Ranking the 7 Best Gallery Website for Dog Photographers

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of various online dog photography websites use to show and sell their images.

Finding the right website is about more than just uploading photos and sending the link – it’s about providing a seamless experience for the customer which leads to more sales overall.

So, join me as we explore the top 7 photography gallery websites for dog photographers, whether you shoot dog sport events or dog portraits, and break down their key features.

Why use a gallery website for dog photography?

If you are photographing dogs professionally, whether at dog sport events or in private portrait sessions, you need a way to sell those images.

Some who are just starting out might look for free or cheap options to “proof” their images (commonly known as proofing galleries) and then send the downloads via email or a cloud service (or even USB or CDs!), but once their business grows they need a system that is more hands-off.

The gallery platforms I’m presenting in this comparison are ones that I feel work for dog photography, including dog sport events such as agility, dock diving, dog disc/frisbee, Fast CAT, nose work or scent work, barn hunt, etc.

A CloudSpot homepage, one of the featured gallery websites, showing six different dog sport event galleries
Part of my CloudSpot homepage in 2023

All of these platforms allow you to share photos that you have taken and the customer can buy digital downloads and other products you define directly from the gallery, eliminating the back-and-forth you might need with a different proofing or sales method.

This is a win-win for you and your customer!

Notes:

  • I have only personally used Pixieset, CloudSpot, and Sunshine Photo Cart. The rest of this information is based on online research. If anything is incorrect based on your own experience, please contact me!
  • I am currently using Sunshine Photo Cart on my WordPress installation. The link included in this article is an affiliate link, which means if you purchase Sunshine through the link I will receive a small commission at no cost to you. This goes towards creating more free resources like this!

Gallery platforms that were compared

The websites I compared were:

  • Pixieset (https://pixieset.com), founded in 2013 in Vancouver
  • CloudSpot (https://www.cloudspot.io), launched in 2015 in an incubator start-up in California
  • ShootProof (https://www.shootproof.com), launched in 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia
  • SmugMug (https://www.smugmug.com), started in 2002 in California and acquired Flickr in 2018
  • Zenfolio (https://zenfolio.com), founded in 2005 in California
  • Pixpa (https://www.pixpa.com), founded in 2013 in India
  • Sunshine Photo Cart
The homepage of the Pixieset website, one of the featured gallery websites
The homepage of the Pixieset website in 2024

There were other websites I found that I do not include in the comparison because they are geared towards weddings or are not suited for dog photography. These include: Pic-Time, Zno, Photonesto, Pixellu, Lightfolio, and PhotoShelter.

Features to look for in your gallery website

The different functionalities of each platform will vary, and you might see some features included in only the highest paid levels and not others.

Here are the features I was looking for when I was comparing these gallery websites:

  • Cost, including monthly fees, annual fees, and commission fees
  • Storage space, such as the number of GB for your photos or videos
  • Ease of use from the photographer’s perspective on the back-end of the website
  • Branding and customization, such as being able to use your own logo and domain
  • Customer experience, such as the ease of purchasing an image from the website
  • Marketing and sales, including features like analytics and automated emails

Below, I’ve summarized the 7 websites in each of these categories.

Let’s kick things off with a look at the costs of these gallery websites.

Monthly and annual costs can vary based on the level of features from each website, so it’s important to consider the value you get for your investment. A small extra cost per month or year is not going to matter if your photos are easier to purchase and you have better marketing. You will easily make up the difference in the costs.

The exception being commission fees with SmugMug taking 15% of your profits and Zenfolio taking 7% of your profits – the more you make, the more you pay! Note that SmugMug does include the credit card processing fee (typically 2.6-2.9%) in their 15% commission.

ShootProof comes out on top in this category with a range of pricing options, starting from $0 to $30 per month and $0 to $300 annually. What sets ShootProof apart is its wealth of features – and no commission fees, even on its free plan.

Pixpa is in a close second with the lowest annual cost on our list and enough features to successfully run your business, albeit nothing fancy.

