Zenfolio – is a powerful and complex website builder for professional photographers. It allows creating multifunctional portfolio websites that support eCommerce functionality. As a result, we get a specific website, which features a unique combination of a portfolio (photo/video), a blog and an online store.
Zenfolio sees its major mission in helping professional photographers and niche enthusiasts create truly unique and visually-appealing portfolio websites with versatile goals. Whether you are going to showcase your creative work to your fans or sell them to the target audience, the system will provide you with a complex of measures, tools and features to complete the task in the best way possible and gain the desired revenue.
Launched in 2004, the website builder has built a strong reputation of a portfolio web building platform. It’s up to you to control all the steps of the website creation process here to stock and sale your photos and videos. It is you, who designs the display window (galleries, albums, collections, categories etc.), sets access to your works (free or after the payment or registration), download opportunity, cost of product groups or separate photos, display parameters etc. You can just showcase your photos to please the audience by creating a nice free portfolio for website visitors. It’s up to you to decide what exactly you want.
Are you interested in the functionality of the service and wish to find out more about it? Then it’s high time to review it as a platform used to create digital product stores. It’s hardly possible that anyone will have a desire to use such a complicated web building tool to publish an ordinary portfolio. This service is meant for professionals and, thus, it comes with a rich amount of settings and a complex dashboard structure. The system is quite serious. Let’s see whether it’s really worth using.
Pros and Cons
Zenfolio is a quality website builder that lets you create and manage your own portfolio or photography website, even if you are not a web design pro. The platform has all the tools required to start a worthy project, but you shouldn’t expect deep flexibility and functionality from it. The website builder provides users with the basic feature set needed for quick and effective website development process, but if you intend to start a powerful portfolio project, it will hardly come up to your needs. Just like any other professional platform, Zenfolio comes with the list of pros and cons users should know about to make the unbiased choice.
✔ Powerful photography focus of the system
✔ Modern integrated image gallery
✔ Flexible template customization and responsive designs
✔ eCommerce engine
✔ Convenient photo management
✔ Nice SEO
✔ Powerful customer support
✔ Marketing tools
✔ Mobile optimization
✔ Lets you get in touch with extensive network of photographers
✔ Extensive video/image/audio integration options
✘ Inconvenient editor and complex interface
✘ Steep learning curve
✘ Limited template choice
✘ WYSIWYG text editor may be insufficient to cope with complex website elements
✘ Phone and live chat support options are not available for all the plans
✘ Limited number of system fonts
Zenfolio is a worthy choice for users, who intend to start photography websites yet lack web design skills and coding awareness to do that independently. However, the website builder somewhat lacks functionality and deep design customization options to let you get the most out of your website development process.
What Is It Good For?
Zenfolio is a great pick for those users, who lack web design knowledge and coding skills to launch high end projects on their own. By using the platform, it has become possible for non-techies not only to build professional photography websites, but also to organize, showcase and sell their works of art.
Zenfolio has managed to win popularity with professional photographers and amateurs due to its integrated eCommerce system, powerful gallery presentation and flexible marketing tools. The website builder also comes with a convenient drag-and-drop editor as well as abundance of features to showcase and grow your photography business. These are the major parameters that make the platform a good choice for users involved in the photography business.
Ease of Use
Zenfolio is not the easiest website builder out there, but it is still quite possible to get used to it after you explore the system’s interface, dashboard and integrated toolset. The platform comes with multilingual support and a standard set of web pages one can add to the website to save time and effort. The WYSIWYG editor of the system makes it possible to edit, modify and organize the majority of page elements. This is one of the features that contributes to the simplicity of the system.
At the same time, the interface of the website builder is a bit cluttered with features and options required to give your website fully-customized design. This adds to the complexity of web page creation, which is especially true for non-techies as well as for users, who have got used to simple and convenient website navigation. Likewise, it takes time to customize complex web page elements, including forms, columns, maps etc. This also takes extra time and effort investment.
