SmugMug Review: Protect Your Photos, Create a Customized Website and Make Some Money

smugmug_bannerSmugMug is a premium photo and video hosting service for people that want a website they can customize, that will protect their photos, and where they can easily sell prints to clients and fans.

And when I say “premium”, I mean – it ain't free.

And like any purchase, you must ask yourself, “Is this a good product for me? And is it worth it?”

Well, that depends, of course. But I hope that this review will help you decide if SmugMug is the right solution for you.

Basically if you're a pro photographer, aspiring pro photographer, or avid amateur photographer – SmugMug is a fantastic service that can help you sleep at night (security and privacy features), show off your portfolio (gorgeous and flexible customization), and make you money (slick e-commerce tools).

Here's my simple, but effective photography website – powered by SmugMug –

If all this sounds great and you want to cut to the chase – click here to save 20% on your new SmugMug account (which includes a 14-day free trial).

And if you want more details – keep reading…

The Main Features and Benefits of SmugMug

Security is one of the main reasons pros and regular people alike choose SmugMug to host their images online.

Security is one of the main reasons pros and regular people alike choose SmugMug to host their images online.

Safety and Security – It's not sexy, but it's pretty important to us photographers. We take pride in our craft and we want to protect our images. And this might include password protecting client galleries, un-listing or hiding away photos of our kids, or watermarking and right-click protecting our award winning shots. SmugMug has a great suite of tools to lock your photos down, or unleash them to the world.

After Hurricane Katrina hit, thousands of people sadly lost their homes (and their computers). Which means many of them lost all their files and photos that were on their local hard-drives. But I remember hearing stories of people emailing SmugMug saying how grateful they were that they had all their important photos on SmugMug – safe and sound, backed up in the cloud.

Our photos are priceless – and SmugMug helps you organize and keep them safe.

SmugMug DesignsFlexible and Powerful Drag-and-Drop Customization – Photographers are striving to create and express. Why should it be any different with our websites? The new SmugMug, released in the summer of 2013 opened up the world of web customization to everyone – not just coders and designers.

SmugMug has dozens of designs that you can choose to use right off the bat. But they are fully customizable with colours, fonts, content blocks and the like. Even the hard-core web designers can have fun with CSS and HTML to really make their sites unique and personal.

It's drag-and-drop easy but if you need some help, you can check out my SmugMug Customization Tutorial.

Making Money – For folks with Portfolio and Business SmugMug accounts, you can set your own prices on everything from prints, merchandise, and even digital downloads.

Making money by selling photos helps off-set the cost of SmugMug

Making money by selling photos helps off-set the cost of SmugMug

After the cost of producing the good(s), the photographer takes home 85% while SmugMug takes 15%. Some people have criticized this split, saying 15% is too much for SmugMug to take. But I disagree. For the 15%, SmugMug takes care of payment processing, order fulfillment, and even takes care of the 100% guarantee and customer service.  Even if I had employees to do this work for me, it would cost me and my business way more.  So yeah, 15% of my profit is just fine with me.

SmugMug has also done a lot of great work for the SmugMug Pro users – adding features like coupon codes, boutique packaging, global currency, and making partnerships with other services like Moo Cards, Animoto, and Blurb to name a few.

Yeah - SmugMug takes their Customer Support "Heroes" thing quit seriously.

Yeah – SmugMug takes their Customer Support “Heroes” thing quit seriously.

Customer Service – They call their team of customer service staff “Support Heroes”.  They even make them wear face paint (hopefully not every day!). But really, I have found their customer support to be one of the best for any company I deal with – not just in photography. Though they are a family-owned intimate business, they have the staff to properly service their customers. When I send a question in to their help email, I usually get a response within an hour. That makes my life easier.

On top of that, SmugMug has been around for a long time – and I don't see them going away (or being acquired by Yahoo) anytime soon. So that gives me confidence that my photos are in the right hands and I don't have to worry about a critical change that could disrupt my business or my life.

It's Not Perfect

The biggest issue with SmugMug is that it's not free – or even cheap. As I mentioned at the top of this post, SmugMug is a premium service. So you need to decide for yourself if the service and benefits that you receive is worth the cost.

