Home > business, smugmug > PCworld.ca: Letter to the Editor

PCworld.ca: Letter to the Editor

January 1, 2007

PCworld.ca had a story about digital photos a few days ago. I was stoked to hear that we were in it. I wasn’t so stoked, however, once I discovered that our involvement was limited to two sentences because we have a “hefty monthly fee” and “lagging print quality,” of all things!

I whipped off a letter to the editor using their form submission thing, and waited for the reply. Since none has been forthcoming, and I’m getting emails about the article, I thought I’d repost the email I sent them here:

Hi Paul,

I’m the CEO and Chief Geek at SmugMug, and I couldn’t help noticing that we were unfairly excluded from your review. I’m hoping I can set the record straight.

You mentioned a “hefty monthly fee” and “lagging print quality” specifically, which raised our eyebrows. A SmugMug subscription with unlimited storage is $39.95 per year, or $3.33 per month. Hardly hefty. 🙂

As for the print quality, we’re renowned in the industry for having the best prints around, bar none. We certainly won’t win on price, but you get what you pay for. We have tens of thousands of professional photographers who build their businesses on SmugMug. As you can imagine, when you’re shooting a wedding or selling multi-hundred dollar prints of Yosemite, the print quality has to be pristine.

As a result, we conduct blind “taste tests” of various printers (10 at last count, including all of those listed in your review) every year. What’s more, we publish the results for all to see, and they’re widely distributed on the net. Some of our competitors have personally thanked us for publishing the results, since it helped them select their own printing partners. You can see for yourself:


We use a top-of-the-line professional lab in Georgia called EZPrints at the moment, since they’ve consistently won the “taste test” for 3 years running, but we’re committed to print quality at all costs. Ask any of our customers, or try a Google search for ‘SmugMug print quality’, or better yet, order some prints and see for yourself.

I hope that sets the record straight, and by all means, holler if you have any other questions about our service. Hopefully we can make it into the next one!



So there you have it. I wish were were fairly compared in the article, but alas, it wasn’t to be.

National Geographic and MacWorld seem to like us well enough, though, and we were even in The New York Times today, so I suppose I can’t complain. 🙂

Not that I really have to remind you, but if you DO email the editor at PCworld.ca yourself, please be polite. They’re only human, just like the rest of us.

Happy New Year everyone! Here’s to a great 2007!

Categories: business, smugmug
  1. January 2, 2007 at 6:57 am

    Hey Don –

    Great response to PC World – hopefully they’ll print the letter in the next issue.

    With regard to the “taste test”, now that we’re in 2007 the results of a 2003 test (“Over a three-month period ending November, 2003…”) feel that much more dated. Are there plans in the works for an updated taste test?

    And of course, as has been often discussed in the online SM forum, the lack of “new product offerings” from EZ Prints is curious – especially when outfits like mpix are sending emails every other week showcasing their new print products! Seems that EZ Prints should be feeling some pressure to get on the ball for fear of losing what has to be a huge account!

  2. January 2, 2007 at 10:17 am

    You make a great point Ryan, about updating the Taste Test. We’ll do that. We repeated the test in 2006, and it’s our fault for not updating the page.

    One tidbit of note: we processed over 140,000 orders in 2006; less than 1/4 or 1 percent came back to us in the form of returns for quality reasons. I like those numbers 🙂

    Yep – regarding products…. We’re working as hard as possible to bring out: Photobooks, calendars, canvas prints, and a big selection of fine art papers as well. We have a full-time developer assigned to the user interface stuff. I wish I had a definitive answer on when these things will be done, but I don’t – but it’s a huge priority for us!

  3. Someone_Somewhere
    January 15, 2007 at 3:23 pm

    Actually, Club Photo smokes all the other wholesale fulfillment print manufacturers (yes, including ezprints) when it comes to print quality. A major competitor of yours commissioned a very expensive study. Another CP customer also did a comparison and CP won over EZ. Make sure you ask for the CP profile – don’t uck about with your own. The ezprints former COO went to work at Club Photo. Now, and for a few years, the club photo consumer site is a POS. Their manufacturing facility is not a pristine lab either but the guy who runs the lab is a pro. Hey SmugMug…Call Darren. He’d love your business. You know who I’m talking about. I’m not a CP employee. Good for you using Amazon S3 service. Club should have done this a couple years ago for the B2C stuff. They didn’t. What does that tell everyone about CP B2C biz? Need someone to run your new products? write me.

  4. January 15, 2007 at 3:25 pm


    Sorry, man, but we used Club Photo for a year or so, and they had substandard quality when compared to EZPrints and a few others in the Taste Test.

    Our testing and our customers agree: Club Photo isn’t up to snuff.

  5. Someone_Somewhere
    January 16, 2007 at 10:18 am

    I don’t think that Imagestation and DotPhoto would agree with you. 🙂


  6. January 16, 2007 at 10:55 am

    Yeah, but are dotPhoto and ImageStation even relevant anymore? Look at their traffic compared to ours.

