Why I Like SmugMug
I have spent a considerable amount of time seeking out the best photo gallery service for my pictures. My demands are fairly typical – I want to be able to upload pictures, create a nice looking gallery and be able to share that gallery. I need a lot of flexibility because I shoot many types of pictures. For example, I want to share birthday photos with family members but I also want to be able to use the service to deliver aerial photography to my customers. I have looked at Flickr, Photobucket, Zenfolio, PBase and others. I eventually chose SmugMug. I thought I would share my reasons in this article for those with similar requirements to mine. (I am not affiliated with SmugMug in any way)
Here’s why I picked SmugMug:
- No ads! No explanation needed here!
- Unlimited Uploads – So far, I’ve uploaded 3465 photos – around 6.5GB of images. I’ve recently started using SmugMug to deliver aerial photography images to customers so these numbers will climb quickly.
- Unlimited Bandwidth – the website actually says 1PB limit (that’s 1000 terabytes so I think I’m good!)
- Multiple sizes – I uploaded a picture and SmugMug creates the following alternate sizes automatically:
Tiny, Thumbnail, Medium and Large:
Large – http://gregorywilson.smugmug.com/photos/235567073-L.jpg
X Large – http://gregorywilson.smugmug.com/photos/235567073-XL.jpg
X2 Large – http://gregorywilson.smugmug.com/photos/235567073-X2.jpg
X3 Large – http://gregorywilson.smugmug.com/photos/235567073-X3.jpg
The original size image is stored and available for download.
Having all of these size options makes it very easy to put your photos in blogs, web pages, emails, etc. Every photo found in my blog is hosted on SmugMug.
- Open API – allows 3rd party developers to build applications that interact with SmugMug. One good example is a plugin built for Adobe LightRoom – see my earlier blog entry.
- Ability to use my own host name (Pro account only) – For example, you can view my gallery by going to http://gregorywilson.smugmug.com or http://gallery.tigeraerial.com – both point to the same gallery.
- Nice Themes – I tend to use one of two themes but there are many others to choose from. Here are some samples – http://themes.smugmug.com/
- Multiple ways to protect your privacy:
- Manage your smugmug home page – mine is http://gregorywilson.smugmug.com. The photo galleries you see are only the ones I want you to see.
- Other galleries are only accessible if you have the specific URL. For example – http://gregorywilson.smugmug.com/gallery/3992402 (Smash Mouth Band at Adobe’s 25th Anniversary Party).
- I can also password protect galleries – for example – http://gregorywilson.smugmug.com/gallery/3014527 You need a password to access it. I have provided a password hint that anyone in the family would know (name of our dog).
- There are also properties you can set on galleries that control whether it is scanned by Google and whether it is included in SmugMug’s search results.
- You can also set a gallery so that there is no indication that the gallery belongs to you. For example – http://www.smugmug.com/gallery/2607962 – notice that my name does not appear. Even the URL is generic.
- You can right-click protect your images and restrict viewers from getting to the larger versions of the images.
- Here is the security dialog for one of my galleries:
- Ordering prints – Another gallery option is the Print Ordering. If enabled, anyone can order prints from a gallery. This is great when relatives want to order some prints of the kids, etc. In addition to prints, there are t-shirts, greeting cards, puzzles, etc.
- Pro print ordering features – If you sign up for a pro account, you get the ability to set your own prices for all of the print and gift products. You get to keep most of the profit. This is great for professional photographers. I use this for my aerial photography customers. Other pro features include back printing of the prints (put anything you want on the back of the prints that your customers order), watermarks, etc. You can also set prices for the digital image downloads.
- Sharegroups – you can create a collection of galleries called a sharegroup. This sharegroup is assigned it’s own URL. This is a great way to group multiple Christmas galleries, etc.
- Video support (power user only – pro can upload high-def video) – recently, SmugMug added video capabilities, supporting most movie formats. The Smash Mouth gallery mentioned above has a video in it if you want to see an example. Also, see my comment on video below in the “things I don’t like”. More info at http://www.smugmug.com/help/video
- Email support – When you create a smugmug account, you are assigned an email address (e.g. email@example.com). Once you create a password for this email account, you can email pictures as attachments using the password as the subject of the email. This is great when you want to send a picture home that you just took with your cell phone.
Ok – there are things I don’t like about SmugMug:
- No Flash gallery support. Practically every PC/MAC has the Adobe Flash player so SmugMug should take advantage of this by offering themes that include flash galleries.
- Many features are hard to find. For example, the email feature mentioned above is a bit hidden. The password for your assigned smugmug email address is on the same dialog where you change your personal email address. It needs it’s own menu option. There are other hard to find options as well.
- The customization is fantastic but takes a little hacking. There is no single source to find all of the SmugMug CSS classes and containers. I had to use FireBug (a FireFox plugin) to seek out the stuff I needed.
- I’d like to see my uploaded videos played back through Flash Player instead of QuickTime, etc.
- No FTP support! Although SmugMug offers multiple ways to upload pictures (Java applets, etc.), they do not have FTP support.
- Flickr has a cool feature that I’ve seen a few people use – you can create hot spots on a photo with descriptions. For example, you can have a picture of 5 people and have each person identified by simply hovering the mouse over that person. I don’t know the name of this feature and can’t find it on Flickr’s website but I’ve seen it used.
Cost: As you probably suspect, this is not for free. The price (as of this writing) is $39.95/year for a standard account; $59.95/year for a Power User account and $149.95/year for a professional account. Details of each account type is available at http://www.smugmug.com/price/
Shameless plug – if you decide to sign up for SmugMug, you can save $5 on your first year’s subscription by using the following coupon code – “vieupVWDE4pwc”
As you suspect, I get a referal bonus for you using this…but at least I’m honest in telling you!
There are tons of other features that I have not touched on. More information can be found at http://www.smugmug.com/help/ and at http://www.dgrin.com (SmugMug’s forums) and on the SmugMug wiki – http://wiki.smugmug.com/display/SmugMug/Home
If I have missed anything or if you disagree with any of my observations, please comment. There may be other sites I am not aware of that offer this and more.