Live Hangout At 1pm PST Tomorrow

I’ll be doing a live hangout on sunset photography tomorrow at 1pm PST on Google+. Come hang out with us. Details below.


2,500 Kick Ass Photographers on Google+

2,500 Kick Ass Photographers on Google+

Over the past 2 years I have been super active on Google+. Google+ has emerged as the best community on the web for photographers. Photos look great there, but photos look great a lot of places on the web today. More significantly, Google+ is a positive, visually oriented community where photographers can meet, talk, get to know each other and develop and maintain friendships.

I’ve met more photography friends on Google+, than any other social network.

As I’ve gotten involved with Google+ I’ve shared my circles of photographers. When Google+ first started out and I built my photographers circle up to 500, I shared it, then 1,000, then 1,500, then 2,000. Last week my photographers circle on Google+ hit 2,500 and I shared it again.

If you want to see some of the best photography being published on the web today, check out some of these photographers.

Part 1-5 (A-Da)
Part 2-5 (Da-Ho)
Part 3-5 (Ho-Mi)
Part 4-5 (Mi-Sh)
Part 5-5 (Sh-Z)

The New SmugMug, Awesomize Your Photo Sales on the Web

My Home Page on the New SmugMug

SmugMug, widely regarded as one of the best internet sites on the web for amateurs and pros alike to share, and especially sell, their photos, unveiled an entirely new SmugMug this morning.

I’ve had early access to the new site redesign and have been playing around with it for the past few weeks — I’m a huge fan.

The new SmugMug brings fresh, updated, design and functionality to the service and is probably the most significant upgrade to the service since it started.

Most significantly, the new SmugMug brings a new line up of beautifully designed templates that allow even the most basic internet user the ability to have a photo commerce site up within minutes.

As much as I enjoyed the old SmugMug as a place to sell my prints, one of the negatives of the old site was that it could be complex and complicated to get a attractive looking interface up. The old SmugMug offered the ultimate in customization, but many photographers are not web design experts and it could be challenging to do it yourself. While you could hire outside pros to customize your site, this added a layer of cost and complication to the equation.

While the new SmugMug still allows advanced users an incredible amount of customization, they also now offer a series of basic templates that are pretty much plug and play. The new templates are stunning right out of the box and you can easily use a new series of tools to do minor edits to add in basic elements that you want to use to present your photos uniquely.

These new templates have been optimized to look good on the three basic interfaces, web, tablet and mobile. They have also added custom links that can be added to your blog, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter as part of any design interface.

In addition to the new design choices, SmugMug also rolled out today a new photo organizer that allows some of the most advanced functionality in photo sharing today.

When Flickr redesigned their site earlier this year, some users were disappointed that Collections lost visibility on the site. The primary way that Flickr manages photos is with sets. Sets can be one dimensional though. Sometimes you need sets of sets. Sometimes you even need sets of sets of sets. The new SmugMug allows seven layers of photo organization.

So if you want to have a page of American photos organized by states you can do that. If you want to be able to drill down into each state and look at the various cities, you can do that too. If you want to drill down even further and look at the various neighborhoods in each of the cities, you can do that.

More control over hierarchy was the number one feature request that SmugMug users had asked for in their user forums.

The new SmugMug organizer also offers lots of ways to bulk edit your photos, allowing you to batch add keywords, delete files, apply custom captions, etc.

Personally, I do 99% of my metadata work at the file level in Lightroom, but here is where SmugMug offers me one of my favorite features, Smart Galleries. Smart Galleries are not something new with this release, but Smart Galleries allow you to build highly customized automated galleries based on keywords. If I want to build an album of all of my photos of abandoned buildings in Detroit, I can do this simply by building a set that includes any of my photos keyworded with abandoned AND detroit. Now anytime I upload any new photos to the site that have these keywords, they will automatically be added to that album.