I'd say that for anyone selling photos or doing photography as a full or part-time business, it's an easy choice.  Even their top-end package at $300 per year is a steal when you consider how much pro photographers will pay monthly to rent studio space.

Personally, even with my part-time business, I've been able to sell enough prints every year to easily cover the cost of my SmugMug site.

If you have zero interest in selling prints, the choice is a bit more difficult. I'd suggest you look at the free alternatives that are out there, and ask yourself if there is something missing that you really really want. Maybe it's the security features, or the ability to customize and personalize your own site. Maybe you want to make sure your photos are viewed at their very best – not next to some ugly ads.

SmugMug isn't for everybody. But with their 14-day free trial it's easy to sign-up, give it a spin, kick the tires and see if it's a good fit for you.

14 Day Free Trial + 20% Off Coupon

True story.

SmugMug Website Examples – Submit and Vote on Your Favorites

If you're new to SmugMug, be sure to use this link to save 20% on your first year with SmugMug.


The following is a list of beautifully designed SmugMug sites created and used by real photographers.

Use this list to get inspiration and ideas for your SmugMug site.

And feel free to:

  1. vote on your favorites
  2. leave a comment
  3. add your own SmugMug site to the list

If you need help creating your site, check out my step-by-step SmugMug customization tutorial.

How to Create a Gorgeous Photography Website with SmugMug in 90 Minutes – A Complete Step-By-Step Tutorial

2016-02-25 3-45-05 PM

20% Off SmugMug Coupon*

If you are interested in getting started today with SmugMug use the link below to save 20% off ANY of their packages. That will save you money on an already affordable product. You’ll love it!

SmugMug – 20% Off <<– Use this special link to get 20% off your new SmugMug account!

*Already in the 14 day free trial? Shucks, the 20% discount link above only works for brand new signups. Maybe if you haven't started working on your new SmguMug site you could delete it and start a new site using the link above so you can save some money.

Which package should you get?  I suggest either of the SmugMug Pro packages (Portfolio or Business) because I've found it relatively easy to sell enough prints through my SmugMug site to cover the cost of my SmugMug subscription. That's a win-win. :)

Creating my photography website has been one of the best decisions I have made for my business. Ever. Since creating in 2005:

  • I have had a “home” for my images (backed-up, secure, and on display to the world)
  • I am able to direct friends, family (and eventually clients) to my photography website for them to experience my photos the way I want them to be experienced (ad free and without facebook clutter!)
  • I was able to sell my first prints – which led to my second sale, and my third and the eventual launch of my part-time photography business.
  • I have a website to make client images available for viewing, sharing, and purchasing prints and other products – for profit.
  • I have become more confident in my photography. It has been the perfect stepping stone to conquering my fears about what I can product and how I can offer my services to clients.

As a part-time business owner, my website is my storefront. It's where people find out that I exist, and that I offer a valuable service. It's also where they decide if they want to hire me — or not.

It's incredible, and I get a lot of emails from people that either love my photos, love my website, or both. And that is so cool.

Do you really need me to convince you any further? Now is the time to build your website and this post is here to help you make it happen.

Now about this tutorial…

Course Objectives: Mission Possible: Build your very own custom photography website in as short amount of time as possible.

Course Requirements: Nadda, Zip, Zilch — You don't need know ANYTHING about web design or website creation to complete this course. Yippee!

OK, I'm Ready to Take the Course. Let's Do This!

Certainly, just follow me…

Wait, Can I See What My Final Website Will Look Like?

Sure! Check out the demo site – (it's a fake site, clearly) :)

All right. Let's get started!

SmugMug Tutorial Testimonial

Step 1: Sign Up With SmugMug and Upload Our First Gallery

In this video, we'll create our SmugMug account (if you haven't done so already), and create our first gallery – filling it with beautiful images.

Step 2: Upload a few more galleries and create our Portfolio gallery

In this video, we'll fill out our site by creating a few more galleries and uploading more photos. I'll show you how to use the “Quick Settings” feature in SmugMug. Then we'll use the best photos from each gallery to create our very important (and impressive) Portfolio gallery. And we'll be using a secret SmugMug ninja trick to create our Portfolio. That's right – Secret. Ninja. Trick. :)

Step 3: Setup Our Site Settings, Create the Menu Bar and Social Media Profile

Step 3 is about creating our profile and site settings so things just “work” in the later steps.

