A little background: I'm consider myself an enthusiast photographer. I'm self-taught, and I enjoy taking photos of a variety subjects: portraits, action, landscape, and event photography.
Over the years, I have occasionally accepted payment for my services and photos from direct friends and acquaintances who are familiar with my skill. These exchanges were very one-off and done "the old fashioned way" - cash for pictures. But many people have ask me if I have a website and a more systematic way for them to purchase my photos, and I unfortunately had to say no. Photography was my hobby, and done mostly for my own enjoyment. But I finally figured it wouldn't hurt to have my own website and have it become a secondary source of income
So I'm taking on the seemingly monumental task to build my own photography website, with the purpose of elegantly presenting my portfolio and sell the occasional photo directly from the website. I know that that are free ways to simply throw up a basic (crappy) website out there on the internet, but I do want the quality of my website to reflect the quality of my photography, so I'm willing to spend a little money.
I consider myself fairly tech savvy, but I admit I'm in a little over my head here (which was why I hadn't bothered until now). After some research, it appears to me that to have a professional photography website, it entails the following:
1) My own top-level domain name
2) Website host
3) Website builder
4) E-commerce system (shopping-cart, etc to accept payments)
So my research resulted in the following names:
- Hostgator.com (highly regarded hosting service)
- Squarespace.com (highly regarded website builder)
- WordPress (CMS? website template generator? Not sure)
- Dedicated photo sites like 500px, Smugmug, zenfolio.
It seemed logical to me that no matter what, I needed a web hosting service, and hostgator.com tops many of my searches, so I purchased a domain and hosting from them (at about $4/mo, but I paid an annual installment). They have a 45-day refund policy, so I'm safe in case I changed my mind.
Then I looked at website builders, and Squarespace.com was at the top of recommendations for elegant templates and easy but powerful editor, and they have an entire category of templates tailored for photographers. But what surprised me was to learn that Squarespace ALSO provided website hosting, and e-commerce. It was more expensive ($8/mo), but it appeared to be a complete package.
So now I'm second guessing my hostgator service. But I read that Wordpress is much more powerful as a builder, but harder to use, but has tons of support throughout the web. And I can use WordPress for free? Or I can buy a Wordpress template for a fixed one time cost? Huhhh?
I'm a little (okay, alot) confused as what exactly is "WordPress" - what is free about it, and what do I pay for.
Branching off my research, I looked into 500px, smugmug, zenfolio. But they don't really appeal to me since I don't want to be tied to another website and their restrictions. I'd prefer my own completely independent website. I'm willing to put in the time and effort to learn how to bring it to fruition, but as you can see, I can use a little guidance from fellow photographers who might have had to deal with a similar situation.
So any advice is appreciated, with the reminder that my site's objective is to professionally present my portfolio and have the ability to accept direct payments for specific photos on the website.