Archive

Archive for August, 2012

SmugMug’s Pro Pricing Change: What, Why and How.

UPDATE on July 30, 2013: It’s live! A whole new SmugMug is finally here. With it you get gorgeous designs, a powerful drag-and-drop organization and so much more. It’s all included in your current subscription rates.

UPDATE on November 8, 2012: We’ve added the ability to price and sell to the Portfolio account, based on the feedback we’ve been getting from you.

UPDATE on Sept 7, 2012: We’ve posted an update from Don & Baldy to answer your most common questions about these changes.

UPDATE: In case there was any confusion from the email, you won’t see a price increase until after your next renewal date if it’s after October 15th. We are not billing anyone on October 15th unless that was their annual or monthly renewal date.

Dear Pros,

For the first time in 7 years, we’re raising the price of some SmugMug Pro subscriptions, something we tried hard not to do.

Pros who sell at a markup use far more storage and features than pros who don’t, so we split our pro account into two types:  Portfolio and Business.

Portfolio is $150/year or ($20/mo) and still provides access to our pro labs for both you and your visitors, plus pro features like watermarking.

Business lets you set prices and earn profit.  It will be $300/year (or $35/mo) for new customers, but existing subscribers who set prices will be asked to renew at $250/year (or $30/month) beginning October 15, 2012.

Personally, if I were asked to pay more for a service, I’d want to hear from the person responsible for the decision.  That’s me, so I placed my dSLR on a tripod, and looked it right in the lens imagining it was you.  I tried to offer a peek inside SmugMug and our thinking:

What will I be charged when I renew?

If your anniversary date is before October 15, no worries, you’ll renew at our existing rates.

  • After October 14, we’ll guess you’d like to renew at the Portolio rate if you aren’t setting prices.
  • Also after October 14, we’ll guess you’d choose to renew at the Business rate of $250/year (or $30/month) if you do set prices.

If we’re guessing wrong, you can upgrade or downgrade in a few seconds in your Account Settings.

What’s the diff between Portfolio and Business?

The short. Portfolio has everything except commerce features.

The long. Portfolio lets you build a beautiful site, protect your photos and print pro-quality prints. You get everything in the Power account, plus:

  • Watermarking
  • Printmarking
  • Backprinting
  • Access to Bay Photo and WHCC. (Loxley in the works. We’ll say when.)

Business has every bell, whistle and feature we offer, including:

  • Commerce tools: Custom pricing, Sales tax, direct deposit
  • Marketing features: Events and favorites, Coupons, Packages, Order branding
  • Workflow helpers: Proof delay, Personal Delivery, Boutique Packaging

Our features chart has all the details.

Do I get something out of this?

Yes!  The other big reason for doing this is to invest more engineering in SmugMug to make your lives better, which is exactly what we’re doing.

We love that many of you have been with us for almost 10 years and it’s stunning to think how far we’ve come together.  Thanks so much for all the great support you’ve given us.

Thanks for being a part of the SmugMug family,

Chris MacAskill (aka Baldy)

Co-Founder & President

A Penny for Your Downloads

August 30, 2012 78 comments

Over the last few months, we’ve gotten so much feedback from our Pros about the $0.49 base cost for digital downloads. (Thanks!) So we put on our thinking caps, made a few espressos and dreamed up a better way to make this work.

How it Works, Now:

We’ve made the new base cost for individual digital downloads one penny. Why? More Pros than we expected loved this price point when offering many downloads to customers, so we took our cues from them. You can still add a reasonable markup, without bending your customers’ wallets out of shape. Gallery downloads still have a base cost of $0.99.

To cover our costs of processing and distributing your digital files, we’ll add a single $0.50 processing fee to the shopping cart when:

  • The order’s subtotal (after Coupons) is less than $10

AND

  • The order contains at least one digital download

In English: More money for you. You get the most control over the pricing and still take home a sweet profit.

What’s not to love? Tell us. We’re listening.

P.S. If you’re a Pro who uses % markup, you may want to log in and give your Pricelists a quick review. Just sayin’.

Smug Tip: Build a Photo That Fits Juuust Right

August 22, 2012 7 comments

Move over, Goldilocks. Instead of three sizes, SmugMug gives you nine. And when no options fit you perfectly, you can make up your own.

Every SmugMugger knows that you get lots of convenient photo sizes for every pic you upload, but sometimes you need one that doesn’t fit inside the box.

Custom photo sizes to the rescue!

