Presentation is king in photography, after all, what is the point of taking stunning images and then keeping them to yourself. A website should be considered part of the photographer’s “kit”, something that anyone with a passion for photography should have. We, as photographers are by our very nature, creative people and many of us have the skills to create our own good looking websites, but, these days, many people expect more from a site than just a portfolio and contact details. There needs to be social media integration, slideshow, guest books and comment forms and even shop fronts to sell your work.
Whilst it is possible to do this yourself, the better option is to use a dedicated photographer’s gallery site. There are many to choose from, but today we are going to look in detail at just one, Zenfolio.
(Before we start, the disclaimer, I have no financial interest in Zenfolio, I have however been a very satisfied customer for over four years and have no hesitation in recommending them.)
Like many portfolio sites, Zenfolio offers a free trial. This will give you two weeks to try their premium product and unlike some sites they do not require you to give credit card details. This will allow your to try the site without worry that your card will be charged if you forget to cancel.
If you do decide to sign up, there are four levels of account, each introducing new features, the lowest level is the Basic Plus for a reasonable $30 a year. This is ideal for enthusiast or perhaps people just setting out on their photographic career.
The Starter Package
One of the most appealing aspects of any Zenfolio account is that not only do they have a large range of well designed website themes, you can also modify those themes and indeed add your own. On the basic plan you will get 4GB of storage increasing by 2GB every year, a maximum file size of 36mb and a portfolio style front page. Even the basic account allows you to have a shop front where you can order copies of your images, Zenfolio has partnered with pro labs on every continent, to allow people from different countries to order products.
Zenfolio feature comparison chart by Jason Row Photography, on Flickr
A selection of Zenfolio Themes by Jason Row Photography, on Flickr
The Next Level
Step up to the unlimited account for $60 a year and as its name suggests, you get unlimited storage, which opens the possibility of using Zenfolio as a secondary back up, high definition video hosting and the possibility to use your own domain name. This is very easy to set up even if you are not internet savvy.
The plan I use is the Premium account for $120 per year. This is ideal for professionals and semi professionals. The biggest advantages here are the ability to use your own domain and branding, integrating your logo into the themes, the removal of the Zenfolio branding allowing your site to appear as your own and the possibility to easily add your own designed watermarks to the images. There is a professional shop front, allowing your customers to easily order a wide range of prints from you as well as other photographic related items. You can also self fulfill these, electing to use your own suppliers rather than the Zenfolio chosen labs.
Zenfolio offers options to have your own online shop by Jason Row Photography, on Flickr
The premium business account adds further professional levels to the premium account and is ideal for photographic businesses employing multiple people such as wedding and event photographic businesses.
So What Is Zenfolio Like to Work With as a Company?
There are two areas that have impressed me with Zenfolio, their customer support, which has been very good and the fact that I have never seen my website go down. This is important to professional photographers, as it is to any business, as customers could be lost if a website is down.
Some other useful features of Zenfolio are that the site is well optimized for mobile use and indeed there are powerful apps for IOS, Android and Blackberry for uploading, and more importantly presenting your images on a phone or tablet.
All Zenfolio accounts have very good social media integration, with the ability to share pages, galleries, slideshows and individual images across a range of social media sites. As well as this, there is extensive metadata tools allowing you to caption and keyword your images, this is highly integrated with Zenfolio’s search engine optimization model, ensuring that you get maximum hits on your site.
My Zenfolio home page with my own branding by Jason Row Photography, on Flickr
As we mentioned at the top, there are a number of good portfolio sites out there, many offering similar features to Zenfolio. When first looking for a company to host my images I looked at many of the options, some of those have since disappeared, but Zenfolio, seems to understand the need to innovate in this fast moving world and indeed, add new features on a regular basis. When looking for a portfolio site, it is well worth signing up for the trial on all the sites that you are interested in, and testing the features of each. This is what I did before settling on Zenfolio, and I have not looked back since.
You can see the current incarnation of my Zenfolio site here www.theodessafiles.co.uk
I’ve now been at Zenfolio for 1 year, and I must say that I don’t think I’ll be staying on for one more. Their lack of an easy store option for both print and digital is what have been what made me swap. For people who work with fine art photography and stock photography I find that Zenfolio lacks the tools to conduct business through the site. Yes, they offer unlimited storage, and have great and easy site builder features, but as a storefront for what I do, they fall short. And with a 250 $ pricetag for top level, it’s quite price compared to what Photoshelter has on offer.
So for those of you who consider Zenfolio, please keep in mind that it’s a service mostly based around showcasing your images, and not for serious business.
But what I can say is that I will miss Zenfolio’s ingregrated blog for my website.
