Archive for the ‘SmugMug’ Category

The New SmugMug, Awesomize Your Photo Sales on the Web

My Home Page on the New SmugMug

SmugMug, widely regarded as one of the best internet sites on the web for amateurs and pros alike to share, and especially sell, their photos, unveiled an entirely new SmugMug this morning.

I’ve had early access to the new site redesign and have been playing around with it for the past few weeks — I’m a huge fan.

The new SmugMug brings fresh, updated, design and functionality to the service and is probably the most significant upgrade to the service since it started.

Most significantly, the new SmugMug brings a new line up of beautifully designed templates that allow even the most basic internet user the ability to have a photo commerce site up within minutes.

As much as I enjoyed the old SmugMug as a place to sell my prints, one of the negatives of the old site was that it could be complex and complicated to get a attractive looking interface up. The old SmugMug offered the ultimate in customization, but many photographers are not web design experts and it could be challenging to do it yourself. While you could hire outside pros to customize your site, this added a layer of cost and complication to the equation.

While the new SmugMug still allows advanced users an incredible amount of customization, they also now offer a series of basic templates that are pretty much plug and play. The new templates are stunning right out of the box and you can easily use a new series of tools to do minor edits to add in basic elements that you want to use to present your photos uniquely.

These new templates have been optimized to look good on the three basic interfaces, web, tablet and mobile. They have also added custom links that can be added to your blog, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter as part of any design interface.

In addition to the new design choices, SmugMug also rolled out today a new photo organizer that allows some of the most advanced functionality in photo sharing today.

When Flickr redesigned their site earlier this year, some users were disappointed that Collections lost visibility on the site. The primary way that Flickr manages photos is with sets. Sets can be one dimensional though. Sometimes you need sets of sets. Sometimes you even need sets of sets of sets. The new SmugMug allows seven layers of photo organization.

So if you want to have a page of American photos organized by states you can do that. If you want to be able to drill down into each state and look at the various cities, you can do that too. If you want to drill down even further and look at the various neighborhoods in each of the cities, you can do that.

More control over hierarchy was the number one feature request that SmugMug users had asked for in their user forums.

The new SmugMug organizer also offers lots of ways to bulk edit your photos, allowing you to batch add keywords, delete files, apply custom captions, etc.

Personally, I do 99% of my metadata work at the file level in Lightroom, but here is where SmugMug offers me one of my favorite features, Smart Galleries. Smart Galleries are not something new with this release, but Smart Galleries allow you to build highly customized automated galleries based on keywords. If I want to build an album of all of my photos of abandoned buildings in Detroit, I can do this simply by building a set that includes any of my photos keyworded with abandoned AND detroit. Now anytime I upload any new photos to the site that have these keywords, they will automatically be added to that album.

Creating a Smart Gallery on the New SmugMug

My Abandoned Detroit Set on the New SmugMug

One of the problems with redesigning photo sharing sites is it doesn’t matter how good a job you do at it, there will always be naysayers from the “who moved my cheese” crowd who will moan about it. It doesn’t matter how much better you make something, some people just love to complain. Haters gonna hate, gators gonna gate, tators gonna tate, all that stuff. One of the smart things that SmugMug did with this redesign is that they gave control over the new site to the user. If you are already a SmugMug user and *don’t* want to opt into the new site design, you don’t have to.

From SmugMug:

“Unlike many other services, we’re not forcing you to ditch your existing site. You’ll have your very own secret preview mode that contains all your galleries, so that you can personalize it and get familiar with the new features. While it sounds scary, migration simply copies your website contents into a virtual sandbox that only you can see. When you’re ready, YOU unveil your changes and make it public.”

I’m sure that there will *still* be some who complain, even though they get their *choice* over new or old SmugMug, but this should go a long way towards the inevitable backlash that comes with every redesign.

Also, the pricing is staying the same for the service and they are even adding unlimited video uploading to all levels of account with no price increase. At present SmugMug’s pricing remains: Basic: $5/month or $40/year, Power: $8/month or $60/year, Portfolio: $20/month or $150/year, Business: $35/month or $300/year.

