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Zenfolio Vs SmugMug For Photography Websites

Zenfolio Vs SmugMug For Photography Websites

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Zenfolio Vs SmugMug For Photography Websites

We are in a very digital age where each pixel holds the promise of a beautiful masterpiece. With that being said, a photographer wants to be able to showcase their work. Let me put it this way…choosing the right platform to showcase that work is akin to hunting down the perfect frame. You don’t want your best shots being undervalued by a cheap frame. That’s where the Zenfolio vs SmugMug debate really gets going. 

Related: How to start a photography business

Zenfolio and SmugMug are two websites you can use to create and host your online portfolios. Both are powerful tools a photographer can use to build and manage an online presence, show off portfolios, and even monetize work through different e-commerce capabilities. 

SmugMug boasts about its sleek and modern design options compared to Zenfolio, which is said to have one of the more user-friendly interfaces. Zenfolio is a great choice for hobbyists as well as professional photographers, while SmugMug emphasizes that photographers get to maintain complete control over their presentation and sales. 

Choosing the right platform matters since you want to feel comfortable with the cost, functionality, and support you receive there. Let’s get into the details of both and see what features really matter the most to you as a photographer.

As a professional photographer myself, I can admit I found myself at a crossroads when it came to selecting the best platform. Both websites received raving reviews, and both have their own set of features that really stood out to me. 

Zenfolio Overview

Zenfolio is one of the top websites for both showcasing and selling photography. It has monthly and annual plans that allow you to build your own website, store photos, sell your products, book clients, and maintain both a blog and gallery.

Related: How to get photography clients

The most popular option, the ProSuite, is $20 a month when paid annually. If you want to save, you can also use the PortfolioPlus option, which is only $11.50 a month. Or, for a simple portfolio site, you just need to pay $7 a month. The amount you pay is reflected in the access you have to important tools. 

Disclaimer: Remember, these prices are subject to change. For the most up-to-date prices, check the sites directly. 


$40 monthly or $20 a month with an annual plan.

You get access to:

  • Galleries (unlimited with 4K video included)
  • Website creation tools
  • A store
  • Add-ons (all included with the plan)
  • Uploads from the web or your Zenfolio Uploader


$23 monthly or $11.50 with an annual plan.

You get access to:

  • Galleries (150 GB and HD video)
  • Website creation tools
  • Your own store (without automated client campaigns)
  • Add-ons
  • Uploads from the web or your desktop


$9 monthly or $7 monthly with an annual plan.

You get access to:

  • Galleries (up to 15 GB with HD video and no expanded lab access)
  • Website creation tools (without direct sales, a free domain, or a blog feature)
  • Uploads from the web or your desktop

With the Portfolio-level membership, you will need to purchase all add-ons and will have no store.

ZenFolio offers extra features such as PhotoRefine.ai and BookMe Scheduling to help make post-production and client booking management easier, which is something to consider as you look at the plans above.

User Experience

The first thing you’ll notice with Zenfolio is that it has an easy-to-understand platform. You get a free trial with no payment required, too, which will give you a chance to try it out and see if you like the interface. 

Personally, I think the interface is straightforward, and Zenfolio walks you through each step of the setup process to make it easy to get started. For a beginner, there may be more tools than you need, but it’s great because it gives you access to the basics for any photography business to get up and running. 

That being said, if you’re new to working with dashboards, there will be a learning curve. Fortunately, there is a tutorial and a 10-item checklist to get your galleries and website working. Take your time, and it will all get done!

Try Zenfolio

SmugMug Overview

SmugMug is in the business of empowering photographers, helping in many of the same ways as Zenfolio. However, it does have some unique features. 

Like Zenfolio, you get a free trial (14 days) to try out the platform. You don’t need to enter any payment information, either, so you won’t accidentally end up locked into a contract. 

SmugMug’s key features include:

  • Portfolio customization options
  • Selling prints and digital downloads
  • Security and privacy features
  • Integration with third-party services

As soon as you sign up, the system begins walking you through those features and asks you which ones you might be interested in. You’ll answer a few quick questions to describe what you plan to do on the platform (sell photographs to clients or businesses, for example). Then, you’ll pick the design for your homepage. 

There are several to choose from, but my personal favorite is “Andi” for its clean, elegant scrolling features on a crisp background. However, this design tends to work best for black-and-white photography and only displays a single image at a time. You may like one of the other styles, particularly if you want to get more photos in front of the viewers at once. 

Pricing Plans

SmugMug has four different pricing plans, giving you one more option than Zenfolio. The cheapest is the personal plan at $15 a month or $120 a year. Next is the Portfolio plan, which is $31 a month or $246 per year. 

You can also get the Pro plan, which is $45 a month or $384 a year. Finally, if you start to build a large business and need venture-grade support, you can get the Venture plan. There’s no price listed, so you’ll need to contact the support team to learn more. 

In terms of pricing competitiveness, Zenfolio is hands-down more affordable than SmugMug. However, the basic plan through SmugMug actually gives you much more than the Portfolio plan at Zenfolio for just around $7 to $9 more. 

You’ll get unlimited photo storage, for example, and 24/7 human support. You also have a gallery and Adobe Lightroom integration. Additionally, you’ll get your own website. For $15 a month, that seems like a steal. 

