I’m happy to announce the launch of my new website design company for photographers:


It was 6 months ago, when I had assumed that not working in New York meant not working in the photography industry, that I decided to pursue internet related projects, so that I could stay engaged. A Photo Folio joins the blog as the income producing part of what will eventually be many different products and services for photographers and photo editors, some free some not and I promise, not all beginning with an “A.”

I feel blessed and lucky to have met two talented, hard working guys who build websites on the wedding photography side of the business. Erik Dungan and Mike Caston started BigFolio.com in 2004 and have grown it into one of the top destinations for wedding photographers seeking web portfolios. From me, they have endured endless stream-of-consciousness emails, philosophy statements, wouldn’t-it-be-nice missives and all manner of inside magazines jargon and handled it all with aplomb.

We built two designs, a kick ass control panel (so you can go change everything around) and a home site to house and sell it all. The price is fair, the designs are contemporary, clean and built with a clients eye (just show me the pictures and no music please). They display photography beautifully and are easy to navigate. Additionally, I’ve added consulting on the portfolio edit and logo design (with a typography expert) as an important component to building effective websites. If these designs don’t appeal to you now every few months we build a new one, so you can let me know if there’s something you’re really looking for.

Ok, that’s the only sales pitch you’re going to get out of me. I hope some of you who are in the market for a portfolio will consider ours.

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  1. I wish the best of luck to you guys, Rob. A service like this is very much needed. I don’t know all the details of your service, but FolioLink and LiveBooks are simply not enough now. I know that everyone says, “Hey man, it’s only about the pictures”, but if that was true, why doesn’t everyone drive a Camry or any other trustworthy (yet forgettable) automobile.

    Good luck.

  2. Designs are sound, navigation is fluid.

    Best of luck with this Rob, I think it’ll be a hit.

  3. Well researched features. Pricing hits the sweet spot. Images look great. It seems idiot proof. I think you’ve raised the bar.

  4. Like the designs and the sites run like a dream.
    However, I don’t think I can only see the top and bottom of the pages on my 1024×768 monitor after I hit the F11 key to remove some of the browser (and even then a little bit is missing on the sides).
    I look forward to seeing how the templates develop over time.

  5. congrats! awesome debut.

    unsolicited navigation feature suggestions from a non-technical person:

    a lot of sites are adding keyboard navigation for flipping through portfolios, and it’s really helpful. (ie you have the option of using your mouse to click or just hitting the arrow keys.) super easy, fast, no need to worry about cursor position. it’s a forward thinking feature that clients seem to dig and will probably come to expect. i already find myself trying it on most photographer/agent sites and am a little disappointed when it’s not an option.

    having the portfolio names/options pop up/appear when mousing over rather than having to click portfolio to see the different book options. too much clicking to get to the images.

  6. Thanks for the feedback everyone.

    Yeah I dig the “mouse click on the photo navigation” so it’s included on both designs along with the bottom navigation for old schoolers.

    And, I love the mouse over to peek inside feature so I need to add that in at some point.

  7. Very clean, great navigation, and priced right. I would have given this option serious consideration about 6 months ago when I was shopping around. Congratulations and thanks for providing another quality alternative.

  8. First off, this looks well executed! I’m sure there is a massive need for it, judging by how many LiveBooks sites I run into every day.

    The main thing I have issues with is Set up Fee + Maintenance. One or the other in my view. I’m much more interested in this then Livebooks price wise, but I hope you will be adding more then TWO designs soon.

    I am not your target market really, since I can build websites my self, but price wise I could tell ya how to snag me too: Offer $250 set up fee, $20 month fee, or $1200 straight up, no fees, but I host on my OWN.

    I will also make a bold prediction: Template + Back-end sites will drop in market share with-in five years once saturation becomes crazy.

    If there are any web ninjas reading this here is the ultimate for slightly more tech savvy shooters:

    Build a back end, possibly hosted on your own server, super well documented so that HTML/CSS coders can build templates that interface with it and allows it to do site management. Charge $5 bucks a month for access, not set-up fees.

    Oh and Rob, the Portfolio edit service is the one part that is almost under-priced, is that a carrot for web customers, or can I pay you to edit my stuff too?

  9. I see you are well represented in B__d, Oregon by Erik, Kent and Mike. Let’s not mention the B word, lest the others find out…


  10. Well this may just signal the end of my “I’ll just learn to do it myself” phase…

  11. Well well… good to see there’s another source besides Livebooks out there… And friendly prices, too.


  12. @ Rory:

    Yeah more designs coming and the possibilities are endless here… because well, I own the company. I like the idea of a frame like wordpress, that you can add themes and plug-ins too. I also, like the idea of a one-off portfolio for special projects that holds 40 images, is extremely powerful and inexpensive. So, you could house a special project there and email it around to clients and various blogs for publicity.

