Tag: photography

Free downloadable long exposure calculator chart

I have just put on the downloads page of my website a free pdf long exposure calculator chart

Just download it, print and laminate it for use in the field.

I hope you find it helpful.

I plan to add some other free downloads so please sign up for my email newsletter for advanced notice of these – just use the form on the right hand side of this page.

if you have any ideas for useful downloads, please drop me a message using the ‘Contact Me’ form on the right.

How do I make a business in photography?

I have just read a superb piece by photographer David Noton in his dispatches column. Davids writings are always worthwhile reading. He is a seasoned pro with a ton and a half of experience and enthusiasm. In this article he tells it like it is and I agree with every word. For those thinking about making a living from photography it should become required reading. My experience as a pro is exactly the same as his.

Well, I say ‘exactly’, but that is not strictly true. My career path has a slight difference, but one I think more should consider.

David came out of the Merchant Navy and decided to go to college to study photography before going on to make his career taking pictures. I have never been to college (except to teach photography, ironically). I came at it from a totally different angle and one I imagine many of you will be approaching it.

My background is in sales and marketing management. My college and university studies are in business management. Photography was, and is, a passion. Then came the inevitable plea from a friend to photograph their wedding and this led to more and more job offers. Five years later I earn the bulk of my income from photography. I consider myself a professional. But I am still not a pure professional. I still work for my old firm. I am extremely fortunate to have a boss who allows me time to pursue my photography business. Five years down the line from that first wedding I am at a crunch point. Do I cut my final ties with the business world and take the plunge and become 100% a photography pro?

Read Davids article and consider the risks and challenges. Photography is a precarious profession. The competition from others far more skilled than most of us is fierce. Those paying for our services are paying less and less each year. As a result I have decided to continue as I am for a while longer. It is so tempting to have a romantic view of being a photographer but the whole subject has to be approached with the view of a hard nosed business man, not a romantic. I have a wife who depends on my and a bank who expects me to pay the mortgage on time. My bank manager is not a romantic!

The income from my company gives a measure of stability. I can depend on it and with it comes a car and other benefits (like holiday pay, a phone, sick pay etc The self employed will tell you how much you should value these things if you have them). The economy is unstable at present and as much of my income comes through my workshops I have to be realistic and realise taking workshops is a luxury for my clients, it is something they can quite easily cut back on if things get tight for them. I have managed to wean myself off of weddings and portrait photography. I don’t enjoy it and while it brings in the cash I am pleased to say goodbye to it (my last wedding is next week!… unless people want to pay me a lot more than I have been charging, weddings are the most stressful thing I do and the hourly rate  all things factored in is the lowest I make).

I think  any of you thinking about a career in photography should consider this approach. Maintain a core part time job, whatever that might be, and build a business in photography to run alongside it. At first the money will help you buy kit and get set up. Then it will help pay the mortgage. Maybe one day you will feel secure enough to take the plunge and cut loose altogether and that will be great, but if not, you can do what you love without much of the stress and worry being a full time pro brings. Sure, you can’t say you are a true ‘pro’. Real pro’s will always view you as ‘not quite the ticket’. But they will envy you. You will sleep a little better at night.

Remember, most photographers fail in their businesses. They fail, not because they are poor photographers. Rather they fail because they can’t run a business. As David forcefully writes in his article, you need to be able to sell yourself. Few people are able to cold call. Few can take the rejection. People putting phones down on them. Buyers telling them to get lost or that their work is rubbish. Few are able to cope with boring assignments making ugly things look wonderful. I have had to photograph gas valves. Palletts. Sewers. The romance of photography kind of evaporates when you are stood up to your knees in raw sewerage and then have to plunge your beloved carbon fibre tripod down in to it too… and then try and take images which make it look interesting. Those mornings you imagine standing on some stunning beach photographing the sunrise for money are very rare. More often than not, especially in the early days, you will be on an industrial estate somewhere trying to show enthusiasm to your client whose life is absorbed by magnetic hinge design.

There are few photographers who make it to David Notons position in life. He must earn a considerable amount each year and he gets to go places we can only dream of, but he openly admits he doesn’t feel secure and he now has nine people on his team being at least partly dependant for their financial lives on his shoulders.

