Last week the term heard all over the internet was SmugMugged. Chris MacAskill (aka Baldy), released a video to announce a SmugMug price increase as well as the reasons behind it. The commentary (good and bad) is active and can be found with a simple Google search, however, the focus of discussion has been primarily on the increase itself and whether SmugMug's features and benefits justify the increase, rather than the landscape of photography, and how in one-fell-swoop, SmugMug has turned those that would call themselves professionals into amateur or enthusiast/hobbyist photographers by default.
In San Diego, the reaction has been mixed. Scott Burns of Scott Burns Photography, posted the SmugMug changes on the San Diego SmugMug user group's Facebook page. Surprisingly, the feedback was cold - only two photographers responded, both with opposing opinions. Dave Veit, a local photographer, says, "It's pennies and insignificant next to how much they make me." Many would disagree, as the price increase is $100 more if a photographer wants to resume with a PRO Business (eCommerce) account vs being re-categorized as a Portfolio user only.
Irrespective of the costs associated with doing business for SmugMug, which are many and not only related to storage, SmugMug's price increase has to be a good thing.
For one, the cost of doing business as a photographer has not changed for years, additionally, not all photography needs to be up for sale. You read that correctly - not all photography needs to be up for sale. For the photographer complaining of price-hikes in order to sell their photos, why should SmugMug be expected to bare the burden of storage costs constantly on the rise due to changing technology (increases in megapixels for example). Moreover, for the enthusiast SmugMug user that does not earn their living from photography sales, why should SmugMug be expected to offer the same menu of features it offers to PRO grade members that offer SmugMug a percentage of the return on each sale? The bottom line is that if you're not a photographer that is actively selling fine art photography, wedding photography, or licensing images, you have nothing to complain about, and if you are a professional, you should be grateful that those that might jump ship from SmugMug are likely to go somewhere else that does not offer all of the professional features and fine customer service that SmugMug does.
SmugMug has come a long way over the years. If you have been in for the long haul, you would be hard-pressed to find a better, more generous and user-friendly service. You would also agree that SmugMug, while sometimes a little slow at updates, listens to its clients and eventually releases important updates to stay ahead of competitors.
I published the above article on The Examiner and it can be read here. Below I've included MY OPINION...
I have not been using SmugMug for very long. In fact, I had considered Photoshelter for quite some time, but Photoshelter is geared more for the photographer focused on licensing images (which may be a need for me in the next couple of years). I also ran a test on both companies anonymously by submitting a help request, and SmugMug responded whereas Photoshelter did not respond at all. I'm not suggesting that Photoshelter is is bad as a result, but at the the time, I wanted to see who was more responsive. Another reason I went with SmugMug was because I already hosted my own site and was not concerned about paying more for site features with Photoshelter (although they are quite beautiful and should be checked out for those of you without a website).
I'm staying with SmugMug. When I first watched the video after seeing the email in my inbox I was very surprised. I also thought, WTH, just like that, they are going to increase the price!? But I let the news sink in for a week, and then into the weekend. I considered what SmugMug offered me as a photographer; I considered that it was a family owned business; I considered that this must have been a very difficult decision for them; and... and this is a big AND... I considered that I will be uploading photographs from super-high megapixel cameras like the Nikon D800 and the Canon 5D Mark III, as well as video in 1080p from GoPro HDHero2 cameras! SmugMug saves those for me in full resolution to access and download anytime.
I realize everyone is in a pinch right now and the economy is not great, but SmugMug is effected by the economy also, and to a greater extent, as a service provider. SmugMug has just given every member an opportunity to look at themselves and their photography and ask, am I a photographer because my photos are for sale, or am I a photographer because I take photographs? Not everyone can be both.
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