A client proof gallery allows your clients to see their images before making a selection of the ones they would like to purchase. This is very useful when you are shooting a wedding, for example, or offering a photo album as part of your package.
There are some elements that a proof gallery must have in order to be successful. If you get them all right, your clients should be happy with the results and will enjoy the process of picking out their images. Here is a guide to what you need, and the different providers who will let you set up client proof galleries.
What does a client proof gallery need?
First of all, let’s check off the elements your gallery will need in order to do the job:
- The capacity to show a large collection of images
- The option for your clients to see each image in a larger format so that they can check the details
- Some form of protection, such as your watermark across the image, so that the client cannot simply take a screenshot without paying for the image
- A rating or marking system allowing the client to easily make their choices
- A privacy setting so that the gallery is not open to be viewed by the public
Now, here are the elements that you could add in order to make the experience more enjoyable:
- A space or tool for the client to add notes (for example, they might love one image but want an unsightly object removed from the background)
- A built-in order form so the client can move forward with prints, digital downloads, or an album order from directly within the software
- Plugins with software for photo management, such as Lightroom, to make your job easier
Client proof gallery options
Now let’s take a look at the different sites that offer client proof galleries, how to use them, and what advantages they may offer.
This is one of the better-known proof gallery services for photographers, having been around since 2013. After uploading your images, you can sort each gallery into collections (for example, ‘ceremony’, ‘wedding breakfast’, ‘reception’) and you and your client can mark images as favourites for quick selections. Free accounts pay a 15% commission on print sales and digital downloads, or you can upgrade to remove the fee (which also gives you access to more storage space). Private galleries can be protected by a pin to stop others getting access, and you can add an expiration date to the gallery if you want. You can also enjoy integrated Google analytics to learn more about what your client wants.
PASS was one of the first client proofing galleries out there, but this gave it some limitations. You have to pay $29 per gallery upload, which makes it out of reach for many photographers who shoot in large volume. The galleries do look beautiful, however, and customers can download from the gallery or share them to Facebook which gives you credit. You can sell prints, but only with prices which are set by PASS themselves.
Another big player, Shootproof allows clients to download digital copies and order prints. You can upload 100 photos for free, or choose from six different plans, up to 100,000 for $50 a month. There’s no setup fee and they don’t charge commissions on sales, which is great if you’re relying on print sales. There’s also a Lightroom plugin so you can manage event galleries right from the app, and a widget for WordPress as well.
SmugMug have been operating in this space since 2003, which is pretty impressive. However, the design has always been a bit clunky, and it can take a good while to set up a client gallery. It doesn’t look as modern or fresh as other galleries. Still, you can try a 14-day free trial to find out if it’s right for you. At the cost of $300/year for their business plan, you can get the option for clients to mark their favourite photos, set up custom price lists for different clients, and add promotional tools. This system is better for photographers who want a client proofing gallery as an add-on to a web hosting package.
With many of the same features of SmugMug, Zenfolio has the advantage of an easier-to-use interface and less expensive plans. For $140/year you can get client proofing and favourites, so that’s a much better price. There’s a widget for sharing favourite sets, and a Lightroom plugin for easy management. The gallery design is still a little old-fashioned, behind what Pixieset or PASS could offer, and you’ll have to pay commission on prints and digital downloads.
With Aperture and Lightroom plugins available, and easy gallery customization, Photoshelter is another player making waves in client proofing galleries. You can actually edit elements of the images in the live preview mode, and you have a lot of options for presentation. Private galleries, custom lightboxes, password-protected links, FTP uploads, collections – and your clients can rate and comment on images, too. You can even search your archives by keyword. The subscription fee is joined by a percentage taken from sales, unless you fulfil prints yourself, and you can take payments via PayPal. However, all of this comes at a price: $329.99 per year for 60GB of storage, and $549.99 per year for 1000GB. It would be hard to find a full-time photographer who only needed 60GB!
Are there more options on the market? Absolutely! Actually, there are plugins and gallery sites in many shapes and sizes across the internet. A few that we haven’t had the time to go into here include Redcart, Instaproof, Plover, Sticky Albums, Format as part of a site hosting package, and more.
But the gallery options we have chosen to review here are known as the cream of the crop – the options used by more photographers around the world. If you want to set up a client proofing gallery, choose the one that sounds the best value to you!