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The Photography Wars Heat Up

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My entire life I’ve enjoyed taking photos. Follow me on Instagram and you’ll see that I’m constantly capturing moments from my life and sharing them with the world. This allows people to connect with me in a way that my blog, podcast or other mediums have never allowed.

Most of us leave the house every day with a camera in our pocket (aka a phone) and yet businesses big and small seem to be ignoring or not fully realizing the power of photography when they plan out their marketing efforts.

Repeat after me: Photography MUST Be Part of Your Marketing Plans.

I’ve been saying it for years and yet not everyone was listening. We even dedicated a whole chapter to photography in Content Rules because Ann and I knew that no matter what business you were in, images are important.

This week we’ve seen the battle for photography heating up online as Instagram pulled their images from Twitter, Flickr unveiled a major update and Twitter added editing capabilities to their native app.

It is easier than ever to take a photo, post it online and get reactions to it. Take one minute to look at your social network of choice and you’ll see photos throughout.

Images are the most important content you can create to get attention online.

I’m not discounting other forms of content, but I am telling you that if you are not creating and sharing images as part of your marketing mix you are in trouble.

Humans enjoy looking at photos. They stand out and get attention from even the most click happy of web surfers.

During my session at NMX I’ll be discussing the importance of photography, but I’ll also be sharing tips on how anyone can find, take and share images that people will enjoy.

While I won’t have time to teach a full photography class, I do plan on sharing my personal workflow and plan on everyone leaving thinking and taking photos in a new light compared to when they walked in.

Three Design Trends to Watch for in 2013

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As we close out 2012, I can safely say that it has been a milestone year for designers.  New technologies are popping up every day that make our lives easier and allow us to stretch our talents further.  Over the course of the year, a few recurring trends have popped up among some of the major site redesigns.  The good news: most of these can be implemented by blog and website owners with very little effort or code knowledge.  Here are a few of my favorite trends to watch out for in the coming year:

By the way: this is in no means an exhaustive list, but merely meant to be a snapshot of things to come.

1. Dynamic Typography

Gone are the days when Helvetica, Arial, Times, and Georgia ruled the roost when it comes to fonts.  While not necessarily unique to 2012, the use of non-standard web fonts (fonts that are not included with an operating system) has increased dramatically as new and innovative ways of serving them have been created.  Here are a few of my favorite web-font sources:

Google Fonts

With a massive library of fonts, and a price tag that can’t be beat (free!), Google has become a go-to resource for web designers.  Their web font directory is completely searchable by style, weight, and thickness; you’re guaranteed to find a font that will suit your needs.  Implementation is even easier: simply drop a piece of JavaScript into your <head> section.  Once that’s done, call the font family in your stylesheet, and you’re done!

FontSquirrel

FontSquirrel has a great selection of off-beat fonts, separated for ease-of-discovery by grouping (grunge, retro, etc).  While the selection is good, the delivery method is a bit more complex: instead of hosting the font files on their server, you have to download them, store them on your server via FTP, and then link to where they are on the server.  Once that’s done, the rest is the same: call your font family in the stylesheet and you’re done.

TypeKit

Typekit was purchased by Adobe not too long ago, so one would argue that they’re the best.  They have a wide selection of professional font families available that other services don’t; classics like Gotham, for example.  They have a limited selection available for free, but to get to the majority of the collection you have to pay a fee.  Once you’ve selected your fonts, however, two lines of JavaScript will fix everything for you – you don’t have to call them manually from your stylesheet, call them inside of TypeKit instead.

My Favorite Fonts

I’ve chosen a few fonts from each service to showcase as some of my favorites:

Serif Fonts

Museo (TypeKit)

Vollkorn (Google Fonts)

Josefin Slab (Google Fonts)

Sans-Serif Fonts

Open Sans (FontSquirrel)

Proxima Nova (TypeKit)

Ubuntu (Google Fonts)

Display / Script Fonts

Girl Next Door (Google Fonts)

Pacifico (Google Fonts)

Special Elite (Google Fonts)

2. Large Photo Backgrounds

As internet connections get better, photos are becoming more and more prevalent – not just as accents to content, but as part of the design itself.  Couple that with the semi-new CSS3 standards, and designers are taking photography to a whole new level.  It’s not uncommon to see designs and blogs with photos spanning the width of the site itself.

