SmugMug (opens in new tab) is a media storage and sharing site that’s simple enough for casual users, but powerful enough for professional photographers. Considered the best photo cloud storage services by many, the platform has an enticing offer: unlimited cloud storage for photos and videos.
This isn’t a classic cloud storage service. SmugMug is a photo-focused platform, centered around image organization and management (including RAW file management through SmugMug Source). Securely backed by AWS, it’s multi-platform, available on the web, Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android. It even features basic editing tools, a website builder, and an ecommerce platform.
It’s not dissimilar, in fact, to Flickr – the popular photo site bought by SmugMug back in 2018 – which we described as “a strong entry into the cloud storage space of image and video storage” in our hands-on review.
We found both cross-platform services easy to use, both emphasizing the social and commercial aspects of photography, and both offering unlimited photo and video cloud storage to subscribers.
In our last SmugMug review, we praised it as “a great website building option for all the photo enthusiasts out there – there’s unlimited storage space and you can upload quality images easily. Even though there’s not as many templates as other website builders, each template is designed to appeal more specifically to professional photographers. “
But how does SmugMug live up to its promise of being “your do-it-all photo place” today?
With that question running through our mind, we take a look at what one of the best photo storage and sharing sites holds for pro and enthusiastic shutterbugs
SmugMug’s online photo storage service is easy to use, beginner-friendly, yet incredibly feature-rich. We found the platform, which offers unlimited, full-resolution cloud storage for photos and videos, ideal for anyone looking to securely store photos online. But it’s perfect for professional photographers and creatives.
With powerful website design features and ecommerce tools, SmugMug has simplified how photographers can reach new audiences, showcase their work, and sell their photos.
That may be more features than enthusiastic shutterbugs need, of course. So, the four different subscription plans provide a flexible way to choose the best photo cloud storage option for you.
- 4 subscription packages, no free storage plan
SmugMug doesn’t offer any free cloud storage option – although it does give users a 14-day free trial (and no credit card needed).
To take advantage of SmugMug’s photo storage and sharing, you’ll need to pick up a subscription. The service operates four monthly subscription plans, with each one building out on what’s included in the previous tier.
Basic ($11 p/m) is aimed at casual users looking for unlimited cloud storage. Power ($16 p/m) is for those who want to begin showcasing their photos online. Portfolio ($34 p/m) will be the best choice for anyone who wants to start selling their photographs. Pro ($50 p/m) is designed for those taking their photo business to the next level.
If you prefer, subscriptions can be paid upfront annually, which includes a discount of around 30% depending on your chosen package.
SmugMug: Getting started
- Smart, stylish interface that’s easy to use
SmugMug’s interface is smooth and stylish. Exactly as expected from a creative platform built for those with an eye for detail. Navigation is fluid and simple – everything’s where it should be and works how it’s expected to work, and most actions can be performed by dragging and dropping or hitting toggle switches.
That simplicity makes the platform excessively welcoming for new users. It takes just seconds to start uploading images and tweak pictures. Some of the more oblique options even include a ‘What’s This?’ button, springboarding you into the SmugMug help center for in-depth detail, so they can make the most of every feature.
If we have one (admittedly small) complaint, we would’ve liked to see a right-click bring up file upload and other quick actions, as in Google Photos.
Despite this easy, even effortless, interface, SmugMug reveals its powerful nature once it’s time to start building out new galleries.
SmugMug: Creating galleries
- Extensive control over galleries and images
Photos uploaded to SmugMug are housed in galleries – on the face of it, folders to help you stay on top of all your images (and if you’re not fussed about photo organization, you’re free to just put everything into the default gallery). But it’s worth using them wherever possible. We found it made image management and designing your photo website faster later down the line.
Whenever you hit the upload button, SmugMug lets you send images into a new gallery, an existing gallery, or upload an entire folder. By choosing a new gallery, you’re greeted with a comprehensive settings pop-up.
Take your time here, because it’s not just where you’ll set the gallery’s appearance. You’ll also find options for setting gallery access, image visibility and privacy, and social and sharing tools. All of these settings can be saved as a preset default.
Professional photographers and businesses will find additional settings here. If you’re planning on sharing, showcasing, and selling your photographs, head into the Shopping area to set buying options.
If you want to bolster protection, SmugMug also gives total control over what users can see and do in your gallery. It’s all managed through simple drop-down menus and toggle switches. So, you can easily limit image display sizes and stop other users saving your work by disabling the right-click context menu.