Did you know that you can specify the height and width of any image? As long as your goal photo size is smaller than your Original (and permitted by your Largest Size setting in your gallery settings), it takes just a few keystrokes to get a photo that’s a perfect fit.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Go to the image you want in your gallery.

  • Right click and grab the URL (or Get a Link) and paste it somewhere you can edit it, like into a new browser window or a text editor.

  • Change the size abbreviation to the pixel dimensions you want. (Example: 375×250) There’s two spots for this: in the middle of the image and at the end.

Once you’ve got your new link, try it out! We’ll automatically tweak the dimensions to the closest fit if yours doesn’t perfectly match your photo’s ratio. So you’ll never get weird or smooshed photos using this trick.

This info is covered in our help page here, so you can always refer to it.

Tip: If you blog through WordPress, you don’t have to build your own custom size. Just drop in a big image link and they’ll automagically resize it to fit. Dgrin, too.

SmugMug Success Stories: Je Revele Fine Art Photography

August 20, 2012 7 comments

The Partnership: Two Artists, One Platform, Limitless Possibilities

Name: Natalie Licini and Cate Scaglione
Position/Title: Co-owners
Name of Company: Je Revele Fine Art Photography
Location: New York City, New Jersey
Market: Portrait Photography
Website: www.jerevele.com
Bragworthy Factoid: Their studio is located in the historic stained-glass-filled New Jersey castle where actor Michael Douglas was born. The windows were imported from 14th century churches in France.
SmugMugger Since: 2009

Career Highlights…

  • Natalie is a silver medalist for the 2012 PPA International Photographic Competition.
  • Three of Natalie’s images merited and two were put on loan the first time she submitted work to the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) awards in 2011.
  • Natalie won several awards at the 2011 Wedding Photography Association (WPPI), including second place in the Wedding & Portrait Photographers International.
  • Cate worked on several award-winning print and TV ad campaigns for major luxury brands, some of which were photographed by Annie Liebovitz and filmed by Martin Scorcese.
  • Cate’s earliest Intimate Portraiture work won awards with the International Association of Boudoir Photographers.

Favorite Features…

A match made in heaven

Originally independent fine art and portrait photographers, Natalie and Cate met after being introduced by a common client and attending the same workshop. Instantly inspired by each other’s work, for several years they flirted with each other as friends and colleagues. Ultimately, they realized their unique experience and esthetic presented an opportunity: merging their collective strengths to form a new kind of photography studio. Cate had an earlier career as an advertising executive; Natalie worked in finance. “We’re opposite in our personalities and skill sets,” Cate says. “But our artistic sensibilities are very similar. We’re both sensitive, relationship-oriented people.” The professional marriage allowed them to not only enhance their artistic, creative brief and storyboarding offerings, but also to branch out beyond photography into branding and strategy, services unique in the photography marketplace. Calling the resulting partnership “kismet,” Natalie believes the alliance has strengthened their business across the board—their artistry, business model, client services and strategic concepting. “Eventually, we didn’t like not working together,” she says. “We innovated in ways that surprised us.”

Reveling in their new look

Creating a unified and functional online presence presented a challenge: Not only did Je Revele need to brand itself as a true partnership, it also had to feature three separate competencies—in wedding/life portraiture, intimate portraits and, most recently, commercial. Thankfully, SmugMug was up to the task. “We customized our website using a sophisticated architecture that was necessary for our business,” Natalie says. “This allowed two artists to merge and optimally showcase their work.” The partners attribute their success in part to SmugMug’s customizability, which Natalie calls “streamlined and easy to use.” Having a lush, thoughtfully organized site has helped them build a sprawling client base via referrals and Google.

Two artists, one tool set

As sole proprietors, Je Revele’s principals were forced to turn to various online tools to manage their business. Not With SmugMug. “We wanted to have one interface to archive, display, sell and manage client photos,” Cate says. “SmugMug is a one-stop shop and we love it.” Natalie adds that not only does SmugMug save them considerable time, it also helps their clients. “Our brides love seeing their galleries online, sharing with friends and family after the wedding. Now they can have guests order prints directly. Many of my clients have booming careers [themselves], so this is a time-saver for everyone.” Natalie and Cate use the Events feature to send links to clients, so they can select their favorites from a set of proofs, for printing or inclusion in an album. They particularly love the way commenting is fully integrated, so that their clients can give feedback on photos, concepts and ideas on the spot.