How to Set a Large Photo Background

This is fairly easy, but it does require a bit of thinking.  Specifically, you have to make sure that the background is high enough resolution to accomplish what you need, but not so large that even high-bandwidth devices take too long to download it.  I recommend no more than 500k-700k for your file size – any more will be too large, and any less will be too compressed (and will look terrible).

Upload your photo, and use this code in your stylesheet:

body{background: url(images/image-file.jpg) no-repeat center top;}

This sets the background image, tells it to not repeat (or tile), and aligns it at the top-center of your site. If you want to scale the image, you can add the “background-size” attribute:

body{
background: url(images/image-file.jpg) no-repeat center top;
background-size: 100% auto;
}

This will cause the background image to always be 100% wide (and the height will scale accordingly) – great for responsive designs (which we’ll talk about momentarily).

Examples of Photo Background Sites

Here are a few sites I’ve designed or seen online that utilize a large photo background:

 

thirdoptionmen.org

mellowmushroom.com

bentlyreserve.com

3. Responsive Design

I want to go on record saying that responsive design is the most important thing to happen to web design in the recent years.  So important, in fact, that the W3C has recommended that all sites strive to be “one web” accessible by all devices – something in which responsive design excels.

Responsive (or adaptive design, as it’s sometimes called) means that a design will adjust itself depending on the size of your browser or the device you are viewing it on.  Meaning, instead of having a mobile website, you have one website that adapts itself and responds to the “viewport” (the size of your viewing device from edge to edge).  Responsive design is made possible through the use of @media queries.

What are @media Queries

A @media query is nothing new to web designers; we’ve been using them to attach stylesheets for years.  However, recently, designers have been utilizing its parameters (specifically, “max-width” and “min-width”) to allow different styles for different screen sizes.

A media query looks like this:

/* Smaller than standard 960 (devices and browsers) */
@media only screen and (max-width: 959px) {}

This tells the browser to apply styles to only devices 959px wide and below.  Anything above that will ignore any styles put here.

Using @media Queries

This is a bit more complex than some of the other things we’ve talked about, since you have to have knowledge of CSS to implement, but here are the basics.  First, we include this in the <head> section of our site:

<meta name=”viewport” content=”width=device-width, initial-scale=1, maximum-scale=1″>

This code tells our site to scale according to the width of the device – it’s an important step in making sure things are appropriately sized.  Next, we include the media queries we want to use.  This is my favorite set – you can set them however you want, but I’ve included common breakpoints in device sizes:

/* Smaller than standard 960 (devices and browsers) */
 @media only screen and (max-width: 959px) {}
/* Tablet Portrait size to standard 960 (devices and browsers) */
 @media only screen and (min-width: 768px) and (max-width: 959px) {}
/* All Mobile Sizes (devices and browser) */
 @media only screen and (max-width: 767px) {}
/* Mobile Landscape Size to Tablet Portrait (devices and browsers) */
 @media only screen and (min-width: 480px) and (max-width: 767px) {}
/* Mobile Portrait Size to Mobile Landscape Size (devices and browsers) */
 @media only screen and (max-width: 479px) {}

This includes breakpoints for all mobile devices (under 959px – great for people who utilize a 960px grid system), tablets, all phones, landscape phones, and portrait phones.  Now, the hard part – apply the styles you want to get the site to look how you wish.

If it looks intimidating, that’s fine: there are a lot of pre-built themes and templates that have responsive elements built in.

Examples of Responsive Design

Here are a few examples of sites utilizing a responsive design

mickieandme.com

www.boogey.com

thirdoptionmen.org

Summary

2012 has been a fantastic year for web designers, by far.  And if these trends are anything to judge by, 2013 will be even better. These are but three of the emerging trends and resources we have at our disposal, and many of them can be implemented easily by site owners.  Between large photo backgrounds, dynamic typography, and responsive designs, we can create sites that function well and look amazing.

What other design trends do you see coming in your favorite websites and blogs?

 

Editor’s Note: Want to learn more about design from Mitch? Check out his session at NMX in January, entitled “Advanced Blog Design: The Latest Tools, Trends & Best Practices You Can Implement Today!

