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Josh
Feb 21, 2006, 07:46 PM
While I was checking out the amazing photos at WildThingsPhotography.com (http://www.wildthingsphotography.com), I noticed the site is managed by flash software called liveBooks (http://www.livebooks.com/).

The software is pretty nice for managing a photography website, and they have three packages: Lite, Folio, and Pro (Folio= $950 and Pro= $3900).

Now, I don't know if this stands out to anyone else - but am I alone in being shocked at those prices?

One could get Photoshop and Aperture for that much. This software does not edit your photos in any way, it just allows you to manage a website to display them.

Don't get me wrong - the software is really nice and definitely worth money for the developer's time - but $3900? That's absurd.

Web design is expensive, and a nice, professional, dynamic site can easily exceed that amount. But this is canned software - not custom for each client. Sure, you can customise some colors yourself, but other than that, it's pretty much "stamped and sent out of the factory," and not very unique.

Even at $950 a pop for the Folio version is overpriced to astronomical proportions.

Am I crazy, or do others think the same as well?



Counterfit
Feb 22, 2006, 12:40 AM
or do others think the same as well?
Think that you're crazy? I do :D
But yes, that's really expensive. The only software I know of that costs that much is Shake (though I'm sure there's more out there).

MojoHamuki
Mar 7, 2006, 11:23 PM
Hey,

I am actually a user of livebooks myself. Yes the program is expensive and itís an investment but I have not been sorry. The ease of the program to update, make changes and target clients who I am unable to send or donít want to send my portfolio with over $3,000 in prints to.

I happen to be very good with computers and have designed sites of my own, I have also used templates and other programs but nothing has compared to livebooks ease and all in one package to create PDF files, multiple galleries and libraries to catalog my photos.

I can also give access to an assistant or my rep who can log on and without any training make any changes or do a custom book for a client.

I also have gotten great feedback on from art buyers and photo editors on how they like the standardization of site and how when they click from one photographer to another using livebooks its speeds up the process for them cause they know how the site functions already. Itís a simple "looking" design that allows your work to be the primary focus.

I have added a client access area in which I can give clients a password or a direct link to projects that I am working on with them or custom books that I want just them to view. This has been great for posting location scouts, model Polaroidís, shoot Polaroidís and selects. My clients can also download highres finals from this option. Also since its on my site it keeps them looking at my portfolio

I am able to update my books or make changes in seconds and my clients enjoy coming to the site and always seeing new work added.

As I said - I am good at web design and designed my old site - but it didn't have the power locked in "behind the scenes" in the ease of changing, uploading, and showing others how to use it that livebooks or anything else like does have. I no longer have a "DAY" to update my site. Plus if I had someone else design one I would need to pay him or her every time I wanted to make a change or update it.

Oh and in answer to the "same" looking deal. I have seen many different designs for the livebooks sites and livebooks was able to match my old site design within the livebooks software.

Well worth it.

markbeck
Jun 8, 2006, 10:17 PM
I'd have to agree with Mojo...

I'm also a Livebooks user, and I came to the decision to use their service after a lot of research. I've been designing websites for over ten years, but decided that as a photographer, I wanted to invest my time behind the camera instead of building a website from scratch, or hiring someone to build it over months.

When I made this decision, I wasn't sure how alone I was in this choice, but recently, at an ASMP-LA panel discussion, a fellow photographer said that while he had built his website and database from scratch, if he had to do it all over again, he wouldn't. Given what his primary focus was, it was low leverage of his time. I'm glad I didn't wait another ten years to come to that same learned outcome.

For me, there is tremendous value in using Livebooks. I know that if I need support, I'll have it (and not have to hunt down a web designer). Once you pay for your site, you own it. There are constant improvements to the service. It has great uptime. And the interface is clean, and easy to use.

It's one of the best choices I made when deciding how to build my website. I hope this helps.

Mark Beck
www.markbeck.net (http://www.markbeck.net)

Doug Jennings
Oct 5, 2006, 10:35 AM
Take a look at Evrium's Fluid Galleries 2 (http://www.evrium.com/store/fg2p_details.php). It makes much more sense then Live-books. A fellow photographer has Live-books, and i have Fluid Galleries 2 Pro, so we've taken the time to note the differences.

