Do you consider yourself a memory maker? Is photography your biggest passion, or even better, your profession? Well, if the answer to those two questions is ‘yes,’ then the next step you need to take is building your online portfolio!
In theory, this sounds really easy. However, the reality is quite different! Web designers are everything but cheap, and often, snappers rely on social media to display their wares. Still, Tumblr, Instagram, and Flickr are not the best solutions for turning into a pro.
A true professional will need a professionally-made portfolio, and in today’s SmugMug review, we will introduce you to the best website builder for photographers and their photography business (or hobby.)
What are the Pros and Cons of SmugMug?
Let’s start with a quick overview of what to expect if you choose to use SmugMug:
Pros of SmugMug
- It is built by photographers for photographers;
- Unlimited photo and video uploads;
- Beautiful premade portfolio templates that are also mobile-responsive;
- Using SmugMug is super easy due to the drag-and-drop customization;
- Plenty of eCommerce options for your SmugMug site;
- SEO optimization;
- Fully hosted;
- Free for 14 days.
Cons of SmugMug
- SmugMug does not offer as many templates as other website builders do;
- The customization tools offered are not intuitive;
- There is no free SmugMug plan;
- The maximum length of the videos is 20 minutes;
- The basic plan does not allow you to create your own custom themes.
Overview of SmugMug
Photography is an art, but if you want to turn that art into a photography business, you will need something more than a ‘good eye’… you’ll need a website builder like SmugMug. The best part about this website builder is that it is code-free and affordable at the same time!
SmugMug was founded years ago, back in 2002, when digital photography overtook films and almost every fifth person owned a digital camera. The need for a home where people could store their billions of photos slowly emerged and SmugMug was created precisely with this goal- to offer customers a place where they could shine and stand out.
SmugMug allows photographers to design a web portfolio that is just as professional as a custom-made site. The only difference is that photographers can do that for a fraction of the usual price and save not only time but money as well. That is also the reason why people who love photography continue to write positive reviews about SmugMug!
If we have to be one hundred percent objective, SmugMug is a lot more than simply a website builder that offers a photo-sharing service.
SmugMug is also a community that can help you with your photography education. On the company’s site, you can find various films made by photographers using SmugMug. Moreover, you can read thousands of interesting stories shared on SmugMug’s blog.
Still, like anything in this strange but beautiful world, SmugMug has its positive and negative sides. In our review of SmugMug, we want to show you both sides of the coin and help you decide for yourself if the platform is the right tool for your photography and portfolio sites.
Who is SmugMug Best For?
Even though it has a funny name, SmugMug is very serious about providing its customers with professional services. Its primary goal is to make any photograph look fantastic, and that’s why SmugMug is a great choice for all photographers who want to build a strong online presence.
Nowadays, there are many photography website builders that you can choose from. Some of the market-leading names like Weebly and Wix offer amazing features and intriguing plans. However, SmugMug focuses entirely on portfolio templates and does not offer other services as most website builders do.
This can be considered both an advantage and a disadvantage. We prefer to look at things from their positive side, though! That’s why we believe that SmugMug offers only portfolio templates in order to ensure photographers will get the best settings that will make their images display beautifully and load quickly.
All of the above-mentioned turns SmugMug into the best choice for all designers and artists who want to show and sell their visual work on the Internet. However, you don’t need to be a seller to use SmugMug. Many photographers choose the platform to share client galleries and tout for business.
It is also important to mention that SmugMug offers a 14-day free trial. That way, you can get to know how SmugMug works and if you would like to continue using it for your projects. Keep in mind, though, that there is no free plan after that trial period expires!
How popular is SmugMug?
Unlike Wix, SmugMug is a private company, which means it does not publicly share its user numbers. Still, considering the numerous SmugMug reviews and the company’s popularity, we can safely assume that millions of customers have chosen SmugMug to share their photos with the rest of the world.
When compared to Wix, SmugMug is not as popular. This is only logical since it is a specialist service. However, when we compare it to other portfolio builders like Zenfolio, 500px, and Flickr, SmugMug is doing just fine!
You should keep in mind, though, that a comparison between SmugMug and Flickr is not really fair since the latter is a community photo feed. The best thing you can do is not trying to choose between both but actually use them together. Don’t stop reading to find out how!
How Easy is SmugMug to Use?
Many SmugMug reviews out there state that the best part about this platform is its speed and ease of use. Creating a SmugMug account is pretty much a breeze, and the setup process is super fast. We also noticed that the SmugMug setup questions were fewer than what we experienced with Squarespace or Wix.
The first thing you’ll need to do is choose the text that will go before ‘smugmug.com’ in your address, or in other words, the URL. Then you will have to specify if you plan on selling photos. Once your account is created, you can start building your gallery by adding all the photos you want- those from last night’s party or those from the professional wedding shoot you just did a couple of weeks ago.