7 Ways to Inject More Creativity Into Your Photos

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It seems everyone’s a photographer now (and that’s kind of awesome) but I gotta be honest… not everyone is an interesting photographer. The good news is that photography isn’t a field of magic secrets and you don’t have to sacrifice any animals to make better pictures. I’ll be speaking at New Media Expo in January about photography tips for blogging and social media, and I wanted to offer up some quick suggestions how to inject more creativity into your photos.

  1. Get close – And when you think you’re close enough, get closer. We see too many snapshots from a very wide angle and the interesting subject is only a small bit of the scene. Very few photos have been ruined by moving closer to the subject.
  2. EmissionsCrop Creatively – Most cameras make images with a 4:3 or 3:2 aspect ratio (the ratio of the long side to the short side of the image) and 1:1 ratios have taken off since Instagram became popular, but don’t hestitate to crop a photo into different dimensions. Have a wide, short subject? Make a wide panaorama. Something tall and skinny? Make a tall and skinny photo (this one might fit well alongside a blog post).
  3. Find the Light – Sure, you could get all fancy and use speedlights or other external lighting specifically for photography, but odds are that most of the photos you’re creating are happening under either natural outdoor light or the ambient light indoors. Look at that light. Look at the angles. Look where the light is hard and casting harsh shadows vs. where it’s soft and diffused. Move around. Place your subject where the light is better when you can. As a specific example, if there’s a window (not directly facing the sun) you’ll often find nice light coming through that window and nearby would be a great place for an indoor portrait.
  4. Fly High or Get Down – Far too many photographs suffer from “six foot guy with a camera to his eye” syndrome. They’re created in the most natural way as someone simply holds the camera up to their face and clicks the shutter. As a result, photos offen suffer from this similarity and lack of variance in perspective. Try something new… get down on the ground and shoot upward. Find a vantage point that’s up above the crowd. I’ve been known to bring a 6’ stepladder with me on some photo trips… it’s fascinating how just a few extra feet really change one’s ability to make a compelling image. Even without extra gear, holding your camera above your head can be a great way to change things up.
  5. Look for Reflections – I live near Portland, which means that a puddle of standing water is a frequent sight. Puddles aren’t the only option of course; great reflections can be made in lakes, fountains, or other bodies of water. Smooth water can make for some interesting straightforward reflections, but a rippled surface can also make for some interesting (although more abstract) patterns, especially at night.
  6. Leave Part of the Subject Out of the Frame – Most photos include the entire subject in the frame, but what if you left some of it out for a bit of mystery or to get your reader thinking a bit. Sure, you could write about a popular board game and include a photo of the game board… but what if, instead, you included a photo that only consisted of part of a recognizable game piece?
  7. Blur on Purpose – No, you probably don’t want to go out and create all of your photos blurry, but selective blur can be an interesting effect. Want to show motion as cars or people move by quickly? Put your camera on shutter priority mode (or use an iPhone app like Slow Shutter Cam) and set it to 1/2 or 1 second duration and see what results you get. Experiment.

These tips are a sampling of the sorts of things I’ll speak about in my Photography Tips for New Media session I’ll be leading at 2:15pm on the first day of NMX (Sunday, January 6th). In addition to the creative aspects, I’ll offer an overview of basic exposure and lighting, as well as a few things to keep in mind when shooting specifically for your blog or social media. I hope to see you at NMX!

10 Tips for Your Brand or Business to Get Started on Instagram

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instagram homepage

instagram homepage Photo-sharing app Instagram isn’t the first service to help brands and businesses share pictures from a mobile device to your community and it definitely won’t be the last.

Instagram, fresh from finalizing its acquisition by Facebook and crossing the 100 million users mark, has become the prominent dashboard for capturing, editing, and sharing images across the social web. With the growing importance and emphasis placed on images within social media, Instagram has become an optimal visual sharing mobile platform.

If your brand or business is ready to integrate Instagram into your content strategy and social media mix, here are 10 things you can do now to get started on the path.

GET STARTED

Reserve Your Instagram Name

Instagram is currently not set up to have brand/business accounts, but you can set up more than one personal account. If you already have a personal Instagram account, just make sure that you sign-up for another account using a different email address.

KEY TIP: If you are having difficulty securing a username, Instagram does have a trademark policy in place and by contacting Instagram you may have a chance at claiming your business Instagram name.

