SmugMug rescues nearly 200 million priceless memories from Picturelife.

SmugMug has always embraced the mission of being Heroes for our customers—leaping tall buildings to make sure their photos are safe, beautiful and accessible. So, when we heard that Picturelife, a photo/video storage company, ended their service without a way for their customers to preserve their photos, we knew we had to do something (and fast) to help reunite the Picturelife community with their memories.

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The SmugMug team offered its services to Picturelife and worked tirelessly over several weeks to develop and implement a plan to reconnect Picturelife files with their owners. As a service to Picturelife and its customers, SmugMug is now offering a zero-cost solution for Picturelife customers to access and download their photos and videos.

Our number one concern is putting as many Picturelife photos and videos as we can into the hands of their rightful owners. We’re making their photos available to them at no charge and no obligation.  If some of Picturelife’s former customers want to become a part of SmugMug’s family of photographers, we’ll welcome them with open arms, but that’s not our primary goal.  Helping Picturelife’s customers preserve their priceless memories is our goal and just another example of our mission and passion in action: providing a safe, beautiful home for everyone’s photos.

If you’re a former Picturelife customer looking to retrieve your photos and videos please visit our Picturelife FAQ page to get the process started.

Latest “gallery” hanging at SmugMug HQ – Bella Kotak!

The SmugMug headquarters can sometimes feel less like an office and more like an art gallery as you wander the halls and corridors. We have hundreds of photographs from our customers and employees hanging on our walls and are adding more all the time. Recently, we had the opportunity to hang some new images from Bella Kotak, whose unique style has earned her renown in the photography world. Blending her incredible portraits with editing and retouching mastery, Bella produces otherworldly images that can transport the viewer into a fantasy world of imagination and color.

untitled-8-2The photos ready for hanging!

untitled-16-2Sneak peeks of the gallery hanging.

IMG_1854No crooked photos on Brent’s (Facilities) watch!

untitled-27-2Straight as an arrow.

untitled-70Smuggy tape measure FTW!

untitled-68Bella’s gallery looks stunning!

Any time we get a new selection of photographs to hang, we like to make a little celebration of it and include folks from the office who want to have a chance to learn more about the artist and their work. Bella creates mystical worlds in her photographs. Playing with light and color, she weaves visual daydreams with evocative portraits of strong females submerged in incredible scenes and settings. Her images take you away, creating a story in your mind of the subjects or at least leave you with questions, wondering where the subject came from and what circumstances might have brought her here.

untitled-48It didn’t take long for the new gallery to gain attention.

IMG_1875The Bella Kotak Gallery is open for visitors!

IMG_1895The photos are a huge hit at HQ.

IMG_1909Mobile Apps Guy, Ian, plays docent.

untitled-22Director of Operations Shandrew takes it all in.

unspecified Haley from QA and Designer Chris are inspired to begin a career in modeling.

untitled-138The complete Bella Kotak Gallery at SmugMug HQ

Our passion for photography is what fuels our fire, and we’re incredibly proud to display inspiring images like Bella’s in our Mountain View headquarters. Visit Bella’s SmugMug site to see more of her work. If you’re not a SmugMug customer, Bella even has a sign-up special that will give new customers 15% off their subscription.

untitled-25-3YAY!

From Russia with love: Photographer Elena Shumilova teaches SmugMug employees how to capture childhood magic.

Employee enrichment is incredibly important here at SmugMug. We want our employees to grow and learn, not only in their working roles but also in personal and creative ways. Many of our employees are photographers themselves, and we encourage them to grow their craft every day. To help with this goal, we established an Artist-in-Residency program. This program gives our employees the opportunity to attend lectures and hands-on workshops from some of the greatest photographers in the world. It’s an insightful, fun, and exclusive experience that continually gives us unique insights on new photography techniques and styles.

One of our most recent Artist-in-Residency was SmugMug Films featured artist and renowned children’s photographer Elena Shumilova. Elena flew from Russia to California to deliver two lectures and one hands-on workshop over two days at SmugMug HQ. Elena creates incredibly magical photos of her children and pets in the Russian countryside that are famous around the world. For SmugMug, family and relationships are incredibly important, so this opportunity to learn new techniques and methods for family and child portraits was a no brainer. Additionally, this Artist-in-Residence program was extra special as SmugMug provided six scholarships to remote employees to travel to the Bay Area to participate in the experience in person.

