Zenfolio Wants to 'Help' You Create Photo Albums, Take Hefty Commission

Zenfolio Wants to 'Help' You Create Photo Albums, Take Hefty Commission

I'm generally not a fan of the opt-out model. It's an easy way to push unwanted features, changes, or price increases onto an end user, often without them noticing until it's too late. It's like someone slipping a steak into my all-vegetarian cart at the grocery store when I'm not looking. Unfortunately, Zenfolio just slipped a big T-bone into its users' carts.

Albums are one of the most lucrative products for wedding photographers. Even in the digital age, many couples still cherish a bound book of their special day and are willing to pay handsomely to work with a photographer's expert eye in designing and printing one. Zenfolio has quietly announced a new "feature" for its users that automatically gives their galleries a "Create a Photo Album" button. Clients can then make their own albums, the production of which will be outsourced to Zenfolio, leaving the photographer to receive a commission of $100, a pittance in comparison to doing it yourself. Even if I preferred the convenience of this hands-off approach (I don't), I would still rather have the option to activate it myself instead of it being pushed upon me. 

This new feature will be live to clients starting on April 15. If you'd like to opt out, go to your Zenfolio home page, click the "Selling" tab, select "Photo Albums," and select "Disable Photo Album Service For Your Clients," then click "Save."


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Michael Kormos's picture

Our studio has used Zenfolio since 2008, largely for the purpose of client image proofing. We've always been aware of their unreasonably high commission fees, which is why we handle print and album sales directly with our customers, outside of Zenfolio.

We've recently explored utilizing their "self fulfillment" option, where you connect your business' existing merchant account through providers like authorize.net to complete the transaction. Strangely enough, Zenfolio continue to add their 7% commission fee to these transactions for doing absolutely nothing more other than providing an online form that collects your customer's payment information and forwards it to your processor. That's on top of the $300+ we pay annually for our Zenfolio plan (and on top of the merchant fees we pay with our own provider for credit card processing).

With print fulfillment, one could justify their fees because they'd charge the customer's credit card, offer a shopping cart experience complete with finishing options and cropping, and finally send the order through to a partner lab for drop shipping. But with self-fulfilled option, they do none of it, yet continue to charge an exuberant rate.

I can see how their website templates are useful for amateur photographers looking for a quick site. However, their platform offers neither the scalability for established businesses, nor competitive rates for transactions with existing merchants.

We're currently in the process of building our own client proofing platform, hosted on our own server.

Alex Cooke's picture

Yikes. Those are some pretty crazy rates. I'm glad you're moving to a solution that suits you better.

Bill Wells's picture

One Word PicturesPro.com. ok two word put together. Pretty nice self hosting option

Sean Molin's picture

Yep. We've been using their offerings (first PhotoCart, now Sytist) for 6 years now.

Peter Mueller's picture

I can highly recommend www.picdrop.de
A very small german company from Berlin consisting of 3 people (I am not involved in any way in that company) but they offer a very good service and customer support is very fast. Image upload is faster than any service I ever tried.

Every 2 months or so they surprise me with new features that solve problems that I even did not know I would have. Go check it out. Images are stored on german servers with high data privacy protection (german privacy laws are much stricter than most laws worldwide - including the US).

Almost all big photographers in Germany are using their service. They have a lifetime free account for testing: https://www.picdrop.de/web/pricing

Unfortunately their site is in German. But I can translate if anyone is interested.
Final client sites have an english language option.

Deleted Account's picture

Thanks for the tip, it looks like an interesting option.

Lilla Gyarmati's picture

Thanks for this insightful article Alex. I am in the process of starting my portrait business and was comparing Zenfolio and Smugmug, especially their online proofing and ordering system, so it just hit me at the right time.

Matt Rennells's picture

From what I understood in reading the email they sent me, the clients select the photos they want in an album, and then zenfolio will go through and create the design aspects of the album for them. I do not know if this is some sort of "auto" album or whether a real person is designing the layout/arrangement for them. It did not appear to be some sort of feature where the client just "makes their own", as they've offered that for years with their "create photo book" button.

karalayne's picture

Surprising that a company would do this to a tool that is meant for photographers who, generally speaking, want to see our industry thrive in the realm of tangible art. A few years back I adopted the policy of self-fulfillment - both because of wanting complete quality control and also not wanting to pay the fees that come from some of these services.

Andrew Richardson's picture

I use Zenfolio for pretty much two reasons and two reasons only: cheap & unlimited storage.

Almost all my work is delivered via digital download, and setting up a download gallery on Zen takes me less time than it takes to type this post. If my work was more print-centric, I would definitely move on to something else. But for the price, Zenfolio does give you some pretty great features.

I do feel like their target is less of the full time professional, and more of the high-end hobbyist. People who would prefer to shoot and edit and be done with it, and are content to make a little cash off prints or commissions. Their pricing, features, and fees all seem to support this idea.

Mark Likosky's picture

I've got tons of photos stored on Zenfolio from over the past four years or so and it would be a pain to switch. I'm trying to find a way to customize my template so it's as minimal as possible. Turned off the Create Album feature and now there's Create Book. Looking into how to turn that off!

Was checking out Shootproof as I like the app customization but it's only for viewing. Wish the apps you can send via Zenfolio would be customizable as Photo Moments looks so corny!