Best online galleries for photographers
Online photo galleries are used to store, display & share photos. No matter what level of photographer you are, you should use them to organise your workflow in 2021.
Professional photographers use online galleries to deliver photos to clients in a private location that often includes an online store to buy prints and other products.
Even if you’re not a pro photographer, online client galleries can be a convenient way to display and privately share photographs with friends and family (you may even sell a few photos while you’re at it!)
The best online galleries also include sales automation, Lightroom synchronisation, contract templates, slideshows and various other marketing tools.
(They’re the essential tools you’ll come across when you’re researching how to start a photography business.)
All the options below offer a free account for you to get started, so let’s take a closer look at which online gallery is right for you.
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Best Online Photo Galleries in 2021
I’ve been using ShootProof for the past few years, and despite tough competition, I have no intention of switching to any of the other online galleries for photographers on this list.
I use it in my wedding and family photography business each week to deliver photographs to clients, who usually comment on how enjoyable the viewing/sharing experience is.
The photo galleries are beautifully designed, with several attractive, customisable templates to choose from. Everything is easy to navigate, both from the photographer’s perspective and the visitor or client’s.
Getting photos into a gallery is simple, via the website, a desktop app, or even a Lightroom plugin.
The Lightroom plugin is especially useful, allowing you to upload photographs and keep everything in sync – any edits made to a photo in Lightroom will be synced to its ‘online copy’, even after it’s uploaded to a ShootProof gallery.
You can set up various ‘Rules’ to govern how digital files can be downloaded, including resolution, watermarking, number of copies, print releases and various other options.
As for making money via ShootProof, you can set up both downloads and physical sales, with the latter linking the gallery to a local lab so clients can place orders to be delivered directly to their home.
Setting up pricing is simple enough, and you can even set emails to be sent automatically to anyone who visits your galleries, notifying them of promotions, galleries expiring, etc.
Once you have your automation set up, you’ll effectively be able to earn money while you sleep, and the best bit? ShootProof takes no commission from any of your sales.
Other handy features include a workflow to create photographer contracts, add music to galleries, build mobile apps, invoices and more. The reporting features are also great if you like digging into the data.
As for the cost, if you’re looking for a free gallery for photographers and don’t require much storage, the 100 Photo Plan costs absolutely nothing.
At the other end of the scale, the Unlimited Plan offers unlimited storage space for the ultimate peace of mind for high-volume shooters,
When you’re ready to upgrade, each paid plan offers a free trial for 14 days, with no credit card required. You can save 25% by using the coupon code SHOTKIT25.
Compared to ShootProof, Pixieset is hot on its heels as the best online gallery of the year.
Gallery designs are minimal, modern, and user-friendly, with everything loading fast for both photographer (on the backend) and the client. Everything’s completely mobile responsive too, meaning galleries look great on phones and tablets.
Clients can download photographs directly from their private photo gallery based on the settings you choose – sizes of photos, watermarking, quantity, etc.
Visitors can favourite photos, adding a heart logo to indicate photographs they’d like to use in albums or on other products, such as calendars and canvases.
On the back end, you’re able to track all this interaction, meaning you can see which photographs the client loves best and download the image, export the filenames, etc.
As for print options, Pixieset has partnered with all the major labs in various countries. You’re able to set your pricing, and there’s no commission on any sale made, as long as you’re in one of the paid plans.
Selling via PixeSet’s Print Store is simple, with a range of beautiful products and previews which automatically adjust depending on the clients’ selections.
PixieSet can ‘mock up’ various photo products for sale with whichever photo it thinks the visitor likes the most – it doesn’t always get it right, since obviously, the most viewed photo may not always be the most liked… but it’s still a unique feature that can help sell your photos online.
One notable omission is the lack of automated promotion emails, but this might not be relevant to you.
Print fulfilment is seamless, much like ShootProof – the client places an order, the order goes to the lab, and the finished products ship automatically to the client.
Everything is white-labelled (no prices/invoices), meaning you don’t need to handle the product before it’s delivered.
Customers can choose from frames, cards, fine art prints, canvases, bamboo panels, and more. You can even customise greeting cards with the built-in designer.
You can also set up coupons and other marketing materials quickly. With ready-made templates, you can customise your message and branding. There’s also a handy mobile app so visitors can view their gallery via an app icon from their phone or tablet.
As for pricing, there’s a free account that allows you to hold around 1,000 photographs but includes the Pixieset branding and a 15% commission on purchases.
The sweet spot is the Pro plan at $24/mo billed annually (or $30 monthly), including 1,000GB of storage space (approximately 300,000 photos).
If you want everything backed up to the cloud indefinitely, the Ultimate plan offers unlimited space and costs $40/mo billed annually (or $50 monthly).
How about ShootProof vs Pixieset? It’s a popular debate since both services are so good – our pick is ShootProof for the automated emails which can help you sell your work while you sleep.
However, Pixieset is marginally better value for money and offers handy free photo galleries if all you want to do is store under 1,000 photos.