    The portfolio edits are designed to be part of a website purchase. As is phone support from yours truly.

  13. And what about . . . video?

  14. What a great value and presentation – Portfolio, Blog and iPhone site for a low price. I need to get more mileage out of my LB site before I switch over.

    The iphone site is great. Every time I call LB about one I get the same lame answer and that is the site will load but in an html template thats not very iphone friendly.

    Right now I think that the iPhone is so hot people use it just to mess with it and see what it can do. Even if a creative would not normally look at your site at work they might on the iphone because its all fresh and new.

    Great job.

  15. I wonder what it takes to actually pull off an iPhone Application? How complex would it be to get listed in the Apple mini-app list? Could one individual photographer do that?

  16. @16 Are you referring to an iPhone app for updating the site? I’ve been experimenting with the iPhone dev kit, but there’s not much you could do image-wise. It might be nice to view your stats or edit pages I suppose.

  17. Very nice, simple, clean. I like the fact that you have an i-Phone friendly optimized version included!

    Bruce Hershey

  18. Hi Rob,
    Congratulations on your launch and your new venture.
    Leading a web service venture is quite a journey!
    Welcome to the community. I wish you the best.
    – Michael, Founder, liveBooks

  19. Rob, this is looking like a solid alternative to the other template sites. I love that the images are large and yet load quickly. It’s also great to have both the “+” and “-” and stationary “Next” and “Prev” options for clicking to the next or previous image. I’m tired of figuring out how to find the “Next” button on most photographers’ websites, so your alternative is a very welcome solution. The Full Screen option is also impressive.

    I look through photographers websites every day, and I also find it frustrating to figure out the unique logic of each “artsy” website. Sometimes art buyers don’t have the time/patience/interest to appreciate how cool a website is designed. Photographers should still have a competently-designed site (which your templates more than accomplish), but at the end of the day, would you rather win a website design contest or a job bid? -Neil

  20. Looks good but..

    Why so much hosting per month? Why must you host at all? What is the benefit to me? I don’t pay rock bottom prices for hosting now, but your asking price is more than double. Perhaps there is a benefit that I don’t see or know about? Let me host my own and I’ll sign right up.

  21. I love the design… finally a real web thingy that does FULL SCREEN AUTO-RESIZING photos. Holy crap, not even Livebooks has ever done this. Where have you been all my life?

    Only one thing… I have my own hosting account. I use the hell out of it. All the little features get play — subdomains, other domains (e.g. advertising-photographer.net redirecting to ericschmiedl.com to make Google happier, etc), and above all a nice fat directory full of zip-files, each containing jobs that I shot and delivered via a link in an email to the client. They love not waiting for a CD in the mail or screwing around with FTP /weird Java download interfaces, let me tell you. I also use the built-in stats tracker to cover pages that Google Analytics won’t or doesn’t get right, the built-in WordPress installer to make sure that all works, and all sorts of other little fiddly bits.

    It looks like you’re requiring people to use your hosting. Great, way to make sure the photographer’s experience is 100% technical-problem-free. Finding a good web host ain’t easy, and I would happily pay an extra $7 a month to switch over to this thing. But I gotta ask… are you going to give me the kind of control over my hosting that I’m used to with my current provider, or is this going to be a hyper-locked-down deal where the Flash interface is ‘it’?

  22. Ya know… looking at Cash’s site, I do have a gripe. The photo quality is severely lacking in some of the shots. The images are starting to fall apart, and consequently there’s a lack of clarity. Do the jpgs have to be optimized to the point where you have to compromise quality in order for them to load fast enough? I see that as a major problem. I guess I’d rather look at smaller images that are reproduced properly vs. having bigger images. That’s just one bird’s opinion…


  23. @ APE

    The WordPress-like frame work sounds like THE killer app to me. I think you could cont me in then too, even at the same price point.

    The portfolio edit carrot it awesome, and it’s the sort of thing that Livebooks can’t really compete on. The iPhone/HTML mirror thing really cements this whole package too. If I did not have my own pet programmer, then I would sign up pretty dam fast.

    Just an idea, but what about a slightly reduced price for those of us who want HTML only?

    All in all I think this whole set-up is fantastic, especially if you have a bunch of designs on the horizon.

  24. @ 23: quote:

    “The images are starting to fall apart, and consequently there’s a lack of clarity. Do the jpgs have to be optimized to the point where you have to compromise quality in order for them to load fast enough?”

    Yes, it is a factor. At some point, something’s got to give.