I’m not sure I understand what you mean there, Thorstein – can you be more specific? I feel that Zenfolio provides excellent business services, with a great selection of product partners, a super-simple e-commerce front-end and excellent options for full control over order fulfillment and thorough back-end reporting. I couldn’t be happier.
The integrated blog is horrible!
My main issue with zen folio is the tremendous waste of space in the photo galleries. Both in the thumbnail view and in the single picture view. The single picture view is simply horrible. I researched this and their display sizing is archaic, resizing your photos to fixed sizes instead of scaling to fit the page. If you know what they are doing you can resize your pictures to fill the screen at popular resolutions. If you don’t the size of your pictures will vary from picture to picture and you will have up to 50% of the screen wasted. Compared to flicker smugmug etc this is unacceptable.
The only issue I have with Zenfolio is the fact that it is only in English.
For MANY, and I know that there are a lot of you out there (me included), it would be an additional benefit to be able to have the option for your visitors (prospect customers) select the language they would like.
I myself am based in the Algarve, and have many visitors who are Portuguese. Sometimes I wonder if the process of buying images via my site is totally understood.
However, I’d like to say that for the year+ I’ve been with ZF I am very happy with all of the elements they have to offer – I use the premium Business pack.
I appreciated your thoughtful review, however after reading it, and clicking on the link to view the current incarnation of your Zenfolio website, I was forced to wait. And wait. And wait.
I waited for more than 30 seconds before your page opened, and 30 seconds later, your main slideshow was STILL loading. I have a fast cable connection, so the delay was not on my end.
I am far more patient than the average web surfer, so this is a real cause for concern. It should be noted that a second attempt, a few minutes later, was much faster… but that could be due to your images already being cached by my browser.
This is something I will need to factor into my final decision.
For what it is worth, I checked the current incarnation and waited a total of 3 seconds for the full page to load. Wireless home network with a decent signal. I don’t know if he or they have tweaked it since your review, but it was very quick.
While I have been with Zen for a couple years, I am just now digging deeper into their features. I am pleased with the presentation of the large thumbnails and the single image with the black (in my case) negative space which I feel frames the images nicely.
They have just added a bunch of full screen home page option, but none fling my wing, so I am sstaying fairly basic for now.
Really strugling with SEO on Zenfolio, I just cannot seem to get found on google
I’ve been looking into Zenfolio recently. I’ve used a webhost and WordPress with an integrated shopping cart in the past, but I kind of feel like I end up focusing too much time on site design as opposed to putting up actual content.
I recently signed up for the 14 day Zenfolio trial, and it looks pretty good. The only issue I have is the way they manage self fulfilled orders. With self fulfilled orders it looks like there isn’t any option to accept credit cards directly from the site meaning after someone places on order on the site they have to contact me to make payment arrangements outside of the Zenfolio ecosystem.
Thanks for the info. Much appreciated. I am heading out on vacation next week, but after I get back, I think I will sign up for a trial account. I have a number of photographs tucked safely away. (It’s hard to find customers that way.) The leaves are turning in Northern Ontario. Hopefully I get some good photos to add to my collection.
I was recently investigated Zenfolio for a client and overall was pretty impressed with the platform. While I am not a photographer, I did look at it from a developer’s POV and for the price it has a lot of good features. I develop custom websites mainly using WordPress for the framework and it would cost me much more to build all of the features Zenfolio offers into a WordPress site.
I opted for a Cyber Monday deal for the $300 package at 50% off. While it is pretty easy to setup the layout feels like pbase.com, if you guys remember that. Will give it to the end of my trial but my gut isnt telling me 100% at this point.
WARNING!!!!!!!!! ZENFOLIO IS AWFUL!!! I will be switching to SmugMug in the very near future– I am an action photographer and shot a national cheerleading event. I had roughly 75,000 small jpegs to upload from the event.
“Something went wrong with their system”, and instead of being able to have my photos up right at the event, it is now NINE DAYS after it happened. I’ve been given the run around telling me someone else would contact me, and still no resolution. They’ve made me look foolish to my clients and they haven’t shown me that they care enough to do anything about it.
Ditto on zenfolio is awful! I have had SOOOO many problems this fall. They do respond quickly in regards to problems, but this fall has been horrible. My clients are so frustrated and I look like the idiot! Done!
I like Zen. They don’t try to make money by adding to the labs shipping costs. So far everything works fine – if I outgrow them Ill look into Photoshelter but not Smug.
I have been a Zenfolio customer for over 2 years. It started off well, but has steadily gone down hill since.
As a professional photographer who depends on a website for a living. All I can say is, don’t even bother looking at Zenfolio.
One ot the biggest problems they have is that they roll out feature after feature without getting fixes done on what is there already.
As I type this posting my slide shows aren’t working and thumbnail images are not displaying in galleries.
I’ve had enough.
Recommendations for a reliable alternative, please?