How to Edit and Retouch Images Using Capture One Pro

The post How to Edit and Retouch Images Using Capture One Pro appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

Before and after split screen of edit

Whilst we all flock to Photoshop for our retouching, Capture One now has a lot of great tools. But is it possible to do a full image edit including retouching? More so, if it is, should you do it and avoid Photoshop altogether?

To find out, I closed Photoshop and settled myself down for a full edit using only Capture One Pro. Lets go through the process and see what I learnt.

Annotate

Capture One’s built-in annotation tools make it easy to plan your retouching for your images. A variety of colors can easily be added to the image should you wish. I really like this tool. It allows you to make simple notes on screen. While it may look like I am practicing my abstract expressionism, I am actually highlighting what I want to improve. In this case, the red is for retouching and yellow is for exposure issues. I love this tool! So far so good.

The annotate tool is great for making notes before you start the edit.

Colour balance

When the image comes into Capture One, the first thing is to get a good neutral color balance. I always start by letting Capture One get me into the ballpark via the Auto tool in White Balance. While not perfect, it gives a good starting point.  I then tweak the color to taste. In most cases, it is only a small tweak from the auto white balance to get a starting point I am happy with.

Exposure

Continuing with the basics, next up is exposure. It always pays to get as close as you can in-camera, and this case required very little. For this image, I pushed up the exposure just under 0.5 stops and added a slight amount of contrast and saturation to my taste. All that was left was a slight highlight recovery to take away the worst of the hot spots. The worst highlights will be taken care of in the next step (and first layer) Luma masking.

Layer One: Luma Mask

New in Capture One 12 is Luma masking. I love this tool! It is such a great time saver for masking highlights. I use it here to mask out the highest highlights in the image and then use the High Dynamic Range sliders to pull back the highlights. Subtly is the key here. I only want to take the harshness out of the bright spots.

An image showing the luma mask in Capture One Pro 12

Possibly my favourite tool in Capture One 12. The Luma mask

Layer two (and three and four): Blemish Retouching

Trying to do any amount of blemish retouching in Capture One soon tells you that it wasn’t designed for this task. The system is clunky. You sample using the alt key (the same way as Photoshop); however, you cannot resample a different area on the same layer. Instead, you need to create a new layer and a new sample. I ended up using 3 layers merely to do basic spot removal (and this wasn’t even going as far as I would in Photoshop). Capture One isn’t effective for any serious blemish removal. I tried this process out on another image to see if it fared better, but it was worse. It got to the point where I just gave up. Yes, it works for simple items, but in the future, blemishes will be worked on in Photoshop only.

Layer five: Skin smoothing

The Skin Smoothing tool is a super-great way to improve skin with a simple mask and a couple of sliders. I use this tool all the time when editing wedding photography. It gives a great effect with such little effort.

The first step is to create a mask using a new layer and the Brush tool. Make sure you leave out areas of detail, such as the eyes and lips. You can then refine the mask to get it more accurate. I tend to use a number between 100-150 for most situations. After this, I go back in with the brush and erase tools until I am happy with the mask. A little tip here is to change the mask color from the default of red when working with people. It just makes the mask stand out more against the skin.

Next, the special sauce. A.K.A The Clarity tool. Just go to the clarity section, choose Natural as the clarity type and slide the numbers into the negatives. I generally find the sweet spot for this technique to be between -60 to -70. Much more than this and it can become a little fake. It comes down to the image you are working on. Simply adjust the sliders until you are happy with the result.

This on its own has a massive difference on the image, but when you add in the Color Editor tool, it takes this to another level.

Layer five continued: Skin Colour

The ability to work with color so precisely is one of Capture One’s greatest strengths. Editing skin tone is a great way to make your model’s skin glow. You can find this tool located in the Color Editor section. To start, click the icon and sample a skin tone. Next, you work with the two sections of this tool, Amount and Uniformity. The amount sliders are to get a skin tone that you are happy with. You then move onto the uniformity sliders to even out the skin tone through the whole face. As with much retouching, it is easy to go over the top. My tip for this is to do the edit, then take a break for a couple of minutes and come back. You instantly see if the image is over done and you can dial back accordingly.

We now have an even, soft skin tone through the image. This layer has made a huge difference to our image. It’s now time to finesse the details.

Capture One screen grab showing mask and colour tools

As you can see, the combination of the clarity slider and the Skin colour editor has really made a difference. The blue mask, maybe not so flattering.

Layer six: Teeth

The teeth need to be slightly whitened. This is as simple as a mask, followed by reducing the saturation. Again, don’t take it down to zero – it will look weird. Take it down just enough so that the teeth look naturally white. In this image, the sweet spot was -51. I then pushed the exposure just slightly to give a whiter smile. But again, as with all retouching, less is more.

Layer seven: Eyes

You sense a theme yet? I created another mask for the eyes. This time I added a very slight bump in exposure and some clarity to give them a subtle pop that was missing before.

Layer eight: The top

The red top the model wore in this shoot was just too bright. Using a combination of a mask and the color editor, I was able to easily reduce the red tone to something less overpowering.

Capture One screen shots showing before and after the colour editor

Toning down the red top means it is not quite as powerful in the image.

Layers nine and ten: The Hair

As the old saying goes; in for a penny, in for a pound. Having worked on the heal and clone layers for basic spot removal, this was going to be something that I was unsure would work. However, with a lot of trial and error, I produced something that was okay. Would I do it again? No. But, I did manage to improve the hair significantly from the previous state.

I ended up using a clone layer for one side of the hair and a heal layer for the other. Again, editing like this shows the limitations of Capture One for high-end retouching. However, after some trial and error, it did an okay job.

Layer eleven: Colour Grade

I generally don’t color grade images heavily – if at all. I usually prefer a natural look. But for this tutorial, I added a color grade. To do this, you add a new fill layer and add your grading there. This also allows you to reduce the effect by opacity or simply turn it on or off quickly to give different looks.

For this image, I decided to use Capture One’s excellent film grain emulations to add some soft grain. Next, I spent some time with the Color Balance tools pulling the shadows into the blues and highlights slightly into the orange. Finally, I used the levels to give a slightly faded look to the final color grade. That’s it. It’s done!

Final photo after retouching

The final edit.

What did I learn?

Well, it is possible to do a full retouch in Capture One. However, in reality, it is clunky and nowhere near as powerful as Photoshop.

The worst part of this was the blemish removals. It was painful to use for more than a couple of blemishes in an image. Also when trying this on another image to remove an eyelash, it was impossible to get it to give a pleasing result.

The standout of this edit is a process I use all the time: the Skin Smoothing and Skin Color combination. These two tools can quickly take care of many skin problems you may see. As a wedding photographer, this is a powerful tool. I can make a bride’s skin look glowing, quickly and easily without the need to round trip to Photoshop. To give you an example, check out this before and after using only this combination. You can achieve quick, simple and powerful results in just a couple of minutes.

A comparison of before and after skin reoutching in Capture One

Such a vast improvement only using two tools.

Conclusion

In general, the color tools in Capture One are amazing, and as well as working well on the skin, they were great for color grading the final image. My regular workflow for an image like this would be a trip to Photoshop for the skin, then back into Capture One for color grading.

Overall, Capture One did give a good final result, but at the cost of time and with some frustration.

Can Capture One Pro do a full edit with retouching? It can – kind of.

Would I recommend it? No.

It’s just not quite precise enough to be able to use regularly for this type of edit. That skin trick though is gold!