Buying a Print on the New SmugMug

If you are a photographer who has thought about selling your photos on the web, but has held back, now is the time to jump in. With the new SmugMug today, you can easily have a professional looking photo commerce site up and running within minutes. SmugMug offers a generous 85% payout on all sales and gives you a great place to send people to who want to buy your prints.

I’ll be on a special episode of the Trey Ratcliff show tonight where we’ll talk about the new SmugMug — 7pm PST.

There is a live vidcast of the new designs with SmugMug CEO Don MacAskill at 10:30am PST today here.

If you want to check me out on my SmugMug, you can find me here. I’m in the process of adding several thousand new photos to my SmugMug. Feel free to buy a print if you’d like. :)

More from SmugMug on the new design here.

Two new videos about the new SmugMug here and here.

More from David Pogue at the New York Times here.

Trey Ratcliff: Top Five Features of the New SmugMug

Google+ Long Exposure Photowalk! Thanks to Chris MacAskill and SmugMug!

We had a great Google+ long exposure photowalk this past weekend.

Chris MacAskill and his team from SmugMug came out on Sunday morning and put together a wonderful behind the scenes sunrise photo shoot at the Golden Gate Bridge. Check it out!

My Thoughts on SmugMug’s Price Increase

A lot of people have asked me over the weekend what I think about SmugMug’s price increase. On Friday SmugMug co-founder Chris “Baldy” MacAskill presented a video outlining why SmugMug needed to raise prices. Basically it comes down to the fact that Pros really do use a TON of storage and now more than ever. SmugMug (like everybody these days) uses cloud storage and replicated storage for terabytes of data (possible for a single customer with today’s DSLRs and fast bandwidth speeds) is EXPENSIVE.

Back in 2005, when SmugMug last changed their pricing, it was harder to really flood a site with with serious storage. Bandwidth speeds were slower, file sizes were smaller, processing technology wasn’t as fast. Today Nikon’s D800 has a whopping 36.3 megapixel image. We’ve grown used to super fast bandwidth and now with my new MacBook Pro the only thing slowing me down in Lightroom is me. I can process so many more images today in Lightroom than I could with Photoshop back in 2005.

So SmugMug was faced with a tough decision — continue losing money on many of their best customers, or raise prices. Well, they had other choices as well, but none of them fun. They could start charging based on how much storage you use, but this would hit their highest grossing Pros even harder in many cases. They could start throttling your upload speeds to slow you down. Can you imagine how frustrating that would be (that’s how most of the cheapo cloud storage backup providers do it for dollars a month). They could take a higher percentage of your photo sales, but again this would cost many working photographers even more money.

What SmugMug decided to do is to ask their business customers (the ones who use the most storage and make the most *money* off the site btw) to pay $100 more.

Nobody likes to see prices raised — especially the working Pro photographer. Times are tough and every penny counts. It bothers me though to see SmugMug being attacked online. If Canon charges $100 more for a lens do Pros complain? Sure, but not like some of the comments I’ve read regarding SmugMug’s price increase. If Canon raises the price of a lens $100 does David Pogue from the NY Times feel the need to tweet about it? Canon, a huge nameless faceless corporation can raise prices and people don’t even notice, but SmugMug an accessible family run business does it and people take it out on them.

I pay Canon $500/year for their platinum CPS service. This is a service that gets me things that are valuable to me (discounted repairs, expedited shipping, loaner lenses), things that ultimately help me make money. It’s a cost to me but I justify it because I make money off my photography. I bet a lot of the other Pros on SmugMug use this service too. It’s part of the cost of doing business.

It’s odd for me to see people trying to compare this move by SmugMug as Netflix like. Huh? A consumer DVD rental company vs. a professional services company used to sell your photos? Let’s compare the situation to something a little more similar. Last year I made about $3,600 off my Flickr photos. I made this money through the Getty/Flickr deal. Flickr charges me $25/year to store my photos and won’t let me sell my photos myself on Flickr. Do you know how much Flickr/Getty grossed with my photos? About $18,000.

