Smugmug Follow-Up

Some of the most popular posts here have been my SmugMug vs. Zenfolio review I wrote around 11 months ago.  While I am very content with my decision to go with SmugMug, I felt it was appropriate to write a bit of a follow up for those curious with my thoughts after this amount of time.

Background Information

I began my search for an online photo hosting service to market my photography about 11 months ago.  During this process, I began documenting my experiences with both Zenfolio and SmugMug as I attempted to make a decision.  My criteria had mainly to do with my ability to easily place photos online, allow customers easy access and above all, provide exceptional print service.  Furthermore, I wanted to maintain a consistent look and feel to my online presence so I wanted to be able to customize the look and feel of the photo hosting site to match that of my main web page.  With those ideas in mind, I wrote the following articles analyzing my experiences.

As is discussed in the third article, I decided to go with SmugMug and have been very pleased.  My SmugMug powered site can be found here, or by clicking on the “Photos” item in the menu bar at the top of this page.

SmugMug Summary

My contentment with SmugMug has grown over the last 11 months and for my needs, I’m confident I made the right decision.

To start with, SmugMug has continued to provide user updates.  Their pricing interface has improved dramatically since I began using it.  It looks very similar, but is simply much more functional as they have performed subtle upgrades that allow me to price photos in a quick and simple manner.

Additionally, it seems to me that there have been some server upgrades going on behind the scenes.  While I never found the service to be slow, I have noticed that it seems much snappier as of recent – especially when performing administrative tasks.  It is these types of updates that really make me a satisfied user as it appears that the people running SmugMug are attempting to keep things running smoothly without waiting for problems to arise.  I can only wish more online services where this proactive in their approach to customer service.

The final, and perhaps the most notable update since I have been using SmugMug is the addition of Bay Photo as a printing service.  While their prices are a bit higher than the former EZ Prints, their service is second to none from my experience.  This is not to say that I no longer use EZ Prints, but for all my more artistic work, Bay Photo is my first choice.

SmugMug Print Quality

To be honest, I have done very little printing on my own.  However, I printed enough from both EZ Prints and Bay Photo to know that either will print beautiful photos.  As mentioned above, I have switched all of my more artistic work over to Bay Photo printing.  While I’m not sure all of my customers will be able to appreciate the difference, Bay Photo is known for it’s superb color correction.  While I feel that my images do stand on their own with regards to color accuracy, I like knowing that someone will be ensuring that they print as good as they look on my screen.  For those curious, this service is an extra charge when using Bay Photo but for me, I feel it’s worth while.  It is possible to disable by the site owner (not by the customer).

NIKON D50 @ 62mm — ¹/160 sec, ƒ/7.1, ISO 200 | zoom in
Moody Cornfield

Metallic prints can be really fun for certain scenes.  I have had the above photo printed using the EZ Prints Metallic service and it came out stunning!  The golds of the corn really stood out and made the entire photo quite dramatic.  I have yet to order a metallic print of the same image from Bay Photo, but I am confident that it would be just as gorgeous!  Both EZ Prints and Bay Photo offer metallic printing in most sizes which is a huge asset for me.  If you’re so inclined, clicking here will take you to the above photo in SmugMug where you could, if you wanted, order a copy for yourself.  It will be printed by Bay Photo and you can select any of their printing styles including Metallic.


Overall, I’m very happy with SmugMug.  I feel that the service they provide is excellent and I have no problem recommending them to anyone who is interested in selling their photos, but doesn’t want to go through the hassle and expense of setting up a custom purchasing interface.

If you’re so inclined to check them off, you can save yourselves $5.00 by signing up using my coupon code cbGIGu2TvRQWM, or by clicking here.  Not only will this make the initial cost a bit less, but it will save me a few dollars when it comes time to renew my membership!

Zenfolio vs. SmugMug: Part 3 – Overall Thoughts

Update: My 11 Month Follow-Up Posted!

While I would have loved to spend much more time evaluating both of these photo hosting services, my two-week evaluation period for SmugMug is up. Therefore, I’m going to give an overall impression of both services and give my final choice for my needs.

I must say — both services offer great features and are superb options.  In the end, my choice came down to my specific needs as both an aspiring amateur photographer who wanted to be able to easily distrubute photos to friends and family and as a stock photographer.  As always, an evaluation of both services for your particular needs would be prudent.

Zenfolio offers a great interface for the end user.  It’s intuitive, easy to use and looks great.  There are many options for the look and feel of the site and everything is smooth and refined.  However, at current it’s not possible to fully integrate the site into your own theme or your own site.  As far as printing goes, Zenfolio uses Mpix which is touted as one of the premier print shops for online printing.

SmugMug allows for complete customization of your site.  This is a huge plus.  They also allow for the sale of digital files.  Also, the interface for the photographer isn’t quite as refined.  There are a few things which really bother me.  However, SmugMug has really grown on me as far as their capabilities and customization.  I’ve found it’s very easy to setup unlisted galleries and password protected galleries as well as custom pricing.  It’s not a perfect interface, but very very well done.


And now, for my recommendations and my personal choice.  For an amature photographer who wants secure, unlimited hosting of their photos and the ability to allow users to print what they want, Zenfolio is easy to use and you can have a great looking site in no time.  Uploading out of Lightroom 2 is fantastic thanks to Jeffrey Friedl’s export plugin and overall, it’s very simple and functional.  This all comes at a very attractive price.