Do you use Capture One for your retouching? What are your experiences?

 

The post How to Edit and Retouch Images Using Capture One Pro appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

Are Canon and Nikon the New Kodak?

The post Are Canon and Nikon the New Kodak? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

Canon Z6 and Eos R

Selling? Yes. Boring? Also yes.

Kodak. Remember them? Back in the film days, never did we think they would be an afterthought in the photography industry. But a complete mishandling of the move to digital became their downfall. At one time a top five most valuable brand in the world, now reduced to a footnote in the photography world we live in today. But are Canon and Nikon beginning to edge the same way? Are they the lumbering giants, slow to move with the times? Or, are they playing the game to perfection?

The recent announcements from Canon and Nikon about profit from their camera divisions are not exactly encouraging, but are they still the brands to beat?

Financials

I’m sure you’ve heard the news. Canon and Nikon did not meet their revenue targets for 2018 and both are rapidly revising their numbers for 2019. Predictions are that interchangeable lens camera sales will continue to fall year on year. There was even a rumour from an internal document from a camera company predicting Canon and Nikon will lose 50% of market share in the next three years. This is serious!

But why? Well there are several factors here. Firstly, there is the rise of Sony, Fuji and others in the mirrorless market. Sony have been producing amazing cameras (although not [yet] sold in the same number as Canon and Nikon), which have carved a nice piece of the pie for themselves very quickly. Add in Fuji, Panasonic, Olympus et al and you have an ever increasing number of cameras to choose from – all with amazing features and image quality

However, the more major factor for the whole industry is the ever-increasing quality of the smart phone. Whilst those of us who read Digital Photography School are generally concerned with DSLR and Mirrorless cameras, many just want a decent photo with minimum fuss, and the phone camera does this amazingly well. For all camera companies, the development of amazing quality phone cameras mean the market for those wanting to get great a “proper” camera is shrinking all the time. The latest series of phone cameras are more than good enough for most people.

The big three

According to the latest data for the year of 2018, Canon continues to dominate the world of interchangeable lens cameras with a 49.1% market share (a growth of 3.9%). Nikon stay second with 24.9% (a decline of 0.6%) and Sony are in third with 13.3% (a growth of 2.9%). All other brands made up the remainder. 

Canon’s market share in photography has sat steady at around 40-50% for around the last ten years. The EOS R quickly became the best selling mirrorless camera in Japan on launch. Nikon’s Z series also stole a decent share of the market that has been dominated by Sony of late. The question is, are the people buying these existing Sony and Nikon cameras, heavily invested in a system? The answer for a large portion will no doubt be yes. It just makes financial sense.

As the market shifts and more people move to other systems such as Sony, Fuji and the L-Mount Alliance, will this continue? Existing customers are a large market, but people buying their first “Pro” camera have a choice that is now much wider than merely Canon or Nikon. You only need to look to YouTube for the number of people singing the praises of brands that are not Canon and Nikon to be able to see the beginnings of this shift.

The L-Mount Alliance is the newest kid on the block. How big will its impact be?

Canon’s video problems

I am a Canon shooter. I have been since my first SLR (I know, I’m old). But, their current business model sucks! In an age where the average photographer uses both stills and video, Canon have fallen behind in DSLRs for video. Evidence includes some questionable codecs (motion JPEG anyone?) and cropped 4K. Compared to Sony, it’s not even the same league. What happened Canon? You are the same Canon that released the classic 5D2! Remember that? A game changer that was so good that episodes of your favorite TV shows were filmed on it and Canon were hailed as heroes. Well, they dropped the ball.

Skip to 2019 and Canon release the EOS RP. A great price point of only £1300 (US$1299) and a decent sensor (basically taken from the 6D2). A great camera at a great price. Yes, you can argue the dynamic range of the sensor is not perfect, but it seemed like a great camera release by Canon. Then the news came that the camera was unable to shoot in 24fps in HD. Wait…what? Yep, the standard video frame rate for movies, the same one that was in the 5DMk2 over ten years ago is now absent.

I know what some of you are thinking. It’s the entry-level model; you can’t expect everything. Most people won’t care. However, to omit such a basic video feature is a sign of Canon seemingly making terrible decisions in their digital camera lineup.

Why are they doing this though? The answer seems to be in Canon’s product lines. Canon’s pro video line has a similar starting price to the EOS R. If they put full-frame 4K video, 120 frames per second at 1080P and more into their DSLR range, they would be basically killing off some of their pro video line customers in the process.

You have to question this as a business decision. Put simply, Canon’s current cameras are lagging behind Sony and Panasonic when it comes to video. Rather than move to their C-line of cameras for video though, most people are moving to Sony and the A7 III.

This move seems to be incredibly short-sighted by Canon. When I look to upgrade my trusty 5DMk4, I’m not sure Canon will be the top of my list. The video features on Sony are just too tempting. Sure, I don’t currently do much video work, but I can see my customers wanting more, and Sony cameras have better video features right now.

EOS RP camera with 24-105

Canon brought DSLR video to the masses with the 5D2. A decade later and they don’t even include 24fps.

 

Two cards are better than one

Shouted about all over the internet, why oh why did Canon and Nikon choose to launch their first cameras in their brand new system with one card slot? This feature alone means that a large amount of working professional users will not purchase a camera with one card slot. There is no way I would risk shooting a wedding with one memory card in the camera. It is just not worth the risk.

Nikon has taken this one step further and only have on XQD card. A more expensive format right now and also a format that most existing camera owners will not own in any great amount.

If photography is a hobby rather than a way to earn your living, then it may not be so much of an issue. However, again, it just seems a little short-sighted.

Shooting without a backup is always fine until a card fails.

Where’s the excitement?

Who was honestly excited by the EOS RP? Or the EOS R for that matter? Who thought that Nikon Z6 & Z7 were ushering in a new dawn of quality? Pretty much nobody. They just seemed to be mirrorless hack jobs of the 5DMk4 and D850 respectively, albeit with limitations.

The recent products from Canon and Nikon seem boring. No style and no killer features. Just OK. Just safe. The initial move into mirrorless feels like products designed and launched quickly to try and compete with Sony. Look at the amazing video features of the Sony A7 III when compared with Canon and their disappearing histogram. Compare the autofocus on the Sony A6400 or Fuji X-T3 with the Nikon Z6. There is no contest (the Nikon may improve dramatically with the eye AF update). The question is, why are they not competing with the best in class at launch?

Are Canon and Nikon’s cameras good? Yes. Are they class leading or exciting camera releases? No.  

Fuji’s retro styling, mixed with cutting edge features make for a very exciting camera system.

The Cameras do not match the glass

Leading with your best glass is an obvious decision. Both Canon and Nikon’s glass for their new mirrorless systems looks great. But it makes Canon’s decision to release the EOS RP all the more strange. Simply put, there is no budget glass for their budget full-frame camera.

There is no glass that really matches the system. The lens offered as a kit lens for this system costs over £1000. A quick Google shows the price of the EOS RP body at £1399 ($US$1299), but the cheapest option with a lens (the 24-105 f4) is a staggering £2329 (US$2199). This is crazy! Especially when you can pick up a Sony A7 III with a 28-70mm  f/3.5-5.6 for £1999 (US$2298). The Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm is even more expensive still at £2514 (US$2596). Yes, you can use an adapter if you have other branded glass, but if you buy a new system, with a new mount, you surely want a native mount lens to play with.

