Tag Archives: community

Social Networking for Shooters: How to Stay Engaged With the Pro and Hobbyist Photo Communities

[tweetmeme]About the author: Stephanie Weber directs communications, among other responsibilities, at DigiLabs Pro and regularly engages with colleagues and customers on its blog, Facebook and Twitter feeds.

It seems social networking is on the lips of the young and old, professional and student, casual observers and fast-track hipsters. By all accounts, social networks help all of us stay connected with current events and topics of conversation while also helping businesses market their wares.

Yet a surprising number of professional photographers still ask us at DigiLabs Pro “Is social networking really worth it?” Our answer is a resounding, “ABSOLUTELY.”

WHY DO IT

Here are some of the reasons why photographers should engage in social networking:

  • It’s social: You’re missing the party if you don’t interact with customers or peers online. Facebook in February 2010 announced its number of users had ballooned to 400 million, making it the second only to Google as the most visited site on the Web. A few months later, Twitter shared that it has more than 105 million registered users. It hasn’t reached its peak yet as both of those figures are growing daily.
  • It’s live: Business marketing consultant John Jantsch likens the ROI of social networking to that of attending live professional networking events. “You don’t measure participation based on direct sales, you measure success based on identifying one potential strategic partner, acquiring one actionable bit of advice, or striking up a conversation or two that may eventually lead to developing a new customer,” he says. Many marketers also consider it a form of word-of-mouth advertisement, with real customers referring or introducing friends and family to various businesses.
  • It’s a network: Social networking enables you to easily stay in touch with a broad friend or customer base at regular intervals. Staying involved in your contacts’ lives will not only increase the potential for future interactions or business dealings but can also become a great source for valuable referrals.
  • It’s cheap: Engaging in social networks, by virtue of being online, are some of the most cost-effective marketing programs you can do for your photo business. It only costs you your time. And, anyone, photo novice or veteran, can jump into the social media conversation within minutes.
  • It boosts your rankings in web searches: For organic searches (search engine optimization, or SEO), linking and relevancy is king. The more people talking about you in social networks, the more relevant you are to the search engines.

HOW TO DO IT

Convinced of social media’s value, but aren’t sure where to start looking for other visually-minded folks like yourself? Here are some ideas to bring social networking into focus:

  • Know that Facebook and Twitter are not the only games in town. Check out these alternatives or search for a NING site by topic of interest. You’re likely familiar with Flickr for photo sharing and You Tube for video sharing, but you can also use these sites to share comments with others to start new conversations.
  • Comment or post on your friends’, acquaintances’ and clients’ Facebook pages or tweets. Don’t spam them; that is a sure way to turn them off as potential connections. Instead, make relevant comments or complement them on the activities going on in their lives. Make sure the content is relevant and timely.
  • Stay active in online community forums such as at Photo.net, DigitalWeddingForum.com or PopPhoto.com. This will increase your exposure and keep you up-to-date with what is going on in the industry while also gaining access to unfiltered feedback of everyday photographers.
  • It is a careful balance of personal and professional, but above all, be yourself. Creating a personal relationship is vital for a photographer whose interest and job is to capture someone’s most personal and intimate moments.
  • Keep your updates fresh and interesting by posting and updating them often. This will help with gaining loyal followers, friends and fans.
  • Check out social media guru Chris Brogan’s “Best Advice About Social Networking.” Among his pearls of wisdom are: be friendly and inclusive, seek to be helpful always and say thank you often. (Great advice for life in general, isn’t it?)

BEST BLOGGING PRACTICES

Blogging Research Wordle
Creative Commons License photo credit: Kristina B

Perhaps interacting on established social networks is not your thing. You can easily share your own thoughts on photography and images via your own blog. The Internet is filled with guides for getting started blogging, including helpful tips from Microsoft and Google. When you blog, think about how you can improve your organic search rankings by infusing your writings with relevant keywords you want your readers to associate with you (i.e., “photojournalism,” “nature photography,” etc.) and link those keywords back to your site.

