Zenfolio review – exciting new portfolio tools
Zenfolio advertises itself as the #1 website builder used by pro photographers. The all-in-one platform aims to help you showcase and sell photos with ease, while still remaining a highly practical, easy-to-maintain website builder.
And for many photographers, this sounds exactly like the salvation they've been looking for. It's hard enough just to be a professional photographer! Who wants to end up becoming your own website designer, sales manager, and order fulfillment expert?
So, for this Zenfolio review, in order to find out just how really helpful this platform can be, I made my own website and took a personal deep dive into its services.
And I was surprised to find out about some recent changes – Zenfolio has launched a new, reimagined platform that's supposed to help photographers showcase their skills on a budget.
And overall, after reminiscing about the old platform and trying out the new one, I was quietly impressed with just how focused this platform is on one simple thing - helping photographers sell their work to a broader audience.
Resist the temptation to do in-depth design edits, and just focus on using this platform to promote and sell your art – this is where Zenfolio is best, and this is what it's made to do.
Let's have a look at what this platform is about.
|Overall score||Helpful tool for photographers|
|Pricing||Pretty good prices for basic photography websites|
|Ease of use||Portfolio version much easier to use than classic Zenfolio|
|Templates||Very few, but high-quality templates.|
|Business Features||Some solid photography tools, but printing only to USA.|
|Performance||Just below average in speed, due to plenty of images.|
Pros and cons of Zenfolio
- Good value for money
- Baked-in features from watermarking, to printing and selling pictures
- Simple to set up
- Printing features only let you ship to the US
- Not many templates
Zenfolio offers 3 different pricing plans for its portfolio-centered platform. The cheapest Portfolio plan costs $5/month, the most expensive ProSuite one is $25/month. Overall, this platform is just slightly cheaper than the industry standard.
There is also a 14-day trial for each of the plan, letting you to have a proper look at what this platform can do.
|Portfolio ($5/month)||15GB storage space for both photos and videos. One-page website templates. You can add your own domain. Allows social media integrations and all the basic marketing features, but you can’t sell with it.|
|PortfolioPlus ($12/month)||100GB of storage. All Starter features plus you can sell products, do custom-designed greeting cards, collages and offer self-fulfilled products. In addition, you get email marketing tools.|
|ProSuite ($25/month)||1TB of storage. Advanced selling with over 1000 products on your website. Automated client marketing campaigns, integrated calendaring, invoicing, and payment solutions to automate client bookings, sell pre-paid packages, and enable auto fulfillment.|
Now let's see which plan is meant for who:
- Use the Portfolio plan if you are looking to make a simple portfolio site. You can make shareable client galleries: something crucial for photographers, but can't sell online or use multi-page templates.
- Use the PortfolioPlus plan if you require a multi-page website, eCommerce features, or wish to do some email marketing. This is meant for photographers that look to sell their art.
- Use the ProSuite plan if you’re a professional photographer – it has automated client bookings, sells pre-paid packages, and enables auto fulfillment. Perfect if you want to spend more time behind a lens rather than managing orders on your website.
Keep in mind that Zenfolio Portfolio plans have been launched pretty recently, so there were some drastic changes. Before the launch, there used to be three additional plans on the old Zenfolio platform – they were more expensive and less capable.
I highly recommend switching from the old platform to the new one – it’s cheaper and more modern.
Additionally, with Zenfolio’s prices, I recommend that before you pick a plan, decide whether you wish to use your Zenfolio website to do online sales. If not, get the cheapest one and create the portfolio of your dreams.
Is Zenfolio easy to use?
Zenfolio is a platform that focuses on making things as easy as possible for you. The setup process is very simple and suitable for people with no website building experience. Starting everything up takes no more than five minutes and is supported by a follow-through guide.
We make our website builder reviews by setting up a test site on the platform. Zenfolio used to have two platforms and I used them both, and in this review, I'll show you my experience with them.
Here is a test site that I ended up making (click the image to visit it!).
Let's see how that went.
Using classic Zenfolio
This is the old Zenfolio platform that some of you might still be using. Let’s see how it was in the good old days.
Once you sign up with Zenfolio, you get asked to fill in your basic information: niche, and the things that you plan to do with your website.
Then, you choose your ready-to-use template. There are just about a dozen options available.
And then, a few uploaded pictures later, you get redirected to the dashboard – which looks like this.
When it comes to adding and managing pictures, Zenfolio does a fairly decent job. You can use the main dashboard to add images, insert watermarks, and even add things like restrictions, or set pricing for prints.