In the morning lecture, Elena discussed how she discovered photography, what it means to her, and the various ways she approaches photographing children with animals. Elena shared tips and tricks on how to direct children, such as coaxing them to look in a specific direction or modify their body language. Later in the afternoon, Elena covered her post-processing techniques. During this lecture, Elena edited three photos, which employees had access to beforehand in order to follow along and edit them together for maximum hands-on learning.

The second day, 14 lucky employees (chosen by lottery) traveled to Hidden Villa, California, for a hands-on, outdoor photoshoot with Elena. A small group was necessary to ensure the models — in this case, six children and two dogs — remained calm and undistracted. Elena set the initial scene to photograph with one child and one dog while employees observed and determined the best angle to capture the moment. Elena was very hands-on assisting workshop participants—explaining model placement, giving tips, and admiring photos. It was far from comfortable as employees got down to the same level as the models, often finding themselves completely on the ground. The experience forced them into a new environment well outside their comfort zone. The small group also allowed Elena to engage with SmugMug employees one-on-one for further, more personalized instruction and learning. Employees loved being able to work alongside her, observing as she made decisions on the fly. They received a better understanding of how to work with children and animals. Most importantly, they discovered that even if a child isn’t responding the way you hoped, you can still end up with your best shot of the day thanks to unexpected moments.

untitled-279-2Elena shows employees some of her photography tips.

untitled-158-3Get low: staff search for the perfect angle.

untitled-134-3Elena gives Aaron, head of Product, one-on-one instruction.

untitled-243-2There are a million angles to perfectly capture the moment.

untitled-74-3Employees practicing what they learned.

untitled-197-2Never too young to become a photographer.

untitled-247-2Modeling is hard work.

untitled-116-3The Secret Garden.

untitled-255-3A girl and her dog.

It was an experience we won’t soon forget, and we are very thankful that Elena came so far to be our Artist-in-Residence and share her craft with us.

When photographers become models: Clay Cook visits SmugMug HQ.

Here at SmugMug, we’re lucky to work with some of the best photographers out there. On occasion, we get even luckier and one of these incredible photographers comes to SmugMug HQ. Employees get hands-on workshops from the best of the best to further their own photography craft. It’s a valuable, awesome perk of the job and incredibly fun. In early June, we were thrilled to host Clay Cook as our Artist in Residence.

Clay is an award-winning published photographer and filmmaker, specializing in editorial and advertising photography. He’s an incredible portrait photographer to learn from, and we were lucky to nab him not only for training but also for fresh, new headshots for our Smuggy employees.

untitled-36-2Clay Cook, photographer.

For two days, Clay set up shop at HQ and took headshots of 44 employees. In addition to the awesome headshots, he also did some very individualized training for a few employees on editing and post-production. Clay, unsurprisingly, has a special knack for making you feel comfortable and secure in front of the camera. It’s not easy working with a bunch of non-models who also happen to be photographers themselves and prefer being behind the camera. And, of course, every photo turned out incredible.

untitled-290Clay breaks the ice.

untitled-303Andrew Tower: Copywriter by day, model by night.

untitled-146-2-EditJill Valenzuela, Head of People, flashes her pearly whites.

untitled-5-3A rare capture in action: Controller Ivan Makarov smiling.

untitled-367Sarah Arnold, QA, and her infectious smile.

untitled-182-2Mozzie isn’t too sure about this photography thing, but his human, Ping (Engineering), is a natural.

IMG_5798Clay shows Alex, SmugMug Historian and Photographer, editing techniques.

In addition to the headshots and training, Clay also took the time to participate in our very first Facebook Live broadcast! Senior Marketing Manager Jen led Clay in a fun Q&A with viewers and gave away a few coveted, hard-to-acquire SmugMug hoodies to commemorate the special occasion. Watch the replay below and keep an eye out for more Facebook Live broadcasts with other photographers. (And, yes, more SmugMug hoodie giveaways!)

If you’re in London, you’re in luck—Clay will be hosting a workshop August 13–14. Details on how to sign up can be found on his web page. It’s sure to be a valuable learning experience and a lot of fun. Oh, and there may or may not be a few SmugMug prizes at the workshop for attendees! Stay tuned for more behind the scenes at SmugMug HQ!

untitled-296-2-EditPeace Out! – Clay and his assistant, Hunter.

