SmugMug

In my never-ending quest to find the ultimate in online photo management tools, I am currently trying out SmugMug. Currently all of my images are self-hosted as I like the control that gives me. After a recent event however, the software I’m using (ZenPhoto) started choking on my uploaded images. This isn’t really ZenPhoto’s fault as it wasn’t really designed to deal with 10 megapixel images uploaded at full resolution. I considered uploading resized images, but I really like having the full quality pictures available anywhere. As such, I started investigating other options…

Since I generally prefer self-hosted, I started out looking at my options there. There are a LOT of options in the PHP photo gallery world. Things I tried in no particular order:

  • Piwigo
    • There were a lot of things I didn’t really care for in this one. The administration interface was unintuitive and uploads were a pain.
  • phTagr
    • I was curious about this one as I have used CakePHP in the past and enjoyed it. The gallery wasn’t really designed for what I want to do though. phTagr was more about being social then displaying the information in the way I wanted.
  • Gallery 3
    • This one had a fair amount of potential. Though it is currently still in beta it feels like a very nice product. This one is the successor to the hugely popular Gallery2 software. Gallery2 had a lot of power and suffered for it in terms of performance and complexity. With Gallery3 the team decided to strip out most of the non-core functionality and focus and speed and ease of use. In my opinion, they made a good choice there and have been hugely successful. Ultimately what killed this one for me is the way it stores files. Since Gallery3 copies files into a specific folder structure, you can’t easily modify files in bulk once they are in the system.

There are a lot of other self-hosted options, but these are the ones that looked interesting enough for me to experiment with. After ruling them out, I started looking at hosted options. Hosted services I looked at:

  • Flickr
    • Pretty much ubiquitous for photo sharing. But not at all customizable. I like customizable.
  • Picasa Web Albums
    • This integrates seamlessly with Picasa which is probably one of the best photo organizing apps I have used. But again with the lack of customizability.
  • SmugMug
    • No free accounts, but a 15 day free trial. I can do a lot with a 15 day free trial. This one has a large amount of customizability built in. If you don’t like what they have available they let you create a complete theme (I haven’t played with that yet). They also allow you to use your own domain name (on a Power or Pro level account) which I really like. Also, the service uses Amazon S3 for storage and a CDN to get things served quickly. Overall sounds like a winner.

So far in my experimenting with SmugMug, I have been pretty pleased. I will likely end up signing up for their Power level account ($60/yr) which provides all of the features I can forsee needing. File/Album management is less intuitive than I would like, but I will have more on that later.

On the off chance you feel like signing up for SmugMug and want to help me out, my referral code is pJEmU1ps9hXGE

Author: Brian

Application Developer at the University of Iowa. Works mostly with PHP/Oracle, but doesn't like the Oracle bits. Also an avid gamer and tinkerer.