPro wants to create its own media galleries independent of WordPress’ default media gallery. With the number of photos we’re going to be hosting — we needed to get these galleries off the server and onto Amazon for cheap fast storage. So, we attempted to use WP Offload S3. WP Offload S3 is a great plugin that links directly to an Amazon S3 bucket of your choosing to automatically upload your media to serve it from Amazon. However, because NextGenPro creates its own media folder for it’s galleries, what seemed like a great pair at first became a nightmare. And even if they did work together, we still needed a way for the photographer to have her clients order prints on the website. The current way NextGen Pro works is:
1.The website (Imagely – NextGen Pro) allows the photographer to sell the prints and collect the money.
2. The print order ends up in the photographer’s inbox.
3. Then the order needs to be placed manually with a print shop, which will then ship it to the family member.
Imagine the hassle of manually ordering $6,000 worth or prints a year for every grandma and auntie who wants a copy of the wedding pictures! No way. The amount of admin work that would take for a photographer is just nuts.
So, the Imagely (NextGenPro) product and WP Offload S3 solution was a no go.
Can Fotomoto Help?
Okay, So Back to a SAAS Product
These solutions were not working. The one with the most hope was NextGen, and that wasn’t working.
So, we decided that for the price, and for ease, we had to go back to SmugMug or another similar service. SmugMug is very popular, but our client had some reservations with them. Their UI isn’t the cleanest and our client found the options and settings a little opaque. Since one of the selling points of using a dedicated service like this should be ease of use for our client, this was a deal breaker.
So, although they get great copy/paste write ups from many WordPress blogs, it seemed that from an actual photographers perspective, they weren’t that great.
From Facebook reviews in photographer groups, Shoot Proof was getting great reviews. Glowing endorsements from people who ACTUALLY use the product for their lively hood? Despite not hearing anything about this service before, it seemed like something we needed to check.
Why ShootProof Won Our Vote
Shoot Proof is amazing for several reasons. It’s incredibly beautiful for one, and we’ll list the other reasons why we decided it was a good pick here:
- It has a great widget that integrates well with the WordPress sites.
- They generate html markup for you so you can insert a client login portal on your site that will take clients directly to the private galleries you’ve set up for them.
- They don’t charge commission on prints, only a monthly fee to use it.
- No obligation or contract.
- Integreation seamlessly to print your photos on print or canvas. (Photographer does not have to be involved.)
- Helps keep track of invoices.
- Sends customized emails to clients with link to their gallery with nice branding. (SWEEEEET!)
- Easy to figure out and set up. (HUGE selling point for our client.)
- They’ll credit you money you’d lose from leaving a competitor.
- You can point a custom sub-domain to them to make your Shoot Proof site appear to be on your domain. So instead of your URL being, myphotos.shootproof.com, it becomes myphotos.mydomain.com. Great for branding!
- Easily becomes part of your website, instead of you needing to make a new web presence in their infostructure.
Our client is very happy with our ShootProof integration on her site. We created her a gallery to show off some really stunning images, but the majority of client galleries are private, unlisted, and hosted on ShootProof. Clients access them from the Login page on her website. The galleries we did build out were custom work. It only took us a couple hours of coding, and it’s so much cleaner than using a clunky gallery plugin. We also are putting her website portfolio images on WP Offload S3. This helps them load incredibly quickly. For the layout of the gallery, we were inspired by Zara’s website. We went for clean, hip, modern and fast. The new portfolio section on her website is helping to grow her business. And her clients are happy to access their private galleries through her website and order all the prints they fancy from the ShootProof printers. Mission accomplished.