Flickr, Picasa and SmugMug Shootout

Flickr, Picasa or SmugMug—which is best? Which one best suits your needs and your budget? What kind of professional level features do you get with each? These are questions I’ve been asking for awhile and it’s now time to compare three of the most popular photo storage and sharing services available today.

In this comparison we’ll pit Flickr, Picasa and SmugMug against each other so you can see which would best suit you.


Whether you simply enjoy sharing photos of your life moments or you’re a serious photographer that requires professional level features and capabilities, you’ll need [and likely want] to pick a service that best fits your budget and needs. There are many options available on the web but if you’re looking for the best of the best, these three services will likely be among your top choices.

We’re going to take a look at each, a little more than skin deep, along with options, plugins, apps and other addons each service has to offer.


Flickr is perhaps one of the most popular photo storage and sharing services available right now, offered by Yahoo!. It’s strength comes from its many community driven features, ease of use for people at all skill levels and flexibility to meet the needs of users ranging from beginner to professional. Flickr requires a Yahoo! account.



Picasa [Web Albums]

Picasa is a relatively popular alternative to Flickr, offered by Google, requiring a Google account. Picasa’s strength lies with its storage and feature integration with other Google apps, affordable and flexible storage pricing, app simplicity and lesser known features. Picasa sports a community aspect but nothing as in-depth as Flickr’s.

Picasa Web Albums (PWA)

Picasa Web Albums (PWA)


SmugMug is the lesser known and arguably least popular service of these three, likely due to the fact that it isn’t an addon service offered by a company running a large network of apps and services such as Google and Yahoo!. Don’t let that discredit SmugMug though, as it’s an incredibly powerful service aimed at those a little more serious about photography. SmugMug doesn’t focus on community as much as Picasa or Flickr, but instead concentrates their resources to provide top level features you simply won’t find with free services.




I’ll go through each service’s pricing options but will only mention a quick overview of the basic features involved in each level. More in-depth features will be reviewed later in the comparison.

Flickr Pricing

Flickr is free. Free is hard to beat and this Yahoo! owned service attracts many of its users using that price point. Yahoo!, being such a large company, gives Flickr the resources necessary to reach the free price point with the app design quality to make this service a top choice for those unwilling to pay for photo storage and sharing.

Flickr Advertisements

Flickr Advertisements

There are drawbacks to free services though, namely advertisements. As you can see in the screenshot above, Flickr does sport advertisements. Of course, this is something we’re all used to and Flickr doesn’t go overboard here. Advertisements are also included within your account, although they’re not too annoying.

The free level account also restricts users to 2 videos and 100 MB of photos per calendar month. You’ll also only have 100 MB of bandwidth available for photos, with “a little leeway for video“. We’ll get into more specific features like photo size limits a little later.

Want to go ad-free? Flickr offers a Pro account, for $24.95 per year. That’s pretty dang cheap and gives you unlimited uploads, storage, sets and collections. You’ll get access to your original files, stats on your account and the ability to upload HD video.

Flickr Pro

Flickr Pro

Picasa Pricing

As with Flickr, Picasa is free. This is no surprise as nearly all of Google’s services are free, a large reason why Google is so incredibly popular today. You might think Picasa’s free price point has held back the app’s design and feature set, but that’s simply not the case. Picasa is uses a simplistic interface by choice and offers many great features, although a little more hidden.

Picasa makes it’s money by selling storage instead of features or advertising. For free you’ll get all the same features as someone paying a premium, except a lower storage limit of 1 GB. Recently Google reduced Picasa’s storage pricing and increased the number of plans. Remember, purchasing storage for Picasa is shared among your other Google apps because you’re purchasing Google Storage. This is a great approach and a feature I’ve greatly appreciated as a heavy Google apps user.

Google Storage

Google Storage

At a similar price to Flickr’s Pro, $20 per year gets you 80 GB of storage space. Most users won’t reach that limit and likely won’t even need it for quite some time. Starting at a $5 per year gives you 20 GB of storage space, which can be upgraded (or downgraded) at any time. So upgrade as you need and save money over Flickr!

If you’ll be using more than 80 GB of space, it might be more cost effective to go with Flickr. If you’re sticking with a free plan, you’ll be able to use your 1 GB available space right away, unlike Flickr. However, over a greater period of time, Flickr would allow for more photo storage.

SmugMug Pricing

SmugMug offers no free plan. This is a large reason why it’s much less popular than Flickr or Picasa. With plans starting at $39.95 per year it’s like being forced into an expensive Flickr Pro account with some advantages and some disadvantages.

