Congrats to the Final Winners of our Refer-a-Friend Contest!

There’s no announcement that makes us happier than one that celebrates our customers. And today’s the one we hope you’ve been waiting for as much as we have: The results of our Refer-a-Friend promotion!

We re-launched our Refer-a-Friend program last spring and have been giving away prizes to lucky SmugMuggers who brought friends over to join our club. Today we announce the final winners from almost a year’s worth of fabulous new SmugMug memberships.

Winners for November and December 2014

The last two winners in our monthly giveaways are Nicole Steele and Dawn Paiva. Congratulations! Be sure to capture every adventure with your new GoPro cameras this year.

Guess Who Won a Trip to SmugMug HQ?

We’re thrilled that we’re going to be able to meet Timothy Lasko in the flesh. We’ve got so many great things dreamed up for this trip to make it the most epic of all SmugMug visits, including a grand tour of the city, the full SmugMug face-painting experience, an inside look at the magic that happens at HQ, and a chance to meet our influential photographer friends who love to teach and inspire. And so much more. Come on down, Timothy!

What’s Next for Referrals in 2015?

Although the promotion is wrapped up, there’s never an expiry date on the benefits you get by referring friends to SmugMug: 20% off for you; 20% off for them; beautiful, personalized galleries; and the comfort of knowing that your photos will always be safe and sound. Also enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing our Support Heroes are always by your side.

Take your photography to new heights this year, and keep sharing your gorgeous memories with each other, and with us. Thanks for your incredible support! :)

P.S. Already have a lifetime’s worth of SmugMug account credit?  Then check out the SmugMug Partner Program where you can earn cash for introducing new people to SmugMug.

5 Easy Ways to Ready Your Website For a Busy Year

Now’s typically the time of year when you step back and re-evaluate your life. Whether or not you follow tradition (or break it), it’s always a good idea to think about your photography, your goals, and how you want to get there in the coming months.

Today we debut 5 easy questions to ask yourself to help you check your SmugMug site and be sure that it’s ready to face the next wave of photos, fans, and fame.

Read how to reboot your site for success »

Note: Some of these tips are only possible in current SmugMug, so if you’ve been with us since before July 30, 2013 and haven’t upgraded your site, preview the latest version of SmugMug now. You’ll get free access to a slew of incredible new features, because they’re already included in your subscription.

Other Ways to Stay in Control

If you’re super excited to take the tidiness to the next level, here are two more great articles we recommend bookmarking to help you sort your photos and stop the headache.

As always, our Support Heroes are here to help if you have questions. We do way more than just tell you where your Account Settings are – remember that we’re photographers, too, and we’d be thrilled to help you achieve your goals for the year. Talk to us!

8 Rules to Remember That Make More Powerful Portraits

Valentine’s Day is rolling up, which means portrait photographers are aiming to capture beautiful clients looking their best. But even if you simply want to learn to take better, more powerful portraits, here are a few tips from expert portrait photographer, Alexandria Huff As the photographic brain behind the On Creating ChiaroscuroGlare Aware: Photographing Portraits of People in Glasses, and Transitioning from Point-and-Shoot to DSLR: Understanding Full Frame vs Crop Frame Sensors, she’s well qualified to share these 8 essential rules no portrait photographer should ever forget. 

By Alexandria Huff

There are no rules in photography. There are, however, good habits that photographers rely on when they need to quickly capture a solid image. These habits are especially important when shooting for clients rather than just for personal projects.

1) Items in the foreground will look bigger/fatter/wider than the rest.

Keep extremities away from the foreground unless you’re going for that exaggerated look. Even the elbows in the second image are too far forward for my taste.

We get fixated on faces when shooting portraits and sometimes forget about what the rest of the body is doing. Keep hands, feet, and anything else you don’t want looking too bulbous further away from the camera.

2) Cutting off hands, feet, and foreheads can ruin visual flow.

Don’t crowd your frame or cut hands off at the wrists. Watch out for this when shooting in small spaces.

Arms and legs can act as leading lines for viewers that they follow out to the edge of the frame. Cropping at ankles, wrists, and foreheads is often too abrupt a cut-off for viewers. It is generally more acceptable to crop mid-thigh for 3/4th length portraits or at the waist/above the elbow for half length portraits. Also, cropping the forehead can have a “Frankenstein effect” so crop above the hairline.

3) Anything directly behind the subject’s head can make an image look weird.

Lines directly behind the head of a subject can be distracting. Check your backgrounds.

Mind your background to avoid “brain stems” – lines, trees, or other elements that photographers accidentally place their models directly in front of. Even in the studio they’ll appear in the form of wayward backdrop creases.