The pricing page from ShootProof, one of the featured gallery platforms
The pricing page from the gallery provider ShootProof

Winner: ShootProof

Runner-up: Pixpa

Cost comparison table for gallery websites

ProviderMonthly costAnnual costCommission fee
Pixieset$0-$50$0-48015% on free, then none
CloudSpot$0-$45$0-$40815% on free, then none
ShootProof$0-$30$0-$300None
SmugMug$28-$45$225-$38415% commmission
Zenfolio$9 – $40$84-$2647% commission
Pixpa$8-$26$48-$216None
Sunshine Photo CartN/A$279/year plus costs of WordPress siteNone

Now, let’s dive into storage space.

Gallery platforms like Pixieset, Cloudspot, ShootProof, and Zenfolio offer unlimited photo storage on their top-tier plans. If you are using a WordPress site with Sunshine Photo Cart, your storage is determined by your hosting plan.

However, ShootProof doesn’t provide unlimited storage, even on the highest tier. Instead, their top option has 1,250 GB of storage with the option to archive your older galleries for a small fee, which is a system I tend to use anyway to keep my gallery website clean.

SmugMug and Zenfolio stand out for their unlimited storage options and video storage capabilities, allowing you to share your videos and even sell them on your gallery website.

Screenshot of the SmugMug home page, one of the featured gallery platforms for dog photographers
The SmugMug homepage in 2024

Winner: SmugMug

Runner-up: Zenfolio

Storage comparison table for gallery platforms

ProviderGB storageNumber of galleriesVideo storage
Pixieset3GB – unlimitedUnlimited0 – 5 hours
CloudSpot10GB – unlimited3 on free; Unlimited on paidN; add video link youtube/vimeo
ShootProof5GB – 1250GB (and archive for a fee)UnlimitedN
SmugMugUnlimitedUnlimitedY
Zenfolio15 GB – UnlimitedUnlimitedY and sales gallery (4k only in pro)
Pixpa20GB – UnlimitedUnlimitedN
Sunshine Photo CartDetermined by your site hostingUnlimitedN

The back-end features that each website or platform offer can significantly impact your workflow.

Being able to apply watermarks automatically on upload (and not while you are editing them beforehand) and automatically offering different download sizes to customers (instead of having to resize and upload different versions) are some of the key features in this category.

An Adobe Lightroom plugin on your platform is also a nice feature to have if you edit your photos before posting them. If you work with other photographers or have editors or virtual assistants, you might need multiple user access to your gallery website.

If you shoot large events and sort the images by dog name or handler name, then bulk gallery uploads to your gallery website are essential. With this feature, I personally trust desktop uploaders or FTP more than a browser drag-and-drop upload.

ShootProof’s takes the lead, closely followed by Zenfolio which also has a desktop uploader and a LR plug-in. Uniquely, Sunshine Photo Cart, hosted on your own WordPress website, offers a bulk FTP photo upload option.

A dock diving photography gallery website sorted by dog name and letters of the alphabet
My gallery website page hosted on Sunshine Photo Cart for NADD Nationals 2023 which is sorted by dog name according to the alphabet

Winner: ShootProof

Runners-up: Zenfolio (for Lightroom plug-in) and Sunshine Photo Cart (for FTP bulk gallery uploads)

Ease of use comparison table for gallery websites

ProviderWatermarkingDifferent download sizesLightroom pluginMultiple user accessBulk Gallery Uploads
PixiesetYYYNN
CloudSpotPaid onlyPaid onlyYNY via browser drag and drop
ShootProofYYNY, limit not specifiedY via desktop uploader
SmugMugYPro onlyYPro only, for 1 assistantY via browser drag and drop
ZenfolioYYYUp to 30Y via desktop app
PixpaYYNNN
Sunshine Photo CartYYNY as website usersY via FTP

Maintaining your brand identity is crucial. Sometimes, seeing the brand name of the gallery website provider on your website can confuse your clients.

Sunshine Photo Cart, being self-hosted, offers the highest level of customization, allowing you to fully integrate your galleries with your WordPress website.

Other platforms, including ShootProof, Pixieset, and Zenfolio, also offer various customization features. For stand-alone providers, ShootProof shines with branding.

It allows you to use your own domain, add your branding elements, and remove the gallery provider’s branding. Meanwhile, SmugMug does not allow you to remove their name from your website.