Shedding Light on Outdoor Portraits of People in Glasses

By Alexandria Huff

Alexandria Huff is a Marketing Coordinator for BorrowLenses.com, where she is also the resident lighting guru. Visit her website to find more lighting tutorials, discounts on classes and camera gear, plus view her collection of chiaroscuro-style closeup studio portraits. She can be reached on LinkedIn and followed on Instagram.

In my Glare Aware Series, I cover the basics of avoiding lighting glare in photography. To recap, the following are essential lighting laws for working with reflective surfaces:

  • Broad Lighting vs Short Lighting

Short lighting is when your light is primarily illuminating the angle of the face that is far from the camera. Broad lighting is when your light is mostly illuminating the angle of the face that is close to the camera. Short lighting is harder to use on subjects wearing glasses than broad lighting. To learn more, see  Glare Aware Part 1.

Alexandria-Huff-Glare-SmugMug-Broad-Short-Lighting

  • Position Lights Outside the Family of Angles

Placing your lights at acute angles in reference to the subject (90º or less – think of on-camera flash as being 0º) is generally bad for glass and placing lights at obtuse angles (greater than 90º) is generally good. To learn more see Glare Aware Part 2.

Angle-Reflection-Lighting-SmugMug-Alexandria-Huff

  • Angle of Incidence = Angle of Reflection

For the most part, light travels in a straight line. If you position your light toward glass at a 45º angle, the reflection will be apparent in your image if your camera is also positioned at 45º on the opposite side. To learn more, see  Glare Aware Part 3.

These tips are well suited for controlled environments – studios and homes. When you step outside the comfort of a room, the lighting laws are a little less clear. After frequent requests, I am sharing a few of my go-to tricks for troubleshooting stubborn eyeglass reflections when shooting outside.

Combating Glare in Eyeglasses for Outdoor Portraits

Shooting subjects wearing eyeglasses outdoors poses particularly vexing problems. It can be really hard to eliminate all direct reflections coming from pavement, the sky, and other shiny objects that are out of your control.

Some articles suggest that your subject either remove their glasses (not always an option) or that you should choose a different environment or optimal time of day to shoot in. It is good to know what to do even in adverse conditions, however. Here are three things I did to reduce glare while shooting glasses outside on a very bright day near a home with plenty of reflective objects. Practice these to improve your skills and reduce panic when troubleshooting these problems during a live shoot.

Tip #1: Absorb Reflections with a Black Flag

Black-Flag-SmugMug-Glare-BTS-Alexandria-Huff

Black objects produce little diffuse reflection and do not scatter light like white objects. Using a black flag (as part of a scrim or reflector kit) will reduce reflections coming from our subject’s glasses. It also acts as camouflage for your camera when shooting directly into a subject with glasses.

Black will also absorb light so expect to lose a stop of exposure. Use exposure compensation or bump exposure in post production. If you’re shooting RAW, you’ll have a lot of latitude to adjust exposure while editing.

Tip #2: Fill Reflections with Artificial Lighting

Strobes are used outdoors to “overpower the sun,” which is a method of intentionally underexposing your ambient light and using artificial light on the subject to compensate. You can also use strobes to overpower reflections.

In tip #1, I filled my reflective object with a light-absorbing black flag. Now I am using an opposite approach by filling the reflective object with light. Light reflects off shiny surfaces at about the same angle as they are struck. Position your light so that the reflection is reasonably predicted to fall away from your lens. Make sure your light is close enough to your subject to fill the surface of the eyeglasses. The eyeglasses, as a whole, are now brighter and the light obscures the specular, distracting reflections of your environment.

Angle-Incidence-SmugMug-Glare-Photography-Alexandria-Huff

Tip #3: Change the Angle of the Reflective Object

In any shoot, there are three positions that can be adjusted to avoid glare:

  • The position/angle of your light.
  • The position/angle of your model.
  • Your shooting position.

