One thing that is on my Someday/Maybe list for quite some time is to get some off-site storage for my digital images. They are reasonably safe on RAID-5 NAS with a copy on USB disk, but what is missing is off-site copy. At minimum, a remote backup, ideally with an UI resembling something like Aperture or Photoshop Elements or Shoebox: photo organizer with Web intefarce and remote storage. So that in addition to have offline backup I would have an option to work with images from any location.
I looked on several sites – Flickr, Fotki, Picassa Web. I liked Picassa, but 1 GB storage space may be plenty to publish few sized-down galeries, but close to useless for archival. Who has less than 1 GB digital photos ? I need to upload about 50x more … It looked pretty bleak – but then friend of mine made me aware of SmugMug. I was impressed with what I have read in service description and even more when I saw it working.
It is still not the 100% perfect solution for me – but it certainly is the best thing I have found so far. The presentation is beautiful, it is fast and pleasant for the visitor. Oh, did I mention UNLIMITED storage for very reasonable price – $39.95/year. Plus unlimited traffic … And it is really fast.
The way how SmugMug organizes your images are galeries. Similar to filmrolls from iPhoto, every images belongs to exactly one gallery. You can organize your galleries to categories and subcategories. Based on EXIF information, SmugMug can provide you with timeline and access your images based on the capture or upload time. Within the gallery, you can use drag and drop to re-organize the order, or create the slideshows.
SmugMug has attracted nice and healthy ecosystems of users and tools. In addition to default tools (such as mass uploaders), several user made tools are available.
It is not only nice and smooth UI that is worth admiring. One area where SmugMug really shines was support. I had some questions so I fired off an email on Sunday afternoon, not really expecting anything other than automated response until Tuesday. What happened was nicest customer support surprise I have experienced in last few months. In less than hour I had an answer from real human being – what a rare experience these days. This with combination with really nice application makes SmugMug stand above the crowd ;-).
If I could make any additions to improve this very nice application, here are my suggestions:
1) Allow alias for images. In order for an image to appear in multiple galleries, it must be copied. There is a tool that makes the process manageable, but copying is confusing – why should two images exist with same file name ? It is essential to allow same image be “member” of multiple galleries without copying it
2) Allow “stacks” – similar pictures on top of each other – with best on top and an option to “explode” and “implode” the stack
3) Really useful would be “smart galleries” – picture appears in the gallery based on metadata, e.g. Nikon, Olympus