Wedding, event, studio and fine art landscape photographer serving the Denver, Colorado metro area.

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Building a Better Photography Website

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You’re ready to make the leap into the world of professional photography – or you’re at least ready to start selling your images – which means it’s time to build a strong website that will showcase your talents, be easy to navigate and will draw in your clients/customers so that they are ready to either hire you or purchase your work. 

When I first began as a professional photographer, I thought creating a website was going to be easy.  I looked at other photographer’s websites – which all looked professional and polished, for the most part – and went about trying to figure out what direction I should go.  I ended up landing with a web hosting services that provided what looked like beautiful templates build especially for photographers; they even had great reviews, which eased my mind.  Well, to make a long story short, I think I spent the first two weeks doing nothing but staring at the screen – I had absolutely no idea how to use the “back end” building functions, and nothing that I did ended up looking good on the “front end” (what the client sees) of my website.  Sure, there were lots of options, including fonts and colors and text boxes, etc., but I couldn’t put these things together to make something that looked professional to save my life. 

Eventually, I had a friend help me get my website looking somewhat decent, but it just didn’t look professional.  It wasn’t sleek and slick; it didn’t grab you when you arrived on the home page and say “Welcome to a Professional Photographer’s Website” – which was what I wanted without having to say it.  In those days, I did everything I could to keep people away from my website, which was sad, because I was paying for it every month. 

When I stumbled on Shutterforge, it seriously changed my world.  Finally, there were the templates that I had wanted – the things that looked professional and came across as inviting.  And when there was something that I wanted that wasn’t available, all that I had to do was ask and it would be created for me – slideshows, front page logo placement, easy “one click” product sales buttons, additional products (canvas, metal, etc.).  I was amazed that something like this existed and that everyone wasn’t using it! 

Build a Better Website with Shutterforge

Let’s be honest, the majority of us are scared to death when we get into that “back end” portion of our website, right?  It looks daunting, and it feels like there’s no way we could possibly use all the functions correctly, but I implore you to sit back, take a deep breath and just have a look at everything with an open mind.  This is a “real website”, folks, not one of those cheesy Wordpress Platform templates that are meant for hobbyists or people who don’t really care about getting found in Google Searches – let’s call them “Vanity Websites”.  You’ve chosen the real deal here, so there’s a lot to it, but it’s not nearly a difficult as it seems.  Here are a few tips in building a better website:

 

  • Just Because There Are Hundreds of Customizable Options Doesn’t Mean You Should Use Them All.  Yep, I said it…throwing the entire house and the kitchen sink into your website is not going to magically make it look good.  Shutterforge is filled with options to make your website fully customizable, but choose your selections wisely.  Take your Home Page, for example, a slideshow of your best images is always a great way to grab people, because it’s dynamic and impressive.  You may, though, want to forego a bunch of text beneath the slideshow and just come up with a simple “one-liner” welcoming people to your site and asking them to have a look around.  A slideshow and a huge block of text may come off as “too much”. 

 

  • Consistency is Key.  One of the cool things about your Shutterforge website is that you can fully customize each and every page with different fonts, styles, colors, etc.  This is great if you do it with a purpose, but people are generally more attracted to things that look consistent and clean, rather than clicking from page to page and feeling as though they are on a completely different website.  Try to use fonts that are in the same general family group, or if you choose to go with something like “block” and “scrip” to make a statement, stick to just those two. 

 

  • Don’t Forget the Importance of the About Me Page.  Sometimes it’s tough for us, as photographers, to talk about ourselves and our accomplishments.  I know I’m terrible at it.  I hate writing “bios” for myself, because I don’t usually have a ton of great things to say, and when I do, it comes off as sounding arrogant.  Still, clients and customers like to know who they are working with; they want to know about you.  Consider using the third person (example “Sarah is a photographer from the Central Coast of California), as this sounds a little more professional – if you go with first person, realize that is more “intimate”, and play up that intimacy.  Finally, if you’re having a difficult time writing your bio, as a friend to write one for you – often times what others see is more real than what we see about ourselves.

 

  • Make Sure to Use Those SEO Tools.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it twenty-five more times…take advantage of the fact that Shutterforge is a leader in the market when it comes to SEO.  Tag your pages, tag your images, write descriptions, pay attention to titles, etc.  Get your SEO Reports to 80% or better on every single thing that you can, because you want to be found when someone types in “Fairytale Sunset” or “Time in Hand” (two searches that I come up in the first three images on Google now, which is pretty amazing).  You can get there too, just use what is already there for you. 

 

  • Learn About Album Types and Use Them: Regular, Dynamic, Hidden, Client, Password Protected, Featured, etc.  One of the best things about Shutterforge is the way that you can control your albums, from completely hidden albums to ones that are featured with one click right on your Home Page.  These are powerful tools to get people to see what you want them to see.  Have a group of images that you want to sell?  Create a Dynamic album, create a Tag (like sale) and all that you have to do is go through all of your other albums and add that tag to your chosen images and…like magic they will appear in that Dynamic album that you created.  Now make that album a Featured album so that it shows up on your Home Page and suddenly your customers are seeing what you want them to buy.  I like to leave the majority of my client albums up as Featured albums on my home page for at least a few weeks, because I want perspective clients to see the work that I’ve been doing – then I will cycle them out.  I have some clients who want their albums hidden, so I use the Password option and direct them to the Client Portal.  There are so many things that you can do…learn them and use them. 

 

  • If You Have a Question...Ask.  Perhaps the best thing about Shutterforge is the fact that it is run by REAL people…there is someone you can contact when you have a problem or concern.  At Shutterforge, we want you to bother us when you are stuck on something, if you have an idea for a new feature you would like to see added, or if you just have a question; it’s our business to make you happy and keep you comfortable…and SELLING! 

 

In the end, building a good photography website isn’t easy, but it’s a whole lot easier when you have the right hosting service behind you.   

 

Written By:  Sarah Williams of Mirror's Edge Photography

Sarah Williams is a professional photographer and freelance writer living on California's Central Coast.  

Photographers: Can Your Clients or Customers Find You?

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You’ve decided to make the leap into marketing yourself or your work as a photographer.  You’ve found the perfect name for your business, created a functional website, and have even added all of your best work to entice the masses with your talent.  You look at what you have done, and you think Yeah, I’ve made it, the sales are going to start rolling in!  And then you wait some more… 

When it comes to being a photographer, the absolute key to our business is getting our names and/or our work out there in front of people.  In the “old days”, that meant “pounding the pavement”, so to speak, and having a lot of face to face interaction (which is still important), but in today’s world, everything has gone digital.  If someone wants to find the best deal on car insurance, they don’t grab a phone book and call around to all of the local insurance offices, they type a search into google with the keywords of “car insurance” and the location they are searching in – city name, state, county, etc.  Well, it’s the same for photography.  The vast majority of your clients are going to find you via the Internet.  Even if you have managed to get a face to face with someone and give them your business card, they are still going to look you up online, and they’re probably going to do a search to see who else comes up that does what you do.  If you don’t show up on that search, whether it’s true or not, the customer is going to believe that you aren’t as good as those who do show up first. 

