The Way I Use SmugMug in My Photography Business

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.

The Way I Use SmugMug in My Photography Business

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 truth nature and depth of service.

SmugMug Logo

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 outline on how the SmugMug photography platform fits into my WordPress powered website and how it benefits my photography business.

SmugMug Review

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.

SmugMug has Beautiful Portfolio Designs

But, in 99% of cases, the designs SmugMug provides are good enough for even the most demanding photographers and designers.

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.

SmugMug Portfolio - Front Page
SmugMug Portfolio - Gallery Page

You cannot go wrong with any design. I really like that every SmugMug layout makes your photography the centerpiece of its design.

Image Hosting

This service is extremely valuable for my blogging. I self-host my WordPress blog on SiteGround (check in-depth guide Step by Step Tutorial on How to Start a Successful Photography 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 - Image Hosting: Size Selection

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 photo shoot and it ends with Lightroom when I finish processing photos and save full size JPEGs back to the Lightroom catalog.

SmugMug Lightroom Plugin

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.

SmugMug - Photo Organization

Galleries

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.

SmugMug - Gallery Creation and Settings

Online Sales

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 or digital downloads.

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 - Online Photo Sales

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:

  • If you only want to backup your photos, host your images and create custom galleries, the Basic Plan ($40/year) is the right fit for you.
  • If you want to benefit from using beautiful responsive designs for your portfolio or photography website, you need the Power Plan ($60/year).
  • If you want to make money by selling your photos or prints, you need the Portfolio Plan ($150/year).
  • If you have busy photography business with many clients and projects you need the Business Plan ($300/year).

In my case, I use the Portfolio Plan.

SmuMug - Pricing Plans

Conclusion

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.

Pros:

  • Beautiful responsive design for your portfolio
  • Unlimited image storage
  • Integration with Lightroom
  • Advanced gallery sharing
  • Sell prints or digital downloads
  • No ads

Cons:

  • 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 UPLOAD button populate all the galleries with the photos from your computer (use 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.

Try SmugMug FREE for 14 days and SAVE 40% on a new account!

  • How do you link your WP site to SmugMug? Do you use a WP plugin? Thanks for the helpful article!

    • Melinda,

      there is no WP plugin. I simply added link as WP Menu item. In WP you can create new menu item and link it to the internal blog page or any external link.

      • Thanks so much for the helpful information!

  • Jeffrey Daniels-Hamid says:

    Hi Viktor! Great articles you have here. I have a query regarding copyright ability of the SmugMug. I found this site Digimarc that puts watermark on your images and has the ability to scan sites if someone used your images. Does SmugMug has this ability? Or you use the same sort of website to secure your images? Thank you!

    • Jeffrey,

      SmugMug has the functionality to watermark images but I never used it. I do not worry about people stealing my photos, I treat it as the “coast of doing business”. I prefer to concentrate on photography.

  • Gerald Poirier says:

    Hi Viktor. Thanks for a great summary. I have a question. How does the printing process for print sales work for you who are in Montreal ? I myself am in Baie-Comeau in Québec too, and I wonder about labs and quality, etc… Thanks in advance.

  • Luke Carter says:

    Hi Viktor,
    This may be more a question for the wordpress community, but I have just setup smugmug and am in the process of setting up my wordpress site. However when I link the images from smugmug (doesn’t matter what size), wordpress resizes them to the size of the blog post page and the images lose quality even when the image is smaller than it’s orginal size. Clicking on the photo opens it up in a seperate window and the quality and size are correct and perfect. Importing the files as media to my site does not have the issue.
    Question is, have you experienced any similar issues or any ideas of how to fix? Thanks for any reply in advance.

    • Luke,
      I do not let WP to resize my images by inserting the right size into my posts. My blog post width is 800px so I generate 800px image on SmugMug and insert it into my article and link it to another image on SmugMug which is much bigger (1600px)

      • Luke Carter says:

        Cheers Viktor once again for the quick response and advise. Fortunately after searching around all the various options on wordpress I found ‘Media Width’ under ‘Edit CSS’ settings. The default number of pixels was less than the width of the page, causing the poor image quality, nice and crisp after a little increase 🙂

  • JS Lawrence says:

    You’ve presented a very well written and illustrated review. Thanks! I will certainly use it to get my SmugMug galleries up and running. You mentioned the con of not being able to backup RAW and PSD files. Since SmugMug doesn’t offer that service what site(s) do you use?

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