I have no doubt I will be taking the big step in the near future, but I won’t do it until I am sure the time is right. I want to do it now. I am a romantic at heart, but I have to be hard-nosed right now. For now having the support of a second income is the best solution. I am patient. I can wait. If you are thinking of building a photography business in whatever field of photography you are keen on, I encourage you to take a similar approach. Have a second source of income until you know the photography business is right for you and that you can survive on what it brings.

How do I put a simple border around my images?

I get asked a lot how to put a simple frame border around images, like this one. It is very simple.

These instructions apply to Photoshop, but also work in Elements and no doubt you can work out a similar way if you use some other software. For Elements and others the menu locations may be different but the commands similar.

1. Prepare your photo as usual – the border is the last thing to add.

2. Click the Image Menu and select Canvas Size

3. Make sure the ‘Relative’ box is ticked

4. In the Height and Width box enter a figure – I work in metric so I usually first put in, say 0.2 cm in each box

5. Make sure the centre box in the icon below this is selected (the one with arrows all round it – you will see what I mean when you are there!)

6. In the Canvas Extension drop down box select a colour – in this example above, I chose White – usually, depending on the colours in the image, white or black work best for this inner pin stripe.

7. Click Okay

Now you will see the fine border around your image.

Repeat the process above to add the thicker, outer frame but increase the dimensions to suit what you want – I often use 7, 9, 11 or even 13cm – I find odd numbers work best.

You can experiment with several borders of varying thicknesses – it sometimes looks good to put a 0.2cm white, then a 0.2cm black followed by a 11cm White and finish the outer edge with another 0.2cm black border.

If you are uploading to Flickr and want a white outer border it is always best to put a fine black border around as the page background on Flickr is white and this fine outer pinstripe defines your white border – otherwise it is lost on the page.

Combine a border with a signature – the instructions for which I blogged here a few days ago, and you are developing your own signed piece of artwork

How do I put a watermark on my photos?

I get asked this a lot by students so here is a post to provide the answer – it works in Photoshop or Elements (and the print and export modules of Lightroom have a custom function to add one also).

Watermarking your images is not a foolproof way to stop people using them without your permission. Some will ignore it and use it anyway. Others will spend a few minutes in Photoshop and remove it – with basic cloning skills it is usually not hard to do.

What watermarking your pictures does do is put off some who would steal your images and just emphasizes that it is against your wishes.

More effective is converting the image to 72ppi and reducing the size to say 1000 pixels on the longest side before uploading them. This makes the image unusable in any printed form. It will still display perfectly on a screen as these work at 72ppi – but printing will be useless. If you are using Flickr to display your images you can also switch off the ‘all sizes’ option in your account preferences which will make it much harder for people to steal your photos.

Anyway, on with the tutorial. There are two ways of doing this – by creating an Action or by making a Copyright brush. I tend to use the brush method.

1. In Photoshop create a new blank document. (click file, new). This should put a blank white page in front of you.

2. Next create a new blank layer

3. Select the Type tool to type your text – in my case I would then select a font and font size and type – Copyright 2010 © Doug Chinnery – (you can hold down the Alt key and type 0169 on the number keypad and this will inset the copyright symbol automatically)

4. When you are happy with it select the Rectangular Marquee tool by pressing the M key and drag a rectangle around your line of text.

5. Then go into the Edit menu and select ‘define brush preset’. When the dialog box opens give your brush a name (not a name like ‘Dave’ or ‘Debbie’ but call it Copyright Brush for example.) Then click OK.

6. Now in your brush presets drop down box you will find your copyright brush at the bottom of the grid. It will looked all squashed up but don’t worry, it will display correctly when you use it.

7. To use it, open a photo you want to copyright and add a new blank layer to it.

8. Select either white or black as your foreground colour – press D to set black and white as the foreground and background colours then press the X key to swap them if necessary. I use white mostly unless the image is very bright so white won’t stand out, then I use black.

9. Press B to get the brush tool selected and up on the options bar drop down the brush toolbox and click on your copyright tool brush at the very end of the set.

10. Use the [ or ] keys to make the brush bigger or smaller

11. Click on your image where you want the copyright info to be.

12. The in the layers palette on the blank layer with your copyright brush info use the opacity slider to adjust how the strong the brush is – you can really fade it out so it isn’t distracting or have it more prominent if you prefer.

