Casting a shadow over the Pier

My new SmugMug website

I’ve spent the last two months putting this new website together to showcase my personal photography, USA TODAY #TalkingTech videos and audio reports, photojournalism and all those solo guitar videos I like to post.

It’s, it was created on the SmugMug platform, and I’d love to hear what you think of it.

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If you’re a podcast fan, and I hope you are, you’ve probably heard from companies like SquareSpace, Weebly and Wix, which offer their paid services to easily create websites.

These online tools are a different way to do it than we used to struggle through in the early days, with software like Adobe’s DreamWeaver, which was painstakingly slow and finicky. Get one dot in the wrong place, and all was lost.

Another option for many is WordPress software, which lets you pick up visual themes for your website for a fee, generally, and works very well with Google for being found.

I went with SmugMug, a site targeted to photographers for better display of their online work. It also offers templates for website creation, and the ability to use their website as your vanity address.

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Reader note — I’ve been a customer of SmugMug’s for years, creating my professional portrait site there, and using it as a backup for my photos and videos. Hard drives are very unreliable, and happy to pay $300 a year for these services.

(Prices start at $48 yearly and you'll pay more for the ability to sell your photos online.)

In making the new site (for which I opened a second, paid SmugMug account) you look around at the various choices.

The options were the usual suspects — WordPress, SquareSpace, Wix, etc., and I remained with SmugMug because it’s photo-centric, and actually tailor made for someone like me. I’ve got years of personal photos and videos to show off, and SmugMug does both really well.

You can create playlists and show off your best video work on YouTube and Vimeo, but you can’t display stills.

Up and coming photo sites like 500px and EyeEm don’t accept videos. Google Photos offers both, and I love it, but there are few tools to make your galleries individually tailored to your whims.

SmugMug has conditions for video uploads that could stop a pro — 3GB maximum video file size and a production no longer than 20 minutes (to prevent DVD rips from showing up), but for me, that wasn’t an issue. Most of my videos are 1 minute or so in length, and under 100 MB.  So for the most part, I can live with the limitations.

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The longest part of this process was culling through all those photos and videos to yank the best of the best. We’re talking thousands and thousands of photos and a whole lot of videos. Also taking time is just learning the online tools.

For SmugMug, SquareSpace, Wix and the others, you can easily create a website with a title, a photo and a paragraph of text in under an hour. It’s when you want to go way further, with many pages, navigation tabs to get people around and the like that will take considerable time, for a simple reason. You’ve got to learn a new, visual language, and that takes time.

SmugMug, like SquareSpace, doesn’t offer phone support, instead only e-mail or chat. So if you get a problem in the middle of the night, you dash out an e-mail, get a reply waiting for you in the morning, come up with another issue, get a reply an hour or two later and on and on. That’s one reason building these sites take so long.

On the site, I have sections devoted to portraits, street photography, travel and my latest obsession, morning beach shots. The videos are categorized in years, along with my collection of the 20 favorite videos I’ve made over the last decade.

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My new website was inspired by photographer Dave Powell, whom I met in April. I was visiting Japan when he told me all about his Shoot Tokyo website, which he hosts on SmugMug.

I checked it out and fell in love. So much so, I contacted SmugMug from Japan — “Hey, I want my site to look like Dave Powell’s! How do I do that?”

Dave wanders around Tokyo with his Leica capturing amazing street life.

Granted, Japan life is pretty wild and colorful compared to what we’ve got here in California. But I’m fortunate enough to live near the beach, where magic is made every morning.

What a great way to awake — throw on some clothes, yank the capture device and see how many different ways I can present the morning beauty of Manhattan Beach, California. It’s a great challenge.

And I love finally having a great-looking home for my USA TODAY portraits, travel photos and the best of 10 years of #TalkingTech videos.

What do you think? How do you like the new site? Drop me a line on Twitter, @jeffersongraham. 

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