Photo gallery services

I recently needed to find a photo gallery service, as though I put my personal & favourite work on Flickr, I don’t necessarily want to mix in other photography I do, plus Flickr makes it irrationally difficult to control access to photos (specifically, to arbitrary people or groups thereof). I also wanted, ideally, something that would have a simple client proofing workflow – i.e. they login, make some selections, leave some comments. Additional features, like the ability for them to order prints, are not necessary to my (non-commercial) needs, though I still consider it nice to have the option in future.

So, I spent kind of a ridiculous amount of time looking for and at various options. What follows is my overview of the options I found, and their major pros and cons. It’s listed roughly in descending order of preference, for my use-case (for now I have chosen Pixieset, and it’s worked pretty well for my first gallery).


✅ Attractive gallery presets and display.
One of the few, if not only, sites in this list which renders photos sharply.

✅ Decent client proofing workflow.
Clients can have password-protected access which lets them do a few extra things, like view otherwise unpublished photos (e.g. drafts) and mark them as private (no longer visible to guests).

Additionally, anyone – whether with the client password or through regular guest access – can create a favourites list tied to an arbitrary string (ostensibly their email address, but no validation is performed), which can be seen by the photographer in the gallery’s dashboard (and converted to a CSV list of filenames, for example). There’s also a few handy additional features like the ability to create a new ‘Set’ (album within the gallery) based on their list of favourites. Unfortunately there’s currently no way to sync those new sets back to Lightroom, short of manually finding & arranging the photos in Lightroom to match.

Furthermore, there is a separate, optional, password for viewing the gallery at all, even as a ‘guest’. Thus you can have a password-protected gallery that also has a separate, client password.

✅ Galleries & photos load very quickly.


✅ Attractive & performant gallery templates.

✅ Decent client proofing workflow.
Very similar to Pixieset – you can assign a particular client (identified by email address & a pin number) to a gallery, and they can have unique privileges, protected by a pin code, like the ability to hide, label (tag, using a list of tags pre-defined by the photographer), and favourite (if you otherwise disable favouriting) photos.

Anyone – whether with the pin code or through regular guest access – can create a favourites list tied to an arbitrary string (ostensibly their email address, but no validation is performed), which can be seen by the photographer in the gallery’s dashboard.

Like with Pixieset, this allows you to have a regular guest password as well as a pin-code for privileged (client) access.

✅ Nice “filmstrip” viewer.
When a viewer clicks on any photo to view it larger, in addition to the larger photo being displayed, a “filmstrip” appears at the bottom which allows for easier navigation amongst similar photos. The film strip also shows badges for favourites.

⛔️ Client experience is a bit buggy.
In addition to the share email they’re sent not including the pin code, unless you manually enter it each time, it’s somewhat random as to if or when they’ll actually get a chance to enter it, and unlock their special privileges. In my testing I was only able to browse the gallery initially, and then at a random point it interrupted and asked for the pin.

⛔️ Photos tend to look a bit soft when displayed, as if they’re being enlarged from scaled-down copies.


⛔️ No free plan.
They’re well-reputed and look like they have a lot of good features, but I don’t make money from my photography, so I try to keep expenses low.

Not that they’re expensive by any means, but there are good alternatives which are free (for my levels of use).


⛔️ No free plan.


⛔️ No free plan.
And their cheapest plan, at $8 per month, doesn’t include client proofing support. Their first tier that does is $25 a month – way higher than their competitors.


⛔️ No free plan.
And their cheapest monthly plan is $29, which is way higher than their competitors’ entry-level rates (even ignoring those that offer ‘free’ as their first tier).


⛔️ No free plan.

⛔️ Buggy galleries.
Despite not being free, they were one of the first on my list (before I’d explored Pixieset or ShootProof, for example), so at that point I was presuming I’d have to pay something. So I signed up for a trial account, and set up a test gallery.

And that’s how I discovered that their web page layout is stupidly broken – the ‘Add To Favorites’ button, crucial to my intended proofing workflow, is obscured by the copyright footer, and rendered unclickable. Ugh… what a stupid bug.


✅ Attractive pricing.

⛔️ Really ugly galleries.

⛔️ Requires an arbitrary string from all visitors before they can see anything (ostensibly their email address, but no validation is performed).

⛔️ Very much targeted at selling prints.
There can still have favourites lists and a few other things, but the entire interface is very clearly intended to funnel you into a shopping cart. It’s very inappropriate if you’re just sharing a portfolio, but still a bit crass even if you’re doing print-centric client work like weddings or family shoots.

Instaproof only get their income from print commissions, so it’s unsurprising that they try to hard sell at every corner. Unfortunately they’ve done it distastefully and fatally undermined the entire experience.


✅ Attractive pricing (particularly re. free for any and all galleries of fewer than 100 photos).

⛔️ Does not work.
I was unable to view any photos that I’d uploaded into a gallery – whether going through the ‘normal’ link or a ‘VIP’ invite, it’d prompt for the gallery password (if set), then demand an account be created, but even once that was done, it wouldn’t actually show any photos.

The login prompt says that Facebook is the preferred method, blah blah blah, but doesn’t actually provide any way to log in via Facebook.

Viewing in Safari on a Mac it was showing what very much seemed to be a mobile interface – everything squished into a ~4″ screen space in the top left of the browser window.

⛔️ Limited templates & control over appearance generally.

⛔️ Requires use of a desktop Flash app.
Yep, both Flash and only works after you download and install it.

Furthermore, it doesn’t follow standard user interface conventions, both visually and w.r.t. interactivity – e.g. ‘Select All’ simply doesn’t work (even though there’s a menu item for it).

⛔️ No Lightroom plug-in.

⛔️ Uploads are slow.

⛔️ Doesn’t appear to have any client proofing capabilities.

⛔️ Does not seem to allow you to close an account once created.

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