13. When you are happy, flatten the image.

14. Remember to save the file with a different name so it doesn’t overwrite your master file – otherwise your original file will have your copyright info plastered across it – not good if you want to print it and hand it on your wall!!

I hope this info is helpful?

If you prefer to use Actions then record the above being done but instead of creating a new document just put a blank layer on a photo, type your copyright info, and set the opacity, flatten the image and then stop the action recording. Then it is just a case of running the action on future images – the only problem with this is that it will put the copyright info in the same place and at the same opacity on every image and sometimes this doesn’t look right., but the choice is yours.

High Pass Sharpening

I was so impressed with the quality of sharpening that Chris Upton had used on his images in his exhibition (Masters of Vision, now finished) I decided I needed to re-evaluate my sharpening workflow.

I do not sharpen the psd file I create from my RAW file. I hold that psd file as an unsharpened master. You need to sharpen images to different extents depending on how it will be used. You would sharpen an image differently to be printed on canvas than you would if it was going to be printed on gloss paper. If you were then going to show it on a website it would need a different amount of sharpening also. So I hold my psd as a master and create jpegs from it, sharpen them according to use and then once the jpeg has been used I delete it – there is no need to keep it taking up disk space as I can recreate another from the master psd at any time.

Chris Upton reminded me about ‘High Pass Sharpening’. I had used this in the past but had somehow drifted back to the usual Unsharp Mask (USM) sharpening that most people use. The difficulty with USM is it increases any noise in the image as it works on adding contrast to edges in the image.

High Pass sharpening has the advantage that it is performed on a separate layer so it can be masked out of some areas and it can be strengthened or reduced in effect by using the opacity slider. If you don’t like it, it can be deleted and you can turn the layer on and off to check the effect.

So how do you do it. It is very easy

1. Duplicate your image (press ctrl-J)

2. Select Filter>>Other>>High Pass

3. Set the radius to 10

4. Click OK

5. Change the blending mode of the layer to Hard Light

6. Zoom in to 100% to be able to judge the next step

7. Experiment with setting the opacity slider on the layer anywhere from about 20% to 70% to get the amount of sharpening you are after.

8. If some areas do not need sharpening or need to be softer then use a mask and set the opacity of the brush to remove the level of sharpening to the extent you want.

This sharpening process could improve your images a great deal.

Top ten tips for photographing seascapes

Landscape photographers love the chance to photograph the sea. We love the wide horizons, big skies and the magnification of the glorious light at dawn and dusk reflected in the water. To make the most of your trips to the coast here are some tips for making great seascape images.

1. Go prepared. Welly boots, while not glamorous, are the best footwear on the shore. They allow you to work in soft mud, lapping waves and rock pools without worrying about getting wet, cold feet. Neoprene lined wellies are more expensive but much more comfortable and warmer than cheaper brands. I have also found seawater rots the adhesives and stitching in modern walking boots. I had a pair of new boots fall apart after a trip to Skye due to me wading about in seawater for two weeks.

2. Check the tides in advance. Often the best time to make seascapes is with a falling tide at sunrise or sunset. The exposed rocks and sand will be wet from the receding tide which reflects the light in the sky and adds much more interest than a drier foreshore with an advancing high tide. To find the tide time for your location enter the name of the nearest harbour or port into Google along with the words ‘tide table BBC’. this will bring up a link for the generally reliable tide tables on the BBC website. If you don’t live in the UK just enter the nearest harbour name and the words’ tide table’ and you should get a link for your country. Being aware of the tide times also helps you be aware of not being cut off from the mainland by a fast rising high tide. Very easy, believe me, when you are engrossed in making images.

3. Check where and when in relation to the location the sun will rise and set to find the best time to visit that location. The best way to do this is to download ‘The Photographers Ephemeris’. This free software uses Google Earth and shows on the map exactly where the sun and moon rise and set in any location on the planet on any day. One of the best bits of software a landscape photographer can have on the computer. You will find it here. There is even a version for the iPhone.

4. Take a towel, lens cloth and lens cleaning fluid. You will find, even in quite calm conditions that your lens and filters start to get coated in salt while making images at the sea. This soon ruins images. Keep an eye on this and clean your glass regularly. I also have a golf towel clipped to my tripod for quickly drying off salt spray from the camera and for draping over the camera if the waves start to get high.

