Online client photo galleries are a critical tool in a photographer’s workflow, allowing creatives to skip the hassle of loading all of the photos onto multiple DVDs or USB sticks and delivering said photos to a client. The right client photo galleries create a seamless and beautiful client experience, giving them a great first impression of the final photos from their shoot. Online photo galleries also allow photographers to share entire collections with clients, giving them the opportunity to select their favorites, build their album, and place all of their orders in their own time. And perhaps most importantly, online client photo galleries serve as a cloud backup of your photos, though we still recommend that you keep a copy on a server or RAID storage device.
There are many free online gallery options, however paying for any of the following comes with added perks that can revolutionize and automate parts of your business. In this article, we’ll discuss the most popular options available and give you our verdict on the best one.
- How to Choose an Online Gallery for Photographers
- Pixellu Galleries
How to Choose an Online Gallery for Photographers
Sign up for trials whenever available and thoroughly analyze the features and experience. Switching services is cumbersome, so making a good initial decision is important.
When choosing the right online gallery, consider the following characteristics of the company:
- All levels of their pricing – Your online gallery storage needs will only increase over time. Image file sizes are getting bigger with each generation of cameras, and you’ll also be adding many more shoots that you’ll be deleting. This is why it’s critical to think long term. Compare both the plan that you currently need as well as their highest plan with competitors to make a sound decision.
- Aesthetics – The aesthetics of the gallery is a factor, but perhaps an overrated factor. Yes, the gallery should look and feel beautiful and high end. However, a client may or may not notice small design differences between galleries.
- Features for the photographer – What other features and integrations does the gallery offer? Some of these services offer additional features like a website and hosting, a Lightroom plugin for uploading photos, client and photographer contract templates, slideshows, and integrations. Check to see if you need any of these additional features and weigh your options.
- Features for the client – Do they offer a good client experience? Is it easy to access? For example, some of these gallery options have apps for the clients to download and easily view/share their images. Is that important to you?
- Longevity and growth – Will the company add features and grow with your studio? Or is it struggling to stay afloat? A company getting stagnant, not keeping up with tech, or even worse, going out of business could be a big hassle for you down the line.
With that said, let’s get into the best options.
ShootProof is one of the larger industry leaders for online photo galleries, and their main focus is on client-proofing and providing clients with excellent access to purchasing options for prints and downloads.
From the photographer’s perspective, ShootProof’s user interface is surprisingly fluid and easy to use, and they have plenty of tutorial videos for all of their tools. They also give you a lot of flexibility regarding the format and presentation of your galleries, something missing from most free gallery options.
Some of their security options are great for controlling how you share your work, with password and PIN-protected galleries, print releases, watermarking features, and the option to limit the number of downloads a visitor can make.
And instead of taking a cut from each of your sales, ShootProof operates on either monthly or annual subscription charges instead. You can try their trial 100-photo plan for free or pay $100/year for a 1,500-photo plan, $200/year for a 5,000-photo plan, $300/year for a 25,000-photo plan, or $600/year for a completely unlimited plan. Each plan comes with unlimited galleries, digital contracts, invoicing and brand development tools, and access to the mobile app. The unlimited plan also includes free archiving.
Because of its strong set of features, Shootproof is our recommended online gallery.
Like ShootProof, Pixieset operates on a flat subscription fee rather than charging you commissions for every transaction that you make through them, unless you are using the free account in which case they charge a 15% commission.
All paying subscribers have the option to connect Pixieset with their own domain and replace all of Pixieset’s branding with your own for a more professional client gallery. Clients are able to mark their favorite pictures using the Pixieset Favoriting tool, allowing you to track and download whatever they select.
All of their subscription options will allow your clients to create a mobile app of their photo gallery to preview images fast and easy. You also have the option to build your own professional portfolio site and blog, with tracking, and analytics integrations, and SSL security for an extra $12/month. In 2021, they released Studio Manager – a business app designed to help photographers enhance client onboarding, allowing you to create and send branded contracts, invoices and questionnaires, with booking and scheduling on the roadmap.