SmugMug Pricing

SmugMug Pricing

You get a free 14 day trial, enabling you to try any plan you would like for the duration of your trial. Okay, so no free plan but you get to try the best SmugMug plan for two weeks to determine if it’s worth your money. At their base plan, $39.95 per year, you get unlimited storage and traffic with absolutely no ads (or spam). You don’t get video upload capabilities though and you’re limited to 12 MB file size per photo, unlike Flickr and Picasa sporting a 20 MB limit (Flickr Pro) and at least basic video upload options.

At $59.95 you get DVD quality video uploads, limited to 10 minutes. At $149.95 you’ll get a raised file size limit (24 MB) and HD video uploads. SmugMug’s advantages lie with its customizability, giving you greater photo gallery and album theme customization options. Clearly SmugMug isn’t the best choice for those on a budget or looking for something basic to get the job done. For more serious photographers? SmugMug is a prime choice.

Interface Comparison

Comparing interfaces is difficult and will ultimately come down to your choice of design style and interface features. Flickr is clearly designed with community in mind and sports a relatively clean and minimalistic overall design. It’s somewhat text heavy (aside from photos) but easy to navigate.

Flickr Interface

Flickr Interface

Your account page includes recent photos from your photo stream, contacts, community photos and other general information in the sidebar. It feels a little cluttered a busy to me but going with the Pro account would remove the advertisements and alleviate some of that.

Flickr Account Interface

Flickr Account Interface

Exploring community photos is definitely one of the best features of these three photo services if that’s what you’re looking for.

Flickr Explore

Flickr Explore

Editing and organizing in Flickr very simple and enhanced with JavaScript to create a more seamless experience for users. Creating photo projects to be printed is incredibly easy (and affordable) with tons of great options.

Flickr Organize and Edit

Flickr Organize and Edit

Picasa, however, takes a much different approach with barebones simplicity focused more on your photo albums overview than community or other major features. Picasa feels more directly in touch with your photos and feels better than Flickr for photo storage.

Picasa Interface

Picasa Interface

Picasa’s interface is more “folder” oriented, viewing your albums overview, then album photos, then individual photos. With each view, related information is available in the sidebar, most of which can be changed inline. Ordering prints is simple but not nearly as intuitive as Flickr with much fewer options and capabilities. The same applies to photo editing and organizing.

Picasa Album View

Picasa Album View

Exploring the Picasa community photos is really quite limited and, although entertaining to a certain degree, it just doesn’t compare to Flickr.

Picasa Community Exploring

Picasa Community Exploring

I found SmugMug’s interface to be an entirely different beast than Flickr or Picasa. SmugMug’s account page was quite lacking in overall aesthetics. I was quite concerned that this would apply to the rest of SmugMug’s interface, but I was pleasantly surprised that this was absolutely not the case.

SmugMug Account

SmugMug Account

SmugMug Image Overlay

SmugMug Image Overlay

Viewing albums and photos may not be quite as sexy as Flickr but it does have its advantages. For example, instead of viewing a single photo, navigating through the album, you can view a grid of the photos to the left of the main image. Expand the browser window and the page expands to fill the available space, maximizing space utilization, creating a much better navigating and viewing experience.

In SmugMug, you’re able to quickly and easily view the largest size of the photo available that fits within your browser window. Click the image being viewed in an album and a sleek overlay smoothly pops into full browser view, loading the image.

SmugMug Image View

SmugMug Image View

The image below nearly filled a 1680×1050 resolution screen, making album viewing much more enjoyable and easy to skip around. Hover over the main image and you a sexy overlay slides into view with options such as photo rank, sizes, info. and downloading.

SmugMug Album View

SmugMug Album View

Albums can be individually themed, and there are quite a few to choose from. You can even completely customize themes, even to the point of providing your own custom HTML and CSS. This feature really allows users to customize nearly every detail of their albums, a huge advantage over Flickr and Picasa.

SmugMug is definitely focused on your photos, almost completely leaving out the social aspects aside from comments. You can, of course, easily share photos but exploring community photos is incredibly limited.

SmugMug Community

SmugMug Community

While some aspects of SmugMug’s overall interface could be further refined, the important aspects (your albums and photos) is very well designed. Not to mention that Picnik’s online photo editor is integrated for fast and easy photo editing, a feature Picasa lacks (Flickr also includes this). I have to say that I’m impressed with the interface features SmugMug provides, especially in its flexibility to customize it so greatly.

Photo Web Uploader

An important aspect of these services is the quality of web-based photo uploading. While all three services offer desktop tools for this task, I expect a quality web-based uploader that I can reliably access, anytime, anywhere, without issues.

