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Smug Tip: When to Use Collect Photos vs. Make a Copy

September 10, 2014 Leave a comment

There’s no better day than today to share a few tips about two features that make a big impact in your SmugMug galleries: Collect Photos and Make a Copy.

You may get confused about the difference between the two, so here’s a cheat sheet to help you get better acquainted with each one, and some ideas for how you’d use them in your everyday photo lives.

How are Collected Photos and Make a Copy Different?

Both of these features are found in your galleries underneath each photo. And both will duplicate your image. But that’s where the similarity ends.

Collect Photos puts a virtual copy of your image, be it in the same gallery, in a different gallery, or into someone else’s gallery (on another account, if you allow this). The original continues to live where it lives, and any changes you make to the original, such as adding keywords and changing the watermark or cropping, will show up on all virtual copies.

Make a Copy creates an exact duplicate file, which can then be moved to a different location on your own site. The two files then behave completely independently of each other, meaning that any changes made to the original won’t impact the copy, and vice versa.

When to Use Collect Photos

Collect Photos is perfect for curating beautiful, succinct groups of images to tell your story. After all, SmugMug’s unlimited and you’re probably emptying whole memory cards into your galleries. With the power of Collect Photos, that’s totally OK!

Here’s some ways you can use it:

  • Upload all your images into unlisted galleries organized by date, and collect just the ones from around town into your public Street Photography gallery.
  • Collect just your best guest images from the wedding to share with the bride’s family.
  • Collect any time you want a photo displayed in multiple galleries on your site, and you want to be able to update the keywords and caption on it everywhere it appears.

Tip: Pros! Collect Photos is the power behind our Favorites feature in Events, which allows your top clients to choose the photos they love best out of your proof galleries. See if Events are for you.

When to Use Make a Copy

Make a Copy is fabulous for whenever you want to try something out on a photo that you’ve uploaded into a gallery, but you’re not quite sure if you want to lose the original.

Some example opportunities:

Tip: You can also edit your SmugMug photos with PicMonkey, but they’ll offer to automatically save a copy so you don’t have to worry about it.

We hope this installment of Smug Tips comes in handy and helps you share and enjoy your photos even more. Confused about a feature, need help with your workflow, or just have an idea for more tips? Let us know in the comments!

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:

Smug Tip: 6 More SmugMug Features You Didn’t Know You Had

June 24, 2014 8 comments

Not too long ago, we wrote a post unearthing some of the great features you’ve already got in your SmugMug account. And since we’re always having new photo-lovers come join our family, we thought we’d share a few more things that you may not have noticed are already living amongst your photos.

Here’s to those sneaky features that may be hiding in plain sight. Enjoy!

1) Custom Video Preview Images

All SmugMug accounts can accept video files of 20 minutes in length and 3 GB in size, which is a great addition to the still photos you capture in your life. But did you know that you can change the preview image that displays on it, so your fans can see something more interesting than a random frame before they hit Play?

First, decide on a JPG image you want to use… or better yet, create one in your favorite image editor and upload it to your SmugMug galleries. Then just navigate to your video in the gallery, click the wrench, and choose Edit > Replace Preview.

2) “Sticky” Cover Photos for Your Folders & Galleries

In the same vein, you can choose a cover photo that appears every time your gallery is shown on your site. We call this your Feature image, and it will “stick” every time your site is reloaded, instead of displaying the first photos in the gallery.

Just open your Gallery Settings and look under the Basic tab. Click the icon next to Feature Image and choose any image you want to represent that gallery.

Tip: You can even do this for passworded galleries, which typically don’t show any thumbnails for privacy reasons. However, you may want to do this for, say, your client galleries, just to be sure they know which gallery is theirs on your site.

3) Stats. Really Great Stats.

We track all kinds of good stuff, like which of your galleries and images have been visited the most, as well as show you where your traffic is coming from. Just check out the Stats tab in your Account Settings and take it from there! You can read more about your SmugMug stats on our help pages.

