SmugMug is a website for photographers that offers a huge range of features and capabilities. In this SmugMug review, I’m going to share my thoughts as to whether I think SmugMug is a good choice for building a photography portfolio and selling your photos.
As a professional photographer, having an online presence where I can showcase my work and sell it to clients is important to me. SmugMug offers both possibilities, as well as a number of other features that make it useful for both professional and amateur photographers. You can view my portfolio here.
In this Smugmug review, I’m going to share with you everything you need to know so you can decide if SmugMug is right for you. I’ll go through my experiences using it, the key features of SmugMug, and compare it to other photography website tools.
I’ll also share my exclusive SmugMug discount code so that if you decide to sign up, you’ll save money. Let’s dive in.
What is SmugMug?
SmugMug is an online platform designed primarily for photographers, allowing users to create an online portfolio of their work. It also has e-commerce features, allowing users to sell their photos to customers around the world.
SmugMug manages the process of selling images from start to finish, from payment processing to printing and shipping. This makes it an excellent all-in-one solution for photographers looking to sell their work, as well as those looking for a portfolio site.
Who is SmugMug for?
SmugMug is aimed at a wide range of users, from professional photographers to amateur photographers.
For professional photographers, ranging from travel photographers to wedding photographers, SmugMug offers a range of features to help your business, from password-protected galleries to e-commerce tools.
SmugMug isn’t just for professional photographers, however. With unlimited photo backup and easy portfolio creation, SmugMug is a good choice for any photographer who wants to share and save their images.
In addition to the photography features, SmugMug also allows you to upload videos, create video portfolios, and sell video downloads, so videographers will also find something to love.
How much does SmugMug cost?
SmugMug currently offers four plans, the prices of which are as follows (prices are correct as of November 2020). Note that prices change, so you’ll want to check the latest prices on the SmugMug website here.
Basic Plan – $66 USD per year
Power Plan – $102 USD per year
Portfolio Plan – $240 per year
Pro Plan – $432 USD per year
You can save 15% on all of the above prices, as well as access a 14-day trial, if you sign up with this link.
Note that you can also pay monthly, but the price is much higher if you do so and I would advise against that option.
All plans allow unlimited photo and video uploads, as well as an ad-free portfolio website. The main difference between the plans is around the commerce features. If you want to sell photos through SmugMug to customers, then you’ll need either a Portfolio plan or a Pro plan.
On the Basic and Power plans, you can still sell images, but you don’t have any control over pricing. Prices are set to cover SmugMug’s costs, and you won’t make a profit on any sales. However, if you have friends or family who might want to buy your images at cost, these plans are worth considering.
The Basic and Power plans are a good option if you want to quickly and easily create an online portfolio and back up your images, as well as allow friends and family to buy prints. You can upgrade to more advanced plans with additional features whenever you want, if you decide you want to sell your work for a profit.
We generally recommend that professional photographers looking for a website through SmugMug may want to consider the Portfolio or Pro plan.
What are the main features of SmugMug?
SmugMug is one of the most premium platforms that allows a photographer to build a website, and as such has a lot of features. These features vary by plan, although many of the features such as unlimited uploads and the ability to create an online portfolio are common to all plans.
These are the main features shared by all plans:
Ability to create a custom website for your photos and videos.
Unlimited upload of photos and videos
Mobile application for managing your site on the go
Unlimited traffic to your Smugmug portfolio
Ability to embed photos on other websites
Synchronization with Adobe Lightroom
Detailed stats and analytics for your site
SEO features to help people find your work
Basic site customization
Easy image management tools
Private galleries and password protected galleries
The option to order prints and other products with your work
Available products include prints and canvases, as well as souvenirs like mugs and aprons, to photo books. You can also sell digital photo downloads of your images. See all the options here.
Ten-currency support for worldwide orders
All of the above features are included in all SmugMug plans.
If you’re looking to use SmugMug primarily for backing up your photos, to share with friends and family, then the Basic or Power plan will probably suffice. Also, if you’re just looking for a gallery site where clients can view your work before ordering it, and you’re going to handle the printing, shipping and payment yourself, then these plans will also work.
However, if you want users to be able to order your photos directly from your SmugMug portfolio and you’d like to make a profit from the sale, then you’ll need the Portfolio or Pro plan. With these plans, you set the prices for your work, and SmugMug takes care of the rest of the process from start to finish. This includes everything from payment processing to product creation to shipping.
Now I’m going to highlight the additional features of the Portfolio plan that differentiate it from the Basic and Power plans. The Portfolio plan is the plan I would recommend if you want to sell your photos online, as it offers a good balance of features and price.