- Fluid Galleries costs $429.99.
- Installed on MY current server for Free by Evrium Tech Support in 24hrs
- No Additional Monthly fees
- Create/Edit/Delete Galleries on the fly instantly; No additional cost for Galleries!
- Important: I can change the layout and visual look of my site (drag and drop) using the built in Fluid Galleries customization tools. I do this on my own, and instantly! All Fluid Galleries websites can be easily and quickly customized to look different from the rest!
- Upload/Edit/Delete photos in minutes... the same.

I am very happy with my Fluid Galleries Website as a marketing tool and website presentation tool for my business.

ChrisA
Oct 5, 2006, 11:21 AM
[If you are a hobbiest $3K is a lot of money but this software is sold to people who expect to mank more money buy buying it then if they didn't. It's like the Mac Pro. It's basically a $5,000 computers after you add a display, software and disks, RAM and so on. But if you need it it can return tripple that $5K very quickly. So it becomes a no-brainer investmant.

If your use of the Mac Pro is iTunes and web surfing then $5K is totally unjustifiable and a waste of money. Same with this sftware. If you can make the case that spending $3K will generate more then $3K in sales then you should buy the software and think of the price as a bargin.

If you are not looking to make money there are any number of free software pacakes that wil do about the same thng. A saerch on freshmeat.net for "photo galery" will return such a long list that it will take weeks to down load and try out all the packages. For slightly more money you can use iWeb and .net. Flickr is free as are others like it.

You willfind that the expensive produts are targets at people who have ccountants and who look at "return on investment" and the cheap stuff is targets to consumers who buy based on price mostly.

I worked at a place where we charged about $50K per seat of our product. But we had 6 full time engineers to suport it plus the overhead costs. Basically a $1,000,000 per year operation. The company did not make money on sales. We made money on the hundred and some odd people that worked at the costomer's sites using the software. For what they paid they got excelent support. They could call up and say "Hi it's me" and I'd know them by voice. We could fly to their location and stay a week or two and talk about what new features were needed or what ever. You get what you pay for. These people were hapy and in the big picture $1M/year was not a big expense for them

cookie1105
Oct 5, 2006, 11:44 AM
I am a hobbyist at heart.

Why spend years learning about webdesign just to throw it all away and buy a flash package?

With the knowledge that you have developed over the years and the sites that you have built, you should have a fully functioning standards compliant, xhtml + css + javascript + php, cms site that has your own personal style.

These sites are html 4 transitional and as such will be obselete in a couple of years. The flash is not readable by a robot and as such will be ignored, accessibility issues etc..........

Why not invest the knowledge that you have, instead of spending it on an expensive, in my eyes inferior product?

Josh
Oct 5, 2006, 11:55 AM
I'd have to agree with Mojo...

I'm also a Livebooks user, and I came to the decision to use their service after a lot of research. I've been designing websites for over ten years, but decided that as a photographer, I wanted to invest my time behind the camera instead of building a website from scratch, or hiring someone to build it over months.

When I made this decision, I wasn't sure how alone I was in this choice, but recently, at an ASMP-LA panel discussion, a fellow photographer said that while he had built his website and database from scratch, if he had to do it all over again, he wouldn't. Given what his primary focus was, it was low leverage of his time. I'm glad I didn't wait another ten years to come to that same learned outcome.

For me, there is tremendous value in using Livebooks. I know that if I need support, I'll have it (and not have to hunt down a web designer). Once you pay for your site, you own it. There are constant improvements to the service. It has great uptime. And the interface is clean, and easy to use.

It's one of the best choices I made when deciding how to build my website. I hope this helps.

Mark Beck
www.markbeck.net (http://www.markbeck.net)

You have nice photos.

However, your site is instantly recognizable as a liveBooks site. That, to me, is not unique or something users remember and say "Wow! What a cool site!"

I have yet to see a liveBooks site that looks original.