Another element of interaction can arise if you comment on other shooters’ blogs. Most blogs have a form for you to share your own thoughts on their posts. Keep in mind, it won’t help with your organic search listings as many blogging systems have “no follow” tags, but your relevant comments could help drive word of mouth.

You can link to particularly thought-provoking pieces by sharing them on your Twitter, Facebook or other feeds. Some of our favorite photographer-bloggers, including Ben Chrisman, Erin Henssion and Jasmine Star among many others, really infuse their posts with their unique personalities while discussing the special subjects or conditions in which they’ve been taking pictures recently.

Connect The Dots
Creative Commons License photo credit: queefette

CONNECT THE SOCIAL DOTS

No matter which avenue you chose, make sure your networking activities are connected. When you post a new blog, make sure to tweet about it and post it on your Facebook. If you are a hobbyist, you’ll find you’ll naturally make more connections if folks have more avenues to connect with you. If you are a business, add your Facebook, Twitter and blog links, to your email marketing activities and to your website to help boost incremental sales and new referrals.

As a photographer, you can only benefit from the ideas and referrals sure to come your way from engaging with your peers and potential clients.

About the author: Stephanie Weber directs communications, among other responsibilities, at DigiLabs Pro and regularly engages with colleagues and customers on its blog, Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Full Feed, or Not Full Feed…

Half Empty or Half Full?
Creative Commons License photo credit: jaxxon

In my recent post about my photography resolutions for 2010, a couple of you suggested moving to truncated rss feeds for the blog. One suggested that it could make the site more attractive to advertisers by “forcing” readers to visit the site, and another mentioned that a truncated feed might also encourage comments and interaction here on the blog.

The common theme between both comments is that the feed consumers aren’t visiting the site very often. While making the blog more profitable is on my mind, I’m more concerned with the amount of interaction on-site. In 2009 we had around 2500 comments and pingbacks. But in 2008 we had around 4300 comments and pingbacks. My only guess is that a bunch of the old base-community has migrated over to the feed reader and assumed that the conversations would continue without them.

Then again, it could be a lot of contributing factors: feed readers are getting better, people’s lives are busier, my writing is turning to crap, etc. At any rate, I’d like to try a little feed experiment for a while and see what changes.

From here out, I’ll be syndicating partial feeds on most of the articles — but I’ll be setting the breakpoint manually on each post, so I’ll give you guys enough content to get a feel for the article. I’m not really a fan of the too-short partial feed, so I’ll try to avoid that whenever possible.

[UPDATE 1/12/2010] Looks like I’ll be keeping full feeds after all. Most people prefer them (myself included) and there doesn’t seem to be a good method for setting a breakpoint manually.

I’d also like to hear from you feed readers on this subject. Does it matter to you one way or the other? Will you wash your hands of Epic Edits once and for all? Or would you actually prefer to have condensed feeds in your reader/email?

Visit the site to leave a comment and vote on the poll

Do We Want an Epic Edits Forum?

I’m always thinking about the community here, and how we can foster its growth. A forum is something that I’ve been thinking of for quite a while, but I held off mentioning it until we approached 5000 RSS subscribers. It may turn out that we need more of an audience to get a forum rolling, but let’s find out with a little poll.

I want you guys to be totally honest here (not that I’m questioning your integrity). But a forum is a big deal with lots of extra work and responsibility on my part. I have no problem maintaining such a thing, but if I’m going to do it I need to have a good part of the community also supporting it. On that note, I would definitely lean on some key players to keep the peace.

I think it would be a great way to “share the knowledge” and interact on a deeper level than just the comments here on the blog. I’m not exactly sure how the topics would be broken out, but I could imagine things like weekly photo themes, photo critiques, Q&A, film photography, digital photography, cameras and equipment, post processing, news and items of interest, and more.