SmugMug is one of the most popular photo galleries for professional photographers or enthusiasts who want to advertise and sell their work.
The website user interface is simple, and the helpful tools are comprehensive and address all photographer needs. Most importantly, the front end of your SmugMug gallery is accessible and neat.
The Power and Pro plans are perfect to sell work via the client galleries and directly to local print labs. You can also build event-based galleries for clients to see their special moments with the Pro plan.
The selling tools are well thought out and every time you make a sale, you receive a detailed email notification to help you keep track of sales.
Prints are available with a broad range of mediums, quality, and sizes – you can even offer a photo album from a client event.
SmugMug is popular with enthusiasts requiring a secure platform to house and share work – similar to a cloud-based photo storage service that’s also mobile-friendly.
It has a range of plans starting with a 14-day free account to get a feel for building and designing a good-looking SmugMug gallery.
The plans range from $7 a month for the Basic up to $42 a month for the Pro – paying a year in advance saves you up to 38% off on the Portfolio plan.
The Power plan is the best pick for those looking for full control to showcase work since you can customise your website and build a personalised domain to reflect your brand. It costs $11 a month or $85 for the year with a 36% discount.
All plans include unlimited, full-resolution photo storage, which is something that the cheaper ShootProof and Pixieset plans can’t compete with (see Smugmug vs ShootProof for an in-depth comparison.)
The Pro plan includes various handy client management tools, marketing promotions, coupons and packages.
Pic-Time is a platform for professional photographers to represent themselves in a competitive market – especially wedding and event photography.
Recently, we’ve noticed a lot of fine art photographers on social media using Pic-Time to showcase and sell their best work too.
The price plans for Pic-Time are split into two groups – client galleries and fine art galleries.
There are four levels with the client plans, including a free version offering a generous 20GB of storage – Pic-Time takes a 15% commission, but if you’re not intent on selling prints, you can snap up a free account for your photo storage.
Pic-Time offers Professional, Advanced, and Business plans at $20, $40, and $57 if you pay month by month, with discounts if you pay for an entire year.
Our pick is the Advanced plan at $34 a month (full year) as it features unlimited space and commission-free purchases.
It includes all the bells and whistles to successfully build a premium site, market it, and professionally display and sell photos – the sales automation features are particularly great – our favourite is the abandoned cart notices.
All the main CMS integrations are there (including most recently, our favourite: Studio Ninja), and labs like Profotonet also provide their beautifully crafted fine art products through the platform.
There’s even a free plan that offers a preview of the photographs without ordering options – great if all you want to do is showcase your work, and you’re not bothered about the site being hosted on the Pic-Time domain.
The Professional plan is $10 a month and includes a custom domain and online store, albeit with a 15% commission.
The Advanced plan wins at $17 a month with no commission – this is obviously the best option if you’re planning to sell lots of prints.
As with several of the other online photo galleries in this roundup, Pic-Time is noted in photography forums for having excellent customer service.
If you’re looking for a client gallery with a minimal aesthetic, well-priced plans, and the chance to showcase your fine art photos, Pic-Time is an excellent option.
CloudSpot is another online gallery to consider if you shoot weddings, engagements, parties, and similar events.
You can build a beautiful, minimalistic portfolio with multiple galleries to showcase your public work as well as client work. The minimal aesthetics allow the photographs to do all the talking and not the flashiness of the site itself.
CloudSpot allows complete control over the economics and management of selling your photography work to clients. You set the price (in any of 130 currencies) and can opt for zero commission on sales.
CloudSpot provides marketing tools to set banners and discount codes to boost your sales, and there’s even a custom mobile app feature, allowing your clients to access their galleries from their phones and tablets.
Regardless of selling a single picture from your public collection or selling a whole client gallery, there’s just one simple workflow – client gets an email… clicks a button… downloads photos!
Prints can be quickly ordered from your site, and the automatic fulfilment process will take care of the rest. Everything is outsourced to a CloudSpot partner lab of your choice, with all the most popular options supported.
While all the main photo gallery providers have blogs, the CloudSpot blog deserves a special mention – it may not be as beautiful as the likes of PicTime, but there’s a ton of useful information on their for all level of photographer.
One unique feature is the ability to create slideshows and videos by using SmartSlides, Animoto, YouTube and Vimeo – perfect for hybrid shooters who want to make the most of both digital mediums.
CloudSpot has four plans with the free one providing 10GB of storage and 15% commission on purchases – this could be a good option for freelance photographers without regular income.
The other plans are Lite, Starter, and Unlimited at $10 a month for 15GB, $25 for 200GB, and $40 for unlimited. All plans are cheaper if you pay for a year and have zero commission.
The smartphone app creation feature may not be unique to CloudSpot, but it’s available in all plans, and definitely adds a unique element to your client’s experience.
Pass is a brilliant option for those looking for affordable online gallery solutions. It’s perfect for those that are new and want to showcase galleries to drum up more work.
