Zenfolio experience

Greetings folks.

Well, sadly I need to retire my website. Kinda by choice and mostly out of necessity. Was recently alerted to the fact that my site is infested with malware and so for now I’m having it “parked” until I can figure out what to do. Having it cleaned, repaired and further protected is going to cost too much. And then there’s also the issue that I haven’t updated in well over 3 years and so I’m not showing any of my images since converting to dslr. So, it’s time to find a new solution.

So, Zenfolio has a 50% sale going on and I’m seriously considering signing up. So a few questions.

  • Any members here have their site on Zenfolio? Please share your link and your experience with the service

  • I read a thread back in December on websites/blogs. Was curious if there are any other solutions worth looking at? Smugmug, Squarespace, etc. I’m likely to sign up with Zenfolio unless there’s a compelling solution out there I’m not aware of.

  • Selling prints would just be a bonus, but not a big driver for me.

  • Cost is a MAJOR driver here. Can’t afford Wide Range Galleries, or a custom solution.

  • I’m also done with the days of html, css, asp, coding, databases, etc. etc…

  • What are your thoughts on how many images to display? How to categorize, etc.

NOT looking forward to re-working hundreds and hundreds of images…

Thanks for any thoughts or suggestions on this.


Lon, I’ve been on Fine Art America for years. Runs pretty solid and easy enough to use as a target for my “trailimages” URL address…:sunglasses:

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Lon, I use Photoshelter. They are a little on the expensive side especially for the unlimited storage plan (I use the 100GB plan). But I really like their templates. I also do not want to deal with coding, the day job is stressful enough for me. Photography is supposedly artistic outlet, not for debugging. The interface to upload and organize is quite simple.

What are your thoughts on how many images to display? How to categorize, etc.

Funny you said that. I was just reorganizing and culling some of my portfolio two nights ago. I divide my landscape portfolio into: Colors and Monochrome, and my wildlife portfolio into: Mammals and Birds (as they are primarily what I photograph). I try to keep less than 25 images per category.

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@Paul_Breitkreuz, thanks for the response. I had forgotten about that one and you had your images there for a while now. And I believe you even have the occasional sale which is nice!

May I ask what the fee structure is? Monthly, or do they just take their percentage? I couldn’t find anything quick on their site. Feel free to send me a note off line.

I like the idea, but not sold on the whole look/feel. Looks to commercial. But then if looking for sales I know this is a credible option.

Thank you @Adhika_Lie for the response. Photoshelter is another one and thanks for mentioning. Your site looks great (wonderful images btw!) Then I looked up the plans and cost… too much for me. Well, at least it appears more than Zenfolio.

I didn’t see any way to purchase prints. I’m assuming you just haven’t enabled that feature?

One thing I’d have to consider if offering prints, at least with Zenfolio I would have to upload the full rez image to be available for fulfilling any print order. Sounds like an awful lot of work to prep hundreds of images for an off chance of having one image sell… Wondering if it can be set up to “print on demand” where I wouldn’t upload the full version unless an order was placed (thinking out loud here…)

Thanks again for the option idea.


Lon, thanks for your kind words. The cost is indeed the biggest cons for Photoshelter. But I have migrated a few times (even tried Wordpress - too much work!) because I have not been happy with their templates. So I told myself that enough is enough and decided to swallow the cost.

As for sales on my website, you are right, I have not enabled that feature as I edition my images and prefer to do it myself (easier to control print quality, too). You are right though that Photoshelter also asks for full res files and they handle everything else. You then have to give them commission (I am not sure if Zenfolio does that).

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Hey Lon, I’ve been using Zenfolio for years now. Its not bad, relatively easy to upload, setup billing, and create your site. I’m grandfathered into their premium subscription which I think is somewhere between Starter and Pro. I payed $165 this year and I think it goes up next year. I’ve been thinking of down grading to get rid of the store since I’ve found most times people would rather me order images and pay me through paypal than order them from my website. My site is https://www.davenilsenphotography.com/ if you want an idea of what one of their layouts is.

Thank you @David_Nilsen for your response as well and providing your site as an example.

I’m liking the gallery and image display features including the slide show. I know they have many templates and you can inter change them pretty much at will.

Great images as well on your website. Your action surf images are awesome!

Thanks for chiming in!

Lon, I have used Zenfolio for about 10 years now. I think it is relatively easy to set up and use, and it does not require any knowledge of coding. It does require you visiting their help articles and videos to gain an understanding of how to set up and customize your website, but no coding required, it’s all WYSIWYG. There is a level of customization available underneath the hood that you might not suspect is there if all you do is browse their canned templates. While the selling capabilities are certainly there, I am not interested in selling my work, and use my website primarily for gallery display. the slideshow feature does work well. I have set up my website relatively different than @David_Nilsen has, so you can get some idea of the other possible setups. https://www.edmcguirkphoto.com/

If you go the Zen route, be sure you have a good understanding of how to create customized templates before you start making a lot of changes to a canned template The other nice thing is that you can create and save many of your own templates, and change them with one click, making it easy to experiment with layout tweaks.