I know the lens is not as good, but the Canon EOS RP is not in the same ballpark feature-wise as the Sony A7 III and you can have a camera and native lens for over £300 cheaper. There is no way I would spend extra to get a lesser camera. The fact that Canon has yet to release a cheaper lens seems crazy given they’re releasing more budget-friendly cameras. Maybe Nikon will launch a similar lens with the rumored upcoming EOS RP competitor?

Sony camera and lens lineup.

Sony now have a great range of lenses built up. Canon and Nikon are, for the first time, playing catch up.

Where’s the flagship camera?

So why not a pro body to rival the Sony A9? With the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, my guess is that Canon and Nikon are working feverishly behind the scenes to get their new flagship cameras out for the opening ceremony. I’m sure Sony is doing the same.

Rumors are surfacing that Canon has begun testing the 1DX Mark III with a very limited number of photographers, so this prediction does seem likely.  Canon is a big Olympic sponsor, and it is also a home Olympics for them. It really does make sense for big product launches on the eve of the event. Whether the new flagships will be a DSLR or mirrorless is going to be interesting to see.

But what about the meantime? What’s next up for Canon or Nikon? The EOS RP was underwhelming for many, and the next in line from Nikon is meant to be a direct competitor to the EOS RP. I feel this camera will also be met with the collective sigh the EOS RP received.

What does the future hold?

In the end, it boils down to this; mirrorless is the future of photography. It took a while to get here, but the benefits are now easy to see. Canon and Nikon were late to the party, but they are working hard to claw back ground they have lost. They seem to have learned from Kodak and their lack of acknowledgment for the digital camera.

The fact that both Canon and Nikon have fully entered the market late is currently having an impact on the quality and excitement that greets their new products. So far they appear to be playing it safe with mirrorless, which might not be enough to keep them on top moving forward.

What would be in your dream camera? As a Canon shooter (and daydreamer), I have thought long and hard while writing this article. For me, it would be a mirrorless update to the Canon 5DMk4. A new sensor. Autofocus to rival that on the Sony A9 (or even 6400) and non-crippled video. Full sensor 4K and 120 frames-per-second at 1080P in C-Log and preferably without a histogram that disappears when you press record, or at least zebra stripes. Maybe IBIS would be nice too. Oh, and two card slots. Is that too much to ask? I also would like it under £3000.

Or maybe, I’m getting tempted to move. The Sony A7III keeps tempting me to rent it. The A9 with that new autofocus update is a beast of a camera for a shade over £3000. I also want to see how Panasonic’s latest offerings play out.

I’m heading to The Photography Show in Birmingham, UK in March for an annual look at what is out there. On top of my list of stands to visit are Sony, Panasonic, and Fuji. The fact the Canon and Nikon are not even on my radar says a lot about their current appeal.

What are you looking for from Canon or Nikon? Or, have you moved to another brand and never looked back? Let me know in the comments.

The post Are Canon and Nikon the New Kodak? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

Capture One Pro 12 Review – Whats New and Should You Upgrade?

The post Capture One Pro 12 Review – Whats New and Should You Upgrade? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

Screenshot of Capture One

Capture One have recently released version 12 of their image editing software. Capture One have made a name for their high quality imaging software that offers professional users the best control of their images. But does version 12 deliver this? And, more importantly, is it worth upgrading to from version 11?

What’s new?

Capture one say “Capture One 12 delivers better, faster, and more creative control. New features includes advanced masking functionality, an even more efficient and intuitive user experience, plug-in compatibility, and much more”

In any software, a speed increase is always welcome. In use, Capture One 12 is slightly quicker on my machine, which is nice. Is it enough on it’s own to make me upgrade? Probably not. However, there are lots of other features that make it much more appealing. These include an updated interface, new masking options, intelligent adjustments copying and much more. Let’s look at each of the updated features in more detail.

New updated interface

The menu system in Capture One Pro 12 is more customizable than before. The new icons have been upgraded, which does make it look fresh. I like the new design, but this is nothing to get excited about. There is a redesigned keyboard shortcuts panel though, which is useful for those who like to create their own. I’m not someone who delves deep into creating my own shortcuts, but I do appreciate the new design. If you are so inclined, you have the option to create more than 500 customizable commands.

C1 Interface

The updated interface. Yes, it is a little nicer, but not a massive difference. V12 is on the left.

New masking options

New masking options are something to get excited about. The Luminosity masking allows you to create a mask based on the Luma Range of the file. This makes it really simple to create a mask to bring back only the darkest of shadows or add clarity to the lightest part of the image. It is a straightforward system that works well in practice.

Linear gradient masks have also been transformed to give more precise control, which many of us will really find useful. The addition of Radial Gradient Masks is another handy option for those who like to create custom vignettes on their images.

Screenshot of luminosity mask in Capture One

Luminosity masks are a great time saver and probably my favourite new feature in Capture One 12

Intelligent adjustments copying

I love this update. I use Capture One for about 80% of my editing. This includes minor skin retouching and cropping, etc. It used to be that when I copied the adjustments and pasted across to a batch of images, I then had to go in and undo the crop and remove the retouching on each image. Now, the copy-paste tool ignores options such as crop and spot healing by default, but if you want to add them, it is simple to do so. A great timesaver and a feature I love.

Screenshot of intelligent copy

A small thing, but a massive timesaver. Copy/paste adjustments without adding the crop is huge for my workflow. What about yours?

Plugins

Plugins are the one feature that I love from Lightroom. Finally, Capture One is allowing plug-ins to work with their system. With this being new the range is limited, but obviously, this will increase over time. A great time saver, I can’t wait to see the potential of this increase going forward.

Plugin Screenshot for Capture One

At launch the plugins are limited, but this will grow and become a great time saver for many users.

Fuji Film simulations

I don’t currently shoot Fuji (I do lust over their Medium Format Cameras) but for those that do, Capture One have now developed (alongside FujiFilm) the different Film simulations available in their cameras. This means you can add the FujiFilm preset onto your images and use this as a starting point in your editing. Now if only I can get DPS to fund the rental of a a Medium Format Fuji, I can do an in depth test for you all (editor’s note: I wouldn’t mind one myself). Please comment below to help me out. In all seriousness though, this is awesome for all you Fuji Owners.

Mac OSX Mojave support

As a Mac user, this is my biggest pet peeve with Capture One. With the release of version 12, support for version 11 has now ended. This means that if you want to use Capture One with OsX Mojave, you need to upgrade to version 12. Obviously if you pay monthly this isn’t a big problem, but if you own the software outright, the upgrade price of £150 (US$195) feels a little steep just to use the latest version of an OS.

Whilst I understand it from a business point of view, it does feel like, as a Mac user, you are forced to upgrade every year. I love that you can purchase Capture One outright, but it does feel like they are slowly creeping towards the subscription model like everybody else. 

Should I upgrade?

The million dollar question. I have upgraded. The plugin support for JPEG mini and intelligent copy paste features will save me enough time to easily justify it. The added benefits of better masking is also great for the way I work. However, it is not that simple for a lot of people. If you are PC based, you may want to skip this version unless, like me, there are features that will help your workflow. However, if you use a Mac, this is more of a do you want to upgrade to Mojave. If the answer is yes, then you really do need to upgrade. There are many reports of version 11 working fine in Mojave, but as a professional, I cannot risk it. Capture One have also ceased their discount codes, which again seems to be a little harsh. You used to be able to easily find a 10% voucher, but since the end of 2018, Capture One seem to have cut them. Obviously I am not privy to why, but I am sure they have their reasons. 

