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This SmugMug Glitch May Be Quietly Damaging Your Photo Business

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Editor’s update: It appears that SmugMug has identified and fixed the issue described in this article.


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I recently discovered a glitch with SmugMug that’s now causing me a massive headache. If you use SmugMug, this may be negatively impacting your business as well, so this article is a heads up for any photographer on SmugMug that may be affected.

The problem is with SmugMug’s system for announcing galleries to clients. They have an option for entering custom text in your announcement, so you can customize this to include passwords and other relevant info that SmugMug’s generic message doesn’t provide.

Clicking the “send me a test” button sends you an email that includes the modified message. The problem is that when you actually use the links SmugMug provides the way our clients would, the custom message doesn’t appear.

So, for me this means that for every wedding I’ve shot for the last 3 years, my clients have not received the correct info on accessing their galleries. I’d been wondering why my print sales and gallery traffic were so low. Now I know why. No one could figure out how to view my work!

Not only has this impacted 3 years of print sales, but it’s probably generating negative associations with my brand because every guest who tries to view the wedding is unsuccessful.

Here’s a closer look at the glitch: to announce a wedding to clients, SmugMug users create an “event” for the photo collection. You put in the basic info for the clients event here, select the relevant galleries, and enter at least one contact’s info (usually the client). Here’s the event creation screen:

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 3.54.27 PM

SmugMug creates a gallery link for the contact you have just entered. It’s their own private proofing gallery where they can tag favorite photos, buy prints, etc. You are also given a second link for your clients to pass along to their guests (Other Guests section). This allows anyone with the link to register and generate their own private proofing gallery. To announce the event to clients and their guests, you click the envelope icon marked “share.”

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 4.02.49 PM

A window pops up where you can enter the text you want registrants to receive. SmugMug gives you a generic message that’s a little cheesy and contains no event specific info, such as log in passwords or anything else you might need to communicate to guests of this event. Here’s what the window looks like:

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 4.18.07 PM

To get your specific message across, you simply modify the text in the window and click “save as template.”

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 4.26.11 PM

I can even double check to make sure the correct message is being sent by clicking “send me a test”

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 4.29.24 PM

Here’s the email I receive when I do this. It looks exactly like I want it to:

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 4.31.21 PM

The problem is that this is not the actual email people receive. Guests are receiving the generic SmugMug message which provides no event specific info. If I use the guest link just like any other gallery visitor would, I am taken to a screen like this:

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 4.34.58 PM

By entering my info here, I should be setting myself up to receive the template that I saved for this event. The message I receive has none of the information that was saved and represented in the test I sent:

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 4.39.02 PM

And that’s pretty much it. All the guests for all the weddings I’ve announced since I’ve been with SmugMug have been getting confusing, incomplete emails.

SmugMug told me that at least some people are accessing the galleries, but all this says to me is that they were frustrated and had to call and bug my clients for log in info. Either way, it makes me look unprofessional and results in negative perception of my brand.

We all know how easily we give up if technology isn’t working. I’m guessing that the vast majority of people trying to access my photos have just given up. This means my print sales have suffered as have hundreds if not thousands of possible referrals. That is a really big problem for a small business like mine. This issue means that I now need to reach out to all my past clients and correct the issue/apologize, which is a massive inconvenience.

I’m concerned that a lot of other photographers out there are suffering negative impacts from this as well. SmugMug hasn’t corrected the problem yet, and there haven’t been any messages sent out to photographers to notify us of this glitch.

So, if you use SmugMug, you might want to see if you’re affected by this glitch as well. If so, it could be hurting your business in a big way without you knowing.


About the author: Paul Reynolds is a commercial and wedding photographer based in Winooski, Vermont. He has received numerous accolades for his wedding work, including honors from The Knot and Wedding Wire. You can find his website here.

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