5. Wash you tripod legs in fresh water after a seascapes session. Tripods often get stood in seawater to get the perfect shot, and get coated in abrasive sand from beaches. To preserve your kit, wash it off well with fresh water after the shoot.

6. Get there early. I usually get my best seascapes 30, 45 minutes or more before the sun is due to rise. Trust me, that extra 20 minutes in bed is not worth missing the best light for.

7. Stay late. As with the preceding point, at the end of the day i often get my best images up to an hour after the sun has set. Don’t pack up and go home when the sun dips below the horizon – keep shooting.

8. Get the tripod down low. So often photographers fully extend the tripod legs so the camera is at head height for comfort or out of habit. Get down low for more interesting images with a different perspective.

9. Use ND filters. ND filters from 2 to 10 stops help lengthen exposures and create wonderful effects on moving water and clouds. The 10 stop filters, such as the Lee Filters ‘Big Stopper’ enable me to shoot great seascapes long after the best light has gone thus lengthening the shooting time on location. they also enable great images to be had in poor light and cloudy conditions.

10. Shoot details. it is easy to just shoot the wide seascape before you and to miss some of the beautiful ‘intimate landscapes’ of the shore. Rock patterns, seaweeds, shells and pebbles, patterns in the sand, beach furniture and buildings and so on.

I hope you have found these tips helpful. I would be interested in hearing from you if you have tips to add.

If you would like more help with improving your seascape photography, please use the form on the right to add your email address to my mailing list. You will get advanced notice of all of my future seascape and other workshops before they are announced elsewhere.

What should I charge for my photography?

This is a big question for all photographers, pro’s and enthusiasts alike.

The answer is not simple. No one can tell us what the answer is. we have to decide for ourselves. However, there are some things to consider before deciding.

To simplify things, lets take the example of selling prints via our website. this is something many photographers want to do and setting up a website is relatively simple.

First, a sobering fact. few photographers sell more than a few odd prints A YEAR through their personal website. Fact. In fact, for those who pay Clikpic or a similar company for hosting their website and providing the website template, few will even recoup the websites costs. Some will, certainly. (I do), but most won’t. There are tens of thousands of fine photographers out there doing the same thing and the chances of someone finding your site, let alone browsing it long enough to find an image the like so much that they are prepared to send you money for it are slim. Sorry, but that’s a fact.

But lets say you want to give it a go. (And I encourage you to do so. I sell through my website and make a small part of my income through direct print sales but the website has far greater value to me in becoming my online brochure to advertise my style and abilities to other potential customers. For me, that is where the value is – in the work it generates).

So, you spend some time building your website and launch it. But the big question is, ‘what should I charge for prints’?’.

There are several ways of looking at this. If you are to look just at what a print actually costs – say a pound or two for something A4 size, three or four pounds for something a bit bigger and add on a couple of pounds for postage, your direct costs are very low. Lets say, ten pounds all in. So do you double it. 100% is a good mark up, surely?. However, sadly many potential customers are already dropping out at the £20 price point. They can get a landscape or flower photograph from Tesco for less than that, framed and ready to hang. Is yours any better in their eyes? And they still have to buy a frame. Of course, yours is unique, not mass produced, but most buyers don’t see it that way. In reality, £20 is hardly worth all the hassle to you of sending the jpeg to a lab for printing, then making up an receipt, keeping accounts, packing the image up and going to the post office to post off and so on and yet already many buyers just won’t pay it. Start charging £30 or £40 a print and buyers laugh and click off to a site which charges £10 for a similar print (trust me, there are thousands of photographers selling good, not great, images at £10 or less)

You also need to factor in that this price model doesn’t take any account of the thousands of pounds you have paid out for gear and computers as well as software plus the travel expenses in getting to the location perhaps several times to get that wonderful light. It may be nice to get the recognition of selling a print and it may be okay to make a few quid but be under no illusions, you are making a MASSIVE loss selling using this model.

If you do factor in your real costs for gear and travel etc then there is no way to price prints sensibly. You would be charging many hundreds of pounds per print.