I put together a synopis here that you may have missed before: Recommended Printing and Framing Service for a Website

I’m currently in the process of moving over to Smugmug and am really enjoying it. The backend organization is fantastic and you can get it looking very good out of the box with only basic template customization.

They have a Lightroom plugin so I just drop my images in there and everything is synchronized. You can either do it by simple galleries, or the way I have it set up is to create smart galleries using tags, this way I can have the same image in multiple galleries. For example I have things sorted by Location, Subject, State, Color, Region, Year, Season. This is really helpful for someone looking for a specific print. It took some effort to set this up initially, but it will be really easy to maintain moving forward. Here is my new site, keep in mind it’s a work in progress https://davidkingham.smugmug.com/

I have chosen to not use the print sales through smugmug but to just use it as a gallery. There are several reasons for this, one is that over the years I have made only a handful of sales through the website cart on all the different platforms I have tried, 95% of the time people will contact me directly, especially for bigger orders for interior designers, etc. and then I end up sending them an invoice. Secondly, smugmug is expensive if you want to sell prints, I believe $360/year plus a 15% commission on print sales. The plan I’m on is only $72/year which is quite reasonable.

Personally, I think Smugmug is a better platform than Zenfolio, it’s clean and fast, SEO is quite good whereas Zenfolio has always had problems with SEO over the years. I also have several friends that are not happy with Zenfolio, yet many who love smugmug. No offense to my friend Ed of course :slight_smile:

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I was just about to mention some of those things about smugmug. The lightroom plugin is absolutely fantastic and saves me a lot of time and headache. I make smart galleries in lightroom based on things like folder, filename, tags, etc, and then just sync those smart galleries with a click of a button to my smugmug website.

I’ve done some customization to mine, but only the clicking and dragging type. I haven’t done any HTML or CSS: https://www.brentgoesoutside.com/

Organizing galleries is really hard. It’s to tough to give an answer since everyone has a different portfolio, brain, and goals. I think you should ask “What do I want to emphasize about my photos?” to yourself. Is it the places you’ve been? The feelings you get when you look at the photos? The type of subject? The time period you took the photo?

Right now I have them split up by favorites, recent, and then by timezone. In the past I liked to emphasize the places I had been, but I am thinking of moving more toward the feelings I get from the photos, or perhaps an intimate/grandiose organization. Either way, I really like when photographers have some kind of greatest hits (what I look at the first time I go to their site) and recent galleries (what I look at when I return to the site).

If you go the smugmug/lightroom route… that makes it a lot easier to experiment with different gallery schemas, at least!



I have two websites, one hosted by Zenfolio and the other by Wordpress. They fulfill different roles.

My Zenfolio site: https://www.fourbillionyears.com/ is where I upload images that I wish to display for the image itself. Graphic quality is excellent and I find it to be a very intuitive, flexible and easy to use platform. My site is organized into thematic galleries, typically with 10 - 20 images each. I update it every few months, should do it more often, but usually don’t have the time. I am in agreement with all that Ed says about it, except that I find the quality of the images in slide shows to be not all that good, so I do not enable slide shows by default. You can still advance and go back by hand, clicking on an image and then on the ellipses that appear next to the edges of the dark background. Zenfolio also offers a blog platform, which I use to talk a bit about the background of some of the galleries, but I find that it is not a really good blog platform.
For my blog I use Wordpress: https://fourbillionyears.org/ , where there is also a lot of photography but the discussions are focused more on technical aspects (e.g., lens and camera reviews), or the photos accompany essays that have nothing to do with photography. I also update it less often that I should - retirement can’t happen soon enough. There is a seemingly infinite number of themes that you can use with Worpress, most third-party, some free (and crappy) others not free and better, but I have not found any Wordpress theme that is as good for displaying images as Zenfolio is. Hence - again - the two sites.

The “About” link in each site is different, and explains in more detail why I decided to put time and $$ into keeping two separate sites - ying and yang, the black vs. white backgrounds are intentional. The sites are linked to one another - if you click on “Blog” in my Zenfolio site (fourbillionyears.com) it takes you to the Wordpress site (fourbillionyears.org), and clicking the image under “Galleries” in the latter takes you back.

I host my Zenfolio site with Namecheap and my Wordpress site with Bluehost. All told (hosting, Zenfolio subscription, Wordpress theme subscriptions) it costs me about $ 450 - $ 500 per year. But, I don’t smoke, I brew my own coffee, I maintain our cars myself, I do all electrical, plumbing and carpentry work around the house, etc. etc., so all told I think I am still ahead. :wink:

I hope this helps.

Thank you all so much for the help! Well, I can also say now the decision is harder!

@Ed_McGuirk. I like your site layout and design - simple, yet effective. Great imagery too!