Glasses-Before-After-Glare-Alexandria-Huff-SmugMug

Unless you’re using strobes, changing the position of your light outdoors is hard – especially if you’re constrained by when and where you have to shoot since you’re depending on the sun. Your subject can tilt their head at certain angles, upward or downward, to reduce eyeglass reflections but these positions aren’t always flattering. If you find yourself in this rut, tilting the eyeglasses themselves helps.

As with head angle, tilting glasses isn’t always flattering. It depends on the shape of the glasses, how long the subject’s hair is, etc. Your mileage may vary.

Glasses-Glare-SmugMug-Alexandria-Huff

Bonus Tips

Bonus #1: Telephoto Lenses

Lens distance matters. A longer lens is going to produce a smaller viewing angle than a wide one. Smaller viewing angles cause fewer direct reflections than larger ones.

Bonus #2: Polarizing Filters

Polarizing filters manage reflections coming from most non-metallic surfaces but you also lose stops of light and a certain natural reflectance of skin that can leave your subject looking flat overall. Experiment accordingly.

Bonus #3: Photoshop

Getting it right in-camera will save you time and hassle afterward. But not everything always goes to plan.

Alexandria-Huff-Glare-Glasses-SmugMug-Portrait

Sometimes, a personal favorite shot just doesn’t quite ever get the right blend of good posing plus proper glare-avoiding angles. You can resort to Photoshop for these times. It is a tool like anything else.

Add your own bonus tips for overcoming difficult reflection situations when shooting outdoors in the comments below. Be sure to check out the rest of the Glare Aware Series:

Glare Aware: Photographing Portraits of People in Glasses

The Art of Copy Work: Photographing Artwork Accurately Without Glare

Bouncing Off the Walls: Lighting, Glare, and Shadows When Photographing Interiors

5 reasons why you’ll love your custom SmugMug mobile web “app”

Mobile Web App hero

Wouldn’t it be awesome to have your own personal or business SmugMug mobile “app” that you could share with clients, family, friends, or visitors? Well, now you can! Creating a custom app for their mobile phone or tablet is the easiest way for your visitors to find and see your work. You can share your entire SmugMug site, just a page, a folder, or a gallery. The options are endless. Professionals — this means clients can have their own app to showcase and share their wedding and any special event right on their mobile desktop!

Let’s go over five reasons why this cool new feature is one you’ll want to take advantage of.

1) Brand yourself

Who says only big companies can have their own app? Now you can wow your customers, family and friends by having your name, logo, and photos on your own unique app. Your brand should resonate in person, in print, and online. Continue to build your reputation and identity as professional, technically savvy, and successful. The market is more competitive than ever, so stand out and show yourself and your brand as a leader in the field with a mobile app.

2) Your photos found faster

It’s no surprise to anyone that more and more content is added to the internet daily. In fact, more than 2 trillion (possibly 3 trillion) photos alone are added to the web each year. That is a lot of pictures of weddings, senior graduation portraits, food and more. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to have one’s photos be discoverable and findable. It’s literally a needle in a haystack. By creating your own app, you make it incredibly fast and simple for others to find your work. No searching on the internet and no incorrect links – just your own branded app, with only the photos you wish to share.

3) Stand out from the competition

The market is competitive. What better way to hammer home the point that you are the right photographer for a prospective client by saying, “I can give you your own app of your wedding photos. Can the other photographers you’re interviewing say the same?” It’s a client offering that yells “Hire me!” without any actual yelling. Pretty impressive.

4) It’s fast and easy

Best of all, getting your own app couldn’t be easier. There is no coding to learn! No App Store approval ever needed. It’s fast and hassle-free to create, and updates instantaneously every time you make any changes to your SmugMug site. And it looks awesome on both iOS and Android.

5) Bragging Rights
Let’s face it, having your own app is pretty awesome. How many people do you know that have their own app? Probably none. There is no shame in having a little something to brag about.

Anchorman

This new feature has been capturing the attention of our customers and press alike. SmugMug CEO and Co-founder Don MacAskill sat down with USA Today Columnist and SmugMug customer Jefferson Graham to catch up and discuss our mobile web app. Check out the segment on Talking Tech Podcast to hear more on why having your own app is the bees’ knees.

To learn how to get your own mobile app and see a step by step walkthrough, be sure to visit our mobile web “app” help page. We would love to hear what your customers, friends and family think of your new app – so let us know their reaction (and yours!) in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter.

