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Working on a Zenfolio Review… and I Could Use Your Help!

PhotoJoseph's picture
May 20, 2012 - 12:00am

Hello readers,

I was recently approached by Zenfolio and asked if I’d consider doing a review for them, as I’d recently done write-ups on other image hosting services. They granted me their top-tier, “Premium Business” account ($250 annual subscription fee; prices starting at $30) so I could have full reign of the services.

I just started poking around and so far I’m quite impressed. Most of you know I’m a Smugmug user, but to be honest I don’t use it as much as I probably should. I started using it a very very long time ago, and my original photography website was 100% based on SmugMug, back when customizing it was almost 100% in the realm of custom code, and was a real pain in the a** to do. Today it’s much easier, but on opening Zenfolio I immediately felt like it was infinitely more customizable and easier to control.

I tweeted yesterday that I was looking into it and right away got some feedback. For example, twitter follower @PhotoGrodon said “Only 4 IPTC fields read by @zenfolio which is why I & others don’t use them. [link]”.

I want to give Zenfolio a proper review. We’re light on Aperture news, and since they have an Aperture plug-in, that’s good enough for me ;-)

That said, I need your help

I can only figure out so much on my own in a few days, but if you guys who are currently using it (or used to use it, or have extensively looked into it and decided not to use it, or have switched from other services) can tell me what you know, that’d help tremendously.

Good or bad, I want to know about it. I like what I see, but before I recommend a service that could potentially cost $250 per year, I really want to give it a full shakedown.

Bring it on…

Apple Aperture

Joseph I started using Zenfolio as a cloud backup for my exported edited images and as an online slideshow facility. I pay £50 pa ($75) for unlimited storage but no facility to sell images. Visitors can however order prints etc.

I considered a few sites that specialise in uploading for the sole purpose of selling images but I love the simplicity of setting this site up, including my own domain name. I just felt “comfortable” using it - it could have been written by Apple!

I have used their support guys in setting up my domain name but it actually turned out to be an issue in the control panel at my ISP.



I am a Zenfolio user and here are the reasons why:

1. I was a longtime SmugMug user and outgrew it because of what I considered limitations in the service. I used to set it up with the HTML code to create my own distinct library but it became to tedious, in my opinion.

2. I moved to MobileMe Gallery which was great but when they announced discontinuing their service I hunted around to find something else and landed on Flickr until I could do something different that would be more MobileMe like.

3. I finally chose Zenfolio. There is a plethora of options that would meet the needs of almost anyone looking for a quality hosting website for one’s pictures. There are so many customizable features.

4. I have contacted their help desk a few times and got a response usually within two hours or less, most regarding my domain name.

5. I like the fact they have an easy SEO setup with Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.

6. I used the Aperture uploader and it works great.

7. I use the Premium Service which is more than adequate for me.

You can see my website here:

I am glad you are doing a review on this product.


I haven’t used Zenfolio but the features look good to me. I would like to wait until June 10 before signing up for another service. I currently use MobileMe, SmugMug, Vimeo, Flickr and Youtube to display photos and videos. Having them all in one place would be a bonus. The 20 minute video limit is too low for me though which is why I use Vimeo and Youtube and not just SmugMug.

The main reason I comment here is I’d like to know if you can set up separate galleries on one account with Zenfolio. For example, I post different content for friends and family vs. my son’s boy scout troop vs. the choir etc and would like to link the various groups directly to specific content.



Yes you can have as many galleries as you want and password protect the galleries you do not want to make public. If you look at my site you will see that is the case.


Thomas, you can even set a gallery so that only you can see it - great for mixing personal images that no one even realises they are there.

I’m in the process of looking for a place to put my images instead of 500px. I’ve considered SmugMug and recently started looking at Zenfolio. Mostly due to their affiliation with Mpix. I’ve recently had a couple prints done by them and sent to family members. I, of course, have not seen the finished product from Mpix that was sent but the response from the recipients was great. (The photos were larger than 8x10 and framed with their Lustre coating.

Plus Zenfolio has the Aperture plugin and can be another place to backup my keepers.