The menu setup is decent: it's not an intuitive drag-and-drop editor, but you can make several pages using Zenfolio's pre-made templates.
But if you steer a bit to the side, and try editing some finer things about your website's design, it all gets just a little bit...confusing.
Compared to something seen on the top builder options out there, editing Zenfolio old builder isn't a piece of cake.
The Theme Designer option, meant to set up your entire website, is clunky and quite confusing.
While you absolutely can edit a lot of things about your website, it's not a pleasurable experience. And so, for many people, picking a theme, and adding the images is going to be just about the extent of website customization. It does the basics well – but that's it.
Using Zenfolio portfolio
Zenfolio Portfolio not only rhymes really well, but it's also a very well-thought-out photography website builder. At the start, it looks eerily similar to classic Zenfolio. "What is your website about?", "What do you do?", that sort of thing.
Then, the first difference emerges: you get asked whether you'd like to upload your pictures, or to go straight into website customization.
You don't have to choose: in the website-building process, you'll get to do both.
At first, I chose to start a website. And I got to choose from one of the templates. One of the key differences between Portfolio and PortfolioPlus plans is right here: I use a PortfolioPlus plan, so I get to choose between multi-page themes. The regular Portfolio plan will offer one-page themes instead.
Then, with that basic setup done, you also get a chance to build your gallery.
And then, after some basic setup choosing your preferred styles and designs, as well as uploading your pictures – you get redirected to the dashboard.
And honestly, it's kind of excellent. The left-hand side menu includes all the things you need to do to manage your website and galleries.
The "Galleries" menu lets you add new images, and separate them into different folders.
In the "Settings" menu, you can set privileges for each of the galleries: it's a great way to show the images to your clients.
The Selling menu lets you to quickly monetize your pictures. The preset options allow you to quickly build a pricing structure, manage orders, coupons, and shipping options. And the Reports menu keeps track of all of your sales.
Finally, there's the Website menu:
In here, the built-in page editor is much more intuitive than on the classic Zenfolio. You get to manage pages (if there are any!), change the website domain, color scheme, and pick a different template.
After clicking the Plus icon, I got to choose between 16 different elements: 4 types of text, 5 types of image elements, a button, 4 content blocks, and an Instagram block.
The elements can be easily edited. Once you pick an element, a menu on the left pops up, offering you various customization options: including even something as niche as custom animations!
Overall, Zenfolio Portfolio is very easy to use. Especially, when compared to the old version. This is the one you want to use, and so, I picked Zenfolio Portfolio, to make my custom website.
Canceling a Zenfolio account
While Zenfolio is a great option for photographers and people looking to show off their visual arts, it might not be for everyone. Whether you don’t like Zenfolio’s customization, its eCommerce features, or whatever other reason you may have, here’s how you can cancel your Zenfolio account.
Canceling a free trial
Zenfolio offers a 14-day no credit card required trial period, during which you can try out Pro features for free. After the 14-day trial ends, your account will be canceled automatically.
Canceling a paid account
You can cancel a paid account in two ways – either by contacting customer support via email or by requesting cancellation in the Support center.
If you choose to cancel via email, all you have to do is send an email to [email protected] and clearly state that you want to cancel your account.
Now, if you choose the Support center route, after taking a visit there you’ll have to find the Request Cancellation button in the Cancelling or Deleting your Zenfolio Account article. A live chat window with customer support will pop up, where you will have to give some information about the cancellation.
Doesn’t matter which cancellation route you’ll choose – after completing these steps, your account will still be on Zenfolio’s servers for a couple of months for you to be able to recover it. Once that time period passes, your account will be gone for good.
Information to know before canceling your Zenfolio account
Other than obviously backing up your site’s content, there’s also additional information you should know before deleting your account permanently.
- You’ll have to cancel third-party apps – it’s important to cancel apps with recurring payments before canceling your account otherwise you might end up getting charged for them.
- You’ll only get a refund on annual plans – if you want to cancel a monthly subscription, you can wave your money goodbye.
- You’ll only get a refund if you cancel within 30 days of signing up or renewing your subscription.
- Your custom domain won't get transferred to a domain host.
Zenfolio doesn't offer all that many templates. But they look fairly modern and put your images at the very front – the way it should be on a photography website.
Classic Zenfolio used to offer 13 templates to pick from.
Zenfolio Portfolio offers 11 templates. Only 7 are available for the regular $5 plan users – they're the one-page templates.
