Recently, Zenfolio announced its newest online venture, Photographer Central - an online directory of photographers. Available only in the US at present, this website promises to bring customers in direct contact with local photographers while making the search free and easy to use. For a yearly fee, photographers can maintain a listing for their business with a selection of photos. Potential clients search for photographers by location and specialty, in much the same way you'd look for Thai restaurants in your neighborhood on Yelp.

Does it live up to its claims, and is it worth a not-unsubstantial investment of $400 per year? We took the service for a test spin from a photographer's perspective. 

Photographer Central key features

Single Listing

  • $400 per year (currently $300 for a limited time)
  • Publish one listing 

Multi Pack

  • $500 per year (currently $400 for a limited time)
  • Publish up to five listings with the same phone number

In Use

The Photographer Central website is attractive and easy to navigate. In fact, it's really easy to navigate. If you are unsure if you would like to use the service, Photographer Central allows you to set up a free account. The free account doesn't allow you to publish any of your information, but it does act as a good example of how simple the paid account is to create.

Photographer Central offers two paid account options: a single listing for $400 annually (currently priced at $300) and multiple listings for $500 (currently $400). Setting up your account is fast. The website guides you through the process by asking for your contact information, a description of your photography business, and images that you would like included in your listing. 

The site allows you to add numerous images to your listing, and if you already have a Zenfolio account you can easily transfer your images to the Photographer Central website. Otherwise, you can choose to upload the images yourself. Again, the upload process is simple and quick.

Based on the address you provided, Photographer Central also allows you to define your service area. You have the freedom to include a wide service range if you desire, and can also indicate your availability to travel outside of that area.

Once you are finished adding your information just click send and your listing is published. It's as simple as that. Once published, the site reports the performance statistics of your listing. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to put this feature to the test, as the site only ever told me it was still in the process of gathering performance statistics.

Photographer Central from the Consumer's Point of View

As I stated in the previous section, Photographer Central is an attractive website that is very easy to use, and that holds true for potential clients seeking photographers. The homepage is dominated by a search bar with fields for location and specialty. Once you have entered your parameters, a list of photographers is populated. From this list you can browse through the photographers to find one that suits your needs. Once you find photographers that interest you, you can save them to your favorites for future reference.

Worth the price of admission?

Photographer Central claims to be the most comprehensive online directory of professional photographers. And it just might be… eventually. Although the website is easy to use, there are several things that need to be considered before investing in it as a photographer.

The cost of an account is not unreasonable if there is actually a return on your investment. However, when searching for local photographers on Google and Bing, Photographer Central did not show up in my search. In order for the website to draw prospective clients to your doorstep, they need to be one of the first websites listed in your search results. If not, you are advertising with a company that has little exposure. While the website looks attractive, that alone will not bring additional clients to a photographer. 

Another issue I found with the website was the broad range of locations it returns in search results, despite inputing a small search area. When I searched 'Fairfield, Ohio' the site said there were 103 photographers near me. I was surprised by the sheer number of photographers in my city, so I clicked to view the results. The photographers listed in the search results spanned from Illinois to Tennessee - both within a day's drive of Southwest Ohio, but well beyond what you'd reasonably consider to be 'local'. 

I checked to make sure I requested the correct area, but the site showed I requested photographers within a 30 mile radius. Results can be refined by narrowing search range down to 10 or zero miles, but this may not be immediately obvious to the user. And even with search area narrowed to zero miles, results may still include those photographers in neighboring states who have (presumably) set a very large travel area.

This is a problem for both the consumer and the photographer. From the client standpoint, it's hard to decide what photographer to choose when the search results are so vast, and some clients may prefer the ability to choose from photographers in their immediate area, regardless of a photographer's willingness to travel from two states away. From the photographer's standpoint, it's frustrating to be grouped in with such a large number of photographers located in such an expansive area.

Summing up

Overall, I think Zenfolio's new venture has potential, but it will take a greater presence in Google's search results to make photographers feel that they have a good return on their investment. A $400 yearly fee for a single listing isn't chump change for a vast majority of working photographers looking to increase their sales reach. That fee would be well worth it if a listing yielded positive results, but at the moment Photographer Central doesn't appear to offer enough exposure to justify its price. 

What we like:

  • Connects prospective clients to photographers that meet their desires
  • Attractive user interface
  • Easy to use for both clients and photographers

What we don't like:

  • Difficult to limit search results to those who are truly local
  • Photographer Central website is not high enough in search rankings
  • Cost of membership is high for current yield in potential clients

Laura Hicks is a portrait photographer from Cincinnati, Ohio. She is the owner of L Imagery and a 2014 Olympus Trailblazer. You can visit her work at www.limagery.com or Laura Hicks, Olympus Trailblazer at Facebook.com.