SmugMug icon

Silent But Busy with SmugMug

I’ve been silent on my blog for a couple of weeks, but I’ve been crazy busy with blog-related work: SmugMug. I have been exploring a solution to permanently replace SlideShow Pro, the best self-hosting photo solution I’ve ever seen. Sadly, it no longer is supported—a victim of the new internet standards and the death of old technology like Flash. In fact SlideShow Pro no longer works with many browsers and the company no longer exists. I really liked that platform!

So, I’ve decided on SmugMug. Here is a sample embedded slideshow of almost 724 photos from our Australia, 2011, trip.

Why SmugMug?

Why I chose SmugMug:

  • Slideshows can be embedded easily in my WordPress blog.
  • SmugMug supports video.
  • Slideshows can contain (and actually play) up to 1,000 photos.
  • Slideshows can be played on the AppleTV and, unlike Apple’s photo solution or Flickr, will play all of the photos in the slideshow.
  • SmugMug encourages you to upload full-size jpgs of your images and offers unlimited hosting space and bandwidth for all accounts.
  • SmugMug has a Lightroom plugin that makes uploading and maintaining your online SmugMug site from with the Lightroom app rather straight forward and almost seamless. Lightroom is the central hub of my photo activity.
  • I like the iOS and AppleTV SmugMug apps. Combined with Apple’s new AirPlay 2, you can enjoy whatever music you wish to hear as the slideshows play on the TV. Additionally, when a song changes, the iTunes app will briefly place a small info box on the screen with the artist, album, and music title. Nice touch.

I like SmugMug for other reasons as well. Its design aesthetic is to my liking and offers several attractive options. Once you get your head around its site design logic, it is fairly easy to use. They have very responsive support.

Not Perfect

Unfortunately, SmugMug lacks a handful of features I really liked in SlideShow Pro. And while the lack of these features isn’t that big a deal, I still miss them.

  • Photos are static with no adjustable Ken Burns display option available.
  • You can’t define an area of interest in a photo that the system makes certain is displayed when the image is cropped because the aspect ratio of the display screen’s slideshow will not accommodate the entire image.
  • You only have one transition option: fade. Yes, it’s the most practical.
  • You have no “fill the screen” option, only “fit to screen.” (This means content is often letterboxed. I would like to fill the entire 4k TV screen with a photo rather than have black bars on the sides. You can manually crop to the 16:9 aspect ratio before uploading, but that isn’t an elegant solution. SlideShow Pro determined the screen size of the viewer’s display screen and automatically an intelligently generated photos specifically for that screen aspect ratio.)
  • Individual slideshow selection smart rules are limited. For example: I can’t select date ranges for specific albums to be available, now can I turn individual photos on or off inside a slideshow. I can’t randomize photos within any slideshow.

So I’ve been insanely busy learning and building a SmugMug web presence. I swore to myself I wouldn’t touch (edit in any way) the individual photos, just create the smart rules within Lightroom and upload them as is. Of course, that isn’t the way my experience has gone.

Promises Kept and Not

The editing tools in Lightroom have improved so much, I simply can’t resist tweaking individual photos. This becomes insanely time consuming when you’re publishing around 15,000 photos.

Additionally, I have hopefully improved the organizational structure I’m using for the photos. Photos are organized by country, including the USA. And within the USA, photos are organized by state. Within the state, photos are then organized by city or event.

And to facilitate having a huge collection of photos to watch when exercising, each country, or state in the USA, has a folder that contains all of the photos from that trip or event—well, up to 1,000 of them. Flickr and Apple’s iCloud solutions would only pull about 50 photos and played the same limited number of photos over and over again. That just got on my very last nerve!

So, hopefully, this SmugMug solution will last for many years. I grow weary of having to replace solutions with newer technology. Hopefully they will stay in business and customer-friendly for years to come. I don’t want to go through this again any time soon—well, ever, frankly.