Why I Like SmugMug

December 27, 2007 | By

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
    :
  • 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/
  • Build your own themes (Power user or Pro account only) – Smugmug gives you the ability to replace headers, footers and to override CSS. For example, if you go to my Key West gallery, you’ll see a theme I constructed by altering the header, footer and some CSS . If you go to a recent Aerial Photo job gallery, you’ll see a different header thanks to a small piece of Javascript and CSS. This is a very simple example of the incredible flexibility that SmugMug offers. Here are some galleries by other photographers that demonstrate the flexibility (all of these are SmugMug):
  • 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. gregorywilson@email.smugmug.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.

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About the Author (Author Profile)

Greg is a developer advocate for the Google Cloud Platform based in San Francisco, California
  • I am at smugmut as well. Very happy there.

  • Hey Gregory,

    Thanks! This is a great write-up! I especially liked the things you don’t like. Feedback like that is exactly what we need to improve our site.

    I’m dying to know why you’d rather have us support a non-standard like FLV rather than a standard like h.264, which Flash also supports (and our Flash player is due “real soon now”). Would you mind filling me in a little more in case there’s something we’ve overlooked?

    We chose h.264 specifically because it’s very high quality, and plays on just about everything from Flash to iPods.

    Thanks again!

  • Don – you are correct, H.264 is now supported by Flash Player 9. All I’m looking for is for the videos to play using Flash Player rather than Quicktime, etc. I edited my comment to remove the “convert to FLV” comment – my mistake 🙂

    Thanks!

    Greg

  • After a lot of research, I also chose Smugmug for the same reasons you listed. There’s another thing I really like about Smugmug. It’s very “user-friendly.” It’s very easy to learn how to navigate around the site and uploading a large batch of photos is a snap — just drag and drop.

  • I was looking for an alternative to my present arrangements, so was grateful for the heads-up on that Greg. However…

    …I was quite impressed and everything was looking good until I saw the details for making payment via SmugMug’s Pro option (i.e. in USD by cheque).

    As I’m British and working in Europe (mostly in France) this would be of no use to me whatsoever. I therefore emailed a question asking why payment couldn’t be be made to my PayPal account (which will accept USD and convert to GBP or Euros).

    The good news was that I did get a reply within 3 hours (not bad for a Saturday). The bad news was the response :

    “I’m so sorry we don’t have other options yet. We are looking at some new ways, but we don’t have them yet. I wish I had a better answer for you right now!”

    I’ve now found an alternative today ( http://www.printroom.com ). They also look pretty good but also pay by cheque in USD. BUT they said in an email that they would consider making an exception in my case and pay me via PayPal.

    You have some good facilities for gallery hosting and printing over there, like SmugMug and Printroom – so much better than is available on this side of the pond. And if any such American site CEO is reading this, can I suggest that with over 600 million people now in the European Union (and 800 million in Europe as a whole), maybe you might benefit from making a PayPal facility for photographers and their clients standard fare!

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  • man

    Looks like there’s http://www.phototube.us that is coming… Interesting to see what’s going to happen.

  • simplebucket

    Hi

    We are a new startup trying to provide a better photo sharing and hosting website. I just want to ping on our launch and you can try it out at http://www.simplebucket.com

    Simplebucket’s motto is to bring simplicity into the picture of sharing your photos online, so we offer a service in a different light as compare to SmugMug.

    Please try us out and we love to hear what you like and what you don’t like. Thanks!

    Team Simplebucket
    Khang Toh
    Founder, Simplebucket.com

  • Database error: connect(10.170.0.11, phototube, $Password) failed.
    MySQL Error: ()
    Session halted.

    Yup that Phototube looks real promising 🙂

  • Don

    Hi. I am wondering if you looked at PhotoBiz when you did your research?

  • Don – No, I haven’t heard of PhotoBiz. I’ll check it out.

    Greg

  • Very satisfied with Smugmug. I tried shutterbug and hated it for so many reasons. Photobiz was very appealing I loved the flash show but the cost at $25 or more monthly was not enough to sway me. I also use printroom but the overall presentation didn’t meet my needs. I’m a happy smugmugger and highly recommend it. Not to mention my clients are satisfied with the photo quality.

  • Photoforreal

    I used to have an account at Smugmug and I was really satisfied with it for the same reasons you have listed, although I am trying to find some alternative to it and I came across the photo sharing service Joomeo (http://www.joomeo.com) that finally seems to met my expectations.

