» Comparisons » Zenfolio vs SmugMug: Which is Better?

Zenfolio vs SmugMug: Which is Better?

If you are right about to launch a portfolio website or a photography-focused business, you will surely encounter the need to pick a specialized web design service to get started with your project. Zenfolio and SmugMug are two niche website builders, which make it possible to present your works/services to the target audience. They have similar portfolio specialization, but they still differ in features and tools you can use for your website development.

Zenfolio is a contemporary portfolio website builder that is geared towards the needs of professional photographers. The system allows launching multifunctional projects and it also supports eCommerce functionality, blogging and photo/video uploading.

SmugMug is an advanced multi-functional website builder, which is also created with the needs of photographers and creatives in mind. The system lets you build quality portfolios and online galleries to further offer them for sale or stock directly in the system.

Both Zenfolio and SmugMug target photographers and creatives, irrespective of their skills and expertise. The systems have lots of similar features, but they still differ in terms of simplicity, convenience and pricing. It’s high time now to analyze the platforms, comparing their most crucial parameters.

Zenfolio vs SmugMug: General Overview

Zenfolio vs SmugMug: General Overview

Zenfolio focuses on the development and promotion of multifunctional portfolio/photography websites. It comes with integrated blogging and eCommerce engines, letting its subscribers create web stores to offer their products/services for sale and blogs to stay in touch with the target audience. The system has much to offer to web design experts, but newbies can also work with it to showcase their skills and creativity.

Launched in 2004, the website builder has gained popularity with photographers around the world due to its innovative natures and user-friendly web design approach. Recent estimates tell about 45,339 portfolio websites created with it and this number keeps increasing with every passing year. You can use Zenfolio to create impressive show windows featuring professional photos, videos, collections, albums and galleries. To safeguard your project from unauthorised access, you can adjust user access rights and payments settings. These are only some of the features that speak in favor of using the website builder for your portfolio development needs.

Read also: Zenfolio review.

SmugMug works great for starting feature-rich photography websites. It mostly targets professional users, who need quality projects to sell their works and services. You can use the platform to create visually-appealing galleries, share access to your photo/image collections with users interested in the services you offer.

The foundation of the platform dates back to 2002. Since that time, it has evolved into a feature-rich portfolio creation system with thousands of subscribers across the globe. According to current stats, over 99,846 portfolio projects are now powered by SmugMug and many more are under construction. You don’t have to be a coding expert to work with the website builder due to its intuitive web design approach and understandable dashboard.

Zenfolio and SmugMug are effectively used to start portfolio websites. They offer a broad range of niche-related features and tools that let users present their works/services to the advantage. The systems enjoy popularity with dozens of thousands of users across the globe, having thousands of professional portfolios in stock.

Zenfolio vs SmugMug: Which One Is Easier to Use?

Zenfolio vs SmugMug: Which One Is Easier to Use?

Zenfolio comes with a logically structured interface yet its interface is somewhat complicated for beginners. The sign up process is easy and quick, while the dashboard looks quite simple at first sight. However, as you keep working with the platform, it proves to be more complicated than you could imagine from the start. For user convenience, the working area is divided into sections, which help effectively organize the photos to simplify user search. Zenfolio has an integrated WYSIWYG editor, which lets you track all the stages of the website creation process. Likewise, it offers multilingual support, instant access to features and tools that contribute to effective website development.

zenfolio website editor

The Support Center of the website builder contains a rich amount of quality educational materials in the text and video formats. The section covers a broad spectrum of topics most first-time users are interested in. There is also a forum with a long list of thematic branches and categories here.

The website builder makes it possible to contact the customer support service via live chat or email. To be able to communicate with one of the Zenfolio experts, a user should complete a contact form available online or register from a free one-on-one session via the activation of a special link.

The system also boasts an extensive user community, represented by several options. These include Reviews, Events, Zenfolio Ambassadors, Blog, Developers, Free Guides. All in all, Zenfolio customer support service is on a nice level.

SmugMug cannot boast an intuitive web design approach as it comes with an extraordinary interface that requires preliminary exploration. It is appealing, stringent and provides nice ergonomics. It won’t take you long to sign up with the system due to the quick and simple web design procedure that involves a couple of steps only. You won’t have to bother about picking the design or providing your payment details at once. Instead, the service will offer tips throughout the testing process, which simplifies it for newbies.