Should I move from Lightroom?

If you are thinking of moving from Lightroom, I would say give it a go. Capture One have a generous 30 day trial of the software, which is time to get to grips with it and see what it can do. Give it a try, you have nothing to lose.

Do you use Capture One? If so, share your thoughts below.

The post Capture One Pro 12 Review – Whats New and Should You Upgrade? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

So You Want to Build a Website? Part 5: SEO

The post So You Want to Build a Website? Part 5: SEO appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

Well, this is it. We have gone all the way from choosing your platform through to generating content (see article links at the bottom of the article). Hopefully, this series of articles has persuaded a few of you to update your website and even more of you to create one.

The final step in the series is to optimize your website for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Doing SEO is the hardest part – it can even give many web professionals nightmares sometimes! Constant Google changes, and advice that seemingly contradicts other advice, can make it a mine field. This article is not the complete solution to your SEO and doing these things does not guarantee to get to page one on Google. It will, however, start you on the right path. These tips are simple, easy to follow tips that to help you optimize your site and aide your user experience. With that said, let’s get started.

1. Register with Google Search Consoles

You want to rank well in Google. The first step is to make sure you get your site registered for Google Search Console. This is an essential set of tools to tell you how your site is performing, how people are searching for you, and any issues that Google detects when going through your site.

Search Console (like SEO in general) can be daunting but bear with it. Do some reading and utilize what you find. Search Console is the number one tool for helping your website rank better. To add Search Console to your website, you need to register your website and then verify it using a code snippet on your site. It is simple to do. WordPress folks, if you have Yoast installed (if you haven’t – stop what you are doing and go and install it), they have tools to help with this.

The first step when registered is to submit your sitemap. This is normally located at www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml. When you submit this you are basically showing Google how your site is laid out and showing them how to crawl it. 

Once you have Search Console installed, you will be able to see how people are coming to your site, what they are searching for and any issues that may be affecting your ranking in Google. 

Impressions and CTR

It is simple to see how your site is performing direct from the source. Google Search Console is the number one must do.

2. Optimize your images

Speed is king. People like fast-loading websites and Google likes websites that load fast too. With photography websites, the best way to help with this is to properly size and compress your images. This is a simple thing to do, but if your site already has hundreds of images, it can take time. You need to check your website for image sizes and then make sure that you export images at that exact size. The reason for this is smaller images equal smaller file size, which equals quicker loading.

Regarding compression when exporting from image software, make sure you reduce it to around 70% or so. You can compress images further using specific software such as JPEG Mini, but this does come with a cost. You can also use a free online tool such as Squoosh or Bulk Image Resize, but this takes a little longer to do. It is amazing how much smaller you can make the size of a webpage by doing this.

If you want further checks on how fast your site is, and what you can do to improve it, Google has a tool called Page Speed Insights. This free tool shows you how your site loads and what you can do to improve it.

Using a free app like Squoosh really can make a difference to your image sizes. Every little bit adds up when it comes to website speed.

3. Build backlinks

To get yourself higher up in the rankings, one of the best resources is backlinks. Getting a link to your website from other sites shows Google that your website has the respect of others. Getting links can be hard, especially those that help to boost your ranking. The links you want to try to get are those that are for popular websites in the specific field. It used to be that you could pay and your website would have links from lots of websites and boost your ranking. However, Google got smart to this very quickly, and this practice now may actually make your site going down in rank, not up.

Genuine, quality backlinks are what you should aim to achieve. The more domain authority a website has (how well Google rates it), the more valuable the link.

As a wedding photographer, I have weddings featured on blogs. The links to my website from these blogs do two things: Firstly, potential customers may read this blog and click. Secondly, Google sees that well-respected wedding sites are linking to my site. So when people search for wedding photography in my area, Google knows that high-quality wedding blogs link to me, so my site must contain quality and relevant content.

How do you get them? You approach people. Flat out asking can lead to refusal, but offering value can work wonders. Asking a blog if you can write a guest post or asking a local business if you can exchange backlinks (so you both benefit) is an excellent way of getting some links (and building relationships).

3. Make it mobile friendly

We live in an age where most web browsing happens on a mobile device. Therefore you need to make sure that your website runs well on mobile devices. For those of you who are creating new websites, this is pretty simple. Pretty much every template is now optimized for mobile browsing. For those of you with older sites, you may want to check. Google ranks mobile first, and therefore you must make your site mobile friendly.

Tools such as such as AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) helps here. Again, setting this up depends on your platform and theme. In Squarespace, it is simple to turn on AMP in settings. In WordPress there are plugins that get AMP up and running on your site.

Website Mobiel view

I’m up to here…

4. Create quality content

Content is also king. Google has advanced and continues to advance. It used to be constantly cramming your keyword into your written content would mean you ranked well, however, that has all changed. As Google makes advances in machine learning, they now read websites more as a human would. Google love content that is helpful for the person searching. So if the user is searching for tips on how to take better photos, Google knows what they are looking for and shows the user sites that answer that question well.

The best way to do this on a continual basis is through a blog. A blog keeps your website fresh, helps Google see your website is updated regularly, and it gives you a place to offer content that is useful for people.

There is so much to blog about in every type of photography, from recent shoots and the latest equipment you have bought, through to how you got a great shot. Having new content gives people a reason to revisit your website and is a way to get new readers to your site. Continual blogging can be tough, but like anything the more you do it, the easier it gets.

5. Turn on SSL

Google likes websites to be secure when using the web. Having a secure website using SSL (Secure Socket Layer) is an easy way for you to help protect people who visit your website.  Having an SSL on your website is essential in 2019. It is super simple. Check with your host if you are using self-hosted WordPress. On Squarespace, it is as easy as turning it on. This is the simplest tip on this list. Just go and do it.

6. Bonus tip: Keep going – it’s a long game

Ranking well in Google takes time and effort. Don’t expect to see the fruits of your labour after a couple of weeks. To rank well can take months. Just remember the golden rules:

  • Keep your images correctly formatted.
  • Work on getting backlinks. Not only does it help your SEO, it helps people see your content.
  • Start as you mean to go on with things like title tags, etc. Going back when you decide you need to do it is a real pain. Start with good habits. 

Well, that’s it. Our website series is finished. I hope you enjoyed it. I’m hoping it got some of you to build your first site. For those with websites, I hope it gave you some ideas to make your sites better or something new you could try. As always, let’s see your sites below. 

Other tutorials in this series:

Part 1: Squarespace versus WordPress

Part 2: How to Create a Website

Part 3: Creating Your Portfolio

Part 4: Adding Website Content

 

The post So You Want to Build a Website? Part 5: SEO appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

So You Want to Build a Website? Part 4: Adding Website Content

The post So You Want to Build a Website? Part 4: Adding Website Content appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

If you’ve been following along with this series (part one, part two, part three), you should now have a great portfolio to proudly display on your website. Next comes to what many think is the hardest part – writing about yourself and your photography. Whilst it may seem hard, there are some tips and tricks for adding website content.

Write for your audience

I cannot stress this enough. You need to know who you are talking to with your website. Are you talking to newly engaged couples looking for a wedding photographer? Are you talking to art directors who are looking for a photographer to shoot their next advertising campaign? Or, are you talking to family & friends, showing them your photography? You will speak to all of the people in these examples differently, therefore your website text must do the same. When you know who you are talking to, you know how to talk to them. Therefore, make sure you have an audience in mind before you start to write.