    We never hear about either company anymore. They’re fairly small.


  7. Someone_Somewhere
    January 17, 2007 at 2:57 am

    Sweet! Nice to see you guys rocking! I’ve always liked your site. Again, great move going to Amazon.
    I punched in Club just to see how their B2C was doing.
    LOL. I bet PhotoTLC is really really happy they bought the ever declining customer base back last December! Club should have sold off its B2C back two years ago to Sony. I wonder what it’s worth today. haha.
    If you do PMA I’ll come introduce myself. Can’t really do it in the forum.

  8. Simon Richardson
    January 19, 2007 at 5:19 am

    3.33 usd a month is a hefty fee if you find –as I did– that SmugMug can’t accept any of your pictures!

    The problem? Smugmug’s 8mb file size limit! Something you keep quiet about until its too late! 8 mb is hardly generous considering the average modern camera snaps at 10 mp a pic, excluding post processing!

    So never mind lagging print quality, SmugMug suffers from seriously lagging file size limit.

    Are you aware that 12 mb point-and-shoot cameras are coming out in 2007?

    As for your comment elsewhere, that SmugMug spends all its time listening to its customers. Oh sure! I’ve been begging your people to simply give me an annual storage limit and forget the individual 8 mb size limit. But no can do. Instead your boys want me to degrade my pics quality first.

    Worse, to date none of your people can even tell me how to squeeze my pictures under your 8 mb file size. They don’t know.


    Meanwhile you’ve still got 40 dollars of my money.

    You should be less smug about your product, and more proactive in listening to your customers.

  9. January 19, 2007 at 11:51 am

    Hi Simon – I’m the one who has been corresponding with you via our help desk on this. We’ve asked our community on Dgrin for help as well – and as usual, they’ve come through 🙂 Please be sure and look at the info in that posting. I also had asked some more questions of you in my latest email – I’ll re-send it to you.

    Bottom line – yes cameras are becoming huge, megapixel-wise. And we’ll evolve and grow as the cameras do. FWIW, I shoot professionally with a 16megapixel Canon 1Ds Mark II and my jpgs that I upload to SmugMug are routinely (nearly always!) under 8mb. This doesn’t mean we won’t closely watch this 8mb situation, and adjust as needed. We crave the sort of input you’ve given us – and we thank you for it!

    In the meantime, so that there’s no trouble for you in uploading, I’ve made your account a pro account, so you can upload your files. Please do reply to my email, so we can work out your workflow together! Thanks 🙂

  10. January 19, 2007 at 12:00 pm

    Thanks Andy.

    I think it’s important to note, too, that we do offer a 16MB limit on the Pro accounts, and that an 8 megapixel (8mpix) camera doesn’t generate 8 megabyte (8MB) images. The two measurements aren’t correlated like that.

    What camera are you shooting with? No point-and-shoot camera on earth I’m aware of generates any images >8MB, and most DSLRs don’t either.


  11. October 8, 2007 at 3:33 pm

    I was telling a friend today about how much I loved smugmug today, and his reply to me was that it wouldn’t work for him because of this file size limit issue. He often shoots in RAW mode for his B/W images and saves these in 16 bit format. the files easily go over the 8MB limit. He also produces large high-resolution panoramas which exceed this limit.

    For me, 8MB is plenty for my dSLR but any advice on what to tell my friend?


  12. October 8, 2007 at 4:21 pm


    First of all, Standard and Power users are limited to 12MB, not 8MB, and Pros are limited to 24MB.

    Secondly, there are no websites that support 16 bits per color per pixel for one simple reason: No web browsers can display those photos. All photos displayable in a web browser are 8 bits per color per pixel.

    We support images up to 48Mpix in size, which is enormous, and 24MB per photo is likewise enormous for 8bit JPEGs. I have a really hard time believing your friend’s photos can’t fit in those limitations, but if they can’t, I’d love to hear about it so we can fix it.

    • Harrison
      August 5, 2009 at 3:07 am

      Sorry to "necro" this thread, but I routinely have JPEGs in the 50 meg range. Admittedly, that's from a 5D mkII 21mpixel beast with images going from RAW into Photoshop, then worked, bringing tif or psd files into the 100-200 meg size range…which JPEGs them down into the 50 meg and lower range. Has the 24 meg limit changed?

      Much of my work is/will be aimed squarely at expectations of high detail 20"X30"+ sizes, and I've run into this as I conduct my own shootout…which is down to Photoshelter, Zenfolio, and you guys.

  13. January 8, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    good luck

  14. January 10, 2009 at 4:17 am

    good luck

  15. extinction-levepb6
    January 15, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    Warning: mysql_connect() [function.mysql-connect]: Can’t connect to MySQL server on ‘localhost’ (10048) in C:\AppServ\www\megadorgen\config.php on line 5
    Can’t Connect

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