SmugMug Editor

An interesting thing about SmugMug is its fixed block-based structure. The service consists of content blocks, which provide a fixed photo editing environment. A user with insufficient experience may find this feature somewhat complicated at once, but it’s quite possible to master the service options in around 2-3 hours. Generally, the complexity of mastering/using the system is on the average level.

The service offers great educational materials subdivided into categories to simplify the search. There is the YouTube channel with a rich amount of educational videos covering all the major system nuances. Communication with tech support is done through the contact form and email. They are available 24/7.

Read also: SmugMug review.

The Support Center of the website builder delivers lots of reference materials to cover the most widespread topics. For user convenience, they are divided into thematic categories. If you cannot find the answer you are interested in, you are welcome to test the search filter option that simplifies the process. ‘Portfolio’ and ‘Business’ plan users can also get live chat support assistance provided during standard US hours. SmugMug’s user community is also pretty extensive and can provide you with multiple information sources in the following categories: Blog, Events, SmugMug Films and Forum. Finally, you can get access to the individual Product Feedback section – the official Feature Request Page of the website builder. This is where you can fill out an online form to enlist your product feature ideas or leave your comments and suggestions.

Both website builders make it possible to complete identical tasks, but the web building experience you get when using the systems somewhat differs. SmugMug generally has a simpler and more ergonomic interface, which is especially manifested in the web page editor features. It is easier to master and use it. However, both systems can boast the availability of tips and FAQ sections, which will be of great help to many users. The services require an attentive approach. They are specific, but it’s still simpler and quicker to explore SmugMug.

Zenfolio vs SmugMug: Design and Flexibility

Zenfolio vs SmugMug: Design and Flexibility

The integrated functionality of the services is quite similar as both website builders have the same goal – portfolio/photography website development. Each system, however, has a specific set of tools and features that contribute to its performance and affect user choice. While Zenfolio comes with built-in blogging/eCommerce engines, SmugMug delivers a broad spectrum of portfolio customization features. To find out the pros and cons of both platforms, it makes sense to review their baseline functionality in details. That’s what we are going to do right away.


Zenfolio does not only allow creating and managing a full-featured portfolio, but it also has built-in blogging and eCommerce engines. They make it possible to connect a blog and a digital store to the project, updating them on a regular basis.

Zenfolio vs SmugMug: Which is Better?

It’s up to you to create and sell separate images or photo collections to those users, who are interested in your services. There is an integrated shopping cart, which supports over 18 currency types and lets you popularize your own brand as you need. The system additionally provides extensive worldwide shipping options, multiple payment solutions, CSV file import/export feature and it also regularly issues discount certificates on first orders. All in all, you can upload and sell over 2000 products with the website builder.

SmugMug comes with a powerful set of eCommerce tools, which make it possible to set up and manage contemporary and full-featured online stores to sell photos and other digital content you create. These include price lists, discount coupons, product packs, sales, photo collection organization, security settings etc. All the tools come with flexible customization options.

Zenfolio vs SmugMug: Which is Better?

SmugMug also has a fully-hosted integrated shopping cart, several payment, delivery and checkout options, brand name promotion tools, logo uploading and watermark creation features, multi currency support as well as other opportunities to boost your web store performance. Keep in mind that whatever price you will set for your products, you will eventually get 85% of the final profit. As for blog creation, SmugMug does not currently support this feature.

Speaking about eCommerce, both website builders let you start and manage small-to-medium digital stores to sell your products/services to the target audience. Zenfolio, however, unveils more opportunities to its subscribers and it also allows for blog connection. ZmugMug does not support this feature yet.

Content/Image Management Options

Zenfolio provides advanced content management options. This lets you effectively organize your photos into galleries, assign tags to them, create image categories, arrange uploaded photos and videos, switch files between the categories, import and present IPTC and EXIF metadata, use integrated upload tools, such as HTML5 or ActiveX, for example. Zenfolio users can upload the unlimited number of photos, including those in the RAW format (files up to 60 MB). You can connect the RAW Files Edit service for convenient photo editing within the system, which is another distinct highlight of the system.

The platform is also known for its advanced import/export features that matter a lot for any photography-related business. If you are already an owner of a photo collection or several of them hosted on other platforms (like Adobe Lightroom, Microsoft Live Photo Gallery, Photo Mechanic, command line etc.), Zenfolio lets you move them to the system in a matter of minutes.

Zenfolio also provides secure and free photo and video hosting, supporting multiple file formats. To boost the quality of content displayed at the website, the software offers the Dim-the-Lights mode that ensures perfect presentation of large-screen images. Triple Scoop Music collection the service offers makes it possible to choose over 50 audio tracks at no cost at all.

