For the last few years I’ve used Smugmug as my website, but a recent discussion on one of the photography Facebook groups I’m a member of regarding websites got me thinking about creating my own hosted website. Then my yearly renewal for Smugmug came in which lit a bit of a fire under the idea.
I like Smugmug, it’s a good product for the most part but there are a couple of issues. Firstly, although very customisable, on the upper subscription tiers, it’s still a lot more restrictive design wise compared to hosting a website from scratch. Secondly, the sales side of things is a little weird, you can’t put an innovatory on an item as you would with a limited edition something. Then if you choose to drop ship from a printers, the only UK based printer is Loxley Colour, which in itself is not a problem. I’ve used them and had no issues, however, when going through the Smugmug sales portal you cannot opt for the fine art papers offered by Loxley.
These two issues blow my mind for a first and foremost photography site. Up till now I’ve sort of made my peace with it as I felt the site offered decent value. Well that was until the renewal came through and I thought, I’m not paying that for something that doesn’t do exactly what I want it to.
So, decision made, I knocked Smugmug down to it’s most basic tier, and will continue to use it as cloud storage, it seems good value for that. For the time being anyway, but it gives me a year to explore alternatives. Then it was just a question of sorting the website.
Anyone who watches content on Youtube will be familiar with website companies like Squarespace and Wix. I did check them out but the cost was similar to Smugmug and I didn’t think I was going to gain enough freedom and control so I decided on the WordPress route.
A photographer friend located on the edge of the Lake District, I’m only a lot envious, recently did a couple of reasonably in-depth blog posts regarding this very subject that were a lot of help, but it was clear I needed to get my head into the whole process and immerse myself in all things WordPress to get a handle on things having never really gotten involved in websites before.
I’d decided to go with the self hosted style of WordPress so needed to find a host, I went with Siteground in the end, they get good feedback, seem to offer a decent price if you signed up for a couple of years without the lure and sting approach of some of the well known companies. WordPress installed and I was ready to go. Well I would have been if I’d had any idea how to start.
It became clear very quickly that here was a chasm between what I wanted and what I was capable of sorting from scratch. So I bit the the bullet and bought a premium theme and in hindsight, it was fifty quid very well spent as even with these basic building blocks in place it was a steep learning curve. I’ve since changed and customised the coding to suit me as I got more comfortable and having page demos to reverse engineer was a good resource.
As I write this, I’ve yet to make the new site active as I’m still fettling bits and pieces, testing how things look on different size screens etc. I’ve also been wanting to start writing the odd blog here and there again, a couple of years ago I wrote some blogs of a two day cycling event and my training leading up to it. Being that WordPress started it’s life as simply a blogging platform this should be a lot easier than doing it on Smugmug which needed a bit of a clunky workaround.
I intend to upload to here some of the key ones I wrote back then as firstly it’ll pad out the blog page and make sure it works as it should but I sometimes like to relive the pain and suffering.