I’m currently a smugmug user and getting frustrated by their downtime and some limitations they have around the gallery layouts and lack of marketing options - took a look at zenfolio and ran through the trial, and am now riding out my smugmug contract before deciding if I will go through the extensive hassle of jumping ship or not.

I really really like zenfolios galleries and templates compared to smugmug. Also their integrated blog is huge - but it seems they recently stopped allowing full resolution downloads, which would be a killer for me. Watching to see how that pans out.

I use SmugMug for my professional photos, but needed a MobileMe replacement. I tried Zenfolio, but DPhoto is the best replacement for me. Zenfolio seems to a replacement for SmugMug.

I still wish Apple would come up with something though.

I don’t really use any online environments that much except my own website but that is for display rather than storage.

I think what puts me off, apart from the sheer headache of uploading decent file sizes to them using a typical slow New Zealand broadband connection of between 2 and 3 Mbps, is the fact that they rise and fall in popularity so fast.

I used Digital Railroad for a while until that went bust and closed and I have a few in Flickr and a few in 500px but I don’t really see the point or the value in any of those.

I’d be reluctant to sign up to anything that cost as much as this does unless it was bulletproof as a backup and likely to still be there in 10 years time.

I use a $120/year Premium account at Zenfolio for my event photography business ( Switched over from MobileMe last autumn. I’m very happy with it and consider it a great value for the price. My client galleries are generally 200-2000 JPEGs of 2-3MB each. Upload speed and reliability have always been good. Due to the wide range of layout and configuration options, learning the interface takes a while. To be honest, I think the UI is a bit more complicated than it needs to be. Nine months later, I’m still learning about the options and tweaking my site. That said, it works extremely well, and I get a lot of positive comments about the site. Another thing I like is that ZF is clearly committed to constantly developing new features. The blog feature is relatively new, and I’m loving it.

I’m not sure what Paul Jones means by ” it seems they recently stopped allowing full resolution downloads”. All my client galleries are set up to allow password-protected downloading of full-resolution files by my clients.

They’ve come a long way in the presentation of galleries on Safari on the iPad. Check it out. Actually very good implementation!

I have used Zenfolio for about 7 months and am quite impressed. I tried a few others but didn’t like some of their limits. I use the premium service minus the personal logo which I will likely upgrade to. I have over 7 GB on my site and continue to post more. One of the other things I love is their iPad app. It works well and if you are trying to do a quick iPad workflow in the field from camera to iPhoto and back out to your website it works great. You can tell the client to check their website after they leave a sporting event and I can usually have a few quality images up for them to check out.

Customer service and video training has been good as well. They do a good job of listening to their customers when it comes to new features. To me it is well worth it whether you are using them for a business site or even a nice place to manage your images to share with others…

They have a new blog feature which I have just started using which will be nice as well.

Here is my site

Hi everyone, thanks for all the great feedback. I have some specific questions below if you don’t mind.

I don’t see Zenphoto as a replacement for MobileMe, for those that are comparing the two. I see it much more as a competitor to Smugmug (and probably other services I’m not even aware of). That’s how I’ll approach it in my review. Perhaps though the cheapest option is more MobileMe-ish, so I’l be sure to look at that as well.

Good support is key, so for all who said that it’s great, that’s nice to hear.

For those who’ve used the Mpix printing services; all happy with that? I haven’t printed anything with them since 2008 or so but I do remember being pleased with the prints. I was looking at their offerings and I’m going to be using BayPhoto for some stuff that it turns out Mpix doesn’t offer (30” × 40” metal prints) but definitely interested in their overall quality.

Paul commented on the loss of full rez downloads, but others said that’s not right, so I’ll definitely look for that.

Does anyone have any experience using it as a client review service? As in, the client can view the photos and mark their favorites, or rate, or thumbs up, or whatever, and YOU can see what they did?

I hear you on the fear of a site going away, but that’s a risk with anything isn’t it? Nothing is forever (except that embarrassing drunk photo your “friend” posted… that’ll never go away!)

I was impressed but also daunted at the customizability options. I’m still playing around with that. Any nuggets of “bet you didn’t know you can do this” would be appreciated.

I too am impressed by their iDevice presentation, both iPad and iPhone. Very nice.

Keep it coming!


— Have you signed up for the mailing list?

