Updated October 2018
How to Select Web Hosting as a Photographer
Are you a photographer, looking to launch your first website? Or perhaps you have had a website for a while now, but are realizing that it’s slow to serve your images. Whether you’re a wedding, event, family, landscape, travel, fashion or wildlife photographer, hosting doesn’t differentiate. You need enough storage space to host your images and the bandwidth to serve up your images quickly and efficiency to your website visitors.
Web hosting for photographers can be a bit overwhelming. You’re an artist, not an IT engineer, after all.
With that in mind, here are the best web hosting options for photographers, at several different price points and needs. so you can choose the best photography website hosting option for you and your portfolio.
Photography Service Provider vs Your Own Website
There are several out-of-the-box solutions for building a photography website, including Zenfolio, Wix, SquareSpace, and SmugMug, just to name a few. These solutions are great if you’re a complete novice when it comes to the web, online marketing and building a website, and that’s OK – if this is you, then go for it! However many photographers will want the freedom to develop their website beyond what the templated providers offer. In this case, WordPress is by far the most popular option, and the one I would recommend to get your website up and rolling. If you’re considering a fully managed photography platform, I’ve included some of the most popular options below. But if you’re looking to go the WordPress and host your own site route, then I’ve picked the best web hosting options for photographers as well.
Best Managed Portfolio Providers for Photographers
Zenfolio: $20 per month for the introductory offer, which renews at $35 per month. They offer unlimited storage space and unlimited bandwidth traffic. The templates and customization are limited, but they make up for this with a myriad of gallery and product options, fully integrated into the platform. Signup for Zenfolio
Wix: Operating off a freemium model, Wix gives the basic service away for free, but runs their ads across the platform. Their most popular plan is the Unlimited, which includes unlimited bandwidth, 10GB of storage; for $16/month. They also have hundreds of awesome templates, perfectly suited for a creative portfolio for designers and photographers alike. Signup for Wix
Squarespace: $26 month to month for the business plan will get you unlimited bandwidth and storage, with a plethora of pre-built template options from one of the biggest all-in-one website solution providers. Squarespace not only caters to photographers, but also to freelancers, eCommerce store operators, and small business owners. Signup for Squarespace
SmugMug: The portfolio plan is $20 a month, and includes 21+ pre-made site designs. Shopping cart and product integration is the big selling point here for photographers wishing to create an e-commerce gallery store. These options aren’t bad, but they do have a more expensive cost associated with them than a traditional website hosting model. Additionally, the systems are completely closed – meaning you don’t have control over many variables in the website setup or hosting configurations like you would if you built your own website in WordPress. The costs aren’t incredibly high, but for mid-$20/month (plus various up-sells and bold-ons within the system), you could host with WPEngine, the fastest premium managed WordPress host out there, for a comparable $29/month. Signup for SmugMug
Best Web Hosting for Photographers
Best Professional Host (starting at $15/month)
Flywheel: Built from the ground up for designers and agencies, Flywheel’s technology is perfect for hosting an image-heavy photography website. Flywheel’s Tiny plan is the most limited of the three, but by far the fastest web host. Their smallest package is $15/month, offering 5,000 visits, and 5GB disk space. The plans jump up from there in terms of storage, bandwidth and visits, as Flywheel easily scales with the click of a button as your photography studio grows. They also have a built-in CDN which they manage in-house for their customers. This feature is another $10/month and will result in an extremely fast website. Signup for Flywheel
Best Beginner Host (starting at $3.95/month)
Bluehost: Starting at just $3.95/month, Bluehost is the best budget shared host out there. The basic plan includes 50GB of storage space and unmetered bandwidth. 50GB is a massive amount of storage space, and will easily host all your images and client galleries (especially as you should be compressing your images and saving for the web). They also offer a proprietary version of cPanel which is very intuitive and easy to setup. Their support is top-notch and they’re happily available to guide you through your website setup. Bluehost is a great place to start out. Signup for Bluehost
Utilize a CDN for Even Faster Performance
If your photography is being seen by a national (or even international) audience, it is important to utilize a content delivery network, or CDN. A CDN is a network of servers deployed in multiple data centers across a wide geographic area. When a user accesses your website, it will serve your website from the server nearest to their location, making your images load faster than ever.
For example, you may be a fashion photographer in New York City with your web host located in Austin, but an agency in Seattle visits your website. Rather than serving your website directly from your host in Austin, a CDN will automatically detect the nearest proxy server to Seattle, and serve the webpage from that location. A CDN can result in blazing fast load times when coupled with a good web host.
Two of the more popular CDN providers are Cloudflare and MaxCDN, but again, if you were to use a managed hosting solution like Flywheel, they have a built-in CDN option that you can enable with the click of a button.
Choosing a Web Host for your Photography Website
Launch Your Portfolio: If you’re a total web novice and looking for a web based photography portfolio service, then Zenfolio. I’ve personally never used them (like I have Bluehost and Flywheel), but they’re my personal favorite after digging into their features, specs and template designs.
Signup for Zenfolio
Step Up Your Website Game: If you already have a host that’s just not cutting it, then step up to Flywheel. Or, if you want to skip the beginner hosts like Bluehost, then Flywheel is perfect for you.
Signup for Flywheel
Bonus – Rockstar Going Bigtime: Just land that big contract? Photograph a celebrity wedding? Or perhaps you’re just launching and really ambitious. Then check out WPEngine as the best of the best for photographers, or anyone else looking for premium hosting to serve up a blazingly fast portfolio.
Signup for WP Engine
Photographers, having a fast website that showcases your portfolio in the best light is essential in today’s web driven digital world. Is your portfolio already online? If so, how does your current web host perform? What are some features you’ve found essential to choosing a web host? Have you noticed a significant performance improvement when moving from a lesser host to Bluehost or Flywheel?