It’s that time again, happy SmugMuggers! Here’s a quick update on what we’ve updated and fixed over the last few weeks.
Choose Where to Search
This is just what the doctor ordered for all you folks who want to cordon off your viewers’ searches to a specific portion of your site. Now when you click the settings you can choose exactly which folders and galleries get searched using the input in this field.
So, for example, if you took several galleries’ worth of photos on an epic world vacation 2013, fans who are looking for photos of “elephants” in India won’t dig up photos of elephants from your local zoo. Keep in mind that the regular search tips apply, so be sure you’re up to speed.
Tip: This new setting applies to the Search Box content block ONLY, and not to the search box that appears in your site header. That one will continue to search only the page that you’re currently viewing.
NEW AdSense Content Block
We’ve never forced SmugMug customers to display ads on their site, but we do have a fair number of business customers who wanted the ability to display paid ads to their own viewers. Due to popular demand, Power, Portfolio and Business accounts now have the ability to add Google Adsense units to any page on your site using the new AdSense content block.
You can add up to three of these blocks to any page, but please refer to your AdSense Terms of Service for specific information about what you should and shouldn’t do. Enjoy!
Filenames in Organizer
You gave us a lot of feedback about those thumbnails you’re seeing in your site-wide Organizer, and how you wanted to be able to see the filenames for each and every one. It was one of those “Why didn’t we think of that?” moments, so now we’ve added in a toggle for your organizing pleasure.
Find it in the upper right corner of the browsing pane of your Organizer.
Two Slideshow Improvements
Thanks to your feedback on our forums, we’ve added a randomization option to your Slideshow content block, found under the “Display” tab of the block settings. So now you don’t have to decide which photo gets seen first.
We also brought back edge-to-edge, full screen slideshow displays. This applies to the big slideshow that appears after you hit the “full screen” button in any gallery style as well as the Slideshow content block. Note that this applies only if you have Originals enabled in the photos’ gallery settings and if your Original photo resolution is large enough to stretch across the screen. We also won’t stretch (AKA distort) images to fit screens, so you may still see some letterboxing if your image isn’t the perfect shape.
Last but never least, here are our top picks from the mix of other fixes:
- Added back “Sharpening” settings for Power User accounts.
- Properly updated the preview URL when you click Hide Owner.
- Fixed stuttering video playback in some public galleries.
- Photos in passworded galleries with external linking “Off” will display properly when collected and used as featured photos.
- Gallery privacy levels (unlisted, private, passworded) are shown in all gallery picker windows.
Till next time. Keep the feedback coming!
A huge, heartfelt thank you to all of you passionate readers out there who’ve shared your thoughts about the new SmugMug. Whether you’re Tweeting, Facebooking, Dgrinning, emailing or posting comments in our blog, we really do read every single response (even if we can’t always reply personally to every one). Change inspires great feeling in all of us, and it’s been a wild ride seeing just how the new features and tools have affected so many of you.
Since launch day we’ve been hard at work helping you get settled, cataloging your feedback, tweaking and polishing and making things that much better for you to use. So here’s the first batch of updates that gives you a closer look at some of the things we’ve shipped in the last week.
Gallery Comments are back!
When we launched, your gallery comments didn’t migrate with your photos, but we didn’t just chuck them into the trash. Now when you drop in a comments content block, click the wrench in the corner, choose a source and pull in all your previous comments from, say, your legacy guestbook gallery:
Show Off to embed slideshows
You’ve asked for an easy way to embed your photos into external sites, so we brought the Show Off feature into the new SmugMug. When you’re logged in as owner, you’ll see the “Show Off” option in the lightbox view, from the social menu. You can customize a beautiful slideshow of virtually any size to embed in webpages:
Events & Favorites
We’ve gotten a lot of feedback about this feature in the last week, so thank you to everyone who helped us track down and iron out the bumps. We have:
- … fixed issues your clients sometimes had saving and removing Favorites.
- … made it so that Event slideshows play perfectly again.
- … fixed an obscure bug so that all top-level folders display reliably in the Events gallery picker.
- Slicker, smoother video playback.
- “Auto” streams a juicy 640×480 and up.
- Are you in the EU? You’ll feel at home with our new, rule-abiding cookie consent bar.
- Presented a cleaner, new crop page on preview mode and unveiled sites.
