Your portfolio website is an essential aspect of your photography business. Your site helps new clients find you, allows them to see the quality of your work, and makes it easy for them to get in touch or book you.
Thankfully, building high-quality photography portfolio websites is relatively easy and inexpensive. You don’t need to hire a web designer or developer to create a custom site. No-code website builders make creating a professional portfolio site easy thanks to pre-designed templates and drag-and-drop page editors.
SmugMug vs. Squarespace Overview
The main difference between SmugMug and Squarespace is that SmugMug is exclusively for photographers and photography websites. Squarespace is a general web builder that can be used for just about any type of site.
While SmugMug’s focus on photography sites is appreciated, Squarespace offers templates that are more attractive and more modern, so the result is a better-looking site. Squarespace also offers better usability and makes it easier to customize your site.
Both platforms have a lot to offer, and we’ll cover all the details below.
SmugMug was started in 2002 by Don and Chris MacAskil and is still a family-owned business. SmugMug provides users with photo storage, photo sharing, and e-commerce capabilities to set up an online store.
Amateur and professional photographers can create portfolio websites without coding, without hiring a designer or developer, and at very affordable prices.
Although SmugMug is known as a website builder, it offers much more. Users can manage and store RAW files (including integration with Lightroom), store finished photos, manage privacy settings, create galleries, and sell prints and digital downloads. SmugMug aims to serve as a hub for your photography business.
Websites created with SmugMug start with a pre-designed template. Users can create pages that include customizable photo galleries. Galleries can be visible to the public or password protected. Personalized galleries can be provided to clients using password protection. For example, wedding photographers can provide clients with a password-protected gallery with all the photos from their big day.
Photographers can easily sell prints, customizable products, and digital downloads from their SmugMug website. Users have extensive control over details like the specific products available for purchase, pricing, and fulfillment. E-commerce features can be integrated with galleries, so website visitors can see a photo in the gallery and click through to purchase a print.
One of the best features of SmugMug is the integrated fulfillment options. Users can set print orders to be automatically sent to a lab for printing and shipment to the customer. SmugMug integrates with WHCC, Bay Photo, EZprints, and Loxley Colour. Users can select the lab of their choice or elect to fulfill orders manually.
Automated fulfillment is an excellent option because it drastically reduces the administrative responsibilities related to selling prints and other products.
Squarespace is one of the most popular website builders and can be used to create a wide range of websites. Although the platform is not exclusively focused on photographers, Squarespace offers the functionality needed for a portfolio website. Additionally, Squarespace’s templates are beautiful, and they have an excellent selection of portfolio templates.
Users start with a template and insert their own text, photos, and videos. Sites can include galleries, full-screen slideshows, lightboxes, and more. Design elements like colors, fonts, and logos are easy to adjust. Users can also customize the layout with a drag-and-drop editor. Overall, Squarespace offers excellent ease of use for creating and customizing a site.
Squarespace templates have a clean and minimalist style, which is perfect for portfolio sites. The uncluttered layout and design allow your photos to be the center of attention.
Users can also add e-commerce capabilities to sell prints or digital downloads. Squarespace integrates with Printful for print-on-demand and order fulfillment. You can sell art prints, canvas prints, metal prints, mugs, posters, and much more.
SmugMug and Squarespace Similarities
Although these two platforms have some significant differences, there are also several similarities. Let’s start by looking at the most important similarities:
- Templates as a starting point. Both platforms offer a variety of templates. Of course, all the SmugMug templates have been created with photographers in mind. Squarespace offers a vast selection of templates for a wide variety of different sites. However, they have a great collection of portfolio templates.
- Customization of the site design. Once a template is chosen, both platforms allow design customizations. They work differently, but you can customize the design and layout with either platform.
- Galleries and photo displays. Both SmugMug and Squarespace make it easy to create beautiful photo displays. You can create galleries to showcase as part of your portfolio site or for specific clients to view their photos.
- Sell your photos. In addition to displaying your photos, you can also sell prints and digital files with either SmugMug or Squarespace. You can sell prints and digital downloads to general website visitors or allow clients to order prints and download digital files from their sessions.
- Order fulfillment. If you sell prints and physical products, both platforms have options for automatically fulfilling your orders. This is great as a hands-free way to sell products.
- Monthly plans with no upfront cost. Both platforms charge a monthly fee, or you can pay annually. And neither platform charges an upfront fee. You can save a lot of money compared to hiring a designer to create a custom website.
- Hosting and support provided. Both SmugMug and Squarespace provide hosting included with the monthly with yearly plans. You’ll also have access to customer service if you need help.
SmugMug vs. Squarespace: Templates
The templates offered by these platforms will have a huge impact on the look and functionality of your site. Squarespace offers over 100 pre-design templates. About 15 are ideal for photography portfolio sites.
Their templates are beautiful, and among the best you’ll find in the industry. They’re well-designed, modern, and elegant. Squarespace templates tend to have a minimalist design style, which is great for keeping the emphasis on your photos.
SmugMug offers about 20 templates designed for photography websites. However, most of these templates have a dated look and aren’t nearly as attractive as those from Squarespace. This is disappointing since the appearance is so important for a portfolio site.
Squarespace is the clear winner for templates. If having a modern, stylish, and professional-looking website is important to you, you’ll appreciate Squarespace.
SmugMug vs. Squarespace: Design Customization
After you’ve chosen a template, the next step is to set up and customize your site. Let’s see how each platform works.