The fab five

The main pages on almost all websites are; the Home page, your Portfolio, an About page, a Contact page and a Blog. We’ve already covered the portfolio in a previous post, therefore if you’ve not read that, do it first. The Contact page is super easy, simply let people know how to get in touch with you, that’s all there is to it. However, the Home, About and Blog pages are a little more complicated. Let’s have a look at these in a little more detail.

The home page

DPS home page

A website you all know well. Straight away you see a relevant image and a call to action.

The home page is the introduction to you and your work and it is the first thing people see. For those of you who are art/commercial photographers, it is standard to lead with your portfolio. Therefore, if this is the field you are aiming for, it is best to stick with this format. Also, if your website is currently aimed at showcasing your work to family and friends, a portfolio is also a good option for your home page.

However, if you are setting up a website for selling photography services, things are slightly different. The main aim of your home page is to answer the three basic questions any potential customer will have within five seconds. Who are you? What do you do? Where are you based? If these questions can’t be answered in their first few seconds on a website, people will generally click back and look somewhere else. We live in a world where attention spans are shrinking all the time. You need to make sure that your website is geared toward this.

Your home page still needs to feature images to draw attention, therefore starting with a hero shot is the best idea. This is the main image for the page and can usually take up all/most of the screen when first viewed, therefore it is essential that this image should be your best work and relevant to your audience. This image will make the right people explore your site further and the wrong ones exit. Remember, you are not looking to please everyone. You need to attract your tribe. 

Adding a good headline can grab your readers attention and get them to further explore your site. Write it for your audience. Photography is a service industry. People come to you with a problem (they need photos) and you provide the service to help them fix their problem (you take their photos). Explain how can you help them. What can you do to make their life better? Make it short, snappy and always tell them the benefits of using you.

166 Photography Website Homepageomepage

This homepage passes the test. It shows the name, what they do & where they are based quickly. Also note the call to action.

The main text should be light in tone and friendly. It should tell the viewer about you, your site and services. Keep it focussed on your audience and include a Call to Action. A call to action tells visitors what you want them to do (for example, a click to contact button). You should try to have multiple calls to action on your page and preferably one that the user can do without scrolling down the page. Making it easy for the visitor to know what to do next is key. 

Lastly, add a couple of testimonials for happy past clients. Not only past clients but awards and competitions you have won. This shows viewers you are able to deliver great photos and can be trusted. Think about it, how many people check a hotel on Trip Advisor before booking? Social proof shows you mean business!

The About Page

This is where you get to show the real you. A list of facts will not interest anyone, neither will a simple list of how wonderful you are. This is the chance to showcase who you really are and what you believe in. This isn’t the place to brag about what cameras you own, this is the place to explain why you love photography. 

You can tell the story of your photography journey. How did you get into it? What do you love about your work? Again make it interesting and try to avoid listing facts. Show your passion. 

The about page is also a great place to add social proof. List any publications you have featured in, and showcase more reviews from happy customers. Remember, people want to know you can be trusted and social proof is the best way to show this on your site.

You should always write in the same way you speak on your about page. If your website speaks to people in a certain way, but when they meet you there is a disconnect it is never good. Don’t try to be something you’re not. Be you! Now, whether you write in first or third person is down to personal preference, but know your audience (and yourself) and write accordingly.

Lastly, you need a photo of you. A well-shot photo where people can see and connect with you is always worthwhile.

About page screenshot.

An example of an about page aimed at Art Directors. Short sweet and shows who I have worked with

The blog

I’ve saved the most important (and most daunting) until last. No matter what type of photography you do, your blog will be the reason people come back to your site. Think of your blog as a magazine for your audience. It shows your latest work (and progress) as well as letting you explain your thoughts behind your photography. 

I know some of you reading this now will be filled with dread. Not only do I have to write a load of stuff for my website, now you’re asking me to write all the time? However, like taking photos, writing becomes easier over time. 

Some examples of good blog posts include “Why I like this image”. Talk about a photo you love and then explain why you love it and possibly the technical stuff behind it. A blog about each photo shoot you do. Again, explain your thought process and how you approached the shoot. Another post idea could be showing your personality. Talk about films or records you love. The choice is endless, but the important thing is to write them. One other thing to remember is to aim for at least 350 words as this works great with SEO (search engine optimization). 

DPS posts

There are few better examples of a blog than Digital Photography School. Constant content that keeps us all coming back.

Get feedback

As with creating your portfolio, get others to give their opinion. When you have written your content, it is particularly important to check it thoroughly and get a couple of people to proofread your work before you go live. It is so simple to misread your work (trust me I do it often) and nothing gives off the impression of an amateur like spelling mistakes. 

For example, my wonderful wife proofs all my work. Just remember, if you do spot a spelling or grammar mistake in my articles, it is her not me! (dPS editor’s note: or me!)

On that point (and whilst my wife shouts at me for that last comment), it is time for you to take these tips and begin to craft your own website copy. In the final installment of this series, you’ll learn top tips to help your site rank well in Google. Until then, get writing your copy and let’s see the fruits of your labor in the comment section. 

The post So You Want to Build a Website? Part 4: Adding Website Content appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

So You Want to Make a Website? Part 3: Creating Your Portfolio

The post So You Want to Make a Website? Part 3: Creating Your Portfolio appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

 

So you’ve read part one & part two of the So You Want To Make A Website Series. You’ve set up an awesome website. Now it’s time to create amazing content to go with it. Obviously, for you photographers, the most important part of that process is curating your portfolio.

It is as simple as picking your best images and putting them together. However, a good portfolio takes time, effort and sometimes a good butt-kicking from somebody else. With that in mind, here are my…

Seven steps for creating a great portfolio for your website 

1. Know your audience

The starting point for your portfolio is who will be viewing it and what will they be looking for? Are you making a website to show how your photography develops over time? Perhaps you’re sharing your passion with friends and family? You might be a wedding photographer wanting to get more beautiful couples in front of your lens. Is your goal to be seen by art directors at ad agencies?

For best results, when you know the audience, your portfolio will need to match it. For example, if you are a family photographer, parents looking for someone to photograph their child will not want to see your latest glamour photography. Similarly, an art director will not want to see images from the amazing wedding you shot. If you have multiple specialties, it is best to consider multiple websites. Give the audience what they want.

However, you can showcase different specialties with different portfolios within the same website. The process from here is the same for every portfolio, whether that be on the same website or multiple. Just make sure the galleries are related.

Model view

A Striking image to kick off your portfolio is essential.

2. Break it down

How do you want to break down your galleries? Do you want one for people and one for lifestyle photography? One for birds and one for land animals? Once you decide what galleries you want, it is now time to go through your archive and pick out images you might want to use. 

I always rate images I might want to use in my portfolio as five stars as I edit. That way, whenever I update my portfolio, I can open catalogs and simply pull up all five-star images and use these as a starting point. If you haven’t done something similar, start now. It saves a lot of time and gives you a great place to start. 

3. Watch the numbers. AKA be ruthless

Pick your favourite.

I love both of these images, but as I begin to update my portfolio I know only one will make the cut. Which one is still to be determined.

Now is where the hard work begins – getting the numbers down. 

Have you ever been to a friends house and they show you their holiday photos? The photos that seem to go on and on and on… That is the feeling you want to avoid when people look at your portfolio. Like any good performance, they should be left wanting more.

