Putting photos on display no longer requires big canvases and white museum walls. Thanks to the web, you can showcase your snapshots in just a few clicks. However, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of portfolio websites to choose from. So, how is a photographer supposed to know which sites they can depend on?
We’ve poured through the top website builders with photography-tinted glasses to find out which options are worth the time and cash. Some are great for simply displaying your art, while others go beyond with ecommerce and email marketing tools. Based on a mix of hands-on experience or a site’s reputation, we’ve rounded up the best photography portfolio websites for photographers to display photos in the best light.
The gist: Wix is simple to use and inexpensive. Yet it has features designed for professional photographers.
Cost: Start for free; upgrade to a premium plan, starting at $13 a month.
Wix is a simple What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) site builder, but the platform has more spunk than meets the eye. Websites on Wix are easy to create with modern templates containing enough variety to match most photography styles and a simple user interface — if you can create a PowerPoint, you can build a Wix website.
While the platform’s biggest perk is its simplicity, the company doesn’t stick with just the basics. One new feature is artificial intelligence (Wix ADI), which helps users build unique websites by answering a few questions from the start. Wix also has a number of more recent additions catering to pro photographers, including online booking, email marketing, print sales, and client-specific albums. The platform’s pro galleries allow photographers to set the quality, then automatically adjust for the viewer’s screen for faster load times — and the gallery also has a few extras to make it more difficult to steal a photo from your website. Other tools include a logo maker and SEO tools.
Wix is a simple website builder that keeps the easygoing user interface while expanding with more features. What’s the downside? Unless you start building with the ADI option, you can’t change your template later without starting the web design from scratch.
The gist: A quick, simple way to build a portfolio — integrated within the programs many photographers already use.
Cost: Included with Creative Cloud subscription, which starts at $10 a month.
From the company behind Photoshop, Adobe Portfolio is part of the Creative Cloud platform that many photographers already use (and pay for). Users say they get portfolios up and running in an hour, though fine-tuning and expanding the number of image options takes longer. Oh, and it’s also integrated with Adobe Behance, another portfolio builder from Adobe that’s more community-oriented.
The advantage to Adobe Portfolio: updating a portfolio with new content is easy since it is linked to a user’s Lightroom library. Many photographers fall behind on portfolio updates because of the time involved, but the integration will likely make those updates happen more often. Adobe Portfolio offers a number of design templates to choose from, and by keeping things simple, there’s no temptation to add old-school animations or any web elements that would junk up a page.
Adobe Portfolio is incredibly convenient for current Creative Cloud subscribers, but the lack of advanced features isn’t likely to sway non-Adobe photographers by itself. There’s no store option, no blog — it’s just a portfolio. While that narrow focus makes it simple to get a gallery-worthy portfolio, it makes it difficult to use for a fully-featured site.
The gist: There’s a reason most websites are powered by WordPress, but it may be overkill if you only need a portfolio.
Cost: Free, but hosting and a domain name will cost at least $4 a month.
WordPress is one of the most widely used platforms, from personal blogs to big businesses. WordPress has plenty of plug-ins, which means you can connect it to Lightroom for faster updates or add your own online store, although some of the plug-in options can get pretty pricey. There are also plenty of templates to choose from, including paid options from both WordPress and third-party companies.
But with so many options comes a much steeper learning curve — WordPress isn’t the sort of portfolio website you can expect to start and finish in one day. Setting up a basic WordPress site isn’t too difficult, but building a sleek, pro-level website is a bit tougher. If you want a custom theme, you’ll need to use wordpress.org and not wordpress.com, and finding a host and getting everything set up can be a headache if you’re not a web wizard.
The gist: Designed specifically for e-commerce, Shopify is excellent for selling images online, but pricey and complicated if you just want a portfolio site.
Cost: Starting at $29 a month.
Shopify, as the name suggests, is designed not as a one-size-fits-all website builder, but for ecommerce. That makes Shopify worthwhile for photographers looking to sell prints online. While there are other similar website builders, Shopify’s wide-reaching focus means an abundance of online tools, including email marketing, customer history, and plenty of templates.
While Shopify’s advanced tools make it a solid platform for sales, the features also mean it’s one of the pricier options. Expect to pay at least $29 a month plus a percentage of every transaction. Some plug-ins are also pricey. If you’re looking to build a website around a photography business that includes a sales platform and an email marketing tool, then the fee doesn’t sound so bad as an all-inclusive service. But this is another one that’s overkill for just exhibiting photos online.