This is the model I have been using for the last three years. I am having to re-evaluate my approach at the moment because of the points I have just made.

The alternative is to go exclusive. This is the brave step. If your imagery is VERY good and you have absolute belief in its value as art then you can forget the actual raw material cost of a print and go down the art pricing model.

This takes account, not of cost, but of value. This is where what your images are ‘worth’ comes in. if someone truly loves an image or images of yours, how much do they love them? Do they love them enough to INVEST  in them. To stake some of their hard earned money in something they feel they will treasure for years, pass on to their loved ones, in something which has true value.

Buyers willing to do this are few and far between. If you think getting the £20 a print customers onto your website is hard. Getting buyers who will pay £100, £200 or more for a print is far more difficult.

This is where you need to build a name for yourself, a reputation, and you need to develop your own style. It is no good going to Durdle Door and Bamburgh Castle and making a superb image in great light but which is essentially no different to thousands of other equally technically good images of the same places in great light which are on sale on thousands of other photographers websites using the £20 a print model. There is no reason to buy yours.

If you can build a reputation like Charlie Waite, David Noton or Joe Cornish you can charge hundreds of pounds per print on your name alone. Check out their websites and see what they charge! Those who get such a reputation are as rare as, well, as rare as Charlie Waite. Almost none of us will make it.

However, it is possible with masses of hard work, loads of networking, hundreds of fruitless dawns and withstanding loads of rejection to gradually carve out a lesser reputation than the ‘greats’ but a reputation nonetheless. With this kudos comes value. Your prints will acquire a value and you can then learn what that value is and price to it. If you can charge £100 or more a print then things are becoming more realistic from a business point of view.

Some will add perceived value by releasing limited editions and short print runs. I have doubts about this model in many cases, but that is another blog topic.

You can add value by framing the print, but you have to be prepared to organise this and handle all the variety of demands buyers will start to place on you for certain coloured wood frames of different thicknesses and different mount colours and can you do non-reflective glass and can you send it to my sister in Canada, oh and can you do it in two days because we forgot her anniversary and can you…. Customers at this level are paying much more and so demand much more. Are you prepared to deliver this kind of service? What does delivering this level of service mean to you in terms of cost. Cost in both cash terms and in terms of your time?

I am sorry there are no clear answers here, just facts. Cold, hard, facts. If you do decide to go for premium pricing because you feel your images are truly worthy then you need to back this up with premium service, superb quality prints on archival materials delivered with premium packaging. It is no good sullying the image you are building with shoddy communications and packaging. Everything has to reflect the fine art photographer image you aspire to.

A lot will depend on your needs. Are you just looking for the warm glow of knowing someone likes your image enough to pay you a few bob for it and perhaps earning a few quid each month to keep you in memory cards? Or Are you looking to go semi-pro? Not giving up the day job, but wanting to run a small business alongside your day job to bring in a serious contribution to kit or mortgage? Or is your plan to go pro? become a full time photographer? The answer to this question will help you decide on the pricing route you take.

I wish you well in your decision. Whatever that is, why not consider joining me for my ‘making Money From Your Photography’ workshop where I will help you do just that, whatever model you decide to follow? Get in touch with me for details via the ‘contact us’ page on my website.

Review of Epson R2880 & ColourMunki Calibration System

I am often asked what printer I use. Until a few months ago the answer was, ‘I don’t use a printer’. ( I do have a HP desk top printer but it is only suitable for document printing ). I have always shied away from the complex matter of profiles, calibrating, papers and inks. It just seemed too much hassle. So much easier to upload the files to Loxley Colour in Glasgow and receive the prints a few days later.

I then did a workshop with Scott Kelby and he covered printing, calibrating, colour managed workflow etc in some detail. Scott mentioned that he used the R2880 and R3880 Epson printers and the ColorMunki calibrator. So all fired up, and feeling for the first time that I knew what I should be doing, I took the plunge and invested in the R2880 and ColorMunki.

The set up for both was quick and painless. The ColorMunki set up involves loading the drivers and software and then running the simple calibration program. While it is one of the more expensive calibrators it is superb. it allows you to calibrate your monitor and if you wish to create your own paper profiles. You simply print a test chart and then swipe each strip of colours on the paper with the calibrator and this builds a bespoke profile for your printer, ink and that particular paper combination. So far I have only used it to calibrate the monitor (and the first time you do it, it makes a huge difference) and the software prompts you to recalibrate regularly (I have it set to prompt me to recalibrate every two weeks, although this is probably overkill – it only takes a couple of minutes so it is no burden).

