By: SmugMug, Inc.
In this era of technology, capturing precious moments has never been so much easier than before. Every day and every moment at present, millions of photos are being taken, be it by professionals, families, government, or any human with access to these devices.
Now with so many photos at our disposal, we need to store them and then create a platform where we can share them with our friends, family, or other audiences. To do this, either we share offline prints of the photos we clicked or upload them across social media or similar photo sharing platform.
What if we want to sit at home relaxed and do all the sharing and selling stuff without too much hassle. To do this, we can use a website builder and upload the photos in the gallery and wait for the responses.
However, a dedicated website builder is made for a full-fledged website and buying their packages will be an over-investment. For that reason, a dedicated photo manager or portfolio website is precisely what we need.
As we discussed above, Photo Sharing websites are used as an online platform to share, sell, or display images like personal memories, models, art galleries, etc.
These websites are dedicated to the above purpose only, and so they are equipped with tools only for the above tasks. This separates them from regular site builders and also reduces the overall learning curve. Also, you will not have to pay for the unused features like in the regular site builder.
SmugMug is also a part of such a Photo Sharing Website. Started in 2002 with a minuscule budget, this Photo sharing site from California, has gained its name with efforts, and now has acquired another photo-sharing site called Flickr.
It has provided distinct types of accounts, and each shares some features and also quite distinguishable from each other.
With the tag line “You are not our Product, you are our Priority,” SmugMug now has millions of customers across the world and with data from the year 2010, possess around two petabytes of images in Amazon S3 cloud.
SmugMug categorizes its userbase into three basic categories viz. Memory Makers, Enthusiasts, and Professionals. As one can deduce from these, all kind of people are welcomed to try the SmugMug services.
It comes with a two-week free trial version. This plan includes all amenities of the pro version, and so the customers can check the working and features of the site themselves at ease.
As we said earlier, if you want to upload family moments, model photography, art gallery, or travel pictures, SmugMug is perfect for you to quench that thirst.
To start with, you need to make a new account on the SmugMug website. Before deciding for the subscription, we suggest you start with the free trial version. Register for this free trial edition, and then you can go to the template selection mode.
After selecting the templates, it will ask you to give a name for your website. There is also an option at the beginning where you can choose the photos you want to display on the website.
This photo upload option, in the beginning, will help you add all the photos to the images at one go. This can prevent the later on the hassle of picking the photos one by one for content on your site.
After that SmugMug will start the initial setup guide. You can skip it right away if you are familiar with it else it just takes 5 minutes to get through this interactive setup guide.
The four primary processes to portfolio site usage are Adding Photos, choosing a Design for the site, Arranging the Photos and Gallery and then Selling/Printing them.
As we have already done the uploading part, we now proceed to choose the design for our site. The different templates will aid you with design as you need. Choose any one from them.
Next step is organizing the gallery! You will need to change the order if the images in the slider gallery, or in the grid view, sort them as per size, date added, or manual sorting order.
Once done, you can now follow to the actual goal of your site building, i.e., either sharing it with relatives and friends or selling them online. So now, we will be advancing to check out all the functionalities and features SmugMug has to provide.
Now comes one of the most critical limbs of any thorough website, its templates. The template is the predetermined set of the body for the website, on which you can apply customization later on.
As we have said earlier, there are some major differences between the traditional website builders and the Photo sharing websites. The templates are built accordingly and are usually less customizable than the website builders.
To access the templates, you will need to go to the features tab on the home page of SmugMug. From here, you will have to choose the template that is best for your site.
The templates provided by SmugMug are simple portfolio websites like family photos, weddings, dates, Baby showers, etc. It also contains sites for model photography and personal portfolio for models and artists to highlight their gallery.
There is also set for adventures lovers like Hiking templates, seashore adventures, travel blogs and for food lovers. All these templates have fixed editing, and most of them require only uploading and editing information to work around.
You can select the gallery and display of photos on your site after you have chosen the template. We would not complain much here since the stocks of templates for any photo sharing sites are limited, but we hope that SmugMug adds more templates under categories like athletes, sportsmen, camping, Vlogs, and more such distinct groups.
Let us now head on to see the main editor that comes with these websites and see how much customization they have to offer.
The editor of any website builder is the essential function of it. Whatever the functionalities this editor offers, it will decide the type of website you can make and how much viewer can customize the site.
SmugMug has an editor that although very friendly, does not offer much customization. As you proceed after the template selection, you will land to the main page editor.