So what do you think? Would you participate in a forum with this community? And at what level? Leave some comments too, and let me know what sort of features or topics would make a forum really shine.

{democracy:54}

And don’t forget to check out the results from the last poll titled “Who Wins? Nikon D90 or Canon 50D“. Even though the two cameras are in slightly different customer segment, the votes are nearly split 50/50. Lots of comments on that poll too — one of my favorites is from Antoine:

who wins ? the answer is easy Brian, WE do.

There is nothing that pleases me more than competition it pushes manufacturers to put in more features and lower the prices and, in the end, we are the biggest winner.

Both seems like good cams but, let’s face it, most of us doesn’t even need 1/2 of the features here.

Lightroom Users Address Concerns with the Software

Sure, try haggling here.
Creative Commons License photo credit: gak

In a previous article, I stated 3 Reasons Why I Refuse to Use Lightroom. This got the Lightroom users pretty fired up.

But I didn’t write the article just to get these folks twisted up — I did it to get the discussion going. My “3 Reasons” are actually concerns that I’ve heard from various other photographers who haven’t jumped into Lightroom yet (and they’re my own concerns too). So I figured the best way to address these issues was through the community on this website.

We had nearly 40 comments (and one blog post response) in just a few days, and most of them were addressing the concerns presented. This is so awesome — exactly the thing I was hoping for. Here are my “3 Reasons” addressed by the community.

ABOUT THAT DATABASE…

MY CONCERN: A database is a bad thing. It only adds more possibilities for things to go wrong. I like to keep my metadata with the files rather than in a database.

CONCERN ADDRESSED: Keep a backup of your database. You can choose to have the database store minimal information. The database makes browse/search features much faster. It allows you to work offline with your photos.

Yes, it is true that Lightroom uses a database. However, it’s also true that Lightroom (1) Stores *all* of your images in folders on the hard drive and (2) Can keep *all* of the adjustments you make to your photos in the sidecar/XMP files (or within the metadata of DNG images)… So long as your storage system is somewhat sane, Lightroom handles storage on multiple drives with ease. In fact, you can perform many operations on files currently offline! Say you’re remote on your laptop and you want to find an image in your library – you can do pretty much everything you need short of exporting a full-res image without even connecting the USB drive that the image happens to be stored on. ~~ Ryan Dlugosz

I too hate being tied to a database. The way I use lightroom, it’s almost as if there wasn’t one. In fact, the only thing that can really be said to be using the database is the thumbnails… version 2.0 of Lightroom preserves the navigation structure of the folders where the images are stored, so I take full control of the organisation. ~~ Neil Creek

On the DB issue: is you set up the system like Neil describes above, you really do not need to care if the DB is corrupted, destroyed or whatever. All of the data is still in the original files and can be reimported into a new catalog (DB). Also, copying a catalog from one machine to another works just fine (you can even copy the preview images, which aren’t stored in the catalog itself). ~~ ramin

I have the same paranoia with the DB, but as others have already said, you can simply turn on the global option to also record everything in the XMP sidecar file (or internally with DNG files). This does slow the processing down somewhat, but it is still worth it. ~~ Sean Phillips

The database is there for one simple reason, speed. The reason I gave up on Bridge/ACR is because it was too slow… With the LR database I can quickly parse through a folder of 3000 images with close to zero delay… If you want sidecar files, you can still get them with LR. I actually export sidecar files for all my photos after doing any editing of them… I backup the LR database daily and even if I loose it, all my work is still in the files on the NAS and I can just re-import everything with no loss. ~~ latoga

I delete my LR database all the time. It’s okay. The XMP files have all the information in them. And they sit right next to my .CR2 files — meaning they get backed up / moved TOGETHER as a unit. No worries about losing a database here. ~~ David Terry

