Just about every Pro Photographer has their own gallery website - a place to showcase (and sell) their images. But you don't have to be a pro to want to show you photos, protect them, and control who can view them.
There are a lot of options out there: Flickr, Pixiset, ZenFolio and Smugmug just to name a few, but the one that I have chosen to use is SmugMug and there are some important reasons why.
Yep, you heard that right - I like it because it's a paid service. That means this independent company is not reliant on advertising to keep it going. Individuals are paying for the great service that is provided. Starting at only about $40 (US) per year, this is a great deal for those who want to share and protect their images.
And because you're paying them, the site is more likely to stick around - unlike other services that have come and gone at the whim of the corporation. That means you won't have to worry so much (though it's still possible) about getting all your images off the site and sending them somewhere else if they close.
With SmugMug, there is no limit on the amount of photos you can upload to the site - they will take them all - so upload away with all your vacation shots knowing that you won't have to go back and remove some just so you have space again.
The SmugMug system is very flexible and allows you a great deal of latitude to create pages just the way you want them. You can display your photos in many ways, arrange the pages the way you want to, select various themes, connect (link) to other sites and places you use.
This is the main reason why I decided against my second choice (Zenfolio). Although Zenfolio is easy to use and has many of the same features, it was a little lacking in flexibility.
My Clients can find their photos easily, they stay there FOREVER, and they can share them with their friends and family directly from the site.
And that brings me to access control. You can password protect galleries and folders so that only those with passwords, or only those you allow access to, can see the images. That's great if you are a pro photographer, but it is also fantastic if you just want to be able to share your kids photos with their grand-parents. Posting them to sites like Facebook is handy and quick, but certainly not as safe.
On Facebook, if someone you allow to see the photo shares that photo, the photo goes to a wider audience. With SmugMug, you have complete control over who sees it.
This is a great way to keep a backup copy of ALL your photos. Once you have them uploaded and organized, they are available for you to view and download again any time on any number of devices. Their service itself is backed up and protected so that your images are safer in the cloud than on your own hard drive.
Yeah, I could probably list some other reasons too (printing directly, selling, etc), but you get the idea: I'm sold. I've shopped around and I still prefer SmugMug. If you agree, and want your own site, then let SmugMug know I sent you, and receive a 20% discount for signing up!
If you prefer other sites, be sure to comment below and let us all know what you would choose and why.