A good first selection should end up at around forty to fifty images, with a final goal of around twenty. Finding the initial fifty is the hardest part. You just need to push yourself to find the best of the best. Are there two similar images? Choose just one. Is there an image that when looking through just doesn’t hold up to the rest. Remove it. Be harsh on your photos and try to look for the reasons why they should not be included rather than why they should. This approach isn’t always fun, but it works.

I suggest you make your initial selection of images to include, then walk away for a while. Grab a coffee, have a walk, just clear your head of the process. I tend to leave it until the next day to come back and look again. Fresh eyes always help.

Remember, a strong portfolio should contain around twenty images. If people want more than that, they can look to your blog.

4. Get some help

It is easy to listen to those around you tell you how great all your photos are, but sometimes you need some good old fashioned home truths. I will tell you in advance, sometimes it is hard to hear. However, you need to hear it. Critique of your work from peers or others in the field will not only help you get a better portfolio, but it will also help you become a better photographer. 

When looking for critique, you should have your image numbers down to around thirty or so. From here you can get others to help you make the final step. By culling your images to a respectable number, it also shows those you are asking for their help that you have done the groundwork. If someone approached me with fifty plus images for me to help them get a portfolio from, I would not be hugely impressed. 

Who should you ask? You can ask photographers in your local area whose opinion you value, or you can ask people you know through Facebook groups, etc. to critique your work. 

In my experience, it is better in person if you can. Whilst family members are great, they will generally not want to hurt your feelings, or not be experienced to offer critique. You need experienced eyes on your work and let them do their worst. Someone with no emotional attachment to your images can give honest feedback and will help you get rid of the images you love, but know are not your best work. Just remember, they are talking about the images, not you. It is easy to get upset when people rip your work to shreds, but take it in the spirit it is intended.

5. Listen to your heart

Cate Le Bon live.

A friend who worked at a music publication told me to remove this from my portfolio. I wrestled with the idea, but I love it, so I keep it in.

Having said that you should get opinions of others, always remember it is your work. Critique from others is just another point of view. If there is an image you love, but others say isn’t your best work, listen to your gut. Maybe they’re right, maybe you need to let go. However, if after the critique you still think it deserves a place in your portfolio, put it in there. It’s your site and you need to be happy with it.

6. Get them in order

Now you have the final images, you need to get them in order. Start with your best and finish with your second best image. This is known as the primacy and recency effect. Put simply, we remember the things we see first and last the most. 

Getting the right order is key to really making your portfolio sing. Put the portfolio in order, then tweak it. Do you want to mix up portrait and landscape images? Do you want to mix in black and white images or have a part of the portfolio where they are grouped together? There is no specific answer as every portfolio is different, but try variations and then tweak until you’re happy. Unfortunately, there is no proven recipe. Instead, think of your portfolio like a great home cooked recipe, just keep tweaking things until it tastes just right. 

7. Update regularly

A portfolio will always evolve. I look back at some images that were in my initial wedding portfolio and cringe. I also have some images from that first ever wedding that I still have in my portfolio. Take the time to revisit your website portfolio regularly. Update it at least once every six months or so. Doing this is also a great way to show yourself how you are progressing as a photographer.

If you go to a course or meet with local photographers, why not have a portfolio critique session? Things like this help keep your portfolio fresh and identify gaps in your work that you can plan to shoot in the future. 

That’s it, you now have a portfolio.

In the next article of the series, we discuss the blogging and your written content.

Until then, have fun building your portfolio.

The post So You Want to Make a Website? Part 3: Creating Your Portfolio appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

So You Want to Make a Website? Part 2: How to Create a Website

The post So You Want to Make a Website? Part 2: How to Create a Website appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

In Part 1 of the So You Want to Make a Website? Series, we looked at which platform was best for your needs. In Part 2, we delve into the setup process. There may be small differences with WordPress (depending on who you choose for your hosting), however, things will be very similar whoever you choose. 

1. Squarespace

A homepage for a Squarespace website in editor view

Choose a template and off you go. Whilst not as expansive in choice as WordPress. Squarespace offer some very stylish templates.

With Squarespace, setting up your website is as easy as going to squarespace.com, choosing a design and clicking ‘start with this theme.’ Squarespace is a great platform that allows you to try before you buy. You get a 14-day free trial of the platform without the need for a credit card, allowing you to take the platform for a test drive.

When you go on the site, start with the template section and look for one you like. Squarespace has a search option to help you choose a theme that’s relevant to what you want your website to do. Once you find a theme you like the look of, you can preview it across multiple platforms at the click of a button. There are also links to real life websites that have been built using the theme you are previewing. That way you can test its functionality.

Once you have chosen your theme, click ‘start with this design’ and Squarespace creates your website. After a simple login and hello, you can get down to business.

Starting your build

In Squarespace, you work with seven tabs. Each is clearly labeled and easy enough to get your site design started intuitively. By default, all pages get set as demos. To create your unique pages, click on it and Squarespace creates a working page for your site.

From here, you can add text and photos. You can also style the page as you desire. It is an intuitive platform, but if you get stuck, there are some great tutorials to help you. Squarespace also has a dedicated support team you can contact.

The Styles Editor is the main menu where you can tweak several options of your site. These include options such as fonts, color, and text size. These options enable you to personalize your site and make it match your style or brand. Switching templates is easy if you find you aren’t happy with the one you started with. Again, this is a simple, hassle-free process.

 

A screenshot showing Squarespace styles menus

Within the styles menu you can change your site styles, complete with realtime previews.

Domain names and Email

Finally, in the settings page, you can register your free domain and access a free year of Google’s G-Suite email. You can set up your domain name and personal email address (yourname@yoursite.com) quickly and with minimum hassle. As a paying customer, domain registration (your web address) is free and becomes automatically linked to your account. I recommend this option when you start because it keeps things simple from a setup point of view.

Extending your trial

Once your Squarespace trial is up, you can extend it for a further two weeks if you need to. However, if you like the platform, pay for your chosen plan, and your site can be live within minutes. If, after your trial, you think the platform is too restrictive (some do), you have lost nothing.  You won’t even have the annoyance of canceling your credit card.

Finally, there are several vouchers out there for 10% off your first purchase. Make sure you take advantage of one when you purchase your site.

2. WordPress

 

A screenshot showing the options available on CPanel

This looks daunting, but it is simpler than you think.

While this may seem a like a more complicated option – it isn’t. WordPress installation is quite simple, as most hosting companies have a one-click install option.

In regards to hosting companies, there are many, and they vary in price, speed and customer support. Some are better than others, so do your research. A quick Google search will help you out immensely here. The main three things to look out for are security, support, and speed. Site loading time is a factor Google takes into account when ranking sites, so speedy hosting helps. Having security is essential so that your site doesn’t get hacked. Support comes in handy when you get stuck with any issues in regards to your site being offline. Similar to Squarespace, you can register your domain name with your hosting company (usually for a small fee). Doing this makes the setup process more straightforward.

Creating an Email address

Creating an email is incredibly easy using your hosting CPanel. Just click on the email button, choose your email address and password and click ‘OK’. It really is that simple.

A screenshot of email settings in Cpanel

Fill in this field and you will have a personalized email. It really is that simple.

