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Photography Websites – Behind the Scenes

Updated for 2013

I decided to change it up a little today and share my knowledge with you on a vitally important piece of the photography puzzle (or any online business presence for that matter).

I’m talking about photography websites and I’m going to share with you why you need to be smart and choose the best solution for your online photography portfolio.

Photography websites are important for a few reasons:

  • A well designed site will define your brand.
  • It’ll showcase your best work.
  • Customers can find you.
  • It’s your 24/7 marketing machine

That means more customers knocking on your door looking for your services.

You Need To Avoid Flash

With so many different and emerging web technologies, finding the correct solution could be like searching for a needle in a haystack. You want photography websites to look professional, beautiful, and they have to be able to showcase your work well. I’ll say this up front – don’t use Flash!

Use WordPress Instead!

Search engines have a hard time indexing Adobe Flash sites because they’re bundled inside a container that cannot be crawled by the major search engines; yes, the engines are getting better and they can handle Flash to a certain degree, but not like pure HTML.

My advice here is to feed the search engines the language they understand and that’s HTML & CSS. The W3C is moving in the right direction by providing a lot of the pretty Flash functionality into HTML 5 and CSS 3 so it’s only a matter of time before it becomes mainstream. Technologies like jQuery can assist with pretty presentation features such as photograph fades and shadowboxes. I won’t get into too much detail here because this topic is way out of scope for this article, but you have options and most of the heavy lifting is already done for you.

There are technologies out there that will help you build beautiful photography websites. Joomla, WordPress, and Drupal are all extensible and easy to understand content management frameworks that will run circles around any Flash based site. Stick to the basics and don’t reinvent the wheel. Beautiful photography websites are attainable; you just have to be in the know, or at least in the know with the tech savvy. 🙂

Behind the Scenes

Diving into a 365 project has been exciting! It’s been more than just a project, but a way of life. I eat, breathe, and sleep photography and I love every minute of it! I may miss a day or two here and there and that’s okay; the instant this becomes a job is the same time it’s no longer fun. There’s more to this photo-a-day project than meets the eye – at least for me. Let me elaborate and give you a behind the scenes look…

See, I know there are books, tutorials, DVD’s, photography websites, even similar blogs that publish photography tips. The difference is, these publications don’t have my mark on them. It hasn’t been taught with my own unique spin. Maybe you relate to me better than someone else teaching the same subject. If you don’t, that’s okay too – I just hope that in the end, I help a few people along the way.

That’s why I am working on a formal photography tutorial section for this website. My illustrations, my storyboards, my tutorial skeletons, and all the little sticky notes with pointers, insights, and raw material will become your foundation for comprehensive photography lessons. Time consuming, yes, but think of it as my way of giving back.

This is long enough for tonight… I leave you with a photo of some raindrops on a windshield; I tend to do my best work alone in silence while the rain pelts my office window.

Raindrops collect on a car windshield with the rest of the scene out of focus.  You can also see out-of-focus tail lights adding some beautiful colored bokeh to the image.

Expose in Photography – First Snow of 2012

Achieving proper exposure in photography is a fundamental skill needed if you want to stop taking snapshots and start making real photographs. You have to break away from "program mode," but fear not, calculating proper exposure is simple to learn!

Your camera sees the proper exposure at 18% grey; this means your camera will take a meter reading (a calculation) over the focus point in your viewfinder and set what it feels are the best values for this. Ah, but there’s a catch… cameras are dumb. Since the camera sees proper exposure at 18% grey, what if your subject isn’t actually 18% grey? Well, your photo is either going to be under or over exposed!

Manually setting your camera exposure comes into play in scenes where the majority of your subject is white or black – it’s also beneficial to do this 100% of the time, but let’s take baby steps for now.

Here’s what happens… say for example you wish to photograph snow; the camera will see your snow as 18% grey and under expose the shot making your beautiful, fluffy, white snow murky and grey. The exact opposite happens when shooting dark or black scenes. The 18% grey camera reading will overcompensate and blow out all those deep, intense shadows.

A solution which I rely on time and time again to get proper exposure is called the PhotoVision Digital Target. As an added bonus, this target will also set your white balance! I use the 14" version because it fits nicely in my bag.

I promise… my little photography blog tips will soon flourish into a fully-blown dedicated learning section on my website; more to come on that…

First Snow of 2012

There is a method to my madness. Getting the correct exposure ties in nicely with my next picture.