Their suite plans, which combine client galleries, online store, studio manager, and website, cost $28/month for 1000GB, and $48/month for unlimited space.
Their suite plans, which combine an online store, website, mobile app, and client gallery, cost $28/month for 1000GB, and $48/month for unlimited space.
Unlike most of the online gallery options on this list, SmugMug doesn’t have any free account options, although users can try out their free 14-day trial period to get a feel for their platform. SmugMug has been operating since 2002, meaning they have weathered the age of Canon and Kodak and will most likely be around for many years to come.
Another perk to SmugMug is that every one of their plans comes with an unlimited amount of storage space and galleries, and you can easily import your photos from other platforms like Dropbox and Flickr. The downside is however that you need to purchase their more expensive options in order to have full control of your site’s e-commerce, and they have been criticized for having a cluttered user interface, although this is in part due to the amount of customizable gallery options they give.
Their basic plan starts at $7/month and comes with a fully customizable website, an easy drag-and-drop gallery organization system, password protection, email and social media integrations for quick sharing, and access to their print lab.
Their Portfolio plan, which is billed at $27/month, is where you start to have more control over your e-commerce with a Turnkey storefront, e-commerce gallery optimization, multiple options to fulfill print orders, download sales, and the ability to set your prices store-wide. You can also use your own domain name with this option. For $41.99/month, you can create custom price lists and coupons for individual clients, group multiple galleries under single events so customers can access all of the relevant photos and choose their favorites, brand your shipping orders, and give clients additional gift-wrapping options.
Smugmug offers the best pricing, and it’s a great option for those looking for a great solution at a great price.
Pixellu was initially known for their slideshow software, SmartSlides, an Animoto alternative and their SmartAlbums, a Fundy alternative for album design. However, they recently announced their client photo galleries, and they are worth considering. The Pixellu team’s primary focus is solving three specific problems:
- Usability – They’ve simplified the upload process into a three-step workflow (upload, customization, and delivery).
- Limited Layout Options – They offer multiple text and layout options for the client galleries.
- Slow Loading Times – They’ve optimized their galleries for fast loading for both the photographer and the client.
The rest of their feature set is comparable with the other Online Galleries like Pixieset and Pass, with reasonable pricing starting at $8/month. This should be your Online Gallery of choice if you already use SmartSlides or SmartAlbums, as you can get ALL three for $40/month. This can potentially save you significant money if you can eliminate the need to pay for these types of services separately.
Read our more detailed breakdown here.
In addition, proofing galleries are password-protected and pictures within them are secured with watermarks. Other useful features include, e-mail templates, currencies support, activity log storing all events, sale of additional products (prints, photo painting, etc.) and 24/7 technical support.
Photonesto is also unique because of their prcing model, where subscription is not required – basically, you pay for what you use. Online photo album prices vary depending on the publication period (3, 6 or 12 months) and the size of the album. For example, choosing 6 months publication period, one small album (up to 1 GB of data – about 100 photos in full resolution) is $5.50, medium album (up to 3 GB of data- approx. 300 photos in full resolution) – $6.00, large album (no data limit – unlimited number of photos) – $6.50.
For more information, click here.
Pass has been around for roughly a decade, and they are mostly known for catering to wedding photographers and other professional photographers who deal with large quantities of photos per gallery or event. This means that they have great upload and download speeds to and from their platform, and they feature fluid social media integrations that allow your clients to easily share their favorite picture to their social media feeds with a backlink to your work, spreading your brand through word of mouth. Their gallery setup has a pinterest-esque feel to it, allowing clients to easily move through large volumes of content.
And best of all, they have expanded their free account options to up to 6,000 photos or 20GB of storage. Free accounts are charged a 15% fee on all purchases, and come with unlimited galleries, the use of your own logo in client galleries, an online smart store, mobile app, a portfolio site, and sales & marketing help.