What can we – as photographers – do to ensure that our brand is out there in front of as many people as possible?  It’s called “SEO”, or Search Engine Optimization, my friends…and in the interest of not getting too technical, I’ll just say that good SEO strategies are what get you indexed in Google searches and are what will – eventually – get your website to the top of the searches in your area.  Wouldn’t it be nice to type in “Wedding Photography in *your home town*” and have your website come up first, or at least on the first page?  That’s what we’re all striving for, because not only does it get traffic to our sites, but it also adds to our reputation as photographers – if we’re at the top of the search results, it must mean that we are popular, good quality, professional, well-liked, talented, etc., right?  Well, at least that what your clients and customers will think.  If you’re a landscape photographer, for instance, you could have the absolute best shot in the world of the Yosemite Valley in California, but if your photo isn’t properly indexed with the right SEO behind it, you can do an image search and find blurry cell phone photos coming up above your amazing shot.  How is that going to drive sales? 

Taming the SEO Beast

We’re photographers, most of us aren’t web designers or even have the first clue as to what we should be doing to get ourselves “seen” online.  That’s why it’s absolutely important to have a website platform and hosting service that is heavily invested in SEO.  Two years ago, my name and business were nowhere to be found online – literally, you could type in photography, my city, and my name and I wouldn’t even show up.  I was doing fairly solid work, I had happy clients, so why wasn’t I visible?  Well, when I switched over to my new web hosting service, I got a crash course in the importance of things like “tagging images”, “using descriptions for my pages”, filling in the “mega data”, creating proper and unique titles for my images and pages, etc.  I wouldn’t have known anything about all of this without the help of a very hands on and dedicated service provider who explained things and walked me through them – something I did NOT get with my previous, corporate owned and quite popular, provider.  Today, I’m rising in the ranks of Google searches, my name and business actually show up when people do searches…it’s a miracle!  Well, maybe not really – it’s just knowing your business as a hosting service – but to me it feels that way. 

A few basics…  You have to understand what “key words” and “tagging” do – they increase the viability of your subject matter (whether that’s a photo, a blog post, an article, a web page, etc.).  If you leave these things blank, you’re probably not going to get very far.  You have to understand what “linking” does – when you share an image or your website in general, you get “link juice”, but certain shares are exempt, and sadly, those are places like Facebook – which is where we all like to share our stuff – so you need to go a step further and share to places that will actually link back to your website.  Take a little time to research the finer points of SEO and the things that you can do to increase yours, it will help you out in the long run as a photographer more than you can possibly understand. 

Shutterforge:  A Good Answer

As I mentioned earlier, the provider I was with before I made the move to Shutterforge basically gave me no guidance or help.  They were interested in claiming my monthly fee and occasionally adding “updates” to my template and the overall platform that really did nothing for me.  The few times that I did have questions, it was a miracle if I received a response in the form of an email or maybe a private message.  When I moved to Shutterforge, I saw an intense spike in my viability online as a photographer.  Shutterforge was created by a photographer who is also a web designer, so this makes him uniquely aware of exactly what needs to happen in order to get us where we need to be – out there in front of all the other photographers in our area. 

The Shutterforge platform is built around good SEO.  There are even several things that will help you along the way if you aren’t acutely aware or adept at figuring out all this “techy” stuff.  One great feature is the SEO Reports that are generated for each page and photo gallery on Shutterforge.  You will actually see a score with suggestions as to where you are lacking, and what you need to add in order to improve that score, and in turn improve your search viability.  No other hosting service that I know of has this feature.  This has helped me beyond words, because I was never very good at taking the time to tag and write descriptions, and I wasn’t exactly sure which things were most important.  These reports follow “Google Standards”, and if you manage to get your score up around 80% or higher on all of your pages, galleries and images, you’re going to be doing really well in terms of setting yourself up for more website traffic.  Remember, more website traffic means more clients and more customers!  

If you don’t already have a website, you need to get one…and going with Shutterforge is a no-brainer.  If you are already with another hosting service, I challenge you to give Shutterforge a try, at least for six months to a year, and see what happens to your viability online and with clients/customers – it won’t cost you anything, because Shutterforge services are currently free!  So, whether you’re just a hobbyist or enthusiast who wants to sell a few great images, or if you’re a working photographer, like me, Shutterforge is the place to be! 

 

Written By:  Sarah Williams of Mirror's Edge Photography on the Central Coast of California

Sarah is a professional working photographer and a freelance writer in San Luis Obispo County on California's Central Coast

Does Your Website Work?

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Simple question, right…does your website work?  You would be surprised how many working photographers out there have websites that simply, don’t work.  As a professional photographer – and maybe because I’m a little nosy – I like to keep an eye on what my competition (both direct and indirect) is doing in terms of advertising, capturing clients, and actual “work”.  This leads me to hours online looking at photographer’s websites, and I am constantly amazed at just how many websites I come across that are actually “broken” – I’m talking broken links, non-working menu buttons, images that don’t load, slideshows that don’t…slide, etc. 

As a photographer, I know how important it is to have a good web presence.  I also know how difficult it is to get indexed in Google searches and actually get my product (which is my work) out there in front of perspective clients.  Imagine that you have spent your time, energy and, all too often, hard earned money, to get a perspective client onto your little piece of the Internet.  Imagine that they like what they see on your splash/home page, maybe they like your portfolio and services, and they’re ready to actually – gasp – contact you!  Then imagine that they navigate up to your “Contact Me” link on the Menu Bar and…nothing.  The page is broken.  You actually had a client standing on your virtual doorstep and they were denied at the last moment.  What do you think that client is going to do?  That’s right, they are going to jump back to their good old “Google Search” and find the next photographer whose page actually does work. 

Photography is a tough market, and if you have actually managed to pass out enough business cards, tell enough people about your website, share enough of your work on social media, etc., to get a perspective client onto your website, you don’t want that client to get frustrated and go away.  If this happens enough, it could break you.  What could be a potentially lucrative career doing something that you love will go down in proverbial flames. 

So, Does Your Website Really Work?

It’s easy to figure it out.  All you have to do is visit your website as a “customer” and go through all of your links.  Be sure to check all of your navigation buttons, drop down menus, pages, galleries, slideshows, blog pages, etc.  Go over your website with a fine-toothed comb and make sure that everything you see loads quickly, is properly displayed, that links take you where they are supposed to, etc.  If you find an issue, address it quickly!

Let’s face it, we’re photographers, and most of us aren’t doubly blessed as talented web designers.  We have to rely on our hosting service to make sure that our website is doing what it’s supposed to do.  That’s a lot of faith that we are putting into someone else – our reputation, our work, our livelihood is partially influenced by where we choose to park that domain name that we all agonized over purchasing.  So, when choosing a “service”, whether you’re a wedding photographer, landscape artist, or even just a hobbyist aspiring to get your work out there, make sure that you choose wisely. 

Why Shutterforge?

There are a lot of services out there for website hosting, and there are a lot of services that are marketed directly to photographers.  What sets Shutterforge apart is that it was created by a photographer for other photographers.  It’s not a corporate conglomerate, Shutterforge actually cares about and works for each of its customers on an individual basis.  We know how important it is to not only capture, but to keep those all-important customers, so our main focus is on exactly how to do that in the best way possible.  This philosophy begins and ends with websites that actually work from a customer’s perspective. 