4) Slide your subject to the side.

Shifting a subject’s body over in the frame can produce more engaging portraits.

Symmetrical, center-weighted images can be really cool but the Rule of Thirds still has a strong place in photography. Placing your subject along one of the vertical/horizontal lines that divide an image into thirds produces pleasing results. Also, placing your model at an angle rather than square with the frame can be “slimming”.

5) Use broad and short lighting to your advantage.

The flash here is set up for broad lighting. Short lighting would dictate moving the flash to the far side of the subject’s face.

In broad lighting, the light is on the part of the face closest to the camera. Short lighting is on the far side of the face. Broad lighting is often good for softening skin and for thin-faced subjects while short lighting is good for bringing out wrinkles/character and for thinning wide faces. Use broad lighting if you want to avoid glare in glasses.

Using broad lighting (left) vs short lighting (right) will have a huge impact on your subject.

6) Direct your model through a series of micro adjustments and expressions.

Direct your subject through incremental changes in body language and expression.

The devil is in the details and your winning shot might differ from the rest because of a slight change in expression (like a Peter Hurley-esque “squinch”, parted lips, or dropped shoulders) rather than from large movements.

7) Make the most of lousy locations.

If you can’t have the location you love, love the location you can get.

Don’t shy away from shooting if you don’t have a studio or a park nearby. A strong portrait can be taken anywhere if you you’re following other compositional rules.

8) Shooting down onto your model is more flattering than shooting up at them.

It’s very rare for a subject to look good when being shot from below.

It’s rare for a subject to look good when being shot from below, even when you’re going for a power look. Nostrils are just not very photogenic — stick to eye-level or above. Remembering these rules and practicing good shooting habits will help you create consistently strong portraits. After a while you will have enough experience to successfully break the rules and develop your own distinct style.

5 More Currencies Added to Your Site

Great news for our worldwide SmugMuggers and their fans: we’ve added support for five additional currencies!

Now when someone buys a print, gift, or digital download from your site, they’ll be able to see the price in five more options:

  • Japanese Yen (¥)
  • New Zealand Dollars (NZ$)
  • Swiss Francs (CHF)
  • Hong Kong Dollars (HK$)
  • Swedish Krona (SEK)

We’re always hearing from SmugMug photographers (and their fans) that it’s easier to buy prints in a currency that makes sense to you. Here are full details about how currencies work at SmugMug.

“Can I use this on MY account?”

Yes! The new currencies are already visible in all shopping carts on all account levels, just like before. They’re available to you, the gallery owner, as well as to anyone who buys prints and downloads from your site. You don’t have to do a thing.

Tip: If you’d prefer people to not buy your photos, you can easily hide the Add to Cart button from your Gallery Settings.

How Conversions Work for Portfolio and Business Pros

Remember that you can select your base currency in the Pricelist manager. Your fans can pick one of the 10 currency options when they buy from you, but the prices they see will be converted from that base currency you’ve set in your Pricelists. Learn more about pro pricing and earning money through sales on our help pages.

We’ve got lots of info about prepping your files for print, marketing your work, and info about how the checkout process works.


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Take the New Carousel for a Spin

After lots of requests by SmugMuggers with great taste, we can officially announce the newest in the lineup of customizable content blocks: The Carousel!

This beautiful new feature lets your fans have a more interactive experience with your site, allowing them to scroll forwards and backwards through your favorite photos. We loved this idea and are thrilled that so many of you reached out to us. It’s such a gorgeous and interactive way to showcase your favorite photos. Here’s how to use it.

Want to see it in action? Here are a few great examples to get you inspired:

Beautiful Scrolling on All Screens

The Carousel content block can be placed anywhere on the page you’re customizing, plus it’s powered by HTML5, so it looks beautiful on all modern browsers and mobile devices.

You can pull images from any gallery on your site, or hand-pick individual photos from anywhere. And like most other content blocks, you can tweak settings further to show/hide the navigation arrows, change the height of the box, and so on.

Bonus: You can optionally customize it more with CSS.

Find It Now on All SmugMug Sites

Every site using the New SmugMug can get started using the carousel today. Find it under the Content > Photo section of your customizer and drop it into any page or gallery on your site. (Basic users can drop it anywhere they wish on their homepage.)

Tip: Make sure the photos you upload and your Maximum Display Size are large enough to fill the selections you set in the Carousel block settings. If they aren’t, your images may vary in height within the display area.

We’ve seen carousel-style displays popular with fashion, sports, and commercial photographers, and we’d love to see how you’re using it for your photos. Post a link to your site in the comments below, or share it with us on Facebook or Twitter!

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