The ability to create and add custom watermarks to photos is particularly effective. An efficient tool, it lets you quickly place basic text or an image over your media, with controls for sizing, font, and fade. Image-based watermarks can be uploaded separately, or grabbed from your SmugMug library. In use, it’s all basic, but all very welcome.
- Good third-party cloud storage support and powerful engagement metrics for top subscribers
Getting your photos onto SmugMug is slick and speedy. We especially appreciated the support for a range of external cloud storage services. With support for Dropbox, Lightroom, Google Photos, Flickr, and Amazon Photos, it’s easy to get images into your online library.
While that covers some of the more popular photo cloud storage providers, we would like to see more integrations added. In practice, we found connecting and uploading to third-party storage services to be relatively fast – although it’s naturally quicker to upload files from your computer.
With your images uploaded and added to a gallery, you can open them in the viewer. This space has a few options, such as checking comments and downloading the image. You can also click on View Gallery Engagement.
And this is one of SmugMug’s great extras. In addition to statistics and Google Analytics support, Portfolio and Pro subscribers can access engagement metrics for each of their galleries. Here, you can see which photos are getting the most views and downloads, and which galleries are most popular with visitors.
SmugMug: Photo editing
- Essential editing tools only
When it comes to photo editing, don’t expect anything on the scale of Adobe Photoshop (or even the best Photoshop alternatives). SmugMug’s rudimentary offering features all the basic tools, but there’s little in the way of full editing capabilities.
As such, you can crop and rotate your images, add titles and captions. You can add existing watermarks – and, if you haven’t made any yet, SmugMug will whisk you straight to the simple watermark creator screen.
Elsewhere, color effects let you adjust the photo’s appearance. However, these are essentially just filters, with no granular control over the effects.
Also, it’s important to note that applying any edits will overwrite the original file.
SmugMug: Share, showcase, and sell
- Easy to build a professional ecommerce or portfolio website
SmugMug is far more than just an online image hosting website. While idling in your library, go ahead and click on + Create. This is how you make new galleries, folders, and – best of all – a completely customizable website builder for showing off your art.
This is best-suited to professional photographers keen to build or increase their online presence and their following. But even Basic subscribers can create their own photo site – although pro-style customization and design tools are stripped back in the base package.
It’s a no-code setup, so you don’t need to be a developer or professional designer to make the most of the tools here. Start by selecting a layout and theme that fits your style. The themes, we thought, were a bit basic in nature, but there was enough of them to balance that out, and you can tweak them after selection for proper personalization.
Once you’re happy with the appearance, you can start dragging and dropping content boxes into position on the page. This makes it an absolute breeze to place images, text, and videos to a site with a personalized domain name. In fact, you can personalize just about everything to make the website right for you, right down to the spacing between the images. Results have a true professional polish.
For photographers looking to make money from their work, SmugMug also boasts an impressive roster of ecommerce selling tools that complement the website builder. You can easily set your own prices (or use a suggested price list supplied by the site) and create coupons. On the admin side, SmugMug lets you manage financial data and branding options for photo orders.
RAW file management with SmugMug Source
SmugMug’s file type support is standard. Images need to be in the JPG, GIF, PNG, HEIC format. Supported video files, meanwhile, include H.264, MOV, AVI, and most MPEG formats. Note, however, that frame-rates are only preserved for 30FPS footage.
RAW files are also supported. And that’s a big deal for photographers and businesses choosing the best photo cloud storage. RAW files are uncompressed images, containing all the chinks and grooves and extra details that often get lost when uploading to a cloud storage site.
Thankfully, SmugMug’s focus on photographers’ needs means that RAW file management is supported through SmugMug Source. Billed as a “modern asset management platform for photographers” SmugMug Source lets you manage photos through apps on Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and in Adobe Lightroom.
SmugMug: Should I buy?
Buy it if…
- You want unlimited cloud storage for photos and videos – it’s available on all subscription packages
- You want to showcase or sell your photographs – the website design and ecommerce tools are outstanding
Don’t buy it if…
- You need free cloud storage – SmugMug is subscription-only
- You want a photo storage site with a full photo editor – image editing tools are best for minor tweaks
If SmugMug isn’t quite right for you, take a look at these photo cloud storage alternatives.