The gist: X3, which has the clever URL photo.gallery, is a robust portfolio solution that can be self-hosted on your own server space or hosted on X3’s own Flamepix servers.
Cost: Free demo, $150 one-time license for “professional” users or $14 a month with Flamepix hosting.
X3 isn’t the most simple or elegant solution to set up. But what it lacks in convenience, it makes up for in customization and options. Whether you’re self-hosting or hosting it on X3’s servers, your portfolio site is customizable. You can choose between multiple responsive themes, customize what your galleries look like, and adjust the layout of your portfolio as you see fit. In total, there are hundreds of different combinations you can come up with to make your portfolio site your own.
Unlike other options on this list that are a bit more plug-and-play, you’ll have to have a little PHP and web hosting knowledge to get going if you plan on taking the self-hosting route. Once you have it set up though, the content management system makes it easy to upload content and share it with the world. You can download a demo for free, but you’ll still need server space to host it and there’s a link in the footer going back to X3’s website. For $150, you can have a lifetime license for X3’s portfolio solution, including upcoming e-commerce, search, and panorama plug-ins. Or, if you’d rather pay by month and not search for your own host, you can get the software for $14 a month with Flamepix.
The gist: The photographer-focused platform makes it easy to build a website to do everything from selling prints to backing up photos and client proofing.
Cost: Starting at $10 a month.
PhotoShelter is designed specifically for photographers — it’s a platform that offers relief from the file size limitations and complex setups of the one-size-fits-all website builders. PhotoShelter allows photographers to attract new clients with online galleries, send clients online proof sheets, order prints online, and more. PhotoShelter also includes cloud storage, available directly from Lightroom or by uploading via a web browser.
With all those tools, PhotoShelter is on the pricier end. If you want client-proofing and ample storage, you’ll be paying at least $25 a month ($30 if billed monthly, not annually). And while the variety of tools caters to pro photographers, there are still a few features missing, like email marketing. The price may make it out of reach for new pros with a low number of sessions, but the photography-specific tools make it a good option for those that need online proofing, cloud storage, and orders.
The gist: A lovely site builder for getting that high-end look, although the extra design options can be a bit more overwhelming.
Price: Starting at $12 a month.
Squarespace has always had gorgeous themes and templates — ideal for photographers looking for a gallery-quality design to host photos online. Squarespace websites tend to have that more luxury high-end look that’s often a great fit for displaying photographs with style.
While Squarespace is a universal website builder, there are a number of perks for hosting images. High-resolution images have multiple presentation options and the system allows photographers to set the focal point so that the image displays properly on every screen size. Squarespace also has a portfolio app that automatically syncs with your website; using the app, you don’t need an internet connection to show off your images on a phone or tablet.
While Squarespace offers some lovely templates, they have a bit steeper learning curve. The platform is still a WYSIWYG editor so you don’t need to learn code, but the user interface is a bit less user-friendly than other options we’ve tried, although that is largely because there are more customization options.
Squarespace prices are midrange, starting at $12 a month for up to 20 pages, or $18 for unlimited pages, with custom domain names and discounts for paying annually.
The gist: SmugMug is a solid platform for selling prints online — if you don’t mind some SmugMug branding that can’t be removed.
Cost: Starting at $6 a month
Around since 2002, SmugMug is a popular photography website builder because of its online print store. The integrated platform makes selling prints online easy (the transaction fee is 15%), and while the store is SmugMug’s biggest draw, it’s a good option for hosting an online photography portfolio, too. The website builder is also praised for the image quality on different screen sizes, from 4K desktop monitors to smartphones.
While the system is template-based, SmugMug allows for customization using both a drag-and-drop-style editor or, for the web-savvy, HTML and CSS – the platform sits at a sort of happy medium between the simple and feature-heavy. SmugMug also includes unlimited cloud storage.
One of the biggest complaints SmugMug users have is that it is impossible to remove all of the SmugMug branding. If you opt for a pricier plan, you can use your own domain name, but there’s still a logo in the footer (if you know HTML, you can remove it) and the shopping carts also have SmugMug written at the top. Using your logo in the shopping cart is only included with the priciest plan.
SmugMug acquired Flickr in 2018. If you’re looking for a place to just exhibit your work, Flickr may be a better option. In the future, it’s possible Flickr could integrate SmugMug features, but for now, the two sites remain independent.