I switched from SmugMug to Zenfolio for my event photography several years ago for several reasons & have been very happy. I can’t say enough good things about their customer service, always quick and courteous. They also add new features on a fairly regular basis and always seem to be looking for improvements.

Mpix and Mpix Pro have also been great, I would never go back to trying to print and ship myself. They provide very good prints that are well packaged. The purchasing process is very clean, though it can get a little cluttered if you turn on all the possible offerings (and there are a lot).

I admit I haven’t taken full advantage of the quite extensive customization possibilities, but there seems to be a number of ways to give your site a unique appearance.

If I had a negative comment it might be in the site navigation category. There seem to be just a few too many “layers” to go through, i.e. all photos, thumbnails of varying sizes, etc. Some of these can be turned off as I have done and it isn’t bad by any means. I guess I have something particular in mind that I can’t find way to implement.

All in all, highly recommended, especially for anyone looking to sell their photographs with a large number of options. I didn’t balk at the $250 price when they increased the upgrade and haven’t regretted it. Just my 2 cents

My site:

PS I just checked and the option to allow downloading of full-size original photos is still present in the gallery customization.

I’ve been using Mpix (non-pro) for a couple years. My favorite product is the Standouts. I think they look great on my wall. They recommend the metallic finish. Of the 6 standouts (all 24x16) hanging in my office, 2 are metallic and 4 are E-surface. I prefer the E-surface. I think their quality is great - from an amateur’s point of view at least.



I’ve been using Zenfolio for a few years now and chose it initially because people’s galleries looked so much more professional and polished than the competition. The reason for this is the level of customisability, this ranges from simple templates all the way to personal backgrounds, banners and colours for almost every element using the edit theme tools. The more you delve into it the more you find you can do and it’s relatively intuitive and no ‘coding’ or web building knowledge required to create what you’ve imagined.

Back end organisation of photos and galleries etc is easy too, the forum community is good and new tools are being added all the time; although I admit that I don’t use a lot of these such as blogging and music for slideshows so can’t comment on all of these but appreciate that effort is being made to progress. It is also well integrated into Aperture using the uploader and Facebook.

Not perfect though, no print partner here in Australia for example which means fulfilling one’s own orders the setup for which is not optimised and clunky and I’m struggling a bit to set this up at the moment. I understand a number of people have also had problems with SEO too, I’m not au fait with all this so you may want to look at the forum to see these discussions.

Happy to help if you hav any specific questions.

See my website at


I have used Zenfolio for over 4 years as my website for client photos. After a shoot for a client, I upload the photos there for them review, download files, order prints, etc. I honestly could not be happier. The service has never been down for me and they are constantly working to improve it. For prints, MPIX has given me nice prints. E-Commerce and customizability can’t be beat. Just can’t say enough good things about Zenfolio.

Had Smugmug for a while and then Zenfolio but have since deleted both, Smugmug was very limited to what i could do on the iPad, nothing seemed to work correctly, and then swapped to Zenfolio, great iPad app, but as a whole it seems more geared toward professionals selling and showing off there work, which I am not. Liked the idea of being able to order prints but here in the UK you couldn’t get any work framed, and that is what i was after, now I’m trying dphoto, clean and simple.

I have a Zenfolio account and have done so since the inception of my photography business. I investigated all the other places mentioned as well as the possibility of having a custom site created for me (my husband is a software developer). But Zenfolio has it all. I was looking for the following features:
1. Customer preview and private customer galleries
2. Ability to sell prints and other items (such as bookmarks, mouse pads, cards etc) through a professional lab (Mpix) or create custom packages that I can fulfill myself. And I can set my own pricing.
3. Customization of my web site. I can customize it as much or as little as I want, add music, add embedded video, lock or password protect galleries, add watermarks, my own domain name, etc.
4. Good support. Tech questions are answered immediately, good community support and interaction. They listen to their community. And they always are offering partnerships with other companies and discounts. For instance, BorrowLenses, etc.
5. Constant and ongoing enhancements that are beneficial, not just cool enhancements that are not really useful.
6. Client contact within my web site. It stores emails, so I can communicate regularly with my clients even after our job is done.
7. Interfaces with Facebook and Flickr
8. Aperture upload interface - very easy!
9. Can add Facebook, Twitter, Google+ badges
10. Can add custom web pages.
11. The premium accounts are very reasonably priced and there are no file size or storage limits.
12. Awesome iPad, iPhone apps! Excellent for client viewing, on or offline.
13. IT HAS A BLOG PAGE! This is new and I love it! No more Blogger for me.
As you can see I’m a fan. But Zenfolio has served me well through all my changes as a photographer. Even now as I’m changing the direction of my business from portraits to landscape (found my true passion), I’m able to make quick changes to accommodate my style, sales direction etc.