When you are just about to start working with the system, it creates a much simpler impression than it actually is. The sign up process is easy and quick. The system will ask you to provide your actual name as a photographer as well as your email and password to create an account.
The next step is to select the website type (portfolio) you are going to create and customize. The drop down menu will help you make the right choice, even if there are any doubts you might have for some reason.
Right after you are done with topic selection, the system will offer you to pick a template that suits your niche and portfolio style as well as topic most of all. This is where you will have to specify the type of photos you generally shoot (Wedding and Engagement, Events, School, Portraiture, Sports/Action, Landscape, Nature/Wildlife etc.). If needed, you can pick several variants.
What’s more, the website builder will offer you to pick a design based on the questions and information you’ve submitted during the previous steps. Additionally, you will be able to check the boxes that define the main implication of your project (Online Portfolio, Client Proofing, Digital File Delivery, Blog, Selling etc.). Having completed these steps, you will be able to proceed to your photography website customization.
The system offers you the most suitable template based on the information you have shared. If there is anything you don’t like about it for some reason or if you decide to switch to another design, you can do that later based on the submitted information. As soon as you are done with template choice, you will have an opportunity to start customizing it.
Homepage personalization is completed by means of adding photos. You can upload several images for the start, but it will also be possible to add more photos afterwards. The website builder makes it possible to upload a couple of photos only to let you see the way your project might look in the long run.
Finally, Zenfolio will offer you to adjust SEO settings of your website to make sure people will be able to find you and increase your project visibility in the social networks. That’s quite an unusual approach as the majority of website builders (including specialized ones) don’t provide this option right from the start. Meanwhile, the importance of SEO promotion should not be underestimated, which makes the system worth the attention of professionals and photo enthusiasts.
To adjust SEO settings, you will have to provide the relevant content in the major website fields to help the search engines understand your website topic better and to display it well in the search engines. Among the fields you need to fill out, the following ones should be the first to mention: Home Page Title, Location (city, state/province) and Website Description.
What you should mind, though, is that Zenfolio exploration and website creation process itself will be much more complicated than it may seem from the very beginning. This is not an ordinary system. The dashboard structure is not similar to other services.
If you have the experience of using cloud services, it won’t help you at all. Generally, it’s possible to explore the system effectively. As soon as you get used to it, the dashboard will become more or less convenient. However, you will still feel unsure as to the choice of the required option from time to time. This is because of the complex dashboard structure and abundance of categories it involves. These are Photos, Website, Selling and Communications categories, each of which comes with drop down subcategories, which also require exploration.
Additionally, the dashboard of the website builder has an Organizer, where you can structure your photo galleries, collections or even separate pages. Here is the list of sections you should have at your disposal: Featured, Recently Added, Favorites. Watermarks and Soundtracks. Underneath the Organizer, you will find readymade collections, portfolios and galleries.
Such logical subdivision of the working area into sections makes the process of mastering the system a bit simplified, although, you’ll still need time to get used to it. Users generally expect a more user-friendly and ergonomic interface from a portfolio website builder, even if the system is advanced. What if I just wish to post 50-100 photos I’ve taken during my trip to Polynesia, for example? This won’t be simple. I’ll have to fight with complicated unnecessary settings for quite a long period of time, hoping that this will soon come to an end and people will see my photos.
Fortunately, the Support Center of the system consists of three sections, namely the knowledge base, training videos and resources. The YouTube channel of the service comes with a variety of videos, the duration of many of which exceeds 1 hour. This speaks in favor of two facts: the developers of the system try their best effort to help users explore the service successfully and they really have much to tell them about. Zenfolio really requires an informative support center. There is much to explain here. The text section contains over 200 articles, which are subdivided into categories. You can also consult the tech support directly any time of the day.
The service has an interesting blog with news, inspiring stories and recommendations on the effective use of website builder features. It generally takes around 5 days to master the most useful Zenfolio functionality. If there is something you don’t understand, go to the support section to get quick help. Your intuition and experience may not come in handy to you here, while the FAQ of the service is much more reliable.
