SmugMug – After a Few Months

I switched from Flickr to using SmugMug for hosting my photos a few months ago, and it’s been a mixed experience.

The Good

  • I now have all my photos on my own domain. I’m contributing content to my own site, rather than one owned by Yahoo!.
  • I can run ads on photo pages. It doesn’t bring in a lot of money (barely anything, actually) but at least the money is coming to me.
  • I can make the photo part of the site look like it’s really part of my own site, not just a link to someone else’s site.
  • The photos are presented well, with nice big views, taking advantage of bigger screens well.
  • It’s nice to be supporting a small family-run business, rather than a division of Yahoo! that could potentially get sold again any time.

The Bad

  • It’s taken a lot of work to get things organised as I like them, and it’s still a bit odd. Every photo has to be in a gallery, and because I don’t think of photos in galleries, I’m ending up with lots of tiny galleries, often with only one or two photos in them.
  • I can set up ‘smart galleries’, which pick up on keywords, and fill themselves automatically. I’ve used this for gathering pictures of specific things, or taken in specific places, and it’s really nice and flexible. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work reliably. Photos rarely appear in the galleries they should straight away. Sometimes they never do, unless you edit the gallery settings, and save them again. It means I can’t set this stuff up then just forget about it.
  • Searching works well. Sometimes. Other times, it’s frustratingly slow. At the moment, I’m looking for a picture of a cup of coffee, but every time I search, I get a ‘gateway timeout’ error.
  • Although SmugMug does have some social features, it lags a long way behind Flickr. There aren’t as many features, there aren’t as many users to interact with, and the users there tend not to use the social aspects. Even without taking part in Flickr recently, I’ve had photos ‘favorited’, and had comments posted. Not a single photo has been given a ‘thumbs-up’ (or down) on SmugMug. I’ve had one comment, but that was just a stream of abuse that I deleted straight away.

The Ugly

  • Since ditching Flickr, they’ve released a beta version of their new photo page, and it works much better than the old one. It solves most of the problems.
  • When returning to Flickr, it’s quite startling just how quick everything is, and how it all just works.
  • Flickr is cheaper. By more than any ad revenue is ever likely to bring me.

The Conclusion

I haven’t reached one yet, but ditching SmugMug and returning to Flickr is feeling increasingly likely. I like SmugMug, and there are features there, but not on Flickr, that pros probably need. I don’t. It’s making uploading photos feel more like a chore.

I’ll probably start uploading all my recent photos to Flickr again, and see how things go from there. Unfortunately, my Mac is currently out of action, waiting for a new hard drive, so I’ll have to wait until it returns.