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SmugMug vs ... ?

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Steve-S View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Steve-S Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: SmugMug vs ... ?
    Posted: 10 October 2022 at 17:03

I'm thinking of beginning to monetize this hobby... call it "semi-pro" instead of "professional" (though that may come, later).

This in turn calls for me to have some sort of sales option, and stuff (photos) to sell.

Which leads to the question I pose, above.

I'm looking at SmugMug, and... well... anything else. Is SmugMug the best route (or at least "one of the best")?

Is there a notably better one? Bonus credit for respondents who have used two or more different services, and can compare/contrast advantages & disadvantages of each.

Also... didn't it used to have a free tier (not just free-trial period)? Now it looks like $13/$28/$42 per month are the only options. Which honestly looks a bit steep. Not bad as a business-cost for a full-time career, but a bit steep for the hobbyist looking at a small-scale start (but wanting room to grow without having to re-implement from scratch).

What about Zenfolio, Wix, Wordpress, Squarespace (and many others...) ?
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Tricky01 View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Tricky01 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 October 2022 at 18:57
I'm a Zenfolio user myself, though I think they recently changed their pricing so might be far more expensive these days. I think they've also dropped one of the key benefits that drove me to go that way 10 years ago - unlimited storage. I use zenfolio as a bit of a backup system with only a fraction of the photos I've uploaded actually visible.

The selling side of things is relatively straight forward though, and loads of options. The interface is pretty good and the blogging is reasonable. Designing your website is relatively easy, though always tough to get right balance between ease of use and number of options. They're leaning more towards the latter.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote addy landzaat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 October 2022 at 19:47
What about Squarespace?

I use Smugmug, just to share pictures. I see some professionals using it indeed.
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Wētāpunga View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Wētāpunga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 October 2022 at 21:23
I use Zenfolio albeit I got it long ago, and like Tricky01, seem to benefit from 'grandfathered' pricing. It has what I need- the ability to set my own domain name, a shopping cart, and links to commercial printers in most regions. I think it's broadly similar to Smugmug.

I don't really need all the storage for the selling photos side of things. Only a fraction of these are on display for purchase.

I think ultimately, anything that lets you load 'large' images and has a shopping cart should suffice for any casual or amateur photographer. Do Wix or Squarespace offer free trial periods? I've had a look at Squarespace and that looks easy and appealing.
α7riii, α9- Voigtländer 15/4.5, 110/2.5 M; Zeiss Loxia- 21/2.8, 35/2, 50/2 & 85/2.4, Zeiss Batis- 85/1.8 & 135/2.8; Sony 24-105/4 G; Sigma 70/2.8 M; Tamron 150-500 f5-6.7; Sony SAL 135/2.8 STF
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Rssweetman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 October 2022 at 12:27
To me I suppose it depends on what *kind* of semi-pro you want to be and *how* you want to monetise your work, OP.

If you want to sell single images to multiple people then Smugmug seems to be very well geared for that (albeit folders, admin I found 'non-obvious' but that might just be me).

If however you do series, events etc eg a paid shoot and want to share then, Smugmug is not necessarily the best best and somewhere you can 'dump' images and password protect them in one step with maybe a single cover thumbnail etc might be preferable and more secure.

I tend towards the latter and am, unfortunately on the lookout for acceptable solutions: google photos has been 'problematic' with respect to access and pixellation etc and Amazon photos is full-size, no compression but very poor upload and organisation and folder etc options.

I look forward to more experienced comment on this, from more wise Dyxum'ers with keen interest!
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alpha_in_exile View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote alpha_in_exile Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 October 2022 at 17:49
I use Zenfolio, but I'm not entirely satisfied. I have the cheapest option, that includes unlimited storage but NO sales. I used to have the sales option & it was "only" $120.00 US for the year, but now it is nearly double that, I believe, if you want to have a sales cart, etc. The annoyance is less the cost than the fact the price doubled for something I already had.

So instead I don't sell through the site. I still have password-protected galleries, and in theory you could sell the password via PayPal to allow full size downloads. There would be pitfalls to that. But for weddings I prefer to deliver the photos as prints or on a USB stick. The galleries allow convenience for online display, family access.

Furthermore, my best-paid, and primary, work is as a second shooter for another wedding photographer. I simply give her my memory cards at the end of the shoot & she pays me. No need for an online shopping cart.

If I were a landscape photographer I'd buy a domain, use maybe Zenfolio to host the photos, but pay for a separate shopping cart service or fulfillment service.

Maybe.
-- Matt
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Rssweetman View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Rssweetman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 October 2022 at 18:16
Originally posted by alpha_in_exile alpha_in_exile wrote:


So instead I don't sell through the site. I still have password-protected galleries, and in theory you could sell the password via PayPal to allow full size downloads. There would be pitfalls to that. But for weddings I prefer to deliver the photos as prints or on a USB stick. The galleries allow convenience for online display, family access.



Out of interest, what would those pitfalls be, please? I'm struggling to visualise them.

It's a puzzler to find a flexible, simple, effective, safe and 'clean' single system, that's for sure!
Sony: A58,A580,A700,A900, a77ii,A99,A7s
135mm STF, 70-200G, 70-400G2,50 f1.4, 35mm f1.4G, 16-50 f2.8,
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Zeiss: 135 f1.8,85 f1.4
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alpha_in_exile View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote alpha_in_exile Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 October 2022 at 20:08
RE: pitfalls--

Once you sell the password, the client will print as much as they like, or might share the password with family and friends, and this would be looked at as 'lost income' by many photographers (because you are paid only once, for the password/access, and get nothing for the prints themselves). Of course, if you detect such behavior, you can change the password or make it time-limited.

