Tag Archives: smugmug

It’s a trap!

The New SmugMug was launched today, and users can migrate their legacy sites to the improved templates whenever they desire.  But don’t press that button yet: converting to one of the new templates will permanently install a branding footer on every page, and you can’t undo it, apparently.  This means that if you currently “hide” the footer with html code (not allowed, but many do it) or if you had your site customized by a third-party … migrating to the new version will eliminate all concealment tricks.  What will show up is one of the two lines (you choose!):

Copyright SmugMug footer

Photo sharing by SmugMug footer

For those who joined SmugMug in the early days, you were grandfather out of the recent requirement that ad be displayed … I’m not sure if those grandfathered elite are still grandfathered on New SmugMug.

Of course, plenty of sites have a similar policy (e.g., WordPress), so my post title might seem a bit over the top.  But many photographers don’t really want their potential clients to know exactly how much it costs to produce a 6′ canvas-wrapped wall photo because it reveals their profit, and many people don’t think photographers really need that much profit.  And even if they didn’t mind clients knowing base lab prices, the name of the company is not really professional sounding, even though they are truly professional and wonderful at heart.  The similarity that comes to mind is “Smuckers,” and it addressed the issue with a delightful ad campaign (“With a name like Smuckers, you have to be good”).  “SmugMug” just sounds bad, and many photographers don’t want it on their site even if it’s at the bottom of the page.

I suspect that if they received 10,000 complaints about this issue, they’d reconsider.  I tried for years and failed, but here’s the link if you want to register your anger. I recently gave up and migrated to Zenfolio…which allows me to remove all advertizing (my site, if you want proof). I miss many things about SmugMug, but I’m happy with my decision so far.

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Tumblr tips for photographers

Photographers tend to loathe tumblr and related sites because they operate by using other people’s copyrighted material, gathered into collections to compete for Likes and Reblogs.  So I decided to take tumblr for a spin to see how alarmed I should be. In particular, I was curious how images get loaded onto tumblr pages and whether the company promotes conscientious copyright etiquette.   Screenshot of my site (http://colinpurrington.tumblr.com) is below if you’ve never seen a tumblr site before. [More below the image…]

Colin Purrington's tumblr site

And below is typical upload screen, toggled slightly to show how one can use an image’s URL to post.  There is a separate field on the right-hand side to paste the content source URL.  Because I host my photographs on SmugMug, I paste the photograph’s “gallery” link in the content source box, and that URL is automatically duplicated by tumblr into the “set a click-through link” box.  Now, if anyone ever clicked on one of my images (it might happen!), they would be transported to the photograph in question, but it would be displayed amid other photos in the same gallery (that’s good, because adjacent photographs might also be of interest).

tumblr upload windowSo when posters conscientiously specify source and click-through URLs, that information will then (sometimes) be displayed.  Here’s an example:

tumblr reblogBut the above scenario is rare, and usually your photograph will be displayed without any of the embedded information.  This is where I have the most misgivings about tumblr HQ — they are in a position to dictate that all “themes” (tumblr accounts can be equipped with one of thousands of styles) must show image source/credit, but they do no such thing.  If Tumblr has the look and sound of Myspace, and your credit information is lost in the mess. That’s why you really should watermark all of your images.  For me, I’ve just placed my name on them.  But you could also put source URL on the image itself.  Just do something.

Many photographers stay away from tumblr because they think it will promote image theft, but I think it can go both ways.  When you post your own images on tumblr, it gives a way for people to share your images in a controlled way, albeit imperfect. Doing so could actually drive traffic back to your site, since people these days rarely come out to browse photographers’ web sites. I.e., the same reason photographers are starting to duplicate their galleries onto facebook.  It also gives you insight in how to craft your “using my photographs” paragraph that you might have somewhere on your main photography site.  E.g., if you know the details of tumblr (or Pinterest, or We Heart It, or whatever thefting site is popular tomorrow), you can use the proper language to tell people how they may properly credit your work.  Or, if you don’t want your work used at all, having knowledge of how the sites work will improve your ability to find technical fixes that block that use.

