In my last review of SmugMug, I noted that its interface looked a bit tired and outdated. Luckily, the photo-hosting site has recently undergone a much-needed face-lift, which does a nice job of bringing it into the Web of the twenty-tens. This update not only brings a new photo organization tool sporting drag-and-drop that makes for a definite improvement in working with the site, but it also offers slick new photo gallery options. Let's see if these changes are enough for SmugMug to win the honor of becoming your photo-hosting site.
If you're looking for a customizable gallery site for your digital photos, or want to try to sell images online, SmugMug is a very capable option. But unlike the best-known photo hosting and sharing site, Flickr, there's no free option with SmugMug: Though you won't see a price list until after you've created a trial account, you'll pay a minimum of $40 a year for a basic account with unlimited uploading, and $150 a year for a Portfolio account, which adds commerce options like the ability to sell digital download and collect profits via electronic transfer.
It's hard to compete with the terabyte of free storage that you get with Flickr, and impossible to compete with the huge photo-sharing community on Yahoo's photo site, but some photographers will overlook the cost, preferring SmugMug's totally ad-free presentation and the ability to customize their gallery pages. Existing SmugMug account holders have the options of sticking with the old interface, previewing the new one privately, or switching over wholesale. If you do make the switch, you'll lose any advanced customizations you made in the old version, and once you do migrate, there's no going back.
Signup and Setup
SmugMug does offer a free 15-day trial, and thankfully, this doesn't require credit card info. You can sign up either by entering and email address or through Facebook Connect. Right when you first sign up, you get a personalized URL in the form yourname.smugmug.com. Next, you name your gallery by choosing a category for it (over 60 choices, from Airplanes to Zoos, with Births and Funerals in between.) Or you can create a category name of your own. The gallery gets its own URL, using a slash after your main one.
Your homepage in SmugMug by default shows your user picture and any biographical info you've supplied, followed by thumbnails for your galleries. You can add horizontal entries for slideshows, individual large photo views, communities, a keyword tag cloud, or most popular or recent photos. You can easily move any of these sections up and down on your homepage?now using drag-and-drop. It's more configurable than Flickr or Picasa's, but one basic behavior I prefer in those two competitors is that the main site URL takes you to your own gallery dashboard page; in SmugMug, it takes you to SmugMug's advertisement page.
Like Flickr, SmugMug offers drag-and-drop uploading on its site if you're using an HTML5-compliant browser. SmugMug didn't let me add tags, assign photosets, or rotate photos in the Web uploader the way Flickr did, but it does show a progress bar and let you pause uploading. Both services give you the option of uploading via an email address in addition to the Web method.
If you use software like Adobe Photoshop Lightroom or Apple Aperture, though, none of that matters, since both services have included publish exporters. SmugMug does offer a good deal of third-party integration, but most apps, such as the popular iPhone image editors are more likely to have built-in uploading to Facebook and Flickr than to SmugMug, and Flickr's flourishing App Garden makes SmugMug's look tiny.
After you upload images to a SmugMug gallery, you're simply taken to the gallery page. Here I could rate or comment on a photo, and a wrench icon below it offered editing and organizing options. The Photo Details choice here let me add a title, caption, and keywords. The only organize choices were Make a Copy, Hide, and Replace. An even bigger missing tagging component is SmugMug's lack of face tagging, for which both Picasa and Flickr offer strong implementations.