Paid accounts start at $17/month for 30,000 photos or 100GB of storage and include the above without the 15% purchase fee, along with email marketing and additional album design options. Their unlimited account is $34/month and comes with the above as well as a full professional website and blog.
Pic-Time operates as more of an integrated workspace for photographers rather than just being a stand-alone online gallery space. Their platform has Lightroom integrations and syncing, and also comes with some great marketing tools that help you to make coupons, promo codes, and a range of marketing campaigns for your products.
Their platform is also well known for its easy-to-use and beautiful aesthetics on both the photographer’s end and the client’s. Customers can select their favorite shots and build their own albums, and the range of prints available through Pic-Time, including calendars and greeting cards, allows any photographer to increase their product range.
Pic-Time has a comprehensive range of pricing plans with three client gallery options, three art gallery options, and three bundle plans. Client galleries start at just $17/month for 100GB of storage or $34/month for unlimited storage with the option for you to add multiple brands for $16 each. These options all include an online store, marketing platforms, customizable products, GIF and video integration, shipping rerouting, customizable domain names and more.
The art gallery options have a similar option for expanding your operation to cover multiple brands, and the prices start at just $10/month, although this art gallery package comes with a 15% sales commission. You would need to purchase the $17/month art gallery option for commission-free sales.
Zenfolio has a similar setup to SmugMug, but what sets them apart is a much easier to use interface, and more features in their cheaper plans.
They also streamline the dialogue between clients and photographers, since clients are able to browse photo galleries and select their favorites, and photographers are then able to access those favorite lists and open them directly in Lightroom using a special plugin.
The Portfolio plan is a cheap $5/month and comes with 15GB of storage space, an Instagram feed, the ability to use your own domain name, social media integrations, and shareable photo galleries. The $10/month Pro account comes with an easy-to-use website builder, unlimited photos and videos, custom watermarks, an online store, client proofing, access to print labs, online payment processing, and a selection of marketing tools such as gift certificates and email reminders.
Their advanced plan is probably one of the most attractive options on this list, at just $15/month. This comes with specialized features for school, sports, and event photographers, a post-shoot green screen, multiple user accounts for larger businesses, the ability to set your own shipping methods, the creation of mini-sites to target specific events, boutique packaging options and much more.
Right away, one of the most attractive aspects of PhotoShelter is their image proofing system that gives photographers a wide range of easily customizable options for presenting and delivering photos to clients. Customers also have the option to rate and comment on pictures they like, giving photographers instant feedback on what works and what doesn’t, and the use of FTP and password-protected links makes sharing photos easier than ever.
One of the downsides though is that there is a commission fee between 8% and 10% on all sales regardless of the plan that you purchase. This downside is offset by the fact that every plan comes with free self-fulfillment of orders, and the platform supports 23 global currencies as well as PayPal, so there are almost no geographical limitations to your customer base.
Each of their plans comes with 9 HTML5 site templates, a custom domain name, Vimeo, Instagram, WordPress, and Tumblr integrations, SEO marketing and social media sharing tools, their mobile app, and the ability to sell prints and license photos. The basic plan for $12.99/month only comes with 4GB of cloud storage though, which is comparatively low compared to competitors, and this package does not come with a client proofing tool which their other two options do include. The standard $29.99/month plan gives you the above plus 100GB of online storage, while the $49.99/month gives you unlimited storage.
When it comes to professional online photo galleries, there really is no “right” option. Each has a set of pros and cons, some are better looking than others, and some offer more features than others. Switching galleries is a hassle, so signing up for a free trial and doing proper homework is critical. You will likely be married to your final choice for a long time. Ask yourself, what is the best option for you now and years down the line. Will the price creep up and out of control as you add more images? Do you trust that the company is well managed, and that the company will be around in 5-10 years? These are all factors to consider.
But we’d love to hear from you. What is your favorite online gallery? If you enjoyed this article, you might also be interested in our thoughts on the Best Studio Management Software and our thoughts on the Best Website Builders for Photographers.