Which Online Services Are The Best For Photographers?

Which Online Services Are The Best For Photographers?

Last week we saw a few news worthy announcements from a couple of the larger photography portals. Livebooks went dark from their clients until the announcement was made that they are now under Wedding Wire and PhotoShelter released their new Beam portfolio service. It seemed fitting that a post be put together to compare and contrast a handful of the larger services and find out which are best suited for photographers needs. 

This post is designed to give a fair look at all of the services and compare head to head some of the features of the accounts. Each portal is going to have unique tools and upgrades that others do not, so I am trying to stick to the meat and potatoes of the accounts. I also hope to hear from account holders in the comment section below about any experiences as well as any cheers and jeers.

The 5 companies looked at are in alphabetical order and if account levels are factors, they start from the basic to the premier, left to right. Keep in mind, there is no magic account that will be fitting for each and every photographer, wading through this list might help direct specific answers to specific needs of each photographer.


Web design & templates:

  • APhotoFolio - Custom designs
  • Livebooks - Custom designs and 30 prebuilt templates
  • PhotoShelter - 10 customizable templates
  • PhotoShelter Beam - 4 customizable templates
  • SmugMug - 70 Templates
  • Squarespace - 21 prebuilt templates
  • Zenfolio - Customizable


Hosting space & Storage: (plans are listed from lowest to premier)

  • APhotoFolio - 17GB
  • Livebooks - 3GB
  • PhotoShelter - Basic 10GB - Standard 60GB - Pro 1000GB
  • Squarespace - Standard 2GB - UnlimitedBusiness unlimited space
  • SmugMug - Unlimited
  • Zenfolio - Basic 36MB - unlimited space for all other plans


Bandwidth restrictions:

  • APhotoFolio - "Virtually unlimited bandwidth" ???
  • Livebooks - ???
  • PhotoShelter - No
  • SmugMug - No
  • Squarespace - Standard 500GB, Unimited & Business No
  • Zenfolio - ???


E-commerce - Print Sales/Downloads:

  • APhotoFolio - None
  • Livebooks - Additional charge per month plus 10%-12% fee
  • PhotoShelter - Basic 10% Standard 9% Pro 8%
  • SmugMug - Basic, Power, Portfolio & Business all provide various commerce option
  • Squarespace - Standard & Limited No, Business charges 2.9% + 30¢ per transaction.
  • Zenfolio - Basic & Unlimited No, Premium 4%-12% depending on self fulfillment or vendor fulfilled


 Online proofing and/or delivery:

  • APhotoFolio - No
  • Livebooks - Enthusiast No, Emerging 10 areas, Professional unlimited
  • PhotoShelter - Yes
  • SmugMug - Yes
  • Squarespace - Yes
  • Zenfolio - Yes


Secured client areas:

  • APhotoFolio - No
  • Livebooks - Enthusiast No, Emerging 10 areas, Professional unlimited
  • PhotoShelter - Yes
  • SmugMug - Yes
  • Squarespace - Yes
  • Zenfolio - Yes


iPad/Tablet/Mobile built in:

  • APhotoFolio - Yes
  • Livebooks - Yes
  • PhotoShelter - Yes
  • SmugMug - No
  • Squarespace - Yes
  • Zenfolio - Yes


Social Media Integration:

  • APhotoFolio - Yes
  • Livebooks - Yes
  • PhotoShelter - Yes
  • SmugMug - Yes
  • Squarespace - Yes
  • Zenfolio - Yes



  • APhotoFolio - 4 payments of $250 plus $17 a month for hosting
  • Livebooks - Enthusiast $9 a month/$99 a year, Emerging $19 a month/$199 a year, Professional $39 a month/$399 a year
  • PhotoShelter - Basic $9.99 a month, Standard $29.99 a month, Pro $49.99 a month
  • SmugMug - Basic $5 a month/$40 a year, Power $8 a month/ $60 a year, Portfolio $20 a month/$150 a year, Business $35 a month/$300 a year
  • Squarespace - Standard $8 a month, Unlimited $16 a month, Business $24 a month
  • Zenfolio - Basic $30 a year, Unlimited $60 a year, Premium $120 a year, Premium Business $250 a year


Who is the winner?