(The only challenge is trying to Google it – perhaps not the most original brand name!)
Pass provides simple online galleries for photographers to market and sell works directly to a client.
A neat touch that makes the whole online gallery creation and access system simple is the Adobe Lightroom plugin which helps bulk upload photographs.
Pass prides itself on ‘blazing-fast uploads and downloads’, but this is obviously heavily dependent on your own (and your clients’) Internet speeds, which could prove to be the bottle-neck.
The Pass online gallery provides all the tools you’d expect to support clients ordering physical copies and photo albums.
Clients are able to access and build their own album by dragging and dropping photos – it can even be done on a smartphone.
Pass suits entry-level photographers wanting to establish a marketplace for their work, since it offers three free plans.
The Free Forever plan provides a website to house 1,500 photographs with 5GB of storage space. The Also Free plan provides 3,000 pictures and 10GB, and the Still Free plan grants 6,000 and 20GB.
The Standard subscription is $17 a month with 30,000 and 100GB of storage – it also includes the photo album app.
The Unlimited plan is $34 a month and provides unlimited space with marketing features and a blog site.
Each account offers a portfolio site with your branding, unlimited photo galleries, selling and marketing options, and access to the Pass smartphone apps, which are ideal for photographers and customers to share work via social media.
Zenfolio is a popular photo gallery with a solid reputation for those running a photography business. It’s been around for a good few years now and has legions of happy users.
It offers photographers a single site to showcase, promote and sell their work, providing easy-to-use templates to build a website in minutes.
The ability to create custom galleries for personal, public and client photo collections is just as accessible.
There’s a decent range of templates and portfolios, and everything is straightforward to setup. Everything scales responsively, for visitors who view your galleries on their mobile devices.
Zenfoli’s strength is its abundance of features for those wanting to set up a gallery to sell files or prints, with over 2,000 products waiting to be customised and auto-fulfilled with a printing lab or self-fulfilled by the photographer.
You can also build custom packages for clients, including downloads and physical product combos.
Zenfolio offers a full suite of marketing features, including client email capture, SEO, email marketing campaigns, discount code and sale options.
In addition, it offers apps to manage customers and to schedule upcoming jobs – this saves the need for a separate client management software platform.
Zenfolio attracts those that shoot large-scale jobs for schools and sporting clubs, with custom features to build online platforms for such jobs where a large number of customers pre-order photos.
It offers a no-cost trial and four additional plans, with the cheapest starting at just $5 a month. That gives you a single-page site and the ability to house up to 15GB of images.
The other plans include Portfolio Plus at $10 a month with a multi-page site that’ll sell your work. The Pro plan is the best option at $22 a month for a complete site, galleries, portfolios, and the ability to market and sell anything you upload.
The final plan is the Advanced at $32 a month with all the Pro features plus options for managing school and sporting club shoots.
Zenfolio appeals most to professional photographers shooting high volumes and selling to large customer bases such as school parents.
PhotoShelter offers the ability to build intelligent and modern-looking sites to showcase and sell your work in various ways.
It offers nine attractive website and online gallery templates that can be customised with a quick and straightforward system.
PhotoShelter plans include access to a smartphone app for managing your online photos. These integrated cloud services are ideal for photographers constantly on the go.
It’s easy to sell your work to customers or sell the licensing rights of photos. The shopping cart provides a range of download options, plus you can partner with a local lab for order fulfilment.
What’s unique about PhotoShelter is the broad range of features it provides to clients – they do their own proofing and rank the images in a password protected gallery, putting them in control of the experience.
You can even collaborate with customers via a virtual lightbox to establish a preferred selection of photos from their online gallery.
PhotoShelter offers a limited trial at no cost and three additional plans that have the same 100-plus features, with the difference being the size of the storage.
The only exception is the Basic plan not having the client proofing feature. Proofing is ideal for large jobs as it gives the client the responsibility to trim down the size of the gallery.
There are even different levels of client download bandwidth, to provide a premium experience for VIP customers accessing their photos.
With annual billing, the Basic plan is $10 a month with 4GB of storage. The Standard plan offers 100GB at $25, and Pro grants unlimited storage at $45 a month.
When you consider the investments of a pro photographer, plans of this value are small change and well worth it.
Gone are the days of walking into a professional photographer’s studio or office to discuss their services, view samples of their work, and even collect your photos.
The days of CD-ROM and even USB stick photo delivery are also numbered too.
Clients demand e-commerce sites showcasing work, with private galleries and the ability to order photo products and prints.
A web gallery is also an essential platform for a professional to be noticed in a crowded industry. These recommended online photo galleries provide an attractive and user-friendly site that provides customers with a one-stop-shop.
What are your thoughts on photo galleries for managing client work? Do you have a preferred platform to sell prints, and how do you rate it?
Does your gallery provide a range of features including client access, proofing, e-commerce, upload and product delivery?
Share your experience here and join the conversation by adding a comment or a question. Happy shooting.
Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post may contain affiliate links.