Well it seems it is time to move away from SmugMug as they have required me to lock…

13 Aug 2012 admin In G+ Posts

Well it seems it is time to move away from SmugMug as they have required me to lock down my more mature content with passwords only and it is no longer searchable. Technically they locked them down and sent me an email that it does not seem I ever received or missed …. went there today to find the galleries locked. Probably explains why I get zero sales and zero traffic from SmugMug….

I will admit that I should have been a bit more on top of watching the site so me not finding out about it sooner is my fault. I like to setup a site and leave it alone.

That sadly makes sales on the site pretty much impossible for me…. as I was counting on the traffic there to help me get my work out there.

*What are others doing?* 

And are you trying to sell or promote mature content?

I think I will just stick to my own site and hope people find it…  or my friends site www.hotpicsdirect.com for the mature content.

Not really sure what else to do other than that…. I have had multiple sites now that open with one set of rules and then change based on complaints etc.. I am fully aware this is a niche market in comparison and that is each sites prerogative, but in the end I am just tired of finally figuring out a site then having to move on…. it is getting old..

Comments: 30

  1. Leif Sikorski 13 Aug 2012 Reply

    Well, DeviantArt has a horrible webdesign in my opinion but at least they have always been open for art in general. Their solution is a simple mature filter people can turn on and off – I wish all sites, including G+, would have that. They've also a shop for prints.

  2. Brent Burzycki 13 Aug 2012 Reply

    +Leif Sikorski have you sold stuff there? do you know the %'s 

  3. Leif Sikorski 13 Aug 2012 Reply

    +Brent Burzycki Sorry, no idea what percentage they take. Just remember a podcast with one of the people there are some months ago and the partner of an old friend is hosting some of his work there (http://sacredbone.deviantart.com/gallery/). But actually he's not selling prints there as far as I know. 

  4. Brent Burzycki 13 Aug 2012 Reply

    Hmm… Time for me to start looking……

  5. Leif Sikorski 13 Aug 2012 Reply

    A little update. Found this.
    So by default you get 20% but the prices are a bit cheap for prints. As Premium Member you can set your own prices to get way more. 
    If I saw it correctly premium membership is 30$ a year.

  6. Brent Burzycki 13 Aug 2012 Reply

    Well they said they sent one email a month or so ago… I never got it or I would have probably canceled my account then as without it I have no use for the service…

  7. Brent Burzycki 13 Aug 2012 Reply

    Yearly membership 150……………. They did happily send me a renewal reminder that I did get in an email a few days ago and that's what started of of this…..

  8. Mark Vandenwauver 13 Aug 2012 Reply

    Have you looked at 500px?

  9. John Livingston 13 Aug 2012 Reply

    +Brent Burzycki The link in your post is bad. Typo?

  10. Leif Sikorski 13 Aug 2012 Reply

    +John Livingston 500px just seem to sell high priced canvas prints (about 200$) and downloads or? 

  11. Brent Burzycki 13 Aug 2012 Reply

    +J. Rae Chipera I doubt they have changed but they were never clear and when i asked I never got a straight answer 3 years ago when i joined….

    +Mark Vandenwauver I have and I am on there and they offer two sales options.. 2.99 a shot for personal use and over 200 bucks for a canvas huge print…

    +John Livingston seems it is…. and it seems the site is down also.. wow – this is a full fail mode sunday …

  12. Mike Keller 13 Aug 2012 Reply

    Brent, use your own site as a gateway and post the password on your site. No, it won't be publicly searchable, but people will be able to find your stuff and browse it and buy it. Just put a good selection on your own site, and hell, use the same password for all the galleries.

  13. Brent Burzycki 13 Aug 2012 Reply

    +Mike Keller I have found unless you can buy in pretty much one click you lose the sale….

  14. Brent Burzycki 13 Aug 2012 Reply

    Well that is not the best user experience I have had lately… I cancelled my SumgMug account and it immediately cancelled – It did not remain open till the end of my subscription, and did not offer an options to purge all data… and makes no mention of either in the closing email…

    Hmm… that is slightly annoying.. maybe I will see a pro-rated refund for the time I had left…

  15. Leif Sikorski 13 Aug 2012 Reply

    That's really bad. Usually it shouldn't longer extend the subscription but dropping the  time you still had left is horrible.

  16. Brent Burzycki 13 Aug 2012 Reply

    +Leif Sikorski I am not sure what is going on at this point.. seems like a strange way to handle things….

  17. Brent Burzycki 13 Aug 2012 Reply

    And in reply to the support email I sent in.. they offer no refunds on time left on a subscription. No warning that it ends immediately, and no way to know if my data has been removed.