    I just signed up FolioLink, and while some of their features are funky and antiquated (like no batch-uploader), they do have a 225k limit on any uploaded photograph, to make sure the sites load quickly. Some would say that even 225k is huge, but some of their newer Flash templates allow really large images.

    I also wonder about the hosting issue. I would assume that if an outside company hosts it, and you already have a domain that is your name, ie http://www.robhaggart.com, you would no longer have access to it, forcing you to set up another domain for your daily work with clients. That can’t be a good thing. Complicated.

    Still, my money is on Rob, that he and his crew will figure it out. The key is that you’ve got a real-world photography client running the show, rather than an XML programmer, or a conventional businessman. You’ve got a guy who’s been in the trenches, and knows the needs of real-world clients.

    Best of luck.

  25. 1k setup fee? Damn.

  26. I thought the portfolio sites were also iphone compatible? When I load them on the iphone I get the usual ‘download flash’ error.

  27. @ 25…

    yeah Reader, I hear ya. There has to be give and take on the whole size vs. quality. I just despise poorly optimized images that pixelate. Isn’t the point to make your images look as good as they possibly can? Deteriorating images are like cutting an overmatte out of old cardboard for the big show. Clean. Clear. Crisp. Those are my priorities. Solid reproduction. Having an image that will fill up my 30″ screen is not.

  28. Brilliant!
    I purchased a bigFolio site several months back and was never totally satisfied with the navigation and look. You’ve provided the answer to my web-prayers.
    I’ve heard so many livebooks, bludomain, etc. customer service horror stories that I must commend you on your choice of business partners-the folks at bigFolio are tremendous. I’ve needed Erik and Mike’s help on numerous occasions and they’ve been not only quick to assist-but super-sharp on their tech direction.
    I’m really looking forward to seeing your new designs because so far-A Photo Folio is a cold rope out of the park.



  29. @ Giulio (27)

    Sorry, the demos were setup before we launched and didn’t include the iPhone/phone detection.

    I’ve added it to the robhaggart.com demo. It will auto-detect the iPhone or you can visit robhaggart.com/iphone/

  30. I’ll add my vote to those who love (or at least like a lot) the designs but would like to run the whole shebang on my own host…

  31. Congratulation, Rob. I had been debating between Livebooks and Cliickbooq. But now… things have changed.



  32. Looks like there’s a need for a self hosted solution so we’re looking into that. We have a centrally located admin that allows us to update everyone at once when we make improvements, so we need to turn that into a single user admin.

    I’m working on the Bill Cash site to see if there’s a sweet spot between image size and load time but the other design has a fixed image size to avoid the problem of trying to make your images look good at 14 and 30.

    We don’t have video yet. I expect it to be implemented within a couple months and activated on all the accounts and designs. It’s another reason why a central admin is cool. We can can give everyone video capability at once.

    Visit http://www.robhaggart.com on your phone to see how the iPhone/html is working.

  33. Ohhhaha this is great. Will you be doing all tech support right here on APE? You’ve got your work cut out for you mister.

    Good luck with everything here. You’ll need it – I can already feel the madness.

    Is a thumbnail-based gallery on the horizon? Perhaps you can create an APE thread to shout on when new designs are released?


  34. The design is nice and clean. The Cash link under demo/manhattan has the Rob Haggart logo (just sayin’ bro!) and the full screen on brooklyn is too bright imo. Perhaps a black background instead of light gray.

  35. Hey Rob-
    Really cool venture.
    Love the full screen option, most AD’s here have 23″ cinema displays, so pixelation doesn’t seem to be a problem at that size.
    Try blowing up a Getty comp to that size… The big thumbs are nice too. Overall load times seem fast, much faster than LB.
    I agree with some of the above comments-mouse over folder opening and arrow key page turning would be a bonus but it sounds like your on it.
    I see so many bad photog sites, I hope I see more of yours in the future.

  36. Rob, Would you please give an honest and straight answer on upload sizes? Everyone(LB, etc) use different limits and I’m curious to how yours are defined. Curious to see your other styles. Brooklyn looks way to much like LB to me. (but it is better) Manhatten is good but curious what Queens, Statin Island and the Bronx will look like

  37. I really like the project.
    I was already thinking about it for my wedding busines (BigFolio.com)…
    It’s nice to know that it would be really easy for us to upload our pictures.

  38. @ 37. Curious: Upload size as in, how many k the files size is? There isn’t any that I’m aware of. The size of the images that will fit in the designs is D1: 878×585 and D2: up to 1860×1140. I just loaded new 1800 wide images on the Bill Cash site and think it looks pretty good.

    If there’s something specific you’re looking for in a design just let me know.