For user convenience, the website builder allows downloading free mobile applications for iOS and Android. By installing and using these apps for your mobile device, you can create and manage your projects even on the go – in those places, where there is Internet access. What’s more, there are one-of-a-kind Client Memory apps for easy and hassle-free photo uploading and management.

zenfolio header editor

When it comes to portfolio or photography websites, social media sharing is a must-have. Zenfolio offers an opportunity to share photo collections in Pinterest, Google+, Facebook, Twitter and other popular social networks. As a result, potential customers can preview your image collections and pick the shots they are looking for. There is also a chance to order the required photo or video files from the integrated system labs to diversify the choice of products offered for sale.

SmugMug pays much attention to portfolio design and structure customization. Visual editor comes with drag-and-drop support, which is a notable advantage in itself. You can edit photos by using integrated system tools (effects, cut and rotate options etc.) or connect Lightroom and work with it. There is a possibility of adding watermarks to the photos as well as location parameters.

Image management options are quite extensive here as well. The software lets you conveniently organize photos/videos into thematic collections, galleries and separate folders. Special attention is given to photo safety here. Users can adjust the accessibility of their images, assign the access rights to certain user groups, set up unique passwords for VIP users, store their image collections on a system cloud etc. If needed, you can completely restrict image access or grant it to certain users only. All the newly uploaded images are automatically backed up with Amazon Web Services to boost customer attention and increase sales volume. Additionally, you can protect any image with your branded watermarks to boost its safety.

Zenfolio vs SmugMug: Which is Better?

If you are a lucky owner of any image galleries hosted on Flickr, Amazon Drive or DropBox, you can effectively import them into your SmugMug website. This doesn’t require any coding skills, serious time or effort investment – just copy the images of your choice and move them to the required destination.

SmugMug unveils multiple impressive image sharing options. Thus, you can share your creative collections, galleries, web pages in the world-popular social networks like Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Facebook etc. The service also comes with the integrated mobile application you can download at no cost at all to edit, upload, archive and share photos anywhere you are. The website builder regularly issues gift certificates, discounts and special offers for clients to encourage them for further cooperation.

As to content management options, they are extensive and versatile in both systems. Focused on photography project development, Zenfolio and SmugMug make it possible to create and update galleries and image collections, adjust photo access rights, import files from other platforms and complete other processes that contribute to effective portfolio creation.

Integrations and Special Features

Zenfolio is known for its high end integrations, which help enhance your portfolio performance and design. There are multiple widgets and add-ons to pick and integrate into your project here. The most popular of them include Photographer’s Edit RAW File Processing, Triple Scoop Music with more than 17000 songs available in the collection etc.

The website builder comes with integrated Google Analytics, StatCounter and Webmaster Tools. Application of these services makes it possible to track the most important website parameters, find out website traffic fluctuations and sources, control user behaviour, percentage of conversions and sales as well as other stats parameters that may notably affect your business promotion.

SmugMug grants access to the collection of widgets you can pick and drag to your project pages to create the required layout and structure. These widgets include text, gallery, share buttons, logo, map, calendar etc.

The website builder also lets you connect the Lightroom plugin to effectively add, organize and manage your images and videos. The plugin automatically synchronizes with the platform, leaving your SEO meta data and project structure intact. Additionally, the software integrates with Flickr, which helps enhance brand recognition and popularity of the service.

When it tackles the integration aspect, Zenfolio unveils more opportunities to its subscribers. It comes with built-in analytic and stats tracking features and photo editing tools that allow for professional portfolio development. SmugMug, in its turn, is known for Lightroom plugin and Flickr integration.

Template Editing

Zenfolio doesn’t offer separate templates yet it has 12 website presets in its collection. Each of them has its own gallery composition, image display and presentation structure, menu positions, home pages and other elements. The presets also feature unique typography types, color palettes, backgrounds and lots of customizable elements that give your project personalized design. It’s up to you to pick the required preset and customize it as you need. You can also change the layout of the preset you have picked or choose from 25 templates, each coming with an individual layout.

If you don’t manage to find a suitable preset or template in the system collection, you can select a blank theme to create a unique website from scratch. There is an opportunity to activate/deactivate some of the elements a page contains, if they don’t fit your portfolio design. All in all, Zenfolio templates have a professional look, although it takes time to explore and master all the settings here.