Creating a Smart Gallery on the New SmugMug

My Abandoned Detroit Set on the New SmugMug

One of the problems with redesigning photo sharing sites is it doesn’t matter how good a job you do at it, there will always be naysayers from the “who moved my cheese” crowd who will moan about it. It doesn’t matter how much better you make something, some people just love to complain. Haters gonna hate, gators gonna gate, tators gonna tate, all that stuff. One of the smart things that SmugMug did with this redesign is that they gave control over the new site to the user. If you are already a SmugMug user and *don’t* want to opt into the new site design, you don’t have to.

From SmugMug:

“Unlike many other services, we’re not forcing you to ditch your existing site. You’ll have your very own secret preview mode that contains all your galleries, so that you can personalize it and get familiar with the new features. While it sounds scary, migration simply copies your website contents into a virtual sandbox that only you can see. When you’re ready, YOU unveil your changes and make it public.”

I’m sure that there will *still* be some who complain, even though they get their *choice* over new or old SmugMug, but this should go a long way towards the inevitable backlash that comes with every redesign.

Also, the pricing is staying the same for the service and they are even adding unlimited video uploading to all levels of account with no price increase. At present SmugMug’s pricing remains: Basic: $5/month or $40/year, Power: $8/month or $60/year, Portfolio: $20/month or $150/year, Business: $35/month or $300/year.

Buying a Print on the New SmugMug

If you are a photographer who has thought about selling your photos on the web, but has held back, now is the time to jump in. With the new SmugMug today, you can easily have a professional looking photo commerce site up and running within minutes. SmugMug offers a generous 85% payout on all sales and gives you a great place to send people to who want to buy your prints.

I’ll be on a special episode of the Trey Ratcliff show tonight where we’ll talk about the new SmugMug — 7pm PST.

There is a live vidcast of the new designs with SmugMug CEO Don MacAskill at 10:30am PST today here.

If you want to check me out on my SmugMug, you can find me here. I’m in the process of adding several thousand new photos to my SmugMug. Feel free to buy a print if you’d like. :)

More from SmugMug on the new design here.

Two new videos about the new SmugMug here and here.

More from David Pogue at the New York Times here.

Trey Ratcliff: Top Five Features of the New SmugMug

Yahoo and Flickr Renege on Their Paid Advertising Free Accounts

The New Yahoo Advertising Tool Bar on Flickr is Ugly

One of the things that I’ve liked about being able to pay Yahoo and Flickr $24.95 per year, is that it comes with an advertising free experience. The deal between Yahoo and Pro accounts is simple, and can be summed up in Flickr’s own words: “No ads in your browsing experience.”

While new Flickr Pro accounts are no longer available, all existing Pro accounts were given an opportunity to grandfather in their Pro accounts and continue them ad free. If users want an ad free experience now, they have to pay double the price as the old Pro account, but it’s still an option.

In the past, when paid accounts on Flickr have complained about advertisements, Flickr pointed them to a toolbar that a user likely installed: “If you are pro, we don’t show you ads on Flickr, but you may have unintentionally installed a browser toolbar, extension or add-on that is serving them.”

I’ve always respected Flickr for offering this ad-free option, it’s a refreshing departure from Facebook, where we are bombarded with ads at every turn.

Unfortunately, today Flickr has reneged on their advertising free account by forcing a new Yahoo tool bar on all Flickr users, both those with free ad supported accounts and those of us with paid ad-free versions. It’s an ugly intrusion to an otherwise beautiful new Flickr. It also advertises at me on *every* *single* *page* on Flickr — a bunch of Yahoo services that I *do* *not* *want.*

Complete with a Yahoo logo, the forced real estate takeover also offers me Home, Mail, News, Sports, Finance, Weather, Games, Groups, Answers, Flickr, omg!, Shine, Movies, Music, TV, Health, Shopping, Auto, Travels, Home.

There is no way to disable this forced tool bar. Worse it follows you as you scroll down the page. It never goes away. As of right now it is impossible to be on any page on Flickr without having these hyperlinked ads in your face.

I think these advertisements are just awful. I think they are distasteful and I think it’s unfortunate that Yahoo is so greedy that they cannot be satisfied with our simply paying them for an ad-free experience. If Yahoo cannot make enough money off of Flickr, then increase the price, or give us an option to pay more and remove this intrusive forced advertising bar.

