It’s easiest to simply share our photos, write our blog posts, and otherwise upload our content to someone else’s website, but it’s smarter to own your platform.
Sure, there’s work involved in buying a domain name, setting up a site with an open platform like WordPress, and taking care of the ongoing maintenance (either by doing it ourselves or by paying for a managed web host). But setting up WordPress hosting for photographers isn’t as hard as you might think, and it can be well worth it.
When You Don’t Own Your Platform
It’s easiest to illustrate the importance of owning your platform by noting what can happen when you don’t. We’ve had a few reminders over the past several years.
If you’ve been online for very long, you’ve probably heard of Photobucket, a service which offered free ad-supported image hosting for many years. It got popular in the days of Myspace and LiveJournal but was used to host images for any other number of venues such as forums and full websites.
It was a piece of cake – you uploaded your images for free, and Photobucket let you embed those images across the web.
Until mid-2017, when they shut down free access abruptly.
At that point Photobucket blocked all embedded images unless you upgrade to one of their paid image hosting plans. On various photo websites, forums, and other locations, where previously you’d have seen images hosted by Photobucket, now you see this:
That’s not good.
Now imagine if you’d been using Photobucket for hosting your work.
In 2008, Digital Railroad was a huge player in the online photo hosting and stock photography markets. And then, almost overnight, they went out of business leaving their photographers and customers in a lurch. It was a messy situation and while there are any number of legal and financial angles on it, the biggest angle that photographers care about is that their online assets (and in this case, revenue source) disappeared.
Your Own, Open Platform
There are a variety of options where you can own your web presence. Personally, I like WordPress (with your own domain name). Because it’s an open platform that’s used across the web (not just through one company) you’re not locked in if something were to go wrong. For example, Tech Photo Guy is hosted by WP Engine and runs WordPress. If WP Engine were to go away (or drastically increase prices, or become unreliable, or… you get the idea) I could simply sign up for another web hosting company, take my files and database backup, set up WordPress, restore my backup, and my site would be set to go. All my existing links and such would continue to work.
That’s the beauty of the open web, and controlling your platform.