In this SmugMug review, I will go through all the important details you should consider before purchasing any of its plans. I will also talk about its possibilities to sell your photos and scale your photography business online.
Every artist wants to show their work to a wide audience, and the best place to do so is the internet. Yet first, you need a platform to present your work with. And one of the best choices for that is the SmugMug website builder, which focuses on letting you set up beautiful galleries filled with your paintings and photographs.
With its easy set-up, beautiful portfolio templates, and numerous eCommerce features, SmugMug can become a great first step when trying to start an online shop of your artwork.
You can download SmugMug as a Lightroom plugin or even an iOS and Android app, so you can use it on your phone or smart device if your laptop dies while going from one photo shoot to the next.
Filling your website with content becomes even easier as you can upload directly from Flickr, Dropbox, Amazon Drive, and Lightroom.
Now that your website has something to show, the next concern is security and copyright.
When posting your work online, there is always a concern about having it stolen from you. SmugMug takes care of this by letting you set a password for your galleries, set personalized watermarks, and even shield your photos from right-click downloading.
Just imagine some guy wanting to use your art that you made with hard work just to be greeted by a message “Don’t even try…” as he right-clicks to download a photo for free.
Now that your work is safe from unlicensed use, you can easily start selling it. For that, you have a plethora of comprehensive eCommerce features.
You have multiple choices in what form you want to sell your work. Among those choices are paper prints and wall art.
If you are a newcomer to profiting from your work online and still unsure about what pricing to use, there are pre-set pricelists at your disposal. The prices are competitive and fair, so you don’t have to worry about overcharging.
Does it mean that SmugMug is only useful to professionals looking to sell their photos or drawings? Absolutely not. SmugMug has portfolio templates, and if you want to promote the creative work you do, this is a great platform.
SmugMug has no free plan, so this is not the best solution if you just want to store your work online. Yet, don’t fret about trying it out because you can do just so with a 14-day free trial that does not require your credit card information.
Now, let’s dive deeper into everything SmugMug has to provide.
Ease Of Use
When you go to create a website, you will be presented with few steps where you choose type of site you want to create.
Afterwards you will be presented with option to upload photos and some other options to finish creating of the site.
If I have to be honest, SmugMug is not an easy builder to master. It took me a while to figure out the logic behind how the platform worked.
Now, don’t jump to conclusions. SmugMug is not bad. It just could be a bit confusing when it comes to performing simple actions. Adding new elements on the page, renaming it, or organizing your pictures in themed galleries requires jumping through multiple loops.
But if you start to really struggle, they have excellent Knowledgebase where you can find helpful guides. If you can’t find the information you are looking for, there is always live chat support.
Once you get accustomed to the interface, further site-building isn’t that hard. But until that point, you will be stumbling through a maze of different tabs to make changes to your website.
At first glance, you can see the tabs for Upload, Organize, Customize, and Sell on the top left corner of the builder. Once you choose which part you want to edit, another menu will greet you, sometimes even redirecting to another page. So, you cant see the changes you make in real-time.
Although, not all hope is lost. One of the redeeming qualities of the builder in this SmugMug review is that it has an excellent gallery for pictures.
Uploading and organizing pictures is just a breeze. You can either upload whole folders from your computer or directly import pictures from your Flicker, Lightroom, or other media storage accounts.
By default, SmugMug creates a set of galleries ready to host your pictures and so you will have your work online in no time. Also, you can add as many galleries or folders as you need, so your works will always be neatly organized.
Overall, SmugMug is not the easiest website builder to use. Once you are done uploading your content and want to customize your website, you get buried by a poorly streamlined interface.
Some might find SmugMug’s template design limited and not flexible enough to achieve their vision. Yet, this can be seen as a plus for others because the given templates are simple, efficient, and expertly made to display your artwork.
Compared to other website builders, the number of templates SmugMug offers seems pretty scarce. With the Basic plan, you can use only a few templates. If you want all of them, you will need to buy the Portfolio plan.
SmugMug templates are modern, beautiful, and made for photos specifically. Although not very plentiful, these templates hit their target audiences’ needs right on the mark.
Among SmugMug’s templates, you’ll find a balanced mixture of layouts showcasing your photos either in full-screen fashion, like a photoblog, or in a small grid-like structure.
If you just particularly like one template, you can also change the display type at any time within the editor. And you can even swap out the whole template with another without losing your work or needing to start all over again. Hence the platform can suit a variety of tastes and needs.
Furthermore, all templates are mobile-friendly. Your website will look great on any screen, be it a tablet or PC. A minor downside of this platform is the lack of a mobile view in edit mode. You’ll have to use your phone to check how your website looks on mobile phones, and there is no possibility to edit the mobile version.
The lack of customization can be felt throughout the website builder. For example, the Basic plan doesn’t allow customizing your theme with the colors you prefer, and you’ll have to go with the preset color combinations the platform offers.
To somewhat counter that, SmugMug provides a number of seasonal patterns and texture types for themes to choose from. Yet the choice is not great, as they are not something exceptional, and some even seem outdated.
