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Tips To Maximize Your SmugMug Account

Tips To Maximize Your SmugMug Account

My workflow has relied on SmugMug starting back in March of 2008, and after a decade of use, my organization was a disaster. In that ten-year span, the focus of my business has evolved, and SmugMug's features grew with it, and my account was well past due for cleaning house a remodel. Part how-to and part review, check out what I did to revamp my account so you can easily configure your site like a pro.

Folder Organization

The primary motivator for me to overhauling my SmugMug organization came with a rebranding in 2017. New websites were built out to separate the core focuses of my work. My photographs need to get in front of commercial clients, publications, editors, designers, and the occasional portrait client. In identifying primary areas to focus on, the organizer quickly became my friend. I had already built separate and focused websites for each type of work that I perform regularly, written with a specific audience in mind.

For my SmugMug organization, a hierarchy of a few parent folders was created to match, one for each genre of my work and then began to separate it out into more specific areas. That meant using the organizer to create sections for my commercial and magazine clients, which is where the majority of my work exists today, as well as portrait clients. The organizer allows you to drag and drop galleries to sort your work in a logical fashion, and for y me it was a process of reduction. In addition to creating quick settings for each gallery, it's helpful for painlessly batch editing settings for multiple galleries.

Create a hierarchy of a few primary folders in the SmugMug organizer, then organize within those folders.

Within those parent folders, I created a subfolder for each genre or client, whether they have multiple galleries or not. It establishes a workflow for you and your clients, where all of their content lands in one expected location. Each folder and gallery is set to have a cover and header photograph for clean visual representation.

In the past, my priority was often to get finished images online as quickly as possible and in front of a client, not thinking about the bigger picture. I decided to combine all of my portrait genres and creating folders for each client. In that way, all of their photographs from over the years, regardless of event type populate in one folder, which makes for a wonderful experience and connects each family to their history in my work.

Each client recieved a dedicated folder to include all of their images as their journey in life progresses.

Site Design and Presentation

Establishing cohesive branding with my primary websites was yet another focus. It took some time but eventually, I struck a balance, creating a matched aesthetic while streamlining the organization and including the most powerful, pertinent features. In the SmugMug editor, it's important to note that you can make changes to the entire site or to the specific page you are on. You can also work on your design and save changes before publishing them. There are near endless features and no coding is required.

It's extremely important to note that customized options can be applied to the entire site, home page, all folders, all galleries, or to a custom gallery based on your selection, globally and by specific design elements. Noting this will save you from many unnecessary headaches.

The aesthetics of SmugMug are immensely customizable. I setup my account to match my primary websites for a more seamless experience. Defining a subdomain took that integration another step further.

The aesthetics of my journalism work and commercial work now closely match my SmugMug account, which serves as a client portal.

Taking that cohesion a step further, I have a number of domains that are all in use and was pleased to discover subdomains can be used at no extra cost to mask the entire website. That will allow you to redefine your URL to a cleaner one that matches your primary domain, such as clients.(yourdomainhere).com. How you go about setting that up depending on your host but you'll need to point SmugMug and your domain host at one another in your settings. Online tutorials tend to get outdated quickly, especially on the domain side, so it took a little trial and error on my part but it was really easy to do. 


In my workflow, I need a lot of different types and sizes of organizations to be able to access my photographs differently. If I'm working with a commercial client or magazine, SmugMug allows me to create hidden folders for each group of galleries. A password can be set for a designer to download images a la carte, while prints and downloads can be licensed by the business being photographed. I also use my account working with a non-profit organization in Kenya, Rafiki Africa Foundation, a school and women's empowerment program. There, my account also functions as an image archive for the organization to pull from, as well as an off-site backup without the need for a dedicated server. I can only imagine how many applications exist for individuals and groups beyond that of a professional photographer.

Helpful Tips to Save You Time and Better Organize

  • Pick a few primary categories for organizing your galleries and create corresponding folders in the organizer, then organize from there. 
  • You can quickly access individual and batch gallery settings in the Organizer. This is useful for configuring access and visibility, price lists, gallery aesthetics, just to name a few.
  • You can batch edit settings for all galleries within a folder.
  • Create a dedicated hidden folder at the top level for your administrative images, logo, banner images, portfolios, and so forth. Make sure the content is not private. I had a client catch that the favicon disappeared and mentioned it in conversation the other day.
  • You can keep creating subfolders for a more refined organizational structure, which I highly recommend.
  • Establish a similar naming convention. Gallery links will be generated when galleries are relocated but it's a small price to pay for refined, intuitive navigation.
  • When editing the visual content for your site, you can quickly define what areas you are working in. 
  • If taking your SmugMug site on all at once is too overwhelming, pick one area of your website and focus on that first. You'll see the rewards getting one category of your work perfected, then apply those settings and what you learned to the rest of your site. It will be more manageable, help you learn more quickly, and save you from redundant steps as you make changes throughout your organizational structure.

