This article will explain why I recommend them. I’ll cover themes & templates, features, client proofing, pricing and more.
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Best All Around
|Try Squarespace →|
Best For Client Proofing
|Try Format →|
1. SquarespaceTry Squarespace →
Squarespace is the best all-around website builder. It can power photography websites but also many other kinds: blogs, ecommerce, small businesses and more.
What To Like
- Templates — Squarespace has outstanding templates. Many will work perfectly for photography portfolios. They also have excellent template customization. See templates for examples.
- Tons of Features — Squarespace has more features than Format and features such as blogging and ecommerce are much better. See features for more.
- Easier Page Creation — Squarespace has a visual editor that let’s you preview your page as you create it (Format does not).
- Excellent Ecommerce — Squarespace has better ecommerce than Format.
What Not To Like
- No Client Proofing — Because Squarespace is for all kinds of websites they haven’t built the same backend for client proofing that Format has been moving into. You’ll need to rely on a 3rd party proofing tool.
2. FormatTry Format →
Unlike Squarespace, Format is just for photography websites. That focus means it also an advantage on very specific photography features— such as client proofing.
What To Like
- Templates — Format templates are more unique than Squarespace.
- Client Proofing — Format has tools and workflows around client proofing.
What Not To Like
- Page creation not always easy — Customizing your Format website isn’t as intuitive as Squarespace.
- Bare Minimum Features — For example, ecommerce is pretty limited.
|Disable Right Click||Can be done with code injection.||Yes|
|Automatic Watermarkers||No||Yes — Automatically watermarks to client galleries (not website galleries though).|
|Focal Points||Yes — Images can have a focal point that is cropped around. Useful for square thumbnails.||No — You can’t set an image focal point.|
|Client Galleries||No — You’ll need to use a 3rd party (Ex: Pixieset) for client galleries.||Yes — Workflow is Format’s client management system.|
|Password Protected Pages||Yes||Yes|
|Custom Email Notifications||Yes — You can customize customer order emails.||No — Customers receive a default order email.|
|Payment Processor||Stripe, Paypal||Paypal|
|Product Variations||Unlimited variations||1 variation — For example: size or color but not both.|
|Taxes||Yes — You have to manually add taxes for states and provinces.||No — You can’t charge taxes to your customers.|
|Integrations||Aftership, Delighted, Easyship, Printful, inFlow, Orderdesk, Aftership, Printique and more||None|
|Plans|| Personal $16 / month |
Business $26 / month
Basic Commerce $30 / month
Advanced Commerce $46 / month
| Pro $17 / month |
Pro Plus $25 / month
Premium $33 / month
|Domain Name||$20 / year||$20 / year|
|Free Domain Name For 1 Year||Yes — On annual plans.||Yes — On annual plans.|
|Gmail Hosting||$72 / year / email||$72 / year / email|
More so than any other type of website, a photography website should show rather than tell. It should be uncluttered and have plenty of whitespace to frame the photos— almost like an art gallery’s walls.
Squarespace and Format are my recommended photography website builders— but I’m not the final word on this.
There are definitely other website builders worth checking out for photography:
What’s the best free photography website builder?
This may not surprise you: you get what you pay for with free website builders.
But that being said— it can be done. Just be prepared to make some tradeoffs. My Free Website Builders roundup gives an overview of the best and worst free website builders.
What about Wordpress?
Wordpress is great. A lot of people are happy with their Wordpress websites.
But I stopped using Wordpress a few years ago and I have not looked back.
Website builders like Squarespace and Format take care of everything and give you peace of mind. Wordpress let’s you configure everything but it can often mean you spend time messing with domains, updating Wordpress and dealing with incompatibilities— whereas website builders just work.
Note: Wordpress is technically free but you do have to pay for hosting which costs around the same as Squarespace and Format.
Should I make a photography website if I already have Instagram?
Instagram is a fine place to build an audience but don’t rely only on Instagram.
Instagram controls the relationship to your audience: they decide whether you can post links and they decide where you show up in your followers timelines.
Your photography needs a home on the internet where you are in control. That’s critical for the long-term health of a business.