SmugMug Review


Saving Money with SmugMug

If you end up reading the review and agree with me, that SmugMug is the best, then you can sign up over at SmugMug now and you will save 20% off ANY of their packages. What package to get? I recommend the Business plan (that’s what I use, click here to save $60!) because you can sell prints and make a some money to support your habit, but you can find out more below.

Try SmugMug FREE for 14 days and SAVE 20% on a new account!

TRY SMUGMUG TODAY!

The Two Best Things About SmugMug

Beauty and Flexibility. It’s like dating a hot yoga instructor.

But first, join me in Morocco with Smugmug Films!

I was really excited to have the crew from Smugmug come out to join me in Morocco for a bit. Here’s a video they made.

Is it really the most beautiful and flexible?

Yes! I’ve looked at all the others and this newest version of SmugMug is definitely the best. In all honesty (and they would be first to admit it), SmugMug started to lag behind some of the other sites until they announced the recent redesign. Now it does Even More than everything I ever wanted.

When I say beautiful, I’m referring to all the amazing themes and looks you can put on your portfolio website. It doesn’t matter if you do landscape or wedding or portrait or whatever — you can definitely find a theme that will make your work look very impressive.

When I say flexible, it is scary how much you can change to make your website uniquely your own. Even better, it is easy to customize with simple menus. I was able to make my site look exactly like I wanted without needing to do any code or scripting nonsense.

Great for Beginners but powerful if you’re Hardcore

The new SmugMug has a nice setup for all kinds of users. They have some basic templates where you can just click a design and nothing else is needed! I know this is a big segment of the market, and so do they. You can jump back and forth and try out a bunch of different templates that match your style or your business.

If you’re not a beginner and want to customize your site even more, then it is very easy. It’s so easy, in fact, that I bet a lot of beginners will feel comfortable doing it. I bet we are going to see some crazy customizations of SmugMug sites – I can’t wait to see what people do!

Interview / Review of SmugMug

Right after the new SmugMug came out, we did a little hangout review show that was a lot of fun. It had the big guns from SmugMug in here too… Lot’s of Q&A and cool stuff!

The Style of My Portfolio

I decided to go with a different kind of style for my portfolio. I don’t know if you care about my reasoning, but I’ll let you know here.

I believe that the way people consume photography on the internet is evolving. The “old” style of galleries is full screen and you click NEXT NEXT NEXT (or right arrow) etc etc. And then you wait for it to load, and then you do it again…

I think people prefer to scroll vertically (they have been trained on this now thanks to Facebook and Google+ and Instagram) and they can stay on an image as long as they want. When they are ready to scroll to the next one, they do so at their own pace. For this reason, I went with my current style, to make it as full-screen and vertically-scrollable as possible!

Click here to try SmugMug FREE for 14 days and SAVE 20% on a new account!

How to customize SmugMug

I recorded a video below that shows more about customization in general and my specific customization.

You can Make Money with SmugMug!

Yes! Now all of your photos can make millions of dollars! Hehe, well, not really… BUT, you can make some extra money on the side by turning on various options.

  • You can charge people to download digital versions of your photos and set different prices for professional and personal use.
  • You can set pricing for Prints. Pick the size offerings and the costs. You can get up to 85% markup. That’s a great profit margin!
  • You can also sell merchandise. Smart!

Maybe you are a soccer mom that takes good pictures at the games and then wants to put them up on SmugMug, email the team, and then let parents buy photos. Easy! BTW, that’s not a bad idea is it? You know you already take pretty good pics (beter than those other parents), so why not make a little money off it!

Or maybe you take photos that are a bit different than everyone else in the world, but you have never quite found the perfect place to both host your portfolio and your storefront. This is a perfect solution, and it is so inexpensive to get started.

Below is a screenshot of a sale I had on SmugMug. You can see the customer bought four images. You can also see the base cost (what I pay) and the customer cost (what they pay). The difference in between is my profit. You can set your prices to whatever you wish.

SmugMug Review

You can set the prices for printing, downloading, or merchandizing options.
If you want some of these services, you will have to get the SmugMug Pro account. You get so many other features, it is totally worth it. Just think — you basically get to start an online photography business for really cheap! This sort of thing just was not possible a few years ago in an easy and simple way.

If, on the other hand, you want to take things to the “fine art” sales level, that is possible too. There are many print options that you will find available.

My Top Five SmugMug Features

The newly upgraded SmugMug means different things to different kinds of people. Think about the gargantuan task they undertook — how can a company build a portfolio website in the modern age that appeals to all types of photographers in the world? Some people just take photos for fun and want to a chance to be able to sell them for a bit of profit to support their habit. Others are wedding photographers, some of which struggle to make bookings, and others of which are overloaded with clients and proofs. Some (like me) are landscape photographers and want a pretty place to show our work.

1) Simple customization

The beautiful templates that are available (even at launch!) are super impressive. The idea that you can just click and pick a theme is very powerful. And then, once you realize you can easily swap between themes, it all gets a little bit too intoxicating!

They even named a theme after my friend Thomas Hawk, who is also an avid user of the site. That theme plays well to photographers like Thomas who take a ton of photos and want to be able to share them easily and beautifully. Other themes will work better for portrait or wedding photographers. And landscape photographers, like me, have a whole host of themes to choose from.

If you are generally afraid of getting into the details and changing your customization, then this one-click scenario is the way to go. Oh, and once you choose a theme, you’ll probably want to pay attention to #3 below!

2) Complete Customization

The previous SmugMug was very very very very very difficult to tweak out designs. Now, there are smart drag-and-drop controls with individual menus that let you make adjustments.

