July 29, 2008

The Gray Family Upgrades from Flickr to SmugMug

While SmugMug might not have the brand recognition of a Flickr, Shutterfly or Kodak's EasyShare Gallery, the photo and video sharing site has obtained a dedicated following of photographers who are serious about their work. The site has long received praise for its high-quality galleries, unlimited storage, security, and customization, and the company's small team of 30 employees has managed to be profitable since 2005, when many Web companies have been in the red, largely due to their not offering any free versions of their product. When Matthew and Sarah arrived on the scene, at first I was happy to upload the family photos to our free Flickr account, but the site's limitations, especially when it came to the total number of photos, and quality of those photos, made me think seriously about making the move to SmugMug.

Today, I'm happy to say we made the leap. The first batch of almost 150 photos, starting with my wife's very pregnant belly and taking us to the present day, including the first five weeks of Matthew and Sarah, can now be found at http://louisgray.smugmug.com/, where I plan to be maintaining our online photo presence from here on out.

Editing Images In SmugMug Is a Snap

While I still haven't made the leap to buying a professional camera (on the to-do list), I delved into my iPhoto, and exported the original photos taken since late June. All told, the 145 images totaled about 125 megabytes of space, no small chunk. But SmugMug's easy to use interface let me select the folder, and hit upload, and not too long after, I was seeing highest quality photography on the site.

With the photos on the site, I have a tremendous amount of flexibility for manipulating the images - far more than I could with the free version of Flickr. With Flickr, I could edit the title, the tags and the description of photos, but SmugMug lets me rotate the images, add captions, add a watermark, if I wanted, crop photos, and make color effects - for example, displaying the images in black and white, sepia tone or the negative, which can be flat out spooky. I found myself making a lot of bulk changes, rotating kids from laying on their side to facing straight up, and readying the pictures for display.

A Clip From a SmugMug Slideshow

Given I'm not the primary audience for these photographs, how friends and family can see our kids and their updates was key to the switch. First, you can do full-screen slideshows in SmugMug at very high quality, letting you pan right to left through the collection, starting with any photo, second, the thumbnails sent to FriendFeed are significantly better than those from Flickr, and thirdly, any of my relatives can select any number of photos to buy or print out in their preferred size. Now, instead of my relatives begging for prints, they can go off and make their own, assuming I have a good enough shot.

See How SmugMug Appears on FriendFeed

I've been watching SmugMug from the sidelines for the last few years. I've seen the company's great engagement with the blogging community. Don MacAskill has been a strong public face for the company, keeping friends appraised to service enhancements, community activities and any issues that may come up. The company has been very vocal about their support for "the cloud", and has even debuted a new application for the iPhone, called SmugShot. Once I finally get my iPhone, you know I'll be downloading it.

I don't plan to turn this site into a full-time mommyblog just yet, but if you want to see how Matthew and Sarah are progressing, be sure you check out the SmugMug site. There are even RSS feeds for recent photos and recent galleries. Pretty sharp.