@David_Kingham. Thank you so much for the detailed response and link back to your previous post. Your layout and images look great too! Your comments are very helpful. Both you and @Brent_Clark mentioned the use of Lightroom and the organization of galleries. I’m contemplating this very much since the bulk of the time consuming work moving to a new venue will be image prep and keywording/categorizing. I’m afraid though because I’ve never used Lightroom! Doh! I guess it’s time to learn. I’m a creature of happy and perfectly content processing only with ACR and PS. Thanks Brent for your input! Site and images look great!

@Alberto_Patino-Douce, thank you for your input as well. Cost is still a major factor for me. I think I’m paying about half of what you are for domain, hosting, etc. Your site looks good as well. Pretty consistent between all who have responded is that the sites are clean, simple professional and I think the image displays are all excellent.

So, I’m on the fence between Zenfolio and Smugmug.

  • Cost is certainly one thing. While Zenfolio has a great deal right now and I can get 60% discount but that’s only for the first year. Jumps to $240 next time.

  • Selling? Not a major factor and will probably start off not offering that, other than letting know visitors that prints are available.

  • Image display/layout/slideshow features seem like a toss up.

  • I’m wondering about a robust search. If anyone still reading can answer this I would appreciate. I would want a search feature to be able to search not just title, but keywords as well, or an image description if available. I think having an image title and/or file# is important so visitors can reference that if they’re interested in something.

  • Not opposed to learning Lightroom, but wondering if the keywords entered in Bridge and the metadata are sufficient for categorizing and searching in either platform, Zen or Smug. Can anyone comment on this?

I’ll be deciding shortly as the Zenfolio discount goes away in a couple of days.

Thanks again for all the comments and tips.


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Lightroom is great at organization and tagging, once you get over the pain of understanding how a catalog works. The LR plugin makes Smugmug so nice, there’s one for Zenfolio as well.

If you go the Smugmug route we have a 15% discount for the first year. If you don’t need to sell prints directly it’s one of the cheaper options.

The search works very well on Smugmug, Zen works fine too, both search keywords, although I had to turn off my ad blocker for the zen search to work. You’ll be happy with either, just my opinion but I feel Smugmug is light years better. Best best is to do a free trial with both and see which one you like better.

Keywords you enter in Bridge will carry over to either platform, this is just saved in the metadata of the file, it’s certainly not necessary to use Lightroom.

Awesome! Thanks for the reminder on the site discounts @David_Kingham! Might have just sold me!

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Lon I use Zenfolio and have for years. Easy to work with and I’ve not had any real issues. Interfaces are pretty intuitive and they do a very good job of enhancements and development of site features. I like the ability to set up private client viewing for image reviews. I don’t actually use the print selling features but from time to time get contacted for prints in those cases I do the printing myself or outsource.


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Lon, I’ve been using Zenfolio for 6 or 7 years. I spent some time initially setting specific parts of the display up to avoid what I thought were unsightly borders, but otherwise it’s quite straight forward. I have yet to make a public sale, but have used their links for printing quite a few times for family/friends. I’m completely satisfied.

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Thank you again for the comments and suggestions. I’ve gone with Smugmug without even looking at the trial version for Zenfolio. Reason: Cost. After the first year discounts, Zenfolio will jump to $240, and for the equivalent Pro level, Smugmug will cost me $71. With our discount, only $57 for the first year.

I’m a dog with a bone when I get something new - I want it now! So I’ve spent most of the last 3 days learning the interface at Smugmug. Honestly, it’s been a huge and frustrating learning curve. But been working through it and starting to feel more comfortable.

Thanks to everyone for their examples. A shout out to @Brent_Clark clark for your help and honestly your site inspiration in helping me craft my new site.

Won’t go public quite yet. Well, technically it is publically available, but I plan on going purely with my domain name, which means when I’m ready to go “live” I’ll point to the proper name servers. I don’t care to have Smugmug in my url…

Anyway, for anyone still following, I wouldn’t mind some feedback. A few pages aren’t completed and the site is only populated with a couple dozen images.

Not quite settled on all the galleries/portfolios, but it’s a start.
Experimenting with bg images.
I like image display on dark sites. I like text/reading on light sites… which probably explains why my old and new site is more neutral.

Thanks in advance!

ps. edit: removed link. Site is not ready for prime time. sorry

Late to the discussion but I did check out your smugmug link. Your website looks great Lon! If I remember correctly, it looks similar to your old site.

BTW - I have used Zenfolio for years. https://www.evamcdermottphotography.com/ The pricing on SmugMug looks attractive.

Thank you @Eva_McDermott! I’m especially please to hear that it looks similar to the old site. I attempted to keep the general color scheme and much of the content is the same. Quite a few differences though considering I wrote most of the code and incorporated many sub-codings I grabbed from the web, like navigation menus, CSS coding, etc. Gone are those days thankfully.

Hey, your site looks great too! As with most these days, simple, straight forward and professional looking sites can be made.

Thanks for chiming in!