The gist: Unlimited bandwidth and custom photo products are some of the biggest perks to Zenfolio, although limited tech support may be a turnoff.
Cost: Starting at $5 a month.
Zenfolio is one of SmugMug’s biggest competitors because it uses a similar gallery-style website builder with the ability to sell prints online. Even with the most basic plan ($7 a month or $5 a month when paid annually) photographers still get unlimited cloud storage and bandwidth, so “big” photos are fine. The website builder has multiple template options and a number of extra features including SEO tools. Zenfolio photographers are also added to a directory, which could potentially send more clients to their way. Zenfolio’s transaction fee is less than SmugMug’s — 7% percent instead of 15%.
While the photo storage is unlimited, they aren’t designed for viewing on 4K monitors (Zenfolio thinks it’s overkill, but that might change in the future). And, if you want to get a live person when you need help, you’ll also have to pay for one of the pricier plans.
Several templates are excellent options for photographers — the best option just relies on a number of different factors, including budget, style, and tech knowledge, as well as whether or not you intend to just display photos or sell them. Some are designed just for displaying and selling photos, while others are more universal. Some are inexpensive and some involve bigger budgets. Narrow it down to one or two, then try a free trial to find that perfect online home for your photos.
The gist: Format is a simple portfolio option that offers a slew of themes and custom presentation options, including private proofing galleries.
Cost: Free 14-day trial with “Personal” plans that start at $6 a month.
Format has come a long way over the years and now offers a collection of attractive features at decent price points. With a paid plan, you have access to Format’s collection of custom themes, client proofing galleries, 24/7 customer support, and the ability to connect your own custom domain.
Bandwidth shouldn’t be an issue considering it’s unlimited, so no matter how many times your photos get viewed, you’ll never get charged more. You can also sell your artwork online using Format’s online store option.
Format offers four different plans: Enthusiast, Pro, and Unlimited. These plans cost $6, $12, and $25 a month, respectively, when billed annually. The main difference between the plans is how many photos you can store and sell online, as well as the ability to customize the HTML and CSS of your theme. If you aren’t sure you want to commit to shelling out for a month, Format’s 14-day trial makes it easy to take it for a spin without dropping the dough.
The gist: 500px has grown from a simple alternative to Flickr into a full-fledged portfolio, social network, and shop that’s as clean and beautiful as it gets.
Cost: There’s a free tier that should be enough for beginners and hobbyist photographers, but if you’re a fan of additional stats about your photos and a more personalized profile, 500px has plans starting at $5 a month.
500px has come a long way from its humbling beginnings. Although it’s not a portfolio option in the traditional sense, it still offers a clean-looking location for you to host and share your photos.
One of the advantages of 500px over more traditional portfolio sites is the integrated social foundation it was built on. You can interact with other photographers, keep tabs on your contemporaries, and be inspired by others.
The free plan should be more than enough if all you want is a public place to host your photos — but it is limited to just seven new images a week. If you’re really looking to grow and interact, 500px’s paid plans might offer a lot more in the form of more advanced statistics on who’s viewing your photos, free online photography classes, and upgraded profile features.
The gist: Originally made for designers to showcase their portfolio, Semplice has since added features and capabilities that makes it an equally impressive option for photographers.
Cost: Semplice offers Single and Studio tiers, which cost $100 and $138, respectively, and you only pay once. There’s also a business plan ($599) if you are a designer planning on using the Semplice back-end for client projects.
Semplice is a WordPress portfolio system. Effectively, for a one-time purchase, you’re getting a customized back-end for WordPress designed specifically to showcase your work in a variety of ways.
Semplice 4, the latest release, has a completely redesigned system that makes it easy to create retina-ready galleries and portfolios with the hosting reliability of WordPress. The back-end is designed in such a way that you can customize the interface of your website without having to deal with a convoluted back-end of WordPress’ traditional theme editor.
The standout feature of Semplice is its purchase-once-own-forever approach to pricing. Once you’ve made your purchase, Semplice promises at least 12 months of updates and critical updates beyond that to ensure your portfolio keeps running smoothly. Users of the Studio version can get a discounted price for the next upgrade.
- The best Android apps (May 2021)
- The best photography tripods for 2021
- The best RAW photography apps for Android and iOS
- How to take your own passport photo
- Our best iPhone 12 photos show off just how amazing this camera is