- Upped the maximum number of Multiple Photos to 48.
Misc bug fixes
- Site Meta Title and Description SEO tools use YOUR text (not ours, unless you leave these blank).
- Tidied up the logged-out view of comments box.
- Passwords stick to your galleries, even if you move them into Public folders.
- Fixed navigation into Categories on legacy Sharegroups.
- You can set pricing on galleries before you’ve even filled them with photos.
- Gallery descriptions are visible to anyone with permissions to view your gallery.
- You can sort your Collected images in the Organizer.
Enjoy! As always, please don’t be shy about sharing what you love, what you don’t, and what you think doesn’t look quite right.
The SmugMug Family
In the week since the new SmugMug was born, we’ve been blown away by some of the gorgeous websites that we’ve seen from you!
But we’ve been also hearing from folks who miss the old legacy look, and want a newer version of it instead of a completely different website. No problemo, amigo! Here’s how to do it in just a few steps.
1. Use the SmugMug design
Let’s say, for example, you miss our basic legacy SmugMug layout and our basic Theme:
After you’ve migrated your photos, you’ll see all available designs for your account level. If you’re already using something else, simply click Customize > Choose a New Site Design from the top of your page.
Choose the first design, called “SmugMug.”
2. Post your profile
Click the wrench on the top box to open up your profile settings. Fill that in with a little blurb about yourself and what you do. If you wish, invite people to leave a comment or to email you!
Tip: If you’ve already filled in your Profile, you can toggle it to automatically display the content you have there.
3. Display your galleries
If you want your homepage to display your top-level Folders and galleries, you can leave the default boxes alone. Otherwise, click the wrench in the corner to edit what shows up. From the Basic tab, choose specific folders and galleries via the “Select From” dropdown in the settings box.
For the legacy look, you’ll want to change the thumbnail Photo Size to “Small,” and keep the 1:1 ratio.
Then click the Display tab. Tweak the spacing between your tiles, and change the Info Style to “Under.”
To get the classic single column look, click the Layout tab of your customization menu, and change “Stretchy” to “Fixed.” You can specify the width here, but the default is 960 pixels.
From there, you’re all set! You’ve got the classic profile + gallery content all ready and waiting for your fans to see.
Of course, you can always tweak the settings more on any of the content on the page, or add more boxes to your heart’s content. That’s the beauty of the new SmugMug!
Links to stuff you’ll love:
If you’ve been with SmugMug for a while, you’ve probably earned a badge trying to create non-gallery pages using Advanced Customization. Anyone with a website needs to create pages that don’t necessarily have lots of photos on them: About Me, your mission statement, your pricing, etc.
Before, you had to copy and paste complicated code to hide parts of your gallery page, then hand-type in HTML to get what you wanted.
With the new SmugMug it’s as easy as drag, drop and go. Here’s how to do it in 3 simple steps.
PS. Creating Pages is a customization feature available on Power, Portfolio and Business accounts. If you’re a Basic user, you can customize your homepage using any of the Themes and content blocks we provide, but you may not find all the options listed below.
Step 1: Create your new page
First, create the page you want. If you want to create an About Me page, for example, start by hitting the Organize > Create > Page button in your header.
Give it a name, keywords, settings, whatever you wish. Hit the Done button in the top left of your window to save.
Tip: Your new page will appear at the bottom of your folder tree list when you open up your site Organizer. You can drag it into any other place (like into a Folder) if you want it elsewhere.
Step 2: Customize it
Find the page that you just made. You can do this by typing in the URL for it, or you can click the link from the preview window in your site Organizer.
Once you’re at your new page, open up customization from the header: Customize > Customize Site. To confirm that you’ll be applying changes to just the one page (and not your whole site), look for the following folder list at the top right:
Personalize the page however you wish. You can change the Theme if you want a different color scheme on this page versus any other part of your site.
Don’t forget to browse through the many different content boxes from the “Content” tab and drag the ones you like into the middle, the side, the bottom, wherever you want onto your page.
Tip: A light green box will appear in any spot that can accept a block. If you miss, we’ll show you a dotted outline mapping out where valid areas lie on the page. Experiment and have fun!
Step 3: Link it
Remember that you get an instant, live preview of everything you’re doing, but to clear the windows away just click the Preview button, and “Done” when you’re finished.
