New SmugMug Source service stores your raw files online


SmugMug Source is a new unlimited RAW photo storage service from the current owners of Flickr. Unlike typical cloud storage services like Dropbox or Google Drive, SmugMug Source is designed explicitly for photographers. This means that you can do things like preview, sort, and organize your RAW files online, or on any device, just like you can with normal JPEG files.

Source is an add-on subscription for existing SmugMug users. Regular SmugMug plans start at $ 9 / month for unlimited JPEG storage and a personalized photo website and goes up to $ 52 / month for professionals looking to sell their photos and provide client galleries. In addition to this monthly fee, Source will reimburse you $ 3 for up to 500 GB of RAW files, or $ 5 for up to 1 TB, and then an additional $ 5 for each additional TB, or part of it. (For what it’s worth, 1TB equates to roughly 30,000 RAW files – it depends on your camera – so unless you never delete bad photos, it shouldn’t cost too much.)

Right off the bat, SmugMug Source will support the most common RAW formats including ARW, BMP, CR2, CR3, CRW, DCR, DNG, IIQ, MRW, NEF, NRW, ORF, PEF, RAF, RAW, RW2, RWL , SRF, SRW, TIFF, TIF, X3F. That’s all Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus and many more shooters covered. Presumably, Source’s RAW support will be updated when the new cameras debut.

Source also offers a host of features suitable for photographers and workflow conscious. It supports sidecar files from editing apps like Lightroom and CaptureOne so you can see edited versions of your RAW photos. You can download and manage files from any SmugMug app or the Lightroom plugin. AI-powered search lets you browse your overflowing catalog without having to manually mark everything.

How does SmugMug Source compare to other raw backup services?

I’m currently using the free trial but, so far, Source seems to be delivering on its promises, which is good as there aren’t many full alternative RAW storage platforms out there.

Adobe’s CreativeCloud is the closest. It has built-in cloud storage which integrates very well with Lightroom. The big downside is that it is quite expensive. There are three regimes:

  • The 20GB Photography bundle includes Lightroom and Photoshop at $ 9.99 / month.
  • The 1TB Photography plan includes Lightroom and Photoshop at $ 19.99 / month.
  • The 1TB Lightroom plan doesn’t have Photoshop, but it only costs $ 9.99 / month.

You can also purchase additional storage space starting at $ 10 / month for one TB on top of your subscription.

Google Photos ($ 9.99 / month for 2TB), Amazon Photos (unlimited photo storage included with Amazon Prime at $ 12.99 / month), and Dropbox ($ 9.99 / month for 2TB) all support RAW files, but they don’t have the same photographer’s focus as SmugMug. They’re great for backup storage, but are less likely to fit right into your workflow.

From a purely backup standpoint, Backblaze is probably your best bet. You get unlimited file backup for $ 6 / month including RAW files. You won’t be able to preview your images online or embed elements with Lightroom, but it will keep them safe.

Don’t rely on online RAW storage

Even though I love SmugMug Source so far, I’m still incredibly dubious about the claim that you can say goodbye to your hard drives. Adobe lost user photos, Dropbox lost user data, and even Google Photos had file loss issues. Offsite online backup is only part of a good photo backup system, but it shouldn’t be the only place you keep your files.


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