What I Like

  • Flexibility and depth to handle many different workflows well.
  • Set a custom domain or subdomain with a favicon to better integrate your SmugMug account with another website.
  • Unlimited online JPEG storage which is great as another backup of finished work, while also serving as a client portal.
  • Sell prints! If you are a portrait or wedding photographer this will be a core part of your workflow. You can customize your prices and set as many or as few (I went with the latter) print sizes and paper types as you like.
  • Powerful yet simple customization to both form and function at nearly every turn.
  • Customize your right click message to protect digital files from being saved in a web browser.
  • Users could potentially maintain SmugMug as a primary website with built-in ordering.
  • The ability to create a download link to the entire gallery to share with clients or friends.
  • Superb support in the forms of a support center discussing topics that can quickly point you to the information you need, and chat support if you need additional guidance.

What Could Be Improved

  • Shortcut to view gallery statistics while logged in and looking at that specific gallery.
  • List view within the gallery organizer to view file size, image names, and metadata for all of the included content.
  • Continued improvements to batch editing settings for galleries and folders. There are plenty of shortcuts already, but I wouldn't say no to more of them. If you start out on the right foot, this won't be a concern in the least, but as you learn more, you might want to change more settings across the board.
  • It is an investment of both money and time. Even after a decade, I'm still working on ways to get more out of it. Like anything, it takes time to learn some of the in and outs but it's not hard. I spend far too much time learning software, managing emails, and rarely make the time I should reviewing the newest features.

Overhauling my SmugMug account was a long time coming, and it has evolved with my work over the last decade to the point I can't imagine my workflow today otherwise. Once your workflow and quick settings are established, from there it's simply a matter of taking advantage of any new features down the line.

Formerly, my site was in complete disarray but cleaning it up doesn't have to take a lot of time. The further you want to refine it, you'll get out whatever you put into it. Had I kept better organizational practices from the start, it would have taken less work but today I'm happy with how it presents. As with learning anything, from a new camera to a new post-production software, the greatest challenge is spending time discovering how features can benefit you and your clients. If you are just starting out, or a seasoned user like I am, hopefully, these tips will accelerate your workflow. SmugMug's YouTube channel has a host of tutorials available, and you can check out a free, fourteen-day trial of SmugMug here

What features do you use most? Are there any that you'd like to see added in the future? Is there another provider you use that offers different features? Let us know in the comments below!

Jordan Bush's picture

Fstoppers Writer Jordan Bush is a pro photographer focusing on commercial, editorial, and photojournalism work. He writes and photographs the monthly column, "Foodographer." A former Apple software trainer and hardware technician, he also has an affinity for retro video games.

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Thanks for sharing your workflow/setup, very helpful!
Don't forget to promote your 20% off referral link, which looks something like this:

Just curious, does SmugMug still convert all photos uploaded to sRGB? They did back in 2008 when I was looking at online providers. I need my photos to stay in Adobe RGB for my commercial clients. So, I went with Zenfolio, who does not change the photos when uploading. I still use Zenfolio today and am very happy with them. Just looked and I now have 178,324 edited client photos online with them!

You could always try a free account on there and check that! I like how simple it is!

Feel free to use my referral code below

Hi Dan! Sean from SmugMug here (full disclosure) - It sounds like you were the victim of a misunderstanding, back when ... we don't (and never did) convert your uploaded files to sRGB - you're ORIGINAL image files are preserved in their original 'everything' - byte for byte - that said, I think I understand where the disconnect lies... upon uploading a photo, SmugMug immediately generates up to 12 display sister-files (from Thumb to 4k depending on the original's resolution) - this enables lightning fast delivery to almost any size browser -window and device... it is these display files that are rendered in sRGB for optimum viewing in web-browsers which natively support sRGB. - additionally, and to be perfectly clear, when you (or your clients) utilize a 'download original' function, you/they receive the files in their original/native colorspace. --- I hope this clarifies everything for you and feel free to come back and give us another try!

Awesome, glad to hear that Sean. One of your support people actually told me that way back then! I will definitely keep that in mind if I need a website service in the future.

I joined SmugMug a few months ago, and so far, I love it! I even did the unthinkable and purchased a photo product from my own gallery just to get a feel for what the user's experience would be, and how I would be notified. All is well so far!