I was able to go into a complete customization of the default SmugMug template and make my site look exactly like I wanted. Awesome! I never had to look at any code or php or script or any of that nonsense. In fact, I found the whole process to be very fun and interesting. It actually made me think very hard about EXACTLY HOW I wanted people to experience my work on the internet. This is very philosophical in a way, you see. I enjoyed the process, and I loved using the tools to realize that philosophy.

Now, you can take a default template (like in #1 above) and simply add a few new controls or navigation items. So you don’t have to start from scratch. Say you don’t like the way the menus are laid out in one of the basic templates — well that is easy enough to change. And then if you want to change the way the photos are displayed, then you are in luck there too. The controls are very simple and powerful.

HDR Photo

3) Photo organization

I might be alone in thinking that it has always been a pain to re-organize photos after you’ve uploaded them to the web, but I don’t think so. I’ve never seen anyone do it right and slick until now. For some reason, the engineers at SmugMug were able to do something that not even Google or Flickr can do.

I have a lot of photos in my two albums, and I find that I’m constantly re-organizing them. The order is really important to me… I’m always getting new favorites in my top 25 or top 100, or I begin to dislike ones I once enjoyed. I’m indecisive like a woman, but that’s okay. Let’s just say I’m in touch with my feminine side.

Anyway, it’s very fun and fast to re-order my albums and move files around folders. It’s logical and snappy. It has also given me a great chance to get in there and clean up all the clutter that happened over the years.

HDR Photo

4) Help menus

When I occasionally have a question, I’ve been very impressed at the built-in help. It’s smart in the way it points you to the solution right within the UI. This is hard to explain, but you’ll know it when you see it.

SmugMug also has a bunch of Human Helpers — I think they call them Heroes — that are online waiting to help you out too. That’s nice… I doubt you could ask for human help on Flickr/Yahoo and get any kind of timely response (if at all!).

HDR Photo

5) Scalable for every device

Wow this is a big one. People now access the web using a huge variety of devices. It’s depressing, but you’d be shocked at how many people first experience your portfolio on a little phone. I know you don’t want it to be true, but, really, it is! And this percentage will just continue to grow.

We all (me included!) like to think that people experience our portfolio on a nice big monitor with huge resolution. Of course, that is how WE like to look at it, but the number of people that actually experience the portfolio site in this high-res web browser mode is not as high as we hope.

So, it is even more important that the portfolio site is responsive from every device, from dinky iPhones to tablets to huge monitors. The way the site bends around to every kind of device is super-impressive. There is a lot of secret-sauce happening, I can tell. At some point as the width shrinks to a mobile phone, for example, my navigational elements change from a horizontal arrangement to a vertical arrangement. This is cool! I bet there are a few people that might complain about this, but not me. It’s more important that people be able to navigate your site than it to maintain the original orientation and have an unreadable, tiny font.

HDR Photo

Any negatives with SmugMug?

Well, it’s not free. I guess you can complain about that if you are a Marxist. You will have to pay some money, but, in exchange, you do get a lot of great services (beautiful portfolio, backup, ability to make money through your prints).

Some people may also complain about the lack of social features. I don’t mind this at all — I don’t need SmugMug to be a social network… I just want it to hold my portfolio. It does work easily with Google+, Facebook, Twitter, etc etc… and I think that is smart. There is no need for SmugMug to make its own social network.

I’d prefer better WordPress integration. Currently, all the images on my website here are housed on SmugMug, and I have to jump through some copy/paste gymnastics with the daily post. That’s not a huge problem, but it is a slight inconvenience.

Summary

Look. It’s great. Life is too short not to use the best. If something better was out there, I would definitely switch to it… Even if you are on a another site and already have a lot of momentum, I’d consider making the switch now because SmugMug is a powerhouse and it’s only going to get better.

Click here to try SmugMug FREE for 14 days and SAVE 20% on a new account!

Why I use SmugMug Business

SmugMug put together this little video a looong time ago… you’ll even see the original style of my portfolio before the New SmugMug… I think it came out pretty well! BTW, they didn’t pay for this or anything… it’s just a cool video, so that is why I’m sharing it!

 

SmugMug Coupon

If you are interested in getting started today with SmugMug, use the SmugMug Coupon of “STUCKINCUSTOMS” to save 20%. That will save you money on an already affordable product. You’ll love it!

Which package should you get?  I suggest the SmugMug Pro package, because it has all kinds of great features listed below.

First, I’ll talk about some of the great things about SmugMug.

A Great Interface

Maybe a great example of a portfolio at StuckInCustoms.SmugMug.com. Check it out and I think you will like it!


I love the slideshow entry-point for my photography portfolio

I wanted my photography portfolio to immediately start with a slideshow, almost full screen, and then slowly meander through some of my favorite shots. Also, I wanted to allow people to interrupt the slideshow at any time. I figured they may want to see more information, or perhaps they quickly want to jump to another image.

An online portfolio is a tricky thing! While it doesn’t need to be all things to all people, it should allow for the most common “viewer behaviors”. First, many people simply just want to sit back and see something pretty flowing into their world. Second, other more “clicky” people will want the power to quickly move around and surf throughout the portfolio on their own.


I chose to Customize SmugMug even further with a custom theme

Why I use SmugMug

SmugMug put together this little video… I think it came out pretty well! BTW, they didn’t pay for this or anything… it’s just a cool video, so that is why I’m sharing it!

Easy to Use

I am a very advanced “computer and internet user”. However, that does NOT mean that I prefer to use clunky interfaces and badly designed websites! I want things to be easy and obvious. I don’t have time to read manuals, help pages, and go back and forth on forums to figure out how to do something.