Did you know that at Shutterforge, when there is an error on your website – whether it’s a customer/client clicking a link, attempting to make a purchase, etc., or you actually uploading images, creating content, etc. – we get an email notification?  That’s right, if you have a problem with your website at 2 am on a Sunday morning, we’re going to know about it, at the same time or even before you do!  Because we are also photographers and we want to see you succeed, we are going to fix that problem immediately.

Finally, we are always striving to improve our service by adding features, simplifying those “back end” processes, adding products, creating new template designs, etc.  We do all that we can to make sure that you have to spend as little time as possible worrying about your website…that’s our job.  We also know that where it counts – which is what the customer/client sees and experiences when they get to your website – we have one of the best platforms out there.

So, if you don’t have a website already…go to Shutterforge and create one (it literally only takes a few minutes, and if you have any questions or problems we are there to personally help you).  If you do have a website, we challenge you to do the “does my website work” test.  If you find something that doesn’t work, just imagine how long it has been “broken” and how many perspective clients/customers you have lost because of it – remember, at Shutterforge we will know when there is a problem and fix it.  If your website doesn’t pass the test, consider allowing us to be your hosting service.        

 

Written By:  Sarah Williams of Mirror's Edge Photography

Sarah Williams is a working photographer and freelance writer in Grover Beach, on the lovely Central Coast of California.  

Fall Wedding - Anna and Dylan

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Anna and Dylan were married at the Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Colorado Springs, on Saturday, October 22nd.

I brought along my friend Sarah of Mirror's Edge Photography, who provides wedding and portrait photography in the central coast of California, to cover this event with me.

Every aspect of the day was wonderful - the ceremony was beautiful, the boquets and floral arrangements were gorgeous. The reception was held at the Cordera Community Center, and the catering was provided by Cravings.

Find more photos of Anna and Dylan on the custom website I created for them at http://annaanddylan.scottsmith.photos.

 

September Weddings in California

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My good friend at Mirrors Edge Photography, located in Pismo Beach, California invited me to join her for two wedding shoots in California last month as a second shooter. We've worked together closely before and it's a joy, every time.  I couldn't pass up the opportunity - I absolutely love shooting weddings. We created two custom websites (here on the ShutterForge.com hosting platform) to share our efforts with them, and so they could share the photos with friends and family.

Tyler and Andrea had their ceremony and reception at Fortino Winery in Gilroy, California. This location had a rustic barn, wine barrels and kegs, a covered reception/dance area with a stage, grapevines and other fantastic props to work with.

Visit Tyler and Andrea's wedding website

Matt and Stephanie had their ceremony and reception at Hartley Farms in San Miguel, California. This was a wonderful setting with tree-lined pathways, a waterfall, great landscaping and a beautiful outdoor reception area.

Visit Matt and Stephanie's wedding website

Jump over to my Wedding Services page for more information and to find out how to book me (or my friend at Mirrors Edge Photography) for your wedding!

 

2016 Perseid Meteor Shower

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The annual Perseid meteor shower will be visible tonight through tomorrow morning. This year is promising twice the rate of meteorites, 2 or more a minute (versus the typical 1 per minute).

The meteors will appear to come from the area of the Perseus constellation, in the north-northwest sky, near the horizon, from two to four “hands” up, but will be visible across the sky. If you have city lights nearby, get as far from them as possible for best viewing.

There are many affordable software apps you can get that will help locate the Perseus constellation. I recommend Sky Map for Android phones. On desktops, the free Stellarium is a great app too.

The moon will obscure most of the show until it sets, at 1:09AM tonight (Friday morning), so be prepared for a late (or very early) start!

If you’re interested in photographing the event, here are some tips.

  1. Use ISO 1600-3200. The meteorites aren't bright enough to appear in most cases with lower ISO settings, unless your lens can stop down to f/1.8 or f/2.
  2. Use a tripod (that’s a requirement)
  3. Acquire a remote shutter release (or you can use your camera’s timer feature - 2 seconds is good)
  4. Live view, or shutter lock (settings will depend on the model of your camera, refer to your manual)
  5. Manual focus – manually focus your lens on the brightest light in the sky you can see, then use a small piece of tape to make it stay there. You can plan ahead for this one, and use a marker or tiny drop of fingernail polish to mark the true “infinity” focus point on your lens – they’re almost never truly focused at the infinity mark that most lenses have.
  6. Use Manual (M) camera mode – for aperture, use your lowest f/stop (1.8, 2, 2.8, 3.5 or 4, the lower the better).
  7. Shutter speed – depends on the focal length of your lens. Take 500 and divide by your focal length (24mm, 35mm, 40mm, etc). That will give you the number of seconds you can shoot to avoid star trails. A 50MM lens can do 10 second exposures w/o trails (500/50mm=10 seconds). Star trails are cool, but only when they’re of significant length to not look like camera shake – that takes a number of long exposures, taken consecutively, and layered with software. Long exposures almost guarantee you’ll catch something in every other frame you shoot.
  8. The shorter the focal length, the better. A 14mm will capture much more than a 50mm. With a 100mm, you can almost forget about it, unless it’s a fast lens and you’re shooting directly into the apex of the event.
  9. Just keep swimming shooting. You don’t know when meteorites will appear, so just keep shooting, as much as you can. If you wait to see one to fire the shutter, you’ll miss it.
  10. Bring an empty, large memory card. You’ll get hundreds of shots if you’re diligent, so you’ll want plenty of room for files.

Related Images

Wedding Photography - Joe and Jen in the Garden of the Gods

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Joe and Jen have a great sense of adventure and love to travel. After they shared some of their amazing engagement photos with me, I knew I had to knock this one out of the park for them.

With all the wonderful places in the country to pick from, they chose the beautiful Garden of the Gods, in Manitou Springs, Colorado for their ceremony.  They were looking for a very natural settings, not man-made, so I suggested the Cathedral Spires, in Cathedral Valley, a natural rock formation that is one of the most photographed locations in the park. I had seen the Cathedral Spires from a distance, but had never actually been inside it. You can see the Cathedral Spires in the photo below, in roughly the center of the shot.  

Cathedral spires at the garden of the gods

I was able to arrange the entire shoot online, without ever meeting the couple. We kept in touch consistently in the weeks leading up to their special day, I wanted them to be confident that I would be there and ready for them when they arrived. I was really excited to find that they were willing to walk a bit into the park, and would both wear shoes that would be safe for getting around on some of the rocks.  

They couldn't have been a more pleasant or patient couple to work with, and the service was provided by a wonderful gentleman, an aptly self-described "Old West Preacher", Wayne MacKirdy, a retired US Army chaplain from Colorado Springs.

Joe and Jen wedding photography in the Garden of the Gods

It was a chilly day, with temps in the low 30's. The sun was quickly fading behind Pike's Peak, and I knew there was a limited time before the bride would start to feel the cold. Working as quickly as I could, we managed to shoot five or six setups after the ceremony before the cold became too much for Jen.  I didn't want to push, but I would have loved to have another hour with this great couple.

Showing as much respect for the park, and preserving its natural state, we stayed within the boundaries, but I did convince the couple to squeeze their way up into a formation within the Cathedral Spires - I didn't note any warnings at this spot, but I did hope we weren't going to get in trouble.

You can find a few more samples of Joe and Jen in my Weddings and Bridal album, and more information about my wedding photography services here.