  • Hi. great writeup. I love smugmug, very happy. But I want music on my site and want more themes. Do you know where they can be purchased?
    -Tim OPen Show Photography

  • Non of these reasons made smugmug sound better than Zenfolio. Z has all the same stuff, and more… so I dont understand why you chose one and not the other

  • I do like Zenfolio. I especially like that they use MPix for prints.

    I prefer Smugmug’s look and feel. I like their auto-sizing image display, etc.

    Also, I could not find a way to make a gallery unlisted. With Smugmug, I can create a gallery and share the URL with friends and family but not have it show up on my main page. I may have missed how to do this.

    Greg

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  • Greg, really nice write-up on SmugMug. I suppose I’m one of those emerging 3rd party developers utilizing the SmugMug API. I’m beta testing right now, and would appreciate any feedback you might be willing to give. You can see it in action with you’re own public galleries: http://smugscope.com/beta/?u=gregorywilson Thanks! twitter.com/micahwittman

  • Kim

    Is there a way to add music to your smugmug account?

  • Thanks for this post.

    Two people have commented about music on smugmug so I thought that I’d add in – how to add music to your smugmug: http://wiki.smugmug.net/display/SmugMug/How+To+Add+Music

  • Smugmug is awesome, great customer service and pro photographers can completely customize their Smugmug gallery to the point that it appears to be a stand-alone site with ecommerce, saving a lot of money and time. I’ve been using SM for a few years now, and see no reason to ever change.

    Thumbs up!

  • Thanks for the write-up! Wow, no ads and unlimited space, I’m definitely singing up for SmugMug

  • Patrick Sweeney

    Greg –

    Great write-up. I’ve been on the fence about SmugMug for awhile now, mostly curious about security and privacy issues. After a boat-load of Googling tonight, reading the back-and-forth between Don MacAskill and Blogoscope, and landing here as well, I’m finally off the fence – SmugMug it is.

    One comment about lack of Flash being a negative for you. For me, that’d be a positive, if for no other reason than Adobe’s (what I consider to be) under-handed way of using Flash to skirt cookie deletion efforts with Locally Stored Objects (LSOs). It annoys me that I have to use a FireFox plug-in to get rid of that crap, so as with the iPad, no Flash (had SmugMug continued to omit it) would have been a plus for me.

    – Patrick

  • Steve

    I love SmugMug too! Amazing site. However there is a serious security flaw in that they save account passwords by default. The ramifications can be severe. I have to un-check the “Remember me.” box EVERY TIME I SIGN ON to my Smugmug account. What a tedious waste of time. I have asked for this bug to be fixed for over 2 years … but – no dice.

    I had another Smugger e-mail me when he read my request for this hole to be fixed, telling me he had been at someone’s home, and used their computer to make some changes to the gallery he set up for them, and then realized when reading my request that he had not removed the check mark, and thus the person now has total control of his account, and can download all the photos (rather than buy them) … or worse. He did not want to call to tell them to delete their cookies, as that would let them know that they had access to his account, if they had not already figured it out.

    Because of the nature of my job, I am updating my site from many computers in different cities every week. Who knows how many times I may have forgotten to select “secure”. Of course, it should default to secure, not insecure.

    A computer should NEVER default to saving a password. If someone wants to select to save it – and have it THEN save the password – it would be unwise but understandable. If you can save a password in a cookie, you can save a flag to remember that they selected SECURE … and then STOP defaulting to remembering the password.

    Another suggestion I offered them, was to put a flag on the ACCOUNT asking us to specify (once) whether or not to default the password to save it (insecure) or not to save it (secure). This too was rejected.

    I was hoping that in 2 years they could implement one of my suggestions for easily plugging the hole, but I am still waiting. The hard part to believe is that they can operate such an amazingly well designed site with great customer support but still leave this gaping security hole. And just as troublesome is that they don’t care that they make you check off a box for no reason hundreds of times a month.

  • Deb

    I am seeking a Model Agency PRIVATE Members portfolio website. Will this work? Can you have different passwords for each Member you give access to? IS THERE SOMEONE OUT THERE I CAN HIRE TO USE SMUGMUG and build the site I need? I love the look and pricing but need someone to help me put it together.
    1. Home page with login for user/password
    2. Category page for Members to select for example different cities
    3. Search box to narrow down type of talent

    Thanks please help!

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