A dedicated online platform to share images is essential for professional photographers. When they want to sell their work and share photos with clients securely, ordinary cloud storage tools aren’t enough. Two of the most common hosting tools used for organizing, presenting, and selling digital images are Zenfolio and SmugMug.
Both platforms allow photographers to create an online gallery that boosts their visibility and gets their work sold. So how can photographers choose between the two? Here’s a detailed look at Zenfolio and SmugMug, with the pros and cons of each.
Shared benefits of Zenfolio and SmugMug
Both Zenfolio and SmugMug make it easy for photographers to upload photos from other devices and access them in the cloud. Additionally, both cater to professionals who want a dedicated place where they can sell their photos online to a larger audience. Intuitive portfolio and website builder tools allow users to build a site in minutes.
Zenfolio and SmugMug both have customizable design templates to help photographers design a site that compliments their work and reflects their visual brand. Both also emphasize mobile responsiveness, so photographers are confident that their photos look stunning no matter what devices viewers use (aside from high-res monitors, as explained below).
On the backend, Zenfolio and SmugMug have a number of storage and security features in common. Their preliminary paid plans provide unlimited photo storage and allow for easy watermarking, which protects the photographer’s work from copyright infringement.
Custom domains are another perk for photographers who want to create a seamless experience with their brand. The option to offer customized pricing and coupons helps photographers maintain more control over their sales and promotions, too.
Now that we’ve explored the similarities between these two portfolio and photo selling sites, let’s explore the differences. Here’s a breakdown of Zenfolio vs SmugMug and how the sites differ.
An overview of Zenfolio
Zenfolio is one of the most popular online image storage platforms, with more than 100,000 users. Whether you want to offer free shipping, accept prepayment, offer photo packages or create private galleries, Zenfolio has a variety of customizable options for both hobbyists and professionals.
One of the advantages of Zenfolio is that the platform guides users through the website setup process according to the type of photography they do, says marketing educator and consultant Nate Shivar. This helps photographers get started with themes that will support their long-term business goals.
Zenfolio offers easy exporting to Facebook and Flickr, which simplifies social sharing for photographers who use those networks.
Zenfolio also makes it easy to manage multiple users from an admin dashboard. Photography businesses with multiple employees will enjoy this feature, as it offers different levels of security customization.
Photographers can also share batches of password-protected photos with clients for review.
Zenfolio uses Mpix, a photo lab that provides high-quality photo printing for personal and professional purposes. It’s a favorite among many professional photographers, so it’s a major plus that they’re the printer of choice for Zenfolio. This means anytime you get something printed with them, it comes with the high standards of Mpix.
According to the team at Who Is Hosting This, Zenfolio’s platform is designed with marketing in mind. Zenfolio features include a built-in blog and email address collection, which helps photographers grow their network without requiring them to learn how to use additional features.
Uploading from Lightroom is possible, albeit with a third-party app. This can make it a more clunky and time-consuming process than SmugMug, which allows photos to be uploaded directly from Lightroom via their plug-in.
While Zenfolio hosts websites, they don’t provide domains. This means you have to take the additional steps of buying one and pointing it to your photography website.
An overview of SmugMug
More people are using SmugMug for professional photo sharing, especially since the company purchased Flickr in 2018. The platform offers sharp, high-quality photo sharing that tends to be better than competitors when downsizing during sharing and sending.
SmugMug also provides the option to customize portfolios in CSS and HTML, which may be helpful for developers and tech-savvy creatives. This ultimately gives photographers more control over the appearance and functionality of their site, as they aren’t limited to templates.
SmugMug has been working toward integration with Flickr since the acquisition. While the two sites will remain separate, photographers with images on Flickr can one day expect to see their images migrated into SmugMug. This may be beneficial for photographers who already have a large number of photos on Flickr.
SmugMug is known for maintaining high-quality images on high-res monitors. This is unlike Zenfolio, which — according to landscape and nature photographer Spencer Cox — loses quality on screens over 1,920 pixels wide.
Also, while Zenfolio uses Flash to power photo slideshows, SmugMug uses HTML5. This makes slideshows lighter, faster, and more mobile-friendly. It also means that photo uploading speeds are quicker, which is especially important when you’re uploading a large batch of photos at once (and photographers usually are).
Unlike Zenfolio, SmugMug’s default printing company is Bay Photo, which may not meet some photographers’ expectations. However, SmugMug does allow users to choose from WHCC, EZ Prints, and Loxley Color.
Although SmugMug allows photographers to send private image batches to clients, it doesn’t offer the ability to invoice clients, says portrait photographer and teacher Christine Goss. This makes it more difficult for professionals who want an all-in-one business solution.
Your choice of photography portfolio
Choosing between Zenfolio and SmugMug for your personal and professional photography portfolio depends on what you’re looking for. From highly customizable templates to password-protected image sharing solutions, each offers benefits for budding and professional photographers alike to sort, share, and sell their work online.