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Smug Tip: We’re Your Holiday Newsletter’s Best-Kept Secret

November 10, 2014 Comments off

This year, skip the stamps and go digital for the family newsletter. Your SmugMug account is the perfect way to share a beautiful, personalized, ever-changing array of memories from the year that’s easily shared with friends, family, and everyone you wish.

Not only do you gain precious extra time to put it together (fab for busy holiday preppers), but you can go way beyond text with a custom SmugMug newsletter page. Think: Video, slideshows, maps, the whole shebang! And it’s interactive, letting your friends and family click through your content, leave comments, share and more.

Our SmugMug family newsletter, digital-style.

How to Build Your Newsletter

First, we’ve built a sample holiday newsletter from SmugMug and put it right here. Take a look and we’ll break each piece down for you below.

Creating a custom holiday newsletter can be done as many ways as there are snowflakes in Siberia, so these tips are just a guideline. Feel free to experiment with different content and layouts until you get something you like. The sky’s the limit! 

  1. Create a Page. If you plan on making your newsletters digital each year going forward, we suggest actually going a step further and creating a whole new Folder called “Family Newsletters.” From there, you can create your Page and name it by year.
  2. Choose a Theme. Since we’re specifically creating a holiday newsletter, try Winter, Flurries, Blizzard, or Snowflake for that seasonal feel.
  3. Plan your content. Think through the highlights of your year and how you want to present those memories. Would you like to add in a block of thumbnails that viewers can click? Or would you prefer to display them in a slideshow? Do you have any videos you’d like to share of school plays, memorable sports wins, or your annual vacation?
  4. Add your content. To do this, you may want to Collect just the photos you want into a special, unlisted “Newsletter” gallery, so you can easily drop it into the page and not have to select lots of photos from many folders around your site. This also keeps fans who click through to see more from getting lost.
  5. Tell your story. Use Title and Text blocks to greet guests and tell them every detail about your year. Remember that you’re never confined to just one block, so you can break up your text and let it flow down the page around the different photos and other content.
  6. Make it shareable. Don’t forget to add a Social Buttons box at the top or bottom of the page so your viewers can share it with other loved ones you may not be able to reach.

Dress up your newsletter page or gallery with a festive holiday theme.

Have a Basic account? While the ability to create custom Pages and use the more advanced Content Blocks are available only with Power accounts and up, there’s plenty you can do. Customize your SmugMug homepage to include all the Content Blocks that tell your story, or create a new gallery and Collect your best photos from around your site to illustrate all the great things you did this year. Your Gallery Description field is the perfect place to greet your guests, and you can use the photo Title and Caption fields to expand on what happened in each and every photo.

Key Smug Features to Use

The Multiple Photos content block is a great option for displaying select photos from your year.

We’ve just barely skimmed the surface of what you can do, so here’s a list of Content Block options you’ve already got to build the best digital newsletter your family has ever seen.

  • Custom Pages. Why stop at one? If an epic story needs to be explained, link out to a second, third, or fourth page so your fans can read all about it. We love photo blogs!
  • Themes. If you’re in Australia, snow may not fit the holiday idea like it would in Canada. Your account comes packed with dozens of beautiful themes, so don’t be afraid to be different.
  • Text and Title blocks. These are key. You could let your photos speak for themselves, but we prefer tradition on this one.
  • Maps. If you’re a globetrotter who loves to geotag, embedding a map is a wonderful, interactive way to show your family where you’ve traveled this year.
  • Slideshow box. A space-saver. For those who don’t prefer the endless scroll, the Slideshow content block is a great way to show off big, beautiful photos one at a time. You can even customize the playback speed, transitions, and much more.
  • Animoto video. Video clips are a fabulous addition to any newsletter, since paper versions can’t do this at all. But if you’re not sure your shaky vacation clips are up to snuff, you can still create an engaging, professional, beautiful video from your content with Animoto. They’ll do all the work so all you have to do is drop it into your page. Find it in any gallery under Buy > Other Products > Create a Video.
  • Galleries box. An easy way to feature your best galleries of the year, all around your site.
  • Comments. Will grandma love this year’s newsletter? Drop in a comment box so you can find out!
  • Social share buttons. Because you may not have the email address of your second cousin twice removed, the one you hit it off with at your niece’s wedding. But somebody in your network will.

Tip: Pair Your Newsletter with a (Real, Paper) Card

Even if you go digital on the newsletter, you can (and should) still turn your best photos into a beautiful holiday card. SmugMug’s got tons of gorgeous, personalizable designs that complement any photo you’ve ever taken (we’re willing to bet on it).

