Saturday, April 5, 2014

Being Seen in the Right Place

When I first started getting into photography, a very important thing I needed to figure out was what to do with my images once I had some that I thought were worth sharing.

Besides the 2 main social networks Facebook and Google+ which have their uses, there are many other options to choose from, and at first it's hard to know which one's the right one. If you've read any of my other blog posts here, then you would've heard me talk about Zazzle which is where I sell all my t-shirt designs and other souvenirs. At first I just automatically tried selling my photography as framed art prints on Zazzle, but I wasn't particularly happy with how it worked or the pricing.

So I started looking around at other options. There are many more besides the 4 I've shown on the right in the above picture. But these are the 4 I have experience with so far. So I thought I would share my observations about each of these forums for selling photography, as they all have something different to offer.

My guess is that unless somebody's into photography or artwork they probably wouldn't have heard of these web sites. When I first started getting serious about photography the only one I'd heard of was Flickr, but even then I didn't really know what it was or how it worked.

So I started with Flickr, only because I'd heard of it...

Flickr's very easy to set up and use. The best part is it's FREE and it took me no time at all to upload some of my pictures so there was at least somewhere online where all my work could be viewed. You can sort your images into sets and it's a handy place to store and present your images.
However Flickr didn't seem to be designed for the purpose of selling images as artworks like I wanted to do. Also every photographer's page is layed out exactly the same, so there's little scope for personalisation, (which I must admit didn't bother me too much, so long as it worked).

That's when I heard about SmugMug...

SmugMug gives users the ability to virtually create their own unique photography website. It's very professionally designed with some nice animated transitions and other cool graphical features like slideshows, etc. Plus it has a whole shopping cart system that's geared toward sales of photos with a number of different products available including stretched canvas, framed prints, and so on.

It take's a bit longer to get your head around in order to customise it the way you want it, which can be quite time consuming, plus there's a cost attached – it's costing me $20 month.

Following this, I stumbled across FineArtDownunder...

But don't be fooled. It's actually FineArtAmerica by another name. The first thing I noticed was that the layout wasn't that flash. It looks very dated and ordinary. However it has some useful features that make it a very worthwhile tool to use. Firstly, each time you upload an image you are prompted to assign tags to your photo which enables the site to work well from an SEO point of view (Search Engine Optimisation).

Interestingly, if you Google 'photography on canvas', or words to that effect their site comes up consistently on page 1. Then the search feature makes good use of the tags it prompted you for, enabling art buyers to find your stuff. If they're interested in purchasing a pic and click on it they're taken to a page with a magnifying glass feature that enables a closer inspection, almost at pixel level. The site also allows you to set your own pricing margins. And a really great feature that's not available with any of the others is how it integrates with facebook. Each time I upload a photo it automatically updates my online shop within Facebook. The best part is it's FREE to use.

Just out of curiosity there was one more I wanted to try and that was 500px...

This site totally blew my mind. If I had to can sum it up in 1 word it would be AWESOME!
This site has been very cleverly designed. They've obviously thought of everything (except the Facebook thing). From the moment I started uploading pictures I started getting feedback from other users liking my pictures and saving to their 'favourites'. Each 'like' and 'favourite' you receive adds to a ranking – a rating out of 100%. The nearer to 100% you go the more visible your work becomes.

Having said that one of my images got up to 94% which I was pretty pleased about, but it was still a loooong waaaay from the top of the list which shows how many great images are on the site. There's some really excellent work on there. I saw more work and got more feedback from other fellow photographers in the first hour than I've received so far from all the other sites combined! Now that's saying something. The feedback was instantaneous. At first I couldn't figure out how everyone was seeing my stuff. When I finally figured out how, that's what led me to conclude that it was so well designed.

The way this site is designed encourages a striving for excellence that the other sites don't seem to do so well. Plus it has all the other features that allow for selling a variety of products, although they set a standard profit margin for all photographers which seems a bit odd. Plus it's not FREE. I'm still on a 14 day trial, so I've yet to go through the process of deciding whether to keep it or swap it for Smugmug because I can't afford both.

So, there you have it. I hope this summary has been helpful. Please feel free to share your observations or comments if you've used any of these services.

Why not take a look for yourself using the links below:

Thursday, April 3, 2014

It's been a while...

It's been a while since I wrote anything here. I haven't been doing much blogging lately. I've been a bit pre-occupied with various other things.

One of my biggest difficulties is that I have so many different interests that I can't seem to do them all justice. In recent times I've been focussing on getting up to speed with a few of the main social networking tools like Facebook and Google+. Until recently I had very little understanding of how to use them properly and what their benefits were. My main aim was to grow my audience and get a bit of visibility for some of the things that I'm doing. This is very important when it comes to marketing one's self, no matter what endeavour you're involved in.

However, the difference between social networking and blogging have become quite apparent to me. In the social networking environment people seem to be in a hurry to do everything and it seems to be all about gaining "likes" and "pluses". You're basically in a situation where you're effectively competing for visibility. It's dependant on visual stimuli and I'm often left thinking how superficial the whole experience is. Neither of these tools seem to encourage meaningful dialogue or interaction between the people that use them.

Having said that, I have managed to attract a small audience of around 100 on Google+ and a combined audience of about 140 or so between the 3 facebook pages I'm running which is not a lot by any means.

But at least blogging allows for an exchange of ideas at a deeper level. You can get into the 'meat' of a matter and drill down into stuff that's of real interest. This is the kind of tool that allows for a real 'meeting of the minds' for those who need it.

So having said that, I'll be back here again soon to share more of what I've been up to — at least in the creative area.

So y'all come back now, you hear?