Thankfully, the saving grace is the ability to upload photos and videos as backgrounds.
Additionally, it’s possible to use HTML and CSS for higher customization. So you will have to pun in some work to have a unique looking website.
Continuing with the things you can change, you can add a certain number of content blocks such as title, text, photos, feeds, or social buttons.
You can move them around, but the width and length can’t be changed by simply dragging, and you will have to manually enter the dimensions you want the element to be in.
Sadly, there are no layouts for pictures with text, and even though you can add it manually to a picture, you can’t place your info anywhere you want. As a whole, the customization possibilities of SmugMug are not very flexible.
To conclude, despite it lacking customization options, SmugMug is a great choice to quickly go online with your photography or paintings. With the way all of the layouts work, the focus is on your work and not how the website itself looks.
SmugMug is true to its principle of making your artwork the main attraction point for its business features.
However, some want to see more diverse possibilities when it comes to marketing or social sharing. And for them, SmugMug will seem a bit too lacking.
Furthermore, SmugMug offers great tools for selling your prints online without dealing with the printing process yourself. Still, you’ll have difficulty advertising your product, as marketing features are lackluster.
With this platform, you can sell your photos in multiple formats: online downloads, prints on gifts and cards, or by offering packages of prints that have several different photos grouped in them.
It is really easy to organize all of your listings as you have pre-made categories for varying sizes and print types. Your customers will never feel lost when they see all the neatly arranged works they can purchase.
Now, to sweeten things up, SmugMug works as a middle man between your online store and printing labs. It automatically forwards your work to them when a customer orders a print. You won’t even have to lift a finger to your prints to the customer!
This way, you won’t ever have to print yourself or worry about where to store all the materials. The sales operate with the drop-shipping method, so you never need to package and send the actual physical merchandise, saving you precious time.
Another thing to consider is that SmugMug works with Loxley for buyers based in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. All other buyers are directed to EZ Prints.
Which means you can’t choose your printing lab. This is not a huge problem for most, as it could save you time and worry about organizing your own printing and dealing with shipping.
Furthermore, you can make item packages, including several pictures, to be sold in a bundle. You can create packages for all galleries or a gallery of your choice.
Your packages will never feel the same and dull with so many options of prints you can sell, varying from paper prints, finer can’t prints, and even flat metal desk art.
SmugMug lets you choose how much profit you want to make when creating packages. It automatically adds the desired sum on top of what you will pay for the printing companies that will provide the goods.
Now, since I have covered the prints, if you want to make a separate custom pricing list, all you have to do is just visit the “Selling” section of the menu and create a new price list from there. Then you just decide what type and size of prints you want and set their pricing.
Although, keep in mind that global currencies are available only with the Portfolio and Pro plans. So if you plan on selling your work in other countries, you will have to purchase one of the more expensive plans.
To incentivize your customers to buy, you can create Coupons, Events, and Branding. The Branding option allows you to add thank you prints, stickers, print marks, and backprints.
One important thing to note is that this builder does not let you set up appointment booking options or a membership area. So, those wanting to limit user access to certain content can do so with the help of password-protected pictures and galleries.
The SEO of SmugMug feels very basic. Here you can only add keywords to galleries and photos or meta descriptions to folders, but that’s all.
There are no redirect settings or the possibility to add alt tags. Sadly, you’re mistaken if you think that this all can be remedied with some plugins. SmugMug has no available plugins to improve its SEO.
If your next guess on how to improve your SEO is writing text with keywords, well, you’ll have to really work on that.
You will need to manually add an accompanying text block for every photo, as there are no layouts that include a photo with text. All of this really limits your possibilities to rank high in search engines.
The platform doesn’t have a blog option or any email marketing possibilities. You can’t even connect email marketing with outside services.
Well, you can add and store contacts, but for anything more comprehensive, you’ll have to use other providers. I find this a significant downgrade of the platform if you want to keep a healthy connection with your audience.
Therefore, if you’re ok with having just a beautiful online gallery of your photos, with the possibility to sell them in multiple print formats, SmugMug might be your platform.
However, suppose you’re looking into diverse and robust marketing. In that case, you might want to either expand your budget and use outside services or choose a platform that has a broader selection of marketing features.
Keeping up with the ongoing theme, the analytics of SmugMug is also fundamental. All you have is simple numbers about photo views, comments, and uploads, which can be further examined by day, week, or month.
The sales history is just as simplistic. The only difference is that you can see your paid and unpaid profit, total profit, and tax collection.
No history of abandoned carts, no breakdown of products. I would have expected at least this much from a platform that has an online store setup this good and convenient.
Nevertheless, I think this would be enough for some, as not everyone needs complicated stats to always keep track of and optimize indefinitely.
Although, if you really need the precise metrics, you can connect Google Analytics by simply adding your Web Property ID and analyze the visitor behavior on your site with that.
With SmugMug, you can add follow buttons for Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, Flicker, YouTube, WordPress, etc. You can also add the like button for Facebook and the Tweet button. That seems to cover all the most important social media platforms, which is a really great thing.