The process of starting a photography website with Zenfolio doesn’t take long, but get ready to invest some time to explore the system and get used to it. As soon as your website is ready, you may preview the way it looks and then go live. Mind that you can get back to the website editing process any time you need that – just activate the Edit button and make the edits you consider important. They will be saved automatically. All in all, it takes a few seconds to publish your portfolio project.
Features & Flexibility
Zenfolio interface looks pretty simple, if not even childish if compared with its main niche competitor SmugMug. There are many colours, angular element forms, lots of versatile icons and signs here. This, however, doesn’t distract users a lot. You quickly get used to this. The dashboard is structurally subdivided into 6 large sections of options:
“Dashboard” is a start-up screen containing quick links to access settings from other sections (you can add a gallery, blog post, set up the design, look through the comments etc. here).
“Photos” is a photo storage section that resembles Windows Explorer or MacOS Finder. The left sidebar contains galleries, photo groups and collections, while the working area includes folders with photos found there. You can add new sections, categories, photos, edit visibility settings and gallery access etc. In the right sidebar, it’s possible to add the description of photo groups, set up their visibility, download opportunity/prohibition, cost, album cover, free or registered access.
“Selling” is the eCommerce website builder section. This is where your price lists, order reports, lists of paid products (which can be edited/deleted or united into packages), albums, gift certificate settings, coupons and versatile promo actions are found.
“Website” is a list of static pages of your website containing the descriptions and links for their editing. This is the section, from which you can also add new blog posts, upload new PDF documents and create custom pages.
“Communications” is your own center of communication with visitors. This is where you can find a list of contacts, email history, a list of website comments and statistics of each registered user.
“Settings” is a powerful section of options, which are subdivided into 4 categories, namely:
- “Account” that makes it possible to set up the account data, passwords, copyright, a referral link, social profile settings etc.;
- “Billing”, which contains payment information (credit card type, number, address etc.), account statement (current balance, credits and charges) as well as information about the current plan. This is where you can also set up extra website services, like Triple Scoop Music, RAW Files Edit ($50/year) and Borrowlences Membership ($100/year);
- “Website”, which allows setting up custom domain, choosing the homepage of your website, getting SEO settings access, Webmaster Tools (Google, Bing), Visitor Tracking (Google Analytics), Cookie Warning Settings and Visitor View Settings (activation of the mobile website version, website search, slideshow effects etc.);
- “Selling”, where you can launch promo campaigns, set up default way of print ordering, vendor preferences, currency and tax settings, shopping cart, Zenfolio Fees Information (7% from all transactions) and other settings like these.
Thus, the Dashboard contains sections of settings, which are not directly related to web page formation. Zenfolio editor is a separate settings area, where you can set up each page visually and functionally in details. We have partially described its options in the “Themes” section.
To sum it up, you can choose a layout and a set of displayed elements for each block. Each menu point may be assigned a Title, type (gallery, custom page, external page, PDF document), display and opening rules (in a new or current window). Dropdown menu can be created here as well. In the Site Settings section, you can set up website branding (logos and icons), language, mobile version, RSS news feed, photo information display etc.
Generally, the dashboard creates positive impression. It is a bit complicated and overloaded with settings, but it looks pretty logical and convenient as soon as you get used to it. Zenfolio functionality is on a decent level. You can design a photo/video store with a blog in several days. Everything you need is available here.
Speaking about the functionality of the system, it’s quite versatile and unveils multiple options for the expression of your creative freedom. It’s high time to review the feature set of the system right now.
Apart from mobile-optimized layouts that come with touch navigation support, the website builder has free mobile apps for Android and iOS devices that make it possible to create and manage professional portfolios on the go. There are also individual Client Memory apps for quick uploading and management of shots and creation of photo galleries.