Flickr’s uploader is straight forward, enhanced with JavaScript, showing each item’s progress with an overall progress bar below. The uploader handled small groups of 10+ photos with ease and uploaded photos at a relatively quick speed (not quite utilizing my full bandwidth though).

Flickr Uploader

Flickr Uploader

Picasa’s web-based uploader is… well, it’s crummy to put it nicely. Apparently you’re able to select and upload multiple photos at once using Internet Explorer. In other browsers, however, you’re limited to selecting each photo individually, up to five. This is simply unacceptable. Using their desktop software is an easy way to upload and manage your photos, although that’s not really what I want.

Picasa Uploader

Picasa Uploader

SmugMug’s web-based uploader is fantastic, featuring drag-and-drop capabilities, incredibly fast uploading speeds (utilizing my full upload bandwidth), individual image progress, time remaining and even actual upload speed. If you do need a plugin or desktop uploader, there are several to choose from.

SmugMug Uploader

SmugMug Uploader

Features and Specifications

If you’ve made it this far, you’re definitely interested in the lesser known capabilities of the three services. These will be the details that will likely be the deciding factor for those more serious photographers. I’ll do my best to include the pertinent information clearly compared.

Max Image File Upload Size

  • [Flickr] Free: 10 MB, Pro: 20 MB
  • [Picasa] Free and Paid: 20 MB
  • [SmugMug] Standard and Power: 12 MB, Pro: 24 MB

Max Image Resolution

  • [Flickr] Not listed, approximately 30 Megapixels
  • [Picasa] 50 Megapixels
  • [SmugMug] 48 Megapixels

Accepted Image Formats

  • [Flickr] .jpg, .gif, .png, .tiff (all images converted to .jpg and compressed after upload)
  • [Picasa] .jpg, .gif, .png, .bmp
  • [SmugMug] .jpg, .gif, .png

Max Video Upload Size

  • [Flickr] Free: 150 MB (Standard Definition, 90 second length), Pro: 500 MB (High Definition, 90 second length)
  • [Picasa] From Picasa software: 1 GB, from general uploader: 100 MB (Standard Definition)
  • [SmugMug] 600 MB (Power users: DVD quality, Pro users: High Definition), 10 minute length

Accepted Video Formats

  • [Flickr] .avi, .wmv, .mov, mpeg, .3gp
  • [Picasa] .3gp, .avi, .asf, .mov, .wmv, .mpg, .mp4, .m2t, .mmv, .m2ts
  • [SmugMug] Unlisted, they claim “99% of the time we can convert from whatever you upload to the ever-so-cool h.264 format”.

Flickr Pros and Cons

Due to Flickr being one of the most widely used photo storage and sharing services, there is a large variety of tools, plugins and addons for everything from uploading and downloading to viewing and integrating. Flickr provides their own desktop uploaders and many third-party upload tools are also available via Flickr’s tools page.

If you need custom integration of your photos in your website or somewhere else, Flickr will likely be the easiest way to accomplish that. Although, all three services offer an API.

Flickr converts your images to .jpg and compresses them once uploaded, not something I want done to my photos. You’re also unable to download your photos if you have a free account. You’ll need to upgrade to Pro in order to download your photos.

Flickr does provide a pretty decent selection of settings and options, although not at the level of SmugMug.

Picasa Pros and Cons

Picasa provides a high quality free desktop application for photo library management that even supports many RAW formats. Picasa offers a standalone uploader for OS X along with plugins for apps like iPhoto. Although images appear to be compressed after being uploaded, it’s only when viewing them. You’re able to download your images in their uncompressed format.

Picasa’s uploaders all seem to have issues at times uploading and downloading large sets of images. On more occasions than I can remember I’ve uploaded 50+ images, sometimes getting upload errors, and then later when I try to download the full albums it misses a few of the images. It’s quite frustrating and even happens in their dedicated software.

Unfortunately, images viewed at Picasa Web Albums look terrible. Most images, especially high resolution images, are blurry and oftentimes dull. If you have a huge number of photos, you should be aware that you’re limited to 1000 albums and 1000 photos per album.

SmugMug Pros and Cons

It’s expensive. Simply put, SmugMug is going to be a deal-breaker for many people due to the fact that it’s outright expensive. With that being said, if you’re really interested in photography and ensuring your library doesn’t suddenly vanish along with your computer one day, it’s hard to beat SmugMug.