Installing WordPress

With your hosting purchased, you now need to access your control panel (CPanel) to install WordPress. CPanel is daunting on first look, but you soon get used to it. This area is where good support from your hosting company can be useful. I can’t give specifics as this varies by company, but all good hosting companies will have guides to help you. Once you have WordPress installed. It is time to start creating your website.

Building your site

Once you are set up, you need to login to your admin area (AKA backend). In the Admin area, you’ll find the tools you need to create your site. Once you are logged in, you have access to all the tools to control your website.

The three main options you will use day to day are posts, pages, and media. When setting up your site, you may also need to use a couple of other options — appearance (where you choose your theme of the website) and Plugins, where you can add plugins for specific things such as SEO. There are a lot of different options with WordPress, but like everything, using it becomes more comfortable over time.

Screenshot of the WordPress system

It may look a little daunting, but it isn’t as scary as you think.

Installing a theme

Once you have installed WordPress, it is time to choose your theme/template. There are thousands of fully-customizable WordPress themes that range from free to $$$. Check out the free themes first, but these often have less functionality and features than the paid ones. Free themes can be prone to things such as poor coding (meaning your site will not load as fast) or may be outdated. Lastly, free templates generally will not offer great support. I am not saying there aren’t some great free ones available, but it takes more to find a good one. However, you do get what you pay for.

On the other hand, paid themes tend to be more feature-rich. They also tend to have better support, which can be invaluable if you run into a problem. Updates also tend to occur more frequently and are less prone to bugs and errors (this does not mean they do not suffer from these problems though). I can guarantee there is a WordPress theme you will love. The hardest part may be choosing.

Installing a theme is just as simple. Go to the Appearance tab and upload the theme you have purchased. Alternatively, choose directly from the themes offered. Depending on the template, things vary from here. Work with the support team on your particular theme to get the best from it.

Now that you have your theme installed, it is time to start to create your content. You’ll learn how in Part 3 of the series.

You may also find the articles helpful:

So You Want to Make a Website? Part 1: Squarespace versus WordPress

How to Find the Right Website Platform that Works For You

Free Versus Paid Photography Portfolio Websites – Which is Best for You?

The post So You Want to Make a Website? Part 2: How to Create a Website appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

So You Want to Make a Website? Part 2: How to Create a Website

The post So You Want to Make a Website? Part 2: How to Create a Website appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

In Part 1 of the So You Want to Make a Website? Series, we looked at which platform was best for your needs. In Part 2, we delve into the setup process. There may be small differences with WordPress (depending on who you choose for your hosting), however, things will be very similar whoever you choose. 

1. Squarespace

A homepage for a Squarespace website in editor view

Choose a template and off you go. Whilst not as expansive in choice as WordPress. Squarespace offer some very stylish templates.

With Squarespace, setting up your website is as easy as going to squarespace.com, choosing a design and clicking ‘start with this theme.’ Squarespace is a great platform that allows you to try before you buy. You get a 14-day free trial of the platform without the need for a credit card, allowing you to take the platform for a test drive.

When you go on the site, start with the template section and look for one you like. Squarespace has a search option to help you choose a theme that’s relevant to what you want your website to do. Once you find a theme you like the look of, you can preview it across multiple platforms at the click of a button. There are also links to real life websites that have been built using the theme you are previewing. That way you can test its functionality.

Once you have chosen your theme, click ‘start with this design’ and Squarespace creates your website. After a simple login and hello, you can get down to business.

Starting your build

In Squarespace, you work with seven tabs. Each is clearly labeled and easy enough to get your site design started intuitively. By default, all pages get set as demos. To create your unique pages, click on it and Squarespace creates a working page for your site.

From here, you can add text and photos. You can also style the page as you desire. It is an intuitive platform, but if you get stuck, there are some great tutorials to help you. Squarespace also has a dedicated support team you can contact.

The Styles Editor is the main menu where you can tweak several options of your site. These include options such as fonts, color, and text size. These options enable you to personalize your site and make it match your style or brand. Switching templates is easy if you find you aren’t happy with the one you started with. Again, this is a simple, hassle-free process.

 

A screenshot showing Squarespace styles menus

Within the styles menu you can change your site styles, complete with realtime previews.

Domain names and Email

Finally, in the settings page, you can register your free domain and access a free year of Google’s G-Suite email. You can set up your domain name and personal email address (yourname@yoursite.com) quickly and with minimum hassle. As a paying customer, domain registration (your web address) is free and becomes automatically linked to your account. I recommend this option when you start because it keeps things simple from a setup point of view.

Extending your trial

Once your Squarespace trial is up, you can extend it for a further two weeks if you need to. However, if you like the platform, pay for your chosen plan, and your site can be live within minutes. If, after your trial, you think the platform is too restrictive (some do), you have lost nothing.  You won’t even have the annoyance of canceling your credit card.

Finally, there are several vouchers out there for 10% off your first purchase. Make sure you take advantage of one when you purchase your site.

2. WordPress

 

A screenshot showing the options available on CPanel

This looks daunting, but it is simpler than you think.

While this may seem a like a more complicated option – it isn’t. WordPress installation is quite simple, as most hosting companies have a one-click install option.

In regards to hosting companies, there are many, and they vary in price, speed and customer support. Some are better than others, so do your research. A quick Google search will help you out immensely here. The main three things to look out for are security, support, and speed. Site loading time is a factor Google takes into account when ranking sites, so speedy hosting helps. Having security is essential so that your site doesn’t get hacked. Support comes in handy when you get stuck with any issues in regards to your site being offline. Similar to Squarespace, you can register your domain name with your hosting company (usually for a small fee). Doing this makes the setup process more straightforward.

Creating an Email address

Creating an email is incredibly easy using your hosting CPanel. Just click on the email button, choose your email address and password and click ‘OK’. It really is that simple.

A screenshot of email settings in Cpanel

Fill in this field and you will have a personalized email. It really is that simple.

Installing WordPress

With your hosting purchased, you now need to access your control panel (CPanel) to install WordPress. CPanel is daunting on first look, but you soon get used to it. This area is where good support from your hosting company can be useful. I can’t give specifics as this varies by company, but all good hosting companies will have guides to help you. Once you have WordPress installed. It is time to start creating your website.

Building your site

Once you are set up, you need to login to your admin area (AKA backend). In the Admin area, you’ll find the tools you need to create your site. Once you are logged in, you have access to all the tools to control your website.

The three main options you will use day to day are posts, pages, and media. When setting up your site, you may also need to use a couple of other options — appearance (where you choose your theme of the website) and Plugins, where you can add plugins for specific things such as SEO. There are a lot of different options with WordPress, but like everything, using it becomes more comfortable over time.

Screenshot of the WordPress system

It may look a little daunting, but it isn’t as scary as you think.

Installing a theme

Once you have installed WordPress, it is time to choose your theme/template. There are thousands of fully-customizable WordPress themes that range from free to $$$. Check out the free themes first, but these often have less functionality and features than the paid ones. Free themes can be prone to things such as poor coding (meaning your site will not load as fast) or may be outdated. Lastly, free templates generally will not offer great support. I am not saying there aren’t some great free ones available, but it takes more to find a good one. However, you do get what you pay for.

On the other hand, paid themes tend to be more feature-rich. They also tend to have better support, which can be invaluable if you run into a problem. Updates also tend to occur more frequently and are less prone to bugs and errors (this does not mean they do not suffer from these problems though). I can guarantee there is a WordPress theme you will love. The hardest part may be choosing.