A database would not mess up your directory structure and it shouldn’t have anything to do with your pictures. The LR database only contains metadata about your pictures and it doesn’t hold any of your pixels…so no worries there…if you lose the database you will only lose the metadata you haven’t saved to your image files. ~~ Vlad

I don’t mind being reliant on a database because LR keeps reminds me to back it up every week (more often, if I change my settings). I save the DB on a separate HDD, so I’m still covered if one drive fails. ~~ Luis Cruz

Number one advantage of using the database for me…. Offline access to your images. You can have images stored across dozens of external drives, CD/DVDs, networks, where-ever, and you can find them all without having the devices connected. You can do any database operations (searches, cataloging, etc) with the drives disconnected, but for editing of course they need to be online. You can’t do that with Bridge, once the drive is disconnected, so are the images and access to them. ~~ Mark

NOT SO REDUNDANT…

MY CONCERN: Lightroom is basically the same thing as Bridge and Adobe Camera Raw combined. There aren’t enough unique features to justify the extra cost.

CONCERN ADDRESSED: Lightroom provides a fluid and streamlined interface as compared to Bridge/ACR. A single interface speeds up productivity over the long run.

Brian is correct here: Lightroom uses the exact same RAW converter that Photoshop does via its Camera RAW module (ACR). However, it is quite a bit more than just a combination of Bridge and ACR. Browsing through your photographs and making adjustments in Lightroom is a very fluid process. This is not my experience with Bridge + ACR! What is missing is the database back-end that Lightroom leverages to make browsing quick and efficient. ~~ Ryan Dlugosz

While that may not be drastically different than what you’re used to [with Bridge/ACR] the benefit is having the tools in one consolidated piece of software. ~~ Jim Goldstein

The feature parity you mention only refers to what can be done to the images, not how it is done. You may prefer working with ACR for your raw processing, but from my little experience with it, Lightroom walks all over it. In fact, the interface is entirely the reason I prefer Lightroom to Bridge/ACR. ~~ Neil Creek

I still do use Photoshop but just for the heavy lifting of going in depth or fine tuned adjustments to a photo. At this point LR gets me through 90%+ of my editing work and much faster than any other tool I have used. ~~ latoga

I’ll concede this – there is a lot of overlap between LR and PS Bridge + ACR. I’ll say this much though – my processing times were cut in half (and that’s understating it) when I started using LR. I process anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand images for each shoot, and while I still promise to deliver images within one week, I can usually submit my discs the next day. ~~ Luis Cruz

THE MOB RULES…

MY CONCERN: Just because everyone is using the software, it doesn’t mean that it’s the absolute best thing to use.

CONCERN ADDRESSED: Most photographers are very software savvy and they don’t just use something because everyone else does.

Lightroom is definitely mainstream, but it’s for good reason… You need to make your own decisions about the tools you use in your workflow and remember that it’s about making great images – not the tools you’re using to get there. ~~ Ryan Dlugosz

People haven’t jumped onto Lightroom because everyone else is doing it. They’ve done so because the software saves photographers time (processing and searching) and its filled a much needed niche for easily organizing ones work. ~~ Jim Goldstein

Your equally silly for NOT wanting to use Lightroom because of the mob mentality as those who may use it for the same reason. I couldn’t care less what the mob thinks. I care what people I respect think, and my own experience. I’m sure you’re the same really, but don’t think you have to be a rebel or rage against the machine. You may be missing out on something you’d othewise like. Sometimes the mob gets it right. ~~ Neil Creek

It really is about saving me time…I could care less what the mob thinks as well. But since it saves me time, that is value that I’m willing to pay for. ~~ latoga

I think the reason for the cult following is simple – LR is a great tool for managing images. When I first used it, I thought – what was all the fuss about? However, after I first processed a shoot with over a thousand images with it, I was sold. ~~ Luis Cruz

ADDRESSING SOME LIGHTROOM MISCONCEPTIONS

6825
Creative Commons License photo credit: obeck

In addition to giving the Lightroom community a chance at defending their software, I wanted to see how many Lightroom misconceptions bubbled out of the discussion. I prompted this with my point #2 — being redundant with Bridge/ACR. I find that many Photoshop users are unaware of the features they already have at their fingertips, and they assume that they have to go buy Lightroom to get those features.