The drivers for the R2880 load quickly and the printer runs a set up routine when you install the ink cartridges for the first time. One cartridge has to be swapped out depending if you are printing on gloss or matte paper. I don’t understand why both can’t be fitted permanently – something for the Epson engineers to sort out.

It has quite a large footprint so you need some desk space to cope with it. But the output tray and the top paper input support fold away into the printer and seal it up to protect against dust. This also means they don’t intrude into your desk space while you are not using it.

It comes with a roll feed mechanism, so you can buy your favourite papers on the roll and print panoramas. It takes all sizes from small envelopes up to Super A3 which is bigger than A3 and is better suited to the 3:2 aspect ratio of full frame DSLR sensors. Super A3 paper is about 13 x 19 inches in size and the printer prints close to the edge. Prints at this size look stunning and are perfect for framing to hang in most homes. I bought some Hanemhule A4 paper but have hardly used any, when you have seen your prints at Super A3 you won’t want to print A4 or 10 x 8!!!

I have been trialing Epsons Archival Matte paper for my colour prints (and next want to try Hannemhule (or however you spell it) 305gm PhotoRag paper. For my mono prints I have been using the stunning Ilford Gold Silk paper.

It was with trepidation that I set about printing my first image. I sharpened it with Nik softwares excellent output sharpened plugin for Lightroom. The monitor was calibrated with the ColorMunki. I had downloaded my paper profiles from the manufacturers for the R2880. I had set up Lightroom and Photoshop correctly for a colour managed workflow. It was time to press the print button.

Breath held, I waited for the paper to emerge. Grinning, I held the print up by my studio window because I could already see the reproduction of what I had on my screen was close to perfect. I had never seen prints of such quality outside of a high end gallery. Colours were faithful, prints were not too dark as they so often are when getting them back from a lab and mono prints are quite frankly, astounding. The R2880 has three black/grey cartridges and they deliver deep rich black and mono tones, especially on the Ilford paper.

I now have loads of my prints on the walls of my home and studio, gradually replacing the substandard prints from various labs that have been up for a while. I have also been printing for customers, their own images, as it is virtually impossible to get labs to print on anything but standard papers.

The K3 inks are as good as everyone says. They are expensive, although my local supplier delivers for free next day and charges around £7.80 per colour. With nine colours, it is not cheap, but the results are worth it. The printer monitors levels and warns you when a cartridge needs replacing, which is just a one minute job. I have always sent my empty HP cartridges off to charities for recycling but they won’t accept the Epson cartridges, although a student on one of my workshops tells me you can order envelopes from Epson themselves to send empty cartridges back to them for recycling (but no charities benefit from this which is unacceptable in my mind).

At £449.99 from Amazon (which is the best price I could find from a reputable supplier and I get free next day delivery) it is not cheap, but it is well engineered and produces results worth the cost. I am already lusting after the R3880. So I am now able to wholeheartedly recommend the R2880 and the ColourMunki.

Should photographers use Twitter?

Twitter is certainly a phenomenon. It has appeared as if from nowhere and people seem to love it or scorn it. 140 characters per message only. Is it a gimmick that will fade as quickly as it emerged? Or has it filled a niche and become an indispensable feature of our online lives? In particular, for us as photographers, is it a useful tool? Or a waste of time? If we are running a business does it provide tangible benefits or is it a distraction that consumes time we could spend making our living more effectively elsewhere?

I was a sceptic but am now committed to Twitter. It has its drawbacks but I believe it has quickly become a vital tool in my social networking system.

For those of you who haven’t been on Twitter and wonder what it is all about, here is a brief description. You create a free account and sign in. You are presented with a text input box in which you can type anything you want – the question beside it asks ‘Whats Happening?’. So you type something, within the constraint of 140 characters (and spaces count as a character – you soon learn to be very concise). Press’Tweet’ and your message is launched.

