Perhaps the best-known hosting website for photographers is SmugMug, a platform that has been around since 2002. SmugMug acts as an online gallery space, letting you display your photos easily and – relatively – inexpensively. I have been using SmugMug exclusively for several years, and I have grown very familiar with its range of tools and capabilities. In general, I have been very impressed by SmugMug; for this review (updated February 2018), I will cover some of its main uses and features, as well as the positives and negatives of using SmugMug to host your online gallery.
Please note that this comparison is from the perspective of a landscape photographer. If you shoot weddings or events, you may care more about client access; this is not a problem for me, since I don’t shoot for clients. Still, even if you have different priorities, everything in the review below should remain relevant.
I strongly prefer to host my photos on a website that has minimal branding; in fact, obtrusive branding is enough to lose my business. When people visit my website, I don’t want them to see the word SmugMug across the screen; I want them to see my name and my photographs (not to mention that “Smug Mug” is not a very good name.)
By default, best website builder includes their brand name in your URL – for instance, yourname.smugmug.com – but this can be easily changed. If you already have a custom domain name, you have to change your DNS settings on the hosting website to match your SmugMug site; this can take a few days to work properly, and the process can be confusing if you haven’t done it before. If you don’t yet have a custom name, your life is much easier. All you need to do is use SmugMug’s built-in “Custom Domain” option, which automatically syncs your site to a GoDaddy address. This costs me $12 a year, but it’s worth the money.
As far as other branding goes, SmugMug isn’t perfect. By default, SmugMug adds a header and footer logo to your website. You can eliminate the header and shrink the size of the footer, but the footer can only be removed by custom CSS (which works, but is not appreciated by SmugMug for obvious reasons).