While it is expensive, it’s also the most feature filled of the three services. Smart galleries, theming, enhanced and customizable security and privacy, and even customizable image sharpening are included in each album independently. You’re able to add custom water marks and even sell your own photos (Pro only). You can even setup your own custom domain for your albums.

Your images are displayed at top notch quality, looking simply fantastic. It’s a night and day difference in comparison to Picasa. With the optional and customizable image sharpening, photos that would be otherwise slightly blurry end up looking like they should.

They also offer what they call SmugVault, a backup service, along with their regular SmugMug photo service. These are tied together so you can upload large format images such as RAW, TIFF, PDF and PSD.

Final Thoughts

Considering there are so many features and aspects of these major services, I obviously couldn’t cover everything. They all have their strengths and weaknesses and will appeal to each person differently. With that being said, here’s my short evaluation of each.

Social, easy and with many integration options, Flickr is your Facebook of photo storage and sharing services. It’s super affordable, very well designed and, from what I’ve experienced of the web interface, functions very well. While it will do the job for professionals, there are other options available that would offer more power, control and features.

Barebones and minimalistic, Picasa might be best suited for those looking for something basic or an easy and affordable location for photo library storage. For Google users, it might just be an easy choice, especially for those who’ve already purchased additional Google Storage. Of the three services, Picasa would have to be placed in last place. The strength of Google has made it a contender but it has many weaknesses that will need to be addressed before it will be on par with Flickr or SmugMug.

Although it needs design refinements in several areas, SmugMug is a top choice for anyone serious about photography. It’s definitely not a service that outpaces Flickr for beginners or intermediates but it’s clear that SmugMug isn’t focused towards people looking for a free or really cheap solution. Lacking the impressive community integration of Flickr or even the mediocre community integration of Picasa, you’ll really only want to choose SmugMug if you’re more focused on your photos than sharing them with millions of strangers. Photo viewing and album customization are the areas SmugMug really shines.

Your Thoughts? Questions?

Over the last few weeks I’ve asked people what their choices were. The large majority said Flickr. Many people didn’t know Picasa had slightly better file size features. The more experienced photographers were split between Flickr and SmugMug.

So what about you? What do you use and why? Thanks for sharing!

There’s a lot of information here, and there’s a lot of information that wasn’t included. If you have any questions about one service vs another, please ask in the comments below. I’ll do my best to answer every one!

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Add Yours
  • Nice review! Although Picasa WebAlbums is minimalistic, you can integrate it nicely in a website using the pwi album api. This way you an customize the looks of the gallery to blend into your website.


    • All three have a great API to be able to do that. I don’t believe you can retrieve a full sized image from Picasa’s API though.

  • just yesterday I was looking at alternatives to picasa and flickr, and foud snapixel and divvyshot.

    • I’ll definitely have to do a roundup of Picasa and Flickr alternatives because there are some really nice ones out there, like the ones you’ve mentioned. :-)

  • IMO Zenfolio is the Vimeo of photo sites. I still use Flickr for the superior social features, but if you need a pro features Zenfolio is it. Of course it comes at a price…I pay for their highest service which is $99/year.

    • Fantastic! They also support TIFF images and tons of really great features. I think I’ll have to do a full review of their service. 😉 Thanks!

  • Good review, but sorry you wasted your time. The best service is clearly Phanfare which you failed to cover. Cleanest user interface, excellent iPhone app, extremely responsive customer service, and best set of features.

    • Well, it was’t really a waste of time as the review was covering three of the most popular services. Thanks for suggesting Phanfare though, I’ll definitely take a look.

    • No ability to organize your overall website with anything other than Chronological grouping, i.e., groups albums by year as in 2011, 2010, 2009, etc. Within the albums from a specific year your choice is to store the albums oldest first or newest first, not alphabetical or any other user specified way. The only way to have a grouping of your choosing, e.g., “Family photos”, or “Travel photos” is to create sub-sites (see above comment) but your viewers cannot see all of your sub-sites in any one place. What that means is if you create a lot of albums and give access to your website to a family member or a friend, they’ll have to read through all of your albums in chronological order to find the one they want vs being able to go to “Travel” for pictures from your trip to France 5 years ago or “Family” to see pictures from a grandchild’s birthday party. Within each sub-site the organization is again grouped by year. This is a big drawback if you create a lot of albums and will most likely be the reason I leave Phanfare; I have been asking Phanfare to provide user-defined organization for the last 5 years.
      – Does not allow importing of RAW format unless you purchase RAW storage blocks for $24.99 per 10GB per year on top of your subscription rate
      – Online help tools are not good and customer service help is terrible.