Step 4: Customizing Our SmugMug Website

In Step 4 we get to have some fun while we customize the look and feel of our website using SmugMug's New “Drag and Drop” customization tools. It's what you've been waiting for I know! No coding, no special skills required. Just follow along and have fun.

Using SmugMug’s new “drag and drop” customization tools we'll make the following changes to your website:

  • Adjust the color of our default “Ludwig” theme
  • Create the homepage slideshow
  • Add a text block (customer quote) under the homepage slideshow
  • Design the Header section – stacked and centered
  • Customize the other page types by removing unwanted content blocks and adjusting the margins

Step 5: Create Our “Work With Me” Page and Contact Form

In this step, we'll create a special page on our website which will provide information about you, the photographer, your services, and client testimonials.

This is where you sell yourself – to hopefully get people to contact you (through our fancy contact form) and attract more business!

  • Get your own custom domain name ( instead of at (yes, they sell .com’s as well as .ca’s and .net’s, etc.).

Bonus Step: The Zen of Pricing Our Photos in SmugMug

In this bonus video, I show you how to simplify the pricing options for both you and your clients to maximize sanity and profits.

So there you have it

I truly hope you enjoyed this tutorial. I spent over 30 hours putting this tutorial together for you and I know it’ll help you fast-track your way to a successful website.

If it has helped you in any way, please do me a favor and let me know in the comments section below and also share this tutorial using the social media buttons at the side of this post. Thank you!!

Cheers, and I’ll see you and your website on the world wide web very soon!

P.S. For those of you who just “scanned” to the bottom of this page (yeah, you!), let me lay it out plain for ya:

  • If you doubt SmugMug – just remember that there is a 14 day free trial. It takes seconds to sign up – and if it's not for you, you'll know it in 14 days and you can just let it go. No strings attached. And if it's good enough for these photographers, it might be good enough for you too!
  • If you doubt my tutorial – just have a browse through the comments below. The videos work, they help, and they don't cost a thing but a little bit of your time. But trust me – it can save you WEEKS of work to get you to a site you love.
  • If you doubt the end result of the SmugMug site I help you create – No worries! We all have our preferences. But if you're still looking at using SmugMug, make sure you use my SmugMug link to save 20%.
  • If you doubt SmugMug and the tutorial – I still love ya. No hard feelings. :)

Please share your thoughts or questions on the tutorial in the comments below. As you can see, I reply to every comment – sometimes faster than you can believe!

I'd love to hear from you.

Zen of Pricing Your Photos in SmugMug

Ariston Collander Photography

The Bonus Video

Just because SmugMug has 3 print labs, and over 300+ product options doesn't mean you need to take advantage of all of them.

In fact, in the name of preventing your customers heads from exploding, I'll be recommending a more minimalist approach.

Less is more, if you will.

In the video below I'll show you the easy way to set your pricelists in SmugMug.

The zen-like approach I'll be recommending looks like this:

  1. Setup one default pricelist to rule all of you galleries and images
  2. Actually reduce the number of products you make available to your customers
  3. Enjoy the pure joy of letting SmugMug do all the hard work while you just rake in the profits (seriously, just keep reading) [Read more…]

The Easy Way to Create Your Website Banner

Website Banner

Photo by docbaty (flickr)

There is a nasty assumption out there that all photographers are web nerds, graphic artists, and just generally technologically savvy people.

That's just not true.

Some are, most are not.

That's why I've been dedicating a lot of my time and energy on this blog to teach my fellow photographers some “how-to's” about working online.  To many photographers, the image making is easy….the web stuff is nuts.

In this post I'm going to share a tutorial where I teach you how to easily create a nice looking banner for your website.

But first, a little story….. [Read more…]

Part 2 – Building Your Wedding Photography Website – 8 Must Haves For You

The average visitor on your website spends maybe 3 or 4 minutes browsing around.

Compare that to the amount of time you spend (or will spend) working in and on your website.