Never-boring storyboarding

Je Revele’s unique consultancy requires what they call “custom inspiration boards” as well as more conventional storyboards to convey their vision to clients. In the past, they used a popular online pinboard site to introduce their ideas and assets. That changed when they discovered everything they posted there was either public or owned by the domain host. “We decided to migrate [everything] to SmugMug for security and privacy,” Natalie says. “We do a lot of high-end intimate portraiture, much of it personal, a gift or surprise for loved ones. Now we can password-protect their photos in a SmugMug gallery. The private nature of it makes everyone feel like a VIP.” Cate emphasizes that SmugMug’s privacy and security measures also protect Je Revele’s intellectual property. “Before, we were emailing creative briefs as huge attachments,” she says. “Anyone could take it and use it, replicate it, perform services herself. Putting it in a private gallery gives you more control. We can change the password and take it down when we want.”

Going beyond the image

SmugMug’s ability to protect both ideas and assets has helped Je Revele’s founders expand their business, forging ahead not just in traditional photography, but also in branding and strategy. “Our background in business development and brand management is crucial to how we’re doing all this,” Cate observes. “What’s interesting is we’re not just using it to serve commercial clients. We’re also doing a lot of consulting work for other photographers and industry vendors.” Natalie expands on why SmugMug’s seamless client-facing experience and architecture works so well for their beyond-photography business model: “As we work with commercial clients, we’re not just showing up and helping them execute their vision—we’re helping them see if their branding is aligned with their vision.”

Excited to see how SmugMug can help your photography business? See our other amazing Success Stories!

SmugMug Success Stories: Meghan MacAskill Photography

August 16, 2012 11 comments

The Prodigy: Realizing a Childhood Dream & Building a Brand, Client by Client

Name: Meghan MacAskill
Position/Title: Owner
Name of Company: Meghan MacAskill Photography
Location: Sunnyvale, CA
Market: Family and Newborn Portrait Photography
Website: macaskillphotography.com
Bragworthy Factoid: MacAskill quadrupled her business in the last four years
SmugMugger Since: 2003

Career Highlights…

  • Realizing she was photographing so many non-friends that she had to start charging for her services.
  • The moment her SmugMug website went live (she viewed it every 10 minutes!).
  • Beating the recession by doubling last year’s earnings.

Favorite Features…

From Barbies to business

MacAskill pulled off her first shoot with Barbie models, a child-size camera and hard-earned allowance money. Although it took a few more years for her to transform her passion into a business, she now operates a successful part-time shop, relying 100% on referrals from happy clients. MacAskill is still driven by the same ambition that inspired her when she was nine: to improve her craft and entrance her clients. “I think about what I would want out of photos of my family,” she says. “I push myself to not only pick the right spot, the right lighting and the right posing, but to also get my clients to be real—to capture their personality and family dynamic.”

Client cheerleaders? Bring it on

Morphing from a talented hobbyist to a seasoned pro meant developing a specialty and cultivating that market. “My customers are young South Bay Area moms,” MacAskill says. “They appreciate fresh, modern, colorful photography that captures the memories, expression and joy in their lives. They are my biggest fans and cheerleaders and refer new clients to me every time. Once potential clients view my SmugMug website, they are impressed and trust me [to document] their children, family and memories.” MacAskill attributes her success in part to providing a quality experience, both on game day and beyond. “Your memories of a [shoot] affect the way you view the photos later. If the shoot was difficult, no matter how the photos turn out you might look at them and remember what a pain it was,” she says. “I want the photos to be a reminder of a really fun day you spent with your family. My job is to put clients at ease, make sure we have fun, and make sure that translates into beautiful photos.” She credits SmugMug’s gorgeous gallery display with maximizing the client review process.

Making friends with features

When it comes to taking advantage of SmugMug’s features, MacAskill is a true pro. “My site is customized from top to bottom. I get praise and compliments all the time on how clean and modern it is,” she says. “Clients see a beautiful website and know that I am a desirable photographer.” MacAskill ensures a seamless proofing, selection, editing and purchasing experience by using such features as the shopping cart for print sales, price lists, events and proof delay. “I am a busy working photographer. As a business owner I deal with both front and back-end issues,” she points out. “I simply don’t have time—or a studio—in which to do proofing sessions with clients. My clients love proofing their images from the comfort of their own home.” MacAskill makes great use of the Events tool in her wedding business, relying on the easily navigable Events gallery hierarchy in particular. “It’s very important for me to see what photos my bride and groom love and the favorites feature allows me to do that,” she says. Because her clients order prints on their own time, she appreciates that Proof Delay allows her to check orders before they go to print. “I have fixed so many potential cropping and editing problems with this feature, before they could become a problem.”

