What's the Best Portfolio Website Builder for Photographers?

What's the Best Portfolio Website Builder for Photographers?

If you want to showcase your work on more than just social media and perhaps even start selling your images, you need to have a portfolio website. So what's the best option to get something professional, cost effective and functional up quickly?

Until December last year, I was using SmugMug. There were some things I liked, such as the ability to monetize your site immediately without any extra plugins, as well as its focus on helping you easily create visually appealing websites with a few button clicks. However, SmugMug's recent price hike and some other limitations have led me to the conclusion that I must look elsewhere. However, with two young daughters and a full-time job, I want something that's user-friendly, intuitive, customizable, and won't cost a pretty penny. A lot of my friends and fellow photographers have suggested Squarespace and Format, but I did a little more digging and found a great comparison site for artists looking to create a portfolio website that caters to all their needs.

Over on Website Builder Expert, they've put together a comprehensive list of the nine best portfolio website builders. I must admit I was quite shocked at the results but the great thing is the page goes into real depth in its explanations of each site and the criteria it used to compile its list. So what came out on top? Surprisingly, they rate Wix at number 1, saying it's "best for… those in need of an easy-to-use builder with bundles of creative control."

Head on over and take a look at the top nine and let me know your thoughts. I still haven't decided on a site yet so if you have any experience with any of the nine on the list and you can recommend them (or not), please do let me know. As always, real world experience from Fstoppers readers is incredibly helpful to the community so please speak up.

Lead Image by CyberRabbit via Pixabay

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Previous comments
David Pavlich's picture

It may be a little on the drab side compared to some of the sites I've visited. I don't know that being a little less 'fancy' is a bad thing, though. For my purpose, it works well. It's easy to post the images and has an easy interface for selling prints which is the main purpose of the site for me.

Iain Stanley's picture

yes a lot of the bells and whistles that are included with many packages end up being things we seldom make use of anyway.....

Jim Bolen's picture

Well, I recently went from Wix to Squarespace, and couldn't be happier. My site is now showing up better in web searches, thankfully. I had an SEO consultant visit with me and said that Wix isn't good in that department and said I would be better off moving away from it. His suggestion worked.

Mr Hogwallop's picture

Jim- how did you find the layout tools with Wix compared to SQ Space? There is whole new skill to learn to build out a custom page in SQ Space.

Iain Stanley's picture

So you think Wix is much more intuitive to use than SS for a relative website building novice?

Jim Bolen's picture

Yes and no. Even though SS is pretty robust, novices shouldn't have too much trouble. Take the time to watch their tutorials and you'll be fine.

Jim Bolen's picture

Not really too hard to figure out. Did some quick tutorial and had it up and running in no time. Now that I've been using it for a while, I like SS better for the layout.

The linked article seems to consider only web-site builders and not portfolio-specific sites like portfoliobox.net. It is no wonder Iain was surprised by the recommendations; the article had very little to do with photo portfolios.

Iain Stanley's picture

I'm not so sure about that.....the title is "The 9 Best Portfolio Website Builders Ranked and Reviewed" and the first paragraph says "This article will give you a detailed breakdown of the nine best portfolio website builders on the market and tips on how to choose the best one for you." That looks pretty specific to me in regards to portfolio sites.

Motti Bembaron's picture

Wix is a very intuitive platform and has some beautiful templates to work with. It is very flexible and has many different ways you can design your site. It is very much made for photographers that want beautiful portfolios to show clients.

I used Wix for a short period of time and decided instead to go back to a simple static site and Wordpress blog.

The reasons I switched were: very small storage, no native email and the inability to create sub-folders (www.mysite.om/blog).

The price for such a small storage space did not make sense, especially for photographers and videgraphers. If we pay such premium we should get 10 times more storage space.

The need to pay extra for Google email also makes no sense. Why not provide the ability to have email with my domain? Every web hosting provide it (and most give unlimited emails accounts).

And, every account can only have one domain name. Fine (not really but anyway), then why not let us create sub-folder for our blog?

All in all, I found Wix and Squarespace lacking value.

Iain Stanley's picture

great insights on your experience with using Wix. Your last sentence said you found SS also lacked value...what was it about SS that you were dissatisfied with?

Motti Bembaron's picture

Thank you.

To be clear, my personal experience is with Wix only. A colleague of mine registered to Squarespace prior to me registering to Wix and I compared our experience. He too moved back to a static site saying that not being able to have more than one domain (or subfolders) was also an issue for him. If I am not wrong, at that time Squarespace also had storage limitation.

I found SS to be too simple and I did not like most of their templates. Wix is by far a winner there. Wix has many more ways of designing a site with free and premium plugins.

However, the flexibility of a simple web hosting (and the price) makes it hard to justify the likes of Wix. With my web hosting I can have as many domains as i want, native emails and huge storage space. Mind you, when building a static site or even a Wordpress site, a good knowledge of HTML and CSS is almost a must.

