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

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

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

Our SmugMug family newsletter, digital-style.

How to Build Your Newsletter

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

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

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

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

Key Smug Features to Use

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links to love:

Four Festive Families of Photo-Friendly Cards

You’ve probably taken a spin through our catalog of 2012 holiday cards and seen how easy it is to build, buy and sell photo cards through your galleries. But if you’re still trying to decide on what to send, here’s a few tips that may help you narrow it down based on what’s important to you.

Holiday shipping deadlines! If you’re shopping for someone this season, be sure that you get your orders in no later than the following dates for December 24th delivery. (For domestic US and UK orders only)

  • 6-10 Business days: December 5th, 2012
  • 3-5 Business days: December 12th, 2012
  • 2 Business days: December 17th, 2012
  • 1 Business day: December 18th, 2012

1) Cards For Word Nerds.

Had a busy year? You can tell your friends and family all about it in these templates that give you tons of space to say anything you wish. Fill it with your family newsletter, your favorite recipe or a festive poem.

Inside you’ll see plenty of space to write whatever you wish, perfect for inviting your readers to curl up with a mug of hot cocoa and read what’s new with you:

2) Cards For Studios

We get asked a lot if any of our cards include a text box on the back panel to add a business name. The answer is: Yes! If you want to type in your studio name, website URL or even a surprise message on the back of your card, look no further. These designs rock a little text field so you can have the last word.

Find them in the “Back of Card Text” category in the card builder.

Here are two fabulous examples:

3) Cards For Multi-taskers

Christmas comes but once a year, but there are so  many more occasions worthy of great photo cards. We offer several designs that let you simply change the text and photos, so you can take your favorite card from “New Year” to “New Baby!”

These designs boast clean layouts or multiple color options, so you can dress them up for any event.

4) Cards For Happy Snappers

For those of you who love to share lots of photos and can’t pick out just one or two, try these. We offer lots of designs that give you space to drag and drop in up to 8 different images.

You can easily find all the photo-heavy card designs in our catalog. Simply look at the top and click the “Sort by: Number of Photos” link you see there.

We hope that you’ll find the perfect card in our catalog to suit any photo and any holiday greeting you’re dreaming up.

Happy holiday planning from SmugMug!

Tips, info and inspiration with cards:

5 Tips for Making Scandalously Good Holiday Cards

As the holidays creep ever closer, we thought we’d ask for (and share!) some sage advice from someone who seriously knows beautiful cards, beautiful photos, and how to put them together into beautiful designs. Today, we’re going to share what we learned from Meghan of The Shoppe Designs, who gave us 5 great tips that will help take your holiday cards from “yaaawn” to “YEOWSA!”

In short: Start with a beautiful design, then follow through with smart and effective personal touches so that your holiday greetings become the talk of the town.

1) Match the mood between your photos and the design.

Sure, you can always pick a bunch of your favorite photos from the year and slap them into a card, but your friends and family will really notice when your photos and your card design match in color and style. For example, if you pair a formal portrait with a playful design, the presentation will look way less harmonious than it would when you match the mood and colors. Like music, find the chord that resonates best.

Here are some pairings that work well:

  • If your family session is outdoors and the family is wearing neutral colors, try them against cards with organic and vintage designs.
  • If your session included your family wearing brightly-colored clothes, a more playful and bright design would work well. Or better yet, try a simple, white card with little text so the colors in the photos really pop!
  • If your photo has a lot going on it it (lots of props, colors, several family members, etc) try dropping them into a simple design like a 5×7 folded card with the photo on the front and some simple text inside. Sometimes less is way more.

Thankfully, no matter what you do, the SmugMug card builder lets you preview them together before ordering so you can be sure your design and photo work together well!

2) Use photos from a single photo session.

There’s certainly an art to arranging multiple photos together on a card, but it’s still easy. The hot tip is to use photos from the same session and even the same part of your photo session for continuity’s sake. For instance, if your photographer shot different locations for your family shoot (some in front of the barn, some in the field, etc) try filling the multiple photo layout using various photos from the field. Then spice it up with a photo or two from a different location on the inside or back of the card. This way, your card keeps a unified sense of colors and style and will visually blend together.

Another fun option is to fill in the wells of your card with a photo sequence of different poses. For example, a series of shots at the same focal length of the subject(s) doing different things from the same sitting. It’s a fun, easy way to add a little motion and storytelling to your card. As always, try to pick ones that have colors that work well with your design!

3) Edit your photos.