Another thing we were impressed with was the range of import options SmugMug provides, but we’ll get to that later, so keep on reading! When you’re done uploading your photos, it is time to publish them.
If, for some reason, you are in a hurry and don’t have time to choose a template, you can do that later because SmugMug offers a default template that will get you covered for the time being. Keep in mind, though, that this default template is not the best-looking one, especially if you want to create a professional-looking gallery. In fact, it looks quite like the profile/cover template that Facebook has.
Since we promised to be honest in our SmugMug review, we have to mention that our main problem with the default template was not really how it looked but how hard it was to set the right shape of the cover and profile photos.
This is because SmugMug uses a system of ‘content blocks,’ which basically means you can’t resize your photos by dragging their edges. Repositioning your photos inside the blocks is also not allowed, so we had to spend about twenty minutes getting the right shape.
Most people are used to the drag-and-zoom freedom offered by photo-editing software, so these “content blocks” will be really irritating for them. Still, there is a way (sort of) for a photographer to handle this situation, and we’ll tell you more about it in just a few minutes.
If you’re one of those lucky guys who manage to fit their photos to the default templates from the first time, then you can quickly publish your gallery in no time! Then, it is time for some other more complicated questions, such as how to import from Flickr and how to customize your home page and portfolio.
Can You Import from Flickr and Dropbox into Your SmugMug Photos?
If you are a photographer with many years of experience, or photography has been your hobby for many years now, you probably have posted all of your best shots on Flickr or have shared them in Dropbox. One of SmugMug’s greatest advantages is that it lets you copy your photos straight from your accounts there.
This online import option saves clients a lot of time and effort and is only the first of several options you get to add photos to your account in SmugMug. Importing directly from the other online photo-hosting services you use, you won’t have to go through the photos on your computer or, as a matter of fact, save photos on your computer at all.
With just one click, you can link your SmugMug account to your Dropbox, Amazon Drive, or Flickr account and select the photos you want to import. It simply cannot get more user-friendly than that! This import option is efficient, secure, and easy!
Once you arer done adding photos to your account, you can turn to the built-in file manager and organize your images into folders and galleries. You could also edit them and crop them if you wish. If you don’t use Flickr or any of the other platforms we just mentioned, you might want to use some of the other import options SmugMug provides.
With SmugMug, you can import images from your tablet or phone since the company has an official SmugMug app for iPhone and Android. This mobile app not only lets you upload photos while you are out and about but also allows you to create galleries while on the go. Of course, you could also upload photos from your computer.
Add photos like a pro with the SmugMug Lightroom Plug-in
Another thing we really like about SmugMug is that it uses Adobe’s premium software, Lightroom. The Lightroom plugin is completely free and pretty much acts like a browser extension. With the Lightroom plugin, you can create and manage your galleries directly from Lightroom, even if you are offline.
The Lightroom plugin is a great feature since it is super powerful and lets you act quickly. That being said, you can publish the wedding photos you have taken even before your clients have left their venue. For all the pros who took on photography years ago, the Lightroom plugin is definitely a must-have, and the fact that SmugMug offers it makes the platform a must-have as well.
How Good are SmugMug’s Templates?
SmugMug currently offers its users a small group of 26 templates. This number makes the template gallery a relatively small one, but the truth is the templates are perfectly chosen, and there is something for each taste.
If we compare SmugMug to some of the market-leading website builders like Wix, we will clearly see that the variety of templates is rather small (as we already explained). However, considering how affordable SmugMug is, we really can’t expect it to offer a ton of template categories and industry types.
It’s important to mention that after the first 14 days, during which you can use SmugMug for free, you will have to choose one of SmugMug’s plans. The cheapest one includes only 6 layout options. If you want to have full access to the 26 templates offered by the website builder, you will have to pay at least $16.00 per month for the Power plan.
To answer the question “how good are SmugMug templates,” we would say good enough! The site builder focuses on providing a succinct group of templates that will make your images look as good as possible. Besides, you won’t have to spend hours digging through the different pages with previews to choose your favorite.
Each template suits different types of photographers. For example, if you choose Sierra, your photos will be displayed full-screen. This is perfect if your portfolio is not that big, it consists of high-quality shots, and you wish to sell prints. On the other hand, Vida offers a unique photo-blog way to show off your photographer skills.
Another template we really like is Octavia. It showcases a couple of your images at once and allows your visitors to swiftly scroll through the rest. It is very suitable for event customers, especially wedding ones.
How customizable are SmugMug’s templates?
All of SmugMug’s templates look cool, but there is one significant drawback- they are really inflexible. You are allowed to move blocks around, but you cannot reposition photos inside them or drag their edges.
While choosing a different template would allow you to somewhat tweak the layout of your site, there is another way you can try that will allow you to craft your own unique site- delete the blocks you don’t need. Yes, it turns out you can delete and replace blocks!