Copy the URL for the gallery from the top of your browser page, and click to highlight the top-level, “Entire Site,” option from the top right.
If the site design you’ve chosen comes with a menu bar, click the little wrench to open the edit box.
Tip: If your design doesn’t include a menu bar, Power, Portfolio and Business users can add one by dragging and dropping in the “Menu” content block from the Content > Navigation section.
Click the little + sign to add a link to the menu.
Fill in the copy you want, and past in the URL for the new page you just created. Click Done.
That’s it! Your new page is happy, gorgeous and accessible to all.
Give it a try and let us know what you think. And we want to see what kinds of amazing pages you’re designing, so don’t be afraid to show us what you’re building.
Since our launch we’ve gotten a ton of feedback… and even more tickets, requests and emails than we ever imagined! Our amazing Support Heroes have been feverishly busy, so if you have a basic question and would rather not wait, please join us online.
Getting Started: 7 New Live Webinars
Excited? Nervous? Can’t find the right button to get what you want?
We’re here to help with questions like:
“How long can we keep using the Legacy web site before we are forced to go to this new version?”
“My site was customized and I love it now. Can I move everything ? What about my guest book – will that move?”
Tune in for a one-hour introduction to the new options and tools on your SmugMug website. We’ll touch on migrating, choosing and editing designs, how to customize and how to use the new site organizer.
***UPDATE*** Our first 1-hour webinar is now on our video channel, so you can skip right ahead and watch it now.
But if you still have questions that weren’t answered, pick a time that works for you and register below:
**Another update! New Webinars for Brand-New SmugMuggers**
Did you just sign up for a SmugMug account and want to get your website going right away? Join us for our next Getting Started webinars:
SmugMug Basics Fri, Aug 2, 2013 11:00 AM PT (2:00 PM ET) SmugMug Basics Fri, Aug 2, 2013 5:30 PM PT (8:30 PM ET) SmugMug Basics Mon Aug 5, 2013 1:00 PM – 2 PM PDT (4:00 PM – 5 PM PM EDT) SmugMug Basics Mon Aug 5, 2013 5:00 PM – 6 PM PDT (8:00 PM – 9:00 PM EDT)
See you online, and thanks to everyone so far for your support and feedback!
One of the most popular requests we’ve heard from our customers was :
“Why can’t I customize my system pages?”
With the latest updates at SmugMug, Power, Portfolio and Business users can customize certain pages that were untouchable before.
What you can change?
First, be sure that you’ve migrated your site to the new SmugMug (which may take a while because of the number of people who have done this in the last 24 hours), then replace the “XXXXX” in the following links with your SmugMug nickname.
They’re not listed in your Site Organizer since they can’t actually be moved around, but we’ll include them in your owner-only navigation, soon.
What: The error page that shows when people try to visit a page on your site that doesn’t exist.
See it: http://XXXXX.smugmug.com/404
Tip: Your fans may be frustrated trying to find something specific on your site when they get this page. Don’t be afraid to drag and drop in a text box and type up something friendly that invites them to contact you.
What: Timeline view, which lets you (or viewers) search for photos shot within a specific date range.
See it: http://XXXXX.smugmug.com/date
What: Your keyword cloud, which shows you all the keywords you’ve entered into your site, and how many photos are found under each.
See it: http://XXXXX.smugmug.com/keyword
Tip: Keyword clouds are also available as a content block, found under the “Discovery” section of your site customization. It could look great on your Browse page, which is included by default of many of our design layouts.
What: The page your fans and clients see every time you share a gallery protected with a viewing password.
Tip: Drop in a title and/or text box inviting them to email you if they can’t remember the right password.
What: Your public photos and videos that other people have voted “Thumbs up” (now called “Like”) and commented on the most.
See it: http://XXXXX.smugmug.com/popular
What: A clean, simple, but extremely useful search field where anyone can type in a search term. Good for finding photos, galleries and videos.
See it: http://XXXXX.smugmug.com/search
Tip: A search box is also available for dropping into any page on your site as a content block. Find it under the Discovery section in your site customization.
What: A page that lists all the folders (categories) on your site. When you’re logged in, your unlisted and private folders will show up here, too.