Whether you have a tumblr account or not, you’re going to find your stuff on tumblr if you search for it (find it by tineye.com, or search tumblr for your name). Just contact the tumblr user and ask them to adjust the settings so that the image is specified by a URL and that it has the click-through destination you prefer — they can change those in under a minute, and some of them like this woman specifically ask for corrections:

yourdailyintake tumblr text

Of course, that only works if you can contact the owner of the tumblr account, and I’d estimate only 1% of pages have contact information (don’t ask me why).  If you have a tumblr account and “follow” them, then you can send Fan Mail. Or if you don’t want to deal with the violator of your copyright, just shoot a take-down request to support@tumblr.com (details) and they’ll pull the image within hours (I’ve found).

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Voting guide for SmugMug changes

I moved my photographs from Flickr to SmugMug in part because they are famously responsive to suggestions from users, who can vote for change on the company’s “Feedback forum.” To help promote my favorite improvements, I thought I’d make a voting guide for my top 10 wishes, targeted of course at people who have SmugMug accounts.  If that’s you, please use some of your Votes to bump them on the priority list.

  1. Multiple gallery settingsEnable batch gallery selection.  For example, if you want to alter a setting on 50 galleries, you currently need to tunnel through the selection maze (like at right) 50 times — totally infeasible to all but the off-in-the-head.  Or what if you wanted to apply watermarking to all but one of your 800 galleries (then you’re like, totally screwed). What I’d like is a way to to select “all galleries in this category or subcategory” …and then to allow changes in settings within that hierarchy.  Vote for this!
  2. Partner with TinEye, a company that offers some fantastic ways to explore where your images end up on the Internet (example below, using my photograph of a s’more on a picnic table). TinEye search resultsYou might find, happily, that those people who bought digital versions have used them as per agreement on their Facebook profiles, and credit you as the amazing photographer that you no doubt are.  Or you might find that the image is the focal part of somebody’s Cafepress site, and you are not getting a dime. Or, that they are using your images to support the political campaign of the forces of evil.  It would just be so nice to get a daily report of where your images are popping up.  Currently, I do this with right-clicks in Firefox (there’s a plug-in), but that’s hard on SmugMug when right-click protection is turned on (as it should).  Also, I’m not sure how watermarking affects the search algorithm, so having something native would be better.  Vote for this!
  3. Allow scaling of watermarks for different sizes.  I’d love the ability to ramp up the obtrusiveness of my watermarks as the viewer looks at increasingly larger images.  For small and medium images, viewer might see mild watermark so client can appreciate the photograph, its composition, etc.  And when the potential client is looking at an extra large version to check for focus and glint in person’s eye (e.g.), watermark would be large and include lines that would render the photograph unusable even if stolen using screen capture.
    Vote for this!Watermark scale-up
  4. Under the Buy menu, add a “post to my wall” action that would magically put the image into a framed print on a wall, with a group of photogenic people smiling at it, as if their lives are forever changed for the better.  If done properly it would be slightly funny, and I bet it would increase impulse sales dramatically…people just don’t imagine art on their walls anymore.  (My mock-up below is done via artsteps.com, a cool site that allows you to create multi-room exhibitions of digital files.  I know I could have added some photogenic people to the image, but I don’t have anything that’s perfect, so just imagine them, OK?  And imagine a couch and other objects that help give scale.) Vote for this!Mock-up of framed print of Mohonk Mountain House
  5. Allow files to be renamed.  I often need to send an image to somebody, and it’s  easier to download it from SmugMug than it is to find on my computer.  But if it’s named “vacation-81″ for some idiotic reason, it’s hard to find on the desktop when it’s hidden amid a bunch of other files that have equally non-descriptive names (we’re all guilty of this sometimes). Finally, I like to use an organism’s common name in the filename, so when I misidentify it (common!), I’d like to be able to correct the error so I don’t look like (complete) moron when a customer purchases a digital download .  Currently I have to download the image, rename it, then use the Tool’s replace action to swap out the SmugMug image (all doable, but a pain). Also, for those of us who used Smugglr to move thousands of photos over to SmugMug from places like Flickr, this would mean that your photo named 6744792255_f4fa66c36b_o.jpg could be easily altered.  Oh, and having good match between filename and image content might increase Google ranking, at least according to rumors I read on the Internet and thus must be true. Vote for this!