But who is going to read it? At this stage, no one. You have no friends, no ‘followers’. I guess some brave souls tweet away and hope someone will stumble on their tweets and decide to follow them. However, the best way to get followers is to follow others. Twitter will analyse what you tweet and suggest like minded people who you may wish to follow. You can read what they tweet and decide if it is of benefit for you to follow them. From the people you follow, Twitter will suggest more people you may be interested in. You can also see who people you follow are following and some of these you may decide it is beneficial for you to follow.

What happens when you follow someone. Simply put, their tweets will appear on your home page in chronological order. The most recent will always be at the top. Your list of tweets will be a unique combination of all the tweets of everyone you follow. It is unlikely anyone else on the planet will have an identical list to you – they would have to be following exactly the same people as you.

If one of your contacts says something you feel your contacts would be interested in you can ’retweet’ it with a click of the mouse and their tweet will be sent to all of your contacts. In the same way you can reply to a tweet if you feel you have something to say in response to it.

Tweets can contain links to useful or interesting web pages or images. Or, they can be just text. Its up to you. Long URL’s you want to tweet can be shortened by websites which convert them into ‘tiny URL’s’ to save characters.

You do have to be aware that every tweet you make is visible to the World and all of your contacts will see it and be able to read it. The exception is if you send a private message to one of your contacts.

Your followers can send you private messages and you are informed of these in your email inbox. You also get an email each time a new person follows you, giving you the chance to check what they are saying on Twitter to see if you wish to follow them back. Here I add a note of caution. You will soon get bizarre people following you… who obviously have no intention of ever reading what you write because they are following thousands of people. They couldn’t possibly be interested in what you are saying. What they want is for you to follow them and read what THEY are saying. Most are online marketeers or people promoting their own businesses and products. I do not follow anyone who has an unmanageable amount of contacts. I believe Twitter should be a two way thing. The only exceptions I make are one or two ‘celebrities’ who do say interesting or funny things and will obviously have thousands of followers but what they say is of value to me in one way or another, so I make an exception. I follow about a quarter of the people who follow me. If you want me to follow you, then you have to be saying things that are interesting, useful, humorous and so on (and I don’t follow anyone who uses foul language or tells off-colour jokes).

Now we come to its benefits for us as photographers. As with many forms of Social Networking, Twitter has given us the ability to be put in direct contact with many like minded people. Ordinary photographers, many of whom have a vast knowledge of equipment, techniques and contacts. I have tweeted brief questions and within seconds got back the answer from contacts. I also try and respond to the questions of others (I get mad with people in Social Networking who are only on the take – it should be a two way thing – photographers I follow who only post stuff about what they are doing and images they are uploading and so on soon get deleted from my list of contacts. I don’t want to hear just what a great guy you are – -I want to interact with you.)

I do get business from my contacts. I may post about a space on a workshop and get a booking as a result which is a real benefit to my business, but it also means my customers can contact me for advice or just to tell me what they have been doing since we met and because of the 140 character limit it has to be brief and to the point. It is often so much quicker than email.

I have linked my Facebook account to my Twitter feed so when I upload something on Facebook a tweet with a link to it appears in Twitter. Now Twitter is becoming a dynamic part of my social networking system. If a follower clicks that link they go to my Facebook stream and now they don’t see other peoples tweets, they are focused on my stream alone and this may lead them to clicking a link to my website and now they are purely focused on my work and from here they may link to my blog and start reading stuff I have put up. Twitter, in this way, has become an essential tool in social networking.

As with all social networking it can become a time waster. If you have too many contacts you can spend hours every day following everyones tweets, checking all the Facebook friends streams, commenting on all your contacts Flickr uploads, processing emails, reading and writing blogs, recording podcasts and listening to those of others and so on. It can become all consuming and thats before you have searched for bargains on EBay! Very soon you will get no work done. YOu have to be disciplined and apportion a sensible amount of time to social networking – enough to give real benefit to your customers and friends and enough to derive benefit yourself, but not so much that your business or life suffers. It is just a matter of self control.