See it: http://XXXXX.smugmug.com/browse
Tip: This page comes already linked from our default design layouts, and is a great place to drop in additional content boxes like the keyword cloud, the map, and the timeline search.
What you can’t change
There’s some core content on a few pages that you can’t change, for obvious reasons (like the password fields on the password page). But you’ll know that these can’t be touched when you mouse over them in customization mode and you’ll see a little lock icon in the corner.
How to do it
We’ll admit that this feature hasn’t yet got all the spit-and-polish that we want, but we hope to fix this with along with other stuff that will get ironed out over the coming weeks. Now let’s get started!
1) Type in the URL to visit each page, as per the full list above. Just be sure to use your SmugMug nickname in the domain instead of the “XXXXX.”
2) Click Customize > Customize Site from the top of your page. We’ll open up the new Customization Mode with lots of content to pick and choose from. Click to expand each section and drag and drop the boxes into any area that highlights green on the page.
3) Once the boxes are on your page, mouse over them and click the little wrench icon in the top corner. You can can configure and change virtually any setting to perfect the content, as needed.
4) Save your changes when you’re done. Remember that while you are still in preview mode, you can publish your changes and you’ll be the only one who sees it until you officially, permanently “Unveil” your website.
Link them up
From here, you’ll probably want to add a link to these pages from your website’s menu bar so your visitors can use them (with the exception of the 404 and password pages, which will automatically be displayed to viewers at the proper time).
To do this, simply open your Site Customization mode again and click the wrench icon on your menu content block. Add a new link by hitting the “+” sign and select “Page I Choose.” From there you can browse your site and select any of the system pages you’ve just customized. We’ve pre-loaded a few of the ones listed above for easy access.
Have fun! As always, let us know if you have questions, problems or creative customization ideas that you’re willing to share.
You’re a photographer who’s oh-so-ready to make money. We hear ya. But if you’ve gotten every hair in place and you’ve still not seen that “Cha-Ching!” email, here are a few possible reasons why you’ve not been getting bites.
1. No Buy Button
Is it there? This is possibly one of the most dire but easiest flubs to fix. Maybe you disabled this or applied a Quick Setting that hid the Buy button from your galleries, but if you don’t switch it back on you’ll never sell a single print. So be sure to check your galleries and if it’s missing, enable printing in your Gallery Settings. Easy peasy!
2. No Pricing
We hate asking this, but… you DID set up your pro pricing, right? With Pricelists it’s really easy to set a pro markup on just the products you want, then apply that pricing to any or all galleries across your site. But if you forget to do this, you won’t make a dime.
Tip: If you don’t want to think about this ever again, check the “Make this my default pricelist” at the top right and we’ll automagically apply this pricelist to all current and new galleries on your site.
Also, are you charging enough? It may seem counter-intuitive, but we can’t stress enough the importance of keeping your prices high and charging what you’re worth. In short: Don’t be cheap.
3. Nasty RCP Message
We’re all about protecting your photos and making sure that you have peace of mind when putting your best work on the web. But there are ways to use them, and then there are better ways to use them. We’re here to show you the latter.
Like your Right-Click Protection message: It’s there to foil right-clickers looking for an easy download, but most photographers just put a boilerplate copyright message, or a threat. Instead of slapping your customers, try to guide them to your Buy button for a profit-making purchase. You’ll look competent AND helpful all at the same time. Fix it under the “Photos” line in your Easy Customizer.
4. Originals On
So many SmugMug users use their galleries to share photos with friends and family. But as a Pro, being that generous may not be so good for business. Originals (and full-res downloads) are on by default, but it’s a quick fix to change this. Just remember to do it!
Open up your gallery settings and look for the Security & Privacy option. Set the radio button to anything smaller than Originals (like XLarge), and to check, log out and take a breeze through your galleries. You’ll always see a Save Photo option when you’re logged in as the owner, but you shouldn’t see it when you’re viewing your site as a guest.
5. Zero Marketing
Ah, the feeling of sweet success on the morning you unveil your website! But wait… did you share the link?
Like relationships, you’ve got to put a little effort in to get something back. So be sure to enter in your keywords, captions, meta description and meta keywords to be sure you get picked up in search engines. Also share the link to your site with friends, Facebook and anywhere else you go online. After all, you can’t make sales if nobody knows you exist.