  6. Allow owner-downloading of watermarked images.  Sometimes you just want to send a photo to somebody in an email, but you don’t want to send something un-watermarked.  Because SmugMug already has those watermarked images (in all sizes), allow the user to get them (under Tools).  Currently one has to go back to Aperture or Lightroom and then Export with watermark…and that’s a pain. Vote for this!
  7. Add field for photo titles.  Everyone does this, except SmugMug.  OK, not everyone.  But I spent many, many years crafting titles on Flickr, and it’s hard to live without them. Vote for this!
  8. Arrange photos by monthAdd a “Sort by month” for galleries, to supplement the options that already exist in the Arrange Photos menu (shown at right).  Or sort by calendar day — just something that would group together all the shots from December even within a gallery that spans years.  This would be really useful for those of us who have photo projects (or places) that span decades, but want viewers to see all the seasonal photographs together.  E.g., it would be nice to have all my winter visits lumped together, separated from my summer visits.  I’m not saying lots of people would use this, but it would be a fun option and much easier than arranging them all manually (which would work, if I had the patience). Vote for this!
  9. Remove SmugMug’s copyright clutter from bottom of pages. Here’s a screen capture of mine:smugmug branding in footerIt’s small, but still a problem for me because a naive visitor on my self-hosted site (colinpurrington.com; I know, how original) could be confused/annoyed. If nothing else, it’s a visual distraction from the simplicity I was hoping to convey.  Many people claim the branding and links in the footer might give potential clients access to the true cost of a 4×6″ print, but I think that’s a silly claim: visitors already know they can get a print at WalMart in under an hour for about 13 cents. The real reason is subconscious, I believe:  professional photographers cringe when their sophisticated, beautiful photographs are framed by somebody else’s branding. As possible evidence, people don’t seem to agitate about the copyright information at bottom of their WordPress blogs — the name sounds normal and professional, and authors are indeed proud of the software.  Another reason to omit the footer is that I really like home pages that load in a single window — I don’t want to burden the visitor with a scroll bar.  Having the bottom 5-10% of a window devoted to something that the viewer doesn’t want to see is annoying to me on a design level. [Note: SmugMug allows some users to remove the footer (e.g., Vanished Twin Photography; Donovan Fannon Photography), but not everyone — you can be put on Double Secret Probation if you try that without their approval.]   Vote for this!
  10. SmugMug logoChange name.  When I tell my friends or family that they can see my photographs on SmugMug, they snicker and contort their faces.  Their derision is not because they know anything unbecoming about SmugMug, but because the name is silly in comparison to Flickr, Picasa, Photoshelter, Zenfolio, and such. “SmugMug” simultaneously conveys (I think) “smugness” and “snapshot” to somebody who doesn’t know the company is amazing.  And the Comic Sans and smiley face logo just confirm that suspicion (again, to the naive visitor…underneath the bad name and logo, the company is truly fantastic). I’m sure an unbiased experiment would show this problem in a quantifiable way that would impress even those at SmugMug HQ: potential customers are turned off, and untold thousands of potential users are dissuaded from signing up in the first place. I’d really prefer a name that didn’t require an explanation about my choice of photo host.  It’s like introducing a girlfriend whose name just happens to be Fugly.  She’s super intelligent, painfully cute, and dynamic to boot (!), but people just can’t help but be distracted by her name (I know, I should get different friends). Fugly didn’t choose her name, but it’s a burden and she’ll no doubt change it — people do it all the time, and so do huge companies and even colleges (e.g., United Fruit ==> Chiquita, Philip Morris == >Altria, Backrub ==> Google, Marafuku ==> Nintendo, Leslie Lynch King ==> Gerald Ford, and Beaver College ==> Arcadia University).  To its credit, SmugMug has tried to hide its name from some pages by crafting a logo that has “SM” on it instead of “SmugMug.”  But using “S & M” as an abbreviation is, um, probably not without unintended danger.  SmugMug could always remain the “parent” company and just rebrand it’s photo service offering with new name and logo, perhaps.  Something should be done.  It can be done!! [Note: if #9 was enacted, people wouldn’t be annoyed by “smugmug” because it would be visible.]  VOTE for this!!! [update: SmugMug won’t allow this suggestion to be voted on for some reason; instead, ask them by email to please allow it to be listed…they allow “remove footer” to be voted on and discussed!]
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Don’t migrate Flickr photos to SmugMug

Flickr to SmugMug photo migration[UPDATE 2011-12-23: read the comments for good news.]

