A Penny for Your Downloads

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


  • 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’.

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I'm a writer based in San Francisco who loves travel, rangefinders, medium format film photography, and everything in-between.

78 thoughts on “A Penny for Your Downloads”

      1. I certainly will do my best and thank you for the quick response. We currently have an option to put together “packaged” offerings with prints. I’m asking if this “packaging” is available for image files only. For example let’s say I want to offer my customers qty discounts on image files. 1-5 image files (1 million dollars each) 5-15 image files (500,000 dollars each) etc….I shoot a lot of sports activities and have request for multiple image purchases…sometime in the 50 to 80 image range and other times customers just want to buy 1 or 2 and i’m looking for an option that will automatically help me manage cash flow/image count.

    1. Thanks for coming back with more info, Ron, and giving a bit of insight into your workflow. You may want to look into our Coupons feature, which lets you give incentives to customers. There’s 5 different types, and you can set them to kick in only after the customer has added a certain dollar amount in their shopping cart. While this isn’t exactly what you were asking for, we hope it makes things easier for your bulk sales.


      We do have a Packages option, but at this time they aren’t compatible with downloads, only physical print items. It’s on our hit list, though.

  1. I was about to switch to another service because of this issue, but now I will very happily stay a SmugMugger :-)

  2. If I want to give carte blance access to a sports media person at a school, does this improve the options I have for making it free to them short of me giving them a SmugMug gift card and me paying the % fee as if someone besides me were funding it? If I list a download at $10 and a sports information director “buys” 20 of them with a $200 gift card (my attempt to make it free to them), I pay your 15% fee on $200 not on $0.20. Has that changed?

    1. Hi, this change affects the base cast of your individual photo downloads only, because so many Pros were saying that our $0.49 base cost didn’t scale for large-volume sales like you’re describing. This doesn’t have any affect on the promotional methods available to your clients.

      In your situation, the old pricing would have resulted in the base cost of your $200 order being $9.80.

      The new way makes the base cost of that order only $0.20 . Which means a LOT more profit for you, the Pro, even if you have to cover SmugMug’s 15% commission with a Coupon.

      Please shoot our Heroes an email if you still have questions: http://help.smugmug.com/

    2. GulfCoast, if you are truly attempting to give someone photos for free, why don’t you just set the “Protected” setting as “No” and then put a password on the galleries that you only give to the sports media person? They could see the gallaries by putting in the password, but they could save the photos because it’s unprotected. The place where this option breaks down is if you are also trying to sell the gallery to the public.

      1. What a super idea Scott!! You could fix the issue by making two identical galleries. One fully protected for the public, and one private and password protected but unlocked for the media!

      2. Now that I think about it, after reading Jo’s reply. It would be a really great enhancement idea for SmugMug if you could somehow set the gallery to “Protected”, but then allow individual photo “saving” after putting in a password defined by gallery. This would save SmugMug a LOT of storage space over the two gallery idea. SmugMug – do you think that’s possible?

  3. Is there a way to charge a set price for the entire group of photos and is there a way to have them download a whole gallery at once?

    1. Hi Melissa, and yes! Pricelists are designed to help you make sweeping price changes across your site (or across certain photos and galleries only): http://help.smugmug.com/customer/portal/articles/93345

      And you can share zip files of whole galleries by requesting a backup and sending it to your clients. Just remember this includes any hidden files in the gallery, too: http://help.smugmug.com/customer/portal/articles/93331

      But if you want to charge money for the whole gallery, you should set a price for Gallery Downloads: http://help.smugmug.com/customer/portal/articles/93346

      Hope this helps, but shoot our Support Heroes an email if you need step-by-step instructions.

  4. Excellent – I really want to stay positive, but ya’ll need this feedback – this went on way too long and should have been handled months ago. Now back to shooting photos and making money. Thrilled about the change – moving forward.

