Musing My Online Photo Future

My year-long subscription to SmugMug is just about up, and I’m pondering how I want to proceed with sharing my photos online in the future. At this point I’m musing three options.

Flickr

The grandfather of online photo sharing sites. Flickr may not be innovating much any more, but it still has some strengths.

Pros

Flickr’s community remains active, and I will often receive feedback from other users on photos I upload to the site. It also supports searching their archive for Creative Commons images, which I need to do my work. Creative Commons is also how I license my photos, so it’s good to know someone else is able to find them if they want 1. I’ve never been a Pro user, but I’ve seen the way Flickr handles stats and I am impressed. Going Pro could be worth $50 a year as it adds to the feedback I’m already getting as a free user.

Cons

Flickr’s innovation slowed down once the company was acquired by Yahoo! They were late to the mobile area, and beyond late to the tablet space. Personalizations for a user’s site are limited, as the service is more focued on the feed than developing an attractive portfolio to showcase curated images. Also, with Verizon’s acquisition of the site through their Yahoo! buyout, I’m not confident of the site’s long-term survival.

SmugMug

SmugMug is a private company with a lot of strength’s, and three weaknesses.

Pros

SmugMug’s page design is amazing. In the year I’ve subscribed to the service I’ve tweaked my site to reflect my own sensibilities, and the results are amazing. Integration with Lightroom is well-done, and even on iOS uploading images through a share sheet is a snap 2. I can also edit my page on my iPad Pro without much of a hiccup, which shows how much effort the developers put in to achieve good design. Their customer support is also amazing — these are people who “get it.” Uploading photos to SmugMug, and then moving them around the site, is a pleasure, whereas with Flickr it’s utilitarian.

Cons

For all SmugMug’s strength’s, the service does have some weaknesses for my needs — the first of which is by design 3.

SmugMug isn’t social. Now, there are plenty of social sites for photography, the two most popular of which are Facebook and Instagram, but these are more “snapshot shares,” rather than photography communities. What makes Flickr feedback so cool is I can visit people’s profiles and see their work, the tools they use and the settings with which they like to work. On Instagram the only discussion about the art of photography seems limited to an occasional #nofilters hashtag. SmugMug is set up for each photographer to have their own space on the web, and these spaces are not linked in any overt way. There is no way, for example, to follow a photographer who uses SmugMug, as feeds are limited to specific Albums. As such, even if my stats take off, I have no way of seeing who the visitors are and remaining connected to their own work. On SmugMug I miss both the feedback and appreciation I can develop for other Photographers they way I’m able on Flickr. But this is by design, SmugMug is set up in a way which puts each artist on their own island. This is actually desirable for professional photographers who are using SmugMug both to showcase their skills for clients and sell their photos online 4.

SmugMug’s mobile apps are rudimentary, at best. They need much more in the way of photo-organization tools, right now they are useful only as a mobile picture frame.

While SmugMug allows the use of Google Stats, I’m finding it overkill for a site like mine. Also, I’m trying to move away from Google as much as possible so giving them more data feels counter-productive. The service does have some decent in-house stats, but these are handled using flash 5 and are unavailable in the tablet app. Without a good grasp of who my audience is, it’s sometimes difficult to find the motivation to share photos to my SmugMug site.

Adobe’s myportfolio.com

MyPortfolio.com popped up in my CreativeCloud updates a little over a year ago, and the service is interesting, but flawed.

Pros

First, it must be said, I’m already paying for my Adobe portfolio. Given my limited budget that’s a big tick in its favor.

The customizations aren’t quite as wonderful as they are on SmugMug, but they are easy to work with and yield decent results. Being able to cross-post projects on MyPortfolio and Adobe’s Behance network affords me the ability to create a custom “my own island” site and receive feedback from a wider community 6.

Did I mention I’m already paying for it?

Cons

While the price is right, there are still some issues I have with MyPortfolio.com.

First, exif data is not displayed with uploads. In fact, it seems no metadata, even descriptions or titles, are uploaded to the service 7. To me, this is a glaring omission.

When photos are set up in a grid, tapping or clicking on an individual thumbnail will not open a larger view. In fact, Adobe recommends resizing images so they’ll work in MyPortfolio’s containers. This is not something with which I want to mess.

I am flabbergasted by the lack of direct integration between MyPortfolio.com and Lightroom. For photos to be added to the site through Lightroom they first need to be synced with LR Mobile, at which point those images will become available for adding to a user’s portfolio. It seems like such a minor thing, but it’s such a shift the process it seems odd somehow. I can post to Flickr and SmugMug through Lightroom’s desktop app, so why can I upload to one of Adobe’s own services?

Update

Above I mention how there is now Lightbox feature in MyPortfolio.com. It turns out there is, but it’s not enabled by default. I’m glad I found the setting, as it would be a strange omission. It’s an odd feature to not have enabled as a default setting, though.

Conclusion

I have no idea with path I’m going to take. Each of these services has strengths, and each has issues which make my enjoyment of them a bit less than I’d like. If I were selling photographs or advertising a photography business SmugMug would be a no-brainer. Their tools are top notch, and the results they generate are beautiful. As it is, $70 8 is a bit much to spend on a site for which I have no feel about its performance. But give me the small private company over the corporate overlord any day of the week.

If I were more confident of Flickr’s future I might put up with the lack of personalization available to users. It remains straightforward, and many of the people who use it are friendly and willing to offer a bit of feedback.

I’m already paying for MyPortfolio.com. But, for me, it’s limitations border on making it a non-starter. Still, the responses from Behance offer some incentive to continue sharing files to the site.

So here I am, torn between three very different ways to share my photos online. Are there any services which you use that you think I need to consider?


  1. Since I rely on other people sharing images with a Creative Commons license, I feel a responsibility to do likewise. 
  2. Though it is limited to how many images it can do at a time. 
  3. I want to emphasize this is a weakness for what I would like from a photo-sharing site and not a reflection on SmugMug’s design philosophy. 
  4. Neither of which I do. 
  5. Which has no business being around in 2017. 
  6. Though in Behance this feedback is only on a project, rather than individual photos. 
  7. This is also true in Behance. 
  8. There is a cheaper plan, but I’d loose my site customizations, which is my biggest draw to this site. 

12 Comments

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  1. I completely understand your frustrations here. I’ve wondered about what solution would be best for me and I keep finding that there are pros and cons to everything I find leaving me sticking to what I currently do and not really feeling great about it.

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