What is this Photoshelter thing?

Photoshelter is the online service which underpins my website. As such its branding occasionally appears on email enquiries and some Google searches for me or my work. I hope to explain a little here about what it does and why I use it.

The photographer who wishes to publish his work online has a plethora of tools at his or her disposal. At the basic level there are scripts and applets for the keen developer to include on their own site and at the other extreme there are fully-fledged services which provide  a whole host (pun intended) of powerful tools to enable the photographer to concentrate less on HTML, SEO, Merchant Services etc. and more on their work. Photoshelter is one such service.

In order to explain how I use Photoshelter’s service it is important to understand the nature of my photography and who my clients are. I specialise in equestrian photography of all kinds which means that as the seasons change so does my work. Luckily there is no such things as a “holiday” for equestrian sports so one area of interest will dovetail into the next.


Cross Country, Burghley Horse Trials 2009 – Images by Nico Morgan

Most observers would place me into the “event” photography pigeonhole. I will go out and take my photographs, import them into Adobe Lightroom in large numbers, make some minor edits (normally just cropping and some level changing) and then upload them to the web. Photoshelter presents my work to the client who can view, compare, select and purchase them without me getting involved.

Having made my edits I then use Pact Software’s Photoshelter Export Lightroom Plug-in to export my files straight to what Photoshelter call an Archive, which is not yet viewable by the public. I used to upload at low-resolution for speed but now, having purchased more storage space to accommodate them, I now upload at a medium resolution (around 4MB compressed) but more on this later.

I would normally have edited my IPTC data in Lightroom but Photoshelter also allows me to edit it online, very useful sometimes when mistakes have been made! When I am happy with the information attached to each file I create a Gallery for them and set the permissions accordingly.

My clients are very varied. The vast majority are private individuals who have my business card or have seen me out and about and made a note of the URL on my back. However I also have many corporate customers: magazines, manufacturers of equine products and also professional competition riders and their sponsors.

It is this variety of client base which  led to my choice of Photoshelter to provide the services I required. With them I have the ability to upload one gallery of images which are aimed at individuals (a polo match for example) and a different one for a corporate customer which is password protected or even only viewable with an invitation. The first gallery might have settings which allow the viewing public to purchase prints (or products such a t-shirts, mugs etc.) and personal use downloads (with an appropriate size and accompanying licence) whereas the second gallery would only have corporate used downloads available, using Photoshelter’s built-in Fotoquote software to determine the fee depending on the intended use. Payment for any of these options is handled there and then using Paypal so I don’t need to worry about it.

I mentioned earlier that I now upload at a much higher resolution than I used to. Photoshelter’s Fotoquote system means that (within reason) a client anywhere in the world can find an image they like, click the commercial use button, describe the use they have in mind and get a quote there and then. I can even edit the system to influence the market prices for equestrian photography which Fotoquote might not have knowledge of. To illustrate how this works I will describe a recent sale. An international event rider from Germany found an image I had taken from the 4* event at Burghley whilst searching the web. She followed a link back to  my site and purchased a print before returning a second time to use the Fotoquote system to licence an image for use on a web site in Germany. Both orders were handled for me; all I had to do was fulfil the print order. The client was able to download the hi-res version as soon as payment had been authorised.

There are other excellent reasons for a higher resolution version online. They make a good backup option for one thing. Another good reason is Photoshelter’s built-in FTP service. I get calls from magazine picture editors who want files yesterday for an article going to press in ten minutes time. I can click on the appropriate files and FTP them straight to their server (much quicker than any other option). With regular clients I can even give them Trusted Client status which allow them to download anything they want from my galleries without contacting me first. These downloads are logged but they are called Trusted Clients for a reason!

So to paraphrase Monty Python’s Life of Brian: apart from online archiving, the Fotoquote system, server to server FTP, personal/commercial download licences and merchant services… what have Photoshelter ever done for us? Well for many PS users the most important thing they offer is very focussed SEO. I can pick from a number of designs for my client-facing pages or I can fully-customise them to fit my needs, whichever suits me. One thing I can be sure of though is that when I make a new gallery available to the public it will be on the front page of Google for my keywords with hours (sometimes minutes!).

Photoshelter even provide a host of tools to help your business: the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Toolkit for photographers, the Google Analytics for Photographers guide and also a new guide, Social Media for Photographers to list a few.  They also host several free webinars as well.

If all of this has got you interested then please sign up and have a better look.

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