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Welcome to Michael's blog. Michael Andrew, (aka Michael The Maven) is a freelance producer, photography instructor, tech innovator, and when needed, disaster aid specialist. Disclaimer: Michael is a participant in Bhphoto & Amazon affiliate programs that provides an advertising commission if you purchase through links on this website.


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07.08.09         photography  

Why I am trying out Smug Mug Professional


One of the truly strange things you may have noticed about my Blog and Sites is that I dont have a gallery where customers can buy images. I set up galleries with Eventpix.com for weddings, but otherwise didnt get too involved in it for workflow reasons. (I would rather be making videos). With all my traveling recently, I have been getting lots of requests from many of you, who would like to buy prints for your own personal use. At first I was flattered by this because Im more focused on teaching photography than selling my work, but this is a valid point. With all my traveling, as well as little side shoots, portrait shoots, etc, I needed a better gallery system than what I had with Eventpix.com to show and sell prints.

This is overdue but I finally have narrowed it down to the point where I have purchased a full Professional Web Gallery Account and I have chosen Smug Mug Pro. I have looked at dozens of different showcase and printing services and for me this was the best choice. It was actually suggested to me by Alexandra in Texas.

All other image hosting product or service I have looked at had some huge concerns. Ill list a few here-

Pictage- wayyyyyyyy too expensive, a subscription? "Web Blasts" are a good thing? lol
Event Pix- Expensive, extremely odd customer service set up. Overall bad vibes. Payment mess ups, takes too long, tedious, yada, yada
Collages.net- Ok, I like their Leather Albums (they are SWEET!!) but the hosting was a freaking pain in the you know what. Also too expensive.
In fact, I looked at about 20 different sites and solutions, every single one had something I didnt like.

For the longest time I wanted to go with Pickpic.com because I know tons of other photographers who use it and rave about it. There are many, many really cool things about Pickpic.com, like its a one time fee (you purchase the coding, no additional monthly or yearly fees), completely customizable, you control everything.

The 2 major, major flaws I had with Pickpic.com: its relatively expensive ($1200) and this was the big thorn in my side: It wasn't self-fulling, which means EVERYTIME an order comes in, you are responsible to place the order with your lab. While this is probably not a big deal to most photographers, it is a HUGE deal to me (and more specifically my work flow). I am huge huge believer that to have efficient, quick work flow, you need to minimize the number of steps involved in a transaction, so I wanted a service that would take care of the orders once they were placed, Im too busy to provide customer service for orders. For this reason mainly, It didnt feel right for me. If they had this lab fulfilling feature, as well as allowing payment for paypal, instead of a merchant account which would require more $$, I probably would have gotten it.

Check it out, SmugMug Pro Accounts have the following features:

- Unlimited Hosting
- Complete Customization of your Galleries
- You determine the pricing for not only prints, but hundreds of other products as well (Tee Shirts too!)
- Password Protecting
- Custom Watermarking
- You keep 85% of the profits, the 15% transaction fee includes merchant account fees, as well as customer service support provided by Smug Mug.
- You can sell "downloadable" products along with copyright releases, again keeping 85% of the sale. Istockphoto.com keeps 80%, you get 20%.
- Awesomely, Pro Account Users get full HD video hosting (1080p!) - Being that I have a way to shoot and edit 1080p, it would be nice for me to be able to get some HD videos on here.
- Cost is $150 a year. (If you are doing the math, that would be the equivalent of about 9 years with pickpic.com, who BTW will expect you to pay to upgrade to version 4 when it comes out in the next 2-3 years)

I will be honest, most of my research about Smug Mug as been second hand, but so far everything I have heard or read has been positive. Their customer service has been outstanding. They use a well respected lab, Bay Photo (whom they selected after a rigorous testing process), and nearly everything in customer fulfillment is automated. I dont need more steps or problems, I need LESS. :) For me, this is the best fit, TONS of options, affordable, many ways to tweak and customize, plus the HD video features.

They also have other plans depending on your usage. If you click on the Smug Mug Link Banner (on the bottom of the blog )below, then sign up for any of their services I will get a commission fee (significant too...up to 50% believe it or not) and my policy has always been that any money I make on affiliate sponsorships I would use to support and develop the free school. I don't make a ton on the BH Photo commissions, but its almost enough to pay for all of the hosting for the school and forum. I am no longer paying this out of pocket and I really appreciate you guys clicking on that BH link before buying your gear. :)

Ive already made my decision and signed up with them, so I am definitely going to seriously test them out. If you are skeptical, they have 2 week trails (FREE). I have a lot of work to get customized (thats right, no ads or smug mug logos in your galleries if you dont want them) and when I do I will add the link here, so if you see a shot from the blog or portrait shoot I do that you might like...you can get a copy!

Your comments about Smug Mug or any other photo gallery website or service are welcome below. :)

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