Customizing with SmugMug
When you start with SmugMug, you’ll enter basic information like your name and email address. You’ll see a few templates, and you can choose the one you want to use. Next, you’ll start uploading photos.
After you’ve uploaded some photos, you can preview your site. You’ll see a “customize design” button when looking at the site.
From here, you can make changes to the specific page you’re viewing or sitewide changes.
Next, you can add content blocks to create your page. You can add blocks for text, photos, videos, galleries, and other elements to your site.
Customizing with Squarespace
With Squarespace, you’ll start by creating an account and entering the name of your site.
Next, you’ll start to customize your site. In this case, I want to replace the filler photo with my own. I’ll hover over the image and click on “edit gallery.”
Next, I’ll click the + icon to upload my photos.
I can also delete the filler photos by clicking the trash can icons.
To change text, simply click on a text box to select it. Then you can add, remove, or edit the text as needed.
Squarespace uses sections and blocks to control the layout and content of pages (blocks are included inside of sections). To add a new section or block, click on the buttons shown below.
You can also edit sitewide styles like colors, fonts, and spacing by clicking on the paintbrush icon in the top right.
Squarespace provides more control over the design and customization of your site while still being easy to use. The customization options give you plenty of flexibility.
SmugMug vs. Squarespace: E-Commerce
One of the ways that most photographers make money is by selling prints and digital downloads. Both SmugMug and Squarespace offer e-commerce functionality so you can accept orders through your website and collect payments. You can sell prints, products that feature your photos (like mugs, posters, etc.), or digital downloads.
This is one area where SmugMug comes out ahead. The main reason is that SmugMug offers integration with four different photo labs that automatically print, fulfill, and ship orders to your customers. It’s a seamless experience for customers, saving you a lot of time.
Squarespace offers integration with Printful for print-on-demand sales. You can sell various products, including art prints, posters, and more. However, Printful is currently the only automated fulfillment option offered by Squarespace.
Many professional photographers will likely prefer working with labs like WHCC and Bay Photo instead of Printful. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with Printful, but they’re a general print-on-demand supplier offering t-shirts, apparel, and a wide range of products. Print labs like WHCC and Bay Photo specialize in high-quality photo prints.
SmugMug provides more options for automated order fulfillment and options that most professional photographers will prefer.
SmugMug vs. Squarespace: Pricing
SmugMug pricing currently starts at $13 per month or $110 per year. This plan will be sufficient for most hobbyists, but professionals will want at least the Portfolio plan, which costs $28 per month or $225 yearly. This plan allows you to sell photos and create personalized galleries for clients.
Squarespace pricing starts at $23 per month or $192 per year. This plan will be ideal for most amateurs and enthusiasts, but pros will likely need the E-commerce Basic plan, which costs $36 per month or $324 per year.
While SmugMug’s prices are lower, you have to consider what you get for your money. SmugMug excels in some areas, but the designs aren’t great. Getting a professional-looking website with Squarespace is much easier, which justifies the price difference.
- Better options for private client galleries. SmugMug makes creating public or private galleries for clients and specific events easy.
- More options for order fulfillment. Choose from four different print labs to have your orders automatically fulfilled and sent to customers.
- Photo storage. SmugMug offers secure and unlimited storage for your files, including RAW storage.
- Much better-looking templates. Squarespace’s templates look drastically better than SmugMug’s.
- Better selection of templates. Squarespace also offers a better selection of templates. Although SmugMug has a few more photography templates than Squarespace, most of them look really dated. With Squarespace, you have many options for a stylish, modern website.
- Easier to create and customize your site. Overall, Squarespace features better usability for managing your site and making customizations.
Squarespace also offers a variety of optional add-ons. These features are not included in the base cost of your website plans. You can pick and choose which ones you want, if any. Here are a few of the add-ons that may appeal to photographers.
- Schedule appointments. Squarespace offers convenient functionality for managing appointments, and some photographers may find this to be highly useful.
- Sell courses and memberships. Some photographers create online courses or monetize their websites with a paid-members area. Squarespace makes this easy.
- Email marketing. Squarespace also offers email marketing functionality, including creating beautiful email templates.
Squarespace vs. Smugmug Comparison Chart
This handy chart lists the features and capabilities of these two website-building platforms.
|Attractive website templates
|Create custom galleries
|Yes, but with limited options
|Sell prints and digital photos
|Print lab integration for automated fulfillment
Which Website Builder is Better for Photographers?
Squarespace and SmugMug are both capable of creating an excellent website for your photography business. In my opinion, Squarespace is the better option for most photographers because they offer some of the best and most beautiful templates you’ll find. It’s easy to create a professional website, even without experience.
The templates offered by SmugMug look outdated and are just not as attractive. Since the look of your portfolio site is so important, this is a major advantage for Squarespace.
However, SmugMug has some strong features that will appeal to some photographers. While Squarespace allows you to create private galleries for clients, SmugMug’s functionality is a bit more streamlined in this area. SmugMug also offers more options for integrating with photo labs to print and fulfill orders.
The biggest strength for SmugMug is its photo storage features because Squarespace doesn’t offer anything comparable.
In the end, the SmugMug vs. Squarespace comparison comes down to your personal needs and preferences. Consider your situation and see how each platform matches up to your needs. Both platforms offer a 14-day free trial, so there’s no harm in giving each a shot.