SmugMug Films: Brent Gilmore — Just a dad with a camera

Brent Gilmore has worn many hats during his lifetime, but none so fulfilling as that of dad. He’s not only juggled his share of strollers, dirty diapers, and 1am wake-up calls, he’s also learned to balance his fatherly duties with those of the family historian. He photographs his family’s tender, wonderful moments and keeps them safe for his children and future generations. We chatted with Brent about how he’s mastered the busy roles of father and photographer and why he trusts SmugMug to keep those precious memories safe and secure. Watch our video with him and read his interview below.

What’s the most important lesson you learned from your mom about being the family historian?
There are no unimportant moments. Even the moments you think are unimportant can turn out to generate the most memories. Case in point, a picture I took of my daughter or my son may not be super special, but when they see them, they see a pair of shoes they were wearing. Or they see a toy they’re still very fond of. And that will elicit really amazing memories for them. For me, it’s not that great of a photo. But for her it’s almost magical. For him, it’s his truck. And the truck is definitely magical. I think the most important lesson is that there are no unimportant moments.

Cerie out on her scooter for the first time.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to become their family’s historian?
Shoot really wide. You can always crop. Sometimes when you’re photographing family, the primary subject can be things happening in the background.

We were looking through my old photos and talking about furniture that we grew up with, and there’s this random photo of me with this piece of furniture. This photo becomes relatively important because it’s got this piece of furniture in it, but to begin with, it wasn’t important—it’s very wide, and it’s not particularly interesting. But it now has a really interesting purpose. So shooting wide is really important.

And capture items that people will forget but they’ll want to remember. Whether hairstyles or Nike Airs from seventh grade. Or, “I remember that Trapper Keeper,” which is something I said just recently looking at photos my mom took on the first days of school. That’s one of the great things about documenting. It’s not just documenting an individual or an event, but the time and space that it took place in, which is really important for me and my kids. I get to relive that with them now, and I find myself setting up shots that have their shoes in it where otherwise I might have cropped above the knee. Things they’ll forget but they’ll want to remember.

Three Cousins

How do you balance being in the moment with capturing the moment?
You have to really be in the moment with the kids—with the camera. If they know you’re just trying to capture a photo, or if you’re in the moment and you stop to get the camera, they’ll stop what they’re doing, too. Kids are finicky that way. But if you can participate—run around the background, be on the floor, be at their level—then you can be part of the moment, and also capture that moment.

That takes practice, and also it takes the kids a little bit of practice, too. They might wonder why you always have that camera, then it becomes part of their environment, and they start to act normal with it. Otherwise, sometimes it looks artificial or feels artificial to the kids. As soon as something doesn’t seem right, they’ll stop doing what they’re doing. They don’t want to perform. The camera has to be out, it has to be accessible, it has to be a part of the environment.

Do you primarily shoot with a DSLR, or just whatever you have on hand?
You know the old quote, “The best camera is the one that you have with you.” The camera I shoot with primarily that’s not my iPhone is a DSLR. The kids are really accustomed to me having that all the time, and they’re accustomed to it being around the house.

My DSLR is gigantic, and the lens is gigantic, so it’s not always convenient to have it on a walk in the grocery store, or when going to go grab ice cream, especially with two. The iPhone plays a really huge part then. I have amazing memories captured on the iPhone that are irreplaceable.

Xavier The Explorer

Do you have any favorite go-to settings for your DSLR?
On the DSLR, I was a manual guy until I had kids. It took me about the first eight months of my daughter’s life to give up my hope of being a fully manual guy. Now I have it set on auto ISO, and the aperture wide open, so I just worry about shutter speed. That allows me to just pick up the camera, focus, and shoot in all the different types of lighting environments you’re going to have with kids.

The iPhone is amazingly great at capturing photos. I just tap on the screen to highlight the area where I want the light to be perfect. That’s typically a face, but iPhone does a really great job out of the box. I’ve been really happy with that. DSLR is the ideal and I try to have it with me as much as possible, but when I can’t, it’s the iPhone.

When it was just my daughter, we went to New York City for Mother’s Day and I took my DSLR. New York City is a smorgasbord of amazing things to take pictures of, and I used my DSLR the whole time. But with two kids, you can’t have them plus a double stroller in New York City and a huge DSLR. So the last two trips we took with the kids to New York City I just had my iPhone. Both times the photos were amazing.

