An In-Depth Look at Photrade.com
By Virginia DeBolt on August 25, 2007
BlogHer Original Post
There was some discussion about Photrade.com among my posts around the time of BlogHer07. I took a cursory look at it then. I'm a Flickr user, and didn't think much about switching to a new site. But people keep contacting me wanting to use my photos from Fickr in their commercial efforts. With Flickr's creative commons licensing options, I can get attribution for the photo, but no money. With Photrade, you can sell your photos. That's starting to sound better and better, as more of my photos attract attention.
Photrade is still in the beta stage. I did find some buggy behavior. Presumably the site will continue to improve until it is taken out of beta.
Here's how my first look at Photrade played out.
I opened an account and started working with the options. Each user gets a homepage at Photrade, which can either have ads or not. You get a friendly URL based on your username, for example, www.photrade.com/yourname. Moral: choose a good username if you really want to make some money. If you opt for ads on your homepage, you make the money they generate, not Photrade.
After choosing a few options and settings, I went to my homepage and started uploading photos. I selected seven photos, one at a time. Each selection took several clicks. When I reached the 7th photo, a message appeared telling me that there was a multi-photo uploading tool. Instead of trying it immediately, I clicked the Upload button to upload the photos I'd already selected. The uploader hung and nothing happened. Eventually it timed out and I tried the Upload button again. The same thing happened. I couldn't tell if it was a server issue, or the fact that I use Mac and Safari.
I opened Firefox and signed in. I selected the same set of photos again and pressed Upload. Firefox spun for a long time, finally the word "Done" appeared in the browser status bar, but all the images still sat in the upload form, untouched. I looked at the My Photo page and it was still blank. No go.
OK. Plan B. I try the multi-photo uploader tool. An error message appeared there saying the certificate for the Java program was unsigned. I was asked to choose Trust or Don't Trust. I chose Don't Trust. A completely blank pop up window opened. The Don't Trust option seemed to stick, because I went through the process again and didn't get an opportunity to click Trust to see what might be on the blank popup. So I left Firefox and went back to Safari. In Safari, I could click Trust and get the Java applet uploader to open.
The multi-photo uploader worked, although there was no thumbnail of the photo. This meant I had to select a bunch of photos blindly. Knowing that's the way it works, it would be good to create a folder on your hard drive to upload from with only top quality work in it. Without a thumbnail in the uploader, it was also impossible to add a title and description for each photo, even though the tool provided fields for that. Part of the wording on the tool giving instructions for uploading are hidden behind something else. It said something about drag and drop, but I couldn't read it.
Slowly, very slowly, photos actually began appearing on the My Photo page. On the My Photo page at Photrade, you click a photo to see it in detail. When looking at the photos in detail, there are links to Buy, Share, Sell or Modify the photo. The first three links worked; the modify link did nothing. The detail page uses frames, not my favorite thing, to show you thumbnails on the left and the photo in detail on the right. If you click a small X to close the thumbnail frame, you see the photos in detail and navigate with a next and previous link. If you click a small X to close the detail frame, you go back to the My Photo page with all your thumbnails.
To set prices to sell photos, there is an advanced option in which Photrade suggested a whole range of price points for the photo depending on size, print type and rights. Price setting is done in a small pop up window using a Java applet. There's a minimum price, a slightly marked up suggested price, and a custom price. I accepted their suggested price for all the photo types.
The share link provides HTML for various ways to put the photo on a web page or to email it.
The buy link opens a pop up window that takes you through several steps in the buying process. A buyer can pay with any credit card. The only way to get money in your hands from photos that sell is in a PayPal account.
I hoped to find a way to edit the title and description of the photo once it was on the site, since I couldn't do it in the uploader. I could not find a way to do this. Maybe the nonworking Modify link is supposed to provide this function. The add tag button worked, so I added tags to the photos.
People who view your photos can tag them, or leave comments about them. You can set an option in your preferences to get an email whenever either of these things happen. This is a nice option and lets you respond in a timely way to comments on your photos.
When looking at the photos on the My Photo page, there is a link that says "customize gallery appearance." You can choose either of two (that's right, only two so far) appearances provided by Photrade, or write your own custom CSS. Maybe there are a ton of photographers out there who can write CSS, but I don't think this is a realistic customization offer to make to most people.
Also on the My Photos page, there is an add gallery option. You put photos in sets, called galleries, by dragging and dropping them from your main set of photos. This is a nice idea, but awkwardly implemented using frames that snap back to the top thumbnail each time you drag a thumbnail into the new gallery.
Photrade uses the term Dashboard for the page where you see all your tasks and preferences in one spot. Set up your profile, upload photos, make a badge (to put on your blog), check your earnings, and other such tasks from the Dashboard.
The accessibility advocate in me rears up and shouts, "What the . . . ?" at the use of so many pop up windows, frames, and Java applets. The default font size on everything from the uploader to the pages is minuscule. I'd be very happy to see those things change. They make the site unwieldy and will completely prevent some users from being able to use the site at all.
Photrade does have potential as a way to make money for good photographers. Right now the site is buggy and takes patience to use, but it should get better. If Photrade can find a niche and a modicum of success, it will be an option worth considering for photographers.
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