And since you can write your own words in them, a photo card is the perfect opportunity to debut the link to your newsletter. ;)

We just think the digital newsletter idea gives you much greater creativity and flexibility when it comes to your memories since you can add, change, and update the content your family sees.

Happy holiday planning, and we’d love to see your own creative examples of family newsletters this year! Tweet us a link, send it to our Support Heroes, post it to our Facebook wall, or just leave a comment below so we can check it out.

Links to love:

Treat Yourself This Halloween with More Smug Friends

October 29, 2014 2 comments

This is a favorite time of the year for lots of us who love to have fun with friends and family, dress up, and watch the leaves change on the trees. Remember pooling your trick-or-treating candy and swapping and sharing with friends? We hope that at SmugMug, you’ll still be able to do this in the spirit of the holiday.

No Tricks, Just Treats at SmugMug

20% credit is a sweet, sweet reward for every friend you bring over to join us. Remember that when you share the secret of beautiful online galleries with friends using your unique referral link, you earn a percentage of their account value back into yours. And they get a discount off their first year, too, just for knowing you.

Why would they join? Great memories start with friends, and everyone needs a safe place to put them. Whether they love to document the kids’ adorable costumes year after year or are famous for throwing wickedly delicious Halloween parties, there’s room for it all in SmugMug’s unlimited galleries.

SmugMug’s “Spooky” theme

Try our festive “Pumpkins” theme.

Let’s not forget that every account comes bundled with dozens of gorgeous one-click themes (like “Spooky” and “Pumpkins”), so your Halloween galleries will look appropriately festive… even if their personality’s sunny and warm.

And if the party gets a little too crazy, we’ve got powerful privacy features to boot.

So what are you waiting for? Your friends are waiting!

Kudos to September’s Winner: Chip Jones

Congrats to Chip Jones, our most recent winner of our monthly Refer-a-Friend contest! Chip takes gorgeous Fine Art, Landscape, and Architectural Photographs, and we’re pleased to be able to add a GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition camera to his lineup of photo tools.

Chip Jones Photography

Time’s running out on our contest, so if you’re looking to win one of your own, don’t forget to check out the contest and prize details, and start sharing SmugMug with your circle of friends.

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

Links to love:

New: Customize Your Right-Click Protection Message

August 12, 2014 18 comments

… and use your powers for good, not evil.

A quick update this morning for pros who use right-click protection to stop thieves from grabbing your pics: we’ve added the ability to customize the message that displays when viewers right click your protected photos.

This is something that you could do using CSS customization in Old SmugMug, but we think it’s such an important piece of building a great experience on your site, we wanted to make it drop-dead simple for you to do this in the new, beautiful SmugMug.

Get It Set Up

 

 

Visit your Account Settings and look under your Privacy tab. Scroll down a bit and you’ll see a brand new “Right-Click Message” field. Fill that out, save your changes, and test right-clicking on photos in your protected galleries to see how it looks. Here’s more help.

Tip: We recommend being firm but friendly. If you have prints for sale, ask them to look for the Buy button to grab one of your photos in a legit way.

A Word About Image Theft

As always, we want to share some helpful info about image protection and what to expect. After all, if you’re paying us for a pro-level account, you should get the best bang for your buck!

We hear a lot from ambitious pros who rely on tools like Right-Click Protection way more heavily than they probably should. Why’s this bad? Right-Click Protection is just a deterrent, and if someone really wants to download a free copy of your image, there are several things they’ll try. For example, they can snap a screen grab, so be sure to use the full suite of image protection tools if you’re really worried about this. Here’s a quick review of your options:

  • Right-Click Protection. Displays a popup window when any part of the gallery is clicked. Fabulous when coupled with a warm, friendly message encouraging fans to buy.
  • Display Size. Limits the size of the images viewers can see. Great for foiling screen grabbers.
  • Watermarking. Logo or text placed over your display copies. Add your URL, enable sharing, and you’ve got yourself a ton of free advertising for your biz. The best bit? Your prints still print clean.

We hope this helps those of you who are new to SmugMug, are new to photography, or who just haven’t fiddled with your site lately and are looking to brush up on the basics.

And as always, be sure to let us know if you have questions, problems, or just need some advice getting your site working the way you want. We’re here. 