Want a view that shows you all of the files you’ve taken with the 24-70mm lens in 2008 on the 5d with the keyword ‘Tree’ (but not those with the keyword ‘apple’) and are rated 5 stars? Not a problem; it’ll even update itself as you import new photos. Want to build a collection of images that you’ve displayed at a particular gallery show? Just make a collection out of them and this view is always available to you – without requiring extra storage since the collection is just info in the database. You can’t do that in Bridge! ~~ Ryan Dlugosz

Yes you can. The search capabilities are the same between Bridge and Lightroom. Bridge also has the ability to create Collections based on pre-set search criteria. What it can’t do is create “drag-n-drop” albums (or groups of photos) — you have to use keywords or other metadata to prompt the collection.

… the database IS handy for finding a photo or photos, whether it be by keyword, lens, shutter speed or any other metadata. Can Bridge do that? ~~ Neil Creek

Yes, it can.

The reasons I like it better than Bridge are…
[1] easier library management, including tagging, titles, search etc – and it’s faster than Bridge
[2] non-destructive edits
[3] ability to make changes to one RAW file and copy and paste those settings to a selection of other RAW files
[4] good integration with Photoshop when you want to do advanced edits
[5] good plugins, including an Export to Flickr plugin and develop preset plugins
[6] I can do RAW development without needing to go into Photoshop/Adobe RAW
[7] I can work so much faster in Lightroom.
~~ Tim Johnson

[1] Yup, it tends to be a bit faster if you have a well-kept database.
[2] ACR is also non-destructive, even with JPEG files.
[3] Bridge can copy and paste image settings too.
[4] Photoshop isn’t really integrated with Lightroom, it’s the same with Bridge.
[5] ACR has good presets too — they’re the same raw process settings as Lightroom.
[6] Bridge can also launch ACR without launching Photoshop.
[7] I don’t doubt it.

Try taking a batch of 200-300 images (after selecting the shots that will be processed further), adding metadata to them (subject names as keywords, copyright info, titles, and locations), processing them, and exporting to the web, and you’ll get an idea why it really has gained such a following. ~~ ramin

No problem, that’s what Bridge and ACR are built for. I do exactly that with every shoot.

It’s all in the workflow for me. Photoshop doesn’t have too much of a workflow capability as far as i’ve observed, whereas Lightroom is flexible enough with an array of workflow options which works great when you have several hundred photos from an event to process and pick for different uses. ~~ Charlene

You’re totally right. Photoshop doesn’t have workflow capabilities when it comes to large sets of images. Bridge does — that’s the software that I was comparing Lightroom to, not Photoshop. Bridge.

Furthermore, how long do you expect that Bridge will continue to exist now LR has been out for a while? As you mentioned before, LR is using bits from Bridge and I see little business reason for Adobe to allow Bridge to potentially cannibalize LR. Don’t be surprised if the current version of Bridge is the last one. ~~ Chris

Bridge CS3 won’t be the last one — I’m using Bridge CS4 right now. I can’t see them getting rid of Bridge because it’s bundled with more than just Photoshop. The software is a media management system, not just a photography tool.

So listen, the big overall point here is that Lightroom is a killer piece of software. If you’re looking to step up your organization/productivity game, this is the way to do it. The software is still very new and I expect that future releases will be better than we can imagine — Adobe has a tendency to listen to the users. But also keep in mind that if you’re already a Photoshop user and you don’t want to jump into Lightroom quite yet, you can get a majority of the functionality from Bridge and Adobe Camera Raw. Whatever you decide to use, make sure it meets your needs and gives you room to grow.