Review – Smugmug

And now we come to Smugmug, the last photo-sharing site in my series. A bunch of folks in the dpreview forums seem to use them, so I thought I’d take a look.

I had to put in my credit card to get a trial account.  Not a problem for me, I’ll generally do this with reputable sites that have folks recommending them.  So a few minutes later, I had a “standard” account set up.

Here’s my site on Smugmug.

The standard account is $29.95/yr, and lots of people will give you a link to get $5 off, so it’s basically $24.95/yr.  Unlimited storage, and 4GB/mo of download capacity.  Hmm…it’s hard to put that in perspective, but if I’m serving up more than 4GB/mo, hopefully I’m in a position to be happy about it and pay more. :-)

I like that I can organize photos into galleries, and surface those galleries very obviously on the front page.  No problem telling people about it – “go to and check out my washington, dc pictures”.  I can even control the ordering of galleries on the page, and also ordering of photos within the galleries. You can also group on the front page by category, and show galleries within their categories.  All in all, quite a bit of flexibility.

Password-protection is available, and is very easy to use.  I have one gallery on my site that’s password protected, and you just need the password to access it.  It’s not exactly high-grade security, but I’m also not trying to protect blueprints of a bank vault.  If something needs super-secure protection, I probably wouldn’t put it on a public site to begin with.

EXIF information is optionally exposed for every photo, and displays a popup.  I’m not totally thrilled with the popup, but it works and I can live with it.  For some reason, this site also shows shutter speeds in a very strange way – for this photo, shutter speed is displayed as “0.0062s (10/1600)”.  Come on…couldn’t you just say 1/160, and save me having to figure it out myself?  Zoto does the same thing, and I just don’t get it.

There are also some strange EXIF problems.  This picture shows a shutter speed of 15.625 sec, which I can promise you is not accurate.  I sent a note to their support alias to this effect…and WOW.  Two separate folks wrote back to me within 10 minutes.  This on a Sunday – very cool.  It wasn’t perfect, though…Andy from Smugmug said the camera writes inconsistent info so they can’t fix it (doubtful, as Windows XP can display the correct info for this exact same file), and Ben said it looked strange and he’d pass it along to their developers.  I chose to listen to Ben. :-)  (one week later, haven’t heard anything, problem still appears).

Smugmug also supports tags (they call them keywords), and they’re pretty easy to manage.  I couldn’t enter “night” as a keyword – it just wouldn’t show up.  One more note to support, another response in about 5 minutes saying it was probably an erroneous entry on a blacklist, and he’d have someone take care of it.  (one week later, problem is still there).

I like the overall look/feel.  There are multiple styles you can use, and the site is easy to navigate for both the owner and visitors.  The only nitpicky thing that comes to mind is the page numbers on the gallery pages – it’s a little hard to find, and watching over peoples’ shoulders, I notice that not everyone sees them, and they assume there’s only one page of photos.  Small thing, but there is probably a way to make that stand out a bit more.

I like the geo-tagging capabilities (via Google Earth) – it’s fun to see my photos on a map.  My only suggestion (sent to support guys) was to make it so I can tag multiple photos with one location all at once.  So once I figure out the latitude/longitude of the Denver Zoo, let me tag all 20 pictures in a gallery with that data all at once.  As it is, this process will take about 7 minutes to do 20 pics, and my mouse hand will be pretty sore by the end.

And a couple of things I haven’t experimented with too much yet.  With upgraded accounts you can completely customize the site’s headers, footers, and styles – nice.  You can also set your own pricing for people who order prints of your photos, and you keep most of the markup (not that I need that feature now, but I really like that it’s there).

All in all, I like Smugmug a lot, and I’ve decided to stay there for now.

[If you want to try it yourself, save yourself 20%, and save me 20% too :-), use this link.]

23 thoughts on “Review – Smugmug

  1. Sebastian Hosche

    Good review! Haven’t heard of Zoto before, but I like the way you described all three services with their ups and downs, even though I’m already settled with smugmug.

    Concerning the EXIF trouble – these extra zeros at the end used to be there more often, but I guess they managed to contain the problem more.

    Even though the strange EXIF value is really strange. Don’t worry – if they said they’re looking after it it’s usually just a matter of time. It takes some time for them to roll out changes, as they have to test everything. In the last month they’ve been really busy with everything. If the problem still persists in a couple of weeks – send them a short reminder.

    If you’re looking for more smugmug users – head over to – this is sort of the unofficial support forum for smugmug where Andy and a lot of other smugmug users are there to help you in case you’ve got any questions.


  2. Nikolai

    Good review!

    And, since you didn’t mention that part: Smugmug also provides some free open API for everybody to use. Which leads to a number of 3d party apps extending and expanding your Smugmug-related experience.

    You can find them all on smugmug Hacks page. Or, even better, you can go directly to and download Star*Explorer, which allows for unlimited upload, auto file format conversion, extensive sales reporting and a whole bunch of other neat tricks, including “Send To” shell extension that allows you to send your pictures and folders to your Smugmug account right from your standard issue windows explorer.


  3. Srikanth

    I have begun to hate this site. The software is full of bugs. I moved a whole bunch of photos from one gallery to the other and they dissappeared into thin air. The resolution sucks. If I click on any of the photos in the gallery, it says loading for ever and goes off into la la land.

