Review by Matt Grayson
Zenfolio is a photograph hosting website allowing you to upload, organise, present, protect and sell your work without the need for cluttering up your hard drive. The idea behind it is to allow you to present your images to clients without having advertisements on the page while using what Zenfolio describe as the best interface available on the internet.
Pages are customisable and you can change the background colour, layout and design of the pages as well as employing full screen slide shows and captions or photograph information.
One nice feature is allowing the page to appear as a freestanding website which makes you look a lot more professional and you can even have your own domain name and URL.
Main features of the program include clean pages with no spam or pop ups so your clients won't get distracted from the reason they're looking at the page in the first place. Full size images can be uploaded using the uploader that is compatible with Windows and Mac. They can then be sold direct from the site which has been designed to act like a software program for easier navigation.
Security is an issue for any photographer using online services to store their images, so Zenfolio have implemented certain features to ensure that your pictures are protected such as a triplicate back-up system in an industrial strength storage area and the provision for making individual images public or private. Privacy settings can be allocated to groups, collections, galleries, individual photographs or even the entire account. This means you keep control of which images are seen and hidden, if any, which should minimise if not eradicate image theft.
Zenfolio photo hosting: Uploading
Your home page will tell you how many images you have uploaded and ask if you'd like to upload more. Clicking on the “Upload Photos” button takes you to a page that has a window similar to a forum box where you can add the gallery title and any notes about the shoot or clients. You also get the choice of making it public or private.
There are five stages to the initial uploading stage and the second one is choosing the platform to upload from such as Aperture, iPhoto, Lightroom or even an Eye-Fi memory card. Alternatively, you can opt for a safer option of the Zenfolio uploader or even choose a html uploader but you can only upload one image at a time in that way but is good if you're using a public computer.
Choosing the Zenfolio Uploader, you must have Java Run-Time Environment installed for which there's a link provided. Once all that is installed and sorted out, you can upload your images. I had around 30 full size images taken on a 12Mp Olympus E-30 and they were transferred in a matter of seconds from MyComputer simply by drag and drop.
Uploading took a lot longer to transfer and depends on your broadband connection. An ETA of the upload time will come up at the bottom with a loader bar showing your progress as well as an indicator of the amount of Megabytes transferred and left to transfer.
There's tonnes of information on the screen to help you such as still displaying the alternative uploader options as well as precise step by step instructions of alternative uploading from the file manager. While all the information is useful, it can look a little cluttered at times and someone getting into this for the first time could feel daunted.
Total upload time of 166Mb of information for me was just under 20min which I don't think is all that bad. You may want to upload smaller files to further prevent stealing of images.
Zenfolio photo hosting: Using the system
Once uploaded, a separate window opens which is your home page. Your albums will be displayed down the left side with the one your in highlighted by an orange box. As you hover your mouse over each image, a small down arrow will pop up and this allows you to choose whether you'd like to open the image, select it as the cover photo, move it, copy it, replace or delete it. You can also add it to a collection, download the original file or export to Facebook and Flickr. This tool has the potential to give you a massive amount of extra publicity. Images can have a watermark added or you can add your own studio/company name to have branding on every image you upload.
To the right of your main window is the Toolbox which shows the image information. Two tabs titled Photo and EXIF display information about the picture you have highlighted at the time such as the file name, copyright information and access control. These areas can be edited to make them private or to add a title, caption and keywords for easier searching and sorting later on.
Go to the home page and you can edit all sorts of information. There are five tabs at the top of the main page called home, account, preferences, orders and selling. Home is the page that you're on and as you click on a page it'll dull to a grey from the original white tone. The account tab allows you to change your personal information for use on the website such as contact details and the username that you initially chose on sign up.
Bear in mind that if you've added the previous username to any other links then those links will become obsolete, so be careful before you change the name. You can also change the email address and password that you originally providing upon signing up. There's a separate area for billing information and this allows you to input credit card details for payment of the Zenfolio services. This is secured by Verisign and it can be verified by clicking the icon in the top right of the page.
In preferences there are seven areas that you can make adjustments to. The first is the custom domain name so you can make the portfolio look like a standalone website. You can also use a custom home page from an existing website you may already have set up on the net as well as add watermarks to your images by using the four provided copyright watermark tags or loading your own into the system.
