I published my own Book! [Portfolio]

Thanks to a handful of discounts I was able to order myself a portfolio book to take with me on photo shoots and to events.  I used Blurb to do my printing, and their software Book Smart to actually build it.  I'm very pleased with the results, and I'll be very happy to show this work to potential clients.

I ordered the Large Landscape, 13x11" hardcover with a dust jacket.  I used the Proline Pearl Photo Paper on the inside to maximize the viewing quality of the photos.  My goal was to make the images nice and big so that they created maximum impact.  



I really liked some of the features in the software, as well as the page layouts.  This is the opening page, acknowledgements and introduction.


I divided the book into two sections: Portraits and Fashion and Beauty.  I had to create my own vertical spread arrangements so that they would look balanced.  There is room in most of the layouts for captions if you want that sort of thing, but I felt it was unnecessary for my purposes.


Another part of the Portraits section.


This is the title page of the Fashion and Beauty section.  I really like the impact that this spread creates!


Some of my images from Janelle Brown's fashion line:


Here's a close up shot of the binding.  Everything is high quality, and looks exceptional.



Finally, a view of the spine:



The total came in under $100 to order including taxes and shipping.  I think it's a very worthwhile investment and I'm really impressed by the quality of the product.

If you're thinking about making up a book, do it.  When you see your photos in print, in a book it's really special.  It isn't cheap, but it is incredibly worthwhile!

Cheers!

Revisiting the 500px Portfolio Review


You may recall that a while back I reviewed the new 500px portfolios as  a beta tester, and I had a few things that I wasn't impressed with.  I had to be honest, otherwise I'd only be gushing.  The truth is that I really liked the new features, but there were issues that really needed to be addressed. 

The thing is, 500px have stepped up to the plate and knocked off a lot of stuff that was on my "Do not like" list.  Let's review the stuff I wasn't too happy about:

This is the bad stuff:

- You can right click on the images in the new Beta portfolios and save them.  500px's main site has a bit of script that prevents this from happening: you right click on the image and a little dialog box pops up and tells you "Hey! This image is Copyright Tim Lingley".  It is a mild deterrent, but it is effective, and would be nice to see implemented on all of the beta portfolios.  There really is no way to protect your images totally on the internet, but as the old saying goes: "A lock keeps an honest person out".   This is especially important since the photos are displayed at a pretty high resolution.

You can't do this anymore.  500px addressed this issue about a week after I posted the original review, and disabled right-clicking, at least on any of the portfolio themes that I tested. 

Some of the themes do not translate well to different platforms.  I customized and built my portfolio on my Macbook, then loaded it up on a windows machine, only to find that the nice, sleek scroll bar on my mac transformed into a hideous blocky nightmare on the windows screen.  It gets worse: my port isn't really optimized at all for mobile devices.  I can't view all of my portfolio images on my phone because I can't scroll.  I'm not an advanced phone-operator, but neither is most of the rest of the world.  I need my portfolio to be quick, accessible and easy to use.

There are still some big blocky sliders, but only if you need them in your theme.  If you choose the Horizontal theme, for instance, you will wind up with a slider.  If you go with the recently added "Cascade" theme, shown in the screen shot above, you likely won't need a slider.

The high res images do take a bit of time to load. I understand that there are trade-offs, but if you go somewhere like Scott Kelby's Portfolio (powered by SmugMug) it loads lightning fast and it's pretty high-res.  Let's see some of that efficiency on the 500px portfolios.

The photos load very quickly now, so whatever issue I was experiencing has been addressed.  

- I was expecting more themes for beta. This will come in time, but I think the themes could use some more work.

500px have added a few new themes and updated the original ones as well.  With more time and more attention,  I'm fairly confident that 500px will continue to expand on the themes they already offer.

I want to be able to use the mouse scroll wheel to scroll horizontally through my pictures. (this one is exclusive to the horizontal theme) It makes sense that you would be able to do this since the screen is only as tall as the native resolution, and doesn't have a scroll bar in the vertical direction.

To be honest, I simply changed themes to combat this issue.  My current theme has a little more to click through initially, but makes a lot more sense to me.

My Wishlist:


More themes.  

They are coming.  Two have been added since 500px Portfolios came out of Beta, and more will be on their way soon. The theme I'm using now is one of the most recent additions, and it works quite well.

