Why I Continue to be a Smugmug Pro User

Side Chapel at Mission San Xavier del Bac near Tucson, Arizona

I have now been a SmugMug Pro user since November. Prior to that, I used a competing site called Zenfolio (for one year). I fully intend to renew my Smugmug Pro site once it comes up for renewal. The key features they were lacking versus their competitors are now available (namely coupons and packages), but this is not the only reason I’ll still be here.

The one thing that continues to set SmugMug apart from the rest of the serious image hosting companies is their commitment to their customers. Sure, they are privately held with no debt load, so sometimes features are slower to appear than at a VC funded competitor. However, this creates an environment where they are only adding things that are essential to the Pro user, and they only do it if it really makes sense. No knee jerk reactions to odd requests, or doing things just because they can. The end result is an ongoing financially viable service that won’t disappear out of the blue someday (without warning no doubt). In fact, they also provide an easy to use and democratic method to submit feature requests.

The commitment to customers is carried over to customer support as well. They truly are fanatical about this. In fact, I think the only other company I have dealt with that is comparable is ExactTarget (an email service provider). SmugMug will respond to you extremely quickly via email for any support requests you might have. And they are actually pretty quick to respond on their message forums as well, although that is not the official channel (seriously, if you have an immediate support need, email, don’t go to the forum). The General Manager, Andy Williams, is generally the first person to respond to posts in the forum, and provides great insight for why items are or are not possible.

The last place that this commitment to customers is so evident is the creation of the SmugMug User Groups (SMUGs). These events are actually open to any photographer or videographer, but the conversations at times can be of direct benefit to SmugMug users (such as in the Denver meeting last December when feedback was solicited about the coupon and package systems). So many companies toss up a forum or a Facebook page and call it done. I love that SmugMug is sponsoring these in person gatherings. Paralleling my experiences with ExactTarget at Connections (I cannot sing their praises enough), a SMUG meeting is a great way to get feedback on your thoughts, as well as make your voice heard to the people who are really involved with this company. That in itself is priceless.

Customer service isn’t the only reason to stay with a company of course. The whole reason for having images hosted by a site like SmugMug is the ability to sell them. People who have purchased my prints have been quite pleased by the final product quality. Fulfillment by Bay Photo (one of two choices SmugMug Pro users have) has been flawless. When you couple this fact with the customer service commitment I see, that is the reason I do not need to look anywhere else – nor should you.

If you have been looking at similar services, or if you belong to one and have been thinking about moving, I would encourage you to take the SmugMug 14 day free trial. All features are active during the trial, so you will be able to get a real feel for how it will fit with your needs. You won’t be sorry you did.

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Park Hyatt, Beaver Creek, Colorado
Seems like forever ago that I decided I wanted to start shooting real estate for a part time income. Ever since, I have been doing my homework – reading the relevant sites, starting to engage in Flickr group conversations, ordered and read an ebook. Beyond all that, I have been doing a lot of practicing. I have gone back to images from a few months ago and reworked them in Photoshop, taking advantage of lessons learned in the ebook and the Flickr groups (I can’t say enough good things about the people in the PFRE Flickr group – they have been very helpful and nice to boot). I took the best of the crop and created my Real Estate / Resort Photo Gallery.

This gallery represents the first step in me deciding that it is time to actively market my services for real estate photography in the Denver metro area (probably focusing on Denver, Lakewood, Littleton, Wheat Ridge, Golden) and the Colorado Front Range (to include Bailey, Conifer/ Aspen Park, Evergreen, Morrison, Kittredge, Genesee, the 285 and I-70 corridors). I never mind a trip to the mountains, so I plan to also be available in the Summit County area, covering Keystone, Dillon, Silverthorne (and Wildernest), Frisco, Breckenridge and Copper Mountain.

I have not finalized pricing yet, but plan to do that soon based on similar services in the area. Yes, times are tough right now in real estate, but I think quality photos can really help generate interest in a property. When the economy is down, effective marketing is that much more essential.

Take a look at my Real Estate / Resort Photo Gallery and let me know what you think.

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Reflections

Reflections in a pond
Last week when I went to Beaver Creek, I took some time to drive up near Gray’s and Torrey’s Peaks. The idea was to get a shot of the great fall colors. Turns out though, that my favorite picture from that sidetrip is this one. It is a reflection of Gray’s Peak in a mud puddle that was in the middle of the forest service road. I rotated it so the mountain was upright, and I think it is an incredibly clear reflection of the mountain. Couldn’t have planned a shot like this, it just happened. The big question to me is if you like it upright like this, or should I have left it upside down?

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