Related Images

New Lightroom HDR Feature-Worth Using?

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I was as excited as the rest of you when I found out Lightroom was going to add a built-in HDR feature to version 6. I personally upgraded as quickly as possible, only to fiind out the implementation left a lot to be desired.

For the purposes of this test I used 3 brackets shots of Denver, just at sunset looking west towards East High with one of the Pinnacle towers in the foreground.

Lightroom's new Merge to HDR offers very few options aside from very basic de-ghosting features, which are really only useful if you have things moving in your bracketed frame. Don't be mislead though, subtle movement can appear anywhere - clouds, water, steam from smoke stacks. Any of those can cause strange ghosting problems in your images, so unless you're very shooting a landscape on a cloudless day, with no wind to even slightly move foliage, you'll want to use the lowest de-ghosting option at a minimum.

You can optionally apply "auto-toning" to the resulting HDR image - this is a non-destructive option that applies shadow, highlight and exposure adjustments which you can further adjust later. I prefer to do this on my own, but for the sake of this experiment I left the auto-toning turned on.

I then copied the Development module settings for the outputted file (remember, auto-tone applies some highlight, shadow, exposure adjustments) and applied that to my middle frame, so I could compare apples to apples.

Even with three properly bracketed shots, with +/-2 stops, at first glance I honestly can find no difference between the middle bracketed frame (+/- 0 EV) and the HDR file produced.

In other tests, with auto-toning turned off, the results were again the same as the original imported middle frame.

I played with numerous settings, different source images, and every time, the generated HDR output matched the middle frame, regardless of using auto-tone. Below are two un-treated examples.

HDR Result

Single Frame (+/-0 EV)

This leaves one to wonder, "why bother?"  In most cases, I would agree - Lightroom's HDR provides nothing you can't achieve with simple slider adjustments on a properly exposed shot, except for one somewhat important thing.  Noise.

I've read a few complaints about de-ghosting adding too much noise to Lightroom's HDR output, but with the Low setting used, I actually see a dramatic improvement in digital noise, especially in shadows. Both Luminance and Color noise were dramatically reduced, if not eliminated entirely This at least proves that Lightroom's Merge to HDR is in fact blending the three frames together, which naturally would result in reduction of digital noise, as the nature of noise is random; it wouldn't be the same in multiple frames and hence eliminated with three or more frames blended.

Single Frame 100% Crop

Click to view full-sized image

 

HDR Output at 100% Crop

Click to view full-sized image

With this knowledge, Lightroom's Merge to HDR feature may prove useful afterall. At a minimum, when shooting scenes with a ride range of light, three bracketed frames would give me more "headroom"to work with, especially when tweaking the shadow slider to bring out more shadow detail.  

To be honest, I rarely use bracketing because I'm not a fan of typical HDR results, and I prefer to keep my workflow within a single product. I was so disappointed to find that the implementation in Lightroom 6 did not give me the option of the artist, surreal HDR that so many photographers employ.  But the significant noise reduction I see with Lightroom's Merge to HDR could genuinely save a shot by providing a higher signal-to-noise ratio in shadow detail, and more flexibility in increasing exposure in those shadowy areas.

Final Image

Click to view larger

**Note - these frames were not intended to be shown or shared, and only taken for the purpose of this article. This is not an image that I would typically share or add to any portfolio, but it did work for a great example of the noise reduction from the Merge to HDR process. Strictly for the sake of being complete, below is the final image with a few tweaks to saturation, white balance, exposure and detail. No additional luminance or color noise reduction were applied.

ShutterForge Photography Website Hosting Has Launched

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ShutterForge has gone live!

Village.Photos' custom websites are slowly being re-branded to ShutterForge hosting. Nothing will change on Village.Photos, but our stand-alone website offerings will primarily be served through ShutterForge.com.

ShutterForge offers free custom photography websites, ready to go in minutes! Dozens of beautiful templates, powerful portolio management, e-commerce out of the box and world-class SEO are just the highlights. All backed by knowledgeable support so eager to help, there aren't even words to describe how awesome it is.

If you're looking for a place to manage, market and sell your photos but can't justify the hundreds of dollars those other places charge each year, look no further.

 

Village.Photos Updates, October 30th 2015

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  • New 'Formal' Theme

    A new theme and 2 variants have been added.
  • Website Logos

    Upload your business logo for the website header! Look in the Content/Global area to set your logo URL.
  • Bulk Image Rename

    Give your images a name better than "DSC80231.JPG" with Bulk Rename. This is particularly handy with large albums. Specify an image name you want, select the images to rename (or select all), and images will be renamed sequentially (ex., 'My Great Photoshoot 1'). This will improve search engine indexing if you use friendly filenames.
  • Bulk Tagging!

    Add a set of tags to every image in an album, all at once!
  • Tumblr Sharing!

    Share any page or image directly to your Tumblr account. Tags, titles, and descriptions are sent to Tumblr.
  • Tumblr Links

    Add Tumblr to your list of social media links. Set your social media links in the Content/Global management page.
  • Elegant Theme gets a complete make-over!

    If you skipped over the Elegant theme in the past, you might want to take another look.
  • Dynamic Albums!

    Create albums which contains images with a certain tag. This is great for setting up albums for slideshows, blog galleries, your 'best of' featured albums and more! Read more about this in the Help area.
  • Optimized code

    We've tweaked a lot of things under the hood to improve load times.
  • Shopping Feed

    Google Shopping Feed now available. Get more info on the Tools page.
  • Custom robots.txt

    Your robots.txt now includes a reference to your sitemap file, which will improve indexing and inclusion by hundreds of search providers.
  • Instagram link

    Set your Instagram URL in the Website management page.
  • Optimized caching of static files

    Images and scripts we commonly use on website themes have been moved to our CDN, to improve caching and load times.

Custom Site Users: QR Codes for Everything!

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Custom site users can now get a QR code for their website, one for each album, and even one for eqch image!  Use these on printed materials to add that big-business, modern dlaie to your flyers and business cards.

Also, Google short URL's are now available for albums, each image and each blog post.

Don't have your own custom Village Photos website?  Sign up at http://Village.Photos and go to your account page for more information. It's free and instant, so there's no risk.

Amazing Photography Websites!

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It's been exciting to watch new members get up and running on their own photography websites.  Here's quick lists of some great sites to check out.

New Theme - Floral

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Yet another template has been added for Custom Sites users.  This was created as a request, and more versions of this theme are on the way!  Click the screenshot below for a sample website using this theme.

This theme uses a wonderful watercolor background image by Angie at AngieMakes.com.

If you're looking for a fast and free way to get your own photography website off the ground, sign up Village.Photos and go to your Account Settings page for details on Custom Websites.

View our available themes to get started.  If you don't see a theme or style you like - let me know -  I'm happy to work with you on a new design!

Significant SEO Improvements Made

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A few issues were discovered with SEO tagging today. While we already have great results for some members, and increasing rankings on the site overall, I knew they should have been better.

I've made adjustments to every template, both on the main site on custom sites, which should really improve search engine crawls of album and related image pages.

This was a significant set of changes - please contact me at support@village.photos if you run into any issues or have any questions.