  39. iPhone loading some crazy overlapping txt here and how do I toto next image in portfolio, it appears I am stuck on lance and laird

  40. I wish I could zoom in on the images on the iPhone.

  41. @37&39:

    While most people seem to have 23″ displays, would it be a jpg @ 2560 x 1600 to take advantage of full screen on a 30″ Display? I am guessing not many people use anything larger.

  42. Hello Rob

    I enjoyed your photo essay section (in your own portfolio) very much.

    The design is clean, simple and to the point.

    Wish you guys the best of luck.



  43. Awesome, Awesome, Awesome! Very clean, very tight, very hip. I want one!

  44. Hi Rob

    I was just directed to check out your new venture as I am
    in the market for a site makeover.
    Really love a lot of what you are offering and,in
    particular,the large images as available in the Design2/Manhattan template

    One major issue I can foresee is that when I view,for example,
    on a 30″ display I’m able to grab a screen image that is of
    sufficient quality to do a very decent 6 x 10 inch print.
    As well,being a screen grab, all image metadata is stripped
    out,including copyright info, and thereby creating a potential
    orphan work.

    Obviously,this process can be repeated for every website
    portfolio but given the huge size availability you make
    possible the potential for unauthorized use moves into
    some modest print applications.

    Is there anything that can be done,short of watermarking,
    that might help address this potential?


  45. No, the screengrab function on all computers makes it impossible to prevent that from happening. The upside is that creatives will use your images for composites and the clients will select you to shoot the campaign because the composites look so good because they could clip a huge image off your site… maybe.

  46. @45 – You are correct. This is an Orphan Works nightmare in the making.
    @46 – Upside? This is illegal and rarely do they use the photographer whose work they have stolen for the composite.

  47. “Unauthorized use”? What? Naaaah… Never. This is America, dude.

  48. Debra, you don’t even know what you’re talking about. If you’ve ever really worked in the ad or editorial industry, it’s all about the comps before licensing images. Rarely would someone license an image would first being able to see what it looks like in the context of the finished product. There is nothing being stolen for that purpose. But if you consider it stealing just show us your URL then I’ll just tell my art directors to stay away from your site when mocking up comps.

  49. Well yes, Richard, I do. Just because a practice is commonplace, that does not make it legal. The imagery belongs to the photographer and before any image can be used legally, one needs the permission of the author. It is not yours or anyone else’s for the taking. Photographers in the past were actually paid comp fees, but this too fell victim to their long laundry list of eroded rights. More often than not, especially in the assignment arena, the photographer whose work has been used in the comp is not the one that is hired. This has always been a problem and still continues to be so.

    To further understand my point, an awareness campaign was launched in the 90’s called ASK FIRST, which can be found here: http://www.gag.org/about/ask_first.php

    That most photographers don’t object is fear based, and no wonder in light of your statement “But if you consider it stealing just show us your URL then I’ll just tell my art directors to stay away from your site when mocking up comps”. What that statement boils down to is “you’ll never work in this town again”, and offers the photographer grounds for a lawsuit as it constitutes blacklisting.

    Photographers are every bit as important to agencies and publications as the agencies and publications are to the photographers. Please treat them and their imagery with the same respect you would want for your work.

  50. @49 – I believe there may be a miscommunication or misinterpretation here (please correct me if I’m wrong).

    Richard – It appears that what you are referring to is the final layout and page design featuring the final selects of a photographer who was initially commissioned for that particular assignment/campaign.

    I believe what Debra is referring to is the use of “comps” taken from one photographer’s work – appropriated via online screen grabs, books requested for review, previously published work etc. – used as a “template” then recreated either blatantly (or a variation of the original), by commissioning another photographer; often for substantially reduced fees – two totally different scenarios.

  51. This looks to be the solution to my image size cap problem that other templates have. Without rushing into and setting it up tonight, maybe someone can address a few questions. Why is the hosting $17 a month when godaddy’s is around that price for a year? I assume it is because it is better, but I don’t know. For example, I get a lot of people telling me their emails to me bounce back to them. Is this a hosting issue I wont have to deal with through APF? Would I be able to switch designs as new ones are created or as new features are offered or old kinks worked out? Or do i have to buy a whole new setup?

  52. @ Ryan: The hosting price includes updates to the admin control panel and your design as we make them. Additionally you can switch designs once for free and $100 thereafter. That, a bit of markup on a top shelf server and our great customer support (try calling customer support on a cheap server and you find out quickly why it’s cheap) is the reason why the hosting cost is not the same as just buying hosting yourself.

    Not sure why your emails would bounce but that wouldn’t be an issue with us.

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  54. Awesome!!!!!!!!Congrats for your launch .It look like a journey.I really happy to know the ease of uploading.Thank you so much for sharing all the stuff.

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