Here are the main additional features
Set your own prices for your products, either individually or site-wide.
Use your own domain name
Additional themes and customization options
Support for photo labs around the world
Ability to sell digital photo and video files
As for pricing, in addition to the monthly fee, you also pay 15% markup on each sale, something you’ll need to take into account when setting your prices.
The main feature of the Portfolio plan is that it allows you to set a price for your products, which means you can use SmugMug to generate revenue from your photos. They also have a number of printing facilities around the world, which means you can sell your products internationally.
I’ve been using SmugMug as a portfolio and sales site for my photos, and wanted to share my thoughts on how I’ve found using the platform. You can view my portfolio here.
I first used SmugMug back in 2014 for a couple of years, and then I went a while without having a portfolio. However, as I kept getting requests to sell images, I relaunched on SmugMug in 2020 with an updated set of images.
As a background, I’m used to creating websites. I’ve created this blog, as well as our Independent Travel Cats blog, both with WordPress. I’ve also created the website for my Travel Photography Course, which is an e-commerce store also built on WordPress. I’ve also created sites on Blogger and SquareSpace.
So, I’m quite familiar with the challenges of building a website across a variety of platforms, as well as the additional challenges that adding e-commerce to a website can present.
So first off, let me say how nice and easy it is to use SmugMug to build a great looking portfolio. I didn’t have to use any coding knowledge, I just chose the theme I liked, edited the text and within minutes my website was live.
Then all I had to do was upload some images, set my prices and my store was ready to start selling. Honestly, the whole process took me less than thirty minutes, and most of that was spent choosing photos!
Compared to setting up my own website and shop on WordPress, a process that took days and days, this was refreshingly simple. I’m pretty sure anyone could do it, and you definitely don’t need any coding or website building experience.
As for adding images, this was also very easy. What I really like about SmugMug from an image management perspective is that they have a Lightroom plugin.
The SmugMug Lightroom plugin eliminates many of the challenges I traditionally had with managing an online photo portfolio. I can create my SmugMug galleries completely from within Lightroom, add and remove photos, and adjust various SmugMug features completely from within Lightroom.
The galleries I create in Lightroom are automatically uploaded to my SmugMug gallery, with a small sized image for preview, and the full sized file available to be sent to the print lab when an order is placed.
Even better, if I decide to retouch a photo, those edits sync with my gallery. So it’s very easy to keep my portfolio up to date and looking its best, without having to manually upload new versions of the images.
I also appreciate the various features SmugMug has to help protect my images. For example, I can add a watermark to my photos simply by turning that feature on. It is also possible to disable right-click protection, to prevent people from downloading my images.
However, the main protection I appreciate is that SmugMug only shows users a small preview of any image. The full-size image is stored on the SmugMug server, and is only used if someone decides to order a product, at which point the full-size image is sent to the print lab.
Personally, I don’t have the watermark feature turned on because I think it’s a bit distracting. I find that serving low resolution versions of the images is enough protection.
SmugMug has a number of other features that many will probably find useful, however, I don’t take advantage of them. These include streaming photos and videos to Apple TV, unlimited photo backup, and smartphone apps for gallery management.
For me, the main advantages of SmugMug are how easy it is to create a professional looking website, the worldwide sales support for my images, and the easy integration into my Lightroom workflow.
Of course, not everything is perfect. There are some downsides to SmugMug.
First of all, the price. SmugMug has a relatively high price, and when you add the 15% commission on every sale, it is definitely one of the most expensive platforms to create a photography website. However, I would say that the price is in line with the main alternatives to SmugMug.
Of course, the features vary between the different products out there. SmugMug definitely has a great feature set and their worldwide capabilities are excellent. However, if you only plan to sell locally or nationally, you may find another solution more cost-effective.
Overall, I would definitely recommend comparing the features SmugMug has, and deciding if it’s better for your needs. Here’s a quote from my photography course student Aneta Zimnicki (see her SmugMug portfolio here), who had the following to say about why she chose SmugMug:
“After reviewing the top photo selling sites, SmugMug was hands down the best for me. It is designed for photographers and their customer service is amazing. The photo prices and print size control are great. I can post prices in my own CDN currency (I was very disappointed in other sites as they assume everyone is US based).
Also the relationship of the printer supplier to the site was very important to me. I was looking for reliable and good quality prints. The cost of the site is more than other sites, but I see the reason.
Cons: Printers (for Canadian customers) are in the US, and so far, shipping across the border to Canada is slow. The cost of wholesale printers is a bit higher than my local suppliers.”