Bo9 Photography

I’ve been using Zenfolio for about a year and I’m very happy with it. Here’s a few of my thoughts not yet covered. My site is at

I’m not a full-time professional so I don’t expect substantial income from my photography so I’m cautious about the amount I can spend on web sites etc. Zenfolio works great for me in combination with another site. I’m using Zenfolio primarily as my “portfolio” page because it displays the images so well and gives me great navigation. I’ve just started using the blog feature and this is where I send people to tell the about my photography, where and exhibiting, etc.

1. I have the minimum account. Which creates some limits (and keeps Zenfolio branding) but I accept that now - though I may consider an upgrade in the future.

2. I also use a personal page at Fine Art America. From FAA people can purchase my photographing in different formats and framed. I’m able to set up pages to look very similar on both sites (Zenfolio is MUCH more customizable) and then link from Zenfolio to FAA with a simple html link in the photo description on Zenfolio. The combination of the two is less expensive than the premium site at Zen and gives me multiple sources of traffic to my photography for sale. I’m considering moving everything to Zenfolio, but for now this is works well and demonstrates some of how Zen can be used.

3. The new integrated blog is simple, but good. I’m just getting to use it, but I like it.

4. The interface is very customizable - if you want to dig in. I wouldn’t call this an “easy” feature, but if you’re a little comfortable digging around, you can really customize the site a lot. They give you many great templates and that’s a good place to start, but the edit template tool is how you customize. This tool let’s you drill down to details like colors, font styles and size and so forth to customize. Then, when you save that “custom” template it will continue to be applied throughout your site as you create new pages and galleries. It’s very clever and not very difficult. Recent updates have also offered nice customization of menus and drop downs so you can control site navigation well.

You can also create “custom” pages that will follow the site style - but allow you to embed slideshows, video, etc. to create a more complete site.

6. You can create as many galleries and folders as you need. You have control over each how and if they can be seen and by whom including password protecting. You can have completing private folders as well. For instance, I have a private folder with images I’ve used on the blog. These weren’t images I wanted in the portfolio or a gallery, but illustrated something in the blog.

6. I have ordered from MPix a number of times directly from Zenfolio and I’m very pleased. This is really easy and part of why I use this service. I don’t have my page set up so that visitors can buy my images from MPix - see pt. 1 above - but I’m still able to go to my photos as an admin and click “buy” and order from MPix. This is really simple and the quality is great. The prices are very good, although I think the shipping fees may be a bit high sometimes (depends on what you’re ordering)

7. Their tech support seems very responsive (I’ve had to contact them a few times) There is also a very active forum community.

8. The Aperture Plugin works really well and gives enough control to upload to the different galleries, etc.

Overall, I’m very happy. They have made a number of big changes in the last year and they seem to continually be improving. They also seem fairly responsive to the customers when feature requests are made.

Mark Pouley
Twin Lakes Images

First I’ve been following Zenfoilo since they first opened shop!
I would have gone with them but at the very beginning they didn’t offer square prints, and most everything I shoot is square
I came back to them and have been pleased beyound measure!
They have some of the best support around, not to mention all the material they make available from there Site
Yes ther backend is a bit dense, but that is a fact you have to deal with considering all that they offer
Our Clents are continually impressed with the Printing and the speed of the turnaround, we use the MPix Pro service
They have been very aggressive as far as introducing new features and incorporating new platforms such as Apples iDevices (this is for both front and backend use)
My Clients rarely have a problem navigating the site, they make Sets of there Favorite and email them to us, we can then dialogue with them about refining there edits, all of this through Zenfolio
Not to mention the backend tracking of sales and Client contact reports
As far as customizing your site, it’s a great feature, I have made tweakes to mine that allows a consistent look with the rest of my Branding
Really can’t say enough good things about them
If you have any questions feel free to ask!