    Well I sadly think my decission to leave was now the right one – hopefully I can find an alternative to +SmugMug 

    A better exit experience might have had me actually consider coming back, not likely now…. too bad with so many here that have reccomended smugmug to me… +Trey Ratcliff +Frederick Van Johnson +Scott Jarvie , I guess I would have expected more than just one email I never seemed to get before images were locked away and then I was asked for a renewal. Maybe a second email… a reminder that my images were locked etc…

    I have been let down by my support hero's… 

    I take partial responsibility, and I expect that type of thing from a free service, but not for 150 bucks a year…I would expect more than a support note that says.. you should read our terms of service… 

    Moving on.. wish i had something better to report back to those that have asked me what to use for online sales.. 

    PS: I also understand that my content sales are specialized and a bit more niche than most here….IE: special circumstances…mature content.. just wish it was spelled out much more clearly .. 3 years ago when I started I had asked all kinds of support questions on the forum and never could get a good answer on what was allowed. I assume back then it was much less strict since there were many fewer users. 

  18. Scott Jarvie 13 Aug 2012 Reply

    I don't think you've been "let down" and that's unfair to say that and put them in that position. To say they are not the right fit for you is more than fair to say.

    Oh and my feeling is $150 is kinda almost free… haha

    I was wondering why I was tagged in this post… I was like… what the… oh it's about smugmug… haha… makes more sense now.

  19. Brent Burzycki 13 Aug 2012 Reply

    Well +Scott Jarvie they were a good fit and then the fit was changed in a way that sort of let me down. Maybe my only issue is I never actually got the one email that was sent to tell me my images were locked away….

    Sadly none of this matters except for a small few of us that deal with more adult mature content…..

    I think in general those of us that are trying to make a few bucks with this type of material are pretty much out of luck on most services…. It is too bad really, but I also understand that we are but a tiny minority of the customer base and honestly if i was running SmugMug or whatever service I would not really care if I was forced by the many to get rid of the few.. It's a smart Business decision….

    It just sucks to be that few…… With no real decent options to go too…

    For you I can see the 150 being paid back in sales in days… Not so for me…. Thus the value to each of us is different….

    Probably time for me to just sell my own stuff and team with a small print house to handle the work… If they will even print the more mature stuff…. As some have limits on what they will and will not print…

    I only ragged you because I actually signed up after j had heard you talk about it at an event you did… Not to be a di** or something….

  20. Mike Spinak 13 Aug 2012 Reply

    +Brent Burzycki I'm sorry to hear you are having such problems. Since I don't have Smugmug's side of the story, I won't comment about them.

    I will say this:

    One lesson you should draw from this is to minimize your business's exposure to the arbitrary dictates of other businesses.

    Part of this means that you should have your own website, your own domain, etc. Absolutely. You need an online storefront where you are the final arbiter, as long as you are behaving within the law.

    Another part of this is that it is best to diversify (i.e., have multiple virtual storefronts available), so that if something goes down / goes wrong – such as Smugmug deciding to lock your galleries due to nude content – you still have other parts working.

    If you're looking for an alternative, you might take a look at Photoshelter.

  21. Brent Burzycki 13 Aug 2012 Reply

    +Mike Spinak I have most everything but my own store…..I am now in 're eval mode….across the.board…..

    I agree completely …

  22. Mark Vandenwauver 13 Aug 2012 Reply

    Brent, I am a current smugmug user and don't understand their attitude either. A change of policy is something I would be expecting to see announced and also given out an option to leave in case the customer doesn't agree. Your pictures are nothing but art and censoring art is something I personally feel very upset about. But then to make you pay the remainder of the year without providing you any service that's just basic capitalism nono. I would write an open letter to their CEO.

  23. Brent Burzycki 13 Aug 2012 Reply

    I am sadly used to having people limit what I can and cannot do with my work.. People are afraid of nudity I am general and advertisers really seem to shy away from anything….. The reason given for locking down my images was because they were finally found by users in their search and popular pages and their customers complained.. So If that is true and I have no reason to say it is not, then the one reason I needed the site is the one thing that killed my ability to use it and the users killed my relationship with SmugMug.. I have no reason to not believe this is the case as past history shows me it is almost always the users that complain and the the company reacts to that complaint……..

    If I was actually selling a ton of images this all would matter more to me… I am not thou…. Sadly in this case the users seem to have limited my ability to use and in turn be benefited from the SmugMug service. I have nothing bad to say about SmugMug other than the exit of the service was less than I expected for options and clarity..

  24. Mark Vandenwauver 13 Aug 2012 Reply

    Still very bothered about smugmug doing this. Have you looked at gopixit.com? They're new and are run by a team of photographs. They have a free trial.

  25. Brent Burzycki 13 Aug 2012 Reply

    +Mark Vandenwauver I will be looking all over – but as +Mike Spinak says…. it might be better to just roll my own…. and rely on me….

