What is SmugMug?
SmugMug is a website builder just like Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, etc. However, SmugMug is targeted towards photographers. The platform has been designed to create websites that can display high-quality images and even videos with ease.
It allows sorting media files in different ways. You can add keywords, captions, and titles if you want. There are various settings for adding color effects, rotating your photos, and more. Overall, SmugMug is a brilliant website builder with various tools that photographers find useful.
SmugMug is perhaps one of the best photography website builders you can find today. It has been around since 2002. The platform works as an online gallery where you can display all your photos easily. The service is quite inexpensive compared to the features that you will get. There are a range of tools and capabilities that you will start loving as you keep using the platform.
It will take time for your (or anyone else) to understand how every tool works. Still, it is definitely worth the time and money you invest in.
However, not everything is hunky-dory. There will be weaknesses of any service you come across. SmugMug has its set of weaknesses as well. Before I jump into a detailed review, let me walk you through the set of pros and cons of the service.
- Beautiful portfolio templates that are responsive in design.
- Allows selling photos online.
- Unlimited storage available.
- Allows getting online in less than an hour.
- Allows sharing photos with clients.
- Allows a few great customization features.
- Offers top-notch customer support.
- Offers a 14-day free trial without any credit card.
- Fewer templates compared to competitors.
- No lifetime free plan available.
- There is minimal integration with other services.
- The basic plan is very restricted.
Okay, now that you know about the pros and cons of SmugMug, it is about time that I walk you through the pricing structure of the service and then jump right into the review starting with the features.
SmugMug Plans and Pricing
Unfortunately, SmugMug doesn’t offer a lifetime free plan. That may not be an ideal situation for many people. If you are one of those who is looking for a free plan, you need to understand that a free plan usually comes with the provider’s branding. Wix is a great example of that. A big Wix banner on the free site doesn’t look good, and it is not good for your reputation.
That’s possibly the reason why SmugMug decided to completely discard the idea of a free plan. However, if you wish to try out their services before you commit with your money, you can get a 14-day free trial.
It is a no-fuss trial. You don’t have to add your credit card. SmugMug will ask for your name, email ID, and whether you want to sell your images online or not. That’s it! Provide that basic information and you are ready to go.
In my opinion, the 14-day free trial is a long enough period to find out everything that the company has to offer. If you are not happy with the platform, you don’t need to do anything. At the end of the trial period, your free account will be deleted.
However, if you are happy with their platform and want to continue past the free trial, you will have the choice of selecting from four different plans. Here is a quick overview of each plan:
The Basic Plan
This plan is designed for those who just want a way to display their work online. That’s it. It is a very restrictive plan with limited features. If you decide to go for this plan, SmugMug will charge you $7 a month, that equates to $84 a year. However, if you choose to pay up front for the entire year, you will have to pay only $55.
With this plan you will get a drag-and-drop interface and unlimited storage. The option of ordering and downloading photos from your site will be available. With this plan you cannot use your own domain.
The Power Plan
This plan will give you extra controls over your website’s look and you can even customize your photos. This plan will give you access to 21 templates and allow you to customize them as per your choice. The Power plan will allow you to use your own domain. The plan will cost you $11 a month that amounts to $132 a year. However, paying upfront for the entire year will earn you a discount of 36%, pulling down the price to $85 a year.
The Portfolio Plan
If you want to start selling your photographs online, the portfolio plan is a perfect choice for you. This plan will provide you the ability to enable right-click protection so that no one steal your photographs. If you go for a monthly payment schedule, the Portfolio plan will cost you $27 a month that amounts to $324 a year. However, pay yearly will bring down the price to $200 a year, which is a straight 38% savings.
The Pro Plan
You should go for this plan if you are a professional photographer with a large clientele. With this package, you can ship products to your clients and even offer gift wrapping. You will get the ability to set your price and take 85% of that. The remaining 15% is SmugMug’s cut! Opting for this plan will set you back by $41.99 a month (in case of a monthly pricing scheme) or $360 a year (in the case of a yearly pricing model).
In case you want to check out the complete list of features available for each plan, here is the direct link to the features’ page.
Okay, now that you are aware of the plans and pricing, it is time for the actual review. Let’s dig in…
The Major Features Offered by SmugMug
There are tons of features available with SmugMug, and writing about all of them makes no sense. So, I will give you a summary of the most important (core) features of SmugMug.
SmugMug uses Amazon S3 for file storage. That’s virtually unlimited! So, there is absolutely no limit to the amount of storage for whichever plan you select. That’s a great thing because most of the website builder platforms will give your limited storage space for the basic plan and even for the high-end plans.
Photographs can be heavy, especially the ones that you click with professional cameras. That’s the reason why SmugMug allows 200 MB file size for each photograph you upload. For each video that you upload, the maximum allowed file size is 3GB and the maximum allowed resolution is 1080p. The maximum video length allowed is 20 minutes.
Just creating an online portfolio doesn’t matter. You need to be found on Google and other search engines. That’s how you can increase your online presence. If no one can find your portfolio site, it is pointless having an online portfolio in the first place. SmugMug has quite some interesting SEO tools integrated into the system. You can use meta tags and even add XML sitemaps.
If photography is your bread and butter, you need to ensure that your photos remain protected online. SmugMug offers photo protection features that you are going to love.
