Elia Locardi is Back

What is PASS? Who Cares. This Is Better!

What is PASS? Who Cares. This Is Better!

I use PASS for my gallery systems. I use it because it’s pretty on both the computer and on mobile devices, something that Smugmug and Zenfolio sometimes fail on. The system is pretty expensive ($30 per gallery), and gets a lot of criticism for completely hustling photographers over with their print system and prices. To top it off, Pass creator has had his share of controversy. Introducing Pixieset, everything that PASS SHOULD be, and at a reasonable price.

I was introduced by Pixieset from a friend, after showing my frustration with the PASS system, and not allowing my clients to download a zip of the files without first paying Pass $30. Introduced just a couple months ago, Pixieset looks to bring beautiful gallery systems for weddings and events at affordable prices. At as low as $8 a month (limited free options available), Pixieset allows you to build a beautiful free flowing gallery system and allows you to add featured images, set print prices, and even add categories that will display beautifully into a menu system for your images.


The gallery system on Pixieset is similar in style to the familiar PASS systems, with some unique really special features. The first one is that you’re able to add collections to your galleries, and they’ll be places in a simple but intuitive menu system. This allows for better organization, and allows you to build wedding galleries organized by the event and time of day (Setup, ceremony, reception, etc). While PASS has this feature, its buried into the menu system that often goes overlooked by clients.

Aside from that, you also have a feature image that works like a header for the gallery. So you’re able to customize your galleries to your clients, and give them something far more unique than just a set of photos.


From there, each of your clients are able to download all the images from their gallery with a single click. To help prevent strangers from downloading high resolution images from the set, they have a pin system that allows only those with the 4 digit pin to download the images. This feature can also be turned off at any time on any gallery, allowing you to pick and choose which galleries you want downloadable, and which ones you do not.


Much like PASS, Pixieset also offers plenty of social integration into their system. All the major systems are integrated into the system, allowing for your images and sets shared with ease, and increase the possibilities of going viral.


Perhaps the biggest advantage with Pixieset is that they don’t have a print system, but a billing system for prints. This means you’re able to use your own print lab if you choose, and oversee the entire process. You set your prices, when someone orders, the money is deposited into your bank account (minus a 8-15% fee from Pixieset), and then you’re able to process your print order from your standard print lab.

This feature is so imperative to me, as I often will have headshot clients come in and look for an easy way to order prints. The digital files I deliver to them don’t contain their name, SAG representation, or agency info -- however, their printed headshots do. So by overseeing the operation, I’m able to assure that the prints are up to my standard, and are processed how I want them. Fear not though, Pixieset promises to add additional print options in the upcoming months for those who want to take a hands off approach.


While Pixieset is cheaper in the long run compared to PASS, it still isn't the cheapest option. Their prices are listed below, and you’ll find yourself eating up the 10GB from the basic package pretty quick, especially if you’re uploading higher resolution files for your clients. $24 a month is nothing too unreasonable though, especially for those wedding photographers who are looking to up their presentation in digital media.



Perhaps my biggest gripe with PASS is that it can be painfully slow at times. Using their Desktop app seems to slow the entire uploading process down. Even when uploading 900px long edge files for proof galleries, I can sometimes wait over an hour for 200 photos to upload. Pixieset uses a proven standard with their basic upload dialog within their admin panel on their website. For that reason, uploading seems noticeably faster, as it's not going through Adobe's sometimes cumbersome Adobe AIR System. With Pixieset, you just click upload. You're not hit with random dialog after dialog asking for your client's email address and pricing forms. It's simply upload, and you're done.


What I've been most impressed with is the support that Pixieset has been able to offer me. Using the natural male mentality of "Don't bother reading instructions" I went into Pixieset blindly. I didn't know what I was doing the majority of the time, and just clicking away. Contacting their support was simple, and the responses were always quick and very polite. You can tell this is a company eager to help people with their problems, and if I asked about a feature they didn't have, they showed interest in adding it to their system soon.

The Downfall

One of the nicest features in PASS is their stats. With a single click, you’re able to view the amount of views your gallery is getting (Though the accuracy of those numbers is highly questionable) and where those views are coming from. At this point in time, Pixieset does not offer a service like this. They do promise to add functionality soon though, once they work out the kinks in inaccurate server side readings.

