Finding the best website builder for photographers means sussing out a few things. It’s worth thinking about what you want to use the website for, how much help you need through the design process, and how much you’re willing to spend – over the long-term. Hosting and support costs mean that a good photography website is an ongoing cost rather than a one-off. So it’s a good idea to do your research thoroughly!
If you’ve spent a lot more time learning to take great pictures than designing striking web pages, don’t worry. All the website builders we’ve included in this guide don’t require coding skills at all, and offer templates specifically pitched at photographers. Some do let coders tinker with the specifics, but it’s by no means a prerequisite, and most of these tools will allow you get a great-looking site going within minutes.
Some of the website builders we’ve listed are better suited for some photographers than others – if you want to sell prints, or upload password-protected galleries, or link the site to your Instagram, some builders are better than others. We’ve put together a guide to how to choose the right website builder for photographers so if you’re unsure, start there.
The top 3 website builders for photographers
If you’re in a hurry and want to get going right away, we’ve quickly compiled our top three website builders for photographers below. If you’d like to know a little more before choosing, read on for our full list.
The best website builders for photographers in 2021
At the top of our list of the best website builder for photographers is Squarespace. It may not be exclusively targeted at photographers but we still feel it's an excellent option for building your photography website. It has a great selection of beautiful and professional-looking templates; expertly crafted by top-class designers, they’re clean, orderly and elegantly minimal. This ensures that your work truly shines online, whether your site is viewed on a desktop computer, tablet or phone screen. And we can think of nothing more important than that.
Squarespace offers a selection of specific photography templates, but these aren’t the only ones that you can consider using. The general bias in Squarespace templates is towards showcasing big, high-quality images, so it’s well worth giving them all a look.
It’s fairly easy to create your site using the drag and drop interface, which produces pop-up prompts every time you hover over an area. It isn’t quite as intuitive as some web builders, but you certainly don't need any prior experience of building websites, or knowledge of coding. Should you want to add a blog or an online store to sell your prints and photobooks, you’ll find all those features easy to use too. If you get stuck, there’s 24/7 support via email, with good response times, and live chat from Monday-Friday, 4am-8pm EDT. Squarespace may be more expensive than many of its rivals, but we feel the extra cost is well worth it.
See our full Squarespace review for more details.
There are a lot of web builders aimed specifically at photographers, including Format, Smugmug, Pixpa, Photoshelter and Zenfolio, but number 2 on our list is the all-round website builder, Wix. The platform is even more general than Squarespace, aiming to cater to all kinds of small businesses, but it still offers a good selection of photography templates, created for everyone from wedding photographers to photojournalists.
On top of that, its prices are extremely competitive. There's even a ‘free forever’ plan. A free site will be covered with ads and limited in terms of storage, so it would be no good for a full portfolio, but for a simple calling card site with your contact details, it could be an option. Pay a little more, though, and you can build a more fully featured photography site for as little as £3 per month.
Wix is even easier to use than Squarespace, and it offers phone support (via callback) along with other methods. Its templates aren’t quite as slick and good-looking as Squarespace’s or Format's, but there are more options to customise them using third-party apps. At the opposite end of the scale, if you really are technically challenged, Wix offers a mega-easy way to create a website via Wix ADI (Artificial Design Intelligence). This asks you questions about what you want your website to do, then uses your social media info to generate a fully working website for you. If you need a website quickly with a minimum of fuss, this is an option.
For more details, see our full Wix review.
Format has similarities with Squarespace but is purely focused on the creation of photography portfolios. That laser-focus means that it has a lot of useful features for the busy working photographer. The most useful of these is the client-proofing system. This allows you to collate private, password-protected albums for clients – with watermarked images if you choose. For anyone sharing dozens, or even hundreds of images from the average shoot, this offers a great time saver compared to messing about with email, Dropbox or WeTransfer, and it's much more user-friendly for the client too.
Another great time-saver is being able to add images to your website directly from Lightroom or Capture One. Plus, if you’re worried about copyright theft, you can disable right-click on the images in your portfolio to stop visitors downloading them without permission. You can also manage your portfolio on the go with the iOS app, and you can generate extra income from photobooks, prints, Lightroom presets and the like by adding an online store. It’s also cheaper than Squarespace.
Format’s sleek, modern templates are beautifully minimal and show your work off to great effect, but we put it at number 3 on our list because we feel that Squarespace has the edge, both in the design quality of its templates and the ease of use of its interface. The business and ecommerce features that Squarespace offers are also more extensive. That said, it’s a close contest. If specific features like client proofing and disabling right-click are important for you, then Format may be the better choice.
SmugMug offers a similar service to Format. It also focuses on photography portfolios and features password-protected galleries, watermarking of photos, the ability to suspend right-click on images, and a Lightroom plugin. There are good ecommerce options for making some extra income. On top of that, it's lovingly crafted, fully responsive templates look very smart and professional.