And sorry, but paying $3k to be locked into some cookie-cutter design is beyond absurd :confused:

Using free software, photographers could easily create a system that works identical to liveBooks.

Not so good with design? You could hire a designer to design a unique site using free software at a mere fraction of the price.

Best yet, you'd not only own your site, photos, etc - you'd also have a design to call your own.

Not many liveBooks users can say that.

It is unjustifiable over-charging. Flash is a valuable language, but they are charging you as if it is a complex app such as Final Cut or something. It isn't. liveBooks could be recreated by a competent programmer in a weekend's time.

If the software you use to display your photos costs more than that which you use to edit your photos, there's a problem :)

wilburdl
Oct 5, 2006, 02:16 PM
I'd like to weigh in on this discussion. LiveBooks is very interesting in my eyes. Something I've contemplated purchasing on a number of occaisions. As an emerging professional photographer doing mostly freelance, this seems such a nice way to get you're work viewed by a lot of ADs (art directors).
I've been designing my own website for about five years and though I've come so far--I'm not a web designer therefore I'm not up on Flash, CSS and constructioning a simple photo-gallery. Right now I'm using simpleviewer which is free and allows me to use a nice bit of customization--but I got an email just the other day from an art director that he could view my gallery in Firefox. On windows--the gallery background color is white. Little things (and not so little) that are frustrating--especially when you're trying to keep you're site up-to-date.
One of the biggest issues I'd like solve would be to have nice sized-sharp-and-fast loading images. And more than that, I want to be able to change those images when I want to (fast and easy).
And those things keep LiveBooks on my radar. I also share some concern about the immediate likeness of their sites--but the simplicity is nice and points your focus to the images. Client access is beyond my web-capabilities and that is also a nice feature.
Other than that, the price can be amoritize over the year. It's not like paying for a laptop upfront.
If in the future--they do decide to offer more templates--I may just pull the trigger and be a customer.

Darnell Wilburn
Commercial | Editorial Photographer & Illustrator
http://darnellwilburn.com

augustc
Oct 23, 2006, 08:34 PM
I'm a professional photographer and Livebooks has made me far more money than it cost me. It's not a photo gallery for hobbyists, it's a tool for busy pros in a hyper-competitive business (meaning they have no time to spend on anything other than shooting and selling). No working photographer I know has time to learn flash or any other type of programming.

But we do need to customize our presentation and change it frequently. We also need to provide the same high quality presentation on a customer-by-customer basis. I have several non-public portfolios going that are unique for each customer I have deliveries for at the moment. It took me one minute to put them up.

Livebooks will pay for itself with a single commercial job, is that a bad value? I’m constantly sending my printed portfolios out, and each time it’s sent costs over $50 in FedEx fees. If it’s lost, which does happen, that's several thousands of dollars (the price of a livebooks site). Because of the large images on a Livebooks site, and the fast download times, I am now more often hired straight from a web portfolio review without having to send the print book in. Again, that has paid for my livebooks site several times over.

For me, below are the key points that make me happy with my livebooks purchase. Many of these may not apply to you, so judge my experience in the context of your needs:

1. I have yet to see a commercial photog website design that I like as much as livebooks, with as clean a presentation of the images and as easy, elegant a navigation system. Theoretically it's doable to beat this design, but I’ve yet to see it.

2. Very easy to use, yet powerful backend.

3. you can completely customize at a brand-identity level (you can totally customize the home page design or any other page, only the navigation is consistent). That there is consistency to livebooks navigation is a plus if you sell commercial photography (which is livebooks’ target market). People who buy commercial artwork are also swamped time-wise. They hate having to figure out a new navigation system. Get too creative with your design, and you will loose the eyeballs that matter most. Also, since livebooks is expensive and it tends to be purchased by pros with the business in place to justify it’s high-end pricing, when you see the livebooks loading bar it’s an indication that the site to follow will be from a working photographer with an active business.

4. Best customer and technical support I’ve ever had from a software provider or web service provider, by a long shot.

5. Feature rich. Too many to list, but haven’t seen as many elsewhere without going custom design/build which costs more than livebooks.