I few months ago I migrated my 10,000+ Flickr photographs to SmugMug, and deeply regret it.  So I’m sharing the problems just in case my pain can help others:

  1. Filenames are lost.  The SmugMug migrator program is called Smugglr, and it transfers the “original” size in Flickr, which has a name like “4506134808_20b673be79_o.jpg” instead of whatever it was prior to uploading into Flickr (e.g., “Charles_Darwin_with_a_younger_woman_1860.jpg”).  This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but if you ever want to download the file from SmugMug onto your hard drive, the file is hard to find if your desktop has other files with “_o.jpg” at the end.  Similarly, if you have clients/friends who download your photographs, they don’t benefit from a useful filename.  Also, Google will probably never rank “4506134808_20b673be79_o.jpg” high in an image search even if the image is awesome, and even if you have great caption and keywords.  I’m not sure how Google computes rankings, but I suspect there are algorithms that compare filename data to keywords and search terms.  All of this is not Smugglr’s fault, though — I’m sure the programmer would have used the original filename if Flickr had made it available.  By the way, there is no way to change a filename within SmugMug, short of downloading the image, renaming it, and then replacing original (seems like it would take SmugMug all of a day to batch-enable that procedure…).
  2. Images transferred from Flickr are probably lower quality than your originals.  Flickr restricts size and filetype, so if your camera was producing huge TIFF or RAW files all those years, Flickr constrained your uploads to 10mb/file and required them to be JPGs, GIFs, or PNGs (all fine for internet viewing, of course).  So Smugglr will send over to SmugMug a file that is not as good as the original file that is hopefully still lurking in your Aperture or Lightroom library.   If people find an image of yours on SmugMug and want to buy a $200 wall mural, you’ll be sad if they used a small JPG. Again, not a Smugglr problem, but a problem nonetheless, and one that I didn’t think about deeply enough at the time.
  3. Images are duplicated in a messy way.  You might have an image that showed up in 3 different albums in Flickr, and because Smugglr will transfer each album in its entirety, you end up with 3 copies in 3 different SmugMug galleries.  If you change settings on 1 of those versions, those changes are not linked to the others.  So you really need to go and find the duplicates and potentially delete them.  Endlessly annoying.  There is no easy way to find these duplicates.
  4. In the Smugglr transfer, all my keyword phrases were squished into single keywords with no spaces.  E.g., “United States” became “unitedstates.”  You can batch fix this in SmugMug, but it’s a pain and the “replace” action needs to done for each gallery, and for each phrase.  Terribly annoying.
  5. Smugglr added a number and an alphanumeric as keywords to each photograph.  E.g., “82170932 b7c0b70ea8.” There’s a batch way to remove numbers, but, again, only one gallery at a time.  There’s is no way to automatically remove alphanumerics, so if you have 10,000 images, that’s 10,000 clicks (actually, more). I’ve been informed another SmugMug user that there is a way to prevent these numbers from being added, but I don’t think the settings would be apparent to any newbie thinking about migrating their photos (e.g., I still don’t understand how to do it!).
  6. Photo descriptions in Flickr are not transferred.  So if you had elaborate thoughts about an image, you’d need to go back to the Flickr page and copy and paste over to SmugMug version.  If you have less than 100 photos, that might be an OK use of your day.  But if you have tens of thousands, that’s not a good use of your year.
  7. The less obvious problem is that once you have all the albums converted to galleries on SmugMug, you’ll probably want to organize them in Categories and Sub-categories.  If you are used to the drag-n-drop simplicity of Flickr, you’ll quickly become sad with the equivalent actions on SmugMug, which seem trapped in code amber from the early 1990s. So if you have hundreds of galleries, creating categories and then finding the galleries to add to those categories is laborious and frustrating.  And if you ever want to alter those categories and their resident galleries in the future…you’ll be daydreaming about Flickr’s Organizer, which is almost fun to use.

So, after months of discovering the problems above, I think I’m going to delete my 10,000+ SmugMug photographs and slowly re-upload from the originals in my Aperture library. I could “replace” each photo individually, but that process doesn’t fix the keyword problem.

Anyway, hope the above might help somebody, and if you are wondering why my photo site is empty, that’s why. I’m still a fan of SmugMug, but not a fan of migrating photos there.

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A perfect pair

Just a silly image for a “perfect pair” photo challenge.  I tried desperately to find a flexible mirror so that the reflection would be less, well, pear shaped, but failed.  Not that there’s anything wrong with being pear-shaped.  Some of my favorite fruit are pear-shaped.

Narcissistic pear

 

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