This article aims to give you a round-up of tools & services you can use to sell prints and image licenses, using WordPress or dedicated photography platforms.
WordPress has matured a lot in recent years. Being so popular, there’s no a wide range of themes and plugins that photographers can use to set up their online photography business.
But with WordPress, you still can’t match the power and flexibility of dedicated photography platforms (though you can integrate with them, to get the best of both worlds, more on this below).
The margins have become narrower, and have more options these days, you can use WP to create an image-selling website too, with some limitation.
Let’s explore some of the best options you have for setting up an eCommerce-enabled photography website:
Part A: WordPress-based eCommerce solutions for photographers
WooCommerce is the leading eCommerce plugin for WordPress, it’s basically the industry standard. Any good WordPress theme now comes with WooCommerce compatibility.
Being so popular, Woo is incredibly powerful out of the box, and has a very active community around it, with countless free and paid extensions out there. Not to mention that you can Google just about any issue and you’ll find help pages and support forums about it, which can come in handy.
Pricing: free main plugin + paid extensions for advanced functionality
- services (photo tours, workshops, portrait sessions, photo shoot deposits, etc.)
- prints (self-fulfilled)
- image downloads (royalty-free only, with variable prices, but no rights-managed price calculator)
- video downloads (usually requires paid extensions and hosting integrations)
- any other products, both physical and virtual (calendars, agendas, wallpapers, T-shirts, etc.)
- affiliate marketing
Pros / Advantages:
- Free: the core WooCommerce plugin is open source free software (and you get free updates over time). Unless you need advanced functionality (that can only be handled by paid extensions), it’s an effective way to scale your online business.
- Very customizable: Woo comes with detailed settings, but most importantly, you can use many other free plugins (or custom functions) to customize its functionality.
- Good analytics: detailed reports are inbuilt. You can always understand your sales (broken down by date, product, categories, etc.), customers, taxes & more.
Cons / Limitations:
- Learning curve: the plugin does require some WP experience (and patience) to get everything right. With great power comes great complexity, and you have to take this into account. Once you get the hang of it though (or by using additional plugins and extensions for it), you can make WooCommerce “behave” to your liking.
- Updates can affect the front-end sometimes: WooCommerce gets updated (by its developers) quite frequently, which is definitely a good thing. But updates are sometimes known to reset settings or change the design of the store pages (making them incompatible with the WP theme). Thorough testing is highly recommended after every Woo plugin update.
Other WooCommerce extensions and plugins that I’ve found helpful over time:
- Booster for WooCommerce (a ton of customization options for WooCommerce)
- Booster Plus for WooCommerce (even more customization options)
- WooCommerce Photography (streamlining the image selling process)
- Product Add-Ons (product personalization options)
- Dynamic Pricing (advanced discounts)
- Table Rate Shipping (highly customizable shipping options)
- Product Open Pricing (Name Your Price) for WooCommerce (open price products)
- WooCommerce Cart Tab (sitewide tab with your cart contents)
- WooCommerce Single Product Page Builder (integration with WPBakery and Cornerstone page builder)
- WooCommerce Direct Checkout (skip cart page and redirect to checkout)
- WooCommerce Hide Checkout Shipping Address (simpler checkout process when a shipping address is not needed)
- Facebook for WooCommerce (sell more products using Facebook)
- Advanced WooCommerce Reporting
- WooCommerce Advanced Free Shipping
- WooCommerce Multilingual – run WooCommerce with WPML
- WooCommerce Currency Switcher (real-time conversions for multi-currency stores)
- WooCommerce PDF Invoices
2. Sell Media
Feature-rich eCommerce plugin specifically designed for photographers. Works with any WP theme and allows you to sell prints & downloads, as well as bulk-upload photos with their Lightroom & Aperture integration.
Pricing: free version, or $149/year for the professional version with more features
- downloads (photos, videos, PDFs, etc.)
- prints (self-fulfilled)
- membership plans
Documentation / Guides:
- Selling Photos, Prints, & Artwork Online – A guide from Graph Paper Press (PDF)
- Sell Media – Documentation
Interesting client proofing and photo-selling WP plugin. You will need some of their paid add-ons to extend the functionality, but it’s definitely a powerful option overall. It’s compatible with any WP theme, it allows you to create private galleries, choose favorites, upload images in bulk, apply watermarks & more.
Pricing: Free core plugin + paid add-ons (or
$149 $99 for all add-ons + premium support)
Another option for selling your photos and videos online, with some really interesting features: both royalty-free and rights-managed files, automatic fulfillment via integrated print services, subscriptions, lightboxes, image recognition, bulk uploading & a lot more.
