Lauren Goode

Recent Posts by Lauren Goode

Following Flickr’s Redesign, SmugMug Revamps Its Service

Snapped a photo lately? Of course you have.


We’re now a society obsessed with digital images — Instagrams, Twitpics and “selfies.” Facebook’s recently revamped News Feed is focused on photos. And if you’ve ever seen an Apple iPhone commercial, you know that snapping pictures with your eight-megapixel smartphone camera is pretty much supposed to be a spiritual act.

It’s no wonder, then, that companies are scrambling to appeal to consumers — and some professionals — with revamped photo storage and hosting services.

Today, it’s SmugMug’s day. The 11-year-old Mountain View-based company just unveiled a newly redesigned website that puts more emphasis on, well, the photos — a welcome change from the old SmugMug, which was feeling a little outdated.

Users are now greeted with a large, tile-like display of photos, and have their choice of more than 15 design templates for their photo galleries. In “lightbox” mode, photos appear edge to edge and backgrounds fade away. Photo organization features have gotten better. And SmugMug is touting easier cross-device viewing and sharing of photos, though it’s hard to gauge those improvements without trying it out.

At first glance, the new SmugMug looks pretty. It also comes on the heels of a massive redesign of Yahoo-owned Flickr. So how do they compare?

For starters, SmugMug’s pricing structure hasn’t changed — it’s still $5 a month or $40 a year for a basic plan, $8 a month or $60 a year for “power” users, and $35 a month or $300 a year for business users. These come with varying levels of customization, sharing, and for pro photogs, selling capabilities. Each plan offers unlimited storage.

Flickr users, on the other hand, can store up to one terabyte of photos and videos for free. How much is a terabyte? It’s a lot. It’s about 500,000 photos at standard resolution. Previously, pro users could upload an unlimited number of photos for $25 a year, but Yahoo killed that option with the redesign.

Mobile-wise, SmugMug has a recently launched Android app, but currently no native iOS app. SmugMug points toward Camera Awesome, the company’s settings-heavy iOS app, as an option for uploading photos via iPhone, but it’s unclear how smooth the integration is between Camera Awesome and the new SmugMug site.

Flickr, on the other hand, has both a native iPhone app and an Android app.

That’s just a comparison of some basic criteria, without remarking on interface and design, usability and other specifics that photo hounds might be looking for. Also, SmugMug likely doesn’t have the user base of Flickr. SmugMug claims “millions” of users, but wouldn’t disclose the exact amount. About 30 percent of those users are pro-level customers. Flickr has around 89 million users, and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer says there are no pro photogs anymore.

But it’s worth noting that many Flickr users were dismayed with the new Flickr when it was first rolled out. Will SmugMug see the same reaction? Time will tell.

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I’m a giant vat of creative juices.

— David Pogue on why he’s joining Yahoo