Zenfolio vs. SmugMug – Cost Comparison

I’ve seen tons of commentary over the last couple weeks as I’ve been in the process of deciding which photo hosting site to choose — Zenfolio, or SmugMug. As many of my regular readers know, I decided to go with Zenfolio. However, it was rather enlightening to see what some folks are interested in with regards to their individual decisions.

Please note — I’m not trying to knock anyone with this discussion, but frankly, I really don’t feel that cost should be the number one factor in deciding your hosting options. While I don’t deny it’s important, I feel that since the purpose of these sites is to showcase your photography and allow people to purchase your prints, how well the photo hosting site performs these tasks should be paramount.

That being said, there are some cost considerations that I wanted to touch on. I’m going to assume that readers are interested in selling prints for profit. Therefore, the two membership plans that I will discuss are Zenfolio’s Premium Membership and SmugMug’s Professional Membership. Lesser plans through either site don’t allow the photographer to set prices and make a profit selling.

Membership Fee

Both Zenfolio and SmugMug work on a membership model. You pay a base membership fee which allows you host your photos and setup pricing for your galleries.

Storage Space:UnlimitedUnlimited

I realize that this table only touches on the features, but for all intensive purposes, unlimited photo hosting, unlimited bandwidth and the ability to set prices will cost you $50.00 more in membership fees with SmugMug.

Here’s where we get to the nitty gritty. On top of the membership fee, there is also a percentage commission for all print sales. Presently, this fee is 15% for SmugMug and 12% for Zenfolio. It is important to note that this commission only applies to the profit, not to the total sale. At this time, SmugMug does not allow orders to be taken on their site while allowing the photographer to fulfill them at a local lab. Zenfolio does have this feature and their commission on such sales is 4% of the sale price.

So what does this really mean to me?

Let’s say that I want to sell 8×10 inch glossy prints for $25.99. This is a little complicated since there are two lab choices at SmugMug, but for this example, we’ll assume that SmugMug’s ezprints lab selection is comparable to Zenfolio’s Mpix lab selection.

Print Cost:$1.99$3.23
Commission Percent:12%15%
Photographer Profit:$21.12$19.22

For this example, the difference is only $1.90 — hardly a huge deal. However, if you were to sell 100 prints, that’s a difference in profit of $190.00!

While an 8×10 print for $25.99 may be a decent example for a landscape photographer, what about the portrait photographer who is more likely to sell 5×7 prints for $4.99 but in higher volumes?

Print Cost:$0.99$1.99
Commission Percent:12%15%
Photographer Profit:$3.52$2.55

Here, we have a $0.97 difference in profit! And what’s more, I’m guessing a decent portrait photographer might sell 500 of these prints per year. That adds up to a total of $485.00 over the course of a year! That’s a huge difference!


While there is definitely a difference in profit between Zenflio and SmugMug, is it enough to sway your decision? I guess that depends on a couple factors. First, do the prints look comparable? This is very important. That profit margin will dissolve quickly if there are unhappy customers. In my personal opinion, the prints are indeed comparable and therefore, I don’t foresee any issues.

The second major concern is that no profit will be made if the customer chooses not to order or can’t figure out how. In my opinion, both sites do a great job of showcasing my work. Also, both have easy to use shopping carts.

However, I urge you to not take my word for granted. Both offer trials so see for yourself! If you do want to try out Zenfolio, you can use my referral code – DAW-JPA-61M to save $5 off your membership. Not only will this save you money, but it saves me money when I go to renew my membership!