How I use SmugMug - Dave Kai Piper
Blog Journal
Why I use Smugmug

What is Smugmug?

SmugMug is an American family-owned company that enables people to make a simple and powerful website, in fact, this website is a SmugMug website and I am a happy SmugMug customer.

In short, for photographers, SmugMug offers a very simple way to get your images up online, share them with friends and begin your tell your story with the world at the same time as photographers like myself who use SmugMug as the backbone to my workflow as a photographer. I use SmugMug to backup my images online, create proofing galleries for clients, as a gallery and portfolio site and as a shop. To put it even more simple, SmugMug is the very core of my photography business. 

Selling prints is super easy too, You can make coupons to give your special discounts to encourage or reward customers.  Click the images below to see what the sales portal looks like. If you want to test the order process, enter SMUGMUG25 at the checkout and get 25% of a test print.

My Workflow


How I use SmugMug

The first thing I want to say is that this blog has taken nearly a year to put together. Not through a lack of willpower but mostly as I thought it fair to write a viewpoint after extensively using the setup giving me more time to fine-tune the system.

This is a long blog, I would suggest getting the coffee ready now before starting !! Also… I guess I should be upfront about my relationships with SmugMug & Adobe – I am part of the Community Pro team in the UK and have done a talk for SmugMug at the photography show and do use the affiliate program. However, I all genuineness, I do love the products that these companies provide and this blog is only about how I use them.

The workflow is built around 3 key elements or 3 key needs. I want my images where I need them, looking good at all times and safe. The Creative Cloud (Photoshop & Lightroom), SmugMug & WordPress combination seems to this for me overall and most of the time. It is designed to be a multi-use Photography Workflow. While it is not the only way I work and it is not the most simple, it does work and is the safest workflow. Sometimes, just using Adobe Bridge & Photoshop then Dropbox or posting a DVD of images can work too! If you're new to SmugMug – this is the place to get your questions sorted or put them at the bottom of this blog and I shall try to get to them as and when I see them, or any questions for that matter. We will also not go into how to edit photos or how to move or process images through LR or PS in great detail. Feel free to check out my retouching blogs for them


In short, I aim to get my images safe, online and where they need to be looking the best they can while giving access to the right people and also keeping my images safe. I like that my images are backed up online, I have a full online shop & store able to print anywhere in the world, my clients have passworded access, can download & print images while everything else is locked down. I have all my images where they need to be if I need them on the go without having to carry around extra storage.

The whole workflow is Adobe RGB from camera to Web then sRGB from web onwards. In the next few weeks I will do anther set of blogs that break down each section in more information regarding how I do my filtering process of images, keywording, importing and other Lightroom elements, then a few weeks after that I have a Photoshop overview planned of how images move though Ps.

SmugMug’s phone app is great at syncing your phone with all the images on your account. It is also the way I put my images onto Instagram. I just upload to SmugMug then screen shot the photo on my phone and upload that Instagram. Superfast and keeps the files small. If you prefer – you can use the phone app to save the images to your phone if you want to do some funky iPhone editing or add text for Instagram. In a few ways maybe I should of had another thing on the diagram above showing how the app links to my phone and back to flow


Both my Fuji & Nikon systems can now tether to Lightroom (Fuji App here) so depending on the nature of the shoot I am either shooting tethered to the laptop using my Tethertools cables or shooting to cards and uploading to my laptop. Either way, I am backing up key files right from the start using the SmugMug App (download here).

The trick here is about just being safe and also only uploading what you need to. This upload is a total failsafe option. I always upload images that are KEY or VITAL to a shoot onsite before leaving. This gives me 10 or so images that are my lifeline, but also this has another benefit. Using the client log in or private sharing options on my SmugMug account. I can share these files with a person or group of people that I give access to. If I am shooting tethered and uploading ‘on the fly’. I can start to get real-time uploads of the images and start to also get feedback and comments on the images if needed from people at head office or from an editor not at the shoot. But my files are HUGE I hear you say, and what about if you don’t have WiFi ? No problem, if WiFi is slow or I don’t have a hardline, my phone sets up a hotspot and I change the upload settings from full size to something smaller. In the SmugMug app settings in Lightroom you can set the upload file size to be anything you like. 100k to 1mb to full size.