Set Up Your Profile

Instagram allows you to add a profile image, bio, and link to your website. Take advantage of filling these out and keep your information descriptive and simple.

KEY TIP: Since Instagram is rooted in mobile usage, make sure that the website that you decide to link your profile to is mobile friendly.

Sync Your Social Profiles

Instagram can be an excellent visual starting point for any photographic content that you wish to syndicate on other platforms. Take Facebook, for example, you can share your Instagram photos to brand pages, ensuring that your content displays larger and more prominent in Facebook streams than conventional shares and updates.

KEY TIP: Be sure to connect your account to Facebook, Twitter and any other third-party social sharing sites where you have an account (Profile > Edit sharing settings).

DEVELOP A STRATEGY

What’s Your Story

Instagram is a great platform to tell your brand story and can allow you to connect with your audience on a very emotional level. Spend time researching what Instagram consumers are most excited about, what type of content they engage with the most, and why consumers should even follow you on Instagram in the first place.

KEY TIP: Planning out your brand story and content strategy ahead of time will give you the insight into how and where your Instagram content will be distributed within your social media ecosystem.

Develop Your Editorial Calendar

Much like an editorial calendar for your blog, Twitter, or Facebook page, Instagram should be viewed with the same comprehensive tactics.

Brands can earn greater reach and results by investing in a journalistic approach to their content. Move your editorial calendar away from promotional messaging to the delivery of very useful, inspiring, and meaningful images that will drive engagement and positive viewing experiences.

You can define a schedule on how often you would like to update Instagram. At the beginning of the week you may decide to post behind-the-scenes images of your business, followed by new product updates mid-week, and finally ending with inspirational quotes or photos leading into the weekend.

KEY TIP: Entering a social platform takes commitment and consistency. Over time, your brand or business should be able to understand what type of images are most engaging within your community. You will also learn when is the optimal time your Instagram audience is most active.

Cross Platform Integration

Since Instagram is a tool that works best in conjunction with other social platforms, developing a strategy within a holistic social media strategy is a strong approach. Visually-emphasized sites such as Pinterest, Tumblr and Facebook can benefit from the additional photographic content that will help further the reach and engagement of your messaging.

KEY TIP: When re-publishing content across multiple platforms consider adjusting the copy on each platform’s post. Copy that is suited for Pinterest with a specific call to action may not work for Facebook.  Facebook and other social platforms may require a different call to action.

ENGAGEMENT TACTICS

Involve Your Staff and Employees

Sticking to a set Instagram editorial calendar can get overwhelming at times, especially when you find yourself with a shortage of visual content to update. This can be a perfect opportunity for your brand or business to begin involving your staff and employees.

Not only will empowering your staff in contributing to Instagram give them a stronger sense of ownership, it will also show your employees a more creative side of your business and how social media can play a valuable part.

KEY TIP: Like any other social platform it’s about defining a brand voice. Instagram is just a more visual medium. Behind-the-scenes photos from staff and employees can put additional faces to your brand or business, as well as show a holistic view of your brand.

Engage Your Community

Be sure that you stay engaged with your community even when at times you may feel like you have nothing to share. Just like any other social platform, remember that Instagram is a community too and that reciprocity is key! Reach out to your followers and other Instagram users by liking and commenting on photos, especially if they mention your brand or business. This can increase visibility and provide additional insights to defining your community. Responding back to comments can be viewed as active participation in the community and will continue to keep your consumers engaged and happy.

KEY TIP: Other engagement opportunities can include creating contests and promotions that encourage your community to talk about your brand or business. Feel free to share any promotions/contests you may have running on your other social profiles. This will help raise the awareness with your consumers that you are on Instagram and will be providing content that may be valuable to them as well.

Tag and Geo-Tag Your Photos

Incorporating hashtags (just like on Twitter) will help increase visibility. A great start can be as simple as using a hashtag for the photo’s subject matter, location, filters used, and maybe even additional inspirational descriptions. While hashtags can increase visibility and build context around your images, don’t go overboard.

Instagram now places additional emphasis on geo-located images with their integration of a map function in app, geo-tagging your photos can provide additional visibility.