As a semi-pro photographer, I was looking for something as a step up from things like MobileMe and Flickr. I wanted more customization, control and features. Good iPhone and iPad support was also really important.

SmugMug and Zenfolio seemed to be the most popular (so there’s a good chance they’ll be around for a while) and both had Aperture plug-ins for uploading. So, I decided to spend a full day setting up a site on SmugMug and another day on Zenfolio, using their free 2 week trial accounts.

In the end, Zenfolio was a pretty easy choice for the following reasons…
* Much easier navigation (especially for me as the webmaster)
* Better control over the page elements (buttons, links, etc)
* Much easier to create custom pages, without resorting to any coding
* Simpler way of providing access to private galleries, including custom URLs
* Outstanding iPhone and iPad apps, especially good for showing photos to clients
* Looks/works great on Safari on iPhone/iPad
* Outstanding theme editor allows a lot of customization without coding
* Ability to remove ALL Zenfolio branding
* Ability to sell printed products in Europe
* Excellent control over printing options, pricing and print ordering process
* Cheaper (in October 2011, $100/yr for the Zenfolio Premium vs $150/yr for SmugMug Pro)

I’ve been using Zenfolio since October 2011. Zenfolio has regularly come out with new and useful features including video hosting, blogs, better mobile browsing and a cool book on designing your own web site. Customer support has been excellent - I had a video playback issue with Safari that they eventually fixed. I’m very pleased with Zenfolio and highly recommend it.

Zenfolio has issues:

- SEO is not good, Google and Bing have difficulties finding single images on Zenfolio pages, they are rarely indexed in the image search results of both engines
– you can not set a filename, instead images have cryptic names in the source code
XML sitemaps do not include image URLs but only page urls to your gallery pages
– no alt tags for images in the served pages
– Zenfolio serves a special code to search engines than to the “normal” visitor

Just these four points alone go directly against the SEO advice, published by Google. And from using Zenfolio for some month, I can say that only a fraction of my images are indexed with Google, none with Bing - pages are but not the actual images.

- loading time of large image views: sloooow. Once you click an image to enlarge “Dim the Lights” function, it can take up to 10 seconds before an image appears. All the user sees meantime is a spinning circle.

- customer support sounds like politicians, once you start to ask specific questions and try to discuss these issues in the Zenfolio forums.

Zenfolio is very good for photographers who already have customers to point to their site, for online selling. Not so good for those who want to be discovered on the web.

Photoshelter could be an alternative, but is unfortunately way more expensive.

Although I have used zenfolio on and off for a number of years, I re-evaluated this decision as an alternative to MoblieMe last November when I had to shoot the America’s Cup World Series in San Diego.
Looking at all alternatives, it became clear that ZF was still the best choice for many reasons that have been outlined above. One that I would like to add, however, especially as a huge advantage to MobileMe is that, since the interface is all web based, you can edit your site to your heart’s content from any computer. Or even from your iPhone which is awesome.

But, although I still think this is the best and cleanest solution, I do want to bring up one area which ZF REALLY needs to improve: The interface. Not only does it look like it was designed by Windows people, but it functions like it too. If you want to do any kind of customization, you soon realize that similar options can be buried deep inside completely different menus of tabs. There is a substantial amount of having to “know the secret handshake” in order to be able to do some of the formatting. This is where they really should do a complete rewrite of their interface and let an Apple educated UI expert take over.

Again, this is not a deal breaker but it needs to be brought to their attention so that they can make the ZF option truly world class.

I am very sorry, but I have to update the link once more … looks like we have here one of those Zenfolio issues – their blog system hastily re-invented the wheel but forgot suitable tyres … the URL changes when I try to add an update date …

Photoshelter vs. Zenfolio:

The article is a bit lengthy – I am working on improving it gradually. It started out more like a note to myself, I wasn´t aware that it would be the main target page of my site for the general public …

I chose Zenfolio because of its sophisticated result of design,. there are many company that uses this but I personally known this one with good creativity. Thanks to my friend from , he let me get involve with Zenfolio.

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