6. Password Foibles
Many clients want their event galleries locked down with a viewing password, and, yeah, we understand privacy. But our Support Heroes hear from more people than we’d expect that get hit with this one. We hear from confused clients, curious pros who expected instant sales, but the culprit is usually that the password never got shared! So if you’ve just put the finishing touches on your latest wedding gallery and your inbox is a ghost town, think back to whether or not you’ve completed this vital step.
The lesson? Don’t forget to share your viewing passwords with the people that matter most. Since passwords are cAsE sEnSiTiVe we recommend copying and pasting what you type in your gallery settings right into your emails.
7. You Launched Yesterday
It’s possible to find overnight success on the web, but patience is still a virtue. You can plug in every keyword and meta description properly, shared with your Facebook fans and distributed your business cards to shops across town, but you’ll still have to wait to see the effect. It takes time for Google to do its work, and for tongues to wag.
So instead of stressing out, grab your camera, keep on shooting and work on honing your craft. Your soon-to-be clients will only love you more.
- How to create and apply Quick Settings
- Gallery Settings: Your key to almost everything
- What’s Visitor View and why do I care?
- Stop slapping your customers with a good Right-Click Protection message
- How easy is the Easy Customizer?
- Save Photos for site owners
- The Great Pricing Hoax
- The art of getting a link to share
- Warning! Sharing photos will make you lots of money
- SEO and SmugMug
- A privacy cheat sheet
- Publish to Facebook from your SmugMug galleries
- SEO made easy on SmugMug
These days, everyone has a website and we think they’re great. But how do you know exactly what your friends, family and fans are really thinking when they see it? And if you’re a pro making money from your craft: Are you sure that your site is doing everything it can to get you clients and seal the deal? How much business are you losing from silly mistakes?
After browsing tons of sites and hearing the advice from our marvelous team of Support Heroes, we’ve compiled a list of tips to help you get the best, most effective and appealing website you possibly can.
1) Your Contact Information
Omitting or hiding ways for people to reach you is a grave mistake, one that you may not even know you’re making. Think it through: If someone finds your site and wants to talk with you, how would they do it? If you forget to include your contact information (or hide it several clicks deep), would you expect them to spend more than 5 minutes hunting for it before they give up? Chances are you don’t even have that long before they move on.
It’s true that putting your email address or phone number out in public can be risky. But there are plenty of great ways to let your fans reach out to you without throwing the door open to everyone that walks by.
What you should do: First and foremost, have a way to contact you either at the top, bottom, or in the navigation bar of your website. With SmugMug it’s easy to add a link using the Easy Customizer, plus we highly recommend that SmugMug Portfolio and Business users fill out the Customer Email info in their Account Settings. This way, anyone clicking the “Contact” link in your footer will get a safe, handy pop-up box where they can send you a direct message. You can even customize the text and place that link in your navbar.
The great thing is that everyone has a website these days, including you. But the downside is… everyone has a website these days. How will you stand out? The answer is: Be yourself! You have a personality and it’s completely unique. Use your witty language, goofy selfies or whatever it takes to show the world that you’re way more than just another link on the web. Talk about what drives you and why you’re so passionate about your work. They’ll absolutely love meeting you in your studio or your next gallery show.
What you should do: It’s hard to talk about yourself and it’s even harder to weed out what strangers want to hear (vs what’s TMI), but don’t be afraid to browse through some of your favorite websites and see what sticks in your mind about their bios. And what doesn’t.
3) Punctuality, Punctuation, Competence
Nothing looks more sloppy than a super-slow website with broken images and dead links. Even if you aren’t looking to make money through your website, you still want to look poised, polished, and perfect as any pro. Right? So do a regular audit of your site, click those links and update them regularly to make sure they work the first time, every time. When you’re logged out of your site and viewing like a guest, what do you see?
What you should do: On SmugMug, we already give you warp-speed page loads and unlimited traffic and sharing. So become as famous as you want. We can take it. Our Share button will generate handy share and embed links for all your photos, so you can be sure those images look beautiful every single time.
Your gorgeous photos may speak for themselves, but if your site’s a mess the message will still get lost. K.I.S.S. When you have house guests you clean up, so extend the same courtesy to your online space. No one needs to see (or trip and fall into) the photographic equivalent of your laundry pile.
