Review: Zenfolio

By Curtis Joe Walker

Zenfolio has been offering easy, affordable, attractive online galleries for photographers for the last four years. Previously, photographers would have to build and host their own website elsewhere, linking externally to Zenfolio galleries to handle sales and client proofing. With their new release, to be launched at Imaging USA (Jan. 10-12), sites can be hosted entirely with Zenfolio. This eliminates the cost of two hosting accounts and greatly improves the visual presentation of the site thanks to comprehensive and customizable theme packages.

We recently had a chance to sit down with Zenfolio CEO Alex Peyzner to walk us through the upcoming features.

With the new release comes a whole new set of options for building pages. Foremost of these is theming. At launch, 10-15 themes will be available, but because the themes are customizable and downloadable, many more will quickly appear once the Zenfolio community gets their feet wet. Themes control the look and feel of the entire site from the main page to the individual galleries.The pages are Flash-free except for gallery slideshows. This move will satisfy mobile users, but at the cost of a completely designer-controlled viewing experience. Also included with Premium accounts is the ability to upload PDF files natively—a handy feature for publishing printable price/service menus.

Zenfolio-template-edit.jpg

A website is only worthwhile if people can find it, to that end Zenfolio has created a handy page with direct access to the Google, Bing and Yahoo webmaster tools. Sitemaps are created on the fly in the background, providing the search engines with an easy way to index the entire site. Advanced control over META data isn't offered yet, but input for the “description” field is. Because photographers’ sites can be fairly sparse on words, and search engines currently only index sites based on text, populating the description field allows for a hidden bit of verbiage to help get viewers to the site. Tracking visitors is made easy with built-in Google Analytics integration (below).

zenfolio-analytics.jpg

zenfolio-webmaster-tools.jpg

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Customized URL icons (left) can be created automatically by uploading any image to the server. This gives bookmarks a customized and easily recognizable look. It also helps viewers who use tabbed browsing. It’s a small detail, but a subtly important one. Similarly, having a custom designed logo on your site helps branding immensely. Unfortunately, like PDFs, logos are only able to be uploaded with the Premium subscription.

Populating galleries on Zenfolio is easy with plug-ins for Adobe Lightroom and Apple Aperture, and other image management applications. Uploading directly from either app saves at least a couple of steps and greatly reduces the time it takes to update images. It’s also great for uploading wedding/event galleries and client proofs.

Pricing remains the same as before the new release with three annual subscription levels: $25 for Basic, $40 for Unlimited and $100 for Premium.

One of Zenfolio's greatest strengths has always been the ability to monetize photography painlessly. This remains unchanged. Watermarking images automatically and locking them down in password-protected galleries allows for a good degree of protection for images that are being sold. The unlimited bandwidth and unlimited storage of images up to 24MB for Unlimited and Premium accounts makes Zenfolio a great value.

Overall, the learning curve isn't too bad. Like any new interface it will pose some challenges and require some getting used to. Everything about the process is logical, but unique to Zenfolio. That said, it’s possible to get a fully functional site up and running in a couple of hours.

For photographers on a budget, Zenfolio’s combination of design, control and features can’t be beat, and existing customers get a whole new set of tools to work with.

www.Zenfolio.com

(Note: screenshots were taking during the pre-release stage and may not reflect the final design)

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Comments (6)

Zenfolio is the best, but this upgrade coming on Jan 5th will set us even higher! I can't wait!!

http://www.nolaPIC.com (my Zenfolio site)

Mike:

Wow...this looks fantastic, can't wait till the 5th.

http://www.mduongphotography.com (also my Zenfolio site)

Mark:

Can't wait for the update, it has been long awaited by most users, but it certainly looks to be a great improvement on an already great service.

Christine:

It just keeps getting better!

That's really great news. :-) I look forward to playing with the new features.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 31, 2009 11:09 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Tips for Greener Photography: The Photographer's Water Footprint.

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