KEY TIP: If you don’t like the look of all those hashtags in your photo caption, feel free to add hashtags in a comment below the caption. This will keep updates cleaner yet still prove functional within Instagram search queries. As for geo-tags, adding a location to your photos, whether it is a city or even your actual place of business, will provide greater context around your Instagram images that consumers can engage with.

MEASURE AND OPTIMIZE

Utilize Tools To Optimize Your Content

After all is said and done, gaining more insight into your community and content will keep you on the continued path of optimizing your photos. There are a number of different tools such as Statigram or SimplyMeasured that are available for brands and businesses that can shed light into your most engaged times to post during the day, best filter used, and even identifying your brand advocates who engage with your content the most.

KEY TIP: Define what your success metrics are when it comes to Instagram and developing your strategy. This will help you to know what goals you want to achieve and what you’ll need to optimize to get there.

Remember that Instagram should reflect your brand or business as a whole and not attempt to create it’s own identity. Instagram can be a positive investment within your social eco-system that you may be pleasantly surprised with later down the line.

Photo Credit: Bigstock

Who Swiped Photos from Your Blog? If You Care, These Tools Can Help

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You’re a savvy blogger who knows that it’s important to share not only words on your site, but photos as well. Visitors will be more likely to engage with an article that catches their eye with a great photograph, infographic, or drawing than they will with a wall of text.

Lady Against RedA wise blogger knows that you can’t just use any random photo you find online, so perhaps you’ve purchased some stock images or used Creative Commons photos on your blog.

But what about the opposite scenario? What if you’ve posted your own photos and you have this gut feeling that folks might be taking them or using them elsewhere?

Should You Care?

Before diving into how to police your images, it’s worth considering if you want to spend time doing this. Most interesting images that end up on the internet stand a good chance of being repurposed, reblogged, swiped for a personal blog post, or stolen for some other purpose. Technically most of these uses constitute copyright infringement and in theory the offender is liable for damages, but it’s also worth consideration if policing the web for unauthorized image use is the most productive use of your time. There’s no right answer to this question, but consider what you feel is the harm caused by a potential infringement versus the other work for your business that you could do in the time needed to monitor the usage.

Okay, Let’s Go Photo-Hunting

If you’ve decided it might be interesting to track some of your more interesting photos, there are a couple sites/services that I can recommend.

The leading service in this field is TinEye, which allows you to search for an image on the web from a variety of sources. In the example here, we’re curious about your photo that you originally posted to your website or photo sharing service. You can either upload the image to TinEye, or give it the source URL for your photo as a starting point. TinEye performs some analysis on the photo and then returns a list of results where it thinks it has found that same photo being used elsewhere on the internet. You can browse through the results and see which uses are legit and which might be the result of someone “borrowing” your work. In addition to ad hoc queries, TinEye offers commercial services if you’ll want to search for large amounts of your work on an ongoing basis.

Another good option for the occasional search is Google’s Search by Image feature, which allows for searching the web with the power of Google, except instead of starting with a text query, you start with an image. Much like TinEye, you can start with the image URL, a direct upload, or even use a browser extension to enable easier searching. Google then presents a Google search results page including other copies of the photo with contextual information about where it is being used.

Once you’ve found an offender, you can contact the blogger, webmaster, or even the web host and request either that the image be taken down, linked and credited, or licensed.

Do you police for your content elsewhere on the web? Do you consider the occasional image theft a cost of doing business? Do you use another service that folks should know about? Please share in a comment below.

Facebook Buys Instagram: Should Users “Like” This Status Update?

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instagram facebook Today, Facebook overlord Mark Zuckerberg announced the company has acquired the user-friendly smartphone picture app Instagram, which made news last week when it (finally) came to Android. The purchase price? A whopping ONE BILLION DOLLARS. But all things considered, that might be a bargain for Facebook, depending on user reaction.

And I think users are still awe-struck by the news, which was kept pretty quiet until today’s announcement. But the question on their minds, is this: Should I like this change? Or should I run for my life?

As of writing this post, Zuckerberg’s status has been liked by 86,391 people, and it’s only been about an hour. Of course, there’s no dislike button on Facebook, which might tell another tale if it were available. But that made people liking a status so quickly means that the company does have some support – and I’m an optimist. Personally, there are several things about Facebook and their policies that I do not like, but I think this acquisition is going to be awesome for both companies.

