SmugMug has been a leader in the image hosting and online gallery space for over two decades. Founded in 2002 by a father and son team, the brand has grown over the years along with the features they offer their customers. In addition to their online gallery and image hosting services, you can also create a website with Smugmug to showcase your portfolio.
With so many image hosting and online gallery services available, you might be wondering which is the best, and if Smugmug is right for you. If this describes you, then the following Smugmug review is the perfect resource to help you make your decisions. We’ll be covering Smugmug Features, the Pros and Cons, and who Smugmug is for before offering our overall recommendation.
What is Smugmug |About The Company
See their intro video to get a better idea of the Smugmug brand and their overall messaging.
Who is Smugmug For?
Smugmug is for professional photographers. Amateurs and beginner photographers will likely prefer a free or low cost image hosting and storage option such as Google Photos, Apple Photos or Amazon Photos for their images. Non professionals simply don’t need all of the features like print lab integrations, client galleries, and their portfolio website.
Smugmug pretty much has all of the standard features of the other online client galleries and more. Let’s start with the most notable features that many other labs don’t offer.
Unlimited, full resolution photo storage (with every plan)
Most online galleries offer tiered pricing based on the amount of storage you use. With these other options, as your storage needs grow over time, so do your costs. Smugmug, on the other hand, offers unlimited, full resolution storage with every plan, including their base plan. This is notable and a huge reason many people choose Smugmug over others.
The mobile app is a convenient feature that most of their competitors do not offer. This is convenient for grabbing images for social media or sharing images while away from the computer. As more and more of a photographer’s workflow moves to mobile, from editing to marketing, so does the need for robust mobile apps like the Smugmug app.
Website to Host Your Portfolio
Smugmug offers the ability to create a custom website to display your portfolio. While its functionality won’t be as robust as websites run on custom WordPress themes, Squarespace or Wix, it does offer enough to display your work nicely. For pros and semi pros, a website is absolutely necessary for legitimacy, SEO and more, so going with a service like Smugmug can save you the hassle and money of managing a separate one.
How easy is the website to customize?
One of the main pros of SmugMug is its wide range of customization options. You can basically start with a template and customize it using content blocks to arrange and customize the images, text, video, social icons and more.
Other (More Standard) Features
Beyond the features mentioned above, Smugmug also offers many of the features that are somewhat standard for most client gallery and image hosting services. Here’s a brief list of the notable features.
- Custom branding – This is the ability to adjust the colors, logo, font, and other styling elements on your client galleries and your website.
- Password protection for client galleries – You can make your client galleries public or private.
- Print lab integrations – Professional photographers can make money on prints by allowing clients to order prints through Smugmug’s print partners. These include Bay Photo, Loxley Colour, WHCC, and EZ Prints.
- Ability to embed photos on other websites – You can host your images on your Smugmug account and embed them on your blog or any other website. This could come in handy if you have limited storage on your website server.
- Adobe Lightroom syncing – Upload your images directly from Lightroom to save time in your workflow.
As with any product or service, there are things we feel they can work on. Below are some of Smugmug’s cons.
Probably the first thing photographers look at are overall aesthetics. We are visual artists after all, and we want the best possible presentation of our work. Of course, this is all subjective, but in my opinion, the default templates for both their client galleries and their websites are a little “old school” feeling and not as polished as some of their competitors like Pixieset or Pic-Time. Keep in mind that this is from the perspective of a female wedding and portrait photographer. Smugmug’s default designs seem to be more appropriate to Landscape Photography and Nature Photography.
Of course, you can always modify and customize to taste, but that takes skills and time that you may or may have.
No free SmugMug plan
We also wish that Smugmug had a 100% free plan like some of their competitors. While they offer a 14 day trial, it would be nice to be able to try out a service for an actual client. With the 14 day plan, this is not really that feasible because the client would then only have access to their photos for 14 days. Other services offer a forever free plan, obviously with many limitations, but this at least lets you use it for an actual client.
Smugmug Competitors To Review
Smugmug’s primary competitors in the client gallery space include the following companies:
Of the competitors mentioned above, Smugmug has been around for the longest, with Zenfolio a close second being founded a few years after. So with other competitors popping up, it’s natural to wonder how the others have carved out marketshare with such a later start. I think it comes down to target market, with the others catering their designs, aesthetics, and marketing to wedding and portrait photographers and Smugmug catering more to landscape, nature, and adventure photography. Just from their introductory videos, sample images in their templates, and more, you can see that they focus more on those genres.
Smugmug Discount Codes
Here are some Smugmug discount codes that we’ve found online. Note that some may have expired.
- 20% Off Any Smugmug Subscription – OYSDiscount
- $5 Off Any Subscription – On7wIrlB4kuH6
- $5 Off New Subscriptions – yplesIc1Q4aCw
- 20% off renewal subscription – ew6zksrcdLask
How to Shop for an Online Gallery Service
Now that you’ve heard our thoughts on Smugmug, you may or may not have your mind made up. One thing to keep in mind is that the more you upload to your galleries, the more “married” you become. Basically, it’s hard to switch once you have tons of images uploaded because of the time and issues the process of switching presents. So, we recommend taking the following steps to find the right service for you:
- Research and list out the most important features to your business.
- Find live example galleries for each service and put yourself in the shoes of your clients. Which has the best experience? Which has the best initial impressions and aesthetics?
- Choose your favorite few and start a trial. If the service doesn’t offer a trial, start with the lowest priced and lowest commitment plan.
- Make your final decision after uploaded a couple of galleries on each one.
Overall, we recommend Smugmug for photographers looking for unlimited storage, website functionality, and reasonable pricing. We hope this helps in your decision making!