Search Engine Optimization
Zenfolio portfolio websites are well optimized for the search engines. As mentioned above, the system offers an opportunity to fill out the major SEO settings right from the start – on the final step of the project creation process. Additionally, it even comes with the most important highlighted fields that should not be overlooked, when it comes for SEO. This is the best way for users to know what meta tags they should fill out to boost their project search engine ranking (titles, keywords, descriptions).
The system offers an opportunity to integrate the must-have tools to track your website parameters, including traffic flow and fluctuations, their behaviour at the websites, major traffic sources and other notable features that have direct impact upon our website promotion and customer engagement rate. Among the services you can integrate, it makes sense to mention Google Analytics, Webmaster Tools and StatCounter.
Zenfolio lets you easily organize your photos and collections into galleries and nested groups. It’s also possible to assign tags (keywords) to them as well as to upload and divide photos into categories. The service additionally supports drag-and-drop rearrangement of photos, videos and their collections.
If there is the need to move files from one category to another, you can easily do that in less than no time. Zenfolio also lets you import and display IPTC and EXIF metadata as well as make use of integrated upload tools like ActiveX and HTML5.
If you already have any photo collections in other systems and have an intention to move them to Zenfolio, the website builder allows for direct uploads from Adobe Lightroom, Microsoft Live Photo Gallery, Photo Mechanic, command line etc. You can also transfer photos to Zenfolio from other hosting services, upload or store source or raw files, upload PDF files or even link them from your website menu.
Photo and Video Hosting
Zenfolio supports JPEG, TIFF, PNG, GIF photo file formats as well as MPEG, M4V, AVI, MOV, WMV, 3GP, MKV, MP4, MTS video files. Regardless of the sizes of your photo files, they will feature high quality, being perfectly displayed on the website. The website builder also boasts lots of professional video, photo and portfolio photography layouts that contribute to user engagement and retention rates.
Furthermore, Zenfolio comes with the Dim-the-Lights mode for quality display and appealing viewing of large images. Most users appreciate an opportunity to choose between 50 free soundtracks available in the Triple Scoop Music collection of the website builder.
The fact that the website builder is focused on the needs of professional photographers, it pays special attention to the security of files hosted on its servers. The platform ensures secure geo-distributed backup of photos, password protection of separate photos and galleries,
Social Media Sharing
To contribute to your website promotion and customer base growth, Zenfolio makes it possible to share your website and your photo collections in the popular social networks, including Pinterest, Google+, Facebook, Twitter etc. This grants new shopping experience both to photographers and their potential and loyal clients. If there is the necessity to order files from integrated labs, Zenfolio grants this feature as well.
Zenfolio comes with an integrated shopping cart that comes with your own branding and supports 18 currency types, broad worldwide shipping/delivery options, 20% discount on the first order as well as an opportunity to email your Shopping Cart to your friend or partner. With Zenfolio, you can sell more than 2,000 products provided by integrated partner labs.
The Photo Album Service the website builder has makes it possible to sell handcrafted photo albums as well as printed products. Among other products you can sell with the service, it makes sense to mention licensed digital downloads, packages of products granted by other vendors, custom designed collages and greeting cards etc. It’s up to you to set the prices and present them to potential clients, especially if you are going to sell products globally in different currency types. CSV file import/export feature is also supported here.
Zenfolio also allows displaying featured products for photos and galleries, decide on the preferrable shipping options in each individual case, charge an individual sales tax (VAT) on all orders completed. The website builder lets you accept PayPal and credit card payments add promo prints to those orders that are in the pending status.
Zenflow lets you make use multiple add-ons to make your portfolio website even more entertaining. These include over 17000 songs from Triple Scoop Music, Photographer’s Edit RAW File Processing as well as discounts and special offers from the system partners.
Design & Templates
Zenfolio has 12 site presets. Each of them comes with its own photo presentation structure and has different gallery composition, home pages, menu positions etc. You will be able to additionally set the themes for each preset, which includes the color scheme of a website, background and typography. This is a very simple design customization method. There are many themes that can be edited here or you can create your own themes from scratch in the website builder.