What you should do: Curate a few examples of your very best work and make it easy to find via a slideshow, featured gallery at the top of your homepage, or a straightofrward link in your navigation bar. Similarly, create a clearly-labeled About page and a way for them to contact you. Love to archive? That’s OK. Just keep the rest of your photos neatly organized, too, so leisurely browsers can find their way around.
5) Your Brand
Panic not, weekend warriors. Even if you’re not a working professional, it’s important – but easy! – to give your viewers a unified look and feel that translates to a cohesive experience. Yes it sounds markety, but simply using the same colors and font size from page to page can keep your fans feeling grounded and sure that you’ve got your stuff together. And you do, right?
If you’re a pro, having your company’s name, logo and a simple set of colors can be all you need to say, “Yeah, I got it.”
What you should do: Customization on the new SmugMug is as easy as drag-and-drop. You can add your own logo to the top of your site, pick your own colors and even create your own Themes that match your brand. It’s easiest to just try it, but you can get an idea of how it’s done by browsing the articles on our help pages.
What you should do (for Legacy SmugMug): The Easy Customizer makes it easy for Power Users, Portfolio and Business SmugMuggers to add a custom logo graphic to the top of every page. Choose matching colors using the tools under the Background, Text, Boxes and Photos bars and you’re all set to go. Read more about our customization options here, and, pros, don’t forget about Order Branding, too.
6) Your Services
The key to making great sales is to do the thinking for potential customers so they don’t have to. The most basic way to do this is to be crystal-spanking-clear about what your specialities are and which services you offer. Whether you shoot BMX, babies or brides, making it obvious in your brand and portfolio is the best (and most efficient) way to make sure that the right customers are finding you. After all, if you’re a commercial fashion photographer, do you want to be fielding questions from the local high school sports team?
What you should do: Create a specific page on your site that lists out what services that you do offer, and give your fans a phone number, email address or other way to get in touch with you. If you just want a guestbook for comments, we recommend uploading at least one photo and turning on comments so folks can say hi. Check out FAQ 29 and 30 to see how to do this if you’re using Legacy SmugMug. Here’s a tutorial that shows you how to create a custom page in the all-new SmugMug.
7) Your Best Work
People are looking to see just what you’re made of, so this is your chance to sum it up and show it off. Curate a gallery that contains the best examples of what you do and keep it updated with fresh new photos as you take them. Choose images that really show that you love what you do, and show the full breadth of your abilities: Lighting, posing, serendipity, emotion… this is what people love to see! As an added bonus, you’re choosing the clients and fans who resonate the most with what you do.
What you should do: Take a swing through the photos that you remember best and that you think represent yourself. It can be hard, but you can always use Collect Photo to add a virtual copy to one gallery, then easily remove the ones that you don’t think make the cut.
8) Your Location
The web is a wonderful thing and brings people near and far to your doorstep, but this can be a setback, too. For example, it’s obvious to you that your town of Springfield is in New Jersey, but potential Googlers in Massachusetts, Illinois, Oregon and Missouri may not be so sympathetic. Be specific about the areas that you serve so that you’ll score top search results by clients looking to hire locals like you.
What you should do: If you talk about your location in your homepage or About page, be specific about the state or country where you’re willing to work. You can also add those terms and keywords in your Account Settings > Discovery > Search section so that Google and other search engines pick you up ASAP.
9) Good Grammar
Need we say anything about this, really? Your website is a representation of you, right down to the words you’ll use. Please be sure you make sense, you’ve put in the effort to have it proofread by someone else, and that everything looks as clean and polished as you are.
What you should do: Write, edit, then get a second (or third, or fourth) opinion. Read the copy on your site out loud. Check your spelling. Sleep on it, then read it again. All the usual tricks of the trade will help you step back and get as much perspective as possible. The best part is that any- and everything is easily changed on your SmugMug site at any moment… so edit as much as you like!
We hope that these 9 tips come in handy the next time you’re spring cleaning your website. Got more great ideas for getting fans finding you? Please share!
- Account Settings and what they do
- SmugMug’s four fabulous account types
- Get a Link to share (with one click)
- How to feature slideshows and galleries on your homepage
- Get organized with Categories
- How to start branding with the Easy Customizer
- What are my customization options?