PortfolioPlus users also get access to additional 4 multi-page templates.
So, not much to pick from, huh?
Definitely. I wish Zenfolio had more themes to choose from. That being said, it is certainly a case of quality over quantity. All the themes available look pretty good. And they do their best to highlight your images, and not some creative decisions made by the in-house design team.
All in all, good job.
Zenfolio offers a handful of helpful features that could be extremely beneficial for portfolio websites. Some will make you able to sell your images, other will make uploading and managing your pictures just a little bit easier.
|Upload and backup||Zenfolio offers unlimited storage for photo uploads as well as cloud photo hosting and backup for photographers.|
|Galleries||Zenfolio lets you create galleries right from the dashboard. You can edit the privacy settings of your galleries – who can see the photos and who can download them.|
|Work protection||To protect your work, Zenfolio offers custom watermarks, password-protected galleries, and right-click protection.|
|Photo editing||Zenfolio’s Classic Lightroom plugin allows you to edit photos directly on your site.|
|Social media integration||It’s possible to share photos to your social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with just one click from your Zenfolio website.|
|Events/bookings||It’s possible to set up bookings directly through your site using the BookMe tool. You can also set up private password-protected events.|
|eCommerce||You can set up your Zenfolio site to be able to sell photography prints, digital downloads, packages, and photography gifts.|
|Mobile application||The Zenfolio mobile app lets you upload photo files, manage galleries, view your photos offline, as well as manage orders and downloads on the go.|
Zenfolio includes a simple way to sell your photography: both in digital, and print form. It's partnered with Stripe payment gateway to handle payouts, and with Mpix photo lab to print and ship your images to the customers.
The "Selling" menu on your website dashboard is where all the action will take place.
Here you get to set prices for each product or gallery, making them available either as a print of a digital download for people to add to their shopping cart.
Payment, fulfillment, shipping, everything is handled for you. There's just one caveat: right now, Mpix cannot ship items outside of the USA.
The digital downloads are fine, but I wish there was also a worldwide option for artists that wish to go abroad.
Now when it comes to analytics, Zenfolio offers two built-in tools – basic visitor tracking (views on a photo) and a sign-in page. The tools aren’t very advanced, so the builder suggests using a third-party plugin like Google Analytics.
However, countless forum posts from Zenfolio users show that the compatibility of the two isn’t the best, so be aware of this problem.
For photographers, it's important to protect their work. In the age of social media, it's very easy to see your images float online, with no compensation, or even credit to you.
Zenfolio knows that, and offers a way to quickly add watermarks to all of your images.
It's a simple feature, but certainly something most photographers will – or at least should – use.
Zenfolio Lightroom plugin
Zenfolio Lightroom plugin allows you to quickly upload images directly from Adobe Lightroom to Zenfolio. If Lightroom is your editing tool of choice, this will be a massive timesaver. This feature is only available to PortfolioPlus ($12/month) users.
By clicking "Learn More", you get redirected to a startup guide, that will teach you the basics of how to add Zenfolio pictures straight through the Lightroom app.
Overall, it's a nifty tool that can be a good time saver. If you're a Lightroom power user, this alone might be a reason for you to consider choosing the PortfolioPlus plan.
Website builder are not known as being very fast. Same is true with Zenfolio – it's not going to blow your socks off with its speed.
But there's a reason for that.
Zenfolio is a photography website, meaning that it's going to be absolutely brimming with pictures. And pictures take up a lot of space, and so, they're going to take a while to load.
For the final test of this Zenfolio review, I put my own website to a GTMetrix test, which looks into website load time and overall optimization.
Here's what I got:
Doesn't look good? Well, it isn't. The website takes over 3 seconds to fully start displaying your pictures. It's the pictures that slow it down. My test website included around 9MB of data right at the very top. This is why it's rather slow.
That being said, Zenfolio is still perfectly serviceable. 5.5s for a whole website to load isn't bad. It just isn't great.
Zenfolio website examples
A well-curated photography website can easily become your calling card. If you’ve never made a website specifically for photography before, I can see how it might be quite challenging to come up with an idea of what it should look like.
To motivate you and to challenge you to come up with something unique, I found five examples of websites made with Zenfolio.
These excellent examples will be able to show you how versatile this builder can be. Now, let’s take a look at them.
Paris Mountain Photography
Pam Jones has a photography site that really takes advantage of Zenfolio’s features. A clean, modern design shows off her stunning photos. For instance, once you visit the site you get greeted with a full-screen slideshow of Pam’s previous work.