Natasya, Cerie & Xavier

What’s the top tip you would give somebody who wants to start photographing their family but might be a bit intimidated by the hardware?
That’s one of the things my wife and I laugh the most about because, “Oh my god, such a beautiful photo. He must have a nice camera.” Right? If you have a really expensive camera and really fast computer for processing, that doesn’t automatically make you a great photographer.

Technology has made it much easier than it was in the past. Now with how ubiquitous cameras are, anybody can have access to a really simple camera. And if they really work at it, they can take great photos with anything they have around them.

On the other hand, there’s people who do want to step up to a DSLR. I think it can, at first, be very overwhelming. But just take it one step at a time: figure out your camera, then figure out how to develop, and then you’ll figure out how to present your photos.

You mention in your video that your mother documented everything carefully, and I noticed her handwritten notes on the back of your photos. How do you approach documenting everything you photograph?
Well, I won’t lie. It’s tedious. There’s no super easy way. I joke that our parents invented tagging. If they hadn’t, I wouldn’t know who a lot of these people are in these old black-and-white photos. But there’s no easy way that I found to directly transfer the tags that are on the back of the photos to the digital age.

Getting them scanned in, and then going into SmugMug and putting those tags in does take some time, but it is extremely worthwhile. It is time well spent and for a couple of reasons. The obvious main reason is organization. You are able to find any photo, any event, any year, almost instantly. We’ll be at a family function and somebody will mention this birthday, or this piece of clothing, or that birthday cake that mom made of Big Bird in 1978 or whatever. They’ll mention something completely random and I can go to SmugMug and search my tags for things as generic as birthday, and sort through the photos to find this particular one. Or I can search Brent’s birthday, or 1978. The better you tag it, the easier it is to search and find. Everybody’s completely blown away with that.

Backyard Summer

These photos are so precious and important, why did you entrust SmugMug to keep them safe for you?
Yeah, it’s literally thousands of photos. One of the things that’s lacking in a lot of software companies is updates, improvements, and listening to user feedback. SmugMug has continually impressed me with the fact that they are growing stronger every day. The way I know they’re growing stronger is they’re making improvements to the service every single day. They could be operational improvements, things that make my life easier, things that make processing and organizing easier, or it could be graphical changes that just make it more pleasant to work in SmugMug.

The reason I trust SmugMug is because I can tell they really care about their product, and about the people that use it. When you’re looking for a partner you want to know that they’re going to be there. So you’re looking for that longevity and solidness, and that was one of the things that tipped me off that these guys are serious and they’re going to be around because they keep getting better.

Could you walk me through your process of getting your photos from your camera on to SmugMug?
It’s not particularly sexy: I take my SD card and import everything to my laptop, then I use Lightroom to do my initial processing and tagging. The thing that I think is probably the most helpful, and to me this is very sexy, is SmugMug’s plug-in for Lightroom. It is absolutely amazing.

With other services, if you upload a photo and you want to change something later, you have to change it on the computer and upload a new version of that photo. A lot of times you’ve already shared that photo, so links are broken and people aren’t able to see it. The thing that is amazing about SmugMug and the plug-in for Lightroom is that any change I make on my computer with Lightroom is instantly synced with SmugMug. It doesn’t change the links, it doesn’t break any of the sharing.

That happens frequently with my tagging. I’ll upload everything, send it out on Google+, and everybody is looking and commenting. Then I realize, “Oh, well I didn’t tag it with these certain things, or I didn’t put the geo location.” Everybody’s looking at the photos at the same time I’m changing them in Lightroom and they never know that anything was changed. It’s absolutely brilliant. Genius.

Watching the Rain

What about photos on your phone? Do you keep those on your phone or do you end up uploading those as well?
I don’t upload every single one. I typically upload the ones that are worthy of sharing publicly. That doesn’t mean that they have to be perfect, or even that I’ve developed them, it just means that for me they have to be relevant to the people that I’m sharing them with. I’ve used my iPhone to upload directly to SmugMug, and I’ll do that with really important things as an immediate backup.