Instagram and the Little Engine that Could

You all know the story about the little engine that could, right? Basically, it’s the kid’s tale of a engine who is faced with going up a huge mountain carrying a heavy load. He repeats, “I think I can, I think I can” over and over to stay motivated and make it to the peak, even when others find it an impossibly daunting task for such a small train. Instagram has been that little engine.

The company has…or, well, had…only 13 employees, and less funding from investors than you’d think, given their popularity. I’m assuming that one of the reasons it did take so long for them to come to Android was lack of resources. There’s such cool potential with Instagram, but being a small start-up isn’t easy.

Now, they’ve got no excuse. If I was CEO Kevin Systrom, I would be tempted to fill my office with money and roll around in it. More money allows you to give customers a better user experience, expand the project to be available to more people, get creative with your offerings, and more. Having an investor like Facebook makes it possible for Instagram to get even better – and that’s a good thing for users.

The Dark Shadow Cast by Facebook

Of course, the downside is that the person paying the bills pretty much gets to call the shots. Facebook has already said that they plan to keep the company as it’s own brand, rather than absorbing it into Facebook. I imagine that it will be similar to Google and YouTube – the companies will heavily work together, but Instagram isn’t going to just disappear before our eyes.

At least, that’s my hope. Again, I’m an optimist.

But I think Facebook is maturing as a company, and they realize that changing Instagram to be something exclusively for Facebook users is not a good direction for the company. In his announcement, Zuckerberg wrote:

We think the fact that Instagram is connected to other services beyond Facebook is an important part of the experience. We plan on keeping features like the ability to post to other social networks, the ability to not share your Instagrams on Facebook if you want, and the ability to have followers and follow people separately from your friends on Facebook.

In other words, Facebook has a cool new kickball, but they are going to share it on the playground with all the other kids so everyone can play kickball together. They just get to be pitcher.

Still, I think it’s something we need to keep an eye on as users. My hope is that Facebook will use this acquisition to make their own photo-sharing offerings stronger for Facebook users, but without mucking it up for current Instagram users who don’t want to be forced to use Facebook or change the way they use Instagram drastically. That might not be what happens in reality.

I do think, though, that we need to give Facebook and Instagram a chance.

And a final thought: What say you, Google+? For a network that has been competing with Facebook, this is a pretty big blow. I bet smaller networks like Pinterest and even Twitter have just gotten juicier-looking to Google!

Your turn to weigh in! What do you think of the Facebook-Instagram deal?

How to Quickly Watermark Every Photo for Your Blog

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video screen how to watermark pictures

One of the struggles for bloggers who like using their own photographs is that people aren’t afraid to steal them for use on their own blog. Watermarking your photos won’t stop everyone, of course, but it is a measure you can take to deter others as well as ensure that you’re still getting credit, even when your picture is taken without your consent.

I personally never watermarked pictures in the past because…well…it always seemed like such a hassle. Then, I found this video on how to set up a action in Photoshop to add a watermark quickly and to batches of photos, rather than going through the steps of doing each one individually. Genius! Hope it helps you guys too:

Of course, it should go without saying, but don’t watermark images you don’t own. Also, if you want the picture without the watermark as well, make sure you also save a copy in another folder – once that image is on there, it can be difficult to remove.

Thanks to Bethany Gilbert from Capturing Your Market for posting this video on YouTube and making my life so much easier in less than four minutes.

5 Fun Digital Photo Effects Apps for the iPhone/iPad

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We all know how important multi-media elements are to a blog post. Using digital photography is a great way to quickly obtain images relevant to a post. I use my phone constantly to snap pictures, and since I just got the iPhone 4 I’ve been playing around with all the fun photo effects apps! First I’m testing the free ones, and then I’ll see about upgrading.

Here are 5 fun apps for digital photo effects and my thoughts on each. For each app I used the same picture of a single rose stalk in my backyard that blooms four roses at a time!

Instagram:
I love the retro feel of the photo effects in this app! You can choose to take a new picture or use existing ones from your camera. Once you’re done zooming and cropping you can add one of a dozen effects and then share via Twitter, Facebook, Flickr or email. This picture uses the Hefe setting.

Color Effects:
Turn your photo to black and white, and then color select portions of the picture for accent. You can also change the color to a different one altogether. Note: After testing this out, I suggest zooming in several times to get into tight spaces for coloring!