Anyway, that's all from the top of my head right now. All I can add is that it's been a great value for me. Evaluate these benefits relative to your needs.

kthurlbeck
Nov 17, 2006, 10:07 PM
I recently wrote a book,"Creating the Breakthrough Portfolio'" and during the research came across LiveBooks as a portfolio solution. After interviewing art buyers and decision makers who buy photography I came to the conclusion that Livebooks has one of the best if not the best solution on the market.

A few people have commented on the price. As a professional photographer who believes in staying current with technology in the past I would spend hours refining my site and hiring people to upgrade my site to keep it competitive. When I started looking at what I was spending and comparing it to what Livebook's pricing it made it an easy decision to use their system. I now am a Livebooks customer and very pleased to have a partner who does the legwork to insure I have the most up=to-date technology behind my portfolio.

I was also pleased when talking with the people who buy photographs that what they wanted in a site was what Livebooks delivered. Good clean big, fast loading images. No one wanted to wait while some animation was hoping all over the screen they want to see the work.

The secret to having one of these sites is to use what they offer and still keep your brand prominient.

HckySo
Jan 25, 2007, 05:37 PM
My boss uses LiveBooks and keeps showing it off to me. It's truly for studio photographers who need to quickly upload highlights with the ease of their software. He claims he is booking weddings five times more than last year because of this website and the simplicity of it all.

b0tt094
Jan 27, 2007, 11:16 AM
Ok im new to web deisgn, so live book does all the link programing and stuff like that. Kind of like Iweb But alot more advanced?

I just cant tell from what I read if its like an open source editor or an already built editor where u just have to plug the text and pics in

Karpfish
Feb 6, 2007, 07:54 PM
Its a pre-built editor that allows you to just upload photos and create galleries, it does all the coding and you can just make it personal to you.

crap freakboy
Feb 7, 2007, 11:23 AM
Funny how ALL the newbie posts in favour of Livebooks happen to have used their FIRST post ever to stand up and defend the price of Livebooks.:rolleyes:
How queer.:D

techster85
Feb 7, 2007, 01:40 PM
hrmm...yes, interesting. How do you say "insiders" in Livebook language, I guess it would be "oh yea, livebooks is great!" Personally, I just use photoreflect for my customers to access their online proofs and I built my own web site (lynda.com training and a few hours of flash training is A LOT cheaper than livebooks). But then again...I'm no newbie...

Buschmaster
Feb 11, 2007, 10:48 AM
Am I crazy, or do others think the same as well?
Can't it be both? ;)

I think thats pretty nuts, I mean, couldn't you have someone manage your site if you have that kind of money? It'd have to be just amazing software.

davidshopper
Mar 6, 2007, 08:44 AM
I just bought into the "Lite" version of Livebooks and I couldn't be happier. Along with the template cost is an in-house design, which allowed a lot of customization and was very quick - taking days, not months to complete. They were very responsive, great technical support, easy to reach. It's a complete package that allows me to post galleries (this is extra and, I think, overpriced), ftp, and add tags to make it google frienly.

The response to the site has been overwhelming. I've had a web guy design and maintain my site before, and it took 9 months and a lot of headache. This was easy and intuitive. You can see how it looks at http://www.davidshopper.com

Phatpat
Mar 6, 2007, 08:58 AM
Alright, I'm going to come right out and say it. I'm getting tired of this spam.

Mantat
Mar 6, 2007, 09:43 AM
Ok, first of all, I am a programmer first and photography is an hobby.

Who ever said that its better to built it from the ground up either has a lot of time to spare or is very poor. Building a web app take time, a lot of it. I build site using Ruby on Rails which is like 5x faster than Java and yet doing a good web gallery would take me a while, and I would have to outsource the CSS to a designer to make it look "special". Of course it would be better and have more feature, but for the end user, the only thing important is: how fast the pic load and how well they are presented.

The originality of a web design isnt relevant because you know that 99% of the time, its not a reflection of the skill of the photographer but from a designer. Also, stopped visiting pro photographer a while ago because their website were too anoying (music, flash, hard navigation..). I dont want to relearn everything I know about web navigation each time I come to a new site!