You can also update what email notifications you receive, change the upload settings, API access settings and even track your visitors using a Google analytic account. If you're unsure of how to use a Google analytic account, it doesn't matter. Zenfolio have done all the hard work of coding and also given easy to use step by step instructions on how to get it started.
The orders page is pretty self explanatory showing any orders of prints you may have had while the selling tab has several features to maximise sales for you. There's an overview which gives information on organising prints such as using Zenfolio partner labs where you can even approve images before they're despatched if you desire.
There are reports available which is valuable if you're a business as this keeps track of your orders including taxes, products, coupons used, customer details and photographs ordered. There are many other useful features available on this page such as customising the sales area if you want to handle it yourself and avoid Zenfolio fees as well as some licensing templates for releasing the purchased images.
At any time you can hover on My Zenfolio in the top right and a drop down tab will appear. It allows you to visit your home page and it can be customised from here. A yellow bar will appear at the top with four options on it. The first is the layout of the page and despite wanting to select Centred layout, it wouldn't choose it and opted for the right to left layout instead. In the theme window, you can choose from 20 theme setting for your page. I chose cosmic as I like the slick, black colouring and simple fonts.
You can show or hide many of the features you have by clicking on options and toggling the options in there such as your contact information, Guestbook entries and number of visitors. The final global preferences button is for removing the Zenfolio branding if you're a premium member, removing or showing the search field and removing an option to search all Zenfolio images. Clicking 'Done' will remove the yellow editor bar but don't worry if you make a mistake. Hovering over My Zenfolio on your homepage will bring up three options to edit your public profile, go back to edit page or customise the visitor view which brings the yellow bar back up.
Selling images from here can be either as prints or albums or novelty items if you arrange them. You can even sell a small sized image for the buyer to upload onto their Facebook account. "It's a process used in the USA at the moment and is really popular with images being sold for around $5-10", said Alex Peyzner, Zenfolio CEO. To doi this, you go into selling and choose a new Digital Product from the left side of the page. I titled one as Facebook avatar, selected Royalty Free Personal Use and 1Mp low resolution. You can then add your branding to the image so when the customer uploads it, everyone sees your brand. "This is also a good tool for images used as a background on iPhones" explained Alex Peyzner. "However, iPhone has a specific image dimension to use so we've included a crop tool in the shopping cart if the customer wants the picture for that purpose."
There are also extra resources available by simply clicking on the more resources tab in the top right of the pane. It allows you to add plug-ins if you're a developer then anyone who's enabled API's to be used will be able to benefit from them. Other cool features include the Zenfolio downloader so if you delete your images by mistake off your computer, the downloader will get them from your Zenfolio account back onto your computer. There are also plug-in downloads available for Aperture, iPhoto, Lightroom and Windows Live and links to useful websites for resources and information.
You can look at other galleries being uploaded as long as they're public and to give you an idea of how busy the site is, my gallery was on page 13 in half an hour of uploading it and there are 18 albums shown per page.
Zenfolio Photo hosting: Verdict
Described by Alex Peyzner as an "Online service for professional and enthusiast photographers" it certainly offers many options and they've put a lot of thought into giving photographers access to sales on a global scale.
If you're the type of photographer who needs to use photo hosting sites, then this is a great one to use. There's no adverts, no pop-ups, no spam, you get a fully customisable page which you can track customers on using Google Analytics and to make sure you don't lose your images, they duplicate them three times.
If you lose your images, you can even download them from the site so this doubles up as a back-up system for your images. The pricing seems fair at just over £60 a year for the Premier package which gives you everything. Think of it as £5 a month or 18p a day.
I really like this and I think if I was a wedding or commercial photographer, I'd certainly give this site a go.
Zenfolio photo hosting: Plus points
Easy to use UI
Lots of security
Track customers with Google Analytics
Work out your sales and profit
Zenfolio photo hosting: Minus points
Can look cluttered at times due to the amount of info available
Visitors page wouldn't format to my preference
EASE OF USE
There are three packages starting with Basic which is $25 a year, or just over £15 using the Reuters currency converter. Unlimited costs $40 a year, or just over £24 while Premium is $100 a year, or around £61.50.
Each upgraded package offers a little more than the previous and the pricing tab on the Zenfolio's home page shows a useful side by side comparison so you can see which you'd prefer.
Go to the Zenfolio website to learn more and if you'd like to see a working page you can visit the one I did for this review here:
Zenfolio photo hosting website
My visitors site