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 – www.ryanoakleyphotography.ca

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.

Comments

  1. Hello Ryan, Do you earn money with smugmug? I am a new trial user, i need some advices and tips.

  2. Thanks for the review, very educating. I am just starting out and I was looking for a place to enhance sales etc. Smugmug is it! I am on the 14 day trial now, I am leaning towards upgarding soon. Thanks Ryan.

  3. Hi there.

    Nice review. I love SmugMug – love the way I can customize my galleries and pages. The new version is mind blowing. You can see my SmugMug site here:

    http://www.photom.me

    • Hi Tom – You have incredible portraits on your site. And I LOVE what you were able to create with SmugMug. A very clean, powerful design. I’m super impressed! Well done!

  4. Phillip says:

    I use them for hosting but i can’t bring myself to use them for fulfillment – it annoys me to no end that they not only take a % of your markup but they also jack up the base cost – if i order via ezprints for example I pay less than what they list as the base price for the same item. They are taking not only their listed cut of it, but also a hidden markup for themselves.

    Other than that I’m very fond of the service.

    • Hi Phillip. Thanks for your comment. Probably the biggest reason I use SmugMug is the ease of use. My clients can order prints without me lifting a finger. And I know the quality will be there. That’s not to say there aren’t cheaper options out there. Thanks for sharing your experience with ezprints. I’ll have to check them out.

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