~Scott

Fall Colors in Colorado

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The season is upon us, that time of year when I start planning a drive or a long weekend on the western slopes of the Colorado Rockies.   The leaves and shrubs  are turning, and the blue bird skies mixed with the dramatic golden and red foliage make for some amazing photo ops.

Fall colors

Why do leaves change color?  As autumn approaches and the days grow shorter, plants don't get as much light for photosynthesis.  The chlorophyll, which is what makes plants green and normally provides nutrients to the plants disappears and the natural colors, which vary greatly, appear.

Eventually the leaves brown and die from both the lack of chlorophyll, as well as dropping temps,and fall.  This period of changing colors can last only a week or two in certain areas, meaning a very small window of time to get out and get your shots.  There are several websites that offer estiimated calendars of these windows for different areas. The US Forest Service has a nice one.

 

Snowmass wilderness area

Where should you go for the best fall color viewing or photography in Colorado? 

Just about anywhere in Colorado this time of year you'll find beautiful scenery. Usually the last two weeks in September is peak, but because of the range in altitudes and its affect on the change, it can start in early September and go well into October.

Popular destinations for viewing fall colors in the Colorado Rockies include Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park, Peak to Peak Highway between Nederland and Estes Park, but for me the western slopes are where it's at.

This year I'll be hitting Ouray and Telluride, both known for amazing autumn views, and hope to drive the Million Dollar road.  Then the following weekend Crested Butte is on the agenda.

A special bonus - both locales are dark sky areas, so some astrophotography might be in order. 

 

The last couple years I've visited Aspen, Snowmass, Independence Pass and the Indian Peaks Wilderness area. At the end of this article are some photos from those trips, including the iconic Maroon Bells, in the Snowmass Wilderness Area. The Maroon Bells is one of the most photographed fall color spots in the country, and that's no surprise. When the sun hits the peaks and lights up the aspens, there aren't enough words to describe it.  It's simply breathtaking.

You can view some photos from those trips in my Aspen / Snowmass gallery.

 

Hopefully these will inspire you to get out and see some of the beauty our state has to offer in fall. 

 

 

Related Images

Working Template Samples for Custom Sites are Up!

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We now have working template samples for Custom Sites users online. If you don't have a Custom Site yet, it's easy and free!  Just go to your Account Settings page in the main menu, look for the "Custom Website" section, and enter either a subdomain, or your own custom domain if you have one.

Here's a current list of all the template variations available to Custom Sites.

Getting Your Custom Photography Site on Search Engines

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Custom sites are live and starting to show up in search results.  If you have a custom site at Village.Photos it's probably because you want to promote and possibly sell your art. You can have the most amazing portfolio and website in the world, but if people can't find you, it's not doing you any good.

We do everything we can to make sure you'll make it onto Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines - but you have to do your part too.

  • Link, link, link! Most important. Add links to your website everywhere you can. Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and any other pages you have. Add links on every website or social media network that will let you add it.
  • Use Clean Album and Image Names! That's critical. Those album and photo names are what will drive search engines to match your content against what people are looking for.
  • Provide good descriptions for albums and photos! Also critical - this is the primary text that search engines will index. Leaving off a description on either an album or a photo will drastically reduce the amount of text that can be indexed, and could mean a page won't make it into results at all.
  • Fill out your biography for the about page.
  • Blogs. It may seem counter-intuitive, but quality content in your blog, especially if you're linking to a photo or an album, can really help. Search engines thrive on text content, and well, photography hosting is typically short on verbiage. Write blogs about your photo trips, a session you shot, tips and tricks for other photographers, things you have learned.
  • Sitemaps - we dynamically generate a sitemap for each customsite. These sitemaps are used by search engines to locate all of your content without spidering and parsing every single page. Your sitemap URL can be found on the Settings page. We suggest you take your sitemap URL and add it everywhere that accepts them. Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools are the big ones.
  • Google Analytics - we highly recommend you sign up for Google Analytics. It's free and you just need to have a Google account. Create a new property, using the URL of your custom website, then get the "UA Code" to enter on the Settings Page. Google Analytics might be intimidating at first, but there are some valuable metrics about your website traffic, performance, search engine results and more.
  • Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools - both indispensable tools. Register for each of them and add your website. You'll need to verify them, use the "HTML Tag" method of verification, then paste the tag they provide in the Global Meta Tags, in the Settings page..

Most of these tips apply to regular Village.Photos members too!  You can't register your standard Village.Photos account on analytics or webmaster tools, but the other suggestions above will also help you get found on search engines.

Simplified Print Product Setup - Custom Sites Only

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Members using custom sites now have more options for setting up products - instead of manually specifying cropping for various sizes, there is an Auto Product Setup button that will match up your image's aspect ratio with paper sizes and set up the products for you.

You can also set up your own default pricing which will be applied to these auto-created products, and can be applied to existing products as well!

Don't have a custom site yet? Go to the Account Settings page in the main menu and look for the Custom Site section to get started.

Three New Layout Templates for Custom Sites

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Three new templates have been launched - the "Narrow" series. All three are available for Custom Sites users. Visit your Account Settings page on Village.Photos to set up your custom website and to learn more about getting your own stand-alone photography website for free.

Narrow Dark

Narrow Light

Narrow Burnt Orange

Custom Photography Websites Launched!

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Want your own photography website but don't want to fork over the cash, or can't get your current website to appear in Google searches? We've launched stand-alone websites on Village.Photos, which integrate with the existing portfolio management features. Use a subdomain of ours, or your own website address.

Full e-commerce features are enabled, all templates are mobile-friendly and new layouts have been created, full SEO optimization is place and structured markup/microdata is used for even better search engine results, and we're integrated with Google Shopping and PayPal as certified merchants. All this at the low monthly cost of absolutely nothing for the first 500 members, so there's nothing to lose!

Just head to your Account Settings page in the menu, and look for the Custom Website section on Village.Photos.

Button issues in default template fixed

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There were several buttons that had become disabled during our recent clean-up efforts. These included Add to Cart, Manage Image, Contact, Add to List,

and a few others.

I apologize for any confusion this caused, these issues have been corrected.

Growing Catalog of Fine Art Photography on Village.Photos

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Our catalog of available prints for sale on Village.Photos is taking off. There are hundreds of great prints for sale - and now with cheaper shipping options, and Canadian shipping.

Selling your prints is free, and easy; you can have prints available in our catalog or to your clients in minutes, and available on Google Shopping feeds within a day or two.

Check out our growing product list right here.

Checkout Updated with New Shipping Options!

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We've introduced two new shipping methods! US Economy, which is up to half the price of our Economy/Trackable method. Orders containing 8"x12" prints or smaller qualify for Economy shipping.

We've also added Canadian shipping! Now our members can order and drop ship directly to clients north of the border!

The shopping cart and checkout process has had a serious makeover, it's now much more mobile-friendly and shipping prices are displayed along with shipping selections.

Please contact us at support@village.photos if you have any questions, concerns, or problems using our image sales features.

~Scott

New Feature: Enable Image Downloads

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There are cases where members (including yours truly!) would like to allow visitors to download images. Typically, we have a couple layers of protection to specifically prevent that - to protect your photographs.

We've added a checkbox in the Album dialog to turn on a button when viewing images, that lets visitors download the original image file.

This has been added to the default template and a few optional templates - we'll have the rest of the templates added shortly.