So far, so professionally useful. On the whole, though, we’ve found that SmugMug’s interface to be a little trickier to use than Format's. We’re also disappointed to see that, unlike most web builders, you only get access to the full range of templates on the pricier plans. On the plus side, unlike Format, SmugMug offers an app for Android as well as iOS, allowing non-Apple users to also manage their sites and upload new images while out on a shoot. That may in itself be enough to sway you to this option.
Pixpa lies somewhere between Squarespace and Format/Smugmug. It's aimed primarily at photographers, but also other creatives, such as designers, artists and architects. While we've found its interface is a little clunky to use in practice, it's still pretty straightforward once you get used to it. Beyond that, what really makes Pixpa stand out is the ability to create personalised mobile gallery apps for clients.
In a world in which we're spending more time on our phones and less on our desktop computers, it's a smart feature that could help you lure in more commissions. You might even charge for it as an extra, in the case of wedding customers, for example. You can see an example gallery here.
Pixpa also offers good integrations with other apps, including Google Analytics, MailChimp and Spotify, and some nice ecommerce features, including the ability to generate discount codes. You pay zero payment processing fees to Pixpa for your online store (compared with, say, 3 per cent to Squarespace). Also, note that Pixpa doesn’t just offer a 15-day free trial but a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you’re a student, you can also get a cool 50 per cent off.
One of the reasons you may have decided to build a photography website is in order to sell prints of your images, photobooks, places on workshops or whatever else. If that’s the case, then it’s definitely worth considering Shopify. While it’s fairly basic in web-design terms, Shopify makes it incredibly easy to set up an online store, to the point where you can have something customer-facing within minutes.
The huge number of third-party integrations means it’s fairly straightforward to integrate your Shopify site with Instagram, Facebook or another platform, streamlining someone’s journey from seeing your image to buying a print of it. It offers plenty of payment options, and there are marketing tools that allow you to plan promotional campaigns. It’s not the most visually attractive website for photographers, but it is incredibly streamlined.
Shopify costs more than other site builders, with an absolute minimum monthly cost of $29. If you have no interest in selling photos or photobooks or anything else, it simply isn’t worth it – you’ll get more value elsewhere. It’s also worth noting that there are transaction fees if you don’t use the Shopify Payments transaction system, which racks the cost up still further.
Zenfolio is one of the more popular portfolio websites for photographers. It does have a lot going for it – most famously perhaps that its interface is very easy to use. Within a few minutes of starting your plan or your 14-day free trial (which you can get without putting in any credit card information), you can have a decent-looking portfolio site up and running. They aren’t the most exciting designs, and there could be more of them, but they work.
If you’re going to be working with large volumes of photos then Zenfolio is a good choice – even its cheapest plan gets you unlimited storage, meaning you can batch-upload albums and galleries. The more advanced plans provide special support for school and event photographers, with password-protected folders and the ability to add packaging and pre-orders for prints.
An annoying thing about Zenfolio is the lack of live customer support. There’s no phone line, and the site has got rid of its live chat support function, meaning if you need help, your only recourse is filling out the contact form and waiting for an email – average resolution times are listed as four hours. It’s a little odd – the product features page promises “Live chat and phone support with actual humans,” but this is clearly no longer offered. Search for it and you’ll inevitably end up at the contact form. (Extra-annoyingly, potential new customers can schedule a sales call, but there’s no equivalent function for existing customers.)
How to choose the right website builder for photographers
Building yourself a photography website is a great decision! No matter whether you want to attract professional clients, or just have a nice-looking space to show off your images to peers, a dedicated website is the best way to do it. In the guide above we’ve picked out what we reckon are the best website builders for photographers right now, but if you’re feeling a little lost, here are a few things to think about to help you narrow down your choices.
The best thing to do is sort out which features you need, and which ones you don’t. Here are a few things to think about.
- Are you going to be selling things through your website – like prints of your photos, or workshop spaces? If so, then a website with good storefront functionality that makes it easy to receive payments is a good bet. Shopify is one of the standouts in this area.
- Do you want a sleek, minimalist look to your website? Is the design of the site as important to you as the content? If this is the case but you’re not too sure about coding, then a builder with lots of stylish templates will help you realise your vision – Squarespace and Wix are unquestionably the market leaders in this instance. Though if you are a coder, both Squarespace and Wix also let you get under the bonnet and use custom code.
- How many photos do you plan to upload? If you only want to include a few of your absolute best shots then pretty much any builder will work, but if you need to upload multiple galleries with sub-folders and password protection (i.e. if you do school photography or something like that) then some site-builders won’t be suitable. Smugmug, Format or Zenfolio will be your best choice in this case.
- Finally, what’s your budget? You’ll get better results if you’re willing to spend a little on creating and maintaining your website, but we recognise that not everyone is in a position to do that. Wix has a good free tier that will give you the basics of a website without costing anything.