SmugMug cannot boast a rich template collection, but it certainly stands out from the crowd due to their quality. All the designs are responsive by default and have contemporary look to come up to the latest web design trends. When browsing the SmugMug template collection, you will come across 8 high quality ready-made themes only. To get access to the entire template collection comprised of 26 templates, you’ll have to upgrade to the “Power” plan.

SmugMug Editor

Template customization options are quite diverse here as well. You can add new blocks to any template, change the background (slideshow and video), color scheme, spacing between the blocks etc. There is an opportunity to add sidebars to a template and edit HTML/CSS code. Gallery styles can be changed as well. Output of photos, the resolution of which is up to 4000, is supported as well.

If needed, you can switch between the templates on any stage of the design customization process without facing the risk of losing the submitted content.

When reviewing the design aspect, we may conclude that Zenfolio has a rich choice of layouts, which allows creating unique website structure. SmugMug, in its turn, comes with a more advanced, convenient and flexible website editor and it also supports drag-and-drop functionality. Thus, both services rank high in terms of design customization.

Zenfolio vs SmugMug: General Pricing Comparison

Zenfolio vs SmugMug: General Pricing Comparison

Zenfolio is a commercial website builder, which offers a 14-day free trial to test the major feature set of the service. Zenfolio subscriptions differ in terms of functionality, giving access to two groups of plans – for Studios and Advanced Professional Photographers and for Professional and Part-Time Photographers. Each group includes two premium plans, differing in features and integrated functionality. Here they go.

Plans for Studios and Advanced Professional Photographers

  • Pro ($15/mo) – multi-page website templates, custom logo, custom domain, expanded website builder and blog, unlimited disk storage space, shareable client galleries, unlimited custom watermarks, photo sharing and client proofing, video uploading, eCommerce features, 365 customer support, dedicated live chat support.
  • Advanced ($22/mo) – multi-user account access and privileges, mini-sits for easier event management, extra features for schools, sports, dance and event photographers, post-shoot Green Screen, advanced eCommerce features, dedicated phone support.

Plans for Professional and Part-Time Photographers

  • Portfolio ($5/mo) – one-page website templates, custom logo, custom domain, Instagram feed, 1GB disk storage space, shareable client galleries, 1 custom watermarks, photo sharing and client proofing, integrated Adobe Lightroom plugin, people filter, 365 customer support, dedicated live chat support.
  • Portfolio Plus ($12/mo) – multi-page website templates, 100GB disk storage space, limited eCommerce features.

The system does not imply an opportunity to switch from Pro & Advanced to Portfolio & Portfolio Plus plans. You have to consider your goals and requirements to pick the right group of plans from the start.

SmugMug also offers a 14-day trial to test the feature set of the platform prior to upgrading to one of its paid versions. As to the paid plans, the website bulder currently offers four subscriptions. These include:

  • Basic ($7/mo or $55/year) – full Homepage customization, unlimited image uploads, password-protect for galleries, pages and folders, personalized photo website, unlimited full-res storage, detailed privacy and security options, free mobile and desktop apps, 24/7 live support;
  • Power ($11/mo or $85/year) – 21 extra templates, right-click image protection, HTML/CSS code adding, drag-and-drop design tools and templates, complete website customization, advanced security and privacy options, personalized domain name;
  • Portfolio ($27/mo or $200/year) – opportunity to sell photos and videos, integrated sales and fulfillment tools, watermark protection, eCommerce optimized galleries, orders from WHCC, Bay Photo, Loxley and EZPrints, site wide pricing (this allows keeping around 85% of the markup);
  • Pro ($42/mo or $360/year) – opportunity to create custom coupons, packages and events, use client management tools, set prices for individual galleries or images, create group galleries under events, provide gift-wrapped packaging and brand shipped client options.

All the plans offer unlimited storage space for video and photo content. Other terms differ with regard to the selected subscription, but if you have serious web design aspirations, it still makes sense to start your choice with the “Power” Plan. This is because the cheapest paid subscription does not imply doman connection feature. In case your major objective is the eCommerce focus and you expect to make profit selling your works, consider choosing between “Portfolio” and “Pro” plans. They are really worth the money invested.

Zenfolio and SmugMug are both reasonably-priced. They have similar rates and they let you save big when choosing annual subscriptions. They don’t have free plans yet they allow testing the functionality of the platforms for 14 days. SmugMug offers more paid subscriptions, but Zenfolio Plans are also enough to cover versatile web design needs. The choice totally depends upon your budget, objectives and result you expect to avail in the long run.