We have been blessed with our first snowfall of 2012 this past Saturday! I love the look of pristine untouched snow on roads, pathways, trees, rocks, and anything else for that matter.

Everything looks so pure and clean. Any bit of color in the drab winter months comes to life with snow. Blue US Postal Service mailboxes, red street signs, orange construction cones, and green pine needles pop out of the frame. Oooh, I just made up some new photography ideas! I must update my 365 project ideas list.

Pine needles draw pointed attention to a branch in the lower right portion of the frame where fluffy, white snow sits.

Minimize and Simplify – Frosty Yin Yang

Simplify, simplify, simplify! I find that it is more pleasing to fill the frame with your subject and to minimize and simplify everything else. Doing this will help your subject jump out at the viewer.

Giving your viewer just enough information to distinguish the focal point can add interest to a photograph. Lead them, but let their imagination fill in the blanks.

You should also always pay close attention to contrast in your shot because the eye is led to the brightest or most contrasty area of the picture.

Rules are meant to be broken, but understanding the fundamentals and why you chose to break them is even more important.

Frosty Yin Yang

It’s cold out there and frost is forming everywhere! Today’s photo is about frost, and the underlying concepts are to emphasize contrast, simplification, and dynamics.

Diagonal lines usually create tension, but I think that this example is harmonious because it’s evenly black & white; each "wedge" complements the other just like a yin yang balances its own energies.

Frost formed on a black car with a clear diagonal line separating the black from white background.  It's not a real yin yang, but a creative representation using contrast, simplification, and dynamics.

Key West Butterfly Conservatory

It’s extremely tough to pull yourself away from island time once you’ve had a taste. Key West, FL did just that and then some.

There are tons of activities to enjoy on the island depending on your mood and adventure level. These are in no particular order and this list is more of a brain dump than anything… you can rent wave runners, swim, scuba dive, tan, lounge, eat wonderfully, watch the sunset, explore the downtown art scene, party, shop, kite surf, build sandcastles, take sandcastle building lessons, sleep in, drink from coconuts, eat the inner carpel from said coconut, dance in the rain, or lay on the beach, get pampered and drink cocktails all day.

Yeah, Key West is that awesome. 🙂

Feel Like a Kid Again Chasing Butterflies

Key West also has a butterfly conservatory that will make you feel like a kid again. I chased butterflies for at least an hour and left with a free cardboard sticker cutout of a Blue Morpho butterfly on my shoulder. The elusive Blue Morpho is difficult to catch with its wings spread wide, but if you do get lucky, that beautiful blue shimmers and glitters like you have never seen. It is a great color for an import tuner car if I ever owned one.

I happened to stumble upon this aerial view of a butterfly and was drinking in the view; it was the iPhone to the rescue to capture this shot… This phone/camera combo is super handy in a pinch in case you were wondering.

A black, white, and red elongated butterfly sits on a wooden hand rail with foliage, rocks, and a pond beneath

Nature Photography – Mountain Biking in New Jersey

It’s the winter and the landscape is drab because there isn’t any beautiful white snow lining the trails just yet. Nature photography needs to be meticulously planned; it’s wise to know the weather report and the lay-of-the-land. Also, scout the area for remarkable hidden finds that could potentially land a beautiful shot.

Scenery will change dramatically because of available light and available color (think flowers and growth here), so I recommend visiting a favorite location in different conditions. Rain from earlier in the day can add saturation to your scene’s colors or a ray of light from the sun can add just the right amount of flair to your photo. You will eventually get what you were looking for with patience and persistence.

Mountain Biking in New Jersey

I was not so lucky yesterday, and that’s OK. Chalk it up to another condition that I know doesn’t work for a particular location – at least for the exact vision I had. Nature photography can be finicky like that. It’s January and the temperature is close to 60 degrees here in New Jersey. Crazy right? It felt right to get on the bike and go for one last ride before it is too cold.

So, I packed my camera and my backup mountain bike; the primary has a flat and I really need to change the tires because the treads are down to the bone. My ride started out okay – but proceeded to get progressively worse. The backup Cannondale doesn’t have clipless pedals that I’ve grown to love, and the ground is as slick as a banana peel. Mud is everywhere and I’m having a hard time keeping the bike stable through the rivets of mud, especially with a pack on my back.

In the end, the four mile loop seemed like eternity, but it was worth every grunt, thorn prick, and following day saddle pain. This next shot is a result of a much needed break midway through the ride.

A Cannondale F3 rests on a tree looking up towards the trail.