Smugmug or Zenfolio

Richella

The Wandering Scotsman
Joined
Aug 21, 2011
Messages
288
Location
Kuala Lumpur
So I've been doing a lot of investigation and testing of two portfolio based photo hosting sites.

To date I have been using a Wordpress site with the ProPhotoblog theme to publish my photos but over time the site has deteriorated due to my lack of time and the effort it requires to keep the site updated and populated with fresh material. I've also becoming increasingly frustrated by the poor media library management options in wordpress and by the lack of a publish plugin for Lightroom. I have used LR/Blog and Dossier De Presse plugins for Lightroom to export but these are inferior to the plugins for Smugmug,Zenfolio and 500px.

So, I decided this week to look for a new option. Ideally I wanted something that would meet the following criteria

  1. Mostly a portfolio style site with option to add blog.
  2. Easy to customise and maintain.
  3. Easy to publish photos from Lightroom and keep them sync'd with the site
  4. Cost effective.
  5. Opportunity to sell an image, if I'm lucky.

I have looked at SmugMug, Zenfolio, SquareSpace, Wordpress, and 500px.

  • SmugMug meets nearly all my criteria but doesn't support blogging. I would need an additional blog site, although I am considering just using Google+ for this. I think it is more convenient than a personal blog. On the positive side it has the best native plugin for Lightroom and it is very easy to customise and use. SmugMug is priced at $60/yr for my basic requirements and $150/yr if I want to have the option for people to order through the site.
  • Zenfolio meets all of the requirements. A little more difficult to customise than SmugMug but has more customization options. Has a built in blog page, although this is fairly limited at this time. Lightroom plugin is courtesy of Jeffrey Feidhl. Zenfolio is priced at $60/yr for my basic requirements and $120/yr for the option for people to order through the site. Zenfolio has a 20% coupon at this time and would be a better price
  • SquareSpace seems to meet some of the requirements but I actually found it difficult to customize and couldn't find a publishing plugin for lightroom.
  • Wordpress - I still can't find a theme I like and management of the Wordpress media library is cumbersome. Initially I thought this was my cheapest option but actually I fund that I am paying $80 per year (on a 36 month commitment) for site hosting on bluehost.com
  • 500px is a nice portfolio option but lacks customization at this time and doesn't support any blog. The Lightroom plugin is pretty good however but not as robust as the SmugMug plugin or as fully featured as the Zenfolio plugin. This site is probably the best as social site with the whole site being focused around social interaction and voting etc. Although, as the site grows its increasingly difficult to find a presence.


So after all this I have narrowed it down to a choice between Zenfolio and SmugMug. Both meet nearly all my requirements and both are priced similarly, although Zenfolio has a 20% coupon at this time and would be a better price. Before I make my final decision I thought I would conduct a short poll of M43 users here to see what you are using for photo hosting.

For those who are interested I've used the trial period on both sites to test both sites. I've tried to customize them so they appear the same. Any differences are due to limitations in customization.

http://richardella.smugmug.com and http://richardella.zenfolio.com

Any feedback??
 

budeny

Mu-43 All-Pro
Joined
Mar 4, 2014
Messages
1,585
Location
Boulder, CO
I used both Zenfolio and Smugmug and ended up on SM.
My main gripe with ZF was that they show images with pre-loading next images and this can be painfully slow on not so fast lines and when their servers seem to have overloading. So, after couple weeks of when service was especially slow I just moved to SM and never looked back.
Also, I found SM customer support quite a bit faster and more helpful then on ZF.
 

TransientEye

Mu-43 Regular
Joined
Sep 18, 2013
Messages
158
Location
Barcelona
Real Name
Mark
I have been experimenting with a combination of Wordpress (Photocrati theme) for the blog plus Smugmug for image hosting. I would have preferred to keep the image hosting in Wordpress, but there are problems with the media organiser and also bandwidth costs associated with large pools of images as I am self-hosting the site.

I am not particularly happy with the setup at the moment. Uploading images to SmugMug from Lightroom is straightforward, and the site is very customisable. I also have a Wordpress plugin that simplifies the embedding of photos from SmugMug, although this is not very sophisticated. However, keeping the two in step is non trivial and I suspect that reorganising the SmugMug storage will break the image links to Wordpress.

FWIW, I tried the free trial at Zenfolio, but was not particularly happy with the customisation and also worried that the blog would end up in a proprietary format. With Wordpress, at least there are many potential hosting options and the ability to take the content with you if you change.

Maybe the solution would be to develop a decent media management plugin for Wordpress that is specifically built to be driven from a Lightroom plugin. The NextGen gallery plugin came close to this, but has been badly damaged by Photocrati's mismanagement (and this is not helped by the prohibitive subscription cost for a 'pro' version, plus the plugin's inability to integrate well with the standard Wordpress media library).

For what it is worth, the blog is at http://transienteye.com with SumgMug integrated as a sub-domain at http://images.transienteye.com.
 

Richella

The Wandering Scotsman
Joined
Aug 21, 2011
Messages
288
Location
Kuala Lumpur
Well, after all my testing I selected Smugmug primarily due to the better integration with Lightroom and slight better templates and customisation.

Having selected Smugmug a week ago I've come across SquareSpace and although the storage space is much less and therefore not really viable as a backup storage solution, the templates and blog integration is the best I've seen. So, I've also signed up for a SquareSpace account primarily for blogging but it also offers some great portfolio templates and you can import images from smugmug which retains the link to smugmug so when you click on the link in squarespace gallery it opens the smugmug photo.

You can see my squarespace account at www.richardella.com and my smugmug account at richardella.smugmug.com

I've still decide on the final SquareSpace template and am currently testing the "Wells" and "Forte" templates which are great for photography portfolios.
 
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