A well-edited photo can really make the finished card sing, so processing your photos before putting them into your cards is a very important step.

Tip: If you’re using photos from your pro photographer, they’ve most likely already done this step for you. Whew!

You can push and pull the colors to go with your design and make everything even more perfect. The Shoppe Designs offers unique Photoshop Actions that can help you do this very easily. With just a few clicks, you can give your outdoor family shoot a warm, vintage feel and then it will match perfectly with a vintage-style card. On the flip side, you can brighten up the colors of an engagement session shoot even more to make them really pop on a simple white backdrop. And of course there’s the classic black and white option, which lets your images’ emotion speak for itself.

Not all actions work with all photos, but a great action can really bring a great photo to a whole new level!

Did you know? Post-processing is usually best for photos that you haven’t uploaded yet, but you can still polish up your images even if you’ve already added them into your SmugMug account. Try Picmonkey, a great in-browser editing tool built right in to your galleries, where you can fix redeye, exposure, add filters, textures and lots more. Look for it under your gallery’s Tools button > This Photo > Edit with Picmonkey.

4) Find inspiration for your text.

Writing your holiday message can be intimidating, and it’s hard to come up with greetings that aren’t generic or clichéd. It sounds silly, but try thinking about different holiday songs and lyrics to get in the mood and those festive juices flowing! You can take just a part of a song, like “All is calm, all is bright” (from Silent Night) which makes a beautiful and yet unexpected greeting.

What songs or poems tug at your heartstrings for the holidays? Get nostalgic. Get personal.

5) Use Caution With Fonts.

Fonts can be tricky. It’s generally best to keep the default fonts in the card you pick, as many designs are based around the font. But SmugMug does give you the option to change the font on many of the cards, so just be sure to proceed with caution.

Unless you have a lot of experience in design it is generally a good idea to not use too many different fonts together. It takes a fair amount of experience to determine which fonts work together and which… don’t.

Some basic font guidelines to follow:

  • If your photo is more formal or serious, usually a serif font (that’s the one with the little feet) tends to work best.
  • If you’re using fun shots of kids, a handwritten font can really play up the cuteness.
  • If you want a modern look, most of the simple sans-serif (no feet) fonts will complement the style well. For instance, with an engagement session of a young couple in very stylish clothes in the city, try a thin sans serif font in all caps.
  • If you’re using a more formal wedding portrait, a serif font would works best. Remember to keep it simple and think about how it works with the image stye.

We hope these tips get you excited and inspired to start making your cards and filling them with your year’s best memories. More tips and inspiration coming soon!

Link roundup:

Make Way for a Whole New Lineup of Photo Cards

You’ve just packed the kids off to school. What’s that mean?

Time to start planning for the holidays!

We’re kidding. Mostly. Savvy photographers like yourself are always on the ball, so we know you’re already itching to put together your 2012 holiday cards.

Brand-New, Beautiful Card Designs

We’re so excited to tell you about our brand-new, easy-to-love designs. Whether you fancy rustic, elegant, or simple designs, you’ll find something that you’ll love. We swear on our marshmallows!

Best of all, you can customize every design with your own words and your favorite photos. In most of the designs, you even have your pick of a variety of fonts.  Too much of a good thing? Never.

Can I make a card with my Basic account?

Yes! No matter what account type you have (Basic, Power, Portfolio or Business), every SmugMugger can turn their favorite photo into a beautiful card. Or 100 cards, if you’re popular.

Here’s what you do:

1) Open your gallery and find the first photo you want to use.
2) Click Buy > Create a Card.
3) Browse designs to find the one you want, and drag in your photos.
4) Save it, add it to your cart and check out.

Did you know? You can edit any card you haven’t yet bought. Just click the Tools button > This Photo > Edit to reopen the card builder and make it perfect.

If you’ve already placed your order and need to make changes, be sure to email our Support Heroes with your order number ASAP.

Pros: How to Price and Sell Cards

If you have a Business account, yes… and you’ll make a few bucks, too. Price your cards like your other print products and your clients can create their own cards using the photos in your gallery.

You shoot. They buy. We deliver.

Here’s how it works:

1) Visit your Pricelists and create a new Pricelist, or edit an existing one. Whether you use Bay Photo Lab, WHCC, or EZ Prints, you’ll  be able to add in photo cards, which are fulfilled by EZ Prints. (Please note: at the moment, customers using Loxley Colour are not currently able to add cards.)
2) Set your profit (or price) and be sure to apply the Pricelist to your galleries.
3) Share the gallery with your clients. They’ll see a “Create a Card” option from the Buy button, and take it from there.

