So you are a photographer — a profession that a lot of people think is filled with excitement and glamour.
The truth is far from it. Most people think that photographers spend their time traveling to exotic locations, taking photos, and partying with models and the crew. If you really think like that, we are sorry to disappoint you that the reality is far more mundane.
Just take a look at this pie chart.
Yup, that’s the life of a photographer. A lot of it is low-end gruntwork.
Now let’s move on to a very important part of a professional photographer’s work: the portfolio. Portfolios showcase their best work to potential clients and a wider audience. What’s better than having a portfolio on the Web? A photographer who wants to put a portfolio online needs a hosting service.
Sure, hosting is only one part of the equation. If you don’t have technical skills to build a website, you can purchase an awesome theme from a site like ThemeForest and install it on WordPress. It’s as simple as that.
What to look for in a Host
The heart of a photographer’s portfolio is the image gallery — or in most cases, several groups of image galleries that are organized by theme. Normally the job calls for a CMS like WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla that is driven by a back-end database. Here are the most important characteristics of such a system:
- 24/7 Online Presence: Since the portfolio is the photographer’s calling card, it needs to be available online, all the time. Surely a photographer doesn’t want to lose business because his site is down.
- Backups: And since the collection is the artist’s product, it needs to be backed up and backed up securely.
- Ample Storage: Since high-resolution photos can take up a lot of space, you need to choose a plan that gives you the necessary space,
- Sufficient Bandwidth: You also need enough bandwidth to enable everyone to view the images,
- E-Commerce: If you want to use the site to sell the photos or book your services, you need a hosting plan that supports e-commerce.
The requirements of larger than average storage and bandwidth, plus the need for a dependable online presence pushes us away from entry-level “unlimited” Shared hosting plans. Some of those providers say “unlimited” in their marketing, but they hope you don’t actually take them up on it! A pro photographer will!!
If you try to set up a photography site on an “unlimited” $4-$5 Shared host, you may find that it is a whole lot more limited than they said. When they find out that you actually want to use that unlimited space and bandwidth, they tend to whip out their legalese which inevitably says that they are they are the arbiters of what “unlimited” means. We’ve had enough of those battles. Check the fine print first!
If you have a sizable collection and want to use a Shared host, our recommendation is to go with a premium Shared host that provides the space and bandwidth you need. In a few cases, it may be better to go with a VPS for better responsiveness.
A bargain Shared host can work for you if your portfolio is small. Some of our recommended hosts do sell these but they also sell cloud Shared hosting (ultra-reliable) and higher capacity Shared hosting plans.
The Best 5
- A Small Orange : Shared and Cloud Shared hosting plans with redundant hardware and automatic failover,
- Site5 : Shared and VPS hosting with a worldwide network of 20 datacenters,
- Lithium Hosting : High performance Shared hosting at great prices,
- WebHostingBuzz : High capacity Shared hosting powered by a dual web server configuration,
- Eleven2 : High capacity Shared and VPS hosting at worldwide locations.
Read more about them after the break!
Winner – A Small Orange – From $2.92/month
Founded in 2003 in Atlanta, their mission statement is to provide the best quality service at an affordable cost. Unlike a large percentage of shared hosting companies, their site and marketing deliberately rank low on the BS scale. You can pretty much read their site and learn about what they charge and the services they provide. What a concept!
They claim 99.9% uptime and offer an have an unusually generous 90 day money-back guarantee, the highest in the industry. They have a long term policy of not overbooking their shared servers and a good rep among the geeks for that and for quality technical support.
Although their advertising doesn’t boast about themselves or feature celebrity spokesmodels, they’re quietly on the cutting edge of shared hosting technology. Their well-known commitment to not overbooking their shared servers and their 24/7 tech support has won them lots of fans.
Shared Hosting Plans
As is typical of low BS companies, they offer a graded scale of limited shared hosting plans. Their prices range from $2.92/mo to $30/mo, with discounts for an annual prepayment. You would think that discounts for long-term commitments are normal, but its easier to find companies that advertise great prices but the fine print tells you that the advertised price is valid only with a long-term prepayment. The month-to-month price is higher.
If you sign up for a year at ASO, your monthly charge is lower than the advertised price! If you buy an annual plan, they include 2 extra months and a free domain name.