Link roundup: 

5 Camera Tips Pros Wished They’d Known Sooner

August 5, 2014 8 comments

They say your first 10,000 pictures are your worst, or that it takes 10 years to become an expert. While we can’t necessarily refute those words of wisdom, we can share tips from our team of passionate photographers that may help shorten that climb to the top.

1) f/8 Is Usually Best

Without getting too deep into the details about optics and light paths, your lens has a sharpest point within the range of f-stops that you see on it. As a rule, the largest and smallest ends of the range are the softest, or least sharp, and f/8 or somewhere in the middle is where you’ll get the sharpest images. This varies by lens of course, but we suggest shooting your own test shots of the same subject at different apertures, zooming in, and seeing how that affects your images.

Tip: Don’t know what f/8 translates to in your photos? You can search for any kind of photo on SmugMug and then refine your search to see just the photos shot within a specific aperture range. Neat!

2) Cropping is OK

Unless you’ve jumped straight into big league macro or wildlife communities (where cropping is “cheating”) it’s totally fine to take your original photo and crop it so you have a better, stronger composition. Or maybe you just used the wrong lens and need a bit more zoom. Either way, it’s your trade secret and artistic decisions like this are part of what makes you – the photographer – unique.

Tip: You don’t have to crop before you upload to your SmugMug galleries. Use our handy Photo Tools to crop your images, or even Make a Copy and crop that one so you can compare the two and see which version you like best.

3) Renting is OK

You don’t have to own the gear to shoot with the gear. So you can’t drop $14K on a 800mm lens to shoot the next game? No problem – pay a pittance to have one for just the time you need, then send it back and call it a job well done. We can’t all be big spenders… even if we strive to get the perfect shot every time.

Tip: Our friends at Borrowlenses.com have a huge variety of photo, video, and lighting gear for every reason that needs a camera. You can even customize the amount of time you rent, if the standard time spans won’t work for you. Plus, SmugMug customers get an extra 10% off your entire order.

4) Editing is Essential

While we’ve stressed before that getting your photos right SOOC is good practice, it’s rare when a photo looks better raw than polished. Even the most perfectly-lit, powerfully-composed photo can benefit from a few finishing tweaks to color, sharpness, and other aspects that make pop to the eye. So even if you think that sunset couldn’t get better than it is, just give it a boost and see what happens. You just might like what you find.

Tip: You’ve got the power of Photo Effects (in your Photo Tools) and Picmonkey for the photos that live in your SmugMug galleries. But take it a step further with Lightroom: with the ability to sync and publish direct to SmugMug and pro-worthy features simple enough for beginners, we think you’ll be hooked. Check out the tutorials and see why.

5) Technique Can Solve (Pretty Much) Anything

Backlit subject? Contrasty sunset? Wind in your umbrellas? White dress, red walls? All of these scenarios (and thousands more) can throw a monkey wrench into how you thought the shoot would go, but you can still get the final photo you had in mind with practice, practice, practice. Study hard, stay inspired, experiment, and make mistakes. Lots of mistakes. The more you know, the more you can overcome challenges that would throw photo greenhorns into despair.

Tip: We can’t promise to have a ready answer to every problem, but we’re trying. As photographers ourselves, we strive to write and deliver photography-, website-, and business-focused articles on our blog, the SmugMug School website, and through our email newsletters. It’s our mission to help make photography (and whatever you do with it) more fun.

Links to love:

Smug Tip: Take Your Photos Further With These Smug Features

July 2, 2014 6 comments

SmugMuggers come from all walks of life, which is something we love to see. Whether it’s weddings, kids, cats, trucks, races, bikes, mountains, flowers, architecture, travel, or cat trucking races (hey, you never know), there’s room for you at our table.

There’s so many features built in to every account, you may not realize how some of them could really take what you’re shooting to the next level. So today here are a few of our tips on Smug features you may want to use, depending on the things you most love to shoot.

Family Snappers 

Does your heart and soul stay close to home? Photos are proof that you and your family have truly lived… and had fun! But we don’t always want those photos to fall into the wrong hands, or for your favorite memory to get lost in the jumble.

• Privacy settings. Be sure to occasionally log out of your account and view your SmugMug galleries as a guest. Are the galleries you meant to be unlisted truly hidden? What happens when you log out and view a passworded gallery? Remember that you can review all the different privacy options available to you via your Account Settings and individual Folder and Gallery Settings, or from our help pages.

• Folders and Galleries. The new SmugMug gives you the ability to nest your folders and galleries 5 levels deep, meaning you have up to 7 layers of organization available to you. Move your content so it makes the most sense to you, whether it’s organizing your photos by child, by event, or even by year. Or a combination of everything.