If you prefer, you can always sign up for a free Google Analytics account and plug in your unique user ID into the same tab of your Account Settings, to double-check our work. Here’s how.

4) Search (and Filter by EXIF)

Any time you (or your guests) search for things on your site via the Search content block or from SmugMug.com/search, you’ll see lots of beautiful photos that you can scroll through to your heart’s content. But did you know that you can hit the “Refine Results” button at the top and open up dozens of additional checkboxes? This will help you narrow down your choices and find pictures taken using just the criteria you specify.

Watch out! It’s strangely addictive, so you may end up spending a lot more time discovering photos than you expect.

5) PicMonkey: Free Photo Tweaks

If our in-gallery Photo Tools aren’t quite enough for you, check out our friends at PicMonkey. You can find them right under every photo, under the Wrench icon. Open it up and you’ll see all the great tweaks and mods you can add to your photos!

Tip: We even have a quick video tutorial all about PicMonkey.

6) Discounts Just for Being Smug 

That’s right. You’re in great company when you’re with us. You can browse and view the discount details simply by logging in and visiting our ClubSmug page. Shop, have fun, and tell them we sent you!

Link roundup:

Photo Tip: 5 Reasons Why We Fell in Love with Lightroom

June 4, 2014 113 comments

It’s been a while since we’ve talked about our love for one of the best photo tools on the market, Lightroom. We’re going to share some of our favorite things about it that knocks our socks off and why we hope you’ll give it a try, too. Plus, if you’re just scared about diving into the Adobe pool, we’re giving away 4 (signed!) copies of Scott Kelby’s fantastic instructional book, The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 Book for Digital Photographers, at the end of this post.

So keep reading to see how you can win yours!

Now, here are our top 5 reasons why Lightroom’s awesome.

1) Keywording Is a Breeze

Keywords are a small, but important part of getting your photos properly searchable. Whether you’ll be looking through your own galleries or hoping to cash in on sales sparked by Google, keywording is how you get there.

While SmugMug has great bulk keyword and caption tools, adding them during your Lightroom workflow is a step saver and has the added benefit of adding the keywords to the photo’s metadata.

You can enter keywords using the Library module, and even apply them to batches of photos all at once. The best part? Lightroom will automatically suggest keywords you’ve used before when you start typing.

And yes, these keywords and captions will transfer over to SmugMug when you publish.

2) No JPGs Required

Unless you’re new to SmugMug, you probably already know that we’ve got a free Publish to SmugMug plugin available in Lightroom. (You can download it here.)The fact that it doesn’t cost a cent is pretty great, but even better is that you can easily Publish your photos to new or existing galleries on your SmugMug account, all without needing to create — or store — a separate JPG file on your computer’s hard drive.

Try the easy, one-click syncing between your Lightroom catalog and your SmugMug folder structure. We’ll worry about your JPG storage so you don’t have to.

3) Everything’s Better in Bulk

The greatest power of Lightroom is how easily it lets you do sweeping changes to swaths of photos at once. Presets, flags, and anything you can think of — you can add them with just a few clicks and get your event photos out the door and into your clients’ inboxes in no time.

Check out this post that Adobe educator Matt Kloskowski did for us to help sift through your massive photo piles with ease.

4) Easy-to-Replace Proofs

Pro photographers, this one’s for you: When your client orders prints from your SmugMug galleries and you’ve set up Proof Delay, did you know that you can use Lightroom to quickly polish, edit, and republish only those photos back to your SmugMug galleries before sending the order to the lab?

We think this is the biggest lifesaver for any photographer who knows their clients will buy only a few photos out of thousands. Rather than editing every single photo from the shoot, simply upload your proofs and let them make their choice.

Tip: Take it a step further with Events & Favorites. Lightroom will sync their Favorites galleries and pull their choices back into your catalog, making it even easier for you to edit (and republish) just the ones they love best.

