Imagify vs WP Smush vs ShortPixel: Which Is Best for Optimizing WordPress Images? Head-to-Head Comparison

Keeping your website’s performance in top shape is one of the keys to its success. This includes optimizing your images so they aren’t a drain on your site’s resources. However, it can be hard to choose among the top tools for doing so – such as deciding between Imagify vs WP Smush vs ShortPixel.

These three WordPress plugins enable you to optimize your images easily, and even customize the way the process works. What’s more, using a plugin means you don’t have to go searching for an external solution. All of these free image optimization tools can get the job done, but each has its own unique set of advantages and features.

In this review, we’re going to briefly explain why optimizing your WordPress images is a smart move. Then we’ll compare Imagify vs WP Smush vs ShortPixel, to help you make the best choice for your site. Let’s jump right in!

Why it’s smart to optimize your WordPress site’s images

Images are key to nearly every website. They enhance your site’s appearance, can be used to show off your products or work, and a whole lot more. However, the more images you have on your site, the more work a visitor’s browser has to do in order to load its pages.

This is because image file sizes can be fairly large, and all that data adds up quickly. Consequently, your site can slow down as you add media to it – which is detrimental to attracting and retaining visitors. The solution, as you may have guessed, is image optimization.

When you optimize your site’s images, you’re making their file sizes smaller and less of a burden. At the same time, this can be accomplished without a noticeable reduction in the images’ quality. Fortunately, all you need to accomplish this is the right WordPress plugin – which is why we’re comparing Imagify vs WP Smush vs ShortPixel in this review.

Imagify vs WP Smush vs ShortPixel: In a nutshell

Throughout the rest of this article, we’re going to look at three popular image optimization plugins: Imagify vs WP Smush vs ShortPixel. However, if you’re in a rush, let’s break down the primary details about each tool upfront.

All of these stats refer to the free versions of the plugins (except for the final pricing row, which gives the cost for the premium versions):

Imagify vs WP Smush vs ShortPixel in a nutshell
CriteriaImagifyWP SmushShortPixel
Free planYYY
Free image optimizations (per month)Approx. 250Unlimited100
Maximum file size2MB1MBNo limit
Ease of use (out of 5)555
Performance (out of 5)425
Pricing (starting at)$4.99 per month$49 per month$4.99 per month

This is just a snapshot, of course. Keep reading for the full story on how Imagify vs WP Smush vs ShortPixel fare in a direct comparison.

Imagify vs WP Smush vs ShortPixel: A full comparison

Before we can look at how Imagify vs WP Smush vs ShortPixel compare to one another, we need to introduce them. Let’s take a quick look at these plugins, one by one.

First up, WP Smush is perhaps the most popular image compression plugin for WordPress.

This tool is developed by the team at WPMU DEV, and boasts some powerful servers to pare down your images quickly. It’s also compatible with a wide range of media library enhancement plugins, which can be a useful bonus.

Next, we have Imagify.

Also a popular choice; this plugin offers various levels of compression, so you can achieve a solid balance between performance and quality.

It also optimizes thumbnail and Retina images, which is a nice touch.

Last but not least, there’s ShortPixel.

This is a simpler and more lightweight option, which is great if you just want to optimize your images quickly and without too much fuss.

At the same time, it offers a fair amount of customization in terms of how your images are compressed.

With those introductions out of the way, let’s get a little more detailed about what these plugins have to offer.

Round 1: Comparing key features and pricing

In a very basic sense, these three WordPress plugins do the same thing. They all compress your images so they’re less of a drain on your site’s performance, while attempting to maintain as high a quality as possible. In addition, these tools will both compress your existing images, and any new ones you upload.

This can make it a little confusing when you try to compare Imagify vs WP Smush vs ShortPixel and pick a winner. However, each does offer a somewhat different feature set. In addition, while all three plugins are free in their base versions, their premium tiers come in at a variety of price points.