To enable image downloads (which are OFF by default), go to the album, click Mange Album at the top, and check the "Enable Downloads" checkbox, then hit save.

New Feature: Moving Images Between Albums

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You can now move an image between albums. Just click on the album that has the image(s) you want to move, then click Manage Album Images at the top.

Hit the checkbox for any images in the album you want to relocate, then at the bottom of the page you'll see a drop-down list of albums you can move them to. Click the 'Move Images' button after you select a new album, and you're done!

Pinterest Button

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I've updated the Pinterest button to include the image name and member name within the description submitted to Pinterest. Watch for the Pin It button on your image pages!

New Template - Elegant Black Variant, 'Elegant White.'

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Yet another new template has been added - this one with full social media (including Pinterest) support. Try it out by selecting Elegant White in the templates area of your Account Settings dialog, and please let us know what you think!

Site-wide updates for IE 7, 8

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I've tweaked quite a bit of the code on the site today to help with Internet Explorer compatibility - we've been pretty solid with IE 9 and higher, but IE 8 was downright ugly and broken. IE 8 users should have a much more consistent experience now, and IE 7 is mostly functional (though very few people are running that browser).

New Template!

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New Elegant Black Template for Village.Photos members

In your Account Settings page (found in the fly-out menu on the top right of each page), there's a new template available - Elegant Black. This template is still undergoing testing, and needs updates for mobile usabability, but it's available to use right now!

Search is now online!

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Along with the tagging I enabled yesterday, prompted me to finally get the Search feature online. You can search by image name, description, or any tags that have been given.

Tagging Photos!

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You can now add tags (hash tags that is, not 'people' tagging) to your images!

Start tagging today by going to one of your photo albums, and click "Manage Album Images" on the top right. The Manage Album Images will let you manage all names, descriptions, and tags for all of the images in one album.

Enter your tags, separated with a comma, for each image. Tags can be up to 50 characters in length (each).

Once we see the tags getting established, we'll apply the most popular tags to our search engine and products page(s).

Photo Page URL Change

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In order to improve Search Engine Optimization, we've made a small change in the URL to your photo pages.

They will now look like this:

http://village.photos/members/Scott-Smith-Photography/Cave-of-the-Winds/4179/Cave-of-the-Winds-Display

When they used to look like this:

http://village.photos/members/Scott-Smith-Photography/Cave-of-the-Winds/xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxx

We've added a small ID number, and URL-friendly version of your image's name to the URL, and eliminated the long series of characters (a Guid for those of you familiar with coding).

This will really help Google and other search engines index the pages that show your images, and help them appear higher in search results.

For you, this means if it's important that your images and portfolio be found in search engines, that you provide a Name for each of your images, other than the filename (which is used by default when you upload images).

You can do this in the Manage Image dialog, or in bulk from the Manage Album Images page.

Print Services Online!

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We've quietly enabled print ordering features. Members, for any photos you want to sell, read the article prior to this one for tips on getting started. Or, load up the image editing dialog for one of your amazing photo, and hit the "Sell this Photo" button!

Selling Prints - Get Started Today!

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I'm in the final phases of testing our print service, but I've enabled most of the features that you'll need to get started.

To sell prints, you'll first need to define the sizes of prints you want to sell. Each paper size will have a different aspect ratio, and we want to make sure your image fits correctly, and is cropped the way you want.

The second step is setting the price for each of your images. There is a base price, but you can add your own markup. This is your profit, and will be sent to you no more than 60 days after a sale transaction has been completed.

To get started:

  1. Load the Image Edit dialog - hover over the photo's thumbnail in an album, and click the Edit icon in the top left, or click the image to view it full screen and hit the edit icon in the top left, or view the full-sized image, and click the "Manage Image" button on the top right.

    On the Image Edit dialog, you'll want to make sure you've entered a friendly name for the image - this is the name of your "product" that customers will see. A description helps too (and will be more important when we enable image search). When you're satisfied with the name and description, click the "Sell This Photo" button on the bottom bar of the dialog.
  2. The next page you see will be a list of all the print sizes, base price, and your markup. For a new image you won't see any sizes listed yet, you have to create them on the "Add or Adjust Product Options" page.
  3. Click the "Add or Adjust Product Options" button. The next page will be where you can add different paper sizes and create cropping options. You'll see a preview of how your image will appear on the paper, and on the right the control panel.

    If your image's aspect ratio (4x5 vs 4x6 for example) perfectly matches any paper sizes, they will be listed in the control panel, and you'll be able to add those with just one click.

    Any sizes already defined for this image will be indicated with "Ready!" in the list of sizes.

    To specify additional print sizes for this image, select a size from the list, such as 8x12. If the image isn't a perfect fit for this paper size, you'll be able to drag the image left and right, or up and down, depending on the orientation of the image. When you're satisfied with the position of the image within the white border representing the size of the paper, click Save.

    To save time, if any other print sizes has the same aspect ratio as the one you're editing, they will be listed in the control panel as well - with a checkbox asking if you wish to add all matching paper sizes to this image.

    If you don't like how your adjustments have worked, you can use the "Center" button in the control panel to restore the original position of the image. Click "Save" when you're done.

  4. Then, click the "Return to Product Management" on the top of the page to enter your pricing information for each size.

    Your image will not be listed for sale until you click "Save Changes" on the Manage product page. On a new image, a red warning message will appear above the list of sizes until you click "Save Changes." Enter any markup (profit) you wish to add for each size. You can remove sizes, and see a preview of the image on a given size from here.

    *Note - the markup amount you define here will not be added to the base price if you are ordering prints of your own images.

    Once you save, your image will be available in the public "Products" page, and in your own Products page.

  5. We'll be enabling the "Add to Cart" in the next few days, so now's a good time to get a jump start on your image configuration. It can be fairly involved if you have a lot of images to sell - but we've done everything we can do make it simple and fast. I appreciate any and all feedback you have about this new feature!

Sell Prints of your Photography on Village.Photos and Profit!

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Within a couple weeks we'll be wrapped up with our print ordering system. This has turned into something larger than we initially planned, but will have some great features for our users.

I will probably first release the new updates that let you specify the print options you want. If you've had prints done before, you know different paper sizes don't fit all papers without cropping, proper rotation, zoom levels, etc. So we have created a page that lets you specify specific position and cropping values, for each print size.

You will also be able to choose which print sizes to sell (some photos might not be suitable the larger 30x40 prints). You'll also be able to set your own markup, and profits from your sales will be dispersed back to you (specifics on that are coming soon, but it will be no longer than 30 days). Your markup will be added to the low base price of our various prints.

Our print partner, who we can't mention yet, is one of the world's most respected among professional photographers. We've ran several test prints through them, and are amazed at the quality. These are top notch prints from a world class service.

We'll be adding a couple more pages, one to list all of the "products" you have available to the public for sale, and another to list the details your sales and your profits.

The person ordering prints (be it you, or a customer) will be able to choose from the sizes you've configured, and enabled sale on, and there are also options for paper type.

Best of all - it's all very easy. Both for our members, and for your customers. We're applying years of experience to provide a top-notch shopping experience.

Finally - for payment we'll have options for both credit card, and PayPal.

We will likely require a PayPal account for dispersing proceeds of your sales, but may be able to ACH as well.

