When I was initially setting up this website I carried out a careful comparison of the web hosting options available, focusing on facilities for photographers. In particular I wanted to be able to store and display full resolution photos, enable clients to see and download their photos from an online gallery, and enable clients to buy prints directly from the site. Although I've coded sites directly in HTML before, I wanted to be spending more time on photography than website coding, even if that meant paying a small additional cost.
I made a list, then a spreadsheet (I've spent too many years in an office and always had a peculiar enjoyment of numbers) of the hosting options available, and finally decided to utilise the free trials on Zenfolio and Smugmug. At the time they both had the features I wanted at reasonable prices. After trying both, the interface and design of Smugmug felt more intuitive and modern so that was where my money went.
Smugmug has been excellent to use, especially in it's handling of photos. Client galleries are easy to set up and look good, and security features are good. You also have full excellent control over price lists and print services with a wide range of product available from any one of four print companies in the US and UK.
So why change now?
In a word, Blogging. I had been writing a few blogs previously and didn't think I would be starting another one soon. But the more I explored the idea the more I wanted to start a photography blog.
It is possible to create the look of a blog on SmugMug, so that's where I started. It's a slightly more manual process than a dedicated blogging platform, but I didn't mind that. The problem is that it isn't a blog. There is no RSS feed available and it's not possible to subscribe or add to Feedly/Flipboard or other 'reader' apps. I contacted SmugMug to check whether there was likely to be any true blog functionality coming soon but their support staff are understandably unable to comment on future products.
So I looked again at Squarespace. The eCommerce sounded more limited than SmugMug, especially in terms of the available print services, but reviews are generally excellent from anyone other than dedicated Wordpress fans. The free trial is 14 days, long enough to experiment with a few of the templates and get a feel for the product. Once I was happy it was the right choice, it was easy to redirect my domain to this new Squarespace site.
Overall I'm very impressed. Although there are a few annoying layout limitations (why not make each template fully customisable?), it is more flexible that SmugMug even if the photo galleries aren't quite as polished. It's great to be able to put my fledgling blog content onto a true blogging platform and I'm sure over time I'll experiment some more with templates and layouts and explore more of the capabilities that Squarespace offers.
If your main requirement is to showcase your portfolio, share images with clients or friends, or to sell prints, then SmugMug is a great option. Check out 500px too. If you also want to write about your work though, I can thoroughly recommend Squarespace.