So for all these things, I think Livebook might be a good tool. What I would like to see is the URL of all the previous "first poster" who are so excited about that software. I find that suspicious!

Finaly, to all the people who are complaining about cost, you have to understand that (as someone stated) cost is irrelevant. What is important, is return on investment! If you dont understand that, you will never make serious money.

I am currently working on a web project involving around photography but once its completed, I might design an app similar to livebook if I dont have any other interesting thing to do. I would make it work as an Aperture export plugin, so if there are any cocoa programmers around, send me a PM :-).

stagi
Mar 6, 2007, 09:56 AM
If you are looking for another company that provides photographers websites (they are also template based but are a little more inexpensive compared to livebooks) check out bludomain.com
They can also do custom sites for you and aren't too expensive for a custom site (I think around 2-3k).
I have a site with them (a template) and it is very easy to use and I think has a nice clean look to it. You can check it out here:
http://www.fineartweddingphotography.com

--Mark

mikecarroll
Jun 19, 2007, 06:22 PM
Sounds like it's a 50 50 right now. We're contacting LB about the ability to make it different. The last Web site I had designed cost me 5K and it was a friend. The site won awards. My new site would be 10K. Is LB the way to go? I'll know more after talking to the LB Reps.

www.mikecarrollphotography.com

Karpfish
Jun 19, 2007, 06:46 PM
I am about to Launch my new site. I am a student so I am on the education deal which allows monthly payment and is cheaper. Its so easy to use and it does look great even if all LB sites look alike. All of these site builders that are supposedly similar to LB and much cheaper look like crap to me compred to LB.

juliapogodina
Jan 15, 2010, 03:24 PM
i have livebooks website for the past 4 years, and yes, the price they are charging is ridiculous but to be fair i should admit that it did pay itself back within months - mostly due an amazing deal they have with google which put me - a complete newbie back then - on top of the list for the searched words like "fashion photography new york". saying that, after years of using the website i am getting more and more disappointed with their service. 4 years ago the decisive factors for me were: how fast i can get a working website? and how easy it will be to operate? i paid my first installment and got my website up&running within next couple days. in a month my name was showing in top 10 google search results. and i could update my portfolio from any place with internet access. life was great and easy! but that's where it stops.
now getting a working website template with a built-in system for portfolios update is easy - there are plenty of places to go. and in comparison to those livebooks is definitely loosing the race. i will try to be to the point and list the reasons:
1. price. triple (for the starters) of whatever dripbook, big folio, evrium, etc. are charging for the same (if not better) service. and don't forget that for $900+ you are getting just the basics. i paid $1900 for my website, and i already spent over $1000 for upgrades like design, additional portfolios, etc.
2. lack of control. well, the most important one is that for this $$$ you DON'T own your website. and if your technical knowledge and necessity goes a bit beyond standard you'll face annoying things like poorly designed and limited to the point of uselessness FTP service, inability to customize the website as you like (you can do it partially - for example you can change the color of the webpage inside the frame livebooks define for you - but for changing the color outside of this frame you need to contact LB. and pay extra $$, of course) not to mention outdated mail program they use and limited storage on the server. (oh yes, you can upgrade - just add a bit more $$)
3. small picture sizes. now, one of the reasons for creatives to forget about distracting and flashy design elements and get a website template is to be able to present our work in a clean and simple way, as it is. and i could forgive and forget small imperfections and overpriced services if for my money i could get a decent showcase for my pictures. alas, i don't think a vertical image seized 357x500px with 72ppi resized and saved for web can get even close to show what my 21mp camera really captured. i wish LB knows that some colors just don't render nicely "for web" and sometimes you should save this tiny resized image at its best 12 point jpg quality.. well, if you try, LB will remind you that it's way too big when you will try to upload it to your editsuit. but i wonder why presentation of my work should suffer because someone is being too greedy and not expanding their servers capacity?
4. customer support. or better say - its absence. when livebooks just started it was all nice and personal - there were like 3 people taking care of everything, and they really cared about their customers. now - go try calling their support line (mind - it's CA time!); chances are after 10-20 minutes hold you'll get through.. to leave a message on the answering machine. too bad their live chat never works either. of course, you can also try filling in the online form - and you'll get a prompt automated email with a case number ensuring you that your issue will be resolved within 1 business day. alas, "1 business day" livebooks standard can be anything from 3 business days to a week. and even if you are lucky and somebody is taking care of you, there is a high chance they are not familiar with anything out of their simple livebooks features (true story: i sent a request to change my CNAME and MX records so that i can transfer my email accounts to google apps the customer support specialist, obviously not familiar with google apps, got so confused he ended up transferring everything to go-daddy (?!), leaving me without working emails for a week (!)
i am sorry for the lengthy and sarcastic comment (with lots of grammar mistakes, i am sure; english is not my first language), but i guess i just got a lot to say.
bottom line - i DO NOT recommend livebooks. find a better way to spend your money. unless of course you don't care.
julia pogodina