Flickr is supposed to be an elegant, paid, ad-free, photo experience — or at least one version of it is. Forcing advertisements like this on ad-free accounts is wrong. Flickr should give all paid accounts an option to x out this ugly marketing based tool bar and make it go away.

There are few things as annoying as having a toolbar forced on you with a bunch of advertising links to things that you do not want. You can follow user reaction to this new forced tool bar in the Flickr Help Forum here.

You can and should do better than this Flickr.

Vertically Cropped Photos Facebook Vs. Google+

Vertical Cropped Images Facebook vs Google Plus

Take Your Music With You on the Go With the JBL Charge

JBL Charge-1

Recently I was given a JBL Charge to check out. I’m a fan. The JBL Charge is a small speaker system, about the size of a can of Tecate, that wirelessly hooks up via blue tooth to your tablet, computer or smart phone. Setting the speaker up is easy — you just turn bluetooth on on your phone and push a button on the speaker, and smooth, rich sound comes pouring out.

Last weekend I drove from San Francisco to Los Angeles and back for the Father’s Day weekend and used the Charge driving both ways to listen to music from my phone rather than the car radio. The speaker is louder than the stereo system in my car and the lithium battery built into the Charge lasted for the 10 hour ride down (highway 101) and the 6 hour ride back (highway I5). According to the specs, the battery can last about 12 hours, which is usually going to be enough for an outing. You can also charge your cell phone via USB or other devices using the Charge as a back up battery.

It was nice to be able to listen to my own tunes on my phone rather than the radio while driving. I could adjust the volume of the charge either on the charge itself or on my phone. I just kept the Charge in the center console of the car in one of the cup holders while I drove.

I also used the Charge to play my wife’s favorite playlist while hanging out down at my parent’s pool on Saturday night (that’s her in the photo above). It was great having such a portable music system for us to listen to while we watched the kids swim.

JBL Charge Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker (Blue). You can get the charge at Amazon for about $150. It comes in different colors, but I like the light sort of neon blue the best. The charge is small enough that it’s easy to take around with you and it fits conveniently right into one of the lens spots in my camera bag — a great product that will spend many years on the road with me as a travelling companion going forward.

Richard Prince on Appropriating “The Catcher in the Rye”

The Catcher in the Rye, by Richard Prince

In 2011, Richard Prince republished a 500 run first edition of the classic JD Salinger novel Catcher in the Rye, under his own name. The reproduction was identical in every way except the author’s name was swapped from J.D. Salinger to Richard Prince.

The production value of the book was astonishingly high, a perfect facsimile of the original, right down to the thick, creamy paper stock and classic typeface. The text on the dust jacket—replete with the same iconic line drawing of the angry red horse—began, “Anyone who has read Richard Prince’s New Yorker stories, particularly A Perfect Day for Bananafish, Uncle Wiggly in Connecticut, The Laughing Man, and For Esmé–with Love and Squalor, will not be surprised by the fact that his first novel is full of children.” It was a dead-ringer through and through —not a word was changed—with the exception that the following disclaimer was added to the colophon page: “This is an artwork by Richard Prince. Any similarity to a book is coincidental and not intended by the artist.” Most shockingly, the colophon concluded with: © Richard Prince.

After the publication Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon interviewed Prince.

Kim Gordon: But what about the change, putting your name on the J.D. Salinger…

Richard Prince: Well, oh. That’s just a favorite book. I’m aware of the implications. It’s kind of the Disneyland of book publishing. You don’t mess with images from Disney. You don’t near it. And Catcher in the Rye is also on lockdown; it’s almost become an institution, it’s very sacred. It’s very rare to get a great first-edition copy.

I reread the book. If you have a book in your collection, it has to be a well-written book. I don’t collect books just because other people collect them, and I’m not going to have books in my collection if I think it’s badly written. Unless it’s deliberately bad or it has to do with the culture. I love deliberately badly written books. But when I reread Catcher I realized how contemporary the writing was, and then I was talking, I had the idea of putting it out again. And I think the idea of republishing Catcher, my contribution to that book was simply—and I know this is going to sound terrible, or maybe it’s not—but I just wanted to double the price.