Creating an account on SmugMug was very simple, and getting my photos up was a piece of cake. There are SO many ways to get your photos online — it’s crazy. I imported all of my Flickr photos right into SmugMug with just a few different clicks. Of course, you can also upload right from your computer in the usual way, or by using iPhoto, Lightroom, Aperture, or any other major program.


Not everyone likes to provide the full-size images, and you can set how big the images are, and if people are allowed to download them.  Also, you can set your own prices for downloading or printing… makes some extra$$!

After you have your files up, navigating and arranging is very simple as well. SmugMug was designed by people that know what they are doing. You can have multiple galleries and everything you would need is there waiting for you.


When an image is clicked on, it goes full screen and can be viewed in its true glory!

My Images are Safe

I think of SmugMug as a “Digital Lockbox” for my images. I can store the max-resolution versions of all my images there and not worry about them. They have another option, if you so choose, where they use Amazon S3 to store your RAW or TIFF files permanently as well. That’s great! I do think it is smart, nowadays, to store your images in multiple locations.

To be frank, whenever I get a new online backup solution of my world, I feel pretty awesome about myself. That niggling “worry” evaporates, and I can once again relax and have a cappuccino in peace.

Also, SmugMug is incredibly “Open”. What does that mean? It means that, while they store the images, they do not “own” them and make them difficult to access in the future. There are all sorts of services I can use to copy my images down to my computer or move them to another online service. There is a powerful API that is open to developers, and they have created a myriad of programs to ensure my images are easily movable, should the need ever arise.

You can Make Money with SmugMug! (Pro Version Only)

Yes! Now all of your photos can make millions of dollars! Hehe, well, not really… BUT, you can make some extra money on the side by turning on various options.

  • You can charge people to download digital versions of your photos and set different prices for professional and personal use.
  • You can set pricing for Prints.  Pick the size offerings and the costs.  You can get up to 85% markup.  That’s a great profit margin!
  • You can also sell merchandise.  Smart!

Maybe you are a soccer mom that takes good pictures at the games and then wants to put them up on SmugMug, email the team, and then let parents buy photos. Easy! BTW, that’s not a bad idea is it? You know you already take pretty good pics (beter than those other parents), so why not make a little money off it!

Or maybe you take photos that are a bit different than everyone else in the world, but you have never quite found the perfect place to both host your portfolio and your storefront.  This is a perfect solution, and it is so inexpensive to get started.


You can set the prices for printing, downloading, or merchandizing options.

If you want some of these services, you will have to get the SmugMug Pro account. You get so many other features, it is totally worth it. Just think — you basically get to start an online photography business for really cheap! This sort of thing just was not possible a few years ago in an easy and simple way.

If, on the other hand, you want to take things to the “fine art” sales level, that is possible too. There are many print options that you will find available.

Starting an Online Photography Business (or Art Business!)

I can’t tell you how many emails I get from people asking me how to start an online photo business.  Or, an art business – to SmugMug, it’s the same thing, really.  The solution of starting an online business has always been a hit-and-miss mish mash of technologies that I’ve had to recommend before.

For $149.99 a year (Even cheaper with 20% off STUCKINCUSTOMS SmugMug Coupon), you have all the tools and infrastructure you need to start out!

In years past, you might have been forced to spend thousands of dollars on a website and integrate a clunky e-commerce solution that was more trouble than it was worth.  Putting together a payment mechanism for your customers is no small task. There are already a lot of Pros on SmugMug that have helped to shape the photographer and client experience so everything is perfect.

If you are a wedding photographer, then this is an amazing way to get quality work to your clients. I know many wedding photographers that swear by SmugMug — and they are right to do so!

And..being optimistic… you really don’t have to sell THAT much to make up for the yearly fee, do you?

If you do not want to sell your photos, then you can choose one of the other options on SmugMug, which are very well priced.  I’ve been paying Flickr for years and years… and I can’t believe how much more value I get out of SmugMug for a comparable price.

SmugMug is a good company!

I visited the SmugMug headquarters out in California, just south of San Francisco. I was able to spend time with some of the owners and founders. I was surprised that it was a family-run company! Several of the people at the company are blood relatives, but they treat everyone there like a member of the family. They even had an in-house chef who made us a homemade meal that would knock your socks off. The last time I had that much organic food, I was feeding off the land in Patagonia.  It was more than enough roughage to clean me out.  Thanks SmugMug!

But, honestly, these people at SmugMug are top notch.  I was impressed by the whole experience, and there is no doubt in my mind that the team at SmugMug will continue to innovate and make the best possible experience available to their users.


This is the home page of SmugMug.  It’s friendly and welcoming.
They have designed the whole site so it is approachable to new and experienced photographers.

Excellent Video Quality on SmugMug

And not just that, but you can also host hi-res video at the site. More and more photographers are starting to add video into the mix, and SmugMug is a great host for video!

I posted a few videos on Flickr and I was appalled by the quality. Slow. Choppy. Disappointing. Who needs that?

Besides the much better quality from SmugMug, I simply like the “presentation” of the video. It just fits and feels right.

A great community – smaller than Flickr, but different

People on SmugMug are true photo-lovers. Already, I think that photographers are some of the kindest people in the world, and you will find this is also the case at SmugMug. I lament, personally, that I am often too busy to engage in the community, but it is nice to know they are there.

I notice that Photography is a bit of a “talkin-sport” where people enjoy talking about photography as much as they enjoy doing it! There are ample opportunities for this around SmugMug.

Even better, there are often real-life meetup events! I’ve been to a few of these with their Community Organizer Candice Cunningham. I find that people really like to get together and hear about, engage in, and practice photography. These events have always been great fun, and I’ve met wonderful people at them. In this digital-internet-world, it’s nice that people like Candice are running around creating a fun sense around the sport!

