If you have read some of my earlier posts you will know that I use 2 sites as my primaries for displaying my photos. I have had my Flickr Pro (www.flickr.com) account for about 3/4 of a year, and I have had my Smugmug Poweruser Account (www.smugmug.com or my site www.sysguyphotography.com) for about a month now. I also have a Picasaweb site and I use Gallery 2 software on my own site for pictures but I am moving away from those. This is just a quick comparison of the two services and what I have found out.
Flickr offers both free and paid accounts. Free accounts are limited to 100MB per month upload but unlimited storage. Free accounts are also ad supported. For 25.00 you can get a Pro account and removes the upload limit, allows for short video uploads and is ad free.
Smugmug. There are no free accounts on Smugmug but they do have a 14 day free trial. Lowest tiered paid accounts are 39.95 USD per year and with that there are no ads, unlimited storage and uploads. Smugmug also offers Power User and Pro accounts (59.95 USD and 149.95 USD). They also have a referral program so that you can save 5.00 off your first year using a coupon or email address from a Smugmug user and they also have a special “Fleeing Flickr” promotion where you can save 50% off of their first year. Other features that come with the higher level accounts include the ability to use your own domain, right click download protection
Both services offer stats regarding your sites and what photos are being most viewed.
This is how you sort and organize your photos on the various sites. With Flickr you can add your photos to sets and or collections. Collections can contain sets in them. Pro users can have more collections than standard users.
Smugmug uses Galleries to display your photos. Galleries are created under Categories and Sub categories. You can choose from their own default categories and sub categories or create your own. While I found this a little confusing at first, I have figured out the system and can now know what I am doing.
With both systems you can add your own tags to photos to make them searchable and easier to find. Also photos tagged with GPS coordinates can be viewed on maps with both services.
Both services offer uploader software to get your pictures on your site, both their own and third party applications. I have been using several free Lightroom plug-ins that allow me to export directly out of Lightroom into my various galleries and collections. Both sites have the ability to upload photos via email but Flickr does have a mobile site to upload to directly from your phone and it’s web browser.
Privacy and Viewing Permissions
Both services allow you to protect your photos if you don’t want them seen. This is important as you may want not want to display your images to the entire world. For example if I am publishing the shots I took of a minor soccer game for the parents to see and print, I want to protect those images from other prying eyes.
On Flickr, privacy settings for photos are a global default setting and are applied to the images themselves. You can set them as public, or private (sharing with Family, Friends or no one). You can easily add Copyright or Creative Commons usage rights with just a click to your photos.
Smugmug offers a lot more control at the Gallery level for your Privacy. You can create “SmugIslands” Permissions are set based on two categories and are granular from there. There is a Hello World Setting meaning anyone can see the Gallery (including search engines like Google) and you can set it to all, only your homepage or no. The other setting is Hello Smuggers which allows for your photos to be searchable from within Smugmug search boxes. You can also do other things at the gallery level including creating unlisted galleries (that unless you have the exact URL you can’t find, you can password protect a gallery or you can do both. As the owner you can see all of your galleries all the time. Power users can also Right Click protect their images and Pro users can add mark ups to print prices and sell digital downloads of the images.
This is one of the things that I really look at. What is the experience for the people viewing your pictures. Your Flickr Homepage has limited options for customization. There are a few options for layouts but for the most part all of your images but you really can’t do a lot of customization to your site.
Smugmug really shines here. Not only can you (or allow your viewers) to change the layout of your gallery, but you can customize the themes and the page itself. Power and Pro users can replace the headers and footers of the page. When a viewer gets to your gallery page they can see the thumbnails of the photos in the gallery and when they click on it a larger image of the image is shown. This display is stetchy so if your visitor is viewing from a large widescreen monitor their picture will be the largest it can be. The display actually scales nicely on all of the different screens I have tried form 12.1″ to 24″.
Both services offer a slideshow display that is basically the same.
One of the things I like to do is to browse other photos that users have uploaded. I like to see good photographs just to enjoy or to get some tips on taking some pictures. I have also used these type of sites to download pictures for use in kids school projects (and yes I only use images that are allow this type of use). One of things that I have found is that since there are no free accounts on Smugmug and because there are a lot of Professional Photographers there, the quality of the images seem to be better. There are some outstanding photos on Flickr there also tends to be a lot more in the way of family snapshots etc so it makes them a little harder to find. One way of finding great shots though is via the groups on Flickr.
While Smugmug has a similar thing to Flickr’s groups (called communities) the social and community aspect of Flickr is much better. To be fair I haven’t played around with the Smugmug Communities all that much yet, but I still find myself going to the Flickr groups on a regular basis.
One of the nicest features of the groups on Flickr are the discussion boards where you can read and ask questions of other members with the same likes and dislikes. I have found some very good tips and tricks in the groups forums. There are groups for just about everything including; camera types, lenses, locations, subjects etc.
While I really like both sites a lot, I think the edge has to go to Smugmug. While they lack the community aspect of Flickr, the visual presentation of your photos, the customization and the extra features really make it worth while. Will I give up my Flickr account? No I will renew it, I will still use it to share photos, participate in groups and post my photos to the various groups. When I have images that I would like to protect they will all be uploaded to my Smugmug site. If I decide I want to sell some of my photos, I will probably upgrade to a Smugmug Pro account. Smugmug just added a new feature to their site called SmugVault. If you are interested in finding out what this is please read my previous post.