  5. Too late for me. Between the added digital download cost Smugmug added to me this spring and now the additional subscription fee, I’ve already started migrating my photos and business to Zenfolio. Sorry Smugmug, you just didn’t do it for me anymore. You used to be the best photo hosting and sales company around, but I guess greed got the best of you…

    1. Larry, the $0.01 is the base cost of the item. Similarly, if you sell an 8×10 MetalPrint, the base cost is $27.74. You, the pro, set a markup over that price and keep 85% of the profit, we keep 15%. You’ll find all the details here: http://smu.gs/tMidIl

  6. SmugMug. Thank you for getting back to me about the split pro services and price increase scheduled for October 15, 2012. If your notice clearly stated that the split pro services and increase was for new clients and renewals effective on 10/15/12 I would not have had to contact “Baldy” for clarification. Let me suggest that if your increased costs are due to the need for for more archiving space, just limit the amount of time client files can maintain files on your servers. Transfer Big Files is a service that I pay $5.00 a month for and I can transfer large files to my clients so they can download the original files & burn their own disks. They get a month to download and then the files are deleted from their server. That space becomes available again. Also, you can give your clients a limited amount of space to store files & they can manage the amount of time their client’s files remain on the server. I know everyone is in business to make money but I’m reminded that my clients have options to do business with my competitors at the drop of a dime so I make sure I don’t run them away with increases that don’t give them significantly more services. “Just Saying”.

  7. I’m still not getting it. If I have a client buy one photo from me, what changes? Also, if my client buys 20 photos, same question, what changes. Lastly, will you be offering smugmug clients to buy a hi res cd?

    1. Todd, the difference is that you get more profit per sale of your downloads. When you set a markup on your products, we subtract the base cost of the item from your price. The old base cost was $0.49 per single download, which we lowered to just $0.01.

      As for the CD, that is a good idea and we used to do something similar (CD backups) that you could purchase from your galleries. We had issues with the vendor, but we’d truly appreciate it if you could weigh in on this on our feedback forums: http://feedback.smugmug.com/

      1. But with a 50 cent fee one photo download for me would give smugmuch 51 cents vrs 49 cents. With the increase in subscription costs I’ve already begun looking for a new site.

    1. Hi, if you’re one of the folks who isn’t yet using Pricelists, then you’re correct — Digital Downloads don’t have a base cost. The majority of selling pros have migrated by this time, and we’re in the process of migrating users over, automatically. We hope this clears things up, and that the formerly-higher $0.49 base cost isn’t the factor holding you back.

  8. Id like to know who’s going to stay with smug mug after they implement there new pricing for pro’s i don’t know about anyone else but it seems as smugmug has released this app got millions to join. and now wants the pros to pay for it. i’ll not stay at a 100 dollars a year INCREASE.

    1. Scott, I’m already in the process of moving over to Zenfolio. Smugmug was great for years, but has now just gotten too darn greedy. Check out Zenfolio, it seems great and they have an easy way to migrate your photos over. If you want you can even use this couponQ5B-BMP-1JM for a discount. (idk how much the discount is, I didnt know about the coupon when I signed up a month ago…)

      1. We’ll be leaving too I think. It’s been great, but the increase with the base cost seems, well, too much. This reminds me sort of of Netflix.

      2. Scott and Gregory … I think you’ve hit on the real issue, at least for a segment of SmugMug clientele like me who are in that “middle class” or gray area of photography sales — not really a pro with a healthy or steady revenue stream to easily absorb a $100/year subscription boost to upgrade to business. I only recently (three months ago) took the plunge to upgrade to the “pro” account, hoping to at least see if any of my stuff could sell after a sustained period, and now I’m not going to get that chance, at least not at SmugMug. The move has not brought in — and does not portend to — nearly enough to offset the $150 I agreed to pay just at the old rate. And now … to have to pay $250 if I want to continue to score the scant sales and earnings I’m seeing so far? I don’t think so. Gregory, thanks for reminding me about Zenfolio. A friend has her account there, she touted it heavily when I was trying to decide between it and SmugMug several years ago, and I’m likely to move there now. If SmugMug was bent on raising subscription rates, at the very least it ought to have offered a tiered schedule based on a subscriber’s sales volume (and SmugMug has the data to monitor that) to help fledgling sales-curious photographers a ratio of sales-to-cost without effectively putting us so deep in the hole, like the situation I would be in if I agreed to ante up. SmugMug, I think you messed up on this one.

    2. Joe Konz :
      Scott and Gregory … I think you’ve hit on the real issue, at least for a segment of SmugMug clientele like me who are in that “middle class” or gray area of photography sales — not really a pro with a healthy or steady revenue stream to easily absorb a $100/year subscription boost to upgrade to business..The move has not brought in — and does not portend to — nearly enough to offset the $150 I agreed to pay just at the old rate. And now … to have to pay $250 if I want to continue to score the scant sales and earnings I’m seeing so far? I don’t think so…SmugMug, I think you messed up on this one.

