About seven years ago, a friend of mine who was helping me get into photography recommended that I check out Smugmug, and a wonderful relationship was born. I love, have loved, and will appreciate Smugmug even as I am walking away from the web site. Over the last three years I have shoved some 853,000 picture views down the wire, and uploaded some 123 gig’s worth of pictures over the lifetime of my account. I am not a big picture viewer, photography is something I do for fun, and I don’t plan on or intend to make money off my picture taking. I like to share, I love comments, I love feedback, I want to see how other people see what I see in a picture. Smugmug has been ok for that, but there are better sites for what I need out of picture taking.
I am probably an average Smugmug customer. Little guy, maybe 30,000 pictures in total on the site, but have seen the majority of my growth in visitors and picture views in the last year as I took 15,000 of those pictures in the last year. I had an exceptional chance to really get into a number of events this year to cover, and got a trip to china to boot. Those are all going to generate a lot of pictures. I got a new camera and saw my average picture size go from 3 Megs to 6 Megs, but also saw a lot better quality in the pictures along the way.
I currently pay 100 dollars a year, less than 10 bucks a month for storage of my pictures. Everything I have on Smugmug is deeply embedded in blogs, reports, web sites, and other places where I use my own pictures, or others have picked them up for their own sites.
There are some things I don’t get on Smugmug though that I do get on Flickr and on Deviant Art (DA), which are increasingly critical for me to have. The lack of these services on Smugmug is the reason I opened up a Flickr and DA account to begin with.
I rely on feedback; I want to see what others think of the picture, good, bad, ugly. I live for comments, thoughts, likes, hearts, fave’s or whatever else a person looking at my picture is thinking at the time. I have had in the seven years at Smugmug 23 messages from customers, few if any fave’s hearts or tweets that I didn’t originate. But looking over at the year I have been at Flickr I have 98 comments, 1583 favorites, and 684,000 picture views in that time. One year at Flickr and I am almost at Smugmug levels of picture viewing. Deviant art is a similar story, but only 81,000 picture views, but hundreds of fave’s, likes, comments, and opinions from other photographers. All this in one year, which I have to go back three years to match out on Smugmug, but let’s look at apples to apples here, one year on each site.
Smugmug Number of Views 618,000, no likes, no fave’s, no comments, one sale for six bucks
Flickr Number of Views 644,000, 1,508 likes, 99 comments, no sales
Deviant Art Number of Views 82,000, 1,100 likes, 498 comments, no sales
What is important to me is the number of views, the response from the peanut gallery, the people who are excited that they saw a picture of themselves at a show, could share it with their friends seamlessly, and otherwise is what is important to me. Obviously sales are not a primary consideration for me, I don’t even bother to water mark them, and I have some odd ideas about copyright when it comes to “my work”. See “my work” is a hobby, mostly convention pictures, event pictures, but when KIRO, KUMO, OWS, Der Spiegel, and others want to use my work, they give me plenty of credit if no money. I am good with that, photography is how I blow off steam, it is my release, and it is my entertainment.
Smugmug just does not draw the consumer or picture viewer expressions that I need to have to see if I am taking good pictures. I thank those professionals on the other sites who give me awesome feedback, and I love the comments from the peanut gallery even when they make me wonder why I am alive.
So from the interactivity viewpoint, Smugmug simply is not worth 300 dollars a year, not when Flickr is 30, and DA is 20.
Then there is the little niggling thing about Nudity, see I got busted for that this year as well. If you troll Smugmug looking for “fine art nude” you will see tons of naked people. It is awesome if you are a fine art nude photographer. But god forbid you post someone with body paint. At the Freemont summer solstice parade the reason to go is for the body paint as a photographer. The Terms of Service at Smugmug clearly state no nudity, but if a customer of Smugmug complains about nudity on your web site (regardless of how many other nude pictures there are on the site), Smugmug will drop you a nice letter after they have locked off the gallery. I ran into that and discussed it earlier on this blog. Once we were over that hurdle, Flickr and DA both have “age gates” that allow you to mark nude or not safe for work or restricted. Heck almost every other web site that does photography has an age gate of some sort including 500PX, so seriously, really? No age gate Smugmug? Unevenly applied rules for nudity, when mine were body paint but you can see a lot more detail on other sites within Smugmug?
So from the nudity viewpoint, not having an age gate and a Terms of Service that would make a puritan proud, Smugmug is simply not worth the 300 dollars a year, not when Flickr is 30, and DA is 20, and both come with age gates on some of my more racy and popular photographs.
Legendary customer support, I don’t use it, don’t really need it, I am computer and technology literate enough not to have to call customer support every time I have a blown upload or something else goes wrong because I got sent a reset packet from Smugmug. I know how to use a computer, so the legendary customer support I use is only when Smugmug contacts me because someone whined about a picture I am hosting there that offended someone because they were too tender of opinion or mind to see a person coated in body paint.
So from a Customer Support viewpoint, I don’t use it unless Smugmug contacts me. Smugmug is simply not worth the 300 dollars a year, not when Flickr is 30, and DA is 20, and I don’t use their customer support either because I know how to use a computer and upload a picture, as well as share it across multiple blogs and other web sites.
The raise from 100 dollars to 300 dollars a year for me is really just the final nail in a coffin of more and more problems with simple things at Smugmug. From what I have been reading on multiple blogs and forums, it looks like the average person exodus is well underway, and the price raise even has its own twitter hashtag #smugmugged to go along with that. While some writers have compared this to the Netflix fiasco which Thomas Hawk has eloquently debated and refuted on his web site. But the real issue remains to be seen, from what I am reading the exodus is well under way which will leave Smugmug exactly the same as before, a series of silos rather than a way to truly share pictures and gather consumer feedback.
Regardless of why you take pictures, if you can absorb into your business model the price increase from 100 to 300 (for me) then good to go, this is a business issue. If you are a middle of the road or smaller photographer that price increase might not be absorb able when there are cheaper equally as brilliant systems as Smugmug provides. It depends on why you take pictures and what your expectations of those pictures are. Mine is consumer feedback, these are not customers, these are not people I am trying to make money off of, my people, my tribe, are people I want to share with, Smugmug has always had a hard time building community, Flickr and DA are communities from the outset. Since I am more interested in community than sales, I’ll be leaving Smugmug. As I stated on G+ yesterday, and on Thomas Hawks’ web site, it is like pulling the plug on grandma, it is cutting off my arm, I’ll miss Smugmug because they have been very good to me for seven years. But I no longer get what I really want from the web site, and I do get it somewhere else, the price increase was just a motivating factor, but one that is apparently motivating a lot of people to move away from Smugmug.
- Photographers how much do your picture views matter (techwag.com)
- Subscriptions set to soar at SmugMug (pixiq.com)
- SmugMug’s Pro Pricing Change Sucks (ravenda.wordpress.com)
- SmugMug Announces new Pro Subscription Accounts (resourcemagonline.com)
(Cross-posted @ Techwag)