A screenshot of the Sunshine Photo Cart homepage
Sunshine Photo Cart is a WordPress plug-in that works well for large dog sport events

Winner: Sunshine Photo Cart

Runner-up: ShootProof

Branding comparison table for gallery platforms

ProviderUse your own domainAdd your own brandingRemove provider brandingWebsite attached
Pixiesetpaid planspaid planspaid plansY
CloudSpotYYpaid plansN
ShootProofYYYY
SmugMugY, but just to forwardYNY
ZenfolioY, but just to forwardYPro or Advanced onlyY
PixpaYYY (but you have to email to ask)Y
Sunshine Photo CartYYYIt is your website!

Delivering an exceptional customer experience is key.

ShootProof stands out with a visually appealing gallery website including the most easy-to-use interface, but does not have the ability to purchase from multiple galleries at once like Sunshine Photo Cart, SmugMug, or Zenfolio do.

Mobile apps are available for ShootProof, Pixieset, CloudSpot, SmugMug, and Pixpa, providing convenient access for clients on the go.

If you want to use credits or gift cards (for example, if you sell pre-pay packages like I do), then Sunshine Photo Cart, Zenfolio, and Pixieset are your best choices.

Overall, ShootProof provided the best customer experience in my search, with Zenfolio coming in second.

The homepage of the gallery provider Zenfolio
Zenfolio’s homepage in 2024

Winner: ShootProof

Runner-up: Zenfolio

Customer experience comparison table for gallery websites

ProviderFavorites listAutomatic print fulfillmentCouponsGift cardsMobile appsPurchase from many galleries (not subfolders) at once
PixiesetYYYYYN
CloudSpotYYYNYN
ShootProofYYYNYN
SmugMugPro onlyYPro onlyNYY
ZenfolioYPro or AdvancedPro or AdvancedPro or AdvancedNY
PixpaYYYNYN
Sunshine Photo CartYNYCredit in accountNY

To effectively market and sell your photography from dog portraits or dog events like agility, certain features can make a significant difference.

Collecting customer emails for gallery access and retargeting purposes was offered by all gallery platforms reviewed, except for SmugMug.

ShootProof takes the top spot in this category with its advanced marketing features and automated email workflows.

Sunshine Photo Cart also offers automated email notifications and advanced analytics, but it is still in its early stages of development. I expect much more to come in 2024!

Winner: ShootProof

Runner-up: Sunshine Photo Cart

Marketing comparison table for gallery platforms

ProviderEmail to accessAnalytics/reportingEmail marketing (abandoned carts)
PixiesetYYN
CloudSpotYPaid onlyN
ShootProofYPaid onlyY
SmugMugNPro onlyN
ZenfolioYPro and AdvancedAdvanced only
PixpaYYY (but seems manual)
Sunshine Photo CartYYY

The winner – ShootProof!

After carefully analyzing and comparing various platforms, I ranked each gallery provider website from 1-7 where 7 points was the winner and 6 points was the runner-up. Note that these are personal opinions and your opinion may vary – that is okay!

ShootProof emerges as the winner, offering a combination of cost-effectiveness, ease of use, branding options, customer experience, and marketing features.

ProviderCostStorage SpaceEase of UseBrandingCustomer ExperienceMarketing and SalesTotal
ShootProof71767735
Sunshine Photo Cart53575631
Zenfolio26626527
Pixpa62243421
CloudSpot44332218
SmugMug17414118
Pixieset35151318
Final point values, ranked from 1-7

Sunshine Photo Cart, a WordPress plug-in, is an excellent option for experienced WordPress users seeking complete customization. This is the option I personally use and would highly recommend it.

Pixpa is a great choice if you need a simple, clean system for your dog photography business for a low annual cost. CloudSpot is my favorite for amazing mobile apps.

Zenfolio and SmugMug also offer notable features, such as video storage, making them worth exploring depending on your specific needs and preferences, but keep in mind the downsides mentioned in this article such as the commission taken from your sales and the lack of branding ability.

Conclusion

Remember, while this comparison provides valuable insights, it’s essential to sign-up for free trials and consider your unique requirements before making a decision. A single gallery platform might fit all of the special needs of your own business!

Choosing the right photography gallery website is crucial to making sales from dog portraits or dog sport events. Finding the right gallery website will not only enhance your business but also elevate the overall experience for your valued customers.

Check out the Fetching Profits podcast episode on this topic:

Do you need more help with your photography business? Contact me for a complementary 15-minute discovery coaching call to see if private coaching could help!

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