As your business grows, you might opt for power features like digital download sales on the Portfolio plan or custom price lists on the $45 Pro plan, but realistically, I think these plans are overpriced for what you get compared to Zenfolio. What works for you will vary, though, so don’t ignore these options even if they cost more. Think carefully about what you need, and go from there. 

Try SmugMug

Comparative Analysis

Now, the features Zenfolio and SmugMug have do vary, so deciding what you want to use can be tough. And, as I mentioned above, deciding purely based on the cost isn’t usually the best idea. 

You’ll want to try both sites to see which one you like better. Fortunately, since they both have trials, that’s easy to do. 

Then, take a look at the following to determine which platform will work for your needs. 

Customization and Design

The first thing to look at is how easy it is to choose templates or create designs. A flexible platform is a good platform. 

Zenfolio and SmugMug both offer custom fonts and color themes, website templates, and gallery presets. So, for me, this isn’t a deciding factor between the two companies. 

E-commerce Capabilities

The next thing to look into is how easy the e-commerce tools are to use. Depending on the plan you choose, you may not have access to e-commerce tools on Zenfolio, but they are offered. In fact, you can build your own store. Transaction fees are a flat 7% for commerce orders. Payment processing fees vary from 2.9%+0.30 to 3.49%+0.49. 

SmugMug doesn’t make you mess with these fees, but it gets what it’s due in other ways. When you sell an item, such as a download sale, the company keeps 15%. That 15% covers your fees. For me, the 15% seems high, and I would be wondering if I really wanted 15% of my sales to go to the company versus under 11% via Zenfolio. That 4% can make quite the difference, especially on large orders. 

As a photographer, one of your primary concerns has to be the quality of your prints. Both SmugMug and Zenfolio offer client galleries for proofing. Both companies are also going to produce high-quality prints, though keep in mind that Zenfolio allows large file sizes (up to 64 MB) to help you create massive prints without pixelation. 

In my experience, both companies create good prints for the cost, but I think SmugMug calibrates its printers slightly better for colors that look true to what’s on the monitor. 

And, for the customer, I appreciate that both companies have customer service features. I like to add password-protected pages and allow them to comment in galleries, something both companies have on their platforms. I just wish SmugMug had appointment scheduling for follow-up appointments and photo pick-ups. 

Marketing and SEO

Marketing and SEO can’t be overlooked when you’re building your business. SmugMug and Zenfolio both offer SEO services, website creation, and social media sharing to help you on your way. 

For the most part, these tools are on par with one another, but as you get into the custom Venture software with SmugMug, I believe the marketing tools and support just can’t be beat. As an added benefit, SmugMug has 24/7 human customer service to help out, which blows Zenfolio’s 24-hour response times out of the water. 

User Feedback and Reviews 

One of the best ways to get a feel for a product is to see what customers have to say about it. 

Out of the two platforms, my preference is Zenfolio. I don’t need Venture support, and I’m content to wait 24 hours for a customer service expert to get back to me if it means I only pay $7 or $11.50 a month. I also think Zenfolio’s dashboard is easy to use. However, if you want to use coding to make your website more unique or if you need immediate customer service assistance, you’re going to want to look into SmugMug a little more closely. 

Both platforms are popular for a reason, and you’ll often find mixed reviews depending on what photographers were expecting to get out of using them. Here are some reviews for both platforms that you can consider as you decide which one is right for your business. 

SmugMug Reviews

“I used SmugMug for over a decade but am switching over to Shutterfly. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience with SmugMug. They make really good prints and even great blown-up prints as well. Goodbye, Smug Mug!”Lindsay H

“My photos came in a broken and bent box, and the portrait photos inside were crushed. It took forever to even find a way to correspond, and now I have to wait another two or three weeks for the photos—if they even replace them. No reason to put photos unprotected in a flimsy, flat box. I’ll probably skip them next time.”Jan S.

Zenfolio Reviews

“However, the new platform really impressed me, and I’ve been very happy with the service over the last few months and ended up paying for a subscription when my free trial finished.”Ed H

“Very unhappy with their latest ‘updates’ archiving photos, which then take a long time to load back up again and charging for digital downloads even when I want to give them to clients for free. Their ‘archiving’ means that I can no longer use my zen site to properly showcase my work, and it’s probably just cost me a big job. It costs a lot in both time and money, but I’ll be looking for an alternative.”Lucy

As you try to decide if Zenfolio or SmugMug is right for you, analyze real customer reviews. Look for common threads, such as new features that have caused issues or positives that multiple people discuss. 

The Right Photography Platform Is Waiting for You

Overall, SmugMug and Zenfolio are two of the top websites for photographers who want to display their photographs, manage client photos, sell digital items online, and keep their businesses organized. SmugMug tends to run on the more expensive side, but in exchange, it has faster customer service and Venture-level offerings. Zenfolio, on the other hand, is an affordable option for new photographers and small businesses, and it has all the basics you need to get started on an easy-to-use, straightforward dashboard. 

I’d strongly recommend taking advantage of the free trials each company offers. Get to know the platforms and see which of the services or tools you actually use. At the end of two weeks, you can make your decision and sign up for a monthly or annual plan, knowing you have exactly what you need to keep your business running smoothly. 


  • Cartina Cowart

    Catrina Cowart is a professional photographer and she provides the unique insights she learned as the owner of Catrina Daniels Photography.

Zenfolio Vs SmugMug For Photography Websites

Zenfolio Vs SmugMug For Photography Websites

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