Zenfolio is a small website builder that claims to let people create a beautiful photography portfolio in a matter of minutes. In addition, this web builder includes an eCommerce integration that makes it possible to turn your hobby into something that provides income.
Such a bold claim sparked my interest and I ended up creating an account to try this website builder myself.
A website in a matter of minutes? Well, (spoiler alert!) it is possible.
Zenfolio has just enough features to make a photography oriented website – be it unlimited raw file uploads, professional-looking templates, or watermarking your images. These features are also packed in a beginner-friendly interface, therefore, I was able to build that website in a few minutes.
However, was Zenfolio able to combine beginner-friendliness and practical tools for photography to provide quality website building? Long story short – yes and no.
Zenfolio is both easy to use and has a bunch of features that make it a decent photography portfolio builder. However, quantity does not equal quality. If you’re a photographer, you definitely have an eye for detail.
Well, sadly, Zenfolio doesn’t.
Or more like, doesn’t provide enough customization to get to the details. My experience while playing around with themes and templates was quite frustrating – not being able to edit certain layouts, or having to wait a few minutes before I get to a certain section didn’t impress me so much. Yet as sad as it gets, it is a fairly common phenomenon in the website building industry.
So after using Zenfolio for quite some time, I decided to combine all these pros and cons and form a legitimate opinion about this photography oriented website builder. Are pretty designs and easy to use interfaces really enough to provide a great photography website? Let’s dive deeper into this Zenfolio review.
A quick look at Zenfolio reviews from current users suggests that it has grown to become one of the favorites among the photographers’ community.
One of the reasons why Zenfolio collected rather positive feedback is due to its ease of use. This website builder played it smart while providing a beginner-friendly interface for photographers to sell online.
It’s important to have an easy to understand dashboard because no one likes to invest too much time learning something unnecessary. For example, if photography was my hobby, I would want to spend my time focusing on it only and having no worries about website development.
Another thing Zenfolio excels at is its photography-oriented features. Things like unlimited photo storage, simple slideshow functionality, and photo-oriented marketing materials are key components of the Zenfolio package.
Zenfolio costs between $5.00 and $30.00 per month when paid annually. However, monthly billing costs slightly more, with prices between $7.00 and $42.00. Zenfolio also offers a two-week free trial so you can try their services without committing to a binding contract.
As a small, niche-specific website builder, Zenfolio isn’t suited to most businesses. Why? Well because it specifies in photography only and therefore lacks features that apply to general business ideas. So if you’re thinking of something that doesn’t revolve around stopping moments in time, then this website builder isn’t for you.
However, if you want to start a photo-oriented business, this website builder is a decent pick. And here’s why:
After using Zenfolio for some time I noticed that some of these features are better developed than others. For example, I was quite content with how easy it was to edit my site and manage simple orders, however, SEO related tools were quite tricky to handle.
Let’s have a quick look at those two features – Zenfolio eCommerce and Zenfolio SEO tools.
Zenfolio offers well-planned eCommerce integration as one of its features. This is an amazing opportunity for your photography hobby to start gathering revenue.
While I was using this website builder, I was actually pleasantly surprised that it was quite easy to manage my orders and descriptions of the products. A thing to note down though, if you want to start selling your production you need to start from the Pro plan since it’s the one that has many features related to selling online.
Some of them include:
Most of these features are easy to handle and are considerably well-thought-out for a photography online business. The priciest plan has even more photography-specific offers – post-shoot green screen, orders’ export to Adobe Lightroom, and additional features for events’ photographers.
The higher-end packages also include a range of marketing options tailored to snappers, making it easier than ever to get your work seen. However, some of those features can be tricky to handle.
In the end, Zenfolio eCommerce is well structured and quite easy to handle. I personally loved that there were so many features related to photography and design. This site builder managed to provide some creative ideas on how to actually profit from such a hobby.
If you want to be noticed online, good SEO is essential to be ranked high on popular search engines like Google. Although if you want good SEO, well…Zenfolio is not the way to go.
Of course, it’s not like this website builder doesn’t have anything related to SEO. It provides possibilities to edit your metadata and encourages you to use specific keywords. There’s even a Zenfolio’s SEO guide that clarifies what mistakes photographers usually make while managing a website with this site builder.