The client may make poor choices in file resolution and printing, and then blame you for poor-quality prints (granted, you can make it clear in the contract that you are not responsible, but anyone who sees the finished product might avoid patronizing your business in the future). This is one reason why many photographers do not release full size files or RAWs to the client, but instead control even how the prints are made.

The original Zenfolio sales system allowed the photographer to order proofs, confirm quality, and then could have the prints fulfilled by ZF's provider (shipped straight to client). I assume it still works that way. It was good. I'm pretty sure MPix was their partner, and did the printing. The photographer got only a percentage of the print sales, so for wedding photos it would not cover labor, travel, etc. But it was nice for landscapea and such, if you priced the prints appropriately.

Problems could arise with the password, or the website, or the client may not understand how to download -- tech issues beyond your control that can make you look bad to the client.

PayPal and other sites are required to account for the type of transaction involved, and may see the activity as strange - i.e. you might get flagged as trying to avoid taxes or VAT, if you don't set it up right and make sure all taxes and such are accounted for -- though I think PayPal is pretty well automated for taxes in the U.S. (For example, in Pennsylvania, sales tax would need to be applied-- other states may not have any).

I had one client struggle to figure out the password use, and how to download from ZF, but other than that, I can't say that I've ever actually suffered any of the pitfalls above.
-- Matt
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alpha_in_exile View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote alpha_in_exile Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 October 2022 at 20:16
Another alternative I have considered but haven't used: prohibit downloading files, but allow the client access to view the images, and then they can tell you which ones they want printed. I expect this is how I will handle landscapes in the future (assuming I even try to sell any - aside from 2nd-shooter gigs, I don't even pursue work or sales, these days).
-- Matt
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Rssweetman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 October 2022 at 21:46
Thank you,that makes a lot more sense.

I suppose what I'm (still! but it's not your fault @alpha_in_exile, I'm really stupid!) struggling with is reconciling the 'demand' for print sales facility 'baked into' the online hosting platformss vs acknowledging only 0.1% of all photos taken will be printed at all...

It could well be that these ordered prints from photographers on SmugMug/Zenfolio et al represent 99% of that 0.1% (ie 0.099% of the entire number of photos taken, if that) but thats not a market I'm all that familiar with: my currentone is for events and I supply them to the client/Media 'Lead' running the event in the knowledge they'll use them on their website/Social Media only etc...

Really interesting discussion, thanks!
Sony: A58,A580,A700,A900, a77ii,A99,A7s
135mm STF, 70-200G, 70-400G2,50 f1.4, 35mm f1.4G, 16-50 f2.8,
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Zeiss: 135 f1.8,85 f1.4
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Post Options Post Options   Quote alpha_in_exile Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 October 2022 at 23:16
Oh, I see... Sorry I'm a bit old school, as they say. The closest equivalent work I think I've done was newspaper photojournalism (print & web) -- in which case I was always turning over all my images to the 'client' (employer - the paper). Never needed web hosting for that kind of work, except maybe as an archive for my portfolio.

Bearing in mind my old-schoolness, I can't think of any hosting sites that have a sales function without also doing prints. So there again, if you don't need print capability, you'll have to cobble together some combination of hosting + shopping cart, or just use PayPal or bank transfer, etc. I could be wrong. Interesting conundrum, though. If I were you, I don't think I'd pay for all the extras if I'm not selling prints.

You might look into Flickr or Flickr Pro - whenever ZF renews I often check prices, and I seem to remember Flickr Pro being reasonable as far as hosting goes, or even the free Flickr (if you don't shoot more than the upload limit). PBase is another hosting option with reasonable rates. In my case, I have thousands of shots on my ZF and don't really relish moving them or sorting them anytime soon.
-- Matt
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Wētāpunga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 October 2022 at 00:30
Originally posted by alpha_in_exile alpha_in_exile wrote:

... In my case, I have thousands of shots on my ZF and don't really relish moving them or sorting them anytime soon.


Indeed, after more than 10 years my photo collection at Zenfolio is now rather large.

I checked how much I'm paying and it's still $US100 a year for the full pro version with your own domain name and shopping cart. I don't think I could afford to switch to anything now!

There is also (for me) the added convenience of the shopping cart linked to printers in N America and Europe. Printing and posting anything from NZ would be slow, very expensive and the risk of damage much higher.
α7riii, α9- Voigtländer 15/4.5, 110/2.5 M; Zeiss Loxia- 21/2.8, 35/2, 50/2 & 85/2.4, Zeiss Batis- 85/1.8 & 135/2.8; Sony 24-105/4 G; Sigma 70/2.8 M; Tamron 150-500 f5-6.7; Sony SAL 135/2.8 STF
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Wētāpunga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 October 2022 at 00:32
Originally posted by Rssweetman Rssweetman wrote:

Thank you,that makes a lot more sense.

I suppose what I'm (still! but it's not your fault @alpha_in_exile, I'm really stupid!) struggling with is reconciling the 'demand' for print sales facility 'baked into' the online hosting platformss vs acknowledging only 0.1% of all photos taken will be printed at all...
...


I wonder if it'd be with checking out pricing with a domain provider, would say a domain that is compatible with wordpress, and includes a shopping cart, be all that expensive? I imagine it would take more time to set up and run, but you could personalise it to exactly what you need
α7riii, α9- Voigtländer 15/4.5, 110/2.5 M; Zeiss Loxia- 21/2.8, 35/2, 50/2 & 85/2.4, Zeiss Batis- 85/1.8 & 135/2.8; Sony 24-105/4 G; Sigma 70/2.8 M; Tamron 150-500 f5-6.7; Sony SAL 135/2.8 STF
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