Last year, my wife and I decided to get really good at taking insanely great photos. (You can find a gallery of my favorite pics -- like the one above-- right here).
Over the years, we've amassed almost three terabytes of photos & videos. And now that we have a beautiful baby daughter, that number is only going to grow faster.
I've always wrestled with how to have appropriate backups for those pics. I've tried cloud backup services, multiple hard drives + CarbonCopyCloner, exporting to other services like Google+, but nothing quite fit the bill.
Then I realized that SmugMug might have the answer.
Many Adobe Lightroom users use the awesome SmugMug plugin to get their photos online, but I've never found anyone using it quite like I am.
I'm going to describe how I've lifehacked SmugMug to serve as an unlimited cloud-based picture storage system, along with using it to display photo galleries. (If you're trying this, too, I'd LOVE to hear from you in the comments).
The workflow is a bit wonky and full of bugs (which may mean that few/no other people are trying this?). I'm going to detail those bugs here in the hopes that the great folks at SmugMug will work on getting them fixed.
My workflow is as follows:
Instead of using Lightroom Collections, as most people do, I'm using SmugMug to store two versions of the pictures I take, in two distinct galleries: An "All Pics" gallery, which is PW protected & private, and a "Best Pics" version, which is generally public, although sometimes it's unlisted. Here are a few screenshots:
Since I'm uploading all the pics I take up to SmugMug -- not just the best ones -- this effectively makes SmugMug a cloud-based backup source for all my photos (albeit not in RAW file format). Another option would be to use the SmugMug Vault, which runs off of AWS, but that will cost you $.12 per gig to get the data out of AWS (it's like Hotel California -- you can checkin anytime you like, but you can never leave!). But my approach, in contrast, has no extra cost, as creating SmugMug Galleries is already included in the SmugMug subscription fee.
I tag my photos with the people in them (it's manual, which sucks; Lightroom does not have face auto recognition) and then I make SmartGalleries of the people I've tagged:
Then, I sprung for a "power" SmugMug membership, which runs $60/year, so I could run everything on a custom domain, http://pics.DanielOdio.com. $60/year for unlimited photo storage and a beautiful place to showcase my photos? Yes, please!
Now, whenever I take photos, I'll make a folder for them in Lightroom's SmugMug plugin, make an "All Pics" and "Best Pics" gallery, upload the All Pics photos first, then tag & flag the pics that I want to put filters on and upload those pics to Best Pics. I find that on average I pull about 8% of all the pics I take into the Best Pics albums, which means I have to take 12 pics on average to get one good one!
SmugBug? -- Bugs, Bugs, Bugs
So the workflow above is pretty great. But it's not all happy camping. There are a ton of bugs. Here are some of the main bugs. Anyone at SmugMug willing & able to churn through these? I've listed them in order of priority.
Search doesn't work: Even though I've specified that a gallery be "SmugMug Searchable" in the plugin, the search doesn't work. Here's an example for this Pismo Beach gallery:
But there are zero results when I search for the word "Pismo" ... and in fact nothing ever comes up in the search results, not matter what words I search for:
Video files won't upload: .MP4 files have never worked for me, even though I have the option checked in the SmugMug Plugin Manager to enable video uploads. Here's an example:
Even though video uploads are enabled in the PlugIn Manager...
They always fail to upload:
Strange legacy galleries and auto generated duplicate galleries: For some reason, sometimes SmugMug changes the URL of a gallery by adding a number at the end of it. And sometimes, the old empty legacy gallery sticks around. For example, on http://pics.DanielOdio.com you can see this empty Pismo Beach gallery:
The old URL for that private gallery is http://pics.danielodio.com/Events/2012-Pismo-Beach-for-DROdios-B/All-Pics ... but that's an empty gallery. For some reason, the current, correct URL is http://pics.danielodio.com/Events/2012-Pismo-Beach-for-DROdios-B/All-Pics-1/n-4wbdG ... notice the "1" in the URL. I didn't put it there. But SmugMug did, for some reason, even though I only have one Pismo Beach gallery. Why?
Lots of Errors: I generally get lots of errors when I try to use the Plugin:
There are also things I wish the SmugMug plugin could do. Here's a prioritized list:
Gallery upload status: I really, really, really wish I could see from the left-hand bar what the upload status of each gallery is. This would be especially valuable for SmartGalleries, which I have to re-publish manually when there are new photos in them. Right now I have to expand each gallery to see if there are new photos to publish.
Gallery privacy status: I wish I could see from the left-hand bar what the privacy status of each gallery is. Right now I have to right click on each one and choose "edit gallery" to find out if it's public, unlisted or private, and whether I have a PW on the gallery.
Gallery search: I'd love to be able to search for galleries within Lightroom. It's hard to find the one that I need in the long list.
Mass edit: I wish I could edit the privacy status of multiple galleries at once.
Edit & delete QuickSettings: There's no way to edit or delete QuickSettings! And while you're at it -- could you make it possible to create a QuickSetting that includes an album password?