Lightroom App



When I get back from the shoot, most of the time I have the files on my laptop, an SSD drive and still on my memory cards. I take the files from the SSD with the .xmp sidecar files and move them over to my main office computer and copy the files over onto my main archive drives (which are Buffalo Duo Station’s). From there they are then imported into my main Lightroom catalog. (This will bring over any changes from the XML files also if you have the Lightroom expecting them in the same folder as the images). By this time, I check to see if any comments have been made on the images online and if they have, I copy and paste these comments into the comment metadata box on the images. From here I then start my editing process of the images in Lightroom & Photoshop, after uploading any images I missed to the gallery on SmugMug for selection processes if I am not doing this myself.

It does get a little confusing if you are uploading from two Lightroom sources. (You can run Lightroom on a Laptop & Desktop with a single license), but, SmugMug is very clever at telling if a photo has been duplicated online or not when using the web interface.

Overall a typical shoot will only see me upload 10 or so High Res images to SmugMug during a shoot. Anything that gets a 5-star rating during the shoot gets uploaded. When I then get home the other selected 4 star images get uploaded for the client to preview and do selections – if the shoot is of that nature. If I am doing the selections I tend to wait and only upload the edited images.

Once images are uploaded, it is super easy to replace or re-edit or re-crop images and Lightroom will detect you have changed the file and ask if you want to update or ‘sync’ the folder – this is particularly great as this will not change any URL’s created that link to this file. Meaning… if you re-edit an image already linked to a blog, you won't have to change the link or the blog, just the edit in Lightroom and everything will sync along the way.

Importing into Photoshop from Lightroom: TIFF, 16bit, aRBG

Exporting into Lightroom from Photoshop: TIFF 16, aRBG, layers, LZW compressed

PLEASE NOTE – SmugMug only store JPEG files at the moment, so, my local storage is the home to all my layered TIFF files – At present these are to large to look at cloud storage for these files.


Using the Client Login function on the SmugMug page to control access. In the client area I store images linked to the shoot in folders, sample edits and anything that is linked to the shoot such as mood board images etc. I find this is a great way of sharing info with people you are working with as they can comment on images you upload.

When you have a finished set of images, they can either hit the print buttons to order images printed, download them or if they have pre-paid – you can give them access to download all the images in one go using another password layer, if you needed. You can give multiple people access to view the folders and different people different access.

There are 5 ways to set up a gallery or folder on SmugMug:

Client Login (most secure)
Passworded un-listed Gallery (this does not show on the site menu)
Passworded listed Gallery ( this does show on the site menu)
Normal Gallery un-Passworded.
Private (only the user can see them – good for storage)

All of these gallery options also have options controlling things like if the gallery carries watermarks on that SmugMug applies (you don’t have to watermark images from Lightroom – just select this as a folder option.) Here is a list of the ones I tweak the most depending on the gallery in question & who it is being set up for. This is a small part of the options that can be tweaked for the images & galleries.

External Embedding
Maximum Display Size
Right-Click Protected
Apply Watermark
Download Buttons
Web Searchable
Allow Comments
Show Sharing Options
Shopping Cart
Personal Delivery
Show Camera Info


You can use SmugMug as a way to receive images from other people. SmugMug have a very simple set up where you can give a URL to someone who can then upload images direct into your gallery. This would be great for instance if you want to share and host a gallery of images taken by wedding guests along with the images you have taken as the photographer. I use the upload function to receive files I share out on the blog though interviews or when I am collecting images to be used for magazine articles etc. This means that when I share them on, who ever clicked the download button can get just the files they want. When you click the download gallery, SmugMug zip up the folder to save download time and space – which is great.

If you are looking for help with SEO or web marketing.. check out this guy – Adam Riemer. He knows his stuff for sure and has helped me loads. He has tonnes of info about the whole marketing thing.

Adobe – Everything done here can be done using the Creative Cloud Photographers plan. In the £8.57 per month plan you get Lightroom, Photoshop and a few other programs. If you want to scale things up they also do a £45.73 per month package for the full suite which will give you access to Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and all the apps too.

As for pricing on SmugMug – check out which features you get for which price here. If you are looking for some videos about setting up your account – click here 

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