The Photographer's Choice for Online Gallery and Printing Services
Photographers have a number of options for online photo galleries that allow customers to view and purchase prints including Zenfolio, which is reviewed in the text that follows. There are a number of other popular online services such as Smugmug, ACI, and Collages.net, all of which are great options. However, as a professional wedding and portrait photographer, I use Zenfolio and highly recommend it to any photographer who would like to present, share, and sell their work online.
What is Zenfolio?
Zenfolio markets itself as a premier online showcase for images for professional and amateur photographers. This web service allows photographers to organize, present, protect, and sell their pictures using streamlined web galleries and a simple user interface. Zenfolio offers four different tiers of pricing that range from a $25 amateur plan to a $250 professional plan. The top-tier plans offer unlimited storage, customized price lists (so you can profit from your prints), password protected galleries, and much, much more.
When printing your photographs, Zenfolio takes you out as the middle man. Instead of customers coming to you with a print order, they order everything online via your galleries. Zenfolio has teamed up with MPixPro to print all photos for customers in the United States. MPix is hands down one of the best online printing outfits out there. All of their products are of the highest quality, and you should have no problem using their printing services. For European photographers, Zenfolio uses PhotoBox Labs. Zenfolio also allows photographers to add music to their galleries and has a number of other options to enhance your customer experience.
Choosing a Plan with Zenfolio
As mentioned, Zenfolio offers four different pricing plans for photographers which are as follows:
- Basic $25
- Unlimited $50
- Premium $100
- Premium Business $250
From the unlimited packages and up, users can have a unique domain name and can have unlimited storage space for photographs. However, professional photographers should at minimum sign up for the premium plan. With this plan, all Zenfolio branding can be removed from your public galleries, and you can mark up your printing prices for profit. For photographers who make much of their money selling prints, the Premium Business plan is the best choice. With premium business, photographers can offer their customers MPixPro’s full line of products, which include premium albums, prints, and photo gifts. The other plans offer MPix products, but not the entire catalog of options offered by MPixPro.
Zenfolio also offers a free 14 day trial for anyone who would like to try this service.
How to Organize Your Photos
Once you sign up for Zenfolio, you will first want to upload and organize your photos. The photographer’s interface is initially somewhat difficult to get around but it becomes quite natural after a few log-ins. Thankfully, there are a good amount of tutorials and other help options for you to become acquianted with the Zenfolio user interface.
You will have the option to create custom categories called “collections” that will help you organize your photo library. Collections make it easy for both the photographer and the customer to navigate through online galleries. Photographers can also create “Featured Galleries,” which allow photographers to organize and publicize their galleries a little differently. Each gallery can also be made public, private, or password protected.
Shown above is the photographer's private menu. Uploading and organizing photos is all done from this page. Customizations of the customer's view can also be done from here.
Customizing Your Presentation
Premium and business premium customers have full control over their web gallery design. The galleries can include your personal logos with all branding from Zenfolio removed.
Zenfolio users will first need to choose a basic layout for their home page. The templates offered on the site are very good although not completely customizable. Photographers can choose between “portfolio” or “directory” layouts to suit their needs. Under the portfolio layout, one large photo or slide show is displayed prominently on your Zenfolio home page. The directory layout is much simpler and only displays the active galleries on your profile.
Photographers can further customize their page design by using one of the twenty-five page themes that are offered or they can start completely from scratch. For anyone starting out, it is recommended to choose one theme and adjust it according to your branding. All colors, backgrounds, links, and text can be changed to fit your design standards. With this being the case, your Zenfolio galleries can be made to look and feel much like your main business homepage.
Here is an example of a directory page. Customers can click on the galleries and then view and purchase photos. Photographers can also choose to display one large slide show above gallery navigation. This customer view is nearly 100% customizable.
Photo Galleries and Ordering Prints
As mentioned, all photo galleries can be made private and password protected. This will give your customers piece of mind to know that complete strangers are not viewing their photographs. This feature is also very helpful when your clients view proofs from their photo session.
The galleries themselves are fairly simple and standard, which is definitely positive. One large photo is viewable on the left of the screen and thumbnails are displayed on the right. Viewers can scroll through the photos using the thumbnails and menus on the right side of the page. Galleries can also be viewed as a full-screen slide show, which makes your galleries look and feel professional.
All purchases are made within the galleries using the “Buy” button on the right side menus. Some less computer savvy customers can have a difficult time purchasing prints, but the buttons are generally easy to navigate and use. Once the Buy button is purchased, customers will be asked what product they would like to purchase. Since the photographer has full control over products offered, the customer could then move on to purchase different sized prints or could purchase photo gifts like mouse pads and greeting cards. The products offered are entirely set by the photographer.
Once a customer makes a purchase, the photographer will receive an email notification indicating what was purchased and how much profit the photographer will receive. Photographers also have the option to approve each order as a method of quality control. Keep in mind that your photographer profit will be your price minus the printing price and Zenfolio’s fee. These fees are very reasonable and should not take away from your profit.
I have been a Zenfolio customer for almost two years and will soon sign up for another year at the premium level. As a professional portrait photographer, I have been extremely pleased with the site’s performance and what it has to offer me and my customers. I have really just begun to scratch the surface of Zenfolio’s capabilities and look forward to expanding my presence with this service after another summer full of photographing weddings.
As a note of full-disclosure, I have not signed up for any of the other online services mentioned at the beginning of this piece. I am sure each of these other sites are very good, but I have been completely satisfied with Zenfolio and have not had the need or desire to switch providers. Zenfolio has a full commitment to their customers and is constantly expanding their offered services. This is exactly what I desire out of an online gallery and printing service, and I look forward to my days ahead with Zenfolio. I would highly recommend them to anyone.