Moreover, SmugMug also offers an HTML and CSS editor as long as you sign up for the Power, Portfolio, or Pro plans. We will tell you more about that later on in our SmugMug review when we discuss the plans.
Will your SmugMug site look great on mobile screens?
One of SmugMug’s greatest advantages is that it automatically optimizes your site for all types of screens. This means that you won’t have to create another mobile-friendly version of your portfolio and lose precious time you can use for taking even more breath-taking, high-quality photos.
This responsive design makes SmugMug worth it, and it also puts it in line with other well-known website builders that are design-focused like Wix, Squarespace, and Weebly. Moreover, getting a free mobile app to archive, edit, and share your photos while on the go is also a significant advantage.
The one thing we didn’t like, though, is that to see how your mobile version looks like, you have to open your portfolio, well, from your mobile phone. There is no mobile preview mode offered.
What SmugMug Pricing Plan Should You Choose?
SmugMug offers four plans, and all of them are quite affordable:
The first one, also the cheapest, is called Basic (no wonder) and costs $11.00 per month. If, however, you choose to pay annually, you will save 35%, for you will be required to pay only $90.
Probably the greatest disadvantage of SmugMug is the fact that it does not offer a free plan. A website builder like Wix, for example, lets you publish and create as many portfolios as you like for free and do it for as long as you like. On the other hand, SmugMug offers only a free 14-day period (which, if we look at it from the bright side, is still something.)
Now, let’s go back to the Basic plan! With this package, you get your own customizable site, unlimited photo uploads, quick drag-and-drop photo organization, password-protected galleries, folders, and pages, beautiful, full-screen galleries, and more.
As we already mentioned, you can only choose between 6 templates, and you can’t create custom themes using your own color combinations and font. With this plan, you also cannot use your own domain or take advantage of the eCommerce tools offered by the website builder.
The second plan costs $16.00 per month or $132 per year (you will save 29%). Here, you can choose from all of the templates SmugMug offers, and you also get optional HTML and CSS customization if you like coding.
The good thing about this package is that it allows you to use your own domain name and enables right-click protection on images. You will also be allowed to use your own fonts and colors. Still, the package does not include eCommerce features, so if that is what you want, take a look at the next two suggestions!
This suggestion will cost you $34.00 monthly and $270 annually, which once again means you can save more than 33% if you choose the annual deal. With Portfolio, you get all of the things we mentioned above + turnkey storefront and eCommerce-optimized galleries.
For this price, you will also get live chat, custom print marking for your items, a personalized shopping cart, and custom backprinting for your prints. Still, the package does not include the option for personal delivery, so if you want additional features like this one, the last and most expensive suggestion might be the best choice for your needs.
This SmugMug suggestion is ideal for all those who are really serious about building their brand and need a business plan. It costs $50.00 per month or $432 annually (you will save 29%) and will be the best choice for you if you are a professional photographer who needs plenty of client tools, a robust workflow, and wants to sell prints.
It is once again fully hosted and includes unlimited storage of your photos, responsive design, SEO tools, live chat, your own custom domain, shopping cart, and all of the photo-sharing options the website builder offers with the Portfolio suggestion.
The additional features you get with the Portfolio package are brand shipped orders, gift-wrapped boutique packaging, personal delivery, and thank-you cards.
You are also allowed to create custom single- and multi-image packages, let users choose their favorite images, design custom coupons for promotions, and create custom price lists for individual galleries.
How Good is SmugMug’s Help and Support?
To write our own SmugMug review, we had to try the platform ourselves and go through many other SmugMug reviews posted online. In terms of customer service, we were amazed by SmugMug’s help center. The fact that the company allows you to attend live, online SmugMug training events is also amazing!
In fact, SmugMug can actually help you improve your photography with its Digital Grin forum. Still, let’s go back to customer support. All of SmugMug’s plans include 24/7 real-human support. However, only the Portofilo and Pro plans offer live chat, which is a bummer.
SmugMug Review Summary: Should You Use it to Build Your Online Store?
As you can see from our review, SmugMug has a lot to offer! Its plans are quite affordable, and it also offers a free trial for fourteen days, which means you can give it a try and decide if it is the right site builder for your needs.
Even though there are a few things we don’t like about SmugMug’s features, we are pleased to say that we are overall happy with our customer experience (just like the reviews of other people who have tried the platform state.)
SmugMug offers relatively good customer service with a team of professionals ready to help you 24/7. The process of starting up your portfolio is easy and, most importantly, quick, and even though you don’t have many template options, they are still enough to find the perfect fit for your images.
In conclusion, we would say that SmugMug cannot be compared with Wix when it comes to versatility and offered services, but it is still suitable for any photographer who wants to start building their online presence and not get ripped off!