Depends on your needs as a photographer. If you need a simple website and will only update a few times a year, there seem to be a few good leads here. If you are a photographer who uploads a ton of work each week and needs to share proofs with clients or deliver files via download, there is something here that should fit. Maybe you have a large amount of photographs that you want to present and market yourself, than there might be something here for you.

Hope this sheds some light on a few of the features of each company.

aphotofolio.com / livebooks.com / photoshelter.com / smugmug.comsquarespace.com / zenfolio.com 

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Mike Last's picture

Any reason SmugMug was left out of the comparison? It's usually Zenfolio's direct competition.

Aaron Lindberg's picture

Mike, I overlooked SmugMug, just updated.

Bynum Studios's picture

I can never get a good grasp of what these folks offer for video. What's the best solution for a strictly video production company?

Aaron Lindberg's picture

Great question, it was left off this post as I couldn't find a great answer either. I think most of these companies are trying to move into video but with the large amount of space that files take up on server space, all things seem to be limited. Personally I would look at one that hosts the files and than find something that best displays the projects. If nothing is fitting, might have to find some server space and have a custom built site. I am sure this is frustrating for video production companies.

Greg Milunich's picture

Zenfolio allows video but there's a size restriction I cannot remember off the top of my head. I have had them for 3 years with great success

Chad E Currie's picture

Photoshelter will now let you add video, they partnered with Vimeo and allow you to have your vids from Vimeo on your website.

Aaron Lindberg's picture

The video gallery from Vimeo looks really great on PS.

David Silverman's picture

I use 4ormat which I think is great and affordable. Three plans: Basic - $6.99/month, Pro - $12.99/month, and Agency $24.99/month. No yearly or startup fee.

Aaron Lindberg's picture

Thanks for sharing David, this looks like something I will keep track of for future reference.

Jim Cunningham's picture

another satisfied 4ormat user here!

Joseph McFadden's picture

I like 4ormat too, but I can't find an option for e-commerce/sales on there! How do you sell your prints if you use them?

Jim Cunningham's picture

I don't :-)

dax's picture

And yes, 4ormat. Check them out!

Chip Kalback's picture

Another vote for 4ormat!

JR's picture

Any reason why 500px wasn't included?

Aaron Lindberg's picture

There are a lot of websites that could have made this list. I was not aware that 500px had hosting available. My understanding was that 500px was similar to Flickr.

JR's picture

They definitely started out similarly (to flickr) and still have a heavy bent towards the photo-sharing aspect. However, they have since moved toward a more professional offering: custom templates/layouts (even options to remove all 500px branding), private sets/passwords for clients, storefronts...

Granted, they need a lot more backups/storage options, but they stack up pretty well to the other options you covered.

Great roundup though, don't want to detract from your article.

Aaron Lindberg's picture

500px was off my radar for portals, good to know they have added tools to their accounts. Will keep tabs on their progress.

Marius Pettersen's picture

I recommend Viewbook - http://www.viewbook.com/ - not bloated with stuff. Simplicity all the way.

Aaron Lindberg's picture

Good share, I will keep my eye out on this. Maybe do a follow up post with all of the recommendations from this post.

Axel Brunst's picture

I am also on Viewbook! And super satisfied.
Moreover there's a new designer coming soon. They are testing it at the moment.
Vimeo implemantation is possible, too!

Mark Weisenberger's picture

This would have been a bit easier to read if the products were in a matrix instead of paragraph form. Thanks for the info. Still very useful.

Aaron Lindberg's picture

I agree the info is a little difficult to read in paragraph, we have some formatting options that I am not aware of through WP.