Flickr also has a good community, but it can also be a strange community.  People “game” the system by submitting to strange groups just to get views.  It all seems a little forced to me sometimes and unnatural.  Just like with Flickr, you will get out of SmugMug what you put into it.

Negatives of SmugMug

I know there are a lot of photo sharing websites out there.  Most of my experience is with Flickr.  There are many gripes I have with Flickr, and SmugMug solves most of them.

One thing SmugMug does not have is the millions of people that Flickr has.  This means your photo may not be discovered quite as much by other photographers.  Also, I have a huge existing network of friends on Flickr, which may not move over to SmugMug, so I have splintered my network a little bit.  That is okay to a certain degree, because it is most important to me that the average viewer on the site sees the photo nice and big.

Another negative of SmugMug is that it costs earth money.  This is not a big deal, since I find it incredibly inexpensive for what you get.  I’m not one of these people that thinks everything on the web should be free, but I know some people are like that.  However, another way I justify this is that they are storing my very very very important images in a secure way.  That is worth a lot.

I address some of the main concerns below.

A New Way of Thinking: Flickr vs. SmugMug

I got some interesting comments below, so I wanted to talk about new ways to think about your photography audience.  I have been thinking this for a while but have never communicated it.

Flickr is great, and I have obviously loved it for many years.  But, there is a serious “bubble” limitation.

Here on StuckInCustoms.com, we have an interesting demographic.  Of the 500K pageviews, half are photographers and half are just “fans”.  The thing is with Flickr, that you just get 100% “photographers”.

So, if you make the center of your digital world Flickr, then it is “All photographers, all the time.”  This is fine — but in that world, only photographers see your work.  It’s a bit like being an oil painter in a museum that only oil painters go to.  Does that make sense?

If you want to make an impressive “presence” on the web, you need a pretty “center” for your vision.  This can either be a blog or a nice portfolio page that doubles as a business.

Whatever the center of your photography world is, make the images big and beautiful.  You want your photos to look their best as soon as you get someone’s attention, right?  So why do you want their first experience to be a 400 pixel wide blip on a page filled with noisy comments that have ugly badges to advertise one group versus another.

Many of you may disagree with me — that is fine.  This is how I see the world.  I think that everyone in the world loves photography, so it’s good to get out of the “bubble”.

High Dynamic Range Photo

SmugMug is using Amazon S3 to serve all these up... and I feel like I'm kind of eating too much at their all-you-can eat buffet of data!

SmugMug Stats

This is pretty cool. As of writing this (April of 2011), I already have over 40 million views on SmugMug, and I’ve only been there about a year. It took about 5 years to get to 22 million views on Flickr. Why this is – I am not sure… but SmugMug is doing a great job of serving up images! I think you will probably agree everything is pretty speedy, even though it is a media-rich site.

Make your Online Portfolio Unique –  Customize it

You can further customize your SmugMug page to make it totally unique. For more, see the “Customize SmugMug” page.


Here is a sample from Justin Busa, just one of several customization options for your online portfolio.
For more, see the “Customize SmugMug” page.

Any questions about the nature of these reviews? Visit my Ethics Statement. It’s all quite simple!

 

SmugMug Coupon

If you are interested in getting started today with SmugMug, use the SmugMug Coupon of “STUCKINCUSTOMS” to save 20%. That will save you money on an already affordable product. You’ll love it!

Which package should you get?  I suggest the SmugMug Pro package, because it has all kinds of great features listed below.

First, I’ll talk about some of the great things about SmugMug.

The Good and Bad of SmugMug

As with everything, nothing is perfect.  The strong points outweigh the weak ones for me.  I outline the negative points down towards the bottom.  Many of these may be important to you, but they are not to me.  As you know, social networking and a pretty portfolio are very important to me, so I think we have a good balance of both with SmugMug.  Your opinion may differ – but I went through a long decision-making process for this.

A Great Interface

Maybe a great example of a portfolio at StuckInCustoms.SmugMug.com. Check it out and I think you will like it!


I love the slideshow entry-point for my photography portfolio

I wanted my photography portfolio to immediately start with a slideshow, almost full screen, and then slowly meander through some of my favorite shots. Also, I wanted to allow people to interrupt the slideshow at any time. I figured they may want to see more information, or perhaps they quickly want to jump to another image.

An online portfolio is a tricky thing! While it doesn’t need to be all things to all people, it should allow for the most common “viewer behaviors”. First, many people simply just want to sit back and see something pretty flowing into their world. Second, other more “clicky” people will want the power to quickly move around and surf throughout the portfolio on their own.


I chose to Customize SmugMug even further with a custom theme

Easy to Use

I am a very advanced “computer and internet user”. However, that does NOT mean that I prefer to use clunky interfaces and badly designed websites! I want things to be easy and obvious. I don’t have time to read manuals, help pages, and go back and forth on forums to figure out how to do something.

Creating an account on SmugMug was very simple, and getting my photos up was a piece of cake. There are SO many ways to get your photos online — it’s crazy. I imported all of my Flickr photos right into SmugMug with just a few different clicks. Of course, you can also upload right from your computer in the usual way, or by using iPhoto, Lightroom, Aperture, or any other major program.


Not everyone likes to provide the full-size images, and you can set how big the images are, and if people are allowed to download them.  Also, you can set your own prices for downloading or printing… makes some extra$$!

After you have your files up, navigating and arranging is very simple as well. SmugMug was designed by people that know what they are doing. You can have multiple galleries and everything you would need is there waiting for you.


When an image is clicked on, it goes full screen and can be viewed in its true glory!