All the plans are unlimited in other ways:
- Unlimited POP3/IMAP Mail Accounts
- Unlimited MySQL Databases
- Unlimited Mailing Lists
- Unlimited Email Forwarders
- Unlimited Subdomains
- Unlimited Parked and Add-on Domains
- Unlimited FTP Accounts
ASO uses the industry standard cPanel control panel and the Softaculous app installer.
If you are migrating from another hosting company who uses cPanel, they will handle the migration for free.
Daily backups are also included, as is 24/7 technical support. ASO has a good reputation for providing excellent tech support.
Cloud Shared Hosting
If you are looking for a Cloud Shared host, ASO has that as well. These plans feature fully redundant servers with automatic failover. They provide “near 100% uptime and availability” since a backup server takes over if your primary server goes down. This is the way to go if your portfolio just has to be online 24/7.
These plans are also set up for e-commerce right out of the box. They come with a dedicated IP address and a private SSL certificate, so you are ready to sell your services or photographs online!
They have three Cloud Shared hosting plans, Startup, Small Business, and Enterprise. Here they are:
|Plan||Storage||Bandwidth||SSL Cert.||PCI Comp.||Price|
If ASO’s Cloud Shared hosting plans still aren’t enough, then you’re ready to step up to VPS. ASO’s VPS plans allow you to buy more storage and bandwidth than their Enterprise plan. VPS promises to deliver better performance than Shared hosting and you get more capacity per dollar with VPS. Here are ASO’s plans for $100 and under.
They have a premium “Managed SEO Services” plan as a high cost option. It is only for business and promises to hand tune your site for maximum SEO.
ASO gets a checkbox in the “green” category. They say that they match 150% of their energy usage with renewable energy.
2. Site5 – From $4.95/month
Site5 has been in business for more than 15 years and is one of the largest and most successful hosting companies. Site5 is the home for over 200,000 domains and 250 servers. They have a worldwide network of 20 datacenters that run Shared, VPS, dedicated, and reseller servers.
They’re one of the giants in the industry, so they certainly have a Shared or VPS plan that is right for you as a professional photographer.
Here’s the locations of Site5’s datacenters.
- Asia: New Delhi, Singapore
- Australia: Sydney
- Europe: Amsterdam, Bucharest
- UK: London
- Canada: Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver
- South America: Joao Pessoa, Sauo Paulo
- US: Dallas, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Phoenix, Miami, Atlanta, New York, Washington
Their main datacenter is in Dallas, but you can request another location when you sign up. Other datacenters charge a bit more per month.
For VPS, Site5 has datacenters in the following locations: Dallas, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington DC, Amsterdam, and Singapore.
Site5 offers a 45-day money back guarantee (15 day for VPS). What’s rare is that they have a 30-day free trial account! It’s available for Shared and Cloud Shared plans. If you want to check out Site5 ahead of time, we suggest that you take them up on their 30-day free shared cloud account. This is perfect for trying out the performance of the Shared hosting plan.
Site5 is among very a small group of hosting companies that offers a customer support Service Level Agreement. The SLA states that if a customer does not get a response to a support inquiry within 24 hours, his account will be credited as a token of apology. This is both commitment and confidence.
They specialize in popular content management systems and blogging platforms like WordPress, so you can set up the platform you like best via the Softaculous one-click installation. You can even get technical assistance from their team if you use Joomla, Drupal, or WordPress. Our favorite is WordPress, if you are wondering what we use.
Shared Hosting Plans
Their Shared hosting plans are priced at $4.95, $8.95, and $11.95 a month. The $4.95 plan permits only one site but the others support an unlimited number of sites. Only the $11.95 plan comes with a dedicated IP address, so it’s the choice if you need to open an online store.
Cloud Shared Hosting Plans
Site5 has an interesting premium-level Shared hosting plan that delivers the advantages of Cloud hosting without the price penalty of a fully-managed VPS. They call it Cloud Shared Hosting. It’s like ASO’s Cloud Shared hosting plans. Like a VPS, it has storage and bandwidth limits, but it comes with the uptime advantages of cloud hosting. They cite a 99.99% uptime statistic, but a true cloud really shouldn’t be going down at all.
The Cloud Shared Hosting plan is available only at the Dallas and Amsterdam datacenters.
A dedicated IP is included, as is their 45-day money-back guarantee.
The Cloud Shared Hosting plans are designed with fully redundant backup components with automatic failover. It is designed for businesses that must be online 24/7 but don’t have enough traffic to justify the additional expense of a cloud VPS.
