Listen to the all the hype and blurb about the popularity of Flickr, and it’s easy to forget that actually the site actually suffers from a number of serious deficiencies. Members can’t personalize their pages, it’s hard for professionals to stand out and, of course, there’s no obvious way to monetize a membership. (That doesn’t stop people from doing it, but it does require a bit of creativity.)
It was inevitable then that someone would come along with a photo-sharing site that fills the gaps — a kind of upper-class Flickr for people who produce better-than-average photos, want to put across a professional image and make some money too. Zenfolio describes itself as “a hosting service for photo galleries” — which does sound better than a common photo-sharing site.
“Zenfolio is really focused on the best online presentation, organization, and an e-commerce support,” says Alex Peyzner, Zenfolio’s President and CEO. “A good way to describe the difference [between Zenfolio and Flickr] is to compare a photo used in a newspaper to support an article of text (Flickr)… to an exhibit gallery where a photograph is the main attraction on the wall with a small caption describing it (Zenfolio).”
What that means is that Zenfolio’s members can choose one of a dozen different themes for their galleries, upload images as large as 10 megabytes, display photos in a slideshow and, perhaps most importantly, allow browsers to order their photos as prints. The site currently has “thousands” of paying customers and hosts almost 40 million files. With a free trial limited to two weeks and fees ranging from $25 a year for the Basic service to $40 per year for the Unlimited service (which gives photographers unlimited storage space for their images), few of the site’s members are the sort of happy snappers who sign up at Flickr.
“We really have a mix of enthusiasts and professional photographers,” says Alex. “The service definitely attracts more advanced amateurs and people looking to improve their skills, but we have a fair number of working photographers as well, even though we do not have a selling solution for them today.”
It’s that lack of an inclusive marketing platform that is probably the site’s biggest weakness at the moment. Without the capacity to sell images digitally, photographers are mostly using the site to create easy-to-build portfolios. Marketing is all down to the members, with Zenfolio concentrating on bringing in paying subscribers. “Marketing and promotions are all in the hands of the photographers as we are not an image bank or stock photography site,” says Alex.
Nonetheless, plans are in the works for a new level of payment plan that will allow products to be sold at custom prices, allowing photographers to generate profits — provided the buyers are there to pay the prices. In the meantime, you’ll have to focus on making your gallery as professional as your images, using it to show off your work and pitch for assignments, and passing out your URL to bring in potential clients.
[tags] zenfolio [/tags]