Kim Gordon: To make it have the value you think it ought to have?

Richard Prince: Yeah, I just wanted to make sure, if you were going to buy my Catcher in the Rye, you were going to have to pay twice as much as the one Barnes and Noble was selling from J.D. Salinger. I know that sounds really kind of shallow, and maybe that’s not the best way to contribute to something, but in the book collecting world you pay a premium for really collectible books. I thought, we charged, I think on the book flap it’s $62. There’s a certain kind of adolescent thinking there that I can’t seem to get away from. And I don’t know if I should get away from it, but I certainly acknowledge that it might not be the most interesting way to contribute to the making of that particular object, but I like the fact that the price is twice as much. And it’s enough.

Source

On William Eggleston Meeting Henri Cartier-Bresson

William Eggleston: You know, I had a meeting with him [Henri Cartier-Bresson], one in particular, it was at this party in Lyon. Big event, you know. I was seated with him and a couple of women. You’ll never guess what he said to me.

Drew Barrymore: What?

William Eggleston: “William, color is bullshit.” End of conversation. Not another word. And I didn’t say anything back. What can one say? I mean, I felt like saying I’ve wasted a lot of time. As this happened, I’ll tell you, I noticed across the room this really beautiful young lady, who turned out to be crazy. So I just got up, left the table, introduced myself, and I spent the rest of the evening talking to her, and she never told me color was bullshit.

Source.

How to Make Your Photo Experience on the Web Better and Faster

As a fan of the new Flickr redesign, I’ve been particularly impressed with how fast so many images load — an impressive feat given the new image rich, justified, mosaic view, with infinite scroll. Seeing more images, faster, invites more engagement and makes the site a more compelling place to visit. I think Flickr engineers have done a lot of optimizing behind the scenes and are continuing to tweak the site in new ways to make it even faster.

There are some users in the Flickr Help Forum, however, who moan about the newer version of Flickr being slow for them. While it makes some sense to me that a more image intensive design would impact speed, as fast as the new Flickr is for me, (on both my own account and other test accounts), I think there is more to it than just that.

In a new image intensive internet, companies can’t always design and optimize for the lowest common denominator. At some point engineers and designers must just let the Internet Explore 6.0 crowd go. If they haven’t upgraded by now, it now becomes their problem not yours.

Staying on top of the most current technology can help optimize your internet experience. Some of these things that I’m doing are free and some cost money. I do understand that not everybody has the money to just go out and buy a new computer and am not suggesting that it’s your responsibility to do all of these things. These are just some ideas that might help you make your internet experience better and faster.

1. Upgrade your computer. My rule is that I upgrade my primary computer (a MacBook Pro) every three years. As a heavy computer user (and as someone who makes money from my photography and must consider time as a resource in that), this is a no brainer. If it’s been over three years, and you can afford it, consider buying a new machine. Get a Mac. ;)

2. Upgrade your computer’s operating system. I’m currently running the latest version of Apple’s OS Mountain Lion, Mac OS 10.8.3 10.8.4. Make sure you are using whatever is the most current OS for your machine.

3. Consider your internet connection. Are you getting the fastest possible speeds? Years ago when I was on DSL, it was announced that they were putting U-verse fiber into the neighborhood. I was the first guy to jump on that and make sure I got it. Survey each of the internet service providers in your neighborhood and find out what their upload/download speeds are. Don’t stop there though. Also make sure you are on the fastest plan that they offer. The U-verse plan that I have is their Max Turbo and provides 24 Mbps download speeds. Consider the value of your time and make sure you are on the fastest plan possible from your ISP.

4. FREE! Make sure you are running the latest version of Google’s Chrome browser. Once you finally get rid of IE, Safari or Firefox, you will learn to love Chrome — it’s faster and better.

5. FREE! Change your DNS settings to Google’s public DNS, 8.8.8.8 or 8.8.4.4 A lot of people don’t know about this trick, but it will dramatically speed up your internet. Google gives you instructions on how to do this here.