Her About page features the photographer in action shots – I like how clients are able to see their photographer in a natural setting. That definitely makes the website appear more personal.
The blog section of her website adds even more personality to her page – the photographer writes blog posts about her experience of each photo session. After your photoshoot, you can get not only the photos but also read about how the photoshoot went from the eyes of the photographer.
Jon Viscott’s homepage has a huge slideshow of his photos on a white background. It’s attention-catching, and you just can’t miss the image and the name of the author – great web design for an online portfolio.
The photos are divided into series and galleries, making it easy to find exactly what you might need. This website, different from others, is more used as a portfolio. You can get to the contact page only once you go away from the homepage.
The about page features contact information and previous experience – a great choice since a user of the website might read about the photographer, make up their mind, and instantly book a service.
Sian Lewis photography
The photographer Sian Lewis puts her work front and center – the homepage of her website features a collage of her exemplary work. The photographer uses a lot of whitespace in her website to make your gaze divert directly to the photos.
Sian Lewis added password-protected client galleries, which can only be accessed with gallery ID and client access passwords.
Adding galleries like that is a great choice – they’re secure and private, not to mention, easily accessible to clients on the go.
Alessandra Nicole decided to implement a darker background for her website to make the colors of her photos pop. They’re not curated in any way and are made into a collage on the front page of the website.
The about page of her website doesn’t feature any action shots or more examples of her type of photography, but it has a short biography and her experience.
The requests for photography page has a simple contact form – it’s easy to understand, plus there’s plenty of room for visitors to leave their specific desires for a photoshoot.
Hanson-Carlen Architecture and Construction
Hanson-Carlen Architecture & Construction is a family-owned business that has decided to make its website visual-focused to showcase its work.
The website looks like a beautiful luxury online magazine showcasing photography – this look was achieved by adding in a fullscreen slideshow of their work on the front page of their website accompanied with a big and centered logo of their business. This business utilized the gallery option of Zenfolio perfectly.
Other sections of the website that showcase photos are neatly organized into galleries – clients are able to quickly find examples of the business’s work.
Maybe the photography features didn't sell you, or maybe the themes just don't catch your eye. Maybe you're looking for a better portfolio website builder, or maybe you didn't like the price. Whatever the reason, there are some great Zenfolio alternatives you can choose from.
Squarespace has over 100 templates to pick from. And similar to Zenfolio, they’re minimalist and focus a lot of visuals – so, it’s perfect for photographers. On top of that, dropshipping, marketing, design tools, and other business tools can help you make a pretty solid photography website. With the features that Squarespace offers, you can easily create a one-stop home for your photography business.
SmugMug, just like Zenfolio, was built with professional photographers in mind. It offers unlimited storage, right-click protection, and bulk image management. If you want to move from Zenfolio, its Lightroom plugin, you’ll be delighted to hear that SmugMug also offers Lightroom integration. With these features in mind, it’s no surprise that many photographers choose SmugMug.
If you like the idea of a photography website, but find Zenfolio to look a bit too outdated, you’ll enjoy Pixieset. This builder for photographers offers a more modern-looking end result, letting you create separate galleries, websites, and online stores. The price list is similar to Zenfolio, the main difference is the templates – if web design is important to you, definitely consider this option.
Even though it is suited for all kinds of websites, Wix stands out by offering apps for photography (such as galleries and art store integrations) as well as its enormous selection of photography themes. If Zenfolio is too limited for you, Wix will let you change absolutely everything about your site.
Zenfolio review - final verdict
I came to this Zenfolio review expecting a slightly outdated, but still helpful photography suite, and instead, I discovered a great option for portfolios and small businesses to use. Its name is Zenfolio Portfolio, and it's a massive step-up for this platform.
It's a shame that print selling options are available only in the US, and I wish that there were more themes available. Other than that, it's an option I endorse.
I recommend one of the Zenfolio Portfolio to start your photography website. The new platform is easy to build a website with, and easy to manage – great, if you just want to spend your time focusing on photography.
Good luck making your picture-perfect websites!
What is Zenfolio?
Zenfolio is a photography-centered website builder, allowing photographers to quickly upload, share, and sell their work.
Is Zenfolio or SmugMug better?
SmugMug gives you more custom design options, but Zenfolio offers a very simple all-inclusive package for portfolios. It depends on what you want more.
Is Zenfolio any good?
Zenfolio is good if you're a photographer who wants a simple website. If you're not a photographer, or want a highly-detailed editing experience, use something else.