      My recommendation is “Yes” try it if you don’t care about personalizing how your albums are organized / displayed on your website because all the other features are great.

      My recommendation is “no” don’t try it if you have a lot of albums and you want to organize by anything other than date/year

  • You really should have talked about Divvyshot. It is really a high end photo sharing service. Can’t understand you only talked about these 3 services. 😉

    • Divvyshot is a really promising service but has some maturing to do before competing with Flickr and others. Although I do really like the 30 MB upload file size limit.

  • All three have a terrible UI, seriously… One thing I like about Flickr is unlimited storage, and lifetime backups (even if you switch to free plan), but I hate the 90 second video limit.

    • chekc this one out it’s the best

  • I use SmugMug to share photos with real friends and family, Flickr to share with all the strangers out there and Facebook, yes, Facebook when I want my not-so-close friends and acquaintances to take a look at my pics. There. And congrats on a superbly well written review of these fine photo-sharing sites.

    • same here :)
      i added them all up to my Cloudkafe account so i’ll be able to log in just once and manage them all from a single platform.

  • i will go with flickr anytime.. i am a web developer and fond so many extensions built for flickr.. i can create my own photo empire with flickr.. and i dont trust google for this..

  • QUESTION: under the Max Image File Upload Size for these 3 photo sharing sites, you say sizes 10, 12, 20 and 24MB per image-
    do u mean the file size of the photo, as it stands as a compressed jpg, or, is this limit meaning the actual size of the photo like when it is opened up in photoshop??
    For instance a Canon camera takes a photo set at the highest quality jpeg compression that is say a 2.2MB file, but in Photoshop it opens up full at 24MB- so I couldn’t use Flickr because it’s max size is 20MB ?? Please clarify

    • It’s the final file size uploaded to the service. :)

      • so, you mean in the 2.2MB jpeg file that comes out of the Canon camera that I mentioned in my last sentence, that this is the file size that matters when I go to upload it- not the 24MB size that the photo actually opens up to.

  • Hi! Thanks so much for an awesome review! I’ve recently started using picasa, but was debating between that and Flickr. I actually find Picasa very useful, being that I like the folder structure to photos and the desktop software is nice for Mac. Picasa is nice if you’re a strong user of Google apps, which I really use a lot.

    I really like the more hip, social feel to Flickr, but I find that it is more for the hobby photographer to share with the world. Sharing photos from saturday’s bbq isn’t quite as easy to do with Flickr since you have to organize in sets, etc. It looks cool when people post their profile link and you can see their photostream, though.

    I’ll be looking into SmugMug once I get more serious about photography!


  • I am looking for a way to gather photos for an elementary school yearbook. Any Suggestions?
    I need to be able to:
    1. download photos by folder or set in bulk in original resolution.
    2. any parent must be able to easily upload photos to the site (with a password)
    3. Photos are organized by grade, by teacher or by event

    we used flickr last year and used flickr down to download each set in bulk. Flickr no longer allows “flickrdown”.

    I would love any advice. Thanks

    • Hi,
      Did you find any answers … as I was also interested in finding a photosharing website for the reasons you also needed –
      Regarding your post:
      I am looking for a way to gather photos for an elementary school yearbook. Any Suggestions?
      I need to be able to:
      1. download photos by folder or set in bulk in original resolution.
      2. any parent must be able to easily upload photos to the site (with a password)
      3. Photos are organized by grade, by teacher or by event

      we used flickr last year and used flickr down to download each set in bulk. Flickr no longer allows “flickrdown”.

      I would love any advice. Thanks

      • Try Shutterfly for the site. You can password protect, send messages to everyone who has joined the group, add pictures and many other things and it is free. That is what my sons homeroom parent has set up for us. I also have one for our baseball team. Very simple and basic.

  • I am also looking for the best site to organize yearbook photos. I am actually looking to do the same things that Deirdre King would like to do (posting before me).

    Would love any advice that you could give.


  • I have been using Phanfare for 4 years and it has worked very well. I can set up albums and share them with different groups of my friends and family. Unfortunately, they announced that they are doubling the subscription fee to $99/year, so I am hunting for an alternative. I think I’ll check out SmugMug, and maybe Zenfolio, Divvyshot and Snapixel.

    I just need a site that has unlimited storage, doesn’t compress the pictures and won’t go out of business in a year.

  • From what I know, Flickr does not compress your photos if you upload them in JPG. The original file and quality are retained. Only RAW and TIFF formats are compressed. I can’t seem to find a reliable source for this.

  • I wonder if some of this content may have been stolen, it’s found everywhere on the internet and various peoples websites, unless you’re the original maker?