  4. jiri

    I love SmugMug. I signed up 3 years ago and so far did not find any web site which gets close. Is there anybody who like FLICK? It’s so disorganized and ugly.

    why I love it so much?

    1. I can put videos from my camera next to my snaps

    2. I can see original size

    3. I contacted customer support on sunday and got response in minutes !!!

  5. Guy

    Any updates on the reviews? Its been a couple of years now and the photo sharing landscape has changed a lot. I think! An update would be really useful!!

  6. Scott

    Even better than the hordes of back-scratching $5 off codes, use the door-busting “yahoo” for 50% OFF the first year. I successfully used it 2 days ago. (“picasaweb” is another 50% refugee code I found but did not try.)

  7. Shirley

    I have been using Smugmug for 2 years now. I emailed a complaint the first week about a lot of downtime for maintenance, and they gave me a free year subscription. On my renewal this year, they told me they I was getting a free year again as I had a lot of referrals. I only use the site to share with family and friends, but they all say that they enjoy it and they often order prints of my photographs through the Smugmug site, which I think refers the orders to Shutterfly, but am not sure. Anyway, over two years in now, haven’t paid a dime yet, and I am very satisfied. (They even sent me a free Smugmug camera strap recently.)

  8. sms

    There’s this insane plugin called Smugglr, which literally allowed me to move my entire Flickr album (1000+ photos) with virtually no effort. I set it up, walked away, and when I came back my entire Smug Mug Gallery was totally loaded with my Flickr photos, tags, descriptions, and even my Flickr galleries. It was just ridiculously easy to migrate the content.

  9. Aaron

    Hi All,

    I have been using Smugmug for a couple years now, but I was getting a lot of questions from some of my clients as to which photo sharing site was the best. So I decided to setup a review page with a comparison table for the top 6 photo sharing / printing sites.

    For the 6 site comparison, you can just go directly here:

    Hope that helps you find what you are looking for! I will be creating a professional version soon that will include zenfolio and ritz professional accounts, stay tuned.

    If anyone has comments, suggestions, or thinks some other sites should be added to the review, I welcome your feedback!



  10. Jeremy

    Why oh why is smugmug almost always crashed or shut down for maint !! Any better suggestions for storing my photos ?

  11. Steve Mundy

    I have been with SmugMug for a couple of years now, and their support is very good, for the most part. Their responses are fast. I like the customizing features, and they look much better than other sites that have semi-colons all over them. Them taking care of sales is great, and the pages can be customized easily with banners and slideshows.

    My only complaint is that there is a check box that you have to “uncheck” every time you sign on (if you don’t want the password saved on your computer). Since I operate on many different computers, and I don’t save any passwords for obvious reasons, I am forced to uncheck this box every time. And if I forget just once, and someone else goes to my site on that computer – they can pretty much destroy it.

    It is annoying in that I have reported it for 2 years now and it is still not fixed. They have responded each time I remind them but they insist that this is working as designed. So they want people to uncheck a box every time they sign on. It is quite simple to save the setting since they are writing cookies out anyway. The default is to be less secure. I don’t get it.

    I hope they fix it soon …

  12. Smugmug User

    I’ve been using smugmug for years and haven’t felt the need to look at any of the other services – smugmug is great. I hear some folks say the smugmug services go down too often, but I’ve never had any trouble and have no problem recommending them to others. And the few times I’ve had non-outage technical issues, smugmug’s customer service has been outstanding. My $0.02 anyway.

  13. Peter Pan

    Yes all very nice at Smugmug except for the constant unscheduled downtime… usually at the very moment when your uploading a lot of photos or clients are trying to access work you have done for them. This looks very bad and unprofessional and has resulted in the loss of work and even clients. The message says:

    “The Sorcerers of Smug are adding new magic right now, so we’re in window shopping mode. We’ll provide more updates here on our Status Blog.”

    Which is really another way for saying something is broken.. again..

  14. bophil

    Smugmug is the best online sharing photo tool I ever used.
    Beside the fact that it stores your photos in full size and that it offers really unlimited storage, it can be upgraded with tons of community tools (upload from right click, …).
    It starts at 39.95$/year for non professional accounts, but even at 39.95 it is really unlimited storage.
    Living 6000km from my family, smugmug is a must have to share moments in pictures, also as a part time professional photographer smugmug has been very useful sharing and promoting my work.

    You can even use this coupon on the smugmug coupon field in the sign up form to get 5$ off the price : 7Ppmk1PbRiBVQ

    – Full size pictures
    – Really unlimited storage
    – Great themes
    – Easy to use
    – Nice interface
    – Community creating addons (upload from right click, screensavers…)

    – It is not a photo backup tool as you cannot bulk restore photos from galleries, you have to order DVDs from smugmug.

  15. John

    I also love this site – but I hate the fact that all the pics are converted to sRGB and Smugmug won’t give the option to leave them as Adobe. So for my best piccies – clients who pay the most, I also have to supply a disk with the originals. But they get to review the photos quickly on Smugmug, which is good. I also hate the fact that being in the UK we get to see the site down quite often in the mornings when they’re doing work on it. It’s down right now in fact – which is why I started to look at reviews.


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