6. If you use your computer remotely a lot (like I do) in places where you don’t always have good, fast, wifi, consider getting a Sprint 4G card. Heavy computer internet surfing takes a lot more bandwidth than cell phones. Using your cell phone to tether to your computer probably works if you just need an occasional log in (I use FoxFi for this on my Android phone which is free) — but this data counts towards your bandwidth limits. Sprint is the only current wireless provider that I’m aware of that offers truly unlimited, unthrottled mobile bandwidth in the U.S. Their 4G service, is a bit more expensive, but is generally speaking very reliable and very fast.

Why Aren’t Search Engines Making Better Use of Their Social Networks for Image Search?

One thing I’ve noticed more and more over the past few years is what a poor job traditional image search engines do vs. social networks.

By using social information around photos (likes, faves, comments, +1s, etc.), social networks typically produce much superior image search results than traditional image search.

Take this search of Coachella 2013 for example.

Screen Shot 2013-06-05 at 10.45.53 AM
Yahoo Image Search: “Coachella 2013″

Screen Shot 2013-06-05 at 10.46.24 AM
Google Image Search: “Coachella 2013″

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Flickr Image Search: “Coachella 2013″

The first image comes from Yahoo (or is it Microsoft these days, I can’t keep it all straight). It’s not very good. It shows too many images of just the lineup vs. actual fun interesting photos of the event itself.

Google’s image search results are better, but still not as good as many of the images I find on social networks.

Now I may be biased (as I shot this particular event) but I think Flickr’s search results are *far* better than either Google or Yahoo Image search.

I’m working on a project right now to photograph the 100 largest American cities. When I’m researching things to photograph in these cities I almost always go first to Flickr (because it’s the largest database of highly organized quality photos on the web). I will also look at Google+ too, sometimes. Google+ doesn’t have as many high quality images in the total database as Flickr, yet, but I find some pretty good stuff there sometimes still. Most of Flickr’s advantage here over Google+ just has to do with the fact that they are older and have more images indexed.

Lately I’ve also played around with graph search on Facebook for images — I haven’t been very impressed there at all though.

The one place I hardly ever go is to the actual Google or Yahoo image search engines — because the results are so inferior.

Here’s what I don’t get: *why* are the results at Yahoo and Google Image search inferior? Google and Yahoo have access to proprietary internal social data around photos in their social networks, why isn’t that coming through better in the signal for high quality images.

On my example search using Coachella 2013, not a single Flickr photo appears on Yahoo’s first page image search and not a single Google+ image appears on Google’s first page image search.

Shouldn’t these search engines be better mining organically and socially ranked superior content? It’s not that these engines don’t index it, they do, it’s just not ranking well.

Beyond just better image search, Google and Yahoo *should* have another significant incentive to better include their social images into image search.

All things being equal, assuming you could improve image search results, wouldn’t you want to drive more traffic to your own internal social network, rather than to some unrelated destination — and wouldn’t you want to reward the best photographers on your social network with more traffic vs. some random SEO rigged site somewhere?

Why aren’t image search engines doing a better job with social?

Another added benefit to driving image search traffic to your social network, is that the presentation there is usually better, more uniform and consistent. When I’m tempted to go further on an image from Yahoo or Google, I may end up at some odd sized photo, in some odd format. With a G+ or Flickr result I get a strong consistent image experience that I’m familiar with.

As an unrelated topic dealing with image search on Flickr — the best social image search on the web today — Flickr needs to give us the ability to block certain users from our search results. Many popular photographers will pollute image search on Flickr by falsely tagging things that are not in their popular photos, just to try to garner traffic.

Take this search on Flickr for dog for example. So many of the first page results are not photos of dogs at all. Flickr should allow us to block certain users from our search results in order to better refine them. When we block people from our search results, this should also be a signal to Flickr that this user should rank much worse in search. If users get the message that they will be penalized for purposely mistagging their photos, they will be less likely to try and game the system this way, resulting in better image search on Flickr for all of us.


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