In Part One of our overview of the top photosharing websites, we took a look at some of the most popular, easy-to-use options. Flickr, Picasa Web Albums and 500PX are very popular for a reason; they are great options for just about everyone, including the casual photographer. In part two of our overview, we take a look at three options that cater more to serious photographers. These options have more features and more personalization. However, as is to be expected, with more features comes a steeper price. Take a look at the premium options and decide for yourself which one is right for you.
Like all of the sites we will discuss in this overview, PhanFare is a subscription based service. It offers no free option, instead opting to offer advanced features by charging all of its users. When it comes to these options, however, PhanFare is the cheapest of three and the one geared towards prosumers, as opposed to professionals.
A PhanFare subscription comes in three flavors: Basic, Premium and Pro. Regardless of which option you choose, you will recieve unlimited storage for photos of 20 MB or less (which should be more than enough for most users. The Pro option supports RAW files of 100 MB or less. Both packages give you your own PhanFare site (with a subdomain of yourname.phanfare.com). The Pro option allows you to build a more fully featured site with sub-sites and a custom domain name (or “Vanity Domain—see our reasons on why you need this here). Website building on PhanFare is extremely easy, requires no maintenance and offers customization in color schemes (and headers and footers if you go for Pro). However, in my opinion, the sites that PhanFare creates are pretty ugly and basic. Outside of the excellent photo galleries, they look like something that one might have built using Geocities back in the early 2000s. They are anything but slick.
An example of a site powered by PhanFare.
Uploading to PhanFare is very easy using the web browser or their desktop client (available for Mac or PC). PhanFare has iPhone and Android apps so that you can upload and access your portfolio on the go. If you go for the Pro package, you can also sell your work at prices that you set. Customer Service is very good too, with customer support responding to emails quickly and providing a support site with tutorials and FAQs.
PhanFare’s greatest strength is its price. It’s only $29 a year for the basic package, $99 a year for premium, and $199 a year for Pro. They also offer a FREE 14 day trial so if this hasn’t swayed you one way or another, try it yourself.
Bottom Line: Good value, useful, unlimited storage, and excellent customer service. PhanFare’s weakness is their dated website design.
An example of a site powered by SmugMug.
SmugMug is the first of the two pro-oriented services that we are looking at in this overview. It offers no free plan. There is Basic ($40/year), Power ($60/year), Portfolio ($150/year), and Business ($300/year). Even the most basic plan offers unlimited photo storage and a backup of your photos. The Power option adds unlimited HD videos, a custom domain name, protection from people downloading your images, and full customization of your site. Portfolio adds the ability to sell your photos at the prices you set, in addition to custom watermarks for your images. The Business option (the most expensive) adds a branded shopping cart, the ability to offer discount coupons, and customized packaging for your prints. Phew, that’s a whole lot of options!
So, why use SmugMug over other services? SmugMug is a powerful customizable service created by people that know what you are trying to do. The website builder is easy to use and creates far more elegant and powerful sites than PhanFare. The emphasis is on your images, allowing beautiful full screen images in all your albums and on your homepage. Albums can be customized individually (and if you know a little HTML or CSS, you’ll be able to do even more). Uploading to SmugMug is very fast and also includes plugins for several of the most popular photo applications such as Lightroom or iPhoto. In addition, SmugMug offers a backup service (SmugVault) as an add on that will allow you to upload large format images (such as RAWs and TIFFS). SmugMug does have a community that you can share images to but its not anywhere near as robust as something like Flickr or 500PX. It’s more of a bonus than a core feature. The reason you come to SmugMug is to build yourself a professional portfolio site that can house all your images.
Bottom Line: Robust, fully featured and expensive. SmugMug is for pro photographers who need a portfolio site to help run their business but aren’t looking to build a full website.
An example of a site powered by Zenfolio.
Zenfolio is SmugMug’s main competitor. It’s geared towards the same market and offers roughly the same service and features. It comes in three subscription options: Basic Plus ($30/year), Unlimited ($50/year), Premium ($100/year) and Premium Business ($250/year). As you can tell, Zenfolio is slightly cheaper than SmugMug. All subscription options offer mobile ready layouts and apps, professional themes and the ability to use your own designs, slideshows, and large image galleries. The Basic Plus version only gives you 4GB of storage plus an extra 2GB per year. File size tops out at 36MB per image. Unlimited, like the name suggests, offers unlimited storage while adding HD video hosting and your own custom domain name. The Premium version is what you will need if you are planning on using ZenFolio to run your business. It allows for files up to 64MB, an integrated shopping cart with your prices and a few options to sell your prints including digital only, prints from partner labs and the ability to self-fulfill orders. In addition, there are marketing tools, coupons and gift certificates, and a client access page.
ZenFolio’s user interface is user friendly and some might argue that it is better than SmugMug’s. In general, it is a little slicker and more streamlined. In the end, it really comes down to personal preference. Luckily, ZenFolio, like SmugMug, offers a 14-day trial so you can see for yourself which one you like more.
Bottom Line: Excellent professional service that is slightly cheaper than SmugMug overall but you really need to go for the most expensive option to get the most out of the service.