This has taken quite a long time to put together. Not through a lack of will power but mostly as I thought it’s only fair to write a viewpoint after extensively using my set up giving me more time to fine tune the system.
Brace yourself, this is going to be a pretty big chunk of information, I would suggest getting comfortable now before starting!! Also… I guess I should be upfront about my relationships with SmugMug – I am long time member of SmugMug and do promote their affiliate program. However, I do love the service they provide and this post is more about how I use them in my workflow.
My workflow is built around 3 key elements, or needs. I want my images where I need them, looking good(full-res) at all times and safe. The Adobe Creative Cloud(Photoshop & Lightroom), SmugMug & WordPress combination seems to do this best for me overall and most of the time. It is designed to be a multi-use photography workflow. While this is not the only way I work and this is not the simplest, it does work and is the safest workflow. Sometimes, just using Photoshop & Lightroom then Dropbox/GoogleDrive/OneDrive or ripping a USB thumb drive of images can work too! If your’e not sure what SmugMug is or how to use it – this is the place to get most of your questions sorted out or you can ask them in the comments of this post and I will get to them when I see them, or any questions for that matter. I will also not go into how to edit photos or how to move or process images though LR or PS in great detail. I hope put together a photo editing/retouching workflow post for that later.
PHOTOGRAPHY WORKFLOW & DIGITAL WORKFLOW – HOW YOUR FILES FLOW…
Basically, I like to keep my images safe, online and where they need to be looking their best while giving access to the right people and also keeping my images protected. I like that my images are backed up online, with SmugMug I have a full online shop & store able to print anywhere in the world, my clients have password access folders/galleries, 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 drives/devices.
The whole workflow is Adobe RGB from camera to Web then sRGB from web onwards. I will put together another post that breaks down each section in more detail regarding how I do my filtering process of images, keywords, importing and other Lightroom elements, then after that I have try to put together a Photoshop overview of how images move though Photoshop.
THIS LITTLE DIAGRAM SHOWS THE ELEMENTS INTERCONNECT –
SmugMug’s phone app is great at syncing my phone with all the images on my account. It is also the way I put my images onto Instagram. I just upload to SmugMug then use the phone app to save the images to my phone and do some quick editing with Photoshop Express or add text for Instagram on my iPhone. Maybe I should/could of went into more detail and had another thing on the diagram showing how the app1 on my phone plays into the flow.
WORDPRESS IS MY PORTFOLIO AKA – FRONT SIDE. THIS IS WHERE 99% OF PEOPLE WILL FIRST SEE MY WORK. IT HAS TO LOOK GOOD, BE CLEAN AND WORK IN A WAY THAT LETS PEOPLE FIND WHAT THEY WANT. SMUGMUG IS THE BACK SIDE THAT HELPS MANAGE EVERYTHING AND KEEP THINGS FLOWING.
STEP ONE – CAPTURE & FAILSAFE BACK UP.
My Nikon system can tether to Lightroom so depending on the nature of the shoot I am either shooting tethered to my laptop using cables or shooting to cards and uploading to my laptop. Either way, I am backing up key files right from the start using my computer to hold them until I can upload them to the SmugMug App (download here).
The trick here is just being safe and making sure I upload what I need. This upload is a total failsafe option. I always upload images that are KEY or VITAL to the 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.
STEP TWO – EDITING & BACK UP TO MAIN ARCHIVE
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 all over to my main work computer(desktop) and copy the files over onto my main archive drives (which are Buffalo DriveStation’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). During 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 for memo’s. 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 the only one capturing data.
It can get a little confusing when you are uploading from two Lightroom sources. (You can run Lightroom on a Laptop & Desktop with a single license), but, SmugMug is very cleaver at telling if a photo has been duplicated online or not when using the web interface.
Overall a typical shoot will see me upload all the raw data during a shoot and only end up editing 10 or so High Res images to SmugMug after a shoot. Anything that gets a 5 star rating during the shoot gets uploaded into a edited gallery/folder. Then when I get home all the other images get uploaded into a gallery/folder 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 final edited images.
Once images are uploaded, it is super easy to replace or re-edit or re-crop an 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 WordPress post, you won’t have to change the link or the post, just the edit in Lightroom and everything will sync along the way.
As the editing section goes… I am sure you can find plenty of guides to editing… try Youtube and check out the videos –
Importing into Photoshop from Lightroom: TIFF, 16bit, aRBG
Exporting into Lightroom from Photoshop: TIFF 16, aRBG, layers, LZW compressed
Remember… local storage is always handy to have as uploading EVERYTHING to cloud based storage like SmugMug can take ages and ages.