    • I was the original writer. Many of the screenshots are taken of my own photos, haha.

  • I sure wish flickr would let you upload camera raw photos (.CRW)

    I now face the daunting task of figuring out how to upload 30,000+ raw photos. And yes, I know I should post process first. Thank you.

  • Thanks for this post, I will give SMugMug another shot now…

  • Your review is really good thanks for that as I’m currently looking at online storage. One thing you failed to cover is online syncing. Picasso is the only software which allows two way syncing. With Flickr you cannot check what you have uploaded, so causes a problem over time.

    Not taking away from your review but just wanted to add that in case others were looking at the same thing.

  • A critical point not discussed – Terms of Service! Do I retain ownership? Does the site have permission to access and gather data (as Google is famous for)? Can I competely delete my account and contents at any time?

    Privacy and information hygiene has gone by the wayside it seems…

  • Smugmug is the best online sharing photo tool I ever used.
    Beside the fact that it stores your photos in full size and that it offers really unlimited storage, it can be upgraded with tons of community tools (upload from right click, …).
    It starts at 39.95$/year for non professional accounts, but even at 39.95 it is really unlimited storage.
    Living 6000km from my family, smugmug is a must have to share moments in pictures, also as a part time professional photographer smugmug has been very useful sharing and promoting my work.

    You can even use this coupon on the smugmug coupon field in the sign up form to get 5$ off the price : 7Ppmk1PbRiBVQ

    – Full size pictures
    – Really unlimited storage
    – Great themes
    – Easy to use
    – Nice interface
    – Community creating addons (upload from right click, screensavers…)

    – It is not a photo backup tool as you cannot bulk restore photos from galleries, you have to order DVDs from smugmug.

  • Thank you for taking the time to write such a comprehensive and helpful review!!! It was exactly what I was looking for.

  • I’m a pro user of smugmug and I love it. I mostly love it for the privacy settings. You can make passwords for individual photos or you can make a password for your entire collection. It works well when I want my family to see one album or friends (ONLY) to see another album.

    I was looking into other options because of the price ($60/yr), but it does look like these other ones have such detailed privacy settings.

    Plus, unless the others blow smugmug out of the water, I don’t think I’ll ever change – simply for the fact that I have 30,000 organized photos in there.

  • One aspect not covered in your review was the printing services that accompany each photo-sharing site. I use SmugMug to share pictures with my family and friends and am generally happy with the service – I love way it presents my pictures. But… it is frustrating when people want to order prints of my pictures – the only service available is US based and we are European… ZenFolio offers UK based prinitng as does Flickr.

  • Thanks for the thorough review. I was biased toward Flickr at first but think i may just have to pony up for the Smug Mug. Great review.

  • Thanks for the wonderful comparison. I see that you mainly use these sites for photo-sharing. What if ‘selling’ photos is the prime objective? Which is the best service and do they get really sold here?

    Actually I run my own website giving away high resolution images for free( But I exploring ideas to selling my high resolution images, say at smug mug, and still keep the low resolution versions of the same image free on my site. Just wanted to know if smugmug is a good option for such goals?

  • I mostly love it for the privacy settings. You can make passwords for individual photos or you can make a password for your entire collection.!!

  • One important notice for travelers – Picasa is BLOCKED in China (same as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc.). Flickr is not blocked and can be used and shared in China (and I am not sure about Smugmug).

    • I have lived in Shanghai for 15 years. Picassa is not blocked and neither are SmugMug or Flikr (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter are but easily accessed via a VPN).

  • My concise “review” comment (sorry about the length, just ignore if you don’t want a “brief” review of my experience and thoughts):

    Anyone coming across this review now days – July 2011 – should note that not everything said here is still true. For instance, more features are available now in the Smugmug Basic (as well as the other levels) than was the case at the time of this writing. For one, max file size is now 24MB, not 12. Obviously this is the nature of such reviews, but still, it’s worth checking things out thoroughly yourself before making any decisions. That is not to say this was not a fantastic post – just that time changes things. : )

    I have and use all three. In my experience, I much prefer Smugmug. Even at the Basic level, everything is so much classier than Flickr, and there are more and better options than Picasa. If you give another $20 a year and get the Power level membership, it’s exponentially better still. Personally, I get tired of the Flickr site – it’s a big jumbled, busy, annoying mess IMO, and I have the PRO account (and OCD, so…). I love the minimalist look and feel of Picasa Web and am excited to see what happens along with the further development of Google+. Still, in the end, I find myself using and enjoying Smugmug most. I don’t dislike any of the services really, I just prefer Smugmug overall.

