The Joy of Photography.

As many of you know, one of my lifelong passions is photography. Primarily using “still” cameras, though I do like to wade in the tepid waters of digital video. I was a very early adopter of one of the first photo-sharing social network-ish sites, Flickr. Then I played with Shutterfly,the original Ofoto (now owned by Kodak for Kodak Gallery), Google’s Picasa, Photo Bucket and a handful of others.

The Namib Desert - Namibia in Western Africa

Looking out over the Namib Desert in Namibia, Africa.

While I’m sure I have orphaned accounts at many of these online photo-sharing/archiving resources, I’ve finally committed my mind, resources and soon many more images to SmugMug. Why? It’s simply the most clean, user friendly and singularly-focused photo sharing/photo-hosting service available. Unlike most of the others, it’s not free. And this is a perfect adage of you get what you pay for. Beyond the simple fact that pages aren’t cluttered with Google or AdSense or other advertising, the site provides loads of flexibility. For those pushing toward the professional side of their photography hobby, or are photo professionals, SmugMug gives you an easy way to sell your images.

This brief post isn’t meant to be a comprehensive review of SmugMug versus the other major photo-sharing services. Rather it’s simply a day of enlightenment for me with regard to a feature I just discovered. You see SmugMug let’s you post full-size, full-resolution and even RAW images on its site. And there’s not limit to your disk space. You get unlimited storage with even the basic entry-level subscription. That’s all good, but what happens when you need to restore images that you might have lost or accidentally destroyed? Sure, all of these services will let you download an image at a time. And some may offer a free app that might allow batch downloading. There’s even a freeware utility for Windows that allows access to SmugMug images for batch download and uploading. But there’s a batter way.

SmugMug galleries, like photo albums, and the coordinate membership account are fully accessible through SmugMug’s WebDAV server. For those less technically minded or with no interest in wandering down the complicated path of computer/internet techno-jargon, a WebDAV server simply means that the directory or location where a subscriber’s images are stored can be mounted like a disk on the desktop of your computer — PC or Macintosh. This has been the underlying enabling technology behind Apple’s Dot Mac (.Mac), now branded as MobileMe — for the Mac readers here: think iDisk. Even better, these WebDAV directories are accessible using WebDAV compatible FTP clients like Transmit.

So when a friend asked if I could simply put on disk a collection of photographs that I had posted on SmugMug, I struggled to find the actual final selections on my desktop computer. I use Apple’s Aperture for photo management, but I couldn’t find an “album” of the 69 photos I had selected from an initial universe of 741. I panicked. Short of time and yet committed to fulfilling my promise to ship the CD of those 69 photos today, I searched for methods to download the entire 69 images. At first it seemed I would have to individually right-click and download each image. That’d take too long. That’s when I uncovered the WebDAV info in SmugMug’s Wiki Support Page.

Voila. I mounted a “virtual disk” on my desktop computer, navigated to the images I needed to burn on disk for my friend, and dragged them into a folder on my desktop. A few minutes later I was done. I browsed through the SmugMug directory mounted as a disk on my computer and was relieved. All of my photos were easily available. No hassles. Some of these services would rather you simply take advantage of ordering photos on disk, prints, books or otherwise hold you hostage to your own images. Or require you to use some poorly executed software program or widget. Not SmugMug. It’s simple, easy and effective. I guess just not very well documented.

Hey if you do ever decide to move to SmugMug – here’s a $5 discount code just enter nCr22MTXQEXrA on this form under “coupon/e-mail”. Yes! I will get a kickback. But you still save. Or, Get Unlimited photo storage- Take A FREE Trial of Smugmug.