  26. Thomas Hawk 13 Aug 2012 Reply

    +Brent Burzycki I don't think it's fair for you to try and discredit +SmugMug this way.  I could only go back as far as 2010 looking at their terms of service on the wayback machine.  http://web.archive.org/web/20101025074841/http://www.smugmug.com/aboutus/terms/ but it pretty clearly states:

    "you agree not to post, transmit or otherwise publish through the Site any of the following:

    User Content that is unlawful, defamatory, obscene, pornographic, indecent, lewd, sexually suggestive, harassing, threatening, invasive of privacy or publicity rights, abusive, inflammatory, fraudulent or otherwise objectionable or harmful, including without limitation Photos, Videos or other User Content containing nudity that would be unacceptable in a public museum where minors visit;"

    The thing that I think you need to consider is that other people may not share your values about your art.  They may find nudity offensive.  SmugMug is not unique here.  There are many, many, many companies (facebook, google, etc.) that do not allow you to post nudity.  To try and target SmugMug here is not right, you say yourself that you are used to people limiting what you can and cannot do with your art.  This should not have been unfamiliar territory for you.  If you are going to post material that may violate a site's TOS it is your responsibility to read and understand the TOS and take ownership over the situation.  If you want to use the site and break the rules anyways, then when you are reported you need to deal with the consequences which may include losing the account or having your content locked down.

    I don't mind nudity in art at all.  I think the female (or male) body is nothing to be ashamed of and something that can be celebrated creatively.  But I also can undertand that there are others who do not share my taste.  Search on any site is a public area.  As a business, SmugMug has to make a business decision whether or not it would be to their benefit to host nude photos.  Consider that hosting nude photos can be bad for business.  A lot of people will not use search on a site once they search for something and a nude photo pops up.  There are many different cultures, faiths, and individuals with personal values that find nude or suggestive photography offensive.

    What you seem to be asking for is for SmugMug to do business your way, not their way.  You are asking them to allow you to market your photography (i.e. search) even if it is bad for their business or violates their own view about what sort of photography that they want on their site.  If they don't change their company to fit what you want, you seem to want a refund because you didn't bother to read the terms and conditions for the site.

    The debate about nudity on the web goes back many, many years.  Checking the TOS for what is allowed should be the first thing that you do.  Some sites want to host nudity, some sites do not.  Some sites host it but hide it behind walls or filters that try to keep it out of search (like flickr).  Some sites start with one policy and then change it later.  I don't think that was case with SmugMug though.

    While I understand and empathize with your need to create income as an artist, I don't think SmugMug is out of line here.  I agree with +Scott Jarvie that SmugMug simply may not be the right place for your work.  That's fine.  In and Out Burger may not be the best restaurant for a vegan either — even though I think In and Out is awesome!  Different strokes for different folks.  🙂

    *Disclosure:  SmugMug is a sponsor of +Photo Talk Plus a weekly photography show I host.  

  27. Brent Burzycki 13 Aug 2012 Reply

    +Thomas Hawk I so not think I am discrediting SmugMug by discussing the issues I faced with them on my exit of the service. 

    Initially when I signed up for their service I asked a pile of people sent them a note on their support forum (That went unanswered) and the general thought 3 years plus ago was give it a go and see what happens.. I did that I paid my 150 and for almost 3 years it seemed all was fine. Searching the web shows many unanswered nudity related questions from back then.

    Then I logged back in when recently to find 2 of my galleries locked. So I inquired and they stated they were locked because when people started to see them showing up on the popular page and in search results someone complained.

    They supposedly sent an email telling me they did this – I just cannot find any record of it (nothing new in today's world, but I get emails from smugmug all the time so no idea why I would not have seen it)

    Now I have decided to close my account based on the fact I can no longer use the service as I would need to promo my work and use their services.

    Upon exiting – and hitting cancel account it cancelled immediately (I would have just liked to see a warning that cancels are immediate and not to the end of a paid term and I would like to have seen some kind of prompt to remove all my images etc.

    The even stranger part is that late last night I received an email that said they could reopen my account if I wanted and it would auto cancel at the end of my subscription term. This still sort of concerns me as I was told all of my data and images were removed when I hit cancel. Yet my account can still be reopened? I assume with no images…

    I guess I just expected a bit more clarity across the board from a paid service that I stuck with for 3 years….

    I like SmugMug, I just do not like how this one experience of mine has gone as a consumer and with some small changes it could be so much more clear for others that might be signing up or leaving the service.