The ability for the portfolio viewer to buy my photos as prints

Again, this depends on your theme selection.  when the user clicks on the photo now, they get the photo in full view, as well as some details about it, and the option to buy either a download or a print.

I want to be able to put a button(s) on every page of my portfolio that links to my twitter, google+, facebook and blog. 

I still want to have this feature on the portfolio.  It would be really cool if someone stumbled on a picture they really liked and could simply hit the "share on twitter" button.

Here's My Portfolio, created with the new 500px beta portfolios.

Cheers!

Test Driving the New 500px Portfolios

I got an email over the weekend that said I was selected for Beta testing the new 500px portfolios.  Finally, I could modify what I wanted, move things around and build a fantastic port that would impress and wow everyone who looked at it!  The question is though, has 500px been able to deliver?

First up, if you want to build your portfolio through 500px you need to have their "Awesome" level account.  It's not too bad, only $75 per year and it comes with a number of other benefits related to the site.  So is it worth it?  I'm not going to get into the competition too much but I do have a list of features that I'd like to see from 500px in the near future.

The portfolio back-end is accessed from a sub-site of 500px, and as of yet cannot be accessed through 500px's main HUD.  I'm sure they will add a button and allow users to quickly access their ports from the "Settings" page or the Organizer.

You are given the choice of several themes off of which you can design your page, and from there you launch into the actual control panel.  I'm really happy with how they've arranged this part: you can edit the bio and contact info, move images around, and tweak the actual code (HTML, CSS and JavaScript) to suit your needs.  You certainly don't need to, but it's nice to be able to modify things like font styling if you need to match another of your sites.


The following features I like:

- HTML, CSS and JavaScript editing. Big points here allowing fine-tuning for advanced users.
- Simple and effective themes for less tech-oriented users. The themes are pretty good.
- Images displayed are crystal clear, very high res and look fantastic. (This is a double-edged sword...see below)
- Themes are easily customized to your needs. Within the control panel the photographer can modify colours for the background, text, and lines.
- Easy to rename the domain to suit your needs.  If you want timlingley.500px.com, you get that as a stock name.  No big deal, but if you want timlingley.com to be your portfolio, you simply buy the domain name and  tell 500px that you want to use that.
- Everything is automatic.  I mean that when you organize your photos in the organizer, that's the order they appear in.  The same goes for portfolio headers.  This makes it very easy to move things around and tell a story.

This is the bad stuff:

- You can right click on the images in the new Beta portfolios and save them.  500px's main site has a bit of script that prevents this from happening: you right click on the image and a little dialog box pops up and tells you "Hey! This image is Copyright Tim Lingley".  It is a mild deterrent, but it is effective, and would be nice to see implemented on all of the beta portfolios.  There really is no way to protect your images totally on the internet, but as the old saying goes: "A lock keeps an honest person out".   This is especially important since the photos are displayed at a pretty high resolution.
- Some of the themes do not translate well to different platforms.  I customized and built my portfolio on my Macbook, then loaded it up on a windows machine, only to find that the nice, sleek scroll bar on my mac transformed into a hideous blocky nightmare on the windows screen.  It gets worse: my port isn't really optimized at all for mobile devices.  I can't view all of my portfolio images on my phone because I can't scroll.  I'm not an advanced phone-operator, but neither is most of the rest of the world.  I need my portfolio to be quick, accessible and easy to use.
- The high res images do take a bit of time to load. I understand that there are trade-offs, but if you go somewhere like Scott Kelby's Portfolio (powered by SmugMug) it loads lightning fast and it's pretty high-res.  Let's see some of that efficiency on the 500px portfolios.
- I was expecting more themes for beta. This will come in time, but I think the themes could use some more work.
I want to be able to use the mouse scroll wheel to scroll horizontally through my pictures. (this one is exclusive to the horizontal theme) It makes sense that you would be able to do this since the screen is only as tall as the native resolution, and doesn't have a scroll bar in the vertical direction.


My Wishlist:


More themes.  The ones that are available at the time of writing seem like rehashing the previously available themes.  I know there are more ways to show off my photos and I haven't quite hit the mark yet with any of the 500px themes.
The ability for the portfolio viewer to buy my photos as prints. I think there may be a way to do this now that I have access to the code itself.
I want to be able to put a button(s) on every page of my portfolio that links to my twitter, google+, facebook and blog.  Everything should be linked, and not necessarily just on the contact page.