      Agree wholeheartedly with Joe’s sentiments. I find my clients seem to like having the online galleries to browse, but many/most of them just aren’t computer saavy enough – or comfortable with it – to use the online purchase option. So my online sales have barely covered the cost of the pro account in the years that I’ve had it. I will not be renewing. A friend of mine is a web designer and will give me a fully customized site for less. Time to make the move.

  9. I just joined smugmug a few months ago and just read about the increase. A $10 increase is a big much which equals an additional $120 a year! I’m going to start checking out more options with other websites.

  10. I am going somewhere else too this is outrageous! I just signed up a few months ago and I dont understand if I am just going to be charged extra in october if I stay or can I get my money that I have already paid to have this service for the rest of the year or what??????

  11. I got an email stating that Smugmug was keeping the price the same. One day later, I get an email telling of the huge increase. I have enjoyed Smugmug, but am now searching for another alternative. This is not a good time for price increases!

    1. Steve, we’re sorry to hear about the confusing messaging and completely understand how this could be off-putting. If you haven’t already, would you be able to email our heroes with feedback on the two messages you got? It doesn’t sound right to have gotten two emails with conflicting information. http://help.smugmug.com/

  12. I just paid good price out of my pocket to customized my site and shortly after I received an email about this price increase. If I to join zenfolio, how can I transfer my customization and make my site look the same there? Certainly, this is out of my budget to pay extra $100 per year.

    1. Hi Marina, we’re sorry about the timing of this, but every platform is different. There are tools available to move your photos off of SmugMug if you wish, but you’ll need to contact the other services you’re investigating (or ask your customizer) to find out if it’s possible to accommodate your changes.

  13. Marina :
    I just paid good price out of my pocket to customize my site and shortly after I received an email about this price increase. If I to join zenfolio, how can I transfer my customization and make my site look the same there? Certainly, this is out of my budget to pay extra $100 per year.

  14. I’m positive about the “decrease” and I think Smugmug does a great job however I still feel that downloads should be free. Look, “OUR” files reside on the server anyway for which you are getting an annual fee of $150 ummmm WAIT, my bad, now it’s $250 (remember that nice video trying to make all of us ok with an almost 100% increase(propaganda is just not your strong suit)? Boy I wish my clients would go for that. Then I wouldn’t have to write comments like this!) Plus you already get a commission on the print side right or wrong? And, maybe your printers throw in something “extra” to sweeten the pot too (free printing to you and your employees)? I would be willing to bet that you can manage to make a pretty penny without charging for downloads if we are all telling the truth. And we all tell the truth right ;-)

    If we pros really think about it, Smugmug, or any other ” image server” would not exist without us. It’s symbiosis period end of story. But when one part of the relationship (smugmug or any company) starts tightening the economic rope around our necks they make it very uncomfortable for us and our smiles start to turn into frowns.

    Every pro understands business and is a “bean counter” to some extent so we get the need for an increase, honestly. But, if I were to increase my prices/services by almost 100% in this economy (which by the way is not improving all that much) I would be gone by this time next year!

    I think if you take a step back and look at what you’ve done you would scratch your head and say “was I high”? If your software, servers, cable, phone, music… were to go up by almost 100% in one fell swoop I know you would react the same way and look elsewhere. Just always remember the ancient saying of wise businesses: “Keep looking over your shoulder because there is always somebody else who will do it better and cheaper” (or something like that). If you can afford to go from 8 to 40 people in less than 10 years then you certainly are doing ok.

    As Grandma always said: Don’t get too big for your britches. :)

    1. This worked fine for Netflix…OOops! No it didn’t! They did a similar thing by saying that prices would stay the same, but only if you are ok with half the service (on-line delivery or DVDs by mail instead of both)…We have been offered a similar choice. No big increase for Pro accounts…unless you want the potential to make a profit. This is by definition what a professional does. The choice of half the service or double the price almost destroyed Netflix. They did a speedy about face, and apologized but still lost a lot of customers for good. I’m sure smugmug has done some calculations and believes that loyal Pros who have spent time and money developing their smugmug site, won’t cancel at the same rate as the Netflix subscribers, but many will cancel, fewer will recommend you, and all or most will feel violated by such large and sudden increase. Worse yet we don’t know if another huge increase is around the corner. I appreciate your need to be profitable, but please consider spreading this increase over a few years.