Please send any questions or suggestions to support@village.photos.

Lunar Eclipse April 4th, 2015

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Last night my alarm was set for the wee hours of the night, so I could try to capture the lunar eclipse/blood moon. I knew it was going to be a clear night and could miss the opportunity. Check out my astrophotography album right here. This is a collage of a handful of the shots from Saturday morning's eclipse, each frame processed in Lightroom 5.7, and assembled into a single image with Photoshop CS6. After I get some much - needed rest, I'll add some notes on shooting the moon and eclipses in particular, the challenges I've ran into, and how you can get nice shots with about any camera. Cheers!

Related Images

Email Services Moving

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We're relocating our email services - you might not be able to reach us by email for the next 24 hours or so.

If you have any questions in the meantime, please visit my page, go to my "About" page, and click the contact button on the right side to send me a personal message.

Thanks!

Scott

[Update - 2/4/2015 11:18AM MST] This move has been complete, and email messages to and from Village.Photos should be flowing normally again.

First Template Available!

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Our first template, "Basic Black" is now available.

You can instantly switch to the new template by opening the menu (click the icon on the extreme top right of the page) and choose Account Settings. Then you'll see the options for Default or "Basic Black" template. Pick one, then hit Save.

You can switch back and forth any time, and more templates are coming! We plan to eventually open up the template system to allow users to create or submit their own designs.

This template gives your pages a completely different look! There are a few key things not included in this first template:

  • There are no comments on albums or photos
  • No drag and drop upload functionality.
  • No "Favorite" button on images
  • You can't edit articles from your articles page yet - just visit the Member Activity page to edit an existing article.
  • No "Add to Cart" / Purchase option for images. This is coming soon.

Site Relocation

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In the next 24 hours we'll begin relocating Village.Photos to a permanent home, which will let us do a lot more things.

When we begin the process, the current site will go into "Read Only" mode, which means no new registrations and no new photo uploads. Images will continue to be available throughout. After a few hours to a day, you should be landing on the new server and resume your normal activities.

We'll be working on personal URL's - so you can have your own address, like http://scott.village.photos/.

We'll be able to improve session stability dramatically, increase caching on the back-end and other things to improve the overall speed and experience.

We'll also be transitioning user content to the cloud - Amazon Cloudfront to be precise, which should improve image load performance across the globe, and also ensure your images are always available, even if we're having a technical glitch on the website.

Sort Your Albums!

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Use the 'Manage Album Images' button in each of your albums to manage the order of your photos!

Just click anywhere on the list of images in the 'Manage Album Images' page, and drag it to the position you want - then drop it. Make sure you click 'Save' at the bottom of the page when you're done. Your album will now be sorted to match!

Happy Holidays from Village.Photos!

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I want to wish all of our members on Village.Photos a safe and happy holidays!

Themes - Coming Soon!

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I'm working on a 'theme' engine, which will let users pick entirely new layout for the pages, albums, articles, etc. Watch for this in the next couple of weeks! We'll launch the a standard, simple theme, as shown on the right, but I hope to bring in a dozen, or dozens of additional themes to pick from over the coming months. [Update] The first theme, "Basic Black," is almost ready to go live! I still need to wire up "Favorites," view tracking, and comments - but otherwise it's looking great! Check out my profile for a sample of the first theme!

 

DNS Outage is Behind Us

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The DNS issues our host has had over the last few days is finally over.

We've relocated our DNS service to the Amazon AWS service, which should provide much more reliable service. Below is the support message from our provider:

"We apologize, but we’re experiencing a Denial of Service attack on our network, which is causing your site to be offline. Our admins are currently working on for the investigation and trouble shooting for this issue.Please check back at status.1and1.com for more information as the situation progresses. Rest assured that this issue will be fixed but currently do not have an estimated time for resolution. We greatly appreciate your patience and understanding."

Again, we apologize for the last 2 days - it's been brutal. This was something that was completely out of our hands, though we understand that doesn't really matter to you - our users - what matters is that your photos are available and online - 24/7/365. And that is what we're striving for.

Site Outage - DDoS Attack

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Our host's DNS servers were the victim of a long-lasting Distributed Denial of Service attack, which started yesterday afternoon. We apologize for this outage, but it was completely out of our hands.

This is the message they still have posted on their status page:

"A series of DDoS attacks on our DNS system has been rendering domains inaccessible since Tuesday night (December 9th, 2014).

While we have already taken steps to resolve this issue, availability may remain limited.

We apologize for any inconvenience caused."

DNS service is responsible for telling your browser where in the world a website is - without that, you can't reach a website at all, even to see a "We're having problems" message. Email also goes down when this happens, as mail servers must be able to find our mail system by looking up the address using DNS.

1And1.com indicates there could be further related system outages, but things seem fine at the moment.

We're looking at steps we can take to distribute our own DNS across multiple providers, as well as other solutions to make our systems bullet-proof, such as cloud hosting of all user files. We'll likely be moving image storage to the Amazon S3 storage services very soon.

Resizing

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We've added batch resizing to the "Manage Album Images" page - just go to the album that has the pictures to be resized, and look for the blue "Manage Album Images" button on the top right, under your cover photo.

Click that, enter the maximum dimensions (width and height) for resizing, hit the checkbox for each image you want resized, and then click the blue Resize button above the images.

This will not over-write your existing images, but instead create new copies, at the maximum size you specified.

This resize is intended to reduce images, not enlarge them. Images will retain correct aspect ratio, the width and height you specify is a guideline for the maximum size you want the image to be.

Privacy Updates

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A few tweaks made today - if you have all photos in an album set to private, and no album cover selected, the stock "folder" icon will be shown for the album, in your portfolio, instead of the first photo in the album.

So,

1) If you set a cover photo for an album, that photo will be used as the album image in your portfolio, regardless of the image's privacy settings.

2) if you do not set a cover photo for an album, the first public photo in that album will be used as the album image in your portfolio.

3) If you set do an image as an album cover for a public album, regardless of the photo's privacy settings, it will still be used for the album picture in your portfolio, and as the album cover within the album.

So, setting an image as an album or portfolio cover image overrides privacy settings, but the individual image will still not be listed in the album.

Also note - only public and password-protected albums are listed to visitors to your portfolio.

1) Password albums cannot be accessed by visitors without entering the password.

2) Private albums are only shown to you, and cannot be accessed even if the visitor has the direct URL to the album.

3) Public albums are available to anyone.

4) Private images are only visible to you.

5) Public images, within a private album, can be accessed by visitors if the user has the URL to the image page or image.

Minor Update

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In order to provide album sorting options - I've made a small tweak that will sort all album photos by the order they were uploaded. The most recent images will be shown first. We'll be adding other sort options soon.

Windows Tablets (Update)

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I've discovered a bug with Windows tablets running IE11 which prevents the slide-out menu button (on the right) from working when you click them. I'll have this resolved shortly.

Update - this has been corrected. It was a minor issue - Windows tablets running IE10 or 11 should be good to go.

Preview Your Pages as a Visitor

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Curious what your albums look like to the rest of the world, but don't want to constantly log in and out?

In the top bar, by your nickname, is a little down-arrow called "Switch Views". Click this to switch to "Public View", where you'll see your albums, photos, about and articles as everyone else does - without the extra management buttons and boxes.