So while it's nice to think about how to create a website that fits the needs of your visitors, equally important is finding a website solution that fits your needs as well.

In this post I'm going to talk about the 8 things your wedding photography website must have for you – the photography business owner (and website manager). [Read more…]

Part 1 – Building Your Wedding Photography Website – 7 Must Haves For Your Visitors

Photo by gilmorec

When building your wedding photography website (or any website for that matter), there are always 2 people to consider:

Your Visitor and You

That's it.

What your visitor sees is called the “front-end” and the “back-end” is the admin area of the website where you, the owner, manage the site.

Both are extremely important to consider when figuring out the best way to exist online as a professional wedding photographer.

In this post, I'm going to focus on some key things to think about from a visitors point of view and in another post I will talk about the “back-end” features you, as the site owner, should be looking for in a functional website. [Read more…]

My Smugmug Website: Set It and Forget It

After I finish editing 364 photos from a wedding shoot, I’m usually pretty exhausted.  But I’m also pretty excited to get the photos in front of the eyes of my client.

So I’m thankful that the next phase in my work-flow is so painless.

By using a premium photo hosting site like smugmug, I am able to utilize their back-end features to optimize my workflow.  I can use preset gallery settings, preset print pricing settings, and I know that it will only take me a few clicks to get my photos from my hard drive, onto my site, and ready to share with my clients. [Read more…]

Step 8 – Create a Gorgeous Photography Website with SmugMug in 90 Minutes

Step 8 – Final Customization Tweaks

So, did you complete Step 7 and create your “Work With Me” page?

If you answered “No” – please head back to Step 7 before moving to Step 8.

If you answered “Yes” – Congrats! You're making progress and you're well on your way to a fantastic new website.

If your answer is “What is this crazy guy talking about?” – then you might want to check out this tutorial intro page.

OK.  Let's get this website completed!

In Step 8 I'll show you how to make some final customization tweaks to complete the design of your website.

[Read more…]

Step 7 – Create a Gorgeous Photography Website with SmugMug in 90 Minutes

So, did you complete Step 6 and create your homepage slideshow?

If you answered “No” – please head back to Step 6 before moving to Step 7.

If you answered “Yes” – Congrats! You're making progress and you're well on your way to a fantastic new website.

If your answer is “What is this crazy guy talking about?” – then you might want to check out this tutorial intro page.

OK.  Let's move on.

In Step 7 I'll show you how to create the “Work With Me” page.

Take Action!

  • Watch the two Step 7 videos below (length: 17 minutes total)
  • Create your “Work With Me” page
    • Create a new gallery called “Work With Me”
    • Follow the gallery settings instructions to create the general layout for the page (using Traditional Journal Style)
    • Upload a photo of yourself as well as several photos from client testimonials (use friends and family if you're just starting out)
    • Write an about me and my services section
    • Copy / Paste REAL testimonials for each testimonial image
  • Add “Work With Me” page to the navigation bar

This step took a little longer than expected.  So I split it up into two videos…

What's Next?

Well, Step 8, of course – where we'll finish off our site with some little customization tweaks.

Why Is This Awesome Tutorial Free?!

Awe shucks. Glad you like it. :)

This tutorial is free for a few reasons:

  1. It's what I would have wanted to watch when I first joined SmugMug back in 2005 and struggled for months to customize my site.
  2. I really enjoy making these kinds of tutorials and helping people out.
  3. I like promoting companies that I have found improve my life somehow – and SmugMug is one of them. SmugMug has helped my photography business in BIG WAYS that make their small fee seem laughable.
  4. I have an affiliate relationship with SmugMug where I make a small commission if someone signs up with them through my affiliate link. It's awesome because it allows me to offer this tutorial for free, give people access and exposure to an awesome service (SmugMug) and save them some cash by giving them a 20% discount. Win-Win-Win. The 14-day free trail means that ONLY people that love their new SmugMug site as much as I do will become paying customers. So there's no risk.

Feeling a Little Discouraged? (gasp!)

You shouldn't be. You're almost done!!


Just one more step to go.

Still Not Quite Sure What This Tutorial is All About?

Visit the main tutorial page which explains the what and the why's of this “how to create a gorgeous photography website” tutorial.