Creative: Photoshelter

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Sample interface. My XT2 images all prepped for photobook needs.

I get a lot of emails about post-production, storage, archiving, access and delivery of images. First off, I haven’t worked as a photographer in nearly ten years. It still feels incredible to say this, but it has been that long. I ended my career two weeks before accepting a part-time position at Blurb which snowballed quickly into a full-time position. (It pays to make books.)

So, anyone asking me about post-production is delusional because I suck at it. The same could be said for my storage and archiving skills. I know a LITTLE bit about this, and I’m rapidly trying to learn more because anyone using bays of hard drives is in for a rough future in my mind. But, the one thing I do use that you might be keen to know about is Photoshelter. (The photographers who tell me they have no issues with their archive are typically the ones who have the worst solution. (It’s okay to admit you don’t have a plan.)

So, just to give you a little history, back in the day there were two online archive companies that launched at roughly the same time. Photoshelter and Digital Railroad. I can’t remember why but I went with Digital Railroad. And so did many of my friends and colleagues. And then it went down in epic fashion. Boom, cue the explosions now. They went out of business. I had 30,000 images online. That might seem like a lot but it really isn’t when you consider the range of work I was doing.

I had all my documentary projects, in both edited and non-edited versions, all my editorial assignments, portraits, weddings, and commercial assignments. And I had entire takes because I realized very quickly those entire takes equated to revenue. Clients would routinely come back, after the fact and ask about tangentially related work. If I didn’t have it and have it fast it was lost money. The same applies today but you have even less time to deliver. So an archive of only selects isn’t worth nearly as much.

A few years back, during my five year stretch on the road for Blurb, I realized I was in dire need of an accessible, deliverable archive. So I created a Photoshelter account and got started uploading my Blurb archive. For a little less than $30 per month I was able to create a three tiered archive of Blurb, one other client and my own documentary projects. Now, Photoshelter offers a TON of services I don’t use or need because I don’t work as a photographer.

The front end is a website, simple and clean, which is all anyone needs at this point. The archive in the middle then sales and delivery on the backend. The archive I use. The sales and delivery not so much, but again, if I ever did something for public consumption I’ve got my delivery mechanism ready and waiting. And for my mystery client, I had for the 2017 year I routinely used this delivery method. I created lightboxes, shared those then gave access for high-res download whenever they needed images, no matter where I was in the world.

I actually remember getting an email from them when I was somewhere odd. I went on my phone and gave high-res access to an image that was NOT part of their original ask, and they wrote right back joking about how fast the image was delivered. Your images are only valuable if you can find and deliver them. This service makes it easy.

Another case study you ask? Sure. Okay, I used to photograph yachts. Not many people know this but I did. I’m not proud of it, but it paid. The client lived in New Zealand, the production was in China and the sales unit, including marketing, was in California. Talk about a mess of time zones. I would shoot, edit, upload and then give different permissions to different people. Everything was done behind the scenes with Photoshelter. Securely. (On a side note this job went away when the owner asked marketing “Why on Earth are we paying for photography, we should be able to get photography for free from here on out.”) (They never did find free but they did find cheaper.)(I love boats, I love the water but the yachting community….not so much.)

This past week I’ve uploaded several hundred more images. Namely all my New Mexico work, which was four years in the making. Roughly 800 images so far, which is peanuts really. The work I have, at this stage, means almost nothing because the project is so far from completion. But, it’s slowly building and now I have instant access to all of it. I’ve been asked to sell this work, exhibit this work, etc. but I’m not doing any of that. I’ve got other plans, which I’ll share at a later date.

Yesterday I took a quick look at my storage space and realized I was at about 60% of my capacity. Just for grins I looked at the upgrade package and noticed it was only $45 per month for unlimited storage, which seems crazy to me, but something I will surely be taking advantage of the in near future.

The last thing I’ll mention is the benefit this service provides when I’m traveling overseas. It’s pretty nice to be able to download a day’s take, edit, export and then upload directly to my archive. Less need for carrying drives, extra cards, etc. which can be lost, stolen or confiscated at any time. And, Lightroom and Photoshelter are connected so I have direct upload from the Adobe platform.

Anyway, just thought I would mention it. Good luck out there.

Comments 4

  1. Interesting post. I’ve not yet used a cloud/offline storage space service but I have read stories where people complain about the time it takes to either a) upload data or b) download data to restore a local system when a HDD failed.

    So I’m curious, does it take long to upload files to Photoshelter?

    1. Post

      It all depends on your connection. My house in CA has the WORST internet ever but I can still upload rather quickly. The Blurb office is insanely fast. With what is called “Deep Storage,” or “Cold Storage,” which are platforms like Amazon Glacier there can be a wait or a fee or both to retrieve work. And you pay for the storage as well, but it is something like $.04 per megabyte. But, these services aren’t really intended for daily driving. They are meant for long-term storage and are super smart in my mind, far more than continuing to buy drive after drive. I just spent another $3500 on drives that will eventually wear out and fail. Then I have to buy more and transfer all my data which can take WEEKS. So online is the way to go. Photoshelter is fast, instant access and very inexpensive.

  2. I just use Backblaze. $6 a month to back up everything, including external hard drives.

    1. Post

      Hey Sean,
      Backblaze is great, as is their B2 program. A good compliment to something like AWS or Glacier. Photoshelter is much more feature-laden, especially when doing jobs, but most people won’t need that.

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