However, the Facebook Pixel can be integrated only with the Portfolio and the Pro plans, which means that you can’t do much social media-wise with the cheapest option.
Even if SmugMug lets you place social media buttons on your website, it still does not integrate fully. You cant show your feed on your Twitter or other feed on your website or showcase your products on Instagram.
SmugMug offers its users affordable mid-range pricing. The cheapest one starts at $11/month, and it goes all the way to $52/month. However, the website strongly advertises yearly billing, which will be cheaper up to 33%.
Like many other paid website builders, it also has a 14-day free trial. This is absolutely enough to build a complete portfolio and experiment with the platform’s tools and features.
All of the available plans offer some great features:
- You can upload unlimited photos or videos and have unlimited bandwidth.
- There is built-in analytics to track your visitors and sales.
- You can sell photo prints, photo books, and photo gifts with the help of SmugMug’s printing partners.
- You can ship globally.
Moving further on, let’s take an in-depth look at the following four paid plans.
SmugMug starts with the Basic plan, which costs $11/month or $94/year when billed annually. This is a good choice for enthusiasts and beginners who want a secure place for their photos.
With the Basic plan, you get unlimited bandwidth and photo/video uploads. So, you can easily present the creations of your passion to a wide audience and store them.
However, as this is only the Basic plan, there are limitations. You can’t add a custom domain. This is a huge disadvantage if you want to attach your name to a professional website filled with your art.
Furthermore, the customization of the Basic plan is not that flexible as you have only a few templates to choose from. It also doesn’t have some other useful features.
At the price of $16/month or $138/year when paid annually, this plan differs from the Basic mainly in terms of design options. With the Power plan, you can use all available pre-made design templates or even create your own. It also allows you to use your own domain.
This plan also allows you to customize your right-click message or limit access to galleries, photos, or pages for certain people.
That said, the Power plan is ideal for visual artists in need of a good-looking portfolio. This might seem a bit of an upsell for some, though this is the cheapest plan that allows adding your own domain, making you pay more if you are looking to have a personalized website.
Costing $35/month or $281/year when billed annually, this is the plan where things get serious with SmugMug. Designed to serve professionals looking into online sales, it offers most of the useful eCommerce features this platform has to offer.
With the Portfolio plan, you can create custom pricing, select from 1000+ prints/products to sell, accept global currencies, or sell digital images and videos.
Also, it gives more freedom regarding your customers. You can provide them with the option to add frames and mountings to buy with their prints.
The last plan of SmugMug comes at $52/month or $450/year when billed annually. This plan has everything the previous ones had. It seriously expands your capabilities when it comes to having a serious business.
True to being the most expensive plan, it also offers your customers gift-wrapped boutique packaging as an option.
Also, you can customize the price lists for individual galleries, diversifying your price range for different products. This plan also allows you to create custom single and multi-image packages or sell with event marketing tools.
Overall with the Pro plan, you get anything that the lower-tier plans have and then some. This plan mainly focuses on increasing your branding options, ways of shipping, and marketing.
In this part of the SmugMug review, I will present possible alternatives to this platform. They all are great website builders, offering solutions for photographers.
With its many plugins and themes, WordPress offers various tools that SmugMug offers and much more. There are many quality WordPress photography themes, ways to sell photos with the WordPress plugin, etc. You can even sell photo prints from WordPress using automated print fulfillment.
Zenfolio is another popular platform for photographers. It falls behind SmugMug when it comes to uploading possibilities but has more comprehensive eCommerce analytics and reports. It doesn’t offer as many plans and pricing options but has lower pricing.
Squarespace will please you with its award-winning, minimalistic designs, super-intuitive interface, comprehensive marketing, and analytics features. There are Business and eCommerce plans for those who want to sell their work, but you’ll have to organize your own printing.
Wix is an easy-to-use, flexible drag-and-drop builder with a huge variety of designs.
It has a great mixture of in-built features and apps for almost everything – from marketing to communication, automation, and analytics. For more info, you can also check Wix vs Jimdo comparison.
SmugMug Review Conclusion
SmugMug excels so much in giving you a near-perfect gallery for your work that many turn a blind eye to its shortcomings. Of which, there are several.
When you first start out, you get such great things like the expertly designed themes to display your work and eCommerce features tailored towards making both artists and their customers happy. You can easily sell your work as various prints, and SmugMug works as a middle man between you and printing labs, making your digital work come to life in real physical form.
Yet, as mentioned, there are hurdles to overcome. It will take time to learn how the interface with SmugMug works and how to edit your website.
SmugMug falls short when it comes to bringing your work to customers’ attention. SEO and social media tools are very limited. It’s plain to see that this platform was initially created as an online gallery and web-store provider.
SmugMug is excellent when presenting your artwork online and selling it to customers. Although if you want to engage with your audience in a blog or better market your work, I would suggest looking for another builder.
- Great gallery design
- Extensive eCommerce features
- Very simple to upload your work
- Free trial option
- Custom pricelists
- Password-protected galleries
- Unlimited Storage
- Lacks marketing features
- User interface is complex
- No free plan
- Lack of a mobile view in edit mode
- Very basic SEO options
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