SmugMug 2.0 Review

SmugMug 2.0 was introduced in late July and I love it. SmugMug is a photo-hosting site that allows users to show off their photos and I use it on my website In this post, I provide thoughts on SmugMug 2.0 and improvements over the old version.

After accumulating photos of ballet curtain calls, houses of worship, and landscapes for several years, I got tired of emailing photos to people I know to show off my work. In the summer of 2012, I decided to post my photos online for everyone to see. I looked at a number of photo hosting choices; SmugMug, Zenfolio, and PhotoShelter seemed geared for a more customized, professional look while the other sites were one size fits all. Based on some research and recommendations from prominent photographers on the web, I settled on SmugMug. I contacted Darren Hendricks at DVISO, a SmugMug customizer, to create simple, clean look. He did a great job, creating a nice full screen opening page with a limited number of distractions, eliminating of a number of e-commerce icons as I don’t sell my photos, and creating a link indicating the Creative Commons Copyrights on my photos.

Although I liked my site, there were several negatives to SmugMug. The first obvious downside was the inability to customize the site without CSS or HTML code. Without customization, the standard SmugMug look had a cluttered, busy look, not at all successful in showing off the focus, which are the photos. To set up a professional looking site, using a SmugMug customizer such as DVSO was necessary. I am not allergic to code, but there are other things I would rather be doing, such as photography. Some customizers had off-the-shelf pre-set “skins” that could be quickly adapted to a site-at a cost of hundreds of dollars with more custom work costing more. However, even after a custom job, some features, such as the galleries, looked small and cramped.

Most of the negatives I outlined above changed in late July with the introduction of  SmugMug 2.0. The simplest way I can describe the new SmugMug is that the ultimate result looks like a customized site-but without using customizers or code, with much larger and more appealing category thumbnails and several gallery options for photos in the categories. I was able to put together my website without any customizers. However, it did take work as there were few instructional videos and resources that probably exist today. Basically, I used the following process: (1) hunt, (2) peck, (3) point, (4) click; if not successful, repeat; if not successful repeat with foul language; if still not successful, throw up hands, walk away and come back later.  After a while, I got the hang of it and made progress. Ultimately, I was able to develop a photo website that was much better than my old customized version.

The screenshot below is what you see when you type my domain name: a large scale photo of Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral. There are 24 opening page designs to choose from; some have multiple photos while other have a single photo. I chose the full bleed single photo design. I created my logo in Photoshop and imported on the upper left hand side. On the right-hand side, I arranged various choices that can be clicked: “Home”, “Browse”, “Search”, “About Me”, “Blog”, “Contact”, and “Creative Commons”. The “Browse” button allows viewers to look around at various galleries such as ballet curtain calls, houses of worship, and New York City. “About Me” is a brief bio I put together, “Blog” takes viewers directly to this blog, “Contact” allows viewers to send me an email, and “Creative Commons” provides text of copyright information for my photos.

jing opening Smugnew

The screenshot below provides the result of hitting the Browse button, which are my main galleries such as ABT Curtain Calls, New York City Ballet Curtain Calls, Houses of Worship, etc. Scrolling down provides more alternatives. I like the sleek format of the large photos and how they are arranged.

jing broad categories Smug

Hit the ABT Curtain Call button and the following screen appears, which are subgalleries for each dancer. Scrolling down gives more dancer galleries.

Jing Smug categories new

Hit “Ethan Stiefel” and you get the following screen:

Jing new smug gallery

I like how the large photo on the right covers a large part of the page. Click a photo on the left and the large scale photo appears on the right, with text available by scrolling. Hit the large photo and it appears as a single large photo. Very nice. In the old SmugMug, the gallery photos were smaller and much less visually appealing with a lot of clutter.

Downsides of the new SmugMug? Inputting text was easier in the previous version. Now text is inputted on an Organize tab for all photos. Not a big deal, but I thought it was easier before. Statistics are an area for improvement as the site saves information on the number of hits and clicks on the site for only 30 days. I like the Flickr stats more. Also, note that SmugMug is not big on community features which allow for groups and contact connections. If this is important, go with Flickr.

There are four different SmugMug plans, with the Basic plan costing $40 a year, Power (which I have) at $60, Portfolio at $150, and Business at $300. The Portfolio and Business plans are geared for photographers that sell their photos. Customization features for Power are the same as the latter two categories. Here is a summary of the plans and cost.

Bottom line: The new SmugMug makes it easy to construct a great website to show off your photos and text at a reasonable price. It contains a large number of layouts and designs and is easy to try out numerous combinations before taking a design live.

Disclosure: I don’t receive any compensation or discounts from SmugMug.

Here are reviews from Trey Ratcliff at Stuck in Customs, PC Magazine, and Scott Kelby.