5) It’s Always Improving

Adobe’s always making their products more powerful and better for you, and we are, too. Both Lightroom and the SmugMug plugin check automatically for updates, and you’ll notice this when you open up the program and see that window.

What we’ve added recently: The ability to choose your gallery’s Featured Photo via the plugin, and the ability to create/edit/delete Quick Settings, Watermarks, and Printmarks. And lots more.

You can always check to see the updates we’ve made to the plugin on the dedicated page in our help pages.

The Book Giveaway

As promised, we’ve got 4 signed copies of Scott Kelby’s best-selling Lightroom 5 bible to give away, The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 Book for Digital Photographers:

This comprehensive book covers everything from basic sliders to Scott’s own workflow, and is the #1 Lightroom book on the market (with good reason). So if you’re ready to get this into your hands and begin your journey to becoming a Lightroom wizard, simply leave a comment below and include these two responses:

1) What are the biggest stumbling blocks in your photo editing workflow?

2) A link to your SmugMug website (so we know how to reach you if you win)

We’ll choose 4 lucky random winners on Wednesday, June 11th, 2014, and announce them right here.

Stay tuned, good luck, and watch this space!

UPDATE 6/11/2014: Winners! We randomly picked 4 winners who commented here and here’s who we drew:

We’ll be in touch with you individually to deliver your books. Congrats!

6 Smug Features You Didn’t Know You Had

April 21, 2014 6 comments

There’s so much to SmugMug that even those of us who’ve been members for years have trouble summing it all up in a single elevator pitch. So it’s perfectly possible for you to have never known some of the great features that are (even now) lurking in your galleries.

Here are a few of our favorites.

1) Smart Galleries

Your galleries can automatically display photos that you choose.

Lots of SmugMuggers use our Collect Photos feature. But did you know you can set your galleries to automatically collect certain new photos you upload to your site? You do this simply by defining Rules and making your gallery a Smart Gallery. We’ll do the rest.

Smart Galleries are perfect for curating pics for your homepage slideshow, populating individual player galleries from team photos, displaying your newest snaps, and so many more applications we can’t even listen them all. Try it now!

There’s a lot you can do with just your keyboard.

2) Keyboard shortcuts

SmugMug’s easy to browse with one hand. Really! When you’re viewing a gallery you can hit the following keys to open the Lightbox and change the image size that you’re viewing. Here’s the list:

  • Left/Right Arrow = Prev/Next Photo
  • Shift + Left/Right Arrow = Prev/Next Page of Thumbnails
  • A = Bring up Lightbox view, Autosize photo
  • S = Lightbox, Small
  • M = Lightbox, Medium
  • L = Lightbox, Large
  • 1 = Lightbox, XL
  • 2 = Lightbox, XL2
  • 3 = Lightbox, XL3
  • O = Lightbox, Original
  • X = Exit Lightbox

Give it a whirl, and bookmark the help page in case you want to refer to this list later.

3) System Pages

Just 3 examples of totally customizable system pages already included in your SmugMug account.

You may not realize that you’ve got a few very special pages up your SmugMug sleeve that you can access by simply typing in these words to the end of your SmugMug URL:

  • 404
  • Date
  • Keyword
  • Password
  • Popular
  • Search
  • Browse

These don’t appear in your site-wide organizer because they can’t actually be moved around, but you can customize them with text, your logo, and other content blocks when you have a Power-, Portfolio-, or Business-level account. Perfect for adding your warm and sunny personality to every corner of your site.

Check out some previously published tips and ideas for making these system pages your own.

4) Opacity Slider (Power and up)

Find your opacity (alpha) sliders in your Theme’s “Advanced” tab.

You can run with any design right out of the box, but one of the best benefits of SmugMug is the ability to deeply customize your site. And there’s so many options available to you, like the ability to change the color – and opacity – of different sections like your header, sidebars, body, or footer.

