SmugMug or Zenfolio

I have been using SmugMug for a couple of years as my main image hosting solution. However there seems to be a growing list of niggles that make me wonder if my images and money would be better off somewhere else.

Niggles, in order or nigglyness;

– Maintenance windows and Reliability – Over 4.5hrs (07:35 – 12:13) recently in “read only mode” as part of a weeks maintenance window meaning I can’t sell, upload, edit anything. Half the working day gone here! Don’t take my word for it, see their reliability here
– Download licensing terms not configurable.
– Inability to password protect categories, share groups or individual images.
– Payments in US$ only and no electronic transfer option.
– No UK printing option.
– Cost
– Hierarchy limited to three levels

So I gave Zenfolio an try ……

Feature wise I think it ticked every box and all the ‘missing’ bits from Smug are here.

– No sign of weekly maintenance windows.
– Change licensing Terms.
– Password protect just about anything and everything
– Payments in GBP and transfer into my PayPal account too.
– UK Printing options.
– Costs less too.
– No limit to hierarchy

I have to say I am impressed with Zenfolio its seems faster and there is a lot hidden under the hood. Having only had a demo account with Zenfolio for the 14 days its not fair to compare performance/reliability between the two but it did seem better and no sign of the weekly maintenance nightmare that currently blights SmugMug.

The Zenfolio control panel, management takes a bit of getting used to, its not as intuitive as SmugMug but it certainly seems like there is more under the hood. You just need to do a bit more digging to find it.

Customisation of your accounts ‘public’ look and feel is one area where the two differ. SmugMug allows you to change pretty much everything, Zenfolio is a couple of steps behind hind with some limitations. However you could argue that these limitations are there to keep Zenfolio’s performance at a premium.

Its not an ‘apples for apples’ comparison, so its hard to say one is better than the other. A lot also depends on your image hosting needs

However, as an attempt to summarise, if you want a sleek feature packed semi customisable image hosting solution, Zenfolio is for you.

If you don’t need all the features of Zenfolio but want to make it look your own then SmugMug is for you.

For me, there are two reasons for deciding to stay with SmugMug, for now.

The ability to change/customise the look and feel of the site to something that suited me. I came close with Zenfolio but not close enough for me to want to shift just now.
SmugMug have an option to allow ‘collecting’ of images. This allows you to keep all your images in one account but collect/share them with other smugmug accounts. I will explain this in more detail on a later blog.

So to the SmugMug or Zenfolio questions?  I’ll be keeping my eye on Zenfolio 🙂

By |2015-02-06T11:33:35+00:00March 28th, 2010|IT, Website|2 Comments


  1. C 14/11/2012 at 20:13

    Thanks for this post. Any more thoughts in the last few years?
    During my trials of both services, I never noticed service interruptions from SM. I did notice a 4 hour interruption from Zenfolio, but in their defense: they were adding thousands of slideshow music tracks, stat tracker, and other features. So I guess that’s ok 🙂

    • Howard 08/01/2013 at 15:20

      My needs have changed and I have compacted my collection into one website/offering.

      I still don’t sell images online via the website its all done via email so my needs are less than some. SM recently revised their price/offering structure which upset quite a few people. I still like their offering but I dont have that much faith in them. I took a close look at PhotoShelter and I really liked their setup. If I had to change I think I would go there. However their service did suffer when NY got hit by that severe weather last year.

      Its not so much you pays your money you takes your choice as find a shoe that fits.


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