PLEASE NOTE – SmugMug only stores 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.
- High Res – Jepg – Online
- High Res – TIFF – Local storage
STEP 3 – SHARING
By this stage, all my images are online, and ready to share with the world or my clients. Depending on the nature of the shoot the images are either going to be public or private.
They are headed for my website which is hosted on A2 Hosting at the moment and powered by WordPress with a tweaked child theme from Dream-Theme “The7”. Images are linked by using the SmugMug ‘Get Link’ feature which keeps my blog fast, small, light and also lets the user have a ‘lightbox’ style click though if they want to see the image bigger and higher-res on the SmugMug site. WordPress is great for getting your word out there, but I find that they crush the images a little to much compared to the stunning images that SmugMug display.
Currently website is broken down into two main parts yet both are designed to attract people to my website, yet each one for different purposes. WordPress is like my store window. It has to be clean, provide all the things you need and be the face of my business when I am not around. Looking at my traffic data lets me see how people navigate about the site with the idea that I can streamline everything to help people find what they want quickly. The balance of slim gallery site and massive photography blog is tough. SmugMug is used as an image store & archive. Kind of like a the warehouse or factory at the back of the store.
In both cases – it is SmugMug that does the ‘heavy lift’ with the images… only the featured images being uploaded through Wordpess. These are for SEO reasons mostly and that you can not link in an image for a creation element that the theme needs. I have found that Google prefers and finds it easier to index images uploaded to WordPress rather than linked in from SmugMug. Uploading ‘Key’ images where you need them can also be a good way to push images you want sharing over the other images. For example in WordPress you can select which image will be picked up by a link on Facebook or Twitter.
Once you have your website looking good, it is time to share them out. At the moment I find that getting images shared on other peoples sites and social media is the best way. Places like Photography and niche sites (as there are are many niche related blogs out there and such) are always great ways as content is put into related context. The next best thing is places like your own Facebook and Twitter feeds along with Instagram is great. After that the single image share sites like 500px, Flickr and Pintrest are also good – but, be sure to link BACK to your website – this is where you are driving traffic too.
Oh… and be sure to share this post/website if you like it !!
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. This means that when I share the folder/gallery with someone and downloads are available, who ever clicked the download button can get just the files they want. When you click the download gallery, SmugMug zips up the the entire gallery/folder to save download time and space – which is great.
There are 5 ways to set up a gallery or folder on SmugMug.
- Client Login (most secure – Username & Password)
- Password Unlisted Gallery (this does not show on the site menu need URL to view)
- Password Listed Gallery (this does show on the site menu)
- Normal Gallery No Password
- 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
OTHER THINGS TO THINK ABOUT AND USEFUL INFORMATION.
You can use SmugMug as a way to receive images from other people. SmugMug has a very simple set up where you can give someone a URL and they can then upload images directly into your gallery. This is great for instance if you want to share and host a gallery of images taken by others along with the images you have taken as the photographer. I use the upload function to receive files when I have a second/third photographer with me on assignments to send me image data.
My WordPress theme was developed by a company called Dream-Themes – they are awesome support and make amazing theme for custom websites. The theme I am usin a heavily modified ‘child theme’ with the core/parent theme of “The7” and has been around for a while now, but has regular updates/fixes… I love it and it works great for me.
WordPress Plugins – Currently I am using a few key plugins to keep everything going:
- Woocommerce w/Stripe (sell photography services)
- Google Analytics (monitor website traffic)
- Gravityforms w/Mailchimp (submission forms and customer management)
- Yoast SEO (online marketing)
- Booked (appointments)
- Simple Weather (weather)
- Go Pricing (pricing)
- WP Multilingual (translation management)
- Sharing plugins etc…
If you are looking for help with SEO or web marketing… check out Yoast SEO has it all and on top of the whole marketing thing.
Adobe – Everything done here can be done using the Creative Cloud Photography plan. In the $9.99 per month plan you get Lightroom, Photoshop and a few other programs. If you want to scale things up they also do a $49.99 per month package for the full suite which will give you access to Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and all the apps too.
There are TWO types of WordPress platforms: .ORG & .COM. The .COM version is basically a “blog” extension like using a blog built off the main platform. With the .COM you don’t need to have a hosting company to use wordPress.com, you just ‘login’ and off you go. If you have your server, you can install your own version giving you more control over your WordPress. This means more plugins and more custom you can have your site, but, you have to configure it all and look after it all, plus install it all. This is what I have on A2 Hosting and manage several of my own .ORG version websites. I see this as the best of both worlds.
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
Also… as a very special thank you if you use my referral link, you can get 15% off when you sign up for SmugMug.