By Neil Bennett | on October 02, 2008
Price When Reviewed: 223 . 335 . 560
Pros: A simple way to sell your artwork online; no commission; customizable to fit with your current site.
Cons: Most users will need to purchase higher-end versions for just a few of their features; site design requires coding.
Lightbox Photo is a server-based software tool that allows you to create your own image-sales site. It was originally designed to allow photographers to set up their own stock libraries rather than signing with Corbis or Getty – but it will interest Digital Arts readers who want a quick and easy way to sell their artwork as royalty-free or rights-managed digital files, or as physical art pieces, even in frames.
The software sits on your Web server, which for most readers will be at your hosting company, and is available in Linux, Mac and Windows versions. The company can host the software for you for a modest cost of between $40 and $80 (about £22.50-£45) a month. Which platform you have makes no difference, as all setup and administration is performed through your Web browser.
There are three versions: Standard, Professional and Enterprise. Standard, for freelance artists, allows you to create galleries, upload, host and sell your work, arrange images, and accept payment by PayPal and similar (with support for VAT).
The Professional version is aimed at small studios or collectives and adds improved searching tools (including support for IPTC metadata) and tools for multiple administrators with different privileges. However, it includes tools that most freelancers will require too. These include tools for offline payment – for invoicing, or so a buyer could pay by cheque – and shipping options for physical products.
The Enterprise version includes the ability to administrate multiple artists, use a credits system and offer subscriptions. However, there are features available here that all users selling physical work would prefer to have, such as the ability to offer sets of images or offer frames. You can do without these by creating multiple product entries (one with a frame, one without), but these features in the Enterprise version could save a lot of time.
Setting up a site is time-consuming and modifying how your site looks beyond simple changes requires writing code (though you could do this in Dreamweaver).
It’s no more difficult than designing a blog, though, and Lightbox Photo offers a template design service.
Lightbox Photo is a great idea that allows illustrators to avoid paying commission to a stock library – but the arrangement of features into the different versions is seriously flawed.