Zenfolio vs. SmugMug: Part 3 – Overall Thoughts

Update: My 11 Month Follow-Up Posted!

While I would have loved to spend much more time evaluating both of these photo hosting services, my two-week evaluation period for SmugMug is up. Therefore, I’m going to give an overall impression of both services and give my final choice for my needs.

I must say — both services offer great features and are superb options.  In the end, my choice came down to my specific needs as both an aspiring amateur photographer who wanted to be able to easily distrubute photos to friends and family and as a stock photographer.  As always, an evaluation of both services for your particular needs would be prudent.

Zenfolio offers a great interface for the end user.  It’s intuitive, easy to use and looks great.  There are many options for the look and feel of the site and everything is smooth and refined.  However, at current it’s not possible to fully integrate the site into your own theme or your own site.  As far as printing goes, Zenfolio uses Mpix which is touted as one of the premier print shops for online printing.

SmugMug allows for complete customization of your site.  This is a huge plus.  They also allow for the sale of digital files.  Also, the interface for the photographer isn’t quite as refined.  There are a few things which really bother me.  However, SmugMug has really grown on me as far as their capabilities and customization.  I’ve found it’s very easy to setup unlisted galleries and password protected galleries as well as custom pricing.  It’s not a perfect interface, but very very well done.


And now, for my recommendations and my personal choice.  For an amature photographer who wants secure, unlimited hosting of their photos and the ability to allow users to print what they want, Zenfolio is easy to use and you can have a great looking site in no time.  Uploading out of Lightroom 2 is fantastic thanks to Jeffrey Friedl’s export plugin and overall, it’s very simple and functional.  This all comes at a very attractive price.

For a full time photographer or stock shooter, I would have to recommend SmugMug.  Digital photo sales are perfect for stock photo sales.  The uploading is just as easy thanks again to Jeffrey Friedl’s Lightroom 2 plugin and the customization can make your site look fully integrated or, if you choose, you can use the SmugMug page as your official homepage. All of these features come at a cost though and you’ll be paying a $50 premium.  Still not much for a business website however.

For my uses, I would have to say that SmugMug is worth the extra cost.  With minimal effort, I was able to use my WordPress style sheet from this blog on my SmugMug site and it looks almost the same as this site.  Nothing’s perfect, and I would like to spend some more time overcoming a few shortcomings but I feel that I’m going to really enjoy SmugMug. I’ll be posting more details of how I use SmugMug in future posts!

So, without further ado, here is my SmugMug site!  There isn’t much there that is public but there are numerous unlisted galleries which I will be giving out to family and friends in the near future!

So… if you’re interested in joining SmugMug, you are welcome to save $5 off an account there using my referral code of cbGIGu2TvRQWM!

It’s official. After giving Zenfolio another try, I decided that for my uses, I would officially switch to Zenfolio. Full story here!

9 thoughts on “Zenfolio vs. SmugMug: Part 3 – Overall Thoughts”

  1. Hi Mark,
    Your article comparing both sites is very interesting and helpful, thank you! If you weren’t concerned with integrating your photos sales into your own website would you have gone with Zenfolio instead? I ask because even though I have an account with Smugmug, which is integrated into my own website, I’m also thinking about setting up an account with Zenfolio and keeping it just as a stand-alone portfolio. Might work out a bit expensive in the beginning, but the added exposure might pay for itself eventually.

  2. I’m so glad you enjoyed the article. With regards to your question — I’m not sure there is much of a difference between SmugMug and Zenfolio until you start looking at customization. For a stand alone portfolio, I think they offer a great service.

    However, from an exposure standpoint, I’m not sure exactly what you’re gaining with both a SmugMug site and a Zenfolio site. I feel that so far, I’ve found very little business generated from the fact that my account is with SmugMug. While the community does offer some exposure, I’m almost inclined to say that having your name on two different sites might dilute your search rankings with the major search engines. Frankly, I feel that the majority of your website traffic is going to have to come from your own advertising — getting your name out there. And to add insult to injury, there are very few good venues for such promotion.

    Good luck!

  3. Thanx for doing the time to post your critique of Zenfolio and Smugmug. I stumbled on Zenfold and decided it was the way to go rather than create my own site from scratch. But, after reading your article and your views on Smugmug, I decided to put my pix up on it.

    BTW, I feel your pain re: the gloomy weather in Western New York. I’m from that area and I got fed up with the crappy climate and moved to S. California. Weather is a no-op in SoCal — doesnt even become part of the equation.


  4. Thanks for the useful information. One important additional consideration in evaluating these two sites would be print quality. Ultimately, the customers that are booking the orders need to be satisfied with the print quality, color corrections, and such. SmugMug uses Bay Photo whereas Zenfolio uses Mpix. Are you aware of any substantive differences between the quality of these print services? Also, any idea whether there are major differences in markups between Zenfolio and SmugMug on custom price lists?

  5. I completely agree regarding print quality. I signed up for SmugMug well before the new Bay Photo agreement had taken place and therefore, it did not factor into my decision. From my experience, Bay Photo offers incredibly high quality prints and I highly recommend them.

    With regards to markups, I’m not really sure. My time with Zenfolio was short and 10 months ago. Therefore, I’m hesitant to speculate on what might have changed since then. I do know that many people use them and are quite satisfied.

    Ultimately, my decision was based on being able to build a unified look and feel to my site, and deliver quality products to my users. These two items have been achieved very nicely for me using SmugMug.

  6. Web Site… tried the link to your site “So, without further ado, here is my SmugMug site!” and got nothing but the main smugmug site??? tried several ways on putting in the URL and even tried a search on smugmug and kept getting sent back to their main page???? Not a great selling point? Is there a problem.. do you still use SmugMug? Jumping ship from pbase and looking for a new host.. so interested Looking at zenfolio and was searching reviews and stumbled on this entry. thanks for sharing BTW.

  7. You’re right! I have officially switched over to Zenfolio! I’ve updated my post to reflect this change!

    SmugMug was great. But at the end of the day, I wanted something simple and affordable, and for me, Zenfolio fit the bill better!

  8. I am at the point you were when you first started looking into SmugMug and Zenfolio. Where are you now what are your conclusions. I use Flickr and would like to be able to sell my photos and prints online. I like the idea of SmugMug because they use BayPhoto which is local. Are you still blogging? What do you recommend.

  9. I loved SmugMug and their support, as well as their print service. However, I Officially Switched to Zenfolio and am loving it. It’s simpler to use, and is getting more and more support for customizing the look and feel of your site. Not to mention that all of the prints I’ve ordered from Zenfolio have been amazing so I do have to say that I’m very happy. At current, my recommendation is Zenfolio.

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