    I know they support many shows here, and many events for the photo community. I also know my case is part of an ongoing religious war about nudity and acceptance in today's world. I just want my options to be laid out very clear in the beginning and to be kept up to date on changes or possibly my support person that handles my account would give me a heads up that my images were on the map and to lock down my galleries…

    Clearly I need to move on… as SmugMug is not going to work any longer for my work… 

    I just wish the exit was a better experience… I thought I made it clear that I knew that SmugMug cannot control what its users complain about… and needed to make that decision based on best business decission and not on if they lose me or even the small group of people that might use their service for the sale of nude images.

    I think possibly you might have pushed this a bit out of context, but that's why we are here to discuss the issues. I am not sure me staying quiet and crawling off with my tail between my legs would have been as helpful to some as this discussion might turn out to be…. 

    Not everyone can have a great experience with all companies…. trust me as someone that deals with customer issues daily – most customers are never happy, but I always listen to what they have to say to see if I can make the services I offer better….

    Part of me was not going to write this post based, but I also know the small few that follow me here are trying to do what I am doing and that would be a huge disservice to them…

    We all just need to find a service that allows nude images and has a way to print them… sadly I fear we will be relegated to the ranks of the porn industry and be charged excessive fees for the right to print and sell images. Much like companies like ccbill and other Credit Card companies charge huge service fees to webmasters and adult content providers 15+ % in may cases to sell memberships to sites.

    Its just one of those things I guess… 

    As I said before this entire issue will probably make me rethink what I shoot and how I distribute it……

    Cats, HDR and Landscape sell better anyway.. if I want to ever make money at this I need to merge going where the money is and possibly set aside what I like to do for what I know will sell..

  28. Brent Burzycki 13 Aug 2012 Reply

    As I can tell we have no good platform for this which in my mind makes a perfect place for someone to step up..

    Even if a place like Smugmug opened a site dedicated to this style of work .. since the infrastructure is there.. it would be pretty painless to make a separate site to cater to this niche audience..

  29. Thomas Hawk 13 Aug 2012 Reply

    +Brent Burzycki I guess my advice for folks is that if you feel you are going to push the envelope, including nudity, you want to review the TOS.  It's really pretty easy — even easier simply to open up the TOS and do a "find" for nude, porn, nudity, etc. it takes you right to the relevant passage.  This is the first place I go to understand the rules of a site.  I'm pretty sure that SmugMug's policy was spelled out pretty clearly in the TOS when you joined.  Were you not aware of the TOS?  Were you aware that it was not allowed in the TOS but you were wondering if it would still be tolerated despite what the TOS said or some other sort of clarification?

    As far as user forums go I think it's impossible for companies to follow every thread in every user forum.  There are typically thousands of threads in these forums and I don't think it's a company's job to monitor each and every one when they have their terms spelled out pretty clearly in the TOS.  

    As far as restoration, I'm assuming that backup copies of all of our work is being made or that images are simply hidden for a period of time on a site until after a certain number of days they are permanently deleted.  I know Flickr used to immediately remove images when a user closed their account and users were very concerned about this.  Imagine if you were hacked and lost all your images, or what if you changed your mind, or what if a Flickr service rep deleted the wrong account (this actually happened once which spurred them to change their policy).

    I think the practice of maintaining backup copies, or hidden copies of files for restoration purposes is not unusual and I think it's actually a GOOD thing that companies do this to protect against accidental deletions, hacking deletions, regretful deletions, etc.  I'm sure at some point images probably are permanently deleted as there is no benefit to a company to pay to store the photos indefinitely.  I have no idea specifically how SmugMug works in this regard but I suspect that it's along those lines.

    +J. Rae Chipera +Brent Burzycki  yes, there may need to be a place for people to sell nude work.  The problem is that aside from porn I'm not sure how big the market is for this type of work.  If there was a market for it there would probably exist a site to sell it.  I think a lot of people object to this type of work as well so it may not be the type of company that someone necessarily wants to start especially given possible limited demand and scope.  

    I know many people simply host it and sell it on their own site, like Merkley http://threequestionmarks.com/

  30. Thomas Hawk 13 Aug 2012 Reply

    +J. Rae Chipera I think 500px has gone back and forth on their content policies… I think. I haven't kept up exactly with where they are at today — but their TOS says:

    "you agree not to use the Services: To post or transmit, or cause to be posted or transmitted, any Content that is libellous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic, abusive, offensive, profane, or that infringes any copyright or other right of any person;"

    SmugMug also lists sexually suggestive and "nudity that would be unacceptable in a public museum where minors visit." which spells it out even a bit more.

    I think a lot of sites have nudity though because it's simply unreported.  When it gets reported oftentimes that's when it's deleted.  I see nudity on G+ all the time which is a violation of their TOS but it's shared in limited circles, etc.  I think when you want something in public search though, like I think +Brent Burzycki is asking for, you inevitably will be reported.  I think the real solution for this stuff is to host it yourself or find some other company that explicitly says they'll take it in their TOS.

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