Online image galleries – I don’t get it

Lakewood High School Cheerleaders 2008-09
Like any photographer with an online presence, I wanted to be able to sell prints of my images online. I have a number of images that I think are worthy of hanging on the walls of homes and businesses (corporate art I guess), and I also have portraits that I have done of various people (mainly my daughter’s senior pictures and the Lakewood High School Cheerleaders). In either case, it is the ultimate convenience for my customers to be able to review their images online, tell me if they want any of them retouched, then be able to order the final versions in whatever dimensions or on whatever material (canvas wrap, coffee mug, etc) they want.

I took these things into consideration when I started looking for an online gallery source. I could have done it myself, using Gallery2 or similar software, but I honestly didn’t want to handle the back-end pieces of fulfillment. A one stop shop was a good idea. So I researched the different sites out there. Smugmug is widely regarded as the market leader. The there is Zenfolio and a bunch of others.

I have friends on Smugmug, and I never really liked how the sites looked. I know customization is possible, but I was hoping to avoid that. Zenfolio, however, had a nice, clean interface. The ordering process was straightforward. They let me do coupons and all that sort of stuff. The only thing they were lacking was digital downloads. This is a pretty big deal in this day and age. A number of other sites offer this. As recently as July, they indicated this was a priority and they were working on it. As recently as 10/28 though, they made it crystal clear that we won’t see it in the immediate future.

Instead, Zenfolio is putting their development focus on allowing comments on photos. I have a couple issues with this.
1. Zenfolio is not Flickr. It is a commerce site. Comments are secondary in nature to the sales process.
2. Digital downloads offer immediate $$ returns. As a photographer looking to make money from my images, this is a priority to me.

I have already lost at least one sale that I know of because I didn’t have an immediate download option available. And that was someone who took the time to let me know. How many opportunities have their been that I was not aware of?

It’s my own fault really. I have this need to be different, and give “new guys” a chance even when it might not make the most sense. I have learned my lesson though. I am signing up for my Smugmug free trial today and will start using their tools to migrate my stuff away from Zenfolio. The good news is that the “Print of the Week” entries will now be available as digital downloads, so you can use them as a desktop, print them for yourself at home, or however you want to use it. Commercial licensing will also be available if you want to use one of my images for an ad campaign or something similar. I’ll let you know as soon as this is available.

By the way – if you have found this post and are a dissatisfied Zenfolio / Flickr / Picassa / Phanfare / Yahoo / Photosite customer, go to and see how you can migrate your stuff to Smugmug, and save significantly on your first year with them.

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