My Images are Safe

I think of SmugMug as a “Digital Lockbox” for my images. I can store the max-resolution versions of all my images there and not worry about them. They have another option, if you so choose, where they use Amazon S3 to store your RAW or TIFF files permanently as well. That’s great! I do think it is smart, nowadays, to store your images in multiple locations.

To be frank, whenever I get a new online backup solution of my world, I feel pretty awesome about myself. That niggling “worry” evaporates, and I can once again relax and have a cappuccino in peace.

Also, SmugMug is incredibly “Open”. What does that mean? It means that, while they store the images, they do not “own” them and make them difficult to access in the future. There are all sorts of services I can use to copy my images down to my computer or move them to another online service. There is a powerful API that is open to developers, and they have created a myriad of programs to ensure my images are easily movable, should the need ever arise.

You can Make Money with SmugMug! (Pro Version Only)

Yes! Now all of your photos can make millions of dollars! Hehe, well, not really… BUT, you can make some extra money on the side by turning on various options.

  • You can charge people to download digital versions of your photos and set different prices for professional and personal use.
  • You can set pricing for Prints.  Pick the size offerings and the costs.  You can get up to 85% markup.  That’s a great profit margin!
  • You can also sell merchandise.  Smart!

Maybe you are a soccer mom that takes good pictures at the games and then wants to put them up on SmugMug, email the team, and then let parents buy photos. Easy! BTW, that’s not a bad idea is it? You know you already take pretty good pics (beter than those other parents), so why not make a little money off it!

Or maybe you take photos that are a bit different than everyone else in the world, but you have never quite found the perfect place to both host your portfolio and your storefront.  This is a perfect solution, and it is so inexpensive to get started.


You can set the prices for printing, downloading, or merchandizing options.

If you want some of these services, you will have to get the SmugMug Pro account. You get so many other features, it is totally worth it. Just think — you basically get to start an online photography business for really cheap! This sort of thing just was not possible a few years ago in an easy and simple way.

If, on the other hand, you want to take things to the “fine art” sales level, that is possible too. There are many print options that you will find available.

Starting an Online Photography Business (or Art Business!)

I can’t tell you how many emails I get from people asking me how to start an online photo business.  Or, an art business – to SmugMug, it’s the same thing, really.  The solution of starting an online business has always been a hit-and-miss mish mash of technologies that I’ve had to recommend before.

For $149.99 a year (Even cheaper with 20% off STUCKINCUSTOMS SmugMug Coupon), you have all the tools and infrastructure you need to start out!

In years past, you might have been forced to spend thousands of dollars on a website and integrate a clunky e-commerce solution that was more trouble than it was worth.  Putting together a payment mechanism for your customers is no small task. There are already a lot of Pros on SmugMug that have helped to shape the photographer and client experience so everything is perfect.

If you are a wedding photographer, then this is an amazing way to get quality work to your clients. I know many wedding photographers that swear by SmugMug — and they are right to do so!

And..being optimistic… you really don’t have to sell THAT much to make up for the yearly fee, do you?

If you do not want to sell your photos, then you can choose one of the other options on SmugMug, which are very well priced.  I’ve been paying Flickr for years and years… and I can’t believe how much more value I get out of SmugMug for a comparable price.

SmugMug is a good company!

I visited the SmugMug headquarters out in California, just south of San Francisco. I was able to spend time with some of the owners and founders. I was surprised that it was a family-run company! Several of the people at the company are blood relatives, but they treat everyone there like a member of the family. They even had an in-house chef who made us a homemade meal that would knock your socks off. The last time I had that much organic food, I was feeding off the land in Patagonia.  It was more than enough roughage to clean me out.  Thanks SmugMug!

But, honestly, these people at SmugMug are top notch.  I was impressed by the whole experience, and there is no doubt in my mind that the team at SmugMug will continue to innovate and make the best possible experience available to their users.


This is the home page of SmugMug.  It’s friendly and welcoming.
They have designed the whole site so it is approachable to new and experienced photographers.

Excellent Video Quality on SmugMug

And not just that, but you can also host hi-res video at the site. More and more photographers are starting to add video into the mix, and SmugMug is a great host for video!

I posted a few videos on Flickr and I was appalled by the quality. Slow. Choppy. Disappointing. Who needs that?

Besides the much better quality from SmugMug, I simply like the “presentation” of the video. It just fits and feels right.

A great community – smaller than Flickr, but different

People on SmugMug are true photo-lovers. Already, I think that photographers are some of the kindest people in the world, and you will find this is also the case at SmugMug. I lament, personally, that I am often too busy to engage in the community, but it is nice to know they are there.

I notice that Photography is a bit of a “talkin-sport” where people enjoy talking about photography as much as they enjoy doing it! There are ample opportunities for this around SmugMug.

Even better, there are often real-life meetup events! I’ve been to a few of these with their Community Organizer Candice Cunningham. I find that people really like to get together and hear about, engage in, and practice photography. These events have always been great fun, and I’ve met wonderful people at them. In this digital-internet-world, it’s nice that people like Candice are running around creating a fun sense around the sport!

Flickr also has a good community, but it can also be a strange community.  People “game” the system by submitting to strange groups just to get views.  It all seems a little forced to me sometimes and unnatural.  Just like with Flickr, you will get out of SmugMug what you put into it.

Negatives of SmugMug

I know there are a lot of photo sharing websites out there.  Most of my experience is with Flickr.  There are many gripes I have with Flickr, and SmugMug solves most of them.

One thing SmugMug does not have is the millions of people that Flickr has.  This means your photo may not be discovered quite as much by other photographers.  Also, I have a huge existing network of friends on Flickr, which may not move over to SmugMug, so I have splintered my network a little bit.  That is okay to a certain degree, because it is most important to me that the average viewer on the site sees the photo nice and big.

