Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The New Smugmug

Thank heavens! This is the feature I had been hoping for. Once I've experimented with it, I'll do a post about the experience. Finally, a smugmug that doesn't look clunky and outdated.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

TED talk: Becci Manson: (Re)touching lives through photos

This TED talk from about a year ago is an interesting example of service through photography. Becci Manson, a professional retoucher, helped organize efforts to restore damaged photos of victims of the 2011 tsunami and earthquake in Japan.  I suppose you could argue that the damaged photo is somehow more authentic and adds memory (although a negative one) to the ephemeral object, but I doubt that any of the recipients of the retouching services indulged that kind of academic perspective.

Photo restoration is a lot more complicated that beauty retouching, and my own experience in it has mainly been with old photos retouched for family or friends. A good (although a bit dated—2006) book for learning restoration techniques is Katrin Eisman's Photoshop Restoration & Retouching, which it looks like you can get used for as cheap as $5.55 on Amazon.  There's a more recent restoration and retouching book (2010) that seems to have good reviews, but I haven't read it. I had the opportunity to help with some photos for a woman in our neighborhood who was doing a book of her family history. She had been working for at least a year on it when she first showed it to my son and I. When I saw the scans of photos she was using, I knew I could make them so much better (of course I think that pretty much every time I see a photo—I'm sure it's like hair stylists looking at people's hair or dentists looking at their teeth). In some cases, I rephotographed the originals and worked from there. In others, I worked from the scan. My son even helped with some of the easier retouching. There were old family photos that were torn or had a big chunk missing from the middle of the photo. Where I could, I restored the missing parts.  When I get a chance, maybe I'll give a tutorial of some basics.

Have any of you had the chance to use your retouching skills for service?  If not, maybe you will think of someone you could help out.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

New Smugmug "unveiling" on July 30


After Smugmug announced its massive price increase for pro users, I investigated some alternatives. A lot of users jumped ship, from what I can tell, and Zenfolio was the most popular choice for dissatisfied Smugmug customers. I waited it out, knowing that I still had months left before I would have to renew. At that point, I thought, I would leave Smugmug unless they made some major improvements. They didn't. Out of laziness, I stuck with Smugmug, but like many pro users, I downgraded my account to the version ("portfolio"I think it's called) that doesn't let me set different price lists for different galleries, or offer coupons and boutique packaging, but that does still let me use the pro labs for orders). Finally, nearly a year after the maddening price hike, it looks like Smugmug is going to do something big. Will it be enough to make people return to Smugmug? Will it be worth the wait? I guess we'll see...

Monday, July 22, 2013

Moving out of the wedding business

bridal photo from a popular tutorial about using curves in Photoshop

It's been almost a year that I've quietly been transitioning out of the wedding photography business. It's not that I don't enjoy weddings. I've actually been extremely lucky to have had great clients (no bridezillas ever. no obnoxious parents. yep. that lucky). But even with chronic insomnia there are only so many hours in a day (and I'm also a full-time professor, so that eats up most of my time). It got to the point where I dreaded getting jobs because of all the post-shoot work. The better I got at retouching, the more picky I would get, and the more time I would spend fixing things that no one but another photographer would notice. In that way, digital is really a curse (at least if you have obsessive tendencies).

I've refused or otherwise found a way out of most jobs for the past year, which has not been easy to do financially, but I don't want photography to become a chore. At this point, I've decided two things:
  1. I will only work on art photo projects that really interest me
  2. The only event/portrait work I will do will either have to be "commissioned" at a rate that I assume most people will be unwilling to pay (I'm honestly not sure how much that is right now) OR it will have to be charitable work.
Doing a really great wedding shoot for a couple that would not otherwise be able to afford a photographer sounds a lot more appealing to me than doing a wedding for pay. But how do you know? How do you find that couple? And still, it's not something I could do very often.

Of course there are other types of photography projects that might be a good service. I know of a few photographers that have done amazing projects. I'd like to explore possibilities for service-oriented photography here on the blog. Maybe some of you have ideas to share. Let me know in a comment.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The end of the monetization experiment

Marc Olivier, Eiffel Tower at 6 a.m. (buy it here)

So, a while ago I decided to experiment with "monetization" (is that even a real word?). I like to be up front with everything, so I did a post about it. I wondered:

1.Could I do some form of affiliate marketing that wasn't obnoxious?
2. Could I possibly earn money from it?

My answer: yes on the not obnoxious part and no on the money part. I chose skimlinks because I had read that Pinterest had temporarily used it. I have nothing but good to say about skimlinks. It was easy to set up, they represent a broad spectrum of affiliates, and unlike those annoying pop-up ad words, they don't seem to hijack your blog. But at the end of the day I earned maybe less than $30 total. So I don't blame them. My downfall is probably due to the fact that I have posted less and less, and that when I do post, I'm not trying to get you to buy stuff—oh yeah, except for that little link by my photo up there (notice that?).

Based on my extremely limited knowledge of web marketing, the best way to make money from your blog is to push your own products and services (not someone else's). So that's the next experiment.

So this is the end of the skimlinks experiment. I'll scour out that code as soon as I remember where it is. And I'll get back to posting.