Smugmug Rocks!

My plan had been for me to look into getting into stock photography sales sometime next spring. But I signed up for the two week smugmug trial and got hooked. There’s a lot to like about the smugmug web site if you’re looking to get online as a photographer (professional or not).

What got me to sign up was the realization that they had pretty much what I needed to sell photographs online.

Thinks I like about smugmug:

  1. The galleries and categories are very flexible and customizable and functional. I took some old photos that I’d had scanned onto a Photo CD and uploaded them. They look really good.
  2. customers can order prints, printing isn’t my forte, maybe someday, but not right now
  3. customers can buy and download digital files
  4. lots of online help and forums to participate in and ask questions

Things I don’t like:

  1. Limited download options. Basically they have a royalty-free pricing model with two license options, personal use and commercial. Each option has 3 price points based on file size. It’s actually more flexible since each gallery, and even individual photos, can have it’s own prices. But there’s no option for varying the file size, nor for pricing based on usage.
  2. There’s also no built in method for handling or indicating whether photos have model/property releases. I’ll have to explore this somewhat, as only model released photos should be used based on smugmug’s current license. There doesn’t seem to be a way to change the license terms which would allow photos for editorial uses where model releases are not usually needed.

Smugmug is not free, in fact the professional level which I signed up for is $150 per year. But with unlimited photo storage and website traffic that’s pretty good. I pay $65 per month to run a virtual private server for some other websites I look after. Given that a photographer could run their entire web site using the smugmug service, it’s a deal just from a web site pricing point of view.

Another thing smugmug charges is a percentage of sales of both prints and downloads. Basically it’s a 15% transaction fee. On the one hand that’s hefty, on the other hand, you get a lot for your 15%. At the Creative Kids web site we used to sell craft kits and take orders by credit card. It probably cost us at least 5% in transaction fees direct to credit card companies. Indirect costs included maintaining an extra bank account just for Mastercard payments, supporting our customized shopping cart software, and the backend tracking and processing of orders. At smugmug, all that should be pretty much taken care of. Well worth it in my opinion.

I still have some research to do. But it’s a bit like pulling myself up by my bootstraps. I’ve uploaded some photos, but I don’t really want to start selling them quite yet because I don’t have any colour management going on yet. Once I can ensure I’ve got some quality files uploaded I’ll open things up. I also want to get some prints done by smugmug, I’m sure they’ll make nice prints, but that’s something I have to check out.