Pieces Falling Into Place

Yes indeed, it has been quiet here for a little while. The reason is that I finally decided to make a decision* 😁 about my photo archive — you may remember what I wrote about the inadequacies of WordPress to serve as such, a while ago, and my quest to find a suitable service to host this photo archive, relieving me from this mess in WordPress.

This search has come to an end, and I chose PhotoShelter to host my photo archive. Long time readers may remember that I briefly tried this service already, sometime in 2017. Back then, I gave up because certain features didn’t work for me. But after my unsatisfying SmugMug trial sometime last year, I realized that I’d perhaps have to curb my general expectations altogether… :P

This shift in approach and thinking made PhotoShelter a candidate again, but my friend and long-time PhotoShelter user Michael Russell also told me that he read about updates they’ve made to their Lightroom Publish plugin (which I was actually willing to go without!). After a trial of just a few days it became clear: PhotoShelter has everything I want.

  • Uploading via a Lightroom Classic “Publish Collections” (which includes keeping photos, keywords, titles, captions etc. in sync)
  • A comprehensive search feature — one of the biggest pain points for me while using WordPress**
  • De-duplication of published photos, ie. adding a photo to both the “Desert” and “Landscape” archives (galleries), results in only ONE photo on PhotoShelter — phew!
  • Publish information from PhotoShelter’s plugin is added to Lightroom’s database! This allows filtering, like “show me all 5-star images that are not yet uploaded to PhotoShelter”, etc.
  • PhotoShelter integrates FotoQuote pricing — a big helper for selling image licenses.
  • Complete freedom for print sales (either through partners, or self-fulfillment) — I am already offering my “affordable prints” through my archive site (self-fulfilled), and greeting cards (through one of the many vendors in PhotoShelter’s network of print partners).

At the moment, I’m not uploading full resolution files to PhotoShelter. I chose their standard plan, which costs only $10 per month when paid annually, and includes 4 GB of online storage space for photos. I’m uploading the photos large enough to print greeting cards at over 300 ppi, and for the affordable prints (that I produce myself), I’m working with my originals anyway. This is a good compromise. If I decide to offer more print products through PhotoShelter’s print vendor network, I will have to upload higher resolution files, and pay for additional storage. But until that happens, I can put things in place at a very reasonable price.

Now, coming from WordPress, the customization options and design features in PhotoShelter are, to put it mildly, a little bit underwhelming. :P But the important part is that they have their back-end figured out REALLY well. Adding pricing, changing search visibility etc. has been mostly intuitive. It takes time to get to know a new platform, any platform of course, and I’ve had many “so that’s how they do it! nice!” moments while exploring and utilizing the features.

After some back and forth, I have settled on an initial set of galleries (archives) that mostly mirror the archive pages that I had and still have here in WordPress, and how it all works makes me quite happy. For example, I will continue to work on my “Plant Portraits” here, but in my image archive on PhotoShelter, I’m simply “dumping” all those photos into bigger archive galleries for “herbs” and “bushes/shrubs”. Within those galleries though, you can find any photo you want, get the details in the 1-up view and click on a keyword (like the scientific name) — and you’ll see all photos from that plant, in the archive.

Yes, yes. I could’ve done that with WordPress, too. But to really make it work for me, and make it usable too, as easy as it is on PhotoShelter, would have required customizations that are beyond my abilities. So that would have meant hiring someone to do that for me, in WordPress. Can I hire someone to do all that for $120, the annual prize of the PhotoShelter plan I’m on right now? Nope. So it was a simple decision, in the end.

Some things still puzzle me. Will I upload the “archive additions” to WordPress, like I used to, now that the archive actually isn’t on WordPress anymore, or use PhotoShelter’s embed feature for WordPress? We shall see. The same goes for my portfolio galleries. If PhotoShelter will add customization and design options in the future, I might very well move those over to PhotoShelter altogether.

For now, I’m glad that I can stop trying to shoehorn the way I work with photos in Lightroom into WordPress. Even the best plugins (like WP/LR Sync) did not provide everything that I wanted out of a photo archive. PhotoShelter is already working better for me in that regard.