Fotolr PS:
This app is like having a digital scrapbook tool in your pocket! You can edit portraits by adding/editing eyebrows, changing the hairstyle or color, removing acne, adding makeup and more. After you’re done you can add a frame or text and then place your photo into one of several scenes or backgrounds. That’s what I did here:

Comic Touch Light:
Along with a couple of effects, the best part of this app is the ability to add comic/thought/speech bubbles to your photos! The full version offers even more capability.

Old Photo Pro:
Select a picture and this app immediately converts it to look like an old photo. You can then tweak the brightness, contrast, and/or change the paper edges until it looks like it’s ready to slip into a frayed album.

What are your favorite photo effects apps?

How to Boost Your Brand with Photos

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I liken adding pictures to my blog as yard work. It’s something I know I have to do to make things presentable, but it’s not my favorite task in the world. Don’t get me wrong; I love taking pictures. It’s just all the pesky resizing and file naming and whatnot that gets me down for some reason.

Adding pictures is a lot more palatable, however, if you’re doing so in a way that boosts your brand. If you’re writing a group blog (like here at BlogWorld) or something that is heavy on information, but low on entertainment, stock photography might be all you need to keep your readers interested – but don’t discount how easy it is to take the photography a step farther. I’m not talking about starting a photography blog or even using an image-heavy design or becoming a strong Flickr user. I’m just talking about making smart decisions about your blog and the pictures you use.  If you’re willing to put in a little extra time, it can have a huge impact on your traffic. Let’s look at three different examples, mini case studies if you will, at how bloggers are using images to successfully build a brand.

Images on After Graduation

This is one of the recent pictures I used on After Graduation. It shows my personality and (I hope) makes you want to read the post to see why I’m making a goofy face.

I swear I’m not a total narcissist; I just wanted to start this discussion by looking at my own blog, After Graduation. When I started writing there, things were much different, and it looks more like what BlogWorld looks like. I made an effort to use a picture in most of my posts in order to break up the text (and fit my WordPress theme at the time), but most of what I used came from sxc.hu or another stock photography site.

Things took a bit of a turn when I realized that I wanted to get a lot more personable with my blog. I didn’t want to build something where people just came for advice. I wanted to build something that people actually stuck around and read through old posts and such because I was entertaining. To help readers connect more with me, I started adding pictures from my own life.

I certainly got a reaction. In just a few days, I jumped from a mere 3 RSS subscribers who had been hanging on for four or five months to 20. That might not seem like a lot to you, but for a small blog just starting out, it was huge to see that kind of increase in a weekend. And really, I didn’t do much different – I just used pictures of myself in the two posts I published. People, for some reason, responded.

Today, I use a mix of stock photography and personal photography. I don’t have a picture to illustrate every thought, so stock does work well sometimes, but when I post a picture of myself, there’s a real connection. We’re all voyeurs at hear – we want to look into the lives of others as we’re reading. Since then, I’ve definitely seen a greater response in terms of subscribers (both RSS and newsletter), time spent on the site, bounce rate, etc.

Images on Fluent in 3 Months

I’m not the only person who makes and effort to use a lot of pictures of myself. Someone else that comes immediately to mind is Benny of Fluent in 3 Months. He’s someone with a big personality, so I’m guessing that posting pictures came pretty naturally. I’ve told you what I see as a blogger who post a lot of pictures on her own site – and that’s only confirmed as a reader.

When I read Benny’s blog, I feel like I’m getting to know him personally, like he’s standing in front of me and we’re having a conversation. Yes, that comes from his writing style, but it also comes from the images he posts of himself. You get a little slice of him every time you log online and visit his site, like you’re part of his life.

That makes me trust him more. People talk a lot about being honest with your readers, and I think photography falls right in line with that. It shows me that you are who you say you are. It’s always quite jarring to meet someone in real life who looks nothing like their pictures or worse – to meet someone in real life who never posted pictures, so you’ve created an image of them in your mind that is completely wrong.

Images on Prolific Living

Posting pictures of yourself isn’t your own image option to build your brand as a blogger. Someone who doesn’t post pictures of herself often, but still does an amazing job with blog images is Farnoosh of Prolific Living. If you check out her site, you’ll notice that the photography she uses is gorgeous. She takes the pictures and does the editing herself.

