I rely on a variety of online services and tools to run my photography business. These services cover an entire range of activities from photo editing, web hosting, web design, and backup to marketing, online sales, and accounting. Without these services, I would not be able to run a location-independent business as a solopreneur.
But, if I had to choose only one service that is the most impactful to my photography and my business, I would not hesitate in making the choice. SmugMug is, by far, the most valuable piece of the puzzle in my online business.
I suppose, at this point, that anyone who is somewhat involved in photography is aware of SmugMug; however, very few understand the platform’s true nature and depth of service.
Some photographers mistakenly treat SmugMug as another photo sharing service, which is far from reality. When using SmugMug, photographers retain all the rights and ownership of their photos. SmugMug in no way modifies, shares or sells your photos without your permission; all they do is provide a service to help us run our photography businesses.
Today, I want to offer an in-depth SmugMug review and how the SmugMug photography platform fits into my WordPress powered website and how it benefits my photography business.
SmugMug is one of the oldest photo-sharing and image hosting services on the web. Over the years, it developed an extensive set of features and services tailored to photographers of different levels from family photo enthusiasts to professional photographers from diverse fields (studio, wedding, and event photographers, etc.).
As a travel photographer and blogger, I adapted and integrated only selective features of SmugMug that are important to my specific needs pertaining to travel and blogging.I do not use it for personal or family photography; I have Google Plus for that. I only use SmugMug for my professional activities.
Beautiful Portfolio Designs
SmugMug has a collection of the most beautiful designs for your photography website or portfolio. Each design is extremely flexible and fully customizable. It also features a design editor that allows you to create a custom design or a custom theme. Your imagination is the only limitation here.
But, in 99% of cases, the designs SmugMug provides are good enough for even the most demanding photographers and designers.
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In my case, I hardly used any customizations. My Portfolio is based on a SmugMug default design. I use only two types of layouts; one is for the home page where I display portfolio photos at full screen size with endless scroll, the other layout is the library view where you can see thumbnails of the portfolio images.
You cannot go wrong with any design. I really like that every SmugMug layout makes your photography the centerpiece of its design.
This service is extremely valuable for my blogging. I self-host my WordPress blog but (almost) every image on my blog is hosted on the SmugMug server. It makes my blog much faster, reduces server load and makes the process of backing up painless because photos represent 90% of my blog size.
On top of everything, it saves me an enormous amount of time on image resizing.
Let me explain.
When I upload images to SmugMug at full resolution, the SmugMug platform generates all possible sizes and crops for every image. I grab the link to the appropriate image size and post it to my blog. No more manual Photoshop image resizing is required.
SmugMug Lightroom Plugin
As you may know, Lightroom is the centerpiece of my photography workflow. It starts with Lightroom when I import photos from SD cards after the photoshoot and it ends with Lightroom when I finish processing photos and save full size JPEGs back to the Lightroom catalog.
This is where the SmugMug Lightroom plugin comes in play.
After I am done with all of my keywording, metadating, GPS tagging in Lightroom, the SmugMug plugin synchronizes all images and corresponding data with my SmugMug account. This means that I do not have to do any manual file transfers and data entry on SmugMug. It also means that every photo in my portfolio is safely backed up and available to me at full resolution at any time.
I use Galleries in SmugMug a lot.
For example, a client asks me to show him the collection of my best Montreal photos. I login to SmugMug, create a new password protected gallery and drag my best Montreal photos from my Master Library which was transferred and synchronized from my computer by the SmugMug Lightroom plugin. Then, I am ready to send my client a custom link to the new gallery with the password.
It took all of two to three minutes.
Selling Photos on SmugMug
There is a common misconception in the online photography community on how you sell photos using SmugMug.
First, SmugMug does not promote or market your photos. The site simply provides you with an online platform that allows you to easily sell prints or digital downloads.
Second, it is entirely up to you to promote your storefront. You must figure out if you want to promote it through your studio business, your wedding photography business, or your blog. Whatever the case, you can rely on SmugMug to provide you with the best tools around.
Online Sales Module
This is probably the most advanced module of the SmugMug platform. It is tailored mostly toward wedding and event photographers. It allows you to create public or password protected storefronts and separately control the pricing for each project or client. You can sell prints in various sizes or digital downloads.
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I do not have use for advanced storefront options but what it gives me is access to the top quality print houses in North America and Europe in addition to an easy controllable pricing structure.
Even though SmugMug supports multiple Price Lists, I use only default one and apply it to my entire portfolio.
SmugMug Price & Plans
SmugMug price structure has 4 plans in total, which can make selecting the right plan somewhat confusing.
Here’s a simplified breakdown:
In my case, I use the Portfolio Plan.
SmugMug is one of the most matured and polished online solutions for photographers. You can find multiple similar services around but nobody can compete with SmugMug. The combination of its design, customization, flexibility and powerful pro features, makes SmugMug one stop destination for any photographer.
- Beautiful responsive design for your portfolio
- Unlimited image storage
- Integration with Lightroom
- Advanced gallery sharing
- Sell prints or digital
- No free plan
- While there are not many negatives, I would like to see a cloud backup solution for my RAW and PSD files under the same umbrella so that I do not have to use another service.
How to Setup Online Portfolio in 15 Minutes or Less
Step 1: Signup for SmugMug free trial here(2min).
Step 2: After you login to SmugMug first time, select ORGANIZE option from the top menu and create 2 Folders and 4 Galleries using similar structure (choose any names you want):
Folder 1: Travel Photography
- Gallery 1: Europe
- Gallery 2: California
Folder 2: Street Photography
- Gallery 3: Boston
- Gallery 4: New York
Make sure to set Security & Sharing settings for the Folders and the Galleries to Visibility: Public and Access: Anyone. (5min)
Step 3: Using the UPLOAD button to populate all the galleries with the photos from your computer (use the biggest possible size). When you finished press DONE button at the top right corner. (5min)
Step 4: From the top menu select CUSTOMIZE > CHOOSE A NEW SITE DESIGN and start selecting DESIGNS one by one and see which one you like the most.(2min)
If you decide to stick around with SmugMug and create your custom design, you can find multiple comprehensive video tutorials on SmugMug’s YouTube channel.
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