If people want to complain about high fees, how about complaining about Getty/Flickr payouts. Last year they took around $14,400 of the money made by *my* photos. You see Getty pays photographers 20% and keeps 80%. SmugMug on the other hand gives Pros an ecommerce engine that can sell both stock and prints and they pay out 85% of mark ups and keep 15%.

Yesterday a client contacted me about using a photo for stock that I own. I had to redirect them to Getty because Getty also demands an exclusive right on my images that they represent. Bummer! 20% instead of 100% sucks. I still use Getty/Flickr though. It’s a cost of doing business. SmugMug likewise is a cost of doing business for a photographer. If you don’t want to do it for business then just use the cheaper plan without the ecommerce engine.

The fact of the matter is that Pros have flocked to SmugMug because it gives them a very valuable tool that they need. Unlimited storage, an ecommerce engine with a high payout and really some of the most amazing customer service on the planet. They are a truly wonderful unique family run business operating in the photography space. What they are not, however, is a charity. They are in business to make money and they can’t continue losing money on their most active customers year in and year out. If someone doesn’t need the ecommerce engine the price is the same. If someone DOES use the ecommerce engine though (the biggest storage users and the ones making money off the site) then they will have to pay more. This sounds fair to me.

So those are my thoughts on SmugMug’s price increase. I support the company, one that has done so much for the photography community, and hope that this tough business decision is something that people can come to terms with and move on beyond.

[Disclosure: SmugMug is a former sponsor of my former photography show Photo Talk Plus, they are not a current sponsor of anything I’m doing though as we’re taking a break with the show. I also consider many of the wonderful people who work there personal friends.]

SmugMug’s New Camera Awesome App is, Well, Awesome!

Played around with this camera app on my wife’s iPhone earlier tonight. Best camera app I’ve ever seen on any phone. Check it out iPhone only (for now) and free for the basic camera and a set of filters. [Disclosure: SmugMug is a sponsor for Photo Talk Plus, a video show I host]

Thomas Hawk Original Prints Now Available Through SmugMug

Thomas

Over the years I’ve had many people ask me about purchasing prints of my work. With the rare exception I’ve turned down all of these requests. I’m not sure why. It’s probably mostly been that I’ve been too busy shooting and processing to get around to figuring out a good way to handle fulfillment.

Today I’ve begun offering prints of my work for sale for the first time ever. This is a work in progress and it may take me some time to get it right, but SmugMug (disclosure: who sponsor our Photo Talk Plus show on Wed nights) makes it super easy for me to sell my prints and they give the photographer a very generous payout of 85% of the photo markup. It seems like a lot of the photographers that I admire most like Trey Ratcliff and Scott Jarvie and Colby Brown are all using SmugMug to sell their prints. Its something that I should have done a long time ago and I’m glad that I’ve taken the time this past week to finally get this done.

To start with I’m offering about 5,000 of my images for sale for people interested in buying them. We’ll see how this goes and I’d be interested in any input from people about selling prints online. If you have any questions feel free to ask and I’ll try to answer them.

You can find the prints that I’m selling here at:

http://thomashawk.smugmug.com

Thanks to Markham Bennett and Katherine Cheng and their excellent team at +SmugMug for helping me get set up with this.

Do You Buy Photography Advertising?

Trey Ratcliff did a little experiment comparing the return on his advertising in traditional old world media like photography magazines vs. new world media like websites and blogs. His analysis shows a much better payoff for him using photo web sites and blogs to advertise vs. photography magazines.

Do you buy photo related advertising? If so what do you think of Trey’s analysis and where do you think is the best bang for your buck?

Oh and go check out Episode one of our new video show Photo Talk Plus. It’s out now. Sponsored by advertisers who DO get it over at SmugMug and Drobo. And don’t miss episode #2 next Wednesday night at 8pm PST when we’ll have space photographer NASA astronaut Ron Garan on the show.