This is also a good way to test your private and password-protected album settings as the public would see (or not see) them.

If you have any private albums, you'll noticed the "Albums" box in the cover area will change between viewing as public and "myself." The number of images will also change, depending on how many images are in private albums.

Why Village.Photos is Great for Photographers

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Bing Search Results

Want to know how much putting your photography on a site with effective SEO can give you more exposure? This site - and my own account have been indexed by Bing for just a few weeks, and my album Rocky Mountain National Park is on the FIRST PAGE of Bing, searching for "Rocky Mountain National Park."

This is a significant search category, with nearly 15 million results. I expect all of our users to have similar results, and better, are our user base grows.

Favorites!

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I've enabled the heart icon for favorites when viewing an image in lightbox mode.

The heart icon on the right of the lightbox is to "favorite" a photo. If a user has already marked a photo as a favorite, it will appear in red - clicking a red heart icon will un-favorite the image.

Favorites by anonymous visitors are counted - but they can't favorite the same image multiple times.

Next up is showing the heart icon on images within the album view, as well as the number of favorites.

Updates

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A few updates for today....

  • There's a new menu up there in the corner. It's called a "Hamburger" by web geeks. Just move your mouse over it, click it, or tap it (on touch screen devices) to open the menu. This menu fits much, much better on smart phones, and looks a lot cleaner, especially as we add more features.
  • Fixed an issue with the Login dialog that seemed to only appear on Firefox.
  • Updated the Private message icon to only appear if there are unread messages.
  • Working on clearing notifications once viewed.
  • Your login should persist up to a month from the last time you accessed the site. Logging in from another device will log out other sessions. If you'd like to be logged in from two devices, let me know - we can make it work that way if people want it so.

Happy Uploading!

Deleting Albums, Notifications

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You can now delete an album. The album has to be empty first. Use the Manage Album Images button in the top right of each album to remove individual images. Then the Delete this Album button will appear if you're viewing an album.

I've also split up 'notifications' and 'activity' on the notifications page.

Your activity will be listed as such - and activity from others - notifications - will appear as such. next up for notifications engine is to clear notifications you've seen, and dim the counter in the top menu.

Nickname Editing, Private Messaging

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Nickname Editing

We've enabled editing of your Nickname in the Account dialog.

Warning - changing this changes your URL. Each member has their own URL, with their nickname at the end:

http://village.photos/members/NICKNAME

Changing the nickname will invalidate any existing links to your portfolio, articles, albums, etc. Any links to your pages in search engines will also be broken, and may take a several days to update.

Also, any shares or likes of your albums/images to social media sites will be invalidated.

If you haven't yet shared links to your albums or portfolio, or any articles, this probably won't impact you much.

Any direct linking to images will be fine - as they don't use your account's URL.

Click the "gear" on the top right to edit your account.

Private Messaging

We've also enabled Private Messaging within the site. You can message other members by going to their About page, and clicking the "Contact" button the right. If you have an unread message, the message icon in the menu bar will be red instead of white.

Viewing sent messages and other messaging features will be coming soon.

Issues with getting logged out fixed

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I found some issues today where we were using an usual amount of memory for the site - that was causing everything to get "reset", which was logging users out.

I've put in a few tweaks, and few performance improvements - the "logged out" issue should be much improved, and your portfolio and album pages should load a bit faster too.

Please let me know if you continue to have issues staying logged in.

support@village.photos.

Facebook Integration Enabled

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Facebook's App Center has approved our site for use - you can now register using your Facebook account, for easier login.

If you already registered, and if the email address you use for Facebook is the same one you used when creating your account - you just use 'Connect using Facebook' next time you log in, and your existing account will associated with your Facebook account.

Forgot Password / Password Reset

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I've added a "Forgot Password" link to the login dialog - which will generate an email to the account owner. Following the link sent to you will prompt a "Reset Password" dialog, so you can get in, should you forget your login password.

Mature Content - Warning and Confirmation

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Just in case - I've enabled the Mature Content flag that's available in each album's settings.

This will warn a visitor to the album (regardless if its password protected or not) that there may be mature content ahead - and prompts them to confirm that they wish to continue.

With albums now having settings for Private, Password Protected, and Mature Content, I realize there are a lot of variations. Here's a run-down of how they all work.

1) Private and Password albums are not listed to the public in your portfolio.

2) Private albums are only accessible to their owner - when logged in and never to the public.

3) Password protected albums are available to the public only after they enter the correct password. You must provide the URL and the password to them.

4) Albums flagged as Mature Content included in the list of albums to the public - but are not accessible until you've confirmed you wish to view the content.

5) In your portfolio, albums flagged Mature Content will not have a cover picture shown.

If you want to test how these settings will work - log out of your session, and visit the URL's of each album. You may have to make a note ahead of time, to test any private or password protected albums, as they won't appear in the list of albums in your portfolio when you're not logged in.

Safari Drag and Drop Bug Fixed

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I did some testing with Safari (PC version, latest) and found the drag and drop image uploader wasn't working.

That's been fixed.

Password Protected Albums, Other Updates

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I've added password protection as an option to album security.

Now they can be either private, or password protected. Visit the album you want to protect, and click the "Manage Album" button. Choose "Password Protected", and enter a password, up to 10 characters. You can then share the link to the album - and the password.

We may change this - and list password protected albums with other albums, OR list them once the password has been entered. For now, they will not appear to others in your list of albums.

*Things to note

1) Neither password protected, or private albums, appear in your album list to the public.

2) Private albums are not protected, if somebody knows the URL - they can access it.

3) Password protected albums cannot be accessed by others at all without the password.

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Other updates...

I updated about 100 things yesterday (not exaggerating). If you see any strange issues with layout - press the REFRESH button on your browser, or hit F5. If that doesn't help, try pressing and holding CTRL (or Command for Mac users), then F5. That should force a reload of the content.

Most of these updates were performance and laying tuning/tweaks. I consolidated a lot of the layout styles for more consistent look and feel, and in preparation for the eCommerce portion of the effort, so users and visitors can order prints of their images.

As always - please send any feedback - good OR bad - or questions, to us at support@village.photos.

New Lightbox

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I've re-written the lightbox / image viewer from scratch.

I've also added Comments and Add to Cart icons on the lightbox. The comments will jump you to the image page with comments on that photo, while the Add to Cart icon will give a visitor the option to purchase the photo once we wire that up.

Several other improvements have been made, and things are really coming together now.

Member 'About' Page

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I've added the member "About" page - look for it in the cover image area next to the "Albums" count. Visit this page when logged in, and look for the "Edit About Info" button on the top right. Here, you can add information about yourself, how to contact you, links to your Facebook page, and more.

See an example at my 'About' page.

Village.Photos Update - Private Albums!

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Private Albums are now available! Log in, visit the album you want to hide from the rest of the world, and click the 'Manage Album' button. Use the Privacy checkbox at the bottom to choose your setting.

*Note - when you are logged in, the albums and images count in the cover photo area will show you the total albums and photos count. Other visitors to your portfolio will only see the number of public albums and public images.

There are plenty of features coming soon - feedback is welcome! If there are features you'd like to see, things you don't like, good or bad, let us know!

support@village.photos

Regards,

Scott

Village.Photos