I've tried to cover everything I noticed while working within the new portfolio interface, and I'm sure there are many more ups and downs.  I'm also pretty confident that if I knew HTML and CSS better I may be able to add the features that I want rather than whine about them on my blog!  I'd rather spend time learning how to take great pictures.

Here's My Portfolio, created with the new 500px beta portfolios.

Cheers!

New City, Not Inspired...yet



After moving to Halifax, starting a new job and not really getting a chance to fully settle in (we're painting some of the rooms before we finish unpacking, makes more sense than having to cover all our stuff later on), I'm not feeling very inspired to get out with the camera.  Add to that our financial situation which will likely require us to sell our car.  For at least the next year, I'll be without a vehicle, which might just hinder my photographic exploration of the city we just moved to.

I'm not feeling all that great for the future of my photography right now.

Enter The Grid, a photography talk show hosted (usually) by Scott Kelby and Matt Kloskowski, two photographers, instructors and writers from the Tampa, FL area.  Last week's episode, entitled When Inspiration Fails You is a pretty interesting discussion of how to keep yourself inspired even when you really don't have an inspiring idea, subject, location etc.

The truth is, the bulk of the time I spend working on a project is not inspiring.  I'm inspired to start a personal project, or to have a new idea that really makes me want to get out and get some pictures, but usually I'm not someone that maintains an unrealistic level of stimulus on a long-term basis.

For me, the secret is my drive to get better, to learn something new or to try a crazy new technique.  There are loads of things to compare this to, but my own experiences with playing guitar really resonate with me.

I played in a band for three years, doing mostly cover songs and going through different members.  I would spend quite a bit of time each week trying to get better at a guitar solo, perfect a rhythm part, or figure out a vocal harmony so I'd be ready for the next practice/gig.  Realistically, I wasn't inspired most of that time. A new song was sometimes a great motivator, but that was not always the case.   I loved every minute of it, and I grew immensely as a musician and artist through the practices, but I didn't really get inspired so much as I learned how to just settle in and work on my craft.  

I think that's what I'm going to need to do now. I have to get a strategy in place, figure out what sort of photography I really want to pursue and work toward it.  Inspiration or not, I am passionate about taking pictures, so I'd best get myself out there in this new market I've found and meet some new people, create some new works and keep growing.

For those interested, I've included my notes from The Grid.  All quotes are not direct quotes, merely my takings from watching the show.  I enjoyed hearing some of the interested discussion regarding Photo a Day/365 projects, and how they impact you as a photographer.


Notes:
not the source for why you do what you do
It is always tough to keep up a hobby, much the same as blogging, etc.

to Jeremy: how much of the time are you inspired?
Commercial assignments - 70 to 80% not inspired 

reality of the situation: inspiration is for amateurs.  

Chuck Close: 
Creativity is what I do from 9-5.

sometimes the shoot doesn't give you what you want.
-bad location
-bad subject (not into it, hard to get her into it)
-bad lighting
-uncooperative crew

Where do you go to get inspiration?

Don't expect that you have to share all your work.  Don't just shoot to share on Facebook/500px.
Jeremy: The only things that go on my site are works that are unique, different, favorites.

photo a day?
Jeremy: Good idea, great to have creative thinking every day.  I certainly don't think you should show all that work.  But, if you're doing stuff that you want to do more often it's a great project.

RC: 365 projects: A fat guy doing jumping Jacks.  Train wreck of everything moving everywhere.  
at the end of the day, you have to have an end result, and sometimes the stuff in the middle isn't the best stuff to show.  It is completely okay for you to not show a photo.  

Matt: Never really cared for photo a day.  BUT, Jay Maisel said you don't get good at swimming by practicing every couple weeks.  You have to do it every day.  What I don't like: you don't have to post all of it.

RC: Staying inspired: sometimes you can maintain inspiration by having great technique (think guitar). can you change all your settings without taking your eye off the veiwfinder?  How is your post-processing?  There are loads of other things to do that will encourage growth and simplify the inspiration process.

Pete: How can I bring something new to the table?  What is it that I have that no one else does? connections, location, who I am?  

Tired of one medium? Have you really turned that medium on it's head?  Have you really tried to learn the whole medium as thoroughly as you are capable?

Non photographic sources of inspiration:
Other hobbies?  Looking at other people's work. You will likely get ideas, or you could make a collection called "photos I would like to take".  Either way, when you do this, you'll take those photos and something of your own will shine through.  Developing your own style is natural from this type of process.