    Flickr: Great for it’s social aspects and putting a Flickr Feed in your blog (of course, that feed can prove annoying when you start digging into permissions, etc.). If after looking at all the options you are going to go with Flickr, just shell out the $25 and get the Pro – it’s worth it.

    Picasa: Good – and not forced – integration with Picasa desktop (which is also a good little program, particularly for people tired of iPhoto, etc.). Minimalist, for the most part (which I love), with a number a great features, though many of those you have to dig around for. Great integration – obviously – with other google services.

    Smugmug: IMO, the cream of the crop. And despite what others say, NOT only for pros or photophiles. I suggested it to my sister-in-law a couple years ago, and she doesn’t take advantage of any of the so-called power or pro features – she uses it just as she previously used Flickr – and she loves it and uses it solely to this day. You get what you pay for, and the features, freedom, style and power of Smugmug is definitely worth the price, even if you just go with Basic. Also, there are so many gallery-specific themes, customization options available, and so forth that I can make it look just how I like. I can even utilize my own URL and site at the Power and Pro levels and do whatever I want with it all.

    Here’s how it has worked out for me: I started with Picasa awhile ago, and then moved to Flickr because…well…everyone has Flickr. I got Flickr Pro and it works fine. I put a photostream feed on my blog and it looks great, except dealing with permissions can make it annoying depending on what you want who to see, and so forth (but that is goal dependent). With the coming of Google+ I have started using Picasa Web again, and am rethinking my photo storage and organization. Because this is too long already, I’ll just say this: I have found a happy place by using Dropbox (or something similar) as one desktop/cloud organization and back-up solution; Picasa Desktop as a place to quickly see in a visual way everything on my desktop/Dropbox (I only have it look at my Dropbox photo folder and not all the little icons and album covers, etc.); Picasa Web as a place to put a limited number of hand-selected photos to have available for quick sharing and storage via my google apps (I almost never sync Picasa Web and Picasa Desktop); and Smugmug as my overall online photo gallery and storage, organization, manipulation, sharing and general photo interaction. Despite the appeal and ubiquity of Flickr, I have no need for it in my scheme. It’s not that I don’t like it, so much as I ultimately have not used it as much as these other options. In fact, I find that the only thing – given how I use it – that I miss is the photostream feeds, but as I said, they have proven frustrating for me.

    Of course, this is just one person’s example. Everything depends on how you plan on going about things. If you are into the social aspect of Flickr, your decision is made for you. If you are enveloped in Google, Picasa might be best. If you like power and control, quality and style, Smugmug is definitely the way to go. The last thing I’ll say is that while it is popular to say that Smugmug is only for power or pro users or photophiles, I don’t believe that is the case. At least try it out – take the time to really understand it – and you will likely be very impressed. Again, I know tons of people who LOVE it and who would never consider themselves to be anything more than an amateur.

    Sorry again for the length. Hope that helps someone.

    • Thanks for the extensive comment! This post is over a year old, and the world of web apps changes so fast that articles can get wildly out of date in no time. I’m sure readers will find your comment helpful; thanks again!

    • I second Matthew’s kudos. How did you know that I would be looking for this information 17 months after the original posting? :-)

      I “played” a bit with SmugMug today before I found your review and had pretty much reached the same conclusions. It seems to fit really well with what I’m wanting to do with photos and videos.

      Thanks for helping to reinforce those feelings.

    • Absolutely agree 110%…SmugMug is the cream of the crop. Almost an embarrassment to try and compare SmugMug to either Flickr or Picasa.

  • Spot i’ll carry on with this write-up, I seriously think this excellent website requirements much more consideration. I’ll more likely be once again to see a lot more, appreciate your that info.

  • Thank you very much for shedding such a bright light on this important subject. Am going with smugmug.

  • Scenario – if something happens to you, and you can no longer pay Smugmug or Flickr pro, what happens to your photos? Do they take ownership? Delete your photos? Just curious. I have read that the owner has the rights to his/her photos, but what happens if you leave the service? I hear Facebook owns everything you upload, which is why I would never use them, thanks.
    Ps – great review, very informative

  • Which of the three is the best for archiving pictures?

  • Thanks for the article…How about other photo services like Shutter Stock. Wont it be a good idea to share pics on Shutter stock, use them on your sites and earn a few bucks in referral if people go and subscribe for shutter stock services.