juliapogodina.com (http://juliapogodina.com)

benhasacamera
Jul 25, 2010, 10:46 AM
I really advise against going with livebooks... Their customer service is just horrible. I first joined them a few years ago, really digging their sites and cool design, and looking forward to launching my new site. I launched it, and the site itself has worked well - I like the design, it's easy to upload and change images, and it's high in the search rankings (which might have more to do with my accompanying blog, who knows). But their customer service has been very unpredictable. Sometimes they respond quickly, other times they don't respond for a week, sometimes they seem to understand my questions or requests, other times they seem confused by basic things. And when I complain, their attitude seems unconcerned... I've had several cases of trying to give money to their company, and not even getting a response, or of having some minor change take weeks to get done. And the tough thing is - you can't get your money back, as you can with so many products. Nor can you complain easily...they don't seem to have any clear 'boss' that you can write to, and if you try to post anything negative in their own forum, they simply take it down. Nice websites? Yes, but I would make my choice differently if I could do it again.

www.benjaminparks.com

NightGeometry
Jul 25, 2010, 03:30 PM
There were at least five single post accounts who were very positive about the company, i.e. the only post the account ever made was how great and wonderful and not really expensive the service was. They just joined to make one sales pitch (at least five, as the sixth was more subtle, so may have been a real person).

I wouldn't use them because i don't support spammers.

unostella
Aug 12, 2010, 02:54 PM
hey you can always try something else: http://www.unostella.com/photofolio

It's a full package: website, domain, hosting and email account. All you have to do is simply provide a content and your site will be set up within 24 hours.

Plus we are giving it for FREE to 1 person who's got best looking showcase. Either you're an artist, photographer or designer, we call all creative professionals, just PM unostella with a link to your portfolio and we will give it for free to one of you on 31.08.2010

jackcarson
Nov 29, 2010, 12:32 PM
Perhaps you can try http://www.thecreativefinder.com ?

wheezy
Dec 1, 2010, 09:10 AM
There are way too many fishy posts on here. First way too many positives, then someone calls those out as a little fake and wham, TWO negative posts in a row? And Julia... NOBODY has an "amazing deal with google" to put a newbie on top, ESPECIALLY on something has heavily desired as "fashion photography new york".

Web design should be expensive. It's suffering the same fate as Wedding Photography where the market is being beyond undercut but inexperienced newbies coming in for a way cheap easy dollar. Some designers/web shops are just holding their ground at a premium price and they should - they value their product and they can charge what they feel it's worth. There is still plenty of money going around in this crapoconomy and you'll just cater to them. It's nicer dealing with higher paying customers; they're generally a LOT less of a headache the nickel'n'dime customers who never leave you alone. The people with money will spend it and leave you alone cause they're out making money. The people without money will struggle to pay you and then harass you a lot more because they're not out making money and they need to put the blame on you.

NightGeometry
Dec 1, 2010, 02:58 PM
The thing that makes me sad is that the fake astro turf posts mean those who really do have positive experiences get tarred by the same brush.

Ahh well, this is an old thread, I may just remove my watch from it and ignore future spam.