Client-Seeking Pros

If you’re putting your business online, there’s a few things we recommend that you do to have maximum impact with your potential client base. Remember: It doesn’t matter whether your profession is photography or not — SmugMug’s great for businesses of all types.

• “Best-of” Galleries. Even if you’re a chef, your site should show off what you do. Whether it’s in pictures or video or text, your incoming clients are going to want to get a taste of what you do and what makes you unique. So create a gallery or a page full of content blocks that visually delivers your elevator pitch.  Upload your best, or Collect and curate them from other galleries around your site. Don’t forget to link to it from your menu bar, so it’s easy to find!

• Contact Forms. We still can’t believe how many websites we see that make it difficult (or impossible) to contact the owner. Simply put: If you want people to hire you, compliment you, or otherwise tell you you’re awesome, be sure that your email address or phone number is clearly visible at the top or bottom of your homepage. Shy about spam? SmugMug gives you a safe, ready-to-go contact form for your footer, which you can also place in your menu bar.

World Travelers

You may not keep track of which time zone you’re in, but you should always remember where you took those photos. How else would you find your way back to that perfect beach, or where you got those great noodles?

• Maps & Pins. If you take photos on your mobile phone, or if your camera is already set up to geotag your images, great! Your photos will keep their locational data when you upload to SmugMug. Or you can add locations manually by going to your Photo Tools. Once that’s done, simply display the map anywhere on your site.

• Text Content Blocks. A photo may be worth a thousand words, but a few lines about what you did and how you got there sure never hurts. The content blocks you can drag onto your homepage and custom pages are a great start for Power, Portfolio, and Business accounts, but all users can simply fill in the Title and Caption fields under every photo.

The Socially Savvy

Social media is great, but you really don’t know how long your content will exist on there before it gets deleted. You can easily build a forever home on SmugMug and style it to point to all the places online you like to hang out.

• The Social Designs. Put all your cards on the table with our default “SmugMug” design, or (if you’ve got a Power, Portfolio, or Business account) the similar-looking “Dash” design. Both of these let you set a profile pic and display your name, a cover photo, and list out your favorite social network icons.

• Share Buttons & Comments. These are two simple content blocks you can drop anywhere on your site to help your visitors share your photos with friends and engage in healthy discussion. Did you also know that you have styling options for your social media buttons? Be sure to check the individual settings.

• Publish to Facebook. If you’d rather post your pics directly in Facebook, try this feature. You can apply a custom watermark and choose the maximum file size to be copied over into its very own album on Facebook, so they can see the whole set, but you’re still protected from image theft.

Event and Sports Shooters

If your adrenaline gets going when the competition does, you probably have a fair number of galleries holding some of your most exciting photos… which can quickly get unruly and out of hand. The key to staying in the game is to stay organized, and be sure that every single subject in every photo can be found.

• Keywords. This is arguably more important for sports photographers than the photos themselves. Seriously though, you’re going to want to keyword your images not just with the event you shot, but with location, date, and even player name if it applies to your shoot. Your clients will thank you. Just don’t forgot to display a search box or a keyword cloud so they can take advantage of it.

• Site-wide Organizer. Like the family tips we mentioned above, proper organization via SmugMug’s 7 layers of Folders and Galleries are invaluable when it comes to busy event seasons and the many different things that you shoot. So be sure to structure your site clearly and easily, simple enough for you, your assistants, and your clients so that they can find exactly what it is they’re looking for.

Those are our tips and we hope that, no matter what you shoot or how long you’ve been with SmugMug, you discover something new. And if you didn’t, tell us – What do you take pictures of, and what features have you used to make the most of it?

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Link roundup:

Release Notes: Customize the Buy Button, Stronger Search Box, and more

June 27, 2014 74 comments

We’ve just introduced a few more really great improvements we think you’ll love. More control over your gallery’s Buy buttons, the ability to easily archive and browse your mobile memories, and a super sweet search update for event shooters.

1) Customize Your Buy Button

One of your favorite topics of feedback is about the button that your fans click to make a purchase. To help draw more eyeballs to it, we changed the button text to read “Buy Photos” instead of just “Buy.”

Additionally, you can tweak the skin, style, and size of the button.

To do this, go to any gallery on your site, click Customize > Customize Site, click the Gallery Styles settings, then look for the Buy Button options. You can specify your button’s settings in the Thumbnail, Collage Landscape, and Collage Portrait styles.