Another negative of SmugMug is that it costs money.  This is not a big deal, since I find it incredibly inexpensive for what you get.  I’m not one of these people that thinks everything on the web should be free, but I know some people are like that.

A third negative is the lack of a good WordPress plugin.  I am working on building one, and will release it to the world for free when it is done…  For now, there is a lot of manual cutting and pasting to get the embed code into the blog.  That is kind of a drag, but I hope we can get that fixed up soon.

I address some of the main concerns below.

A New Way of Thinking: Flickr vs. SmugMug

I got some interesting comments below, so I wanted to talk about new ways to think about your photography audience.  I have been thinking this for a while but have never communicated it.

Flickr is great, and I have obviously loved it for many years.  But, there is a serious “bubble” limitation.

Here on StuckInCustoms.com, we have an interesting demographic.  Of the 500K pageviews, half are photographers and half are just “fans”.  The thing is with Flickr, that you just get 100% “photographers”.

So, if you make the center of your digital world Flickr, then it is “All photographers, all the time.”  This is fine — but in that world, only photographers see your work.  It’s a bit like being an oil painter in a museum that only oil painters go to.  Does that make sense?

If you want to make an impressive “presence” on the web, you need a pretty “center” for your vision.  This can either be a blog or a nice portfolio page that doubles as a business.

Whatever the center of your photography world is, make the images big and beautiful.  You want your photos to look their best as soon as you get someone’s attention, right?  So why do you want their first experience to be a 400 pixel wide blip on a page filled with noisy comments that have ugly badges to advertise one group versus another.

Many of you may disagree with me — that is fine.  This is how I see the world.  I think that everyone in the world loves photography, so it’s good to get out of the “bubble”.

SmugMug Stats

This is pretty cool. As of writing this (Dec of 2010), I already have over 27 million views on SmugMug, and I’ve only been there about a year. It took about 5 years to get to 21 million views on Flickr. Why this is – I am not sure… but SmugMug is doing a great job of serving up images!

Make your Online Portfolio Totally Unique –  Customize it

You can further customize your SmugMug page to make it totally unique. For more, see the “Customize SmugMug” page.


Here is a sample from Justin Busa, just one of several customization options for your online portfolio,
See the “Customize SmugMug” page here on the site for more…

Any questions about the nature of these reviews? Visit my Ethics Statement. It’s all quite simple!

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  • I like your article, found it useful thanks. I had already researched different options for my Aunty who is a pro photographer and recommended smugmug, now I’m looking again for myself and I’m pretty sure smugmug is the way to go… Cheers for thoughts on this..

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  • Thanks for this tip!

    I’ve been using Flikr + Zenfolio and getting ready to set up a NING site (for the private community for online classes). Looks like SmugMug would do it all (including allow 10 min videos for tutorials + digital downloads — I have those, too). You’ve just saved me a bunch of money!

    Thanks again!

    =) Liz

  • D’oh — not the kind of digital downloads I was thinking of and need the conversations, too. Still, SmugMug is a pretty sweet site/tool!

  • I’ve taken a Smugmug pro account thanks to this great review :-). It makes sense that Flickr is really never (?) going to result in much direct income and is more about community. I see them as being different; good idea to have both and use them in different ways.
    However, one little gotcha we should keep in mind is that the slideshow is Flash-based and so wont work on the iPad… maybe better not have that on the homepage?

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  • Excellent and fair review of Smugmug. I’ve been using them for several years and have absolutely no regrets. They are constantly adding new features and partners.

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  • Marshall

    Trey: Thanks for the review. After many hours checking into all the options I am trying to decide between SmugMug and Photoshelter. Apart from the extra cost of Photoshelter do you have any thoughts about it compared to SmugMug? None of these sites seem to have an integrated WordPress plugin…
    Marshall

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  • The best and worst of SM is that you can customize almost everything! 🙂

  • I love the idea of smugmug if you’re trying to sell prints at profit. Why do you use it when you sell prints through another vendor? The only value I can see is to keep bandwidth costs down.

  • Good question — the main reason I use someone else is that I do limited edition prints – each one is numbered.

  • Congrats on the big 20 million + milestone on SmugMug. I have the entry level account with them and have been very happy with it. (I am also not a pro photographer nor anywhere near your ability). I’ve been contemplating an upgrade to the next level for the ability to do other web stuff not available in the basic account.

    Back when I first got my DSLR, I looked at all the services. I was very impressed with SmugMug and all they offered. So far I haven’t been disappointed. Although your tweet did remind me I’ve been neglecting my Smug account somewhat. So thanks for the nudge.

  • Btw, you can get a 50% discount if you register for an account via their free iPhone app 🙂

  • Danny

    I just signed up for the free 14 day trial. So far I like it. I have uploaded 26 pictures and it has been a breeze. I am still learning the site, but in a day or two I think I’ll have it down. As long as it tests out alright, i will either upgrade to the middle or pro account. We will see how it goes.

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  • Eugene Stevens

    I just started my smugmug account. Very nice and my clients eally like it. Thanks, Trey

  • Great comparison, it didn’t really answer the question to whether or not the Smugmug pro account is worth the cost for most people considering having your own website and hosting plan can cost far less.

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  • I’m curious what you think of PhotoShelter. I’ve been considering them due to their integration with wordpress.

  • Great review. The one/most important thing to me that I didn’t see in this review–unless I just missed it–is print quality. I think it’s easy to print for skin tones. However, scenics are a completely diffeent story, since the lab isn’t going to know what how you saw a scene or how you want the colors and contrast to look. Is their printing accurate?
    Thanks
    –dawn

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  • john

    I am aware of the fact that the Web is worldwide, however, I was wondering if SmugMug was mainly used by people in the US – does anyone know if it has a wider audience?