It fits her brand. Prolific Living is a personal development blog, and Farnoosh is one of the most upbeat, friendly bloggers out there. The images she uses really help her readers connect with what she’s all about. It really elevates her blog above others that just use the same stock photography over and over again. Love it.

I want to challenge you to take a look at the images you use on your own blog. Does stock photography work for your blog? Or, with a little more effort, would there be a better option to promote your brand?

5 Ways Photographers Can Build a Strong Online Following through Social Media

Author:
4- Be Consistent

… by Eric Kim

Nowadays, almost anyone can be a photographer. With falling prices for DSLR’s and other cameras, everybody and their uncle bob can take impressive photos. Not only that, but there is a plethora of sites for photography such as photo blogs, Flickr, and Facebook. To say the least, it is very difficult to set yourself apart from other photographers let alone build a strong online following.

I faced this problem when I started shooting photography. I wanted to share my photographs with the world, so I created a website and hosted my photos—expecting everybody to come to me. As Ray Liotta famously said in the film Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come.” However, in the digital age, this is no longer the case. I grew more and more disappointed as time passed and I didn’t get nearly as many pageviews and comments on my site as I dreamed. It took a lot of asking around, personal experience, and trial and error before I figured out my fatal flaws in my attempts to build an online community for photography.

In this post, I will share with you my personal successful methods to build a strong online following through social media.

Create friends:
Social networks online work very similarly to those offline. If you want consistent views/comments on your photography, you need to have friends and a network. You cannot expect other people to give you feedback if you don’t give feedback to others. And in order to have friends online, it takes hard work and time. Comment on the works of others, and also communicate with them through Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and blogs.

 
Think about it, who are the best friends—the ones that always talk about themselves or those who want to hear your input and suggestions as well? Relationships are always a two-way street.

 

Promote the work of others:
Nowadays everybody wants to be a star. However the problem with this is that nobody likes blatant self-promoters. Rather than trying vigorously to promote your own work, focus more on others and the community. If you have a blog, feature other photographers. This has many strengths. First of all, you will build a stronger connection with other people—who might mention your generosity to their own online networks. And ultimately by highlighting the work of other photographers, your work will be better known as well. And most of all, it feels great to help others through building an online community.

 

Ask for the input of others:
On my Facebook fan page, I always try to spur discussions by asking the input of others. Instead of simply showing your work and telling people to check it out, ask them what they think about your photos. Ask them what they like and possibly what could use improvement.

 
Create discussions by asking people’s opinion about certain topics. For example, you can ask: “What do you prefer, color or black and white?” This is a topic that many people have a strong opinion on, and creating a lively debate is often good.

 

Be consistent:
Although it is not necessary that you post new photographs or blog posts everyday, it is important that you are consistent. For example, if you regularly post three times a week (Monday, Wed, and Friday) and suddenly you quit posting for a week or two, all of the people who check out your site will no longer be interested and never come back.

 
Although it is difficult to be consistent with photography, you cannot rely on inspiration alone. As Chuck Close famously said, “Inspiration is for amateurs, and the rest of us just show up and get to work.” There will be days where you won’t want to go out and shoot or upload your work. However being consistent is crucial.

 

Stand out:
There are millions of photographers out there—what differentiates you from the rest of them? This can be accomplished by several ways:

  • Stick to a genre of photography: Keep your portfolio consistent by only showing photos of either nature, portraits, or urban images. A cluttered portfolio looks unprofessional and you won’t be very memorable.
  • Define your style: Don’t make your images look like everybody else’s. Either choose a radical type of post-processing or show your color through your writing.
  • Be controversial: It is not good to always be wishy-washy in what you believe in. If you think that film is awesome and digital sucks, vocalize that. If you think that film is played out and just for hipsters, say the same. Controversy always attracts attention and will make you much better known.

So what tips do you have to build a strong online presence through social media? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts!

Eric Kim is an international street photographer based in Los Angeles. He has traveled all around the world, shooting photography in places such as Paris, London, Prague, Venice, and Seoul. Furthermore, he recently taught a street photography workshop in Beirut, Lebanon and currently runs a popular street photography blog as well. You can see his work here and also follow him on Facebook, Flickr, or Twitter.

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