For a full time photographer or stock shooter, I would have to recommend SmugMug.  Digital photo sales are perfect for stock photo sales.  The uploading is just as easy thanks again to Jeffrey Friedl’s Lightroom 2 plugin and the customization can make your site look fully integrated or, if you choose, you can use the SmugMug page as your official homepage. All of these features come at a cost though and you’ll be paying a $50 premium.  Still not much for a business website however.

For my uses, I would have to say that SmugMug is worth the extra cost.  With minimal effort, I was able to use my WordPress style sheet from this blog on my SmugMug site and it looks almost the same as this site.  Nothing’s perfect, and I would like to spend some more time overcoming a few shortcomings but I feel that I’m going to really enjoy SmugMug. I’ll be posting more details of how I use SmugMug in future posts!

So, without further ado, here is my SmugMug site!  There isn’t much there that is public but there are numerous unlisted galleries which I will be giving out to family and friends in the near future!

So… if you’re interested in joining SmugMug, you are welcome to save $5 off an account there using my referral code of cbGIGu2TvRQWM!

It’s official. After giving Zenfolio another try, I decided that for my uses, I would officially switch to Zenfolio. Full story here!

Zenfolio vs. Smugmug: Part 2 – Price and Workflow

For those following along, this is part two in my quest to determine which online hosting service I will choose for selling photos.  Part 1 can be found here.

Update: Part 3 and 11 Month Follow-Up now posted!

The main purpose for me to subscribe to a photo hosting site is to allow users to purchase my photos and get them printed and delivered to their door with minimal work on my part.  For this to fit into a business model, it’s necessary that I can set my prices so that I can at least break even — if not make a profit.  What this means for me is that I will need to subscribe to something above the basic hosting packages offered by both Zenfolio and SmugMug.

In order to accomplish this with Zenfolio’s service, I would need to subscribe to the Premium Plan as shown on their site here.  This package would allow me to use my own domain name, as well as set whatever prices I wanted.  While I’m not out to make a lot (if any — especially for friends and family snapshots), I would like to think my time and effort are worth something.  Pricing for the Premium Plan is $100 for a full year.

On the other hand, to accomplish this with SmugMug, I would need to sign up for a Professional Account as shown here.  This package would also allow my own domain name.

Both services offer unlimited photo hosting as well as unlimited bandwidth.  The major feature differences I can see right now from doing a direct comparison is that SmugMug allows digital downloads (with prices I choose) as well as CSS customizable themes.  On the other hand, Zenfolio is $50 cheaper.


Workflow between the two services seems to be pretty much a wash.  There are Adobe Lightroom export plugins by Jeffrey Friedl for both (Zenfolio Plugin and SmugMug Plugin).  I’ll be sure to evaluate how they work during my trial period.  This is a key workflow issue for me since I really don’t want to be forced to upload photos individually due to the quantity of time it would take.

As soon as I’m sure I will have the time to properly evaluate the full feature list, I will be sure to sign up for trials and give more in depth critique / comparisons.

Also, I want to thank Mark MacAskill from SmugMug for commenting on my previous post.  I’ll be sure to check out he features he mentioned once I get a trial account.

Photo Hosting: Zenfolio vs. Smugmug

Update: Part 2 and Part 3 of the review.  Also, 11 month follow-up posted here!

While I plan on selling most of my photos via stock photography site such as Alamy, there are times where I’m sure I’ll need to be able to host photos for sale which perhaps aren’t stock related.  Not that I have such an occasion at present, but if I were asked to shoot an event I would like to be able to put up proofs, allow people to order and accept credit cards.

There are a few serious considerations here.  First off, I have no interest in storing any contact or credit card information myself.  In today’s digital era where identity fraud / theft is a threat, I really don’t want to be responsible for the safety of other’s personal information.  For this reason alone, I want to find a solution where I can allow a professional third party to accept the credit cards and shipping information.

Second, I want a solution which included the option of automatic print fulfillment.  This way, I’m not required to manually order prints for clients and ship them.  In this way, sales can occur with minimal intervention on my part, and clients will get maximum quality at fair prices.

Third, I want a well integrated solution with my current web site.  I don’t want the site to look obviously different and I want to be able to customize it to suit my needs.

Fourth, and possibly more important once I start becoming serious about this, is that I want to be able to set different pricing options for different galleries and have the ability to password protect these galleries.  Why?  Well, I think that a photo from a wedding which requires time and effort to retouch and careful preparation should cost the customer more than a casual snapshot I might put up for friends and family where I really am not interested in making a profit – only allowing them to order prints if they so choose.  With regards to password protection, I feel that privacy on the internet is key.  If people don’t want their wedding photos available for all to see, I feel that I should be able to give them the option to have them password protected.  Same with friends and family.

There are numerous solutions available to photographers.  Zenfolio and SmugMug both come to mind as two of the major players in this market.  They both offer print fulfillment and they both have numerous themes to choose from.  I’ve done a fair bit of research into the pros and cons of each, but I really feel that I’m going to have to take them both for a trial spin (I know Zenfolio offers this options and I would assume SmugMug does as well) and see for myself.

Right off the bat, looking at the different sites created with both options leads me to believe that Zenfolio has faster galleries which seem to have a better interface.  However, they only offer themes and no full customization of the look and feel.  SmugMug sites on the other hand seem a bit slower to load.  However, they are really customizable and seem to offer a truly integrated solution.  I’m going to attempt to keep my initial impressions unbiased as I go forward with this so I’ll be sure to continue to blog about any and all findings!  Yes, I’m that much of a dork.