April 14, 2010

A Bit of an Uproar in the Photography Community

There's been some crazy blogging going on for the last few weeks. I stumbled upon a few different blogs that are talking about the state of workshops in the photography community. I'll give the links below so you can take from it what you want.

My thoughts: research before you hit the buy button. I've been lucky and most of the workshops/seminars I've attended have been wonderful and well worth the money. But I know people who attended the same event as I did and didn't feel the same way. Make sure you know what level is being tough at these workshops, beginner, intermediate, advanced. Who is the person teaching, how long have they been in business, are they just a internet success or a real life success? Before I spend more than $100, I Google anything I want to buy, heck sometimes I Google a $20 purchase before I buy. Seminars and workshops are great opportunities to take your craft to a whole new level, network and make new friends. I think continuing education is key no matter if your are a photographer or in another field. But remember, it's what you put into it as well. I know someone who did nothing but complain after a workshop we both attended - well if that person didn't spend half the day not in the room and not talking to one of the sponsor reps that was there, they may have learned something!

If you're not sure about a service or product before you buy, a great resource is the PhotogVendors website. There's review from photographers on there both good and bad. Can't find information there, then check out the various free and paid forums, post a question to the member if they've attended and how they felt about their experience. Personally, I've decided to stay away from negative reviews of the products that I use. Why? Some have just been poor decisions on my end, I didn't think my wants and needs though and hit the buy button, that is not the vendor's fault, but mine. Also, I have yet to work with a company that put such a bad taste in my mouth that I would want to publicly slam them. Now if someone asked me about a specific experience, I would tell them why things did or didn't work out in my opinion.

Here's the links that got me started on this subject. I've read through a lot of the comments and I'm taking them all with a grain of salt. Some people are just out to sling mud at other photographers, which I don't agree with. But I think this is a great topic for everyone to be involved in, if you're speaking from the heart and for the right reasons.

Gary Fong: The Crowd Is Rioting
True Photo Talk - Truth in our Industry

A Comparison on Two SEO Guides

So here I am again, talking about SEO. A few of my fellow photographers have been using the Photographer's SEOBook from Zach Prez, so I decided to pick up a copy to compare to the SEO School ebook from Naomi Dunford of www.IttyBiz.com. Both ebooks cost the same at $39.

One of the main differences between these two ebooks is that Zach targets photographers only while Naomi's readers are small business owners. A few things that Naomi does: she gives you a lot of info on how Google works and how to figure out what type of site you are. She also gives a wealth of information on how to check your competitions' rankings and how they've set-up their SEO. Zach goes about things a bit differently, giving a brief overview of Google and then very specific information on setting up your key phrases, basic coding for your splash page and suggestions on where to find links. Both books review linking, anchor text and blogs.

If you know enough about coding to make you almost dangerous, then Naomi's ebook may be a better bet for you. She doesn't spell out do xyz, but gives you enough information to get started. Personally, I'm into more details on how the SEO process works and all that nerdy stuff, so I was digging the extra details about figuring out what type of site you are and other goodies like long tail searches. I really enjoyed the section in Naomi's book on checking out what your competitors do and how to "beat" them. I realized that not a lot of my competitors were implementing Naomi's suggestions, so I hope that I can quickly gain a better Google ranking by making some minor tweaks that they aren't using. If you have no clue about html code and you want a basic how to start the SEO process then you're better off to go with Zach's ebook because he tells you how to set up code for your site and where to place it. There's even a generic piece of code in Zach's ebook for your splash page, you just have to change the info for your area and speciality.

I started with Naomi's info and saw some great changes in my page rank on Google. A few of the photography-specific tips Zach suggested have also made their way into my SEO process and I've already seen a little more of a bump in my rankings as well. Is one book better than the other? Probably not, different users with different needs. If you're looking to learn tons details for for your SEO than I would suggest getting both books. If you want a quick, easy way to start than go with Zach (especially if you are only optimizing for photography) and if you want to learn more in-depth and know some html than go with Naomi's book (and if you aren't a photography business).

SEO is a huge tool for photographers in getting their name out there and finding new clients. But, remember that SEO isn't the only marketing option you have. Word of mouth is one of the best things to do to gain more business. People love using a product or service that their friends have high praise for. And there's a lot of other ways to market yourself as well. Since I still work a full time job and shoot on weekends, my time is somewhat limited in what I can do to market my business, right now SEO is key for me. Hopefully, photography will be my bread and butter job soon and I can really start focusing on getting out in the community more, networking and having displays in other businesses. Until that time comes, I'm making the most out of the internet, social networking and Google to bring in more leads.

April 13, 2010

NAPP Sponsored Adobe Photoshop Seminar

I had the opportunity yesterday to attend the NAPP/Kelby Training Maximum Photoshop Seminar with Dave Cross. This was my 4th Photoshop seminar I attended since joining NAPP in 2004 early in my career as a graphic designer. In one day, they Dave crammed in enough information to make my head spin. I have a strong background in Photoshop, I've been using it professionally as a designer since 2000 and as a photographer for the last 3 years. But the one thing about Photoshop is that no matter how you get to the end result, there are at least 3 if not 10 ways to do it and typically my way isn't the quickest, fastest or easiest!!

I attended the seminar with two fellow graphic designers and we all walked away with some new ideas and ways to accomplish things. We all agreeded that no matter if you're a photographer, graphic designer or web designer there was something in this class for everyone. And for $99 ($79 for NAPP members) it is a great deal. Currently I'm working on CS3 and the class was aimed towards CS4 users, but a lot of what Dave covered also works in CS3, which is nice that Adobe typically builds each newer version based on the previous. One of the great things is that they give you a workbook and disk with all the info that was covered that day, so if 2 months later you want to try something you learned it's easy to just reference the materials from the seminar.

Yesterday was Adobe's "official" release of CS5, so as a great bonus, Dave shared some of the new features of CS5 after the lunch break. I am completely in awe and without a doubt will be upgrading!

Of the 4 seminars I've attended I have to say that only one of them didn't do it for me. And not because the seminar was bad, it was just targeted more towards people who paint with Photoshop and that personally isn't something that I do. If you have the chance to check out one of these one day seminars, I highly suggest it. And if you're not a NAPP member yet, I also highly suggest joining! If you want to learn more about NAPP, check out my blog post here. Although in my original post, I believe there was a bonus for joining that isn't currently avilable since the post is from '08. But no matter what the offer is, it's $99 well spent for the membership or a seminar!