Compare: Zenfolio vs Smugmug

For the last year or so, I've been using Zenfolio to showcase my photography and provide a more personalized feel to to my galleries. However, there were some limitations to Zenfolio that bothered me enough that I started looking for other alternatives.

About a month ago, I got a notice from Flickr they were being bought out by SmugMug. Curious as to what SmugMug was, I looked up some videos on YouTube and realized they provided a similar service as Zenfolio. After only spending about 30 minutes watching videos, I realized SmugMug was probably the alternative I was looking for and signed up for a free trial. Only 3 days later, I signed up for a full year and did a DNS transfer to point to SmugMug instead.

Below are the reasons I chose SmugMug over Zenfolio. Please note, this is not a comprehensive comparison of the two. I"m only going over the things I like better.

Picture Quality

One of the big reasons photographers post their photos on the web is to show off their work. Both Zenfolio and SmugMug are geared towards that kind of customer, but there are differences in how they display the images. Zenfolio seems to limit the resolution of the images with no option to change it. Problem with this is, when a potential customer is looking at your photos online, the image quality is not the greatest as they tend to look blurry on large monitors. I don't know about you, but if I'm trying to sell photos online, I want them to look as good as possible.

SmugMug on the other hand lets you chose which resolution you want your photos to be displayed in, all the way up to 4K. Therefore, the photo's are much sharper and the quality is much better. If 4K is too high a resolution and you are afraid someone will screenshot and save your photos, you can choose from 7 other lower resolutions.

It should be noted that both sites provide watermarking options to help prevent theft, but only SmugMug provides an option to disable right-clicking on an image to save it locally.

Building Your Site and Pages

Customizing your website and pages on SmugMug is very easy, which is a big plus if you don't want to get wrapped up in all the HTML/CSS markup. You simply drag-and-drop a title, textboxes, separators, photos, galleries, buttons, menus, breadcrumbs and all the things you would normally put on a website. If you're up to the task, you can also add custom HTML and CSS if you'd like. It should be noted, that SmugMug's interface for adding custom HTML/CSS is way better than Zenfolio.

Both offer themes if you'd like to get your site going within minutes, but here again, SmugMug has more to offer than Zenfolio. And if you'd like to tweak and customize your site, SmugMug makes it so much easier than Zenfolio.


When it comes to selling, both sites are pretty comparable. Zenfolio offers more photo labs to choose from, but is lacking my favorite, Bay Photo which is offered by SmugMug. That's not to say the labs provided by Zenfolio are inferior, because that's just not true. I just happen to like Bay Photo and have been using them for years. You really only need one good photo lab for your customers and both sites provide that.

Both allow you to customize your price lists for the different products you want to provide, and both provide a ready-to-use e-commerce shopping cart. When it comes to selling fees, Zenfolio has the edge, though. They only charge about 10-12% per sale as compared to SmugMug's 15%. I don't do enough sale for this to matter, so it didn't bother me that much.

Google Adsense

One of the bigger drawbacks with Zenfolio was not being able to integrate Google Adsense into my website. There just isn't a way to do it, and it doesn't look like they were (or are) making any changes to allow it. Although I don't make a whole lot of money from Adsense, I really do believe it helps websites get indexed quicker by Google. In addition to the $50/month I earn, it also helps with bringing web traffic to my site. SmugMug also provides a drag-and-drop module that makes adding it to your website very easy.