I have been a WordPress user since December 2006. I’ve also tried my hand at Squarespace just to see how good and how effective it is for photographers.
Off late a few of my colleagues have praised SmugMug as a platform designed for photographers.
So much so that I have finally decided to give it a shot and find out for myself whether it is as good as Squarespace or WordPress or better.
So this is going to be the first-hand review of SmugMug from the perspective of a photographer.
If you are a photographer, regardless of your level of expertise, you need a website to showcase your work. Now, the world’s favorite content management system is WordPress.
More people use this than anything else to manage their websites. However, the problem with WordPress is that it has a long learning curve.
Even though you don’t have to do a fresh install of the CMS and a template is pre-installed when you first fire up WordPress, you still got to know how to install a new template and set it up.
This is pretty much where things start to get out of hand. Soon things become even more complicated when you have to switch on or switch off features in a template that you need or don’t need.
This is where you realize that the world’s most popular CMS system is not your cup of tea.
You need expert hands, someone who knows his way around WordPress and can take care of the little things you need to be modified from time to time.
This is where SmugMug comes into the frame.
Before I start deliberating my experiences of working with SmugMug, let me quickly jot down the various plans that SmugMug offers. SmugMug subscription plans have four different levels.
The cheapest plan starts at $7 a month. This is the basic plan. It includes unlimited full-resolution storage of your images, a personalized photo website, and several privacy and security controls.
To add to that you get 24/7 real human support. and to make the deal even sweeter you get a free desktop and mobile application.
The next plan is the Power plan. This next higher-tiered plan costs $11 per month. You get everything that’s covered in the basic plan plus an intuitive drag and drop tool that allows you to design your templates.
This is where things get interesting provided you know your way around content management systems.
You also get complete website customization, plus advanced security and privacy controls and a personalized domain name.
The Portfolio plan should interest users who are into selling photographs and other photo products because it comes with an integrated e-commerce solution.
Finally, there’s the Pro plan which costs $42 a month. It includes everything in order the basic plan portfolio and the power plans and includes, in addition, a custom photo and gallery pricing solution.
You also get a client management tool manager client list that should help you to do basic CRM tasks.
Finally, you get marketing promotions coupons and packages which should help you too to market your products and your services and give you that competitive edge that can showcase your services and your products ahead of your competition.
The dollars 42 pro plan sounds very expensive but for someone who has a plan and wants to sell its products and services, the pro plan does seem like the best overall option.
If you’re a beginner somebody just looking to launch a website office photograph and wants to have an online presence and the basic plan is the most sensible plan to go for.
Once you start getting some revenue to start getting the traction you can always upgrade to the next higher plan that fits your requirements.
The initial task is to get your website set up and that is where you begin to feel that SmugMug is one of the most simplistic tools that you may have ever used. Let me elaborate.
SmugMug offers a lot of options to change a template. But the thing is SmugMug’s templates are designed to be image-heavy.
You can add blocks of text, but this is where you tweak the layout and make it work for you.
Speaking of tweaking, that is something that SmugMug can do. I haven’t used any CMS before that is so easy to work with.
Moving a block of text or an image around involves just dragging and dropping and the background codes are written automatically. I haven’t found things this easy in WordPress.
Colors, fonts, and font size, everything is editable and all of that is easy to do.
Connecting Your Domain
SmugMug offers two options to connect your website to a domain.
You can either go for the Power plan or above in which case they offer you a personalized domain name which you can connect seamlessly to your website hosted on SmugMug’s servers.
Alternatively, you can buy any plan you choose, use your existing domain name and connect the same to your website.
Detailed instructions to connect your domain name to your website will be provided to you.
There is a third option though I do not recommend this option because it does not involve using a top-level domain (TLD). It is using a free domain, something like www.yourwebsite.smugmug.com.
As this is not a TLD you will have issues ranking for it. If the whole idea is to offer your services as a photographer, I insist that you don’t opt for this option.
Selling On SmugMug
The whole idea behind setting up a SmugMug website is so that you can automate your product selling.
As a photographer, selling your prints is something that you would want to do and give you the highest gratification.
Seeing your work being displayed on someone’s wall is an amazing feeling. But to be able to do that you need an option where you can accept orders, process them, get the prints done, get the prints framed, and ship it out.
There are multiple steps to selling prints online and sometimes the sheer amount of work is what discourages photographers to attempt it.
With SmugMug, this becomes very easy. The first thing is the ordering and order processing work.
With integrated ordering modules, this is taken care of by SmugMug.
Next is the actual printing process. SmugMug has tied up with some of the leading printing solutions namely – BayPhoto, WHCC, Loxley Colour, and EZPrints.
They offer excellent printing solutions with the added convenience of shipping the products directly to your client’s doorstep.
What Are The Different Products You Can Sell?
SmugMug’s range of diversified tie-ups gives you the freedom to choose a range of products that you can sell on your website.
These include but are not limited to different types of prints, wall-arts, keepsakes, books, albums, and more. And these are just the highlights.
Under keepsakes, you can offer large fridge magnets, keepsake boxes, photo keytag, coasters, Mugs, round buttons and so much more.
SmugMug offers a range of wall art solutions that include many different varieties of materials that your clients can choose from.
From Acrylic metal to traditional canvas to stretched canvas and wood, there are more than a dozen different materials to choose from.
When it comes to paper prints there are more than 70 different types of sizes that you can offer your clients to choose from in a variety of different finishes.
What Else Can You Do With SmugMug?
SmugMug is more than just a website or a selling platform. You can do a lot more with it.
Let’s say you want a secure platform to store all your RAW files. SmugMug allows you to store all your files, no matter how large they are and how many you have, no strings attached.
With SmugMug’s cloud storage external hard drives is a thing of the past. Now you can upload all your photos, over Wi-Fi to secure storage without having to wait till returning to your office.
The best thing is none of your images are compressed and there is no limit to how many images you can upload.
The only capping is in the file size. You can upload maximum file size of 150 MB per image.
And with SmugMug’s privacy tools your photos are never shared, mined, or accessed by anyone except for you, giving your complete peace of mind that your photos are stored in a secure place ready to access on demand.
Plus, this whole backup process can be automated using the SmugMug app mobile and desktop apps.
The best thing about SmugMug is that it gives you the full platform to start your photography business.
You don’t need to learn even a single line of code to use the platform to start your business.
From setting up your website, content, and image placements, to setting up your store, product listing to integrating a cart and checkout and finally printing and shipping SmugMug takes care of every aspect of running the business side of things so that you can focus on your strength – make stunning photographs.
All in all, this is a great solution and one that I would strongly recommend.
Rajib is an avid travel photographer and an overall shutterbug. The first time he ever clicked an image was with an Agfa Click IV back in 1984. A medium format film camera. From that auspicious introduction to photography, he has remained hooked to this art form. He loves to test and review new photography gear. Rajib travels quite a lot, loves driving on Indian roads, playing fetch with his Labrador retriever, and loves photography. And yes, he still proudly owns that Agfa Click IV!