I quickly came to see Twitter as indispensable.  I love how quick it is and how it puts you in direct contact with great photographers who soon form a part of your network. Most of the guys and girl photographers on Twitter are genuinely friendly and keen to help. It enables us to interact with people we would never have had chance to contact 15 years ago. Imagine being a budding landscape photographer in the 1960’s, 70’s or 80’s. We would have had no chance to talk to Charlie Waite, Joe Cornish or other greats. Their equivalents today are on Twitter, Flickr and Facebook and we can. We can ask them questions, get their feedback and perhaps even help them (they are human too). This has enormous and real value.

So, I don’t think Twitter is a waste of time (but it could be – thats down to you) and I do see real benefit to my business in Twitter. I also have learned a huge amount from the help of my contacts on Twitter and hopefully have been able to help others too. I recommend you check it out and make up your own mind.

New website launched

As you will have noticed my website has had a complete makeover.

I was quite happy with the look and feel of the old design, in fact, I feel the look of this one is not as good but there is a reason for the change.

While the design was fine to my eyes, in Googles eyes it was repulsive. The old site was created in Apples iWeb program which is great if you need a very simple web design program. Everything is drag and drop, click and re-size, WYSIWYG etc. However to make it so slick and simple the program is creating horrendous code in the background which Google takes one look at and walks away from in disgust. Sadly in this age, if we are running a business and need traffic to our site then we need to feed Google what it wants. hence I have taken the plunge and created this site from scratch using WordPress.

WordPress is free, open source software originally created for blogging but it soon became apparent that it was ideal for creating websites too. If you just want a blog you can sign up on the WordPress website http://wordpress.org/ and they will host a lovely free blog for you but if you want a website using the software it becomes a whole lot more complicated. You need to download WordPress from them (which they are fine about) and then sign up with an Internet hosting company that supports WordPress websites. They need to be able to run MySQL databases (which runs under the WordPress bonnet (hood, for my American readers!)  and organises all the data and be able to run php (whatever that is?). I opted for a UK based company, www.1and1.co.uk, which many people complain about and yet I have had no issues with at all.

You use an ftp program (I used the free and excellent Filezilla) to transfer the WordPress files to your bit of webspace hosted by 1and1 in my case. Then you start the installation and configuration of your website which is all done through your web browser. This is where for the first two weeks I had a nightmarish time. Every help file I looked at for hand-holding and guidance seemed to make assumptions that I knew stuff. This is stuff I now know, but at the time with no experience whatsoever it was very frustrating. You will get detailled instructions on a stage in the process which is ideal and then they will drop in a sweeping statement with no explanation of how to perform that step. Stage 5, reconfigure the widget module for multi-spronged upwiggliing. WHAT! Then followed endless trawling of help forums reading the posts of exasperated newbie WordPress users like myself who had come up against the same wall and after much searching I would find a kindly soul who had taken the trouble when they had discovered the answer to go back and write a short detailled description. With this, it became simple again until the next sweeping statement was reached.

But, by sticking to my task like Frodo and Sam on their quest, I eventually came out of Mordor and to the point where I could start actually building web pages. Here things got simpler ad I was soon steaming through the laborious process of moving the old website to the new.

What I do like about WordPress is all the widgets which you can integrate into the site to do things I could never do with iWeb. Things like have a subscription form that works for people to sign up to my free newsletter (its over on the right of this page, by the way – fill it in for me to test it, thanks!). I am also able to have the ‘Contact Me’ form instead of having to put my email address on the website. I love the Twitter, Flickr and RSS buttons which are so easy to add so people can follow me trough other channels easily. But most of all, I love the way Google loves WordPress sites. I am hoping I begin to turn up higher in searches for photography workshops in the UK, for instance.

I am not happy with the look of the site. It is okay but I now need to get my head down and learn how to modify the code you can’t see to get the look and feel I am after. There are some glorious websites made in WordPress out there and I want mine to be as good looking and as easy to use as those.

Plans I do have which will be implemented in the next week or so include a downloads page where I have some ideas for free downloadable pdf’s that you can grab and print out for use in the field – sign up for my free newsletter for an announcement of when they are up and available.

I am also going to go back through my old blog posts and upload all the most popular ones, the ‘to-do’s’ and ‘how-to’ articles so that there is a base resource here to start the new site off. This is useful to my readers and also gives more food for Goggle because that hungry content monster needs feeding. If the food is good, it keeps coming back for more.

I would welcome your comments on the site, good, bad and indifferent as well as any thoughts you have on how I can improve it.