It’s also possible to change the layout of any site preset. There are 25 different templates and you can select a separate layout for each page of your website. This is also a very powerful and easy to use way of design customization. What’s more, layout templates can be activated for header and footer separately. It doesn’t matter a lot, however, what template exactly you will select – its design and structure may be finally completely changed.
You can activate/deactivate a number of elements on any page, including header, footer, menu, contact info, search area, social network buttons etc. These options affect the webpage design a lot.
You can generally set up the alignment and display of all the elements on a page. You just need to find the required checkbox to do that. The majority of these options are found in the “Page Options” section. Zenfolio comes with rich design customization settings. The only problem is that it’s difficult to understand the result of activating of this or that option sometimes. There are many minor settings and it’s easy to get lost here. If you don’t bother about the checkbox, then you are more likely to succeed in this. The design editor is nice here.
Learning and Support Center of the website builder is professional and offers detailed questions on any answers. Zenfolio customer support options are quite versatile, but not all the services are available here by default and at zero cost. First time users or those, who encounter problems during the process of website development, can make use of the following assistance solutions:
- Knowledge Base – the website builder offers an informative Knowledge Base that comprises lots of articles. They fall into niche categories based on the most widespread issues users face, when working with the system;
- Training Videos – Zenfolio has multiple in-depth training videos and tools that will help you bring your project to the brand new level;
- Live Chat – Live Chat and phone support are currently available for paid plan subscribers and this is one of the issues that requires improvement;
- Contact Form – To get in touch with the assistant, you should fill out the contact form or sign up for a free one-on-one setup session with one of Zenfolio experts by following a special link. Generally, Zenfolio tech support is organized well;
- Online Community – Zenfolio boasts an extensive online community comprised of several options users may choose from. These include Blog, Reviews, Events, Zenfolio Ambassadors, Developers, Free Guides.
Plans & Pricing: How Much Does Zenfolio Cost?
Zenfolio is a paid service, which offers a free 14-day trial to test the features of the system. Plans differ a lot in terms of functionality. Thus, we recommend learning the features of each plan prior to subscribing to it. So, the plans are as follows:
- Starter ($60 per year) – Customizable photo hosting website, fully-featured portfolio with blog, unlimited storage, mobile layouts, themes, 50 free songs for slideshows, access control with passwords, archive RAW files, domain name.
- Pro ($240 per year) – All the features included into Starter Plan plus an opportunity to order/sell products from Mpix, 7% order fee, shopping cart, 64 Mb max file size, add watermarks and logos, marketing tools, removed Zenfolio branding.
- Advanced ($360 per year) – Custom shipping option, multi-user account access, managing events with participant lists, complete order editing, instant live chat support, phone support, export favorites to Lightroom.
It’s worth mentioning that monthly payments are 40% more expensive as compared to yearly plans. Plans come at average cost in the website builders niche and differ a lot from each other. Starter Plan works well for creating a standard portfolio. Pro Plan allows branding and selling content. Advanced Plan ensures quality tech support and opportunity to work in a team or conduct promo actions for clients.
A 7% commission sales fee doesn’t seem reasonable here. On the other hand, though, the developers are personally interested in your success, which contributes to tech support performance and general Zenfolio quality. This is a standard practice.
Zenfolio Review Conclusion
Zenfolio is an advanced website builder used to create multifunctional portfolio websites. Quality templates combined with powerful functionality of the system make it possible to recommend the website builder to users. Disadvantages of the service are not that crucial, but they exist and are quite notable. This is especially true on the initial stages of using the platform – the ergonomics of the interface is occasionally poor.
What matters a lot is that you can quickly upload any number of photos and post them at your website. The major task is to set up its design and billing options. The rest is much simpler. Does Zenfolio work well for newbies? More likely yes than no, but you’ll have to get used to the system and watch the tutorial first.
The Support Center has to be singled out. It is really professional. The tech support is also developed pretty well. The cost of plans is average. The website builder is worth the attention, if you are ok with its interface. The trial period will allow you to understand whether the system is worth its money.