Pricing: Free version, Lite version ($39), Full version ($79), Full + premium support ($119)
NextGen Gallery is the “old kid on the block”, it’s been downloaded over 2 million times. My experience with it hasn’t been that great, I found it very bulky, slow and buggy when I tried it, and I’ve known many photographers try to move away from it. Even though it doesn’t have my stamp of approval, it’s a popular gallery plugin (with eCommerce functionality) so I’ve included it in this list.
Pricing: You need their “NextGen Pro Bundle” ($99) for the eCommerce functionality
Important update for WordPress users:
NextGEN Pro is now the ONLY WordPress plugin with automatic print lab fulfillment (meaning that when someone orders a print on your site, a professional print lab will automatically print that image and ship it directly to them, without you having to get involved in the process, as opposed to traditional “self-fulfillment” methods).
6. Envira Gallery (with Woo Add-on)
Envira is a really good gallery plugin (which I usually recommend for WordPress themes that don’t have any inbuilt gallery & slideshow elements). It has a WooCommerce add-on that allows you to sell images in your galleries.
Pricing: Their “Pro” plan ($99) includes the eCommerce feature
Part B: other eCommerce platforms for photographers
Sprout Studio is basically an all-in-one studio management and business software which also includes proofing and selling tools. It’s not for everyone, but if your photography business needs their management tools, then you might consider using Sprout Studio directly for selling images to your clients.
Pricing: eCommerce is included in their Pro ($49/mo) and Studio ($69/mo) plans
Besides their excellent online proofing feature, ShootProof allows you to sell prints & downloads (along with abilities to sign contracts, send invoices & more). Plus, they partner with professional print labs to allow automatic fulfillment orders, which makes ShootProof a really strong option.
Pricing: subscription starts at $10/mo, depending on the number of photos you have
I’m a big fan of PhotoShelter, I’ve used them myself and for many of my clients in the past. Quick disclaimer: I’m one of their certified consultants, so I’m biased towards them because I know their platform inside-out.
Their image selling features are unmatched in the industry (automated print fulfillment, rights-managed licensing, etc.), and they’re a great option for portfolio sites, see my review here: Why PhotoShelter responsive portfolios are an excellent DIY website solution for photographers
Pricing: The “Standard” plan ($30/mo) is the one most photographers use
Another big name in the industry, Smugmug has a big user base and a ton of features. Notably, the also allow selling videos on your site.
Pricing: Their “Portfolio” ($15/mo) and “Business” ($30/mo) plans include eCommerce functionality
Pricing: $28/mo for their “Pro” plan
Shopify is an incredibly powerful eCommerce platform, so it’s natural that some photographers also found a home there. Shopify offers some photography-specific website templates, and with the help of their “apps”, you can build an eCommerce photography website (view their template demos to get a sense of what can be achieved on their platform)
Pricing: plans start at $29/mo
By the way, here’s a good comparison article: Shopify vs WooCommerce: Which One Is the Absolute Best?
Fotomoto is an eCommerce system that allows you to embed an image-selling widget into any website. And you get a dashboard for managing your store.
Pricing: you’ll probably want their “Pro” ($10/mo) or “Pro Plus” ($25/mo) plans (which have a 10-12% transaction fee by the way). But they also have a Free plan (with 22% trx fee) for infrequent sellers.
FAA is a popular print-on-demand marketplace: you create an account and they automatically fulfill any printing orders on your behalf (including framing, matting, shipping). And you have the option to embed your “store” into any page on your site using an iframe element (example). All features here.
Pricing: most features are free, but you’ll surely want to get their inexpensive Premium plan (just $30/year) for some extra features
KTools PhotoStore is an eCommerce system that you install on your own hosting space (similar to how WordPress works). If you can get past their so-and-so themes, you have a lot of features to work with.
Pricing: you’ll likely need to get their “PhotoStore Pro” plan (just a $29 one-time fee) for the extra features (here’s a comparison)
Just a few years ago, you had to use dedicated photography platforms to sell prints or licenses, because WordPress-based solutions weren’t up to par.
But they have matured since then, giving you a lot more options in terms of design and functionality (adding images in bulk, integrating with payment processors, etc.)
There’s still some way to go (because you can’t usually achieve the same power as with tools like PhotoShelter), but WordPress is slowly becoming a viable option.
After looking at the information & examples above, if you feel that you no longer need a separate monthly service (to sell your photos), why not ditch it and build it all under one roof with WordPress? After all, a third of the entire internet can’t be wrong :-)