It’s a work in progress still, but you can take a look at what I have so far. Here’s my new photo archive. The fact that the “Wildlife” and “Mountains” archives contain more images than the “Landscapes” archive right now will easily tell you that those two archives are pretty much complete, while all the others are still being worked on! :)

*) “If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice” — Neil Peart, Rush

**) I’ve been using the “Relevanssi” plugin to enhance the search features of WordPress and include media items; it was better than the standard search (Automattic wants to sell us a better search experience of course, with Jetpack Search — I have ~6000 images here, plus posts, portfolios, pages, which would equal paying $70/month if I understand this right… just for the SEARCH feature!!! Yikes and… no thanks!) but nevertheless, the results were still underwhelming with regards to… relevance. Which is kinda funny, considering the name of the plugin. :P

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8 thoughts on “Pieces Falling Into Place”

  1. I don’t envy the chore of migrating but can understand if it opens up some
    new opportunities. I’ve been *very* patiently waiting to see what NGG has up their sleeves for the next major overhaul under the new management.

    It’s always a difficult decision no matter what you end up doing because you end up attached to something that makes it a lot of work to switch.

    I look forward to what you develop with it.

    • The switch is really an opportunity for me to clean up my archives. I never really followed through doing that in WordPress because the Media Library, even with taxonomies for photos, just makes it too damn hard. You separated this entirely, with NGG, which is a good thing, but NGG too left me wondering whether I’d be able to integrate it all into my site the way I wanted, storage consumption, etc. so separating the archive from WordPress entirely was the easier route for me to take.

      In the end, what really matters is that I have this stuff organized in Lightroom. My ratings make it fairly easy to populate the new archive galleries quickly, and even if I should decide sometime in the future that I want something other than PhotoShelter, it will be easy to take those archives elsewhere when they’re up to date in Lightroom.

  2. I’ve had a Pro Photoshelter account for many years and I’m generally satisfied with it. I use it mainly as an online backup for my entire library of raw and hi-res files. As you mention, using WP to host so many images is a nightmare to maintain. So my main WP site is something like the fancy storefront for print sales, and my PS account is like the backroom where I can set up custom photo submissions for clients, or where they can browse my full stock of images. Although in general I’m not a big fan of Lightroom the PS uploader in LR makes things much easier for me.

    One thing I don’t like about PS is their fees for sales. I’m guessing with your basic plan they take 10%, I think on my level it’s 8%. With my PS account at $50 a month the fee should be 0%. Sales through my WP site are processed through Stripe, with a transaction fee of less than 3%. I know this may not sound like much but it can really add up when you sell a big print and take account production and shipping charges.

    Like you I’m a bit underwhelmed with their customization options for websites, which is why I started up my WP site years ago. I also think I have much better SEO results on my WP site then with PS.

    Maybe with this post you’ll start getting some PS kickbacks for referrals, like Michael Russell regularly gets. Then you can upgrade to the Pro level for free!

    • Thanks for the insights, Alan! Their prices for storage do seem a bit out of date, which is the reason why I chose to not upload full resolution files (I have an online backup already) – I could even reduce the resolution that I’m uploading right now, and the files would still be totally fine to produce greeting cards from them.

      How the fees stack up when you take the payment processor’s fees into account is always annoying, I agree, and with the monthly rate you’re paying, that is indeed a tough cookie to swallow.

  3. Just to understand, I assume Flickr wouldn’t be helpful because you don’t have the printing/sales options there and Pixels.com wouldn’t work for (probably many) other reasons. Once again I guess I’m lightyears behind the levels you’re talking about, which is because I chose not to enter the world of photography sales and promotion – thankfully. As long as I can exist and be happy without pursuing sales, it’s better for me. The dark side of that decision is that I spent many years in jobs that I may have liked to a degree but that used up most of my energy, leaving little for creative pursuits. Thank god for retirement. I’m glad you’ve found a system that works better for you, so that’s a good thing. ;-)

    • There are many reasons why a dedicated archive site with a provider that’s specialized on dealing with images is preferable; the level of control I have and the ease of use are the main reasons for me.

      WordPress isn’t unsuitable to do all this – just not “out of the box” and for the amount of money that PhotoShelter costs, I cannot pay a developer to customize WordPress for me. And even then – software changes, technology changes, and a certain amount of maintenance and updates will always be required.

      It’s not rational and economic to go that route. It just took me way too long to realize that… :P


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