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  • Great review! I’m using the free trial of SM now and I still haven’t decided to make the move to Pro membership. Are you saying that your photos are viewed more because they are on Smug Mug? Do people search on the site a lot for photos?

  • Phil

    Hi Trey

    I will give smugmug a chance to bring me up to a new level.
    How it works now to implement the correct code on my wordpress – site ! ,-)

    Greez

    Phil

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  • I have been a member with Smugmug for several years and have been extremely happy with the service. I’m not a pro and don’t want to sell my photos, I’m on it to share with my family. BUT, I know I could change a few buttons and presto, I could have my images for sell. I really like the way I have such a nice variety of ways to set up my custom galleries.

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  • Dean Baird

    I’ve been a happy SmugMug client for years (I switched when Club Photo became unusable). But I recently began the move TO Flickr Pro. I still have affection for SmugMug, but it seems Apple does not.

    I can easily upload and synchronize albums on Flickr from Aperture without using a third-party plugin. And I can access my Flickr account from my AppleTV (or anyone’s AppleTV) and enjoy photos in the big LCD/Plasma screen.

    I don’t know why Apple has blessed Flickr and cursed all other sharing sites. But they have. With admitted reluctance, I am along for the ride. I’ll be hard-pressed to justify renewing my SmugMug account when it’s due to expire in October.

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  • I can’t say enough good things about smugmug. Their features and customer service are just awesome! I tried other sites. They were more expensive and had fewer tools. Many of them claim the rights to your photos as soon as you upload them. Read the terms for any site before you upload. smugmug does not claim rights. They treat me like an artist instead of cash cow. It’s a family business and they treat their customers like they’re a hugely important part of it.

  • Hi Trey,
    Thank you for your thorough review of Smugmug. After going over this, I signed up and I’m already impressed. I just have one question that I cant seem to find the answer to on Smugmug. You mentioned that you are a former Flickr user and that it was easy to import your photo’s from Flickr. How exactly did you do that? I have been browsing the page for quite some time now but I cant find an obvious answer. I’m sure that it’s right in front of my nose but perhaps you could shed some light on it for me. I look forward to seeing more of your work. You are a definite inspiration to say the least. Thanks for everything!

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  • I must say that this is the most fantastic travel photo blog and Smugmug presentation I have ever come across. I’m an old time Smugmug user, but I’ve never seen a better personal configuration of any site. I’ll study your text meticulously and use it as an excample for others.

    My own Smugmug page is at ertzgaards.smugmug.com.

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  • Hello.

    I have a really hard time getting straight answers from the SMUGMUG “Super Heroes.”

    They only use e-mail as they can not seem to afford to buy a phone.

    I asked them simple questions such as Who and Where are you.

    If they expect me to pour all of my personal and business data into their system, it is only fair that I know something about them. They simply will not answer my question. Apparently you visited them but did not disclose who and where they are …

    If something goes wrong, how will my attorney, and/or FBI if needed, find them via email?

    I just want to knowWho is responsible. I mean stuff happens. Look at Sony.

  • Hi
    Enjoyed the review, and your site is groovy.

    Smugmug’s sales are for the US market only though. Wouldn’t it be good if I could sell prints here in the UK. I could allow digital downloads but I don’t trust the people only to make one copy!

  • Jan

    Hi,
    I have just become a SmugMug Pro user, and has realised that the homepage is working poorly. Today, 8 October 2011, this is the only homepage that I have difficulties opening.
    Not very user friendly and satisfactory.
    Jan

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  • This is an awesome review. I am a very new Smugmug user and have found this to be immensely helpful. I greatly appreciate the time you’ve invested in creating this article (photos, videos and all!). I was so very hindered by the inability to safely store and present my photography work in a secure, workable setting… but now that I’ve found SM, I’m excited and my passion for photography has been completely renewed!

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  • trey–i notice you are selling limited edition prints off smugmug.  how do you number and sign them?  thanks so much.   your website is a must read.  tom from durango, co.

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  • I have been a fairly happy SM user for years. Allows my family to see pics of my kids. However, recently placed 2 orders for prints (maybe 10 to 50 pics, 4 x 6, 5 x 7’s). Used standard shipping and have been extremely disappointed in the speed in which they are processed and shipped. I believe it should not take over a week to get my pics. Extremely frustrated!  For the amount of money they charge for shipping and see how it is shipped “Priority Mail” it should not take that long.

  • Daniel Nolan

    Hi Bruce,
    I just read through the Smug Mug terms and conditions and it states in there a contact and physical address. I know most of us don’t read through the lawyer drudge but its there.
    Daniel

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  • I am thinking about signing up, but I noticed your gallery looks different now, are you switching companies?

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  • Many thanks for the excellent review, it sealed the deal. And many thanks for the coupon also!!

  • Hi Bruce, I have been with SM for about a year now and I have enjoyed every minute of it. Yes, I’ve emailed them, but I’ve also spoken ON THE PHONE with several Heroes. Andy Williams is the owner and he is very hands in the forums with lots of posts and comments. I have found them to be completely professional and I’m not looking to go anywhere else. I trust you know who Trey is? He wouldn’t hook up with some fly-by-night organization.

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  • FromTheCapitol_com

    I wonder if the 20% is still valid now that SmugMug has increased their prices by 100%. Oh yea and the COO left the company. COO leaves and a massive price increase, ummm.

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  • disqus_gW6XPCSbYQ

    I just signed up since I sell photos and do events and celebrations. A lot of times, people who didnt pay for the pictures want seperate ones of their families. Now I can take them and put a price to it individually! SWEET!