Zenfolio vs SmugMug: Which One Is the Best for SEO?

Zenfolio vs SmugMug: Which One Is the Best for SEO?

Zenfolio websites are all SEO-friendly. It’s up to you to adjust SEO-settings as soon as you start working on your project to make sure it will rank high on the search engines. A nice option is that the system automatically highlights the fields (specifically meta tags) you must fill out to ensure effective SEO optimization of your project. There is no need to create and submit a sitemap to the search engines on your own – the system does that for you by default.

SmugMug is a SEO-friendly service, which allows filling out specific parameters and adjusting the settings to increase your portfolio website search engine positions. The website builder provides its users with website stats and analytics tools to let them track the major project parameters.

In terms of SEO, both website builders make it possible to effectively optimize portfolios created with them for the search engines. They offer certain fields you need to fill out for quality website promotion and for high ranking in the search engine results.

Key Differences Between Zenfolio and SmugMug

Ease of Use:Zenfolio can hardly be called a simple website builder, but even a beginner can master its settings, explore the dashboard and get used to the parameters offered. Some time is required to learn all the features the system has in stock.SmugMug is quite an easy-to-use website builder, which lets you set up/manage a quality portfolio website. Its intuitive interface and professional toolset let you run a quality project with no coding knowledge required.
Functionality:The website builder features a strong photography focus. It comes with powerful content/photo management options, versatile image editing features, advanced security settings, import/export features, integrated stats tracking tools, photo/video hosting etc.The system grants access to high end photo-related features used to start portfolio websites. SmugMug makes it possible to create digital photo galleries and offer your works/services for sale. The software boasts Lightroom and Flickr integration, versatile customer engagement features, access to image editing tools etc.
Design:Zenfolio lets you choose from 12 pre-designed website presets, each of which offers individual image presentation structure and unique gallery composition. Likewise, there are 25 professional templates here that let you pick a separate layout for each web page. The assortment of design customization tools is quite impressive here as well.SmugMug has quite a limited template collection, but the quality of themes is impressive here. There are 8 ready-made templates available for free access here, while Premium plan users can reach out for extra 26 designs.
eCommerce:The website builder encompasses a strong eCommerce engine. It allows starting and managing digital stores to sell your photography services/products.SmugMug has a feature-rich eCommerce engine, which makes it possible to sell digital photos on the web.
Blogging:The platform lets you connect a blog action to your portfolio website and manage it as you need.The website builder doesn’t have a blogging platform.
Small Business:Zenfolio works well for small business websites, which comes with a narrow photography/portfolio focus.SmugMug targets entrepreneurs, who run businesses related to the photography industry.
Pricing:The website builder offers a 14-day free trial and two groups of premium plans, each encompassing two subscriptions. Their cost starts at $5/mo.The system has a free 14-day trial and four premium subscriptions. Their cost starts at $7 per month.
SEO:Zenfolio is a SEO-friendly website builder. It lets you fill out individual SEO settings for the effective optimization of your portfolio project.SmugMug websites are properly SEO-optimized as well. The platform comes with a separate SEO section, where you can adjust the required meta tags and other parameters as well as track project statistics.
Customer Support:Powerful knowledge base, educational videos, contact form, extensive online community, live chat etc.Powerful customer support, email support, live chat, YouTube channel, extensive user community etc.

Comparison Conclusion: Which One Is Better?

Portfolio website creation definitely takes much effort and time. To be sure you are ready to offer a quality product to your potential target audience, you have to pick a website builder that will ideally cover the entire spectrum of your web design needs. Zenfolio and SmugMug are the best solutions in this respect.

Both website builders have minor functional distinctions, which do not compromise with the result. The systems make it possible to create and manage quality and visually appealing portfolios with an online store. It is hard to define the distinct leader of the comparison. Both Zenfolio and SmugMug have much to offer and the final choice should basically depend upon your expectations and short/long-term objectives.

Howard Steele

About Howard Steele

Howard Steele is a seasoned web developer and marketing expert with over 20 years of experience in the digital niche. He is also a founder of SuperbWebsiteBuilders - an online advisory resource that focuses on testing and reviewing popular web design and hosting platforms.

Howard's expertise spans a broad spectrum of the digital domain, encompassing website design and development, SEO strategies and online marketing campaigns. With a degree in Computer Science, Howard has always been at the forefront of technological advancements and digital trends.