I mentioned traveling to New York before. On one trip, we’d been there for four days and captured some really great moments. After we pause to take a couple of photos in Central Park, I go to SmugMug while we’re getting everybody back in the stroller, and I’ll upload those five photos and boom, now they’re backed up to SmugMug. I lose my phone, my phone gets stolen, my daughter throws it into a fountain—everything’s already on SmugMug, and I don’t have to worry about it.

Are there any other tools or features on SmugMug that you use the most?
Prior to SmugMug I would share photos through email and people would want me to email a higher resolution. With Smugmug, I don’t ever have to send anyone a photo. I just direct them to the gallery on SmugMug and I’ve got it enabled to be downloaded. They can download the entire album, they can download individual photos. It’s an amazing time saver for me.

Or they want prints. Tangible photos. Before, I had a workflow where I would visit my local camera shop and get them printed, and then input everyone’s address to send copies. The time and effort was a nightmare. Now I just enable the ability for people to buy these photos on my SmugMug site, so when anybody wants one or all the photos, they can buy them directly from my site. They can pay for them themselves and have them shipped directly to them. In terms of the tools that are really an amazing life saver for my photographs, being able to download the photos and buy the photos on SmugMug is amazing.

Five Years & Still Laughing

Do you think having prints is important?
We’ve got a sofa table behind the sofa with thirty 4x6s and 5x7s on there. Our entire fireplace mantle is filled with picture frames. Anywhere there’s open space, it’s cluttered with picture frames. And it’s important for a couple of reasons. One, we really like to relive these moments and memories all the time. Having them online, I unfortunately don’t have my laptop or phone open to SmugMug all the time. But I’m in my office right now, and I’m looking up at the wall with an amazing photo of my daughter kissing my wife’s pregnant belly. It takes me back to summer 2012.

The second thing really lends itself to the very first question you asked about taking pictures of kids. When they see every day the outcome of daddy having the camera out, they’re more willing to be participants when they know it’s going to be printed. I find that they’re much more cooperative in the process when they know it’s going to be printed and framed.

And how do you prepare your photos to ensure you get great prints?
I think a year and a half ago I would have answered about different crop sizes, and color profiles, and a bunch of nonsense, but now I print everything through SmugMug. I upload an uncropped, full-resolution version of the photo, and if I want a 4×6, 5×7, an 8×10, SmugMug does almost all the work for me. I just have to approve where SmugMug wants to crop the photo, or adjust if I want it to be a little bit different, and know with a few keystrokes and a few button pushes I can have photos on the way to the house.

How do you protect the more private memories from anyone you don’t want to have access?
This is one of the top reasons I use SmugMug; it allows me very easy-to-understand control over what people will see. Whether it’s Facebook or Google Photos or Flickr, a lot of times I’m not really sure what other people can see. They don’t make the privacy controls very easy. But SmugMug makes it super simple. I know what is private, what’s completely locked down, password protected, and nobody can get to but me. I know what’s shared with only the family, and I know what’s public.

I do use Smugmug for some really private, really tender moments with my wife and my kids, and I know and have confidence that they’re private.

Xavier - Month 4

For example, someone in Pennsylvania happened to find my site and was randomly typing in passwords on a protected gallery. Really good guesses. Every time he typed in a password, I was getting an email instantly from SmugMug saying, “Someone applied the wrong password for this private gallery.” It alerted me to the fact that someone was trying to log in to this private gallery, and it did it every single time this individual put in a wrong password. Which let me know this wasn’t a random thing; someone really wanted those photos and was not going to give up. I was able to very quickly change the privacy settings to where all my password-protected galleries weren’t publicly discoverable, they were hidden.

When this guy in Pennsylvania goes back to that particular page, he can’t see it anymore. He can’t even attempt to type in a password. Not only did the security keep this person out, but SmugMug alerted me to the fact that there was an issue and made it easy to change the privacy settings on the fly. It’s really quite amazing that SmugMug had my back in such a gigantic way.

Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Your photos don’t have to be perfect to be memories. That’s the thing I think people need to get over—just capture what’s going on, and it’s going to be really, really special. You have to just start taking photos. They’re going to be amazing memories. If you ask anybody to look back at the photos their parents took, they’re not technically perfect, but they mean a lot to them. It’s going to be the same for their kids. Capturing memories is important, and Smugmug makes it really easy to share them.