Another thing to note is that while SmugMug offers unlimited photo backups, they don’t include support for RAW files. If you shoot RAW, like me, this means that you’ll only be able to back up your edited files. Personally, I think this is a pretty major omission for a photography site aimed at professionals that offers unlimited backups. If you’re looking for a more comprehensive backup solution, I use and recommend BackBlaze, which offers great value unlimited backups.
Finally, while SmugMug has excellent integration with Lightroom, it doesn’t currently offer integration with some of the major Lightroom alternatives. So if you use Luminar, On1, or Capture One, for example, then you won’t get as tight integration with their workflow, and will have to use the web-based interface or one of the upload apps that SmugMug provides.
Overall, though, I think SmugMug is a great option for photographers looking for an easy-to-use portfolio website that supports worldwide image sales. The customer service is excellent if you ever need help, and the platform has all the features you need to start earning income from your photography.
If you’re interested in trying SmugMug, this link will allow you to try the service for 14 days for free. Plus, if you sign up, you’ll get 15% off the subscription price.
Alternatives to SmugMug
While SmugMug is a capable and full-featured platform that offers pretty much everything a photographer could need, we are aware that it may be overkill for some users. Therefore, I wanted to recommend some alternatives to SmugMug that you may want to investigate.
Photoshelter – a good option for photo sales and portfolio management at a lower price point, though it doesn’t have as much image storage in the lower priced plans
Zenfolio – a great option for wedding and portrait photographers thanks to their paid add-on that offers a calendar and session booking service. Pricing is roughly equivalent, and unlimited storage with RAW support is also offered.
Darkroom: this is a great low-cost option for those who are testing the waters. You can sell your photos for free (with a 15% surcharge). It has fewer features than SmugMug, but it’s a good option to start with.
Squarespace: SquareSpace, a popular website for photographers, makes it easy to create websites. However, you’ll have to handle the printing and submission yourself.
Bluehost – If you prefer to build your own website from scratch, we suggest you start with Bluehost, which offers affordable WordPress hosting for low-traffic sites.
For more options, check out my guide on how to sell your photos online.
That’s it for our SmugMug review! We hope you found it useful in helping you make an informed decision on whether or not this is the right photography website for you.
Before you go, I wanted to share some more photography content that I think you’ll find useful that I’ve put together based on my years of working as a photographer.
If you want to learn more options for sharing and selling your work, check out our guide to selling photos online, where you’ll find other platforms to try.
We have a guide on how to use a compact camera, how to use a DSLR camera and how to use a mirrorless camera. We also have a guide on how to use a DSLR camera.
Knowing how to compose a good photo is a key photographic skill. Check out our guide to composition in photography for lots of tips on this topic.
We have a guide on what depth of field is and when to use it.
We’re all about getting the most out of your digital photo files, and to do that you’ll need to shoot in RAW. Check out our guide to RAW in photography to understand what RAW is, and why you should switch to RAW as soon as you can if your camera supports it.
Colour accuracy is important for photography – check out our guide on monitor calibration to make sure your screen is set up correctly.
We’ve got a guide to the best photo editing software, as well as a guide to the best laptops for photo editing for some tips on what to look for.
If you’re looking for more specific tips for different situations, we’ve got those too. Check out our guide on northern lights photography, long exposure photography, fireworks photography, tips for shooting the stars and cold weather photography.
If you’re looking for a great gift for a photography-loving friend or family member (or yourself), check out our photography gift guide,
If you’re looking for a new camera, we have a detailed guide to the best travel cameras, as well as specific guides to the best hiking and backpacking cameras, the best compact camera, the best mirrorless camera, the best bridge camera and the best DSLR camera. We also have a guide to the best camera lenses.
If you want a camera or lens but the prices are a bit steep, check out our guide on where to buy second hand cameras and camera gear to save on your budget.
We’ve got a guide on why you need a tripod, a guide to choosing a travel tripod and a round-up of the best travel tripods.
Want to improve your photography?
Since launching the course in 2016, I’ve already helped thousands of students learn how to take better photos.
The course covers pretty much everything you need to know, from the basics of how a camera works, to composition, light and photo editing.
You’ll receive feedback from me as you progress through the assignments, access to webinars, interviews and videos, as well as exclusive membership to a Facebook group where you can receive feedback on your work and participate in fun periodic photo challenges.
It’s available for an amazing one-time price for lifetime access, and I think you should check it out. You can do that by clicking here. It’s also available as a gift if you know someone who’s interested in getting into photography.
And that’s it! If you have any questions or comments about using SmugMug as a photographer, I’m here to listen and do my best to answer. Just post them in the comments below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.
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