Branding secret: Strong offense, stronger defense

When it comes to image security and archiving, MacAskill calls SmugMug the best. “The image storage problem that plagues lots of pros has never been an issue for me. I feel reassured knowing my images are stored safely on SmugMug in their original sizes.” MacAskill’s customized settings also watermark her images automatically when she uploads a new gallery. Plus, she uses package branding. “I want my clients to see that extra bit of branding when their prints arrive and feel like they’re coming directly from me,” she says. Another favorite? Coupons and print credits. “I use coupons all the time,” she says. “Print credits are vital to my business model. [I noticed] that many clients weren’t actually pulling the trigger and getting prints. I decided to model photo sessions differently and include a print credit in every package to guide clients into purchasing prints. The photos my clients put on their walls are a constant reminder not only of the fun day we had and the relationship they have with their family, but are also the best advertising — they constantly remind clients to get their photos taken again. It has been very successful and SmugMug’s coupon feature is vital for it to work without me filling those orders myself.”

Get your fill of inspiring SmugMug Success Stories right here!

Wedding Boot Camp: How to Leverage SmugMug to Make the Most Money

August 13, 2012 4 comments

Pssst, wedding pros! Whether you’re a veteran Smugger or you’re just trying us out, we thought we’d share a few tips today on how to use the powerful features you already have to make your business an astounding success.

You’ll find these tools (and more) baked right in to every SmugMug Pro account, so let’s get started.

Tip 1: Don’t Make Them Think. Or Hunt. Or Search.

It’s important that you do as much as you can from ONE place (your gallery!) so your clients don’t get distracted or lost. Here’s how:

Use a Custom Website URL. You can already pick pretty much any SmugMug nickname that you want, but take it a step further and grab a custom domain to match your brand. SmugMugDomains.com gets you one in just a few steps.

Funnel, Funnel, Funnel. Our Events feature corrals errant wedding galleries into one link that you can share with the bride. This way she doesn’t have to hunt and peck around your vacation pics from 2005. Best of all, she can pick her Favorite photos, put them into a separate gallery and buy prints.

Shorter is Easier. Don’t scare fans away with long links. You can drop any size gallery or photo URL into our Smu.gs link shortener to get a bite-sized link… which is mentally easier to share, too.

Show Them Samples. To tempt their palates, order a few of your best photos in a few of your favorite formats. Showing your clients finished examples of your work and letting them touch, feel and see the quality for themselves makes a world of difference. Don’t forget SmugMug’s 100% guarantee.

Tell Them What to Do. The gallery description is an untapped resource. You can enter info about the photos in that space, but save your visitors a few brain cells by giving them step by step instructions on how to place an order, any limited-time coupons you’re offering, and which sizes and products you like best.

Tip 2: Create Urgency.

Everybody loves a deal, and limited time promotions are the sweetest to cash in.

Limited-time Coupons. Look in your Account Settings to create five different kinds of promotional coupons that get clients buying now. You can create one for each client, or one for your event. Don’t forget to set an expiration date so they can’t procrastinate forever.

Close the Loop: Order Branding. It’s not over even after they buy. You can upload any design or message to be included in the delivery box as a 5×7 Thank You Print. More ideas? Incorporate your contact info, heartfelt thanks, referral details for an upcoming event or even a discount code for their next order. The sky’s the limit!

Tip 3: Be Serious.

Charge a Fair Price. We’ve covered this before but it’s always worth reminding you Pros to be sure you’re charging enough. The more you value yourself, the better your business will be.

Prove Your Work is Mag-worthy. Who wouldn’t hire a published photographer? Our friendship with Two Bright Lights can make all the difference. Sign up for an account, upload some portfolio photos and let them do the heavy lifting.

Marketing: Never Settle. Leverage the power of Facebook and Twitter every time you get published, have a great photo shoot or just want to share a few pics. Carry business cards wherever you go so you’ll never be unprepared.

Tip 4: Resources. We Have Them.

Blurb Books. These make perfect guest books, and let you put your photos into their hands in a way they won’t forget. Blurb’s easy-to-use book building software lets you drag and drop your images into templates, and you get your choice of stunning covers and papers. There’s something for every budget. And every bride.

MOO business cards. Don’t get caught without your contact info in-hand. MOO cards are affordable, portable portfolios you can keep in your pocket, so you’re always ready to show off and share your details. Talk about multitasking!

Photo Albums. Busy? We understand. Our friends at zookie pro and KISS are ready and waiting to slurp your photos and design and turn them into beautiful, perfect albums your clients will cherish forever. All while you sleep, shoot, and get on with your life.