Just like how rugs define a space in your room, so do these areas of your page. Setting a section color and changing its opacity (or “alpha”) goes a great way toward making your custom themes stand apart from the crowd.

Don’t be shy: dig into your Themes, click that Advanced tab, and get playing!

5) Filename display

Display your filenames for easy previewing in your sitewide Organizer.

The Organizer may be the best thing we’ve launched since sliced bread, but did you know that you can toggle the display of filenames under your thumbnails? This is a handy trick to see exactly how your images are being sorted. Combined with the browser function Command+F, you can quickly find any file in any gallery.

Find it in your sitewide Organizer, any time you’ve highlighted a gallery and have the photos displayed in the preview pane on the right. The toggle button is the little square with the line under it at top right (shown above).

6) Multiple Designs to Create and Use (Power and up)

This user has created 5 totally different looks for their SmugMug website and can swap them with a click.

You can customize any number of our site designs and swap between them whenever you wish. We’ll save them all in your account and you can access them when logged in, any time you click Customize > Choose a New Site Design. No extra charge!

This is perfect for indecisive photographers who can’t decide if they want a huge background slideshow or an organic collage of their portfolio pics on their homepage. It’s also great for festive folks who shoot calendar-based events and want to serve up a different look every season.

Just remember that when you switch designs, customizations like content blocks won’t transfer between them. However, new pages, galleries, and any other content you add (A.K.A. stuff that’s visible in your sitewide Organizer) will.

Tip: If you do create multiple designs, we recommend that you give each design a unique, descriptive name so you always know what it is. “Copy of Isis” is not very helpful. “4-Column Homepage (White Theme)” is.

We hope you dig deeper into your SmugMug sites and discover something new that makes managing your memories easier and more fun.

Enjoy!

Links to love:

How To Avoid Leaking Sensitive Photos

February 7, 2014 19 comments

Stories are breaking on sites like Fstoppers and Brandsmash about private Boudoir photos that appeared on a creepy voyeur forum.  It’s hard to imagine a more humiliating nightmare for a photographer or their clients.

Photo Used With Permission From Je Revele Photography 

Photos came from several sites, including SmugMug, and we paid extreme attention over the last two days to how it happened.  We tried to take some comfort in observing that in every instance, it came down to passwords that were guessable in just a few tries.

The question for us was what could we do that we weren’t already?  Over the past year, we’ve done considerable work around this problem, but yesterday we decided to expose some of the alerts our systems generate to our customers.

When our systems see several password attempts on a gallery or folder, they now send an email to the owner of the SmugMug site.  It identifies the gallery, gives the first few digits of each password attempt with asterisks for the rest (bou***), and adds info like time of day and geographic location the request may be coming from.

Today our Support Heroes are receiving thank-yous from people whose family members couldn’t get in because they left the caps lock key on or forgot some aspect of the password “it’s a cap O (oh), not a 0 (zero)”.

And we read two help tickets from photographers who discovered that their boudoir galleries had password guessers.  Fortunately, they had long passwords that were too hard to guess, but they are still making changes like removing the word Boudoir from the title, and making the gallery Unlisted so only people who obtain the link can know of its existence.

One of the security upgrades that came with New SmugMug is we don’t store passwords in a form that could leak in any way, including a systems breach, a bug, or a disgruntled employee. We use an industrial grade, Cryptographic hash function.

The breaking stories are about Boudoir photos, but we host incredibly sensitive photos (all cloud services do) of unannounced products and even, we remember, photos of an upcoming TIME Person of the Year.

Best Practices:

1.  Set a good gallery password before uploading photos!

2.  Set galleries and folders to Unlisted.  Unlisted means means no one can see them unless they have somehow been given a link.  They cannot guess the link because it has a random string added to its URL.  The combination of strong password + Unlisted is extremely secure.

You can learn more about how to protect your SmugMug galleries here.

We hope this helps, and thanks for being part of the SmugMug family!

Chris & Don MacAskill

Founders

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