What I Like

The Galleries are Beautiful
Ability to Download Galleries With Ease
Fast, Simple Interface
Great Customer Support
No Expiration on Galleries

À la Carte Print System With Full Customability

What Could Use Improvements

Stats System to see Views & Other General Info


From my initial and limited time with Pixieset, it is everything I've wanted from an online gallery system. The whole system is easy to use and beautiful, and certainly raises the bar in terms of functionality within a gallery system. If you’re looking for a better gallery system to give to your clients, I highly suggest you check out Pixieset. The only thing they don’t have going for them, is there fluffy name.

If you're still not sold, I recommend you checking out the Examples on their website to really see the beauty in their system.

Zach Sutton's picture

Zach Sutton is an award-winning and internationally published commercial and headshot photographer based out of Los Angeles, CA. His work highlights environmental portraiture, blending landscapes and scenes with portrait photography. Zach writes for various publications on the topic of photography and retouching.

Log in or register to post comments

One big mistake in the article. "No Expiration on Galleries." - They would seem to expire the moment you stop paying the monthly fee for the service.

I went through the gallery system, and it seems they don't expire when you stop paying...at least not right away. They'll do a system similar to Dropbox, and inform you that you're over quota on your account and that you need to delete the galleries or pay to continue using the service.

This looks brilliant, much better interface and pricing structure than PASS. Only thing I don't like is that unless you go for the $24/month option clients can only download the "High Resolution" files which are just 1mb. Which is a shame as the $8 5GB package would have been perfect for me. $24 is a bit too much when my website already has private galleries and wetransfer.com works very well for sending files.

Yes, with the Free and Basic accounts they can only deliver the resized 3500px files. Those files should be pretty large enough to meet most peoples needs. Pro and Ultimate accounts will have the option to deliver originals. The idea is if you are delivering originals you will probably need more storage than what the Basic account offers anyway. Pixieset keeps your originals files in the system so whenever you decide to upgrade you have the option to deliver Original files, even for past collections.

Anyone else concerned about giving your client a "yourcompanyname.PIXIESET.com" domain as a link for a gallery? That bugs me so much. Geez.

If I could install this on my server and have something like clientgallery.mycompanyname.com, that would suit me infinitely better...

Yea I agree but it is the same for pass. They have http://companyname.pass.us/clientgallery

At least "Pass" sounds half alright. If a MALE photographer hands a client a link with "pixie" in it, I can't imagine that client taking that photographer seriously for much longer.

You can use something like goo.gl or smarturl.it

ill stick with Zenfolio...may not look amazing, but it gets the job done and the unlimited space means i have another form of image backup.


Agreed. Im sure with the competition, Zen will eventually update their look (hopefully).

Zen has upgraded everything and looks great.

There's no equals to Zenfolio Premium account!

I'm using FotoMerchant for all of my Print Sales. I pay $19 a month for no limits and can do all of the same features.. May be a slight pain to set up but worth it for the cost and ratio to this option.

Their galleries look pretty good, but I'll stick with @ShootProof. Self-fullfill print orders, or direct fulfillment, mobile apps, image archiving, and probably a couple other things I've forgotten. They don't take a cut of my sales. http://shpr.ws/da

That's who I'm using. I'm still on the free mode, but so far I like it and the fees are great.

They really are a great solution for photographers. I used Photoshelter for a long time, but quickly realized most of their features weren't needed and ShootProof does everything I need, at a great rate. The new features are constant too.

I am using Shootproof and they came a long way. Their newest gallery looks beautiful. Custom price lists. Lightroom Plugin. And great price.

$40 1000gb compared to $30 on Smugmug unlimited space and galleries. Plus you can use your own domain plus fully customize-able themes and prices. Unless I am missing something here?

I have tried Smugmug and though the themes are "customizable" they all look the same. That and the whole user flow and cost of a pro account is just to much for me to deal with. I like Photoshelter. I am not sure what otheres think of it but I dig it. www.bygday.com

Pixieset is probably one of the most undervalued photography tool, glad to see it being featured on fstoppers. They have come a long way since I started using them two months ago, love that they are always adding new features.

I think it's very promising, but it's way overpriced for what you're getting if you compare it to others like Zenfolio. If they can be competitive on price and commissions AND have a slick gallery like this, they could destroy the competition.