Quentin Decaillet's picture

I recently came upon PhotoDeck. Not many seem to have heard of it but it's awesome! I use it mainly for proofing and selling but you can also build an entire website with it.
I tried different proofing (and website) services (PhotoProofPro, SmugMug, Zenfolio, CMD, etc.) and always found it good but not great. What I love the most about PhotoDeck is that the platform is multilanguage (which seems to be such a rare thing)! Such an awesome thing to have when you have clients from different countries or speaking different languages :) I also find the interface much easier to customize and much slicker than with SmugMug or Zenfolio. I still wonder why PhotoDeck is not better known… :/

Aaron Lindberg's picture

Thanks for sharing, never heard of PhotoDeck until today. I like the idea of having multi-language especially if someone works across the continents.

Mark T's picture

Photoshelter integrates well with WordPress Blogs - especially some of the excellent themes from Gravity Press. This leads to all kinds of customization options . I'm not sure if the others do this, but it's a nice feature at the Shelter.

S Wade's picture

Graph Paper Press

Aaron Lindberg's picture

This would be a good option for self hosting

Aaron Lindberg's picture

I also went to college with one of the guys who is part of this team

Mark T's picture

Oops yes Graph Paper Press - sorry about that :)

Ett Venter's picture

I'm a Squarespace user, and I honestly couldn't be happier. It's obscenely easy to set up, it's cheap, and updating the site is a breeze.

Furthermore, the companion Portfolio app for iOS is incredible. I always have an up to date, beautiful portfolio to show people quickly, and it's updated automatically.

Check it out - www.ettventer.com

Deleted Account's picture

I love the photos. Great job!

Jaron Schneider's picture

Just looking at the comments and this article, it's apparent just how many options there are. It's a really crowded space.

Aaron Lindberg's picture

Agreed, no idea how many different options there were with this type of service.

Keir Williams's picture

I personally use Virb - virb.com

I have nothing to brag on features, it for sure speaks for itself. It fits me perfectly, especially with the responsive design.


Aaron Lindberg's picture

This looks like a pretty slick option. Designs look clean and simple.

Marius Batman Viken's picture

I use it myself. It's really simple to set up and use. Spent 10min on mine and here's how it looks -> www.mariusviken.com

David Arthur's picture

Also dissapointed 500px wasn't listed. They have a great website set up that is simple and easy to use. I have it connected to lightroom so I can make adjustments and add to my website from my edit. It's great.

Aaron Lindberg's picture

That is a cool feature to be able to adjust on the fly. If there ever becomes a follow up post I will def look into 500px.

Regan Shorter's picture

I'm surprised 22slides isn't on here. The majority of photographers I look at use it.

Jon McGuffin's picture

I second 22slides.com but ill also say this virb.com looks pretty good.

Bryan_22Slides's picture

I'm a little late seeing this comment, but thanks for the mention! They're actually missing a ton of really good services in this article.

Anthony Thurston's picture

You guys left out ShootProof (www.shootproof.com). Great service, though customization is not quite the level of the other services you listed.

Deleted Account's picture

I tested Zenfolio, Smug Mug, and 500px but I went with Square Space and I couldn't be happier. The templates are simple and clean. Exactly what I'm going for in my brand.


Aaron Lindberg's picture

I am pretty sure a couple of the writers here on Fstoppers us Squarespace as well.

Deleted Account's picture

Is that what you also use?

Aaron Lindberg's picture

Personally I self host, I use a WordPress template and host and manage my own site. I do use other services for proofing and delivery for clients.

Kevin Patrick Robbins's picture

I'm with Squarespace, which I love. But I recently came across Krop (www.krop.com) and I think I might setup my next portfolio there. Simple and great websites.

Hunter Harrison's picture

I've been using PhotoShelter since inception and I swear by them. They're no the cheapest, but they are the best. Two factors that weren't mentioned above - the SEO tools are stellar and the customer service is amazing. I rose quickly to the top of Google and I'm certain it had a lot to do with PhotoShelter. Plus, their staff is so nice. They're always really helpful and fast. Most important, they go out of their way to pimp the work of their members. It really makes a big difference.

Ernie Chang's picture

I use portfoliobox. They're pretty cheap, and they are always improving! It's pretty nice

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