The editor here is a bit different than the usual website builders. Rather than providing a click to change interface, there is only a hover on to change used. You will not be able to change all things right away on this editor.
There is the main toolbar over the top of the editor. Unlike regular site builders, it can only edit the page if you select the Customize tab from the toolbar. When you click on this customize button, the main option you will see here are Site-Wide Theme, Content & Design and Choose New Site Design.
To start with, the Site-Wide theme offers a full site theme change. Using this option, the entire theme across all pages can be changed. The themes provided in this option are very plain and consists of choices like Plain abstracts, colors, weather themes, textures, patterns, and custom images.
The changes in the theme are not so significant. Also, the customization via this change in theme is trifling. The changes to these themes must be similar to the level of change in the templates.
The next section in the customization tab is Content & Design. As the name here points, this tab will provide the customization for the various elements of the site. On this page, the users will find all the widgets and adding various other site elements.
As you click on this option, you will be redirected to the customization page. One thing you will notice is that SmugMug offers to edit only the selected page. Like other site builders where you directly hover on an element and change it, you must select a page from the navigation bar first.
The changes that will be across all pages is highlighted by red box whereas the changes on that particular page only will be highlighted in blue color.
One of the restrictions that you will notice is that the widgets cannot be dropped in some random space on the site. It will show you a warning that the element can only be added to the green highlighted area.
The + sign just below the top toolbar will display all the elements and widgets that you can add to that page. As usual, this area is restricted too. We will discuss about the widgets in our next section in detail.
The site editor for individual elements to has restricted editing. In a way, this is actually a plus point for portfolio or photo sharing websites. This is because of the fact that the goal of these sites is usually to share the content and for that, too much control to the owners can confuse them and spoil the theme of the website. This may affect negatively to the viewers or buyer on that image sharing site.
After you are finished with the addition or editing the photos on your site, there is a preview button on the top menu bar. Use that to see how the conceived changes will look.
One thing that we found a bit strange compared to typical website builder in SmugMug is the frequent reload of the entire page for every minor change. From preview mode to customization settings, or using the image editors, the pages reload entirely, making it a bit of annoying.
The simple windowed mode for such features of the site can avoid this issue. Also, the editor needs a modern aesthetic look in terms of design, which we think is achievable for developers. Other than that, the editor was fast and responsive and also lag free.
Be it a website builder or a Photo sharing site, additional elements or widgets play a vital role in improving the user experience or giving new features to play with. Since it is a basic photo sharing website, we can expect that most widgets will be related to photo related stuff.
To access the widgets, the users need to select a page on which they want to add them. After that, select the Content and Design Tab from the top menu bar. This will lead you to the editing page. Select the + Icon from the top right just below the navigation bar on the top.
You will see all the list of widgets and list of entire pages of the site. You can directly pick the page from this list and go to that page for editing it.
The main three tabs that widgets function will have are Content, Theme, Background, and Layout. All these features are very user-friendly and are part of drag and drop editing.
The first tab Content has the main set of widgets and other additional elements. The All the Galleries option here will add changes to the listed elements across all pages. It has items like Logo, Menu, and Social Icons.
Next option in this tab is Add Content Blocks. As its name, this option has all the widgets that can be added to the site. Certain widgets can be added directly while some needed the custom CSS and HTML help.
The first block in the content tabs is adding Galleries. This option is used to add Galleries, Folders, and Pages to the website. This is the utmost decisive part of the widgets for a photo sharing website.
The gallery can be added and displayed in any format viz. portrait, Landscape, vertical, etc. The Gallery content can be adjusted accordingly, but not much customization is possible here.
The minor changes like change in the aspect ratio, Tile Size, alignment, and display style is possible. You can move this window to get a proper view of the changes.
Another thing you can add via Gallery Tab is folders. These folders are similar to the ones on your OS. You can create a subfolder type hierarchy. You can add some photos under a collection/folder and add that to here.
The pages function works similarly. However, it will allow you to add pages to the site. From here you can either create a separate page or subpages. This is very easily organizable via the list of pages in the widget's window.
Then there is a combined option to add all the three above elements. This feature is a bit complicated, and so you better refer to the help section to properly see its usage.
You do not want to display empty galleries on your website, isn’t it? To fill those empty galleries, you will need something called pictures or photos. Not that this feature is the image manager of the site but adds to the work of the gallery.