Those sample galleries loaded slower than my PASS galleries and I find the viewing interface a little more cumbersome, but the pricing and ease of use appeal to me.

It's going to be a tough call. Zenfolio and Smugmug need to adapt to something more beautiful and compatible.

The load may be because they're a new site, and we just hit them with a load of traffic. Try them again in a couple days. From what I found when using it, it was incredibly fast and intuitive.

Zenfolio already has something....


That's quite an expensive add-on to Zenfolio, particularly if you have their premium account.

It isn't an add on by Zenfolio. It is a third party app similar to PaSS or others on the market. However it does much more than the others for less and integrates with Zenfolio seamlessly. It auto subscribes clients when they show up at a shoot, there are downloadable web apps, social networking share tools, and much more. You should do some research before assuming it wouldn't be useful. I have used all the alternatives and it beats them all. People just enjoy jumping on the bandwagon and usually they don't look for viable alternatives.

Am I the only one using a self hosted solution?

What are you using? Been looking for a self hosted solution. The commission rates on some of these are pretty high.

I, too am curious as to which self-hosted solution you use. Care to share?

I'm always trying to find the best self hosted solution.

Currently I have the following and you can view an example at: http://davemckayphotography.com/client/gallery/ms-event/

- Wordpress site
- PhotoPro Theme by WPExplorer
- FooBox Image Lightbox by Brad Vincent

I use it for my photobooth where I upload during the night. It loads well on mobiles, but on a computer it is slow as it tries to load all images before displaying them. Other than that it works well.

I'm using a self hosted wordpress site with CE3 web publishing suite (The client response plugin for Lightroom is what I'm using most). Maybe not that elegant but very flexible and cost effective! http://shop.theturninggate.net/

What exactly does Zenfolio have difficulty looking good on?

Cheaper (the best value option comes in at $12 a month - and is better than or at worst on par with the above $40 a month plan), better gallery options, unlimited storage, amazing iPad app, your own domain name, dead simple google analytics setup, brilliant customer service and exceptional sales options - yeah, I'll be sticking with Zen thanks.

myproofs.co is a zenfolio sponsored option for mobile.

and totally un-needed.

I'm not sure why it isn't needed. There are a ton of features it offers that you cannot get from Zenfolio alone.

welp! The customizable pricing and the better designed interface is what sold me over from using PASS! Although the pricing may be different, I still think Pixieset is worth it either way! If only Pass would allow us to change our pricing, then I would have no problem switching back!

Am I the only photographer who utilizes Smugmug? The updated platform is great.

Wow, when I looked at it in July the format looked so dated, but now it looks great! Might have to give it a try. (:

SmugMug is awesome now. I was a big believer in Pixieset before SmugMug changed their UI...but I'm back on the SmugMug wagon and looks like I'm here to stay. Really, all I care about is that PASS goes down in flames...so choose anything but PASS!

SmugMug is still one of only 2 serious options (ZenFolio being the other). Head over to phototips.biz and see what Jimmy has been saying about Smug recently and why he changed to Zen.

I've been with Smugmug since almost the beginning. The biggest reason to use something like Pixieset is "collections". There's nothing worse than a 500-shot wedding gallery with no way to really organize it into sets. Plus Smugmug's commerce system is not the best.

Really digging the look of the galleries. The cover photo idea is brilliant.

I can see where they are going with this, the thing is clients will never share their zenfolio gallery, but I can imagine them sharing their pixieset gallery on Facebook. And that is huge for photographers who want more social media presence. You can compare unlimited storage and pricing all you want, but that's not all there is.

You guys really need to take some time to look into MyProofs.co

It integrates with Zenfolio for a mobile option. It offer much more than any alternative I have seen.

Everything else out there falls short and is MUCH more expensive....

Has no one herd of dphoto.com? It's $80 a year unlimited. They don't have a sell images option, but there are ways around that.

Anyone ever hear of www.dphoto.com ? I've backed up 3 terabytes !!! No prints, but unlimited storage for $90 a year. Use my referral code for a discount :) DBD34F2D

Anything, and I mean anything is better than PASS - Say pass to PASS, go with shootproof, Pixieset ...anything but feeding the beast.