WP Smush

 
Key features:

  • Set maximum dimensions for your site’s images, and uploads will be automatically scaled down when necessary.
  • Compress images in any folder or directory on your site, not just your media library.
  • Optimize JPEG, GIF, and PNG images one at a time or in bulk (up to 50 files at once).
  • Convert PNGs to JPEGs automatically, keep copies of your full-sized images as a backup, and optimize images up to 32MB (premium only).
Pricing:

The Pro version of WP Smush offers a wider range of features, simplifying the task of image optimization and giving you more customization options. However, you will require a membership to WPMU DEV in order to access it, which will cost you $49 per month (but does come bundled with a number of other useful plugins and tools).

 

Imagify

 
Key features:

  • Optimize regular images, thumbnails, and retina images from WP Retina 2x.
  • Compress all your existing image files in bulk.
  • Choose from three levels of compression – Normal, Aggressive, and Ultra.
  • Store your original full-sized images in a secure backup, so they can be restored at any time.
Pricing:

In this case, the free and premium versions of the plugin offer the same feature set. The difference lies in how many files you’re allowed to optimize. The free plugin lets you optimize 25MB worth of data per month (which is about 250 images), while the paid plans start at $4.99 per month for 1GB of data (about 1,000 images).

 

ShortPixel

 
Key features:

  • Bulk compress all your images with a single click.
  • Optimize images outside of the media library, such as those added via other plugins.
  • Compress JPEG, PNG, GIF, WebP, and PDF files, either in a lossy or lossless format.
  • Automatically resize images to set dimensions before they are optimized.
Pricing:

Like Imagify, the free and premium tiers of ShortPixel provide the same functionality. However, the free version only lets you optimize up to 100 images per month. Alternately, you can pay $4.99 to optimize 5,000 images per month (which should be more than enough for most sites).

 

Round 2: Comparing ease of use and performance

Now we’ve seen what each plugin has to offer in theory, let’s take a look at what it’s like to actually use Imagify vs WP Smush vs ShortPixel. In this section, we’re going to walk through how to optimize an image using the free version of each plugin.

The goal here is twofold. First, we’ll provide an overview of the ease of use and customizability on offer when using Imagify vs WP Smush vs ShortPixel. In addition, we’ll take a look at the resulting quality of the compressed images to see how well they hold up after being optimized. Let’s get to work!

Imagify

 
Installing Imagify isn’t quite enough to get the plugin working – you’ll need to take one additional step. Under Settings > Imagify, you’ll need to generate and enter a free API key.

Simply enter your email to create a free account.

Entering an API key in Imagify.
You’ll then be taken to your Imagify dashboard, where you can customize the plugin’s settings (for example, by choosing a compression level):

The Imagify account dashboard.

You can optimize your images here if you want. Alternately, take the API key in the email you received after signing up for an account, and enter it into your WP dashboard. This will give you access to the same options within WordPress itself:

The Imagify plugin settings.

You’ll be able to choose whether to auto-optimize and backup images, set a maximum size for them, and so on. If you keep the auto-optimize feature on, you’ll only need to upload an image to your media library, and let the plugin do the work:

Optimizing an image using Imagify.

We chose the medium setting, Aggressive, and checked out the results for both a PNG and JPEG image uploaded to our test site:

The original JPEG
A test JPEG image.
The optimized JPEG
A test JPEG image optimized with Imagify.

Imagify compressed the image by 39.7%, and as you can see the quality has been well maintained. There’s a slight blurring in the second photo, but it’s largely unnoticeable.

Now, for the PNG test:

The original PNG
A test PNG image.
The optimized PNG
A test PNG image optimized with Imagify.

This one was reduced by 36.0%, and the reduction in quality is also very slight. There’s a difference, but not a terribly significant one.

Overall, the plugin did a great job of reducing our test images’ weight without impacting their quality. Plus, the customization on offer here is a useful feature.