There are several protections that include:
- Restrict the file size that shows on your website. This gives you the flexibility to use a resolution high enough for a good photo browsing experience on your website, but a resolution low enough to prevent people from stealing your work.
- Prevent right-clicking. This means that the only way someone can save your photo is by taking a screenshot.
- Watermarking the photos. This feature will not watermark the original uploads. It will only watermark the display copies. Removing watermarks is not so easy and it prevents people from stealing your photographs.
Different Privacy Levels
With SmugMug, you can set different levels of visibility and access. There are three types of visibility options. They are:
- Public (anyone and everyone can see).
- Unlisted (people who know the exact link are the ones who can see it).
- Private (no one but only the logged-in users can see).
You can set different access levels to the visibility. Those different access levels are:
- Anyone can access.
- People with a password can access.
- People you choose are the ones who can access.
You can even prevent search engines and even SmugMug from indexing your galleries.
You need to figure out the right security settings so that you can prevent people from stealing your photos, and at the same time, they remain visible enough to ensure that people can discover your work.
Sharegroups is an interesting feature that will allow you to share multiple unlisted galleries with a single public link. This ensures that people don’t need to use multiple links and access individual galleries one by one.
Bulk Gallery Download
Don’t want your clients to download images from galleries one by one? SmugMug will allow you to create a downloadable zip file for your gallery with a single click. You will even receive an email with the download link. You can then send the link to your clients so that they can download the entire gallery at once.
If you want your clients and website visitors to download your photos by themselves, you can enable a download button on the galleries. This download button will allow your clients to download the entire gallery at once.
You can sell prints of your photographs, and guess what? You can set the price for each print. The price that you can set can be way higher than what the lab charges for printing the photos. For instance, you have to pay USD 23 or something close for a 30×20” Lustre print. You can sell it for a way higher price.
SmugMug has a bulk pricing editor where you can set your base profit. This base profit can be 300 or even 500% over the base price. You can set whatever you want.
SmugMug will take a share out of each sale, but that’s only 15% of the difference between the price you set and the actual price of printing.
So, if you are setting the price to be $500 and the price for printing is $50. SmugMug will charge you 15% of $450 ($500-$50).
Guess what? If someone is ordering a print, you don’t have to do anything! Everything is automated! What’s interesting is that if you want to order prints for yourself from your own website, you don’t have to pay that high price (the price you have set).
In that case, you have to log in and you will see the normal prices – the basic price that SmugMug sets!
There are many more features, but as I said earlier, including all of them here doesn’t make sense. I have listed the most important ones (according to me). You can check out the remaining ones directly from SmugMug site or you can find them out while using their services.
SmugMug Ease of Use
Using SmugMug is simple. You can get your website up and ready within an hour. However, that’s possible only if you have a set of images ready to upload. Once you purchase a plan or register for the trial, you need to start by choosing a template.
Once you have settled for a template you will get the option of uploading your photos and providing the basic details about you.
Once you provide everything, your site will be ready in a jiffy. Here is a sample site that I made using some photos from Pixabay:
Once the site is ready, you can customize it to your liking by clicking on the customize button you see on the top righthand corner. Once you click on that button, you will see a set of option showing up. This is what you will see:
Yes, there are too many options, but they are neatly arranged so that you know exactly what you are dealing with.
There are content blocks that you can add to a page. These are basically galleries, photos, navigation, video, etc. You can drag and drop a content block on your page. Once you drag a content block, SmugMug will show you the area where you can place it.
What I didn’t like about the content blocks is that you cannot resize the elements by dragging. You have to select each block and resize the container by putting in a value. The settings option can be found by hovering your mouse pointer on any block and selecting the dimensions icon to pull out the “dimensions” popup box where you can set dimensions.
If you want to sell your photos, you can access them from the Selling Tools you see on the top. There are various options you will find under selling tools where you can set price lists, coupons, packages, events, etc.
The Organize button you see on the top is where you get the option of organizing all your photos, videos, logos, etc.
Here is what it looks like when you click on the organize button:
To pull out the gallery setting, you can click on the small cog icon that you see on the organize page. Clicking on the cog icon pulls out the bulk gallery settings popup window. This is what you see:
If you want to add a new gallery, or a new folder or a new web page, you can do that by clicking on the small plus icon you can see on the Organize page.
One thing that you should know is that if you want to upload new photos, you need to have a gallery. So, before you upload anything, make sure that you are creating a gallery.
Overall, SmugMug interface may look a bit clumsy, especially if you have already using Squarespace, but at the end of the day, you will get everything that you need to create stunning sites with all essential features that are useful to photographers.
SmugMug offers customer support through both live chat and email. They offer above-average support and strive to ensure that you are not facing any issues with their services. In the case of email support, they will usually reply within an hour. However, if you are looking for instant help, live chat is always the best option.
Verdict & Final Thoughts
SmugMug is a brilliant website builder for photographers. It offers every tool that you will need as a professional photographer. However, compared to SmugMug, Zenfolio offers better tools and features.
That doesn’t mean SmugMug is bad, or not worth your time and money. In fact, it is quite powerful and keeps things a little less overwhelming for user who have zero experience with website builders. The interface is simpler and less overwhelming compared to Zenfolio.
So, if you are new to website builders and you are looking for an easy platform to build your photography site, SmugMug is a good place to start.