Did you know? Business pros who use Proof Delay can fix typos and swap images in clients’ cards before they go to print. Just open the order details, click “Edit Project” and make your changes. Then release the order when you’re done.

Watch the video below to find out how Business account holders can sell cards.

Pros in the Know: Our favorite money-making tips

As a working pro, reach out to clients you’ve shot through the year and tell them about your photo card options. They’ll love featuring their favorite images from past shoots on their holiday cards.

Try these tactics early in the season to warm up your clients:

  • Order a few sample cards using your best photos. Let customers hold them, feel the paper and see how beautiful custom cards can be. They’ll imagine sending their own to envious friends and family.
  • Create and send “Thanks!” cards to last year’s portrait and wedding clients. This does double-duty of keeping you fresh in their minds and demonstrating to them the quality of cards they’ll buy from you.
  • Don’t forget: Pets are family, too. Even if you’re not a human photographer, you’ve still got a healthy pool of clients who’d love to feature their furry babies on holiday cards.

And for your ongoing portrait sessions:

  • Set prices for cards lower early in the season, and raise them as the holidays get close. Get it done in 3 seconds with Pricelists.
  • Use Events to avoid wandering eyes. Events keep customers focused by grouping and sharing the good stuff, and the good stuff only. Plus, they can tag their favorite photos.

The bottom line: SmugMug’s here to take the hard work off your hands, so you can get back to wrapping presents. Avoid gray hairs, the holiday rush and the dreaded mail service overload. We’ll help you get your holiday cards finished before you can say, “Hot chocolate!”

What time-saving tips have helped you get your cards out the door? Share your thoughts with fellow mailers below.

All photos by Meghan MacAskill Photography.  

Link roundup:

Create, Edit and Sell Custom Photo Cards

Big news today for people who love to make photo cards: We’ve brought you a more powerful, more flexible card builder that lets you edit designs before you buy.

Build Your Cards

Try it now right from your galleries. Find the first photo you want to use, then click Buy > Create a Card.

It’s so simple to pick a design, then click and drag in the photos you want. You can even edit the images by zooming, aligning, or even doing a quick conversion to black and white:

Next, type in whatever text you want. In many cases you can even edit the font, which you couldn’t do before.

When you’re done, you can hit Save to stash your progress, or just choose how many you want and add it to your cart.

Edit Your Cards

One of the most-requested requests we’ve gotten about cards was for you to be able to edit them. Now you can.

When you clicked “Save” in the card builder, we stashed your project in your “Cards” gallery. Simply find it and click Tools > This Photo > Edit to open up the card creator:

Make as many edits as you wish and when you’re ready, add it to your cart. Voila!

Check out our help page here to guide you through the new process. Remember that Pros can still set a custom price for all of our 4×8 and 5×7 card options, so their customers can design and order their own holiday greetings and make you money.

Enjoy! Got any feedback, ideas, or just have a question? Let us know.

More ways to spice up your holiday with SmugMug:


Fresh Holiday Cards, New SMUGs and Fixed Bugs

New Cards. Yule Love Them.

Face it: A lot of us don’t get the holiday stuff done until the eleventh hour. It’s already December but tonight we’re showing you that it sometimes pays to procrastinate:

We’ve released a slew of new Winter Holiday and Christmas cards, so dive in and get your greetings going now! They’re available in both 4×8 and 5×7 sizes. More info.

SMUGs: Growing Up Mighty Swiftly

From Philly to Fairbanks, our SmugMug User Groups have grown from a sprinkling of cities to a nationwide wave of happy SMUGgers. We’ve updated our info site so that photographers of all shapes, skills and sizes can find where to geek and gab.

Check out our new, intuitive map and locate your closest meeting. Click a pin to get details on when and where:

If you’re dying to charter a meeting in your town and want to know how, we’ve got good info for you, too. Look right under the new Leaders tab, or click here.

Remember that our User Groups are open to everyone, so whether you’re a veteran Smugger or if you just love photography, there’s a seat waiting for you. See you there!

Bug Fixes

  • You can now change the case in your SmugMug nickname (example: “smugmug” to “SmugMug”) in one easy go. That option is always found in your Control Panel’s Settings tab.
  • HTML entered in your gallery description fields no longer cover thumbnails in Pros’ “Set Prices” screens.
  • Pros can once again buy their own photos in bulk even when they’ve custom priced their items at $0.

Here’s to sharing great photos together,

The SmugMug Family