Bye bye SmugMug

September 13, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

If you're in the photography field, you no doubt heard the news that SmugMug was raising their prices. By quite a considerable amount. Double. You may also know that SmugMug was the service I was using to host my website, galleries and handle my printing. It may also be interesting to know that they took a percentage of every print, and that percentage didn't change.

So, the dinosaur in the room - no new features, no reduction in print percentage, no timeline for updates - and at double the cost. Why should we stay?

You can go check their site out, and see the videos they posted explaining their desicion - they justified it by saying they hadn't increased prices in 7 years, they hadn't anticipated future storage or bandwidth needs ... none of it made it any easier for me to find double the fee ...

 

I had been with them for two years. When I first joined them, I ran into limitations, frustrations and road blocks aplenty. Never anything critical, but little, niggly, annoying things.

 

  • I couldn't nest my categories very deeply (for example, I could NOT have Portraits / Families / Jones / Christmas ... it would stop at Portraits / Jones)
  • To make changes to my template, I had to know CSS, HTML and Javascript. Or know someone who did. Or find / borrow / steal code from somewhere else and figure out how to implement it. SmugMug sites have a certain "look" to them, that everyone knows too.
  • If I was photographing an Event - their events system was HORRIBLE. I'm sure if I shot your event, you were confused by favorites (what were they for?) and logging in.
  • Frequent downtime, and almost weekly maintenance outages ... who the hell needs to pull their entire site down for maintenance these days?!

 

There were many others. Nothing critical. When I signed up, these were all assured to be fixed / changed / upgraded - whatever, and it always seemed to be on the near horizon. However, two years later, when they doubled their prices, and still nothing had changed - I had to make a call. Do I renew at the cheaper rate while I can and buy another year of waiting and biting my tongue, or do I find a new home.

 

Happily for me - Zenfolio bubbled to the top. They offered much the same feature set as SmugMug, and roughly the same price as their original price - but they were light years ahead on the management side. I can offer better looking websites, with much better management tools, an integrated blog (thats what you're reading now), and take payments by credit or even offer PayPal without having to jump through huge, custom integration hoops. They have kick ass events, kick ass coupons ...

 

SmugMug do somethings well - they have partnerships with some of the best labs out there, and the folks manning their support desk, rightly so, are called Hero's. They have fostered some amazing brand loyalty amongst professional photographers too.

But, Zenfolio is snapping at their heels, and doing some things as well, or better. I worked with their support team, and they were just as responsive, just as helpful, but didn't have the fancy superhero facade of SmugMug - they just got the job done. Their price is right, their features are in many cases better.

 

Time will tell, but I have a happy new home - I hope you, my customers and fans, enjoy it too!

 


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