Storage space was a big issue. I use Pixiset for client galleries and online selling and was hoping to move everything to Wix but their storage space was not big enough.

Iain Stanley's picture

Dealing with all the plugins is primarily why I want to move away from Wordpress. And the lack of blogging/writing functionalities is why I had to move away from Smugmug. It seems hard to get an all-in-one deal that satisfies all the basic needs of a photographer who wants to do a wee bit more than just display/sell prints....

Motti Bembaron's picture

For me Wix was short on value but to be honest they are a great platform for photographers. There is no need for the plugins, they just ad some functionalities if you need them but everything works great without them.

They need to give native email (without extra charge), large storage (or unlimited like SS) and the ability to host more than one domain without charging extra. Would help if thy were more affordable too :-)

a long while ago I bought a Bludomain theme, they have beautiful themes but their service is absolutely garbage. Also, at the time, I found out their themes were badly coded and the site crapped on me after about a year.

It's true, it is hard to find the perfect platform. That's why I went back to the standard web hosting and static web site.

If you find anything better, please share.

Samten Norbù's picture

For a while there were this really nice CMS, koken. I still use it, but there is no more development on it and the tech start to be old witch is really bad because the templates and the back office were pretty neat ! Also with nice plug-in like the one frt lightroom sync.
I'm still trying to find it's replacement but I've never seen anyone that was as well designed :(
Here's how it looks : www.samten.fr
(BTW, if someone have a good CMS to recommand ... queue me ;) )

Adam Haines's picture

I started with SmugMug and ended up frustrated with customizing the design. Wix was way more user-friendly in this area. I don't have many advanced needs, just a simple portfolio site. I will say that wix will give you a good amount of the basics for the price and try to sell you everything else a la carte with their app system. I have 2 sites with them, they meet my needs for now but I'm keeping my eyes open other options.

Iain Stanley's picture

what other options are you looking for that you don't feel are met with Wix currently?

Chris Rogers's picture

I never liked square space but for a portfolio site wix does the trick for me.

Iain Stanley's picture

What was it that you didn’t like about SS?

Chris Rogers's picture

I didn't like their payment plans. Even just paying was confusing. Managing your account was confusing. When it came time that i wanted to cancel there was no easy way that i could find to do it. I had to dig through a lot of menus and eventually had to google how to cancel. You don't want people having to google how to use your service. That is nooo bueno. I also didn't like the site builder over all. It wasn't as user friendly as i thought it should be, it too was confusing, and their modules wouldn't do what I wanted them to. Wix is is kind of a pain to work with too but it's easier to work with than square space. That experience was a looooong time ago though so it's entirely possible they have stream lined things and made the platform better. I might give it another look.

Iain Stanley's picture

Thanks for the insights. I guess the good thing is that you can set up a 14 day free trial with many/most so I might just do that and see how it all pans out

John Dawson's picture

Most here probably know this, but the Creative Cloud photography plan comes with Adobe Portfolio free (portfolio.adobe.com). You can even use your own domain. I haven't built my portfolio there yet, but I plan to just to check it out. I'm sure it pales significantly when compared to a full-featured CMS, but it seems nice on the surface.

Iain Stanley's picture

It’s funny you mention that coz every time I open CC and make my updates, I always look at Portfolio and say to myself I really need to explore its capabilities further. But I never do......I wonder why most seemingly do the same....?

John Dawson's picture

I'm a web software engineer by day and i spend a lot of time in various content management systems, so I tend to be too technically critical.

Dave Bentley's picture

I recently went through this and struggled to decide on a platform. I was ready to move away from Zenfolio. I settled on trying Wix. So far Ive been happy with it and its much better than the "boxy" feel of Zenfolio. One thing i dont like is the limitations of the Wix Art Store (surprising that its not more developed than it is), so currently Im using Pixieset as a supplement.

Iain Stanley's picture

Cheers. Glad you’re enjoying Wix, relatively speaking, but it’s not ideal that you habe to supplement it. Can you clarify what you mean by “boxy”? Thanks!

Dave Bentley's picture

It's definitely not. With Zenfolio, there was almost no customization ability. No option to change fonts, styles,etc. Basidally you had several pre selected layouts to choose from.

Iain Stanley's picture

Gotcha, thanks. I'm trying out Pixpa at the moment so we'll see how it pans out.

Dana Goldstein's picture

I’ve tried a couple others but ultimately stayed with Zenfolio for several years and thru moving from retail to editorial. Huge amount of customization possible if you’re willing to play around with their templates. Can’t beat their ease of use, clients have no complaints, can upload raw files, uploads are fast, can download from their app to my phone to post on the go, so easy to navigate. Not a single complaint. Don’t know why they don’t get more love online.

Iain Stanley's picture

A reader above said Zenfolio had a rather “boxy” feel. I’m not sure what that means. Any ideas?

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