We hope this info inspires you photographers to get out there and be the best wedding pro you can possibly be. And as always, stay tuned for more tips coming your way.

Link roundup!

SmugMug Success Stories: Awais Yaqub Photographic

August 10, 2012 7 comments

The Globalist: Promoting Cultural Understanding in Living Color

Name: Awais Yaqub
Position/Title: Owner/Principal
Name of Company: Awais Yaqub | Photographic
Location: Islamabad, Pakistan
Market: Fine Art, Landscape, Travel
Bragworthy Factoid: Winning CIO’s 2010 Best Photo Blog Award
Website: www.awaisyaqub.com
SmugMugger Since: 2005

Career Highlights…

  • Getting his first camera, a Sony Cybershot, in 2004
  • Accepting his first pro assignments in 2007
  • Seeing his work featured in galleries around the world

Fave Features…

He means business

Yaqub may be the most visually driven MBA on earth. Obsessed with beautiful magazine and book images from childhood, he eventually co-opted his father’s ancient SLR, using it even without film (he shares a laugh over the dead bug they were never able to remove from the viewfinder). While continuing his education in Islamabad, he formally began his photography career in 2004 with a small Sony Cybershot. “There were no photo communities or schools in my city where I could learn, so the Internet became my source,” he says. “My learning curve was steep as I never went to art school.” That didn’t stop this determined shutterbug, who began taking product photos professionally in 2007 with a DSLR. Finding the pro route and its adherence to client tastes repressive, he began choosing assignments selectively, focusing instead on building his gear arsenal and experience as an amateur. The move back to amateur status ensured that “photography remains my love,” he says.

SmugMug brings his world closer

Yaqub first joined SmugMug after mentors suggested it on Dgrin.com, both to showcase his work and provide safe back-up. Calling Dgrin “one of the best photography forums on the Internet,” Yaqub looks to the online community for passion and great customer support. “I can get any sort of photography advice, difficult technical info or SmugMug customization tips there,” he says. “SmugMug communities drive more traffic to my photo galleries and make it easy to find SmugMug photographers with similar interests.” Yaqub appreciates that he can now sell and ship to an international market with ease. Beyond that, he says becoming part of the community has helped him explore the business side of photography and improved his craft, educating him on print quality and online distribution issues. “Now I try to capture each frame with a printed end product in mind,” he says. “Dgrin is a platform of serious pros and learners, where I get instant technical help and inspiration.

Paying it forward in pictures

For Yaqub, photography is ultimately about sharing—sharing images, sharing views, sharing knowledge. SmugMug’s one-click sharing to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter helps him fulfill that mission. “For me, there is absolutely no reason to create a photograph and keep it in cold storage. What good it would do if it was not able to spread the message, inspire someone or help someone in their learning process?” he points out. “For instance, if you look at photos of historic events, they add another dimension to perspective.” In the future, Yaqub looks forward to traveling more, finding inspiring stories to document. He aims to focus on “spectacular natural and human wonders that really lift the spirit.” His partner for the journey? SmugMug. “Sharing these stories with the world requires a great platform with great security, display and printing.” (Yes, we’re excited, too.)

Beauty is as beauty does

SmugMug’s customizability has allowed Yaqub to bring the powerful esthetic seen in his work to his galleries. “SmugMug customization is this magical tool that transforms the basic look of a portfolio into something totally different, depending on the desired output,” he says. Along with SmugMug’s photo display and big, beautiful gallery styles, Yaqub endorses the “stretch” feature that lets galleries scale to available display size, optimizing the gallery for full-screen slideshows, which he terms “a breathtaking experience.” Other feature faves: the ability to retouch photos after orders are placed and creating effects with PicMonkey when he isn’t working in Photoshop. The tools SmugMug provides to safeguard his work are also important. “I can create as many watermarks as I want,” he says. “I have made quite a few for different purposes.” He also uses print marks to keep his work safe from alteration.

An eye for culture

Galleries in countries as diverse as Malaysia, India, the UK and the US have featured Yaqub’s work. International fans tell him they appreciate the glimpses he offers into the lives of typical Pakistanis. He has developed a singular perspective, using his camera to take viewers closer to spectacular human and natural wonders—or, as he calls them, “beautiful creatures that are impossible to see with the naked eye.” Yaqub points to his tendency to look at ordinary things differently as the reason his shots are memorable to admirers. “Culture is as diverse as nature,” he says. “It makes our world so beautiful and lively and charming to shoot.”

Love what you see? Check out our other incredible SmugMug Success Stories.

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