However, having a guide just means that there is a lot of confusion going around in the SEO department of this website builder. Adding and editing metadata was rather difficult for me. It wasn’t a very intuitive approach from Zenfolio this time.
The Zenfolio website builder excels in beginner-friendliness. And that is some great news for you! Especially if you want to focus on showcasing your photography skills and get noticed. Here’s how easy it is:
After signing up for a free 14-day trial (all you need is your name and email address), I was able to start building my site immediately. Zenfolio guides you through a simple four-step process to get up and running. This makes it easy to have a basic website in quite literally a few minutes.
As I was working through this simple process I was able to tell Zenfolio exactly what sort of designs I find attractive. The AI interface then suggested themes based on my answers.
Once you’ve settled on a design you can upload the first pictures. The final step before you have full access to the site builder is to fill in the information that improves the website’s SEO. That includes your location and website name.
Zenfolio’s ease of use comes from a simple dashboard and a simple website editor. However, it’s a pro and a con at the same time. Let me explain to you why.
Of course, beginner-friendliness is an important feature to have. But what Zenfolio did is that it made its website builder so limited so it naturally became easy to use. The less you have to deal with, the fewer issues you will encounter, right?
All of this results in a clean and simple dashboard with very limited website creation. However, it’s not like my imagination was completely cut off. There were some things that I could play around with and those included:
Although Zenfolio is not your standard drag and drop website builder, it still offers easy yet limited editing.
Zenfolio offers 13 preset templates that allow you to put together an attractive website in next to no time. However, these templates allow very little customization, especially with respect to the exact positioning of elements.
Once you have chosen a template, you can adjust the layout of each page slightly by choosing one of the built-in options. Unfortunately, these options are very limited and don’t allow any customization beyond the stock variants. For example, I could only choose from seven different layouts for my blog pages.
However, it’s not like this website builder completely blocks your imagination. Zenfolio provides color themes for your site that are able for customization. You can change colors, fonts, font sizes, and blog content blocks. I found that very reassuring, considering that a lot of editing is limited. So a breeze of freedom is still there (even if it’s a light one).
There are some great examples out there of attractive sites built with Zenfolio. Paris Mountain Photography stands out as a particularly neat example.
A Zenfolio performance review shows that it certainly isn’t the fastest website builder/host out there, but it’s decent. It performed quite well considering that it loaded a website in 3 seconds. It also scored a B in PageSpeed test, which is an acceptable result considering that Zenfolio focuses on website building and not hosting.
Websites built with Zenfolio also perform well under high visitor numbers. Even when there are over 50 users (green line in the image below) browsing at the same time, response times (blue line in the image below) remain under 200ms (for comparison – an eye blink is 200ms), suggesting that the servers are fast and well maintained.
Writing this Zenfolio review was a resoundingly positive experience. Designed purely for photographers to showcase and sell their work, Zenfolio is one of the better portfolio website builders out there.
Since this website builder aims for photographers only, it has some great photography-related features. Such as unlimited raw image uploads, exports to Adobe Lightroom, tools to use watermarks, and etc. However, being so specific has some drawbacks too.
Limited customization and SEO tools are the downfalls of this platform. Search Engine Optimization tools are lacking and require some further development to be effective. What’s the point of making an attractive website with your work if you can’t get noticed enough to profit from it?
Zenfolio seems like a great choice for people who want to build a simple website to showcase their photography. However, there are plenty of other options out there that could be considered.
For example, Wix offers a lot more customizability than Zenfolio and would suit more experienced website builders. It’s not oriented to photography as much as Zenfolio is, however, it has tons of great themes that make it easy to build an appealing photography website.
Wix also excels at being beginner-friendly with its drag-and-drop website builder. So even users with little to no coding knowledge can appreciate this platform.
Squarespace isn’t dedicated to photography portfolios but does offer a lot of portfolio templates with a little more customization available. It also provides a possibility to sell online. Squarespace goes for the “less is more” principle with its themes and templates, so it’s a visually pleasing website building that lets you showcase your work.
This website builder is also super easy to use, so if you enjoyed Zenfolio’s beginner-friendliness you might find yourself enjoying this artsy site builder.
Weebly offers additional features, is relatively affordable, and is rather good for small businesses and people who want to sell their photos. This site builder offers powerful selling tools, so if you’re aiming for a business-oriented website rather than a simple portfolio, then this is definitely a place to go.