- Order Branding: The SmugMug pro’s secret weapon
- Leverage SmugMug to make the most money
- Copy-and-paste customization FAQ
- Collecting photos for easy portfolios
- SEO made easy on SmugMug
The Model: Fashioning a Niche in Celebrity Portraiture and Beauty
Name: Matthew Jordan Smith
Company: Matthew Jordan Smith Photography
Location: Los Angeles
Market: Fashion/Celebrity Photographer
Bragworthy Factoid: Having a client list that reads like a People magazine table of contents (Oprah Winfrey much?)
SmugMugger Since: 2011
- Publishing his first book, Sepia Dreams: A Celebration of African-American Achievement Through Words and Images
- Appearing as a guest photographer and judge on the hit TV show, “America’s Next Top Model”
- Teaching at Manhattan’s prestigious School of Visual Arts and the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops
- Portfolio display
- Safe, secure archiving
- Full-res back-ups
- Privacy, links and secure passwords for each client
All photos by Matthew Jordan Smith Photography
A Beautiful Beginning
Scanning Matthew Jordan Smith’s subject roster, which includes such luminaries as Halle Berry, Jennifer Connelly, Michael Jordan, Vanessa Williams and Jamie Foxx, the last word you would ever apply to this explosive talent is humble. Nevertheless, the high-profile fashion and celebrity photographer traces his success to a simple yet formative beginning: an involved father and a basic camera. “My father taught me how to process film. It was a hobby until I read a book by [photographer] Gordon Parks,” he says. “That was the first time I saw a photographer making a living. From then on, I wanted to be a photographer.”
Want a Unique Look? Cultivate a Vision
Smith, whose specialties are magazine editorial and beauty advertising, attributes his success in part to knowing who he is and where he comes from—to cultivating his own vision. “Whoever we are, it has a big impact on our work,” he says. “What pulled me into fashion and beauty was that it was one of the few industries where I could tell my story. You see that in my images.” Smith says having a clear vision of what you want to communicate with your work is key to developing a unique style. “Everybody can become a photographer,” he insists. “It’s more important to work on your vision. You can take a great picture on an iPhone and have no idea how you did it—the camera does everything for you. But once your vision is clearly defined, people will come to you for that.”
How SmugMug Helps
Smith’s focus is laser-guided when it comes to getting the most out of SmugMug. “My site is very clean,” he says. “I can make changes easily. It loads fast, so clients can see what they want and jump off — I love that about it.” Smith says the compliments he gets on his site design “changed everything,” increasing interest in his work. His other favorites? Secure archiving, privacy and display options. “All hard drives eventually fail,” he cautions. “Backing up is every photographer’s nightmare. Storing my work on SmugMug is a big plus for me — I can’t express how important that is.” Finally, Smith enjoys the ease SmugMug’s gallery features have added to his routine. “Once the images are up, I send the client a link to SmugMug – it’s a vital part of interacting with the client and keeping everyone in the loop,” he says. Often, his client is an advertising agency that turns around and sends the link to their client. Maintaining privacy and controlling feedback and versioning is critical.
Getting Behind the Beauty
Smith is an expert on working with models . Before shooting a subject, whether celebrity or CEO, Smith researches her extensively—and not all the research takes place alone at a computer. “A lot of the digging happens in hair and makeup. Find out what books they’ve read, movies they’ve seen—ask about them as a person. Get to know them before they get in front of a camera so you can pull out that knowledge later,” he advises, pointing out that this type of casual data collection also makes models more comfortable with you once the lighting goes up.
Don’t Just Talk; Get Visual
Smith is a big proponent of using visual aids to communicate a concept to models and clients alike. “Give them something they can hear, see, touch,” he advises. “Then they become part of that idea. They’re all looking for direction and it’s your job to give it.” Smith cites a shoot based on the film From Here to Eternity, in which he showed models sketches and storyboarding of movie scenes while describing the mood he sought (“romantic” and “musical”). The models in question hadn’t seen the film, but, with props, he was able to bring alive the iconic image of Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr kissing in the crashing waves. Another time, he guided actress-singer Vanessa Williams through a successful shoot by pulling her aside mid-shoot and showing her a tear sheet of the look he wanted, which she was then able to replicate. “It’s not enough to just tell someone your idea,” he says. “Always show some them something tangible.”