ShortPixel

Like Imagify, setting up ShortPixel takes a few quick steps. Under the new Settings > ShortPixel tab within WordPress, you’ll need to request a free API key:

Entering an API key in ShortPixel.

You’ll have to create an account with ShortPixel, then enter your key on the above page. Next, you’ll be presented with the full settings page:

The ShortPixel plugin settings.

You can choose a compression type, decide whether to back up images, set a maximum file size, and so on. In fact, the entire process and set of options here is remarkably similar to Imagify.

Auto-optimize is always on with this plugin. Therefore, simply upload a new image to your media library in order to compress it. You won’t see the same level of information about how much the file size was reduced with ShortPixel, however – you’ll need to check out the new image directly if you want to see the results.

Here’s our original JPEG again. For a fair comparison, we again went with the middle setting (Glossy):

The original JPEG
A test JPEG image.
The optimized JPEG
A test JPEG image optimized with ShortPixel.

The image was compressed by 50.0% this time. Again, it’s just a bit blurred, but is very similar to the original image (and indistinguishable from the compressed Imagify photo).

Next up, our PNG tests:

The original PNG
A test PNG image.
The optimized PNG
A test PNG image optimized with ShortPixel.

This one was reduced by 62.3%. There’s just the slightest reduction in quality from the original image, but the result is a bit clearer and brighter than the compressed Imagify PNG was.

When compared to Imagify, ShortPixel feels almost like a direct upgrade. It reduced the file sizes of both our test images by a greater percentage, while maintaining a similar or higher level of quality. The only downside is that you’ll see less information about what it’s doing.

WP Smush

After activating the WP Smush plugin, you’ll immediately get a few options to customize how the image compression feature works. Then, you’ll be taken right to the plugin’s new tab:

The WP Smush plugin settings.

Here, you can bulk compress your existing images if you like. You can also turn automatic optimization on or off for specific types of images, and decide whether they should be resized upon upload:

More WP Smush plugin settings.

If you select the automatic compression option, you just have to upload an image in order to optimize it. When you do, you’ll see some information about how much the file was compressed.

Let’s take a look at a few examples of images optimized using WP Smush. First up, the original JPEG photo once more:

The original JPEG
A test JPEG image.
The optimized JPEG
A test JPEG image optimized with WP Smush.

The compression process was very quick in this instance, although the file size was only reduced by 1.6%. As a result, the quality hasn’t changed.

The same applies to our PNG test image.

The original PNG
A test PNG image.
The optimized PNG
A test PNG image optimized with WP Smush.

The reduction here was only 2.4%, and again there’s no real change in quality (which is to be expected).

All in all, WP Smush fares relatively poorly when compared to the previous two options. It had no real effect on our test images, and doesn’t offer a way to customize the level of compression. For that, you’ll need the premium version instead.

Conclusion

We went into this review not sure what to expect, as all three of the image optimization plugins we looked at are popular and well-reviewed options. However, in our comparison of Imagify vs WP Smush vs ShortPixel, ShortPixel came out the clear winner.

We reached out to Alex Florescu at ShortPixel, and he had this to say about the importance of choosing the right image optimization plugin:

To me, a good image optimization plugin is one that can greatly reduce the images while maintaining the visual quality. It also needs to be easy to use and have enough features to cover most use cases. If on top of that the plugin is actively supported, then for me it’s a winner!Alex Florescu

Before we wrap up, let’s run down the highlights of each plugin one more time. Remember that these are the free versions – your mileage may vary when it comes to the premium plugins:

  1. Imagify: Offers a lot of customization options, and did a solid job of compressing both of our test images.
  2. ShortPixel: Provides a very similar feature set to Imagify, but optimized our test images more efficiently and at a similar or slightly better quality.
  3. WP Smush: Doesn’t enable you to customize your images’ compression level, and had little to no effect on our test images.

Have you used any of these WordPress image optimization plugins before, and what did you think of them? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Don’t forget to join our crash course on speeding up your WordPress site. With some simple fixes, you can reduce your loading time by even 50-80%: