In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, we’ve curated a list of beautiful, functional SmugMug websites that caught our eye since we introduced the all-new look and feel. If you’ve recently joined SmugMug, perhaps these examples will spark some creativity in your next round of customization? (It sure did for us!)
So without further ado, here are 9 great sites we found and why they made our hearts skip a few beats.
Why we love it: Shooting Stars did a great job creating an airy, bright, simple canvas that shows off their photos. Their homepage provides everything you need: a simple slideshow, a clear welcome message, an easy way to contact them, a text navigation bar and three different services where the visitors can click to learn more. It’s navigation heaven! Best of all, they’ve included direct email and phone info in their footer, so it’s accessible from every page you’re viewing.
Sharon Lee Studio
Why we love it: In addition to Sharon Lee’s work being beautiful in and of itself, we love that she used SmugMug to house a business that wasn’t rooted in photography. Both Sharon’s artwork and wallpaper business websites are clean, simple and show off the fine patterns in her work. They also provide you with a personal background and a list of locations where you can see her work for yourself.
Why we love it: From the second you land on Nkosi Hamilton’s portfolio site you notice the photography. With the dark sidebar and understated logo, you can easily click your way around but the photos always come first. This is uncomplicated at its finest, demonstrating how a clean and neutral website sets the stage for photos that pop!
Why we love it: While Chronicles Photography’s homepage is simplicity at its best, we were particularly drawn to Dawn’s completely custom “Me & My Style” page. Her use of creative and fun photos paired with vital booking information clearly give her business an edge and a delightfully personal touch. Great job!
Lukasz M. Czajkowski
Why we love it: Lukasz Czajkowski had us at “food.” Really, do you need anything more than delicious, juicy photos covering nearly every inch of your homepage? Maybe not, but Lukasz knew how to get us hooked and his website did this right from the start.
Why we love it: When you travel as much as Milan Brown of Collecting Visas, your #1 goal is to leave a tempting photo-trail of the highlights of your trip. That’s why we love this SUPER simple portfolio site, an impressive stream of locations in beautifully balanced layout. It’s pure and uncluttered so the story shines through.
Todd Kawasaki Photography
Why we love it: Hawaiian fine art photographer Todd Kawasaki really knows how to highlight what he does best: that is, show the world how beautiful his photos look in print. We absolutely loved the custom graphics he created just for that homepage slideshow and you feel relaxed and warm looking at the soft background pic. If that wasn’t already enough, we’ve scarcely ever seen another site with a “Products” page as nice as his, which we think is essential for landing the sale.
Lost On Mars Photography
Why we love it: Aside from the intriguing name, we loved how Lost On Mars used a little customization-fu to create floating, rounded thumbnails that make their colorful images look like they’re literally leaping off the screen. It’s photos, photos, photos and a neatly organized way of showing them off.
Why we love it: Photographs and growing families were made to go together, so it was a no-brainer for us to fall in love with the Gilmore Gang family website. What a fantastic example of a family archive, organized by year! We also liked the simple navigation bar that separates out the family’s most popular photos, undoubtedly what grandma and faraway families want to see first.
So what about you? We hope that these inspired you to think about all the different ways you can customize your own SmugMug site.
Our Show Us Your SmugMug contest may be over but our virtual door is always open for anyone who wants to show off and share a link. Tell us in the comments below!
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:
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.
What’s the point of having your own website if you can’t make it yours?
That’s entirely the point, which is why every SmugMug account comes with a whole bunch of ways to switch it up.
We also know that not everyone has all day to find inspiration in the clouds and push around pixels. So, today we’re sharing super-easy ways you can change up the look of your site without having to take a day off from work.
1) ALL: Change the Theme
Themes give you the most bang for your buck. We’ve got over 70 of them and it takes just two clicks to set one in place.
HOW: To set your new site-wide default theme, click the Themes button on your homepage and choose one to preview. When you love it, simply click the button again and choose “Save Theme Choice” to make it stick. More about themes.
2) ALL: Display Your Map
Did you know that your fans can browse your photos by location? We’ll automatically pin your public, geotagged photos onto a map shown right on your homepage.
HOW: Click the Homepage Layout button on your homepage and choose Around the World. The box will appear, and you can move it up or down the page according to taste. More about maps.
3) ALL: Feature a Slideshow (or a Video)
Grab their attention with motion. A buttery-smooth slideshow of your best photos or your masterpiece movie will get them anchored and asking for more.
HOW: Visit your homepage and hit the Homepage Layout button > Slideshow. With a Power, Portfolio or Business account, you can feature a video under the Single Photo or Video option, too. You’ll see an “Adjust: Settings” link in the top corner to specify what you want to show. More about your homepage boxes.
4) POWER, PORTFOLIO, BUSINESS: Add a Header and Navigation Bar
Adding basic branding to your site instantly gives your website a more polished, unified feel. Plus, your fans will always know where they are and where they should go next.
HOW: Open the Easy Customizer and click on the Header section. It’s simple to add a basic text header that links to your homepage, and a navigation bar that features the galleries you want to be seen most. As you tinker, you’ll get a live preview on the left. Click the Publish button to post your changes live.
5) POWER, PORTFOLIO, BUSINESS: Copy-and-Paste Customization
We’ve got tons of resources where you can search for specific customization tricks and exact code needed to make it happen on your website. From hiding stuff to moving stuff around to ginormous edge-to-edge slideshows, you can do it all.
6) ALL: Tidy Up!
Rearrange your virtual living room. Changing your gallery organization and swapping old portfolio photos for fresh ones can breathe new life into a stale site.
HOW: Display Categories on your homepage, unlist old galleries, create archive categories to “hide” stuff so your fans see the best pics first. Read up on our privacy options and review how custom Categories work for you.
There’s a lot you can do, but we’ve summed it all up for you before. Take a ride in the wayback machine and visit our first Smug Tip of the Week, the Customization Edition.
What quick and easy tricks have you done to make you love your website again?
You want a blog to go with your website. Seems simple, right?
Maybe, but you wouldn’t believe how often our Support Heroes often get questions about how to do this on SmugMug. If this sounds like you (or were just thinking about it), then you’re in luck.
First of all, why WordPress? It’s great for frequent updates and extra SEO, and it’s a great complement to your SmugMug portfolio, proofing and print sales. Here are three different ways you can have both a Smug site and a fabulous WordPress blog… the best of both worlds!
As an extra-special bonus, we’re giving one very lucky photographer a lifetime membership to the ultimate SmugMug-friendly WordPress portfolio site: Photography BlogSites. Read further for info, and scroll to the bottom see how to enter.
1. Joined With a Link.
Our friends over at FastLine Media are pros at creating custom SmugMug sites with beautiful blogs. Owners, brothers and pro photographers Justin and Brandon recommend setting up your SmugMug site like a portfolio, displaying only your best photos to keep your audience captivated. Your Smug site will contain text pages (About Me, Contact, Pricing, etc), a few public portfolio galleries and your unlisted client galleries.
It should also contain a link to your blog. A simple WordPress blog linked from your site is the perfect place to post photos and write some thoughts about a recent event you’ve shot. You get to share more photos publicly than just the one or two images you add to your portfolio, but don’t have to go as far as sharing every photo from your clients’ private galleries. Your blog becomes an extension of your portfolio, and you get to decide how much.
The benefit? Like SmugMug, WordPress has great SEO benefits. If you shoot a wedding at the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay, you could make the title of your post, “Jack and Jill’s Wedding at the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay.” Due to the magic of WordPress, those keywords in your blog title automagically appear in the browser title and meta description. Booya!
As a bonus, see how to make SEO work for you on SmugMug.
And did you know that:
- You can just copy and paste the URL of your photo (or video) from your SmugMug gallery and drop it into your WordPress editor. It’ll automagically embed itself at the perfect size.
- You can encourage more sales using our easy Buy Links. Grab one now from Get a Link, and copy and paste the code into your WordPress editor. When fans click the photos on your blog, we’ll pop up the shopping cart so they can easily buy a print, gift or download. (Just make sure the shopping cart hasn’t been disabled in your gallery settings.)
2. Go DIY.
Did you know that we have a huge list of useful apps that our customers have written for you? Our code-savvy fans have built all kinds of tools to help you post videos, slideshows and galleries to WordPress. And more. Take a look at the full list here on our Hacks and Apps page, and scroll down to “WordPress.”
Disclaimer: We do our best but we can’t guarantee every product or provide support for the third-party apps on that page. Questions? Contact the app’s developer. Most of them are great folks who love to hear from you.
3. Be No-Brainer Beautiful with Photography BlogSites.
We’ve posted about our friends over at Photography BlogSites before, but it’s worth another mention. They are hands-down one of the easiest ways on the web to create and maintain a beautiful WordPress-based portfolio site that comes with a matching blog. They handle the heavy lifting. You enter the content, you write the posts. You can even apply one of their gorgeous themes with a click, customize it to taste and have it port over to your SmugMug site, too.
Here are some beautiful examples. See more here!
Get Set Up for Life With This Giveaway.
Our friends at Photography BlogSites are ready and waiting to give one fortunate pro photographer a lifetime pass for their very own blogsite. (Regularly priced at $399/year)
How to enter:
- Like our Facebook page HERE.
- Like Photography BlogSites’ page HERE.
- Leave a comment below this post telling us which of their four coffee-flavored themes is your favorite.
We’ll pick a random winner and announce it here on Tuesday, July 24th, 2012. Good luck!
*** UPDATE: We have a winner! It’s Brigette from Outer Focus Photos. Congrats, Brigette and we’ll contact you with keys to your brand-new website. Thanks to everyone! ***
And remember that even if you aren’t the winner, you still win: Simply sign up for a membership and authorize the connection to your SmugMug account. Photography BlogSites automatically applies a $50 discount off your first year of beautiful blogging, just for being Smug.
Happy blogging and good luck! Don’t forget that if you’ve got questions about building your own Smug site + blog, our customization heroes are always happy to help.
We updated your site-wide branding to add a feature that lots of you Power and Pro Smuggers have asked for: Custom banners for your mobile site!
One Easy step in the Easy Customizer
To do this, fire up the Easy Customizer and look for the brand-spanking new “Mobile” section on the right-hand side.
Just upload a 400 x 72 pixel image containing your logo, name or whatever you wish and Publish your changes.
Anyone who views your site on a mobile device will see it at the top of every beautiful page.
Remember that we automatically serve up the lightweight mobile viewing style to people browsing on-the-go. Want your guests to have the exact same experience on a desktop as on a smartphone? Disable the mobile site from your Control Panel, under the Settings tab.
Extra link love:
Once upon a time in a galaxy not-so-far away, you just needed a website.
Then blogs were all the rage. And now in this modern era of technology, you have to also consider social tools like Twitter and Facebook. If your business has offshoots, each with its own site and blog, you could have four of more different places to log in and update… and your social media sites, too.
It’s time to pause and start thinking of these as pieces of a single web presence. Your main website should be your hub, not your headache.
The Secret Behind Beautiful, Cohesive Online Presence
Our new seamless integration lets you sync your SmugMug site with your Photography Blogsite, slurping over your galleries and settings and (best of all) pushing your customization from your Blogsite back to SmugMug instantly, with a click. What better way to unify your unique web presence between your portfolio, proofing galleries and your blog?
They’ve even built in a safety feature that lets you restore your old SmugMug customization if you change your mind.
All in One Site Powered By WordPress
The inspiration for the design of Photography Blogsites stemmed from years of working exclusively with photographers to brand and create custom sites. Their strategy was to make pros’ lives easier, boost SEO and give them the power to manage their own online brand.
Their all-in-one portfolio websites are ready-to-go 30 seconds after you sign up and are powered by WordPress, CSS and HTML. This means that your site looks perfectly beautiful and beautifully perfect across all computers and mobile devices. And it’s easy to customize.
Bonus features: Share and Buy
You know that SmugMug already comes fully-equipped with share features, but if you use your Blogsite as your main portal, don’t worry about losing those tools. Their ‘Blaze’ social media tool lets you quickly share and re-share any gallery via Facebook and Twitter. People following those links view the gallery on a re-sharable page, too. Go viral!
While your fans are browsing, they can buy, too. Simply dig into your Blogsite settings and turn on SmugMug’s Buy links so your fans can add items right to the shopping cart. As usual, our print labs will print and ship the orders and all you have to do is collect your profits.
Special Pricing for SmugMuggers
If you’re thinking about setting this up for your business, you’re in for a treat. They’re offering SmugMuggers special discounted pricing at just $29/month or $299/year. (Regular pricing is $39/month and $399/year) Sign up here!
Or if you never want to worry again, try their Lifetime Deal at $499 which includes full access to all of their themes, hosting, support, maintenance, upgrades and so much more. The price is valid until September 15, 2011 and you’ll get no additional charges, ever. If you want peace of mind, act now because this deal won’t stick around for long.
… and a Giveaway for Two Lucky Pros
To celebrate our new partnership and synchronization with Photography BlogSites they are giving away 2 Lifetime Memberships. (Value: $499, no hassle) Here’s how to enter:
1) Like us at Facebook.com/smugmug
2) Like them at Facebook.com/PhotoBlogSites
3) Reply to this post with a link to your SmugMug site.
One entry per person, please. Winners will be picked randomly and announced Friday July 29.
Enjoy your site!
Wow, we are pumped to see so many folks enter this giveaway. Alas, there can be two winners, and here they are, picked randomly: Lance of Gym Star Photos and Amy of LMZ Photography. Congrats guys! You each win a Lifetime Membership to Photography Blogsites.
Thanks to everyone who put their name in for this giveaway. SmugMug customers get special pricing for a limited time, so even if you didn’t win this giveaway, you can still walk away a winner.
Stay tuned for more fun news and giveaways.
Our Support Heroes know how the idea of customizing your Power or Pro site can seem daunting at first, but never fear! We’ve provided a lot of resources and tools to help you get a site that you love. Today we’ll hear from Customization Specialist and Support Hero Eric Trimble about the different options you have at your fingers to get the site of your dreams.
So you have your SmugMug site, uploaded your photos, possibly even made a sale or two. Congrats! But now you’re looking to kick it up a notch and want to go from this:
Nervous? Don’t be. We’ve got lots of great resources you can use to personalize your page and to make your brand stand out.
Get an Easy Banner and Navbar
First things first. A banner and a navigation bar are two really simple things you can add to your header to instantly improve your site. If you have a graphic you like to use, or just want plain text, you can add them using the Easy Customizer. Try the Navbar Builder (found under the “Header” section) to get a simple navbar in minutes.
Simple Cut-and-Paste Tutorials
Good news! For most things all you need to do is a simple search through our help pages, then copy and paste of existing code. Some of our top requests include:
1) How to show your galleries to show on a separate page from your homepage. We’ve got an easy tutorial on Dgrin showing how to do just that. Check out the code in yellow on that page and simply copy and paste it into your Advanced Customization as shown.
2) How to get an “About Me” page or a page that shows the services you can provide. What you’re looking for is a simple HTML-only page where you can drop in whatever content you wish; you can add whatever text, links or images that you need. Look here to see step by step instructions on how to do this.
3) How to create your own Contact form. Then for anyone who has ever used our slick, online form to contact the SmugMug Support Heroes, we have that same form built in for our Pro level accounts. We recommend that you use this so that your customers can easily contact you. And it’s so easy to do! Try the code provided here to make the popup contact form appear when you click the link in your navber (or anywhere else on your site).
Get a Knock-Their-Socks-Off Homepage Slideshow
Would you like to have a big, beautiful slideshow of your images that stretches to fill every inch of browser space? We have two ways to do this, created by some of our wonderful volunteers.
Option 1: If you are looking for something to showcase your images, I am a fan of the JFriend HTML 5 slideshow. It’s huge, has great transition effects, and is very simple to implement.
Option 2: But lots of folks swear by the FastLine Media slideshow. It’s just as big, just as beautiful… just a little different.
Either way you choose to go, they’re both great and you can’t go wrong. Neither are Flash-based, so they’re visible even to people who browse your site on iPhones and iPads.
Free Guided Help
SmugMug’s customization lets you have virtually limitless creativity. And much of what you might want to do is already written and waiting for you on our forums at DGrin. Join in, search for a topic and post a new thread if you can’t find the answer!
Not only do we have some very dedicated volunteers, but you can also find our resident customizer (hey, that’s me!) patrolling the forums and helping out ’round the clock.
But even with all this ready and waiting, maybe you’re not looking to get elbow deep in CSS. We have you covered there as well. We keep a list of third party companies that are our Certified Customizers. You can contact any of the companies here to discuss your ideas and get a quote.
They’re happy to work with you and build the site of your dreams.
Got skills? Come customize for us!
Last but not least, we’re currently seeking out talented web- and graphic designers to be one of our Certified Customizers. If the idea of tweaking sites makes your heart go pitter-patter, come join us in the mission to make every gallery gorgeous. Send us an email with your specs.
We recently debuted a list of SmugMug Certified Customizers for our Smuggers to have and to hold. Great customization has been a top request of our users for years and we have been listening!
We’ve spent the last few months forging tight relationships with some great folks who’ve proven they deliver consistently gorgeous SmugMug sites to SmugMug photographers.
Here’s seven amazing companies who we trust to get the job done. Check out their sites and more examples below:
4) My Pro Foto
6) BIG Folio - Providing seamless integration of SmugMug galleries with your existing site.
What does it mean to be SmugMug Certified?
They’re fun and friendly to work with, but above all these guys know Smuggers and cater to their needs. We’ve done a lot of work with these companies and know that they deliver quality, act with the highest ethical standards and are willing to go the extra mile to satisfy their clients. They also really, really love SmugMug… just like you.
Here’s the criteria we use in our selection process:
- Received consistent, positive reviews from our customers
- Have proven ability to scale and ship designs quickly, without compromising quality
- Outstanding customer service
- Elegant visual aesthetics that appeal to our customers
- Exceptional understanding of SmugMug’s API and website capabilities
Love what you see? Contact a customizer through the above links to share your ideas and get a quote.
In the coming months we plan to work closely with our certified customizers to build better tools for Smuggers to enjoy. Having partners in touch with so many dedicated customers will help us get great, detailed feedback on what you want and how you want it. We can’t wait!
If you’re looking to get your site customized but are having trouble deciding which designer to use, check out this thread on Digital Grin.
And if you’re a Smugger who wants to recommend a company, or if you’re a customizer who wants us to consider your services, say it right here!
We hope that you’ll give these folks a chance to create the site of your dreams. We promise you’ll love them.
Here’s to building beautiful sites together,
The SmugMug Family
Introduction: Every now and then, we have the pleasure of featuring guest blog posts from members of our wide community of users. We’re always delighted to see and hear about the ways you’re using SmugMug to share your picture memories. We’re excited to feature Gary Arndt from Everything-Everywhere.com. Four years ago, he decided to leave his job to travel around the world. He’s been globetrotting, photographing and writing ever since. Here’s his incredible story.
By Gary Arndt
In March 2007 I sold my house, put my possessions in storage and set out to travel around the world.
I also thought it would be neat to someday cover a wall of my house with photos taken from my trip. So on my way out of the country I purchased a camera which was way over my head: a Nikon D200.
I didn’t know my aperture from my ISO. Like many people new to photography I shot everything in full auto mode, saved everything in jpeg (because it saved space on the memory card) and uploaded every image to Flickr without any post processing or selection. I had never taken a photography course or workshop and had never read a book on the subject. I knew absolutely nothing.
This is a five exposure HDR image taken in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Unlike most HDR images, I let the motion in the photo blur. I like the effect and the impression it gave of movement. Jerusalem is perhaps the most photogenic city I’ve visited in the world. It seemed that no matter where I turned my camera, I could capture a good image.
The first stop on my trip was Hawaii, where almost four years later I’m writing this article. You can still see the first photos I took in all their horrible glory. The composition for most of them is unspectacular and the exposure very sub-par. I’ve decided to leave them visible to the public as a reminder of how far I’ve come since the start of my travels.
Over time I started to read photography blogs and listen to photography podcasts. I began to look at my travel photos with a more critical eye and tried to understand why my good photos were good and my bad photos bad. I eventually picked up a copy of Photoshop and the readers of my website noticed small, but consistent improvements in my travel photography.
This photo was taken in a moving motor boat. I visited Rennell, one of the more remote islands in the Solomon Islands. The village I visited didn’t get too many western visitors, so the kids had a great time following me around. When I left the village, the kids got in a canoe and started to follow my boat. This is the resulting photo.
In November 2007 I made the decision to start posting a photo every day on my travel blog, something which I’ve been doing every day now for almost three years. This was huge step for me because I had to come up with something reasonably good every day. Not every photo was going to be a home run, but I certainly had to try to not strike out. Every. Single. Day.
As photography became a bigger and bigger part of my site, I began to look for alternative photo hosting and sharing solutions. I didn’t want to be limited with the size of photos I uploaded, I wanted to fully customize the look and feel of my galleries and I wanted an easier way to integrate photos into my blog. In addition, I wanted a site that was easily searchable, public in nature and could help drive traffic to my official website.
I eventually decided to move my photo hosting from Flickr to a Gallery2 installation, which I could host myself. This turned out to be a disaster. I didn’t save any money because of the additional storage costs from my web host. Trying to customize Gallery2 was a nightmare and extremely expensive. Worst of all, there was no real SEO benefit to hosting my own images. Self-hosting photos turned out to be a a bigger challenge than I was willing to deal with.
This photo was taken at the Indian Holi festival in Singapore. Much of the festival involves throwing colored dye on other participants. Keeping my camera clean and dye free was a challenge as most of the participants had no problems throwing dye on a man holding an SLR.
I had heard many photographers talk about SmugMug on some of the photography forums I read, and so decided to give them a try. It turned out to be incredibly easy to import all my photos from Flickr, even with a bad Internet connection overseas. I could use my own domain name, which was the main reason why I wanted to host my own images in the first place, and with SmugMug’s many sharing options, I could create images of any dimension just by modifying the URL of the photo (something I couldn’t do on Flickr).
Of all the decisions I’ve made in blogging and photography, moving to SmugMug has been one of the best. Every week or two there are new features being released; the SmugMug elves never seems to be resting on their laurels.
Since my move I’ve become a personal evangelist, telling everyone I know in the travel blogging community about SmugMug. I know I’ve been responsible for more new SmugMug customers than my referral code would suggest! I wear my SmugMug camera strap wherever I go and make sure to tell everyone about it when they ask me what it is.
I was in Bangkok in 2010 during the redshirt protests. I went out several times to photograph the protesters. I managed to position myself one day between several thousand redshirts and several hundred police officers. The photo of a young boy with the protesters really stuck with me.
There’s still a lot I want to do with my SmugMug account. My system of categories and subcategories needs some tweaking, I need to go through and properly tag my photos and at some point I’d like to hire someone to professionally customize my site. In 2011 I also hope to redesign my blog to allow readers to order prints of all my daily photos.
I can’t really envision having a serious photography website without having SmugMug as the back end.