In this section, you can directly add the photos you want to via options like single or multiple photos, slideshow, and carousel. The images have a similar level of customization as seen in the gallery feature.
You can add multiple photos to the slideshow, change the animation style, photo sizes, auto scroll speed, etc. This will help to customize various kinds of images accordingly and improve the visual aesthetics of the site.
Nowadays, along with tonnes of photos, we also have videos across numerous online platforms. We can similarly synchronize all the video data here.
Similar to the photos, the videos can also be added in the gallery. However, you will need to upload the video on this site’s server. There is no option to add the URL of a video directly. You can, however, add YouTube videos or Vimeo videos directly via the URL.
Other than this, manual editing of the videos, or linking direct video URLs of other sites or any other form of customization like in photos is not available.
Do not be confused from the above title as both of them may sound similar but are different widget functionality.
The Navigation tab in the widgets can be used to add the site mapping feature. The users can add Menus, Breadcrumbs, Button and featured events using it.
The first option of menus will add any page to the main menu of the site. This menu is visible to that page only, and so it is separate from the main navigation bar across all pages. In this menu, you can add subpages or hidden pages that you do not want to be visible over the main navigation bar.
The Breadcrumb is also another feature given in the navigation widget. Breadcrumb is essentially displaying the list of previous pages of the hierarchy which the user visited. This is like the back button of windows explorer displaying the previous folders visited. This display is useful for jumping to the previous pages by clicking on the links directly.
One more link navigation feature given here is adding Button links. Usually, on many sites, you will notice that individual links are presented in the form of a button on the screen. This can also be done in the SmugMug.
You can customize the look of the button, ad URL to it, select alignment, size, text color, etc. while setting it up. There is no manual color selection for these buttons. You will need to select only the theme as per the website.
Another feature in the navigation widget that you can explore is event management. Similar to the events manager, you can also add certain events in this section. There is also a sort option available to keep check of these events.
Let's head on to next widget tab called Discovery. This tab lists out the Search Box, Keyword Cloud, and Map.
As you can guess, the search box is the typical search button for the website. It will fetch you all the search results from the given pages. Another similar item is Keyword Cloud. This is similar to tags in the blogs that you see. These keywords can be restricted to current pages and also set a limit to the maximum number of keywords.
The last thing here is adding maps. This is a very simple map and can just let you explore the continents. This feature could have been made much better by adding an interactive version of the map. The map could be made to point the delivery locations of the studio printers and then guide on the distance of the current address of the customers.
Overall, the navigation functionalities are quite ok as per the standards of a photo sharing site. It could have been made more user-friendly if they allowed more display changes like colors, fonts, etc. for them.
The Design tab is used to change the logo, separators, and spacer on the website. The Text section will let you add text or titles on the pages, while the last tab in the widgets will allow the custom CSS and HTML added to the site.
The logo of the site is usually to be displayed on the head of the website. The logo button in the design tab has basic editing options. It will allow you to add the logo in text format, with general formattings like color, font, and size.
You can also add the official logo of your company by uploading the image. Use any tagline below the logo. Then you can add things like separators and spacer in the page using the design tab.
Separators are useful to visually separate the content on the pages while spacers can divide the content across a horizontal plane. You can later add any other widget in this divided space. These are therefore only basic change features in the design tab of the widgets. It could have been increased in the features, but that would make it much complicated for elementary users.
The text widget is like any other widget in site builder. It will add a text field to the designated point. You can also add a title text with desired font type, size, and colors.
Lastly, the custom CSS and HTML is mostly used by the advanced users, who have knowledge in these programming languages. This can help them organize the site code or inspect certain widgets or input some scripts in the site. Contrary to many site builders, this feature was available in the free trial version.
Most website editors have so many items for social media widgets from Facebook, Instagram, Google+, etc. With the addition of these services to your site, the users can have better marketing of their website via social media.
The social widget can be accessed from the widget’s menu via the Social Tab. This tab has some common social media options like adding Social Profile, Social Icon, Share buttons, Comments, Feed, and Google+ Badge. As you can see, these are enough for adding some social media support to your site.
The Services Tab in the widgets include the options to add the Google Calendar, Google Translate, and AdSense. The Google Translate and Google Calendar are pretty much basic and similar other calendars can be added to the site via CSS/HTML scripts.
To add AdSense and increase the monetization of your website, Google AdSense can help you place some ads on your site. However, the AdSense will not work on the subdomain URL of the site. You will need your own domain or custom domain to integrate it on the site.
As we have discussed before, the themes for this site builder is different from the templates. Themes in this site builder are used to change the basic color and font scheme across various elements of the site like the headers, footers, background, and any such changes.
As you go the themes menu, you will notice the list of default themes and many more given by SmugMug. Apart from that, you can create a custom theme of your own.
Few of the typical themes bagged by SmugMug are textures, patterns, seasons, abstracts, background photos, and Plain colors. Most of the time, these options will be enough for regular users.
To create the custom themes, use the Create Custom Theme button in the theme manager. From here, a new window will pop up, and you will have to fill the details there. The custom theme has options to add different fonts and colors for header, footer, body, links, and change the background images across different pages.
You can also change the theme for site sections or some of the widgets from this custom theme. Further, there is custom CSS choice for users with advanced knowledge of site making, and they can add more changes to the appearance via themes.
The last option in the widget menu is Layouts. This option will let the users tweak with the arrangement of the items on your site. Most people will prefer a simple layout for easy usability of the website.
To change the layout of the site, there are two basic options for you viz. Fixed and Stretchy. As the name of each suggests, the fixed layout makes the element static on the site, while the stretchy design will expand the elements as per their sizes and not fit them in the box.
Usually, the fixed layout has much better control over the display of the site. From the layout settings for the fixed type, you have choices to alter the width and height of content like body, header, margins, sections, and sidebars. The data input here is in the form of pixels.
It could have been based on predefined pixels as per site aesthetics. Then developers could have directly added those size choices via a drop-down list. This avoids the novice users from changing the layout to non-appealing form.
Same is the case with the Stretchy Layout. The layout can also add the sidebars on both the left and right side of the center body. Too much width of these sidebars will shrink the main body in the fixed layout. Overall, the layout could have been made a bit more automated for novice users with some preset options.
As we know that one of the biggest deals with any portfolio website or photo sharing sites is its ability to collect, organize, edit and maintain the stashes of images. Mere storage for the photos is not what a photography site must do.
Going through various portfolio sites, we can confirm that most of them provide ample storage facility for all users. Just like on your computer or any image editing software, these websites offer some necessary tools to manage and modify these stocks.
In SmugMug, you can edit these photos from the Organize Button on the top menu bar. The complete collection of photos, watermarks, gallery, and logos can be accessed from here.
The main menu bar of this page will have general file management options like create, upload, settings, view/hide, modify, download, and delete. The users can also sort these images accordingly.
The main three tabs for different gallery management are a home-page gallery, watermark images, and logo images. From here, you will need to learn to organize the images and manage the storage yourself.
The home page slideshow will have some images in it. You can organize the order in which you want to display them or use the default order. The users can also make a new folder on their account and then store the content in it.
The images can be edited via the wrench icon on the top menu bar when you click on an image. The image editor consists of ubiquitous tools like adding a title, captions, keywords, watermarks, color effects and also allow for cropping, rotating, and attaching location data with it. This, when integrated with a GPS camera, can become handy in knowing the full details of a clicked photo.
SmugMug could have provided some more editing features for images like collage feature, gif maker and such similar but trending photo editing. You can also hide any photo from that gallery by using the hide button.
The users can choose to create a multi-layered folder and gallery hierarchy in the file manager. You can also make a new webpage for your testing purposes and hide it from the main website.
Overall, the image and file management system in SmugMug is decent and can fulfill most tasks for traditional photographers. For options to get more storage, the users will need to upgrade the subscription plans. Also, all the data is stored in the secure Amazon AWS storage, and also you can password protect the images.
You can access some of the general settings in the gallery via the Settings tab on the top menu bar.
These general settings include common changes like the title of the gallery, SEO description, custom URL. The security settings can help to protect the images by modifying the visibility, Access, web searchability, removing right-click access, use watermarks, and password protects the photos.
You can add a visitor shopping cart, proof delay, personal delivery setup, printing setup; Gallery set up and many more from here.
The users can also create their own gallery quick settings from here. Add the social sharing and comment options for the images.
Overall. The Gallery settings include most of the customizable features like the traditional image editors. The UI was lag free, and it was easier to follow up. The complication is very low till now from SmugMug, and we appreciate this feat.
What are we going to do by uploading all those photos and galleries on our website? We want to earn some profit from it, and that is why we are using a traditional portfolio site instead of some plain photo sharing website.
To start with selling and printing photos, we will need to organize the images first. Make a proper folder for them in the gallery, arrange them, adjust any visual blunders in them and then first start deciding the rates of each of them and how much profit you will earn on them.