  • A point fennis brought up way back on February 25th was the Terms of Service. I was all set to go pro with Flickr until I read them, literally in mid-payment. In a nutshell, the statements alluded to sharing my payment information with all of Yahoo’s partners scared me off. i am probably extra sensitive after a couple of bad experiences with Yahoo, so this was a deal-breaker for me,. Too bad because I do like how the service operates, but I’ll check out some of the other poster’s suggestions and SmugMug too.

    Thanks for a great review.

  • I was looking for a service to upload some photos so I found this review interesting, had never heard of smugmug before. I’ve never used a service where you share photos before so this review has helped but never mentions copyrites. Will the photos still be mine and what happens if someone uses them?
    If I dont want anyone using my best photos for any of their projects and stuff, what should I do? I’d like my family to see the photos though. Any ideas?

  • I use SmugMug power account. Its the best. I also use flickr and picasa, both paid. But i am deeply disappointed with Picasa. Being a Google company its horrible. You cannot move more then 100 photos at a time from one album to other. You cannot have more then 1000 photos in one album. There is not Gallery>albums kind of two or three level hierarchy. All are flat albums. Now with instant uploads from google plus, it creates more confusing albums every week. And when you have to move photos, it list all 1000+ albums as flat browse list. You are not alphabetical. So you cannot find it easily. There is no search to narrow.
    You cannot download your own movies. Only photos can be downloaded or sych to desktop picasa.
    Lots of bugs in Picasa. Horrible site and no updates for last 5yrs. An orphan portal from Google where they are not putting any development efforts.

  • If you’re serious about your photography, or even somewhat serious, the only choice of the three is SmugMug. End of conversation.

  • This was incredibly helpful, thanks for the advice!

  • Great review, even a year later. I have just potentially lost my iPhoto library thanks to greedy Apple’s lousy iPhoto 11. I have various backups that are potentially corrupted, as iPhoto 11 seems to have wormed it’s way into my external hard drive.

    Anyway, this was the second time that I read a reference to Smug Mug and am looking forward to checking it out. It seems that we need some reliable photo storage and organization solutions, especially for people that aren’t so interested in showing their photo libraries to strangers.

    Thank you for the quality review and the quality comments. It’s not often you run across an article that sums everything up as well as you have. Well done!

  • Anyone used Snapfish or Shutterfly for their portfolio? Just wondered if it works as well.

  • You might want to check your facts on Smugmug Pro account. You said..
    “At their base plan, $39.95 per year, you get unlimited storage and traffic with absolutely no ads (or spam). You don’t get video upload capabilities though and you’re limited to 12 MB file size per photo, unlike Flickr and Picasa sporting a 20 MB limit (Flickr Pro) and at least basic video upload options.”

    On Smugmug’s site it says…
    Power and Pro subscribers can add unlimited numbers of true Hi-Def video clips, each up to 20 minutes long.


  • My main issue is ownership. I understand that Picasa and Flickr both retain a parallel copyright to your images and can do with your photos whatever they please. so if you are trying to sell images to the world, your website owner is competing with you. I have asked SmugMug if they keep a copy of the image in a parallel or duplicate copyright and they do not. I have asked them this three times three different ways, and the answer is no, the images are all yours. Read the fine print on Picasa’s “agreement” and weep, you just gave all your best images away.

  • Nice article. You might want to update the pricing information though, as things have changed.

  • I’ve been using SmugMug Pro for over 6 years now and I’ve never found a better hosting and proofing site for my business. They have added so many features over the past few years that have truly made it the best and most professional site out there to use for online proofing for a photography business. My clients always comment how incredibly easy it is to order prints and how well organized the system is. I would highly recommend SmugMug for any professional photographer looking to host their photos online for their clients to view! If you are signing up, be sure to use a $5 off coupon code: 7g9e01Kk2OUDM

  • Nice review and very helpful. I had been looking for online photo storage for the past year or so. There were so many companies, I really got overwhelmed with the choices. I have used Flickr but found the community aspect not what I really wanted. I have used PicasaWebAlbums for the past several years and have been pleased with sharing part, but the storage part was a little confusing. This past weekend I used SmugMug for the first time. Our church did a photography project with several contributors. I was very pleased with the quick upload and the look of my pictures in the program. Since I need to press every button to figure out how things worked–I did just that and was very pleased. I think I might do the free trial and see how I like it. Your review was very helpful and well researched. Thanks!

  • Great information, my best friend is a wedding photographer and she saves all her clients images on an external drive. I think that’s a disaster waiting to happen, I will tell her about this post and SmugMug, I think she should look into it.

  • Even though this is a very old post it was still very informative. I would love if you did an updated story, please let me know if you do.