  15. I paid for customization of my smugmug site just a month prior to the pro price increase. Sadly, I may have to move over to another service. Smugmug does a LOT of things very well and I’ve been with them for 7 years.

    I work with Real Estate Clients who need fast turnaround and who are not very good at dealing even with online shopping. I need a one-click downloadable link to give to clients. If smugmug would offer that and include the free download, I would stay.

    Even though I use the online smugmug galleries, I still have to provide them an instant, easy, failsafe way to get their photos. No credit card entry, name, login, shopping cart, etc. I use Pogoplug home cloud to deliver photos. Delivering digital photos to clients has always been my main issue with Smugmug. Offer pros a clickable link to download option and I’ll consider paying the $100 extra a year. Otherwise, it’s a great service, but delivering photos needs some updating. For $100 more a year, let cilents download for free. I have to invoice them separately and would love for them to pay using the smugmug shopping cart, but some pay with checks, some split billing with the broker, etc., so I need more flexibility in the delivery.

    1. I just realized after re-reading the above, that I could request a backup copy zip file and send that to the client. Hmmm. Seems I missed that previously. I take back my comments/requests. :)

      1. Hi Dave, glad to see that you found the answer so fast! Good luck and let us know if you have any other questions using the backup feature.

  16. My renewal is this month so I was told that the massive increase would not hit me for another year. Yay. Whether or not there is still a SmugMug a year from now is another thing … don’t too many of you leave until next year OK?

    Just curious, since all of the plans have unlimited photos …. and the reason for the increase in cost for the pros is the cost of hosting unlimited photos, did all of the plans go up an equal dollar amount? Or are the pro accounts funding everyone else to store unlimited photos? What is the ratio of basic accounts to pro accounts?

    1. Hi Steve, that’s a valid question and the storage issue was one of the reasons for the price change. We are also investing in engineering to make the changes we’re working on happen faster. Over the last year we’ve launched some impressive things that are related to these changes, but as our customer feedback always suggests, we want to step it up and deliver more, faster.

      But going back to the storage issue, we’ve seen that pros who sell at a markup use far more storage than users who don’t. This is why the price change affected the pro-level account, and offered a mid-level solution.

      1. Thanks for the reply Schmoo … I have been a Smugger for 5 years, and I had complained about a security hole which you did correct (after 2+ years of denying the issue even existed) … I think it is important to work on improvements, but also important to admit when there are problems while you are working on them.

        It is also important to improve the website, but the only other thing I requested from day 1 was to get a printing company in my country … which still doesn’t exist. This doesn’t take any designing or engineering – just an arrangement with another company. If you want us to sell more, (through you) then give us the means to do so.

        Before adding new features, give us all the features you already support! Let us print our photos locally. Without that, all the sales features you provide have no value.


  17. I am like some of the others. To me dropping from .49 to .01 is no big deal. What’s a big deal is raising the price of a PRO account but such a large percentage and with little notice. I have also looked at other possiblities. It seems to me that you are trying to cut the number of PROs you have and raising your fees so much will certainly accomplish that. AS to making “impressive things”, technology for technologies sake is not a good thing.

    Maybe I am misreading what you wrote, but to me a PRO is someone that sells at a profit and one who does not sell at a mark up is not a pro.

    I would suggest that instead of such a high percentage charge you do it in steps, maybe over two years. Some of us have been loyal to Smug and maybe we should be rewarded for it.

  18. Does anyone know what is happening over this price hike? I sent an email voicing my concern the day I got notified and I got a reply from one of the staff saying that they were going to have a re-think and I have not heard anything since. My suggestion was please reward loyalty; so if you feel that you have to make these charges at least do it in stages ( not all in one year ) to the customers that have been with smugmug for years like me.

  19. Does this mean that I will be charged a minimal fee each time I download? If so I am done.

    George Deb

    1. George, absolutely not. As the owner you have the right to re-download your archives at any time, for free. The $.01 base cost if only if you are pricing and selling downloads to your clients.

      1. Thank you! So will a printmark with my logo can be on the photo? If I don’t want a printmark is that possible? I’m thinking of doing a mini session with a 10-15 photo gallery. Was going to offer only digital downloads. Is this a cost effective way? Also, once the pay for the download, they can print and do whatever with their photos? Sorry I have so many questions!!