To utilize the sales features, the users need to go to their main dashboard, go to the Sell Button on the top menu bar. This will show you the drop-down list having all the sales related features.
The first option here displays the Sales History. The sales history will show the info about all the photo sale until now. You can sort all the sales by date or profit, based on year, month, day, etc. or paid/unpaid status.
The sales data on the right can be generated either for the filtered or non-filtered options. You can download the detailed or summary report for both in CSV format.
Next comes the favorite part for sellers, i.e., setting the price of the commodities. The users can start adding price tags on their photos. They can also add the pricing for the several types of printing they want like a small album, a photo-collage, traditional canvas, metals, acrylic metals, woods, etc.
All these prints may come in a variety of sizes as per traditional photography standards. You can set the prices in various currency and set the profit margins along with round up costs. You can create an entirely new set if you want as per your local market. The most common vendors of printing press available are Bay Photo, EZPrints, WHCC, and Loxley Color Professional.
There is also a coupon generator and management system. You can create new coupons for shipping discounts, free shipping limits, gift cards and fixed percentage off coupons. Similarly, you can add entire packages and combos like canvas and traditional prints, small frames with big metal frames, etc. Set the charges for these combos accordingly, and you can also input some discounts for such combos.
Next, you can add events from this tab. You can attach galleries, slideshows, event URL, etc. from here. The entire registration forms can be made from here. To create a branding for your site, you can choose to make watermarks, print watermarks, back print messages, shipping, and boutique packings.
Some extra features come with a premium subscription of SmugMug. These features cannot be given their own categories but definitely needs an honorary mention in our review.
Even though SmugMug has lots of inbuilt feature for its user base, it has some external associations to enhance the experience of its customer with better services.
Most notable external integration we can see in it are Blurb, BorrowLenses.com, Chartbooks, Mix Book, etc. as the self-printing platforms. Other integrations like Format Hitech, PHlearn, OneDayLabs, and jR customization are also notable.
SmugMug has provided Gifts section from where you can assign the new customers some gift offers like Save 20%+get 20% back. This can be assigned based on a yearly basis to loyal customers or friends and families.
You can also integrate the bit.ly account to shorten certain URLs. The stats Tab in account settings will display the details like the number of photo views, comments, shared emails, uploads, and integrate the google analytics and Stat Counter with your website.
From the Sales tab in general settings, you can also add tax rates, Electronic 1099 access, VAT ID, and your credit card details. You can also add contacts in this tab and access that list to provide access rights to given users.
For SEO, SmugMug is armed with some of the traditional tools. You can set the Meta Descriptions, Meta Keywords, and Meta Tags. The visibility option will improve the search visibility across Google and SmugMug search.
There is also a Filename Keywording, using which the users can allow SmugMug to auto-extract keywords from image title and use them for SEO. You can also verify site ownership via Google Webmaster and Pinterest.
In this section, we will shortly recall our experience while making our own portfolio website. As we have discussed earlier, the site has basic amenities to display your work, but it will be highly up to the individual to get good shots and edit them accordingly to attract the viewers.
The entire process from login to image uploading and selling was quite smooth. Even though templates were limited, we found that their internal editing was remarkable, on par with traditional site builders.
The site editor had good customization options, and the widget section too had all the essentials widget for a photo sharing website. However, some of the widgets had less customization.
One thing we noted was frequent reload of the page when switching from a section. Also, for saving a change without a reload, we had to select the Save & Exit option, and due to this for every change the users will need to open that page again. This becomes annoying, and so developers need to add a save button in the bottom of that tab which can keep the changes without any reload of the page.
The sales and pricing features were entirely up to the mark. It had all the resources to get a perfect photography store for your business. Same was the case with site security features. The right click lock on site, password on the gallery items or on the pages was helpful.
The print stations were among top class, and the variety of sizes along with many types of frame sizes was amazing. The delivery range was quite amazing, and they have more printing servers across globes than other portfolio site builders.
At last, concluding to our review, we would say that if you are a photography expert or an ongoing prodigy, we would certainly recommend you use the fantastic features of SmugMug. Even though it may have some bumps here and there, it has become one of the top players in photo sharing/portfolio builder.
Although the pricing may seem a bit costly, but we believe the features that come with it along with unlimited storage makes it totally worth it. If you are skeptical, you can try out the trial version and then decide if you will get a premium subscription or not.