  • disqus_gW6XPCSbYQ

    BTW if you want a good printer and dont want to use Smug Mug, I use Lustre Color. Very good quality and fast turnarounds!

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  • I decided to sign up and working on my page now! I am hoping to make some money with Smugmug this year.

  • MarvinB7

    Legit question. Why did people vote it down? I do notice that SmugMug as an option to ship the orders to me first, then I send them on to the customer. One possibility.

  • Hi Marvin,

    Thomas’ comment is somewhat old, so apologies to him for not answering if he didn’t get in touch via email. Trey’s Annum prints from SmugMug are not signed and numbered; the metal prints are digitally signed and numbered and limited to 50 of any image.

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  • Jeremy Fischer

    I was on the fence between Smugmug and Flickr several months ago, and ended up going with Flickr. But after reading this review, I’m really considering dropping Flickr for Smugmug. Yeah I’m not a big fan of the cost, but I want my images to scream “professional” and Smugmug seems to be the key for that.

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  • I am signing up for a pro acct with smugmug in a few days. Excited! I had a website with justhost.com for a long time. But they left me emty handed with a website i could not use..now, i believe i have a good chance at moving forward.

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  • Nice review, but for all it’s glory in customizations, mainly for “portfolio” galleries, it has completely ignored the client proofing part of their site.
    For example….Events. Specifically, the landing page for the client. Looks like crap with all sorts of text and an awkwardly placed square thumbnail. Any reason why Smugmug completely ignored this area for us to customize? I mean, it’s not like the Events are not used much. You need to set them up for clients or else they can’t mark favorites. That Event page is so ugly, it is keeping me from moving my failry huge event and portrait business over from zenfolio.

    I can’t give any good recommendation to Smugmug for leaving this out. it just doesn’t make sense. None.

  • Ken Kelley

    Smugmug is “simple” per se. Without a following and unique photos, it is just another venue. The proof is in the photos. With Istockphoto, Dreamstime, Fotolia, etc., at least you’re getting some kind of feedback and promo. I signed up for a month. Have yet to get a single purchase. Really do not expect any. Question and reality is, who even looks at Smugmug? Smugmug users are the only ones using Smugmug. Will be trying a Etsy next? The time spent trying to set up your site and post the photos is more like act of providence? Because you can as opposed to knowing “if you build it, they will come!?” Getting sleepy now. Think I’ll dream……

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  • Zeeyolq

    Hi everybody,

    I think Smumug is a really good solution for amateur photographer like me. I was able to create a website in a few clics! Here an example : http://zeeyolqphotography.smugmug.com/

    For professionnal, i think it’s better to create their own website. They can do what they want. And Smugmug change some things frequently. So when you are a pro, you don’t like that generally.

    To conclude, i will say that i am satisfied for my personal use.

    Best,

  • Zeeyolq

    Hi everybody,

    I think Smumug is a really good solution for amateur photographer like me. I was able to create a website in a few clics! Here an example : http://zeeyolqphotography.smugmug.com/

    For professionnal, i think it’s better to create their own website. They can do what they want. And Smugmug change some things frequently. So when you are a pro, you don’t like that generally.

    To conclude, i will say that i am satisfied for my personal use.

    Best,

  • Sean Fisher

    Not nitpicking, but on your site it says “the sells” when it should read “the sales.” I’m learning another language and I always want to be corrected. Nice work, by the way.

  • The new smugmug is truly convoluted… not pleased

  • Zeeyolq, right on… tho smug does have some features a self site will lack, like easy selling/large data storage, etc…

  • Ed

    Thank you for the referral link, I got 20% off!

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  • Thanks for the great info. I had already found Smug Mug through a fellow photographer and had prety much decided on using it, but wanted to double check its credibility. The customization video was great, and the discount was just a bonus. I’ll be saving a bit already for what I’m getting. It really is so easy to customize. In less than an hour I have a working website that looks great. Thanks again!

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  • Yak

    WARNING.
    SmugMug does not fix problems with their product. They simply deny the issue exists. See for yourself in the attached. I have been using them for years and will now go elsewhere, because this has happened before.

    Has anyone else experienced this issue?

    Feel free to agree or disagree. I’m not trying to bash SmugMug so much as help others avoid a paying for a poorly supported product.

  • Yak

    Not sure where the attachment went. Trying to repost.

  • Debbie Major

    Smugmug is horrible, absolutely huge disaster. Apparently the author of this article has never had a problem. I spent an entire football season photographing games, and uploaded them to smugmug. Parents went to my site to purchase prints and could not see anything. It took smugmug FIVE months to correct this, and by then the season was over. I lost hundreds of dollars in purchases. AND, no one will hire me to shoot their games anymore bec “I am the photographer with the bad website”. Thanks smugmug; after 4 years of your BS I am going over to Zenfolio..

  • Debbie Major

    Warning if you join smugmug, they will automatically renew your acct each anniversary by taking funds from your bank acct. I do not want to renew with them, but they keep trying to take the amount out of an old account, which is now several hundred dollars overdrawn bec I did not have enough to cover their yearly fee bec I did not want to renew. They will repeatedly try every day until they get their money. BEWARE. There is the overdraft fee of $65 and then every three days there is a $45 fee for being overdraft. And in the state of Cali, you have 30 days to clear an overdraft or you will be banned from ever having a checking acct again. All because I did not want to renew with them, and all my emails telling them to cancel are being ignored. SERIOUSLY BEWARE

  • Debbie Major

    p.s. Just found that smugmug is not accredited by the BBB. Would you trust someone with your money that the BBB doesn’t back? (Better Business Bureau)http://www.bbb.org/losangelessiliconvalley/business-reviews/internet-services/smugmug-in-mountain-view-ca-227536/complaints

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