    1. Hi Christina, selling just digital downloads is a great way to offer the photos to your clients, and you don’t have to use Printmarks if you don’t want to have any branding on the purchased image.

      And yes: If you give them large files, your clients can turn the downloads into prints on their own printer, or they can take them to be printed at their favorite lab.

      But some pros only offer the smaller sizes which can’t be printed, which are perfect for sharing on Facebook and social sites. This way they can mark up pricing on the traditional prints, and your customer can order everything at once from your shopping cart.

      Hope this helps but if you need specific instructions on achieving what you want, feel free to ask one of our heroes: http://help.smugmug.com/

  20. smug you have priced me out of my pro account. You added foreign currency but not NZ and some local labs for international sales but not NZ. The US price base has restricted my sales and also the fact that delivery comes from the US. CD’s would be my pick now for sales but you don’t do that option. Seems most of the features i paid for at $150 when i joined are no longer available- i’m getting less value for the same annual fee. If storage is the issue then charge for it! SIMPLE- user pays. I don’t see why i should subsidise the folk using 100 x more capacity than i do, esp when Nikon D800 (and others will follow) produce 36 mb files. I limit my uploads to around 4mb but i’m paying for those that upload D800 size files plus!!! not fair… Definitely time to reassess my options and keep it simple. Tier based storage seems reasonable. Show me what value i’m getting even for the $150 now???

  21. So what happens to the $600 US residual paid by pro account holders that you maintain before profit is paid if we terminate or change to portfolio or power accounts? Guess you guys have made a nice percentage on that too!?

  22. I am also unlikely to stay with the new pricing for pros. Most my business is not events; and I find that when I do an event, attendees are more likely to look than buy. So the account does not pay for itself. I am a little unhappy that I took quite a bit of time to price my galleries again with your new pricing options, only to find out a couple of weeks later that there is a big price hike if I use the service. I too think its a better solution to have pros remove galleries at some point to keep the price more practical. A long term pro friend recently said “It seems that everyone is figuring out how to make a lot of money off photography except for the photographers”. This means there are a lot of photographers taking a lot of photographs out there but the people who purchase the photographs are either reluctant to pay what we need to charge, or hungry newcomers will do anything to get an opportunity even lose money.

    The companies making the money off photography are those servicing the photographers, not the photographers themselves in many cases. As photographers, our only alternative is to be selective who we do business with, complain when its too expensive, and educate our professional peers about options. Otherwise I have liked SmugMug.

  23. I definately agree with you Jeanette Vonier. Why is it that the photogaphers are being paid next to nothing for our images. I am sooo fed up with un-informed photographers killing our profession,with low prices.Plus companies only , publishers, advertising companies, not respecting the industry.

  24. Does Smugmug still provide support? The chat window seems like it’s never there anymore. Also, I sent an email to support yesterday evening and haven’t heard any response back yet.

    1. Dave, there aren’t any tickets in our system from the email account you’re posting from, so did you write to us using a different address? If so, we often hear that spam filters catch and hide our replies to you, so please check that if you were expecting a response.

  25. How much Smugmug took of each download changed, but did anyone else have their consumer facing prices for downloads change as a result of this without you actually changing them?

  26. Sent it Tuesday, October 9 @ 7:49 PM EST. No replies back into my regular or spam folder. It was from a different email address.

    1. Dave, thanks for your response. Without further info we can’t track down what happened to your ticket, but we understand not wanting to post your personal info on a public blog. Could you please shoot us another message or share a link to your SmugMug site so we can look you up?

      1. It was not from an email on the account/site I had the question about. How would I know that the new email gets to you? Think I saw your chat open. Will try that quick before it goes away again.

      2. Also, did not see if anyone had responded to this question. Do you know? October 10, 2012 at 7:18 am | #71 Reply | Quote
        “How much Smugmug took of each download changed, but did anyone else have their consumer facing prices for downloads change as a result of this without you actually changing them?”

      3. Was finally able to get onto live chat. Seems I was confused with how the pricing was set up for my downloads. I thought by not dealing with the area that said “percent over base price” I was ok. However I had set up what I wanted my final prices to be by changing the number in the profit column. Then when Smugmug made the profit changes, my final prices changed as well. Confusing, but see it now.

  27. I don’t have a problem with this. I do photography for relaxation, and to make a few buck along the way. I own two small businesses and I’ve had two rise my rates almost every year to make ends meet. Smugmug has always done what they said they would they would do.


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