2) Easy Mobile Uploads

We recently made it easier to upload your mobile photos to your SmugMug galleries, but we took this one step further by cleaning up the uploader when you’re on your phone. Now you’ll see an easy-to-spot upload button when you’re logged in to your account. Tap that and we’ll let you select as many photos as you wish from your image library.

3) Get Map Happy

We’ve upped the number of available pins on your map from 200 to 1000. Get snapping! You can read more about SmugMug maps and they work right here.

4) Stronger Search Options

We’ve added more functionality to your Search content block so that you can choose to direct your fans’ searches  to your keywords page, not your search page. This helps them stay focused on what they were looking for. You can also optionally inject your own search term to be added to anything your fans enter in the box, like the race name.

For example: If you force “tough mudder” as a search term, their search for a bib number “100” will search for “100 + tough mudder,” and not pull up other photos around your site with just the keyword “100.”

Take a look at these recent additions by opening up your Search content block settings and viewing the Basic and Advanced tabs. And as always, here’s how search works on SmugMug, and you can get more detailed help about keywords from our help pages.

Enjoy!

Photo Tip: 4 Tricks to Get Your Photos Done in Record Time

May 19, 2014 Comments off

Procrastination gets the best of us, but what’s the point of taking photos if they’re going to die unseen on your hard drive? Most of us can blame “time” as the reason we don’t sit down to edit our photos, but with a little foresight, you can kick that habit to the curb.

Here are 4 tips we recommend to make processing less of a process.

Get out and take pictures. You’ll capture great memories, and using your camera will become second nature.

1) Do Your Homework

Did all-nighters work for you when you were in school? Maybe, but the majority of us would probably admit we got better grades when we completed regular assignments.

The same goes for photography: staying up to date on techniques and shooting regularly will keep your brain (and hands) in tip-top shape. Also, look around for inspiration and techniques that fellow photographers are using, so you keep pushing your boundaries. The more experience you have – and the more often you take in new info – the better prepared you’ll be for when things go awry.

Downpour on the wedding day? Did your strobes conk out? No problem!  Being able to adjust in the moment will help your exposures come out right the first time—requiring less tweaking once you get them off the camera and onto your computer.

Knowing how to properly set up your strobes and camera settings pays off when you get back to your computer!

2) Get It Right Straight Out of Camera 

If you’re doing the above, you’re that much closer to getting this trick done, too. Getting the perfect shot in-camera (often shortened to “SOOC”) will drastically reduce the amount of time you have to pixel peep, polish, and tweak.

You’ll probably need to do final adjustments in post, such as adjust white balance, contrast, or sharpening, but you’ll save time with the big stuff.

And this is the beauty of digital – unlike film, you can take as many shots as you need to get it right without accruing additional costs.

Lightroom does everything from one place: organize, edit, keyword, publish, and more.

3) Use Lightroom

It’s no secret that we seriously love Lightroom. Why? You can use it to import, organize, tag, and edit all your photos and seamlessly publish them to your SmugMug galleries. In short, it does everything.

We’ve posted a couple of how-to’s about Lightroom in the past, and we won’t stop now. Take a look at one of our most popular articles with Kelby Media educator Matt Kloskowski, and this brief video by CreativeLive teacher Jared Platt that shows you how to publish directly from Lightroom to SmugMug.

In short, doing all your work in one program and being able to publish and sync between your local files and your online archives is a true time-saver we can’t recommend enough!

Quick Settings: Just one of many “set it and forget it” features you get at SmugMug.

4) Let SmugMug Do the Rest

Once your photos are safely in your SmugMug galleries, you can make us organize your photos with virtually no extra heavy lifting by you. Here are a few of our favorite “set it and forget it” features that speed things up and get you on your way:

  • Quick Settings. Create “templates” for gallery settings, like watermark style, largest size, and whether or not viewers can purchase your photos.
  • Smart Galleries. Automatically curate new photos into existing galleries as you upload them.
  • Price and Sell. Choose products and set a markup so fans can order prints direct from your website.
  • Events & Favorites. Share these with clients to let them tag favorites and display them all in a personalized, private gallery.
  • Our 30-day Print Guarantee. For everything else that can possibly go wrong with wowing your fans, leave it to us. We have a fabulous 30-day guarantee on all of our print and gift orders, meaning that  we’ll replace or refund the order if you (or your clients) don’t love it.

We hope these tips ease your worries and get you shooting, sharing, and digging right in to your backlog of photos.

Happy editing!

Link roundup:

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