Site5 offers both managed and unmanaged VPS hosting plans. Their unmanaged plans include root access, choice of Linux distro, and optional panel and installer.
Here is the price sheet for their unmanaged VPS hosting.
Managed Cloud VPS Plans
Site5 also has a line of fully managed Cloud VPS plans. Their prices include the panel, installer, and remote backups — but without root access. This type of plan is for photographers who want the advantages of a managed VPS but not the full customization capabilities that come with root access.
3. LithiumHosting – From $1.95/month
Lithium Hosting was founded in 2006 and is one of the new breed of hosting companies that offers state-of-the-art technology and great prices. This perfect for a photographer who wants a very reliable host at a fair price. Their Shared hosting plans give you enough storage and bandwidth for a healthy portfolio.
They use the Hivelocity datacenter as its back end, with private peering connections via 10G in Los Angeles, Dallas, Atlanta, and Seattle. They also have a European datacenter in Amsterdam.
- They offer a 45 day money-back guarantee
- They have a 99.7% uptime guarantee
- Shared hosting plans use the Softaculous installer and cPanel control panel.
- Their shared hosting servers use the CloudLinux OS
It appears that they are in the process of upgrading from mechanical drives to SSD but solid state storage is not yet an across-the-board standard. They say that SSD is available on “some” servers and customers can request a no-cost upgrade to SSD if they are experiencing performance issues with database-driven sites. That’s exactly where the problems usually are!
Lithium Hosting also offers a real 30-day free trial, like Site5. Some hosting companies offer a free trial but it is only a few days and you are not allowed to install a database-driven app such as WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal. In effect, you would be unable to test what you intend to use. With Lithium Hosting’s free trial, you really can try out your site at no cost!
They recently junked their “unlimited” Shared hosting plan in favor of a graded scale of pricing. This facilitates a policy of not overbooking the Shared servers. Their plans resemble ASO’s but their prices are more aggressive. We prefer this approach to the “unlimited” Shared hosting model since it usually leads to superior service and no disagreements about what “unlimited” hosting really means.
If you don’t have a large portfolio, then their “Economy” or “Value” Shared hosting plans are perfect for you. The “Economy” and “Value” prices undercut the prices of most “unlimited” Shared hosting plans out there. Otherwise, the “Supreme” or “Elite” plans will do the job.
Notice that you get more storage and bandwidth for the dollar with Lithium Hosting than with ASO. That’s the differentiator between these two excellent companies.
Here is their price schedule. These are real month-to-month prices — not one of those “valid only with a 3-year commitment” price. That’s even lower!
Like ASO, Lithium Hosting offers discounts for long-term commitments. Regrettably, the common practice is to advertise the price on the longest contract and reveal the month-to-month cost only when you are in the process of signing up. Here’s Lithium Hosting’s Shared hosting prices:
|Plan||36 month||24 month||12 month||1 month|
4. Web Hosting Buzz – From $4.95/month
WebHostingBuzz was founded in 2002 with the idea of offering reasonably priced hosting in a market that was dominated by a few hosting giants and indifferent service.
They now own over 250 of their own servers and have datacenters in both US and UK. Their primary datacenter is in Atlanta, with others in Dallas, New York, Phoenix, and Newark, Nottinghamshire (UK).
Webhostingbuzz is a good choice if you are looking for affordable hosting with a provider who is well known for knowledgeable and courteous customer support. They have attractive plans at both the Shared and VPS levels of service. Depending on your situation, either their a Shared hosting plan or a VPS will work for you. It really depends on how much traffic you have.
These plans come with a 45-day money-back guarantee and the Shared hosting plans come with the cPanel and the Softaculous installer. You can install a CMS such as WordPress or Joomla in one click.
WebHostingBuzz’s entry-level Shared hosting plan gives a photographer plenty of space and bandwidth. WebHostingBuzz has an enlightened policy regarding storage space and doesn’t try to take advantage of you as long as you are not abusing your privileges. Basically, nearly all of your content needs to be served via an HTTP request. That is, you can’t use the space only for backup. Since that’s the whole idea of a portfolio site, then their generous specs should be real.
The Buzz Light plan costs $4.95 and gives you 400GB storage. That’s huge!! The $6.95 “Buzz Power” plan is literally unlimited as long as you don’t violate their acceptable usage policy. A pro photographer’s portfolio certainly is acceptable use. As long as every photo is made public by an HTTP request, you can go for it! That’s what their fine print says.
Their highest priced Shared plan offers something special. The Buzz Premier plan uses two web servers in tandem. It uses both Apache and Nginx with Nginx playing the role of the front end. This really should improve performance for a portfolio site, as it is a perfect use case for Nginx. If your portfolio is large and, especially, busy, this is a great plan!
Here is their price schedule:
Business Web Hosting
Similar in concept to Cloud Business Shared hosting at A Small Orange, the Business Web Hosting plans are premium Shared hosting plans that are tailored to the special requirements of business. The “Power” and “Premier” plans come with a fixed IP address and an SSL certificate. This is a great choice for speed, reliability, and the special needs of e-commerce.
Like the “Buzz Premier” plan, they use the Nginx web server as a reverse-proxy front end. This should boost performance compared to Shared hosting plans that use only Apache or an Apache-compatible server.
|Name||# Sites||Ded. IP||SSL||Storage||Bandwidth||Price|
1. Nightly backups are included.
2. An SSL certificate must be purchased and installed in the Light plan. WebHostingBuzz has certificates for sale at $12.95 or you can purchase a certificate from another vendor.
Unmanaged VPS Plans
WebHostingBuzz sells a line of very capable and affordable unmanaged VPS plans. Their personality is to offer the basics and offer the extras a la carte. That’s the case here.
Unless you purchase full management and an installer, expect to do some installation and management at the command line.
1. cPanel is $8/mo extra.
2. Softaculous is $2/mo extra.
3. Management is $50/mo (base plan). If additional time is needed, it is billed at $25/hr.
5. – Eleven2 – From $4.95/mo
Founded in 2002 and headquartered in Los Angeles, Eleven2 has datacenters in Dallas, London, and Singapore. You choose your datacenter when you sign up. This way, you ensure that your websites are on a server closest to your target audience. Having a datacenter physically close to most of the users improves the page loading times.
Eleven2 is a full-featured hosting provider. They have good plans for Shared, VPS, Reseller, and Dedicated hosting. Their service is backed by a 60-day money-back guarantee, double the industry norm.
Shared Hosting Plans
They don’t try to compete in the “unlimited everything” rat race; rather, they set generous limits on RAM and storage on all but their cheapest plan. Like WebHostingBuzz, their entry-level Shared hosting plan gives a photographer a generous amount of space for a portfolio. Eleven2 is also an enlightened hosting provider that offers realistic storage and bandwidth limits for those who are actually using their hosting account for legitimate web hosting.
The entry-level plan, which is only available by the year (it comes out to $4.95/mo), gives you 10GB storage. The next plan up is $10 (month-to-month) or $8/mo with an annual prepayment. It gives you 250GB storage! This means that for only $3/mo more (annual prepay) and you get 240GB more storage! For this storage and bandwidth, prices in the $4 to $8 range are bargains. Even a pro photographer with thousands of photos in an online portfolio can live comfortably inside these limits.
Here is their price sheet for Shared hosting.
|Name||Storage||Bandwidth||SSL Cert.||Ded IP.||PC Comp.||Price|
These prices are for a 1-year prepayment.
For the S-100 and S-200 plans, the SSL certificate and dedicated IP address are extra cost options. Both are included in the S-300 and S-400 plans. All the plans include the Cloudflare cloud-based CDN.
The S-300 and S-400 plans would be preferable if you need to set up an online store, but the S-100 and S-200 plans should be fine for display-only portfolios.
Eleven2’s VPS plans are fully managed. They the prices include the cPanel/WHM panel which is often an option. They do have SSD storage but the SSD is used as high-speed cache, with mechanical disk storage.
Even the lowest priced VPS plan has a very generous amount of storage. 120GB is a massive amount of photos.
I remember listening to a local pro photographer/millionaire talking about what it takes to be a success. He listed the top 5 things your must do:
- Show your work!
- Show your work!!
- Show your work!!!
- Show your work!!!!
- Show your work!!!!!
This is where an online portfolio comes in handy. By the way, he uses a high-resolution iPad as his sales tool. That’s killer. He shows his work in high-resolution on a tablet that’s backed by a database of gigabytes of images. Any of the hosts that we recommend here can do the job. If you want to explore and evaluate other hosts by yourself, then you can use our hosting companies comparison tool.