Installing a theme is just as simple. Go to the Appearance tab and upload the theme you have purchased. Alternatively, choose directly from the themes offered. Depending on the template, things vary from here. Work with the support team on your particular theme to get the best from it.

Now that you have your theme installed, it is time to start to create your content. You’ll learn how in Part 3 of the series.

You may also find the articles helpful:

So You Want to Make a Website? Part 1: Squarespace versus WordPress

How to Find the Right Website Platform that Works For You

Free Versus Paid Photography Portfolio Websites – Which is Best for You?

The post So You Want to Make a Website? Part 2: How to Create a Website appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

So You Want to Make a Website? Part 1: Squarespace versus WordPress

The post So You Want to Make a Website? Part 1: Squarespace versus WordPress appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

Welcome to the first of a 5-part series of articles on how to create your website. The series examines which platforms to consider using, through to SEO (how to get your website to rank better on search engines). While the focus of these articles is on the DIY aspect, a specialist web designer can be a worthwhile investment in many situations. Some are also cheaper than you think.

As with the discussion of Apple versus Android, the discussion of the better platform to build your website on has staunch supporters on both sides. While there are other service providers, this article focuses on two of the leading site builders used today;  Squarespace and WordPress.

Choosing which web platform to use can be a hard decision. Both are excellent, used by many companies and individuals and both platforms have their strengths & weaknesses. There are pro’s & cons to each system. However, you can create a great website using either platform.

The Apple versus Android arguments transfers well into discussions over which of these two platforms you should use. Squarespace is a closed system that “just works,” whereas WordPress is a much more customizable system, with a multitude of plugins to use. However, WordPress requires a slightly higher level of knowledge to get the best results.

Let’s look at each platform in a little more detail.

WordPress

Screenshot of WordPress screen

WordPress may look complicated, but it isn’t as scary as you think.

WordPress is insanely popular. The WordPress website states that 32% of the web runs using their platform. Moreover, the website you are reading this article on uses WordPress too.

WordPress.com and Self-Hosted

In reality, WordPress has two different platforms: the self-hosted version (you host the website on your own choice of servers) and WordPress.com, (the hosting gets managed for you). Web hosting is the space on the web that stores your website. When visitors type in your website address, it retrieves your website from the server so that the visitor can view it. Hosting costs can vary depending on your needs, but you can find reliable hosting for your WordPress site for under $5 per month.

The key appeal with WordPress is its flexibility. Many people tend to go for the self-hosted version because of the ability to add more plugins and themes. Whereas wordpress.com limits the plugins and themes you can use, which is in some cases for good reason. However, I shall get to that in a moment. The ability to use these relies on you choosing a more expensive monthly plan.

Although it may seem daunting for the uninitiated, self-hosting is more simple than you may think. If you purchase your domain name (the website address), and the hosting with the same company, things are even easier. Many hosting companies have one-click WordPress install, which means your hosting service installs the latest version for you at the click of a button. Using self-hosting also means you can set up a professional email address associated with your website (name@yoursite.com).

Templates

The main reason people love WordPress is its flexibility. As an open source platform, WordPress has thousands of templates to create the perfect style for your website. Their style and prices range from free to hundreds of dollars. Generally, the paid themes come with more features. However, there are some fantastic free themes to get you started.

With some coding knowledge, you can tweak your website design to achieve a completely custom look. However, that means learning how to code or employing a developer, which may not be something you wish to do.

As well as an almost infinite number of themes, there are also a multitude of plugins available. These plugins can help with everything from improving your SEO, through to creating beautiful galleries or adding purchasing options to your site. Whatever you want to do with your site, chances are there is a plugin out there to make the job more simple. These plugins (like themes) range in price from free through to around $50 (US) for premium plugins from high-end developers.

While also a strength, the main issue with WordPress is its open source nature. Many of the themes and plugins out there are well created, but there are some that are created by amateur developers. These plugins may have issues that can range from content not displaying correctly on your site through to taking your whole website out with an error. You also need to be mindful of security. You do not want your website to get hacked via a rogue plugin. When choosing your hosting, always make sure you look at the protection they offer you and your website.

Learning to use WordPress

The learning curve with WordPress is steeper than a platform like Squarespace. For those with little technical knowledge, it can be daunting. However, there is a vast online community to help and thousands of hours of training if you have the time to invest. As no-one strictly owns WordPress, there is no specific customer service option like you get with Squarespace. So, if you run into a problem that you cannot fix, you have to be reliant on your knowledge, Google searches, and the kindness of others through the forums.

Squarespace

Squarespace styles page screenshot

So many design choices can be made without any need for coding knowledge.

Chances are, you’ve heard of Squarespace. They have a slick advertising campaign that’s all over the media. While there are other website builders out there (Wix being the main alternative), Squarespace is considered by many to be the best.

Simplicity

Squarespace is a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) website builder. The design works around a style editor, where you can change the design of your site. While it’s not as customizable as WordPress, you can make a lot of changes to your pages without any coding knowledge.

The key to Squarespace’s success is simplicity. Squarespace takes care of hosting your site, and you can register your domain through them too. These options make the whole process more straightforward than the WordPress option. However, this comes at the expense of the vast range of customization options available with WordPress.

Templates

Squarespace has many beautifully designed templates. To the untrained eye (nearly all of the general public) the templates look like you have spent much money on a beautiful website. In general, the style is quite minimal, with the focus on photography to make the template shine. All Squarespace templates come optimized for viewing on mobile devices. You can also preview your website on a computer, tablet, and phone with the simple click of a button. These templates are all tried and tested and guaranteed to work across devices, which is gives peace of mind.

Within each template, there are several page designs to get you started. You can tweak these using the tools within the software to create a personalized page. You can change the position of text, image sizes, colors and fonts, all without needing to learn a single line of code. That isn’t to say there is no learning curve with Squarespace, but it won’t be long before you feel confident using it. There is also a vast support network online.

Plugins

Plugins with Squarespace are limited. However, they all work seamlessly and make the process simple. By now, you may be sensing a theme here?

Dedicated customer service

Something that is helpful for many users is the dedicated customer service available. You can email your issue, and one of the Squarespace team gets back to you personally, addressing your specific issue. This feature is awesome for the less technically minded. Squarespace is quick to respond and always provides you with the official information to fix the problem.

Custom CSS

If you’d like to get a little more creative with your Squarespace site, you can write custom CSS into pages and inject code. However, most people choose Squarespace, so they don’t need to bother writing code. You probably want to concentrate more on what you do, which is take photos. Rather than learn how to code and spend much time learning how to work a website platform.

Online shopping

Concerning small business, Squarespace has features to sell products through their platform. Moreover, they are now adding email marketing to their platform too. So, Squarespace is becoming a one-stop shop for small businesses.

Cost

The final thing to factor in with Squarespace is the cost. Prices start at $144 per year or $16 per month. For the top e-commerce package (which many of you won’t need) comes in at $480 per year or $46 per month.

To sum up, Squarespace is a more expensive option, as the costs are ongoing. However, when you compare it to the price of paying for hosting, purchasing a nice theme and a couple of decent plugins for a WordPress site, there is little difference over the first 12-18 months of ownership. After that first year though, WordPress is a cheaper option.

However, if you want a new theme after 18 months (which many people tend to), the price comes back to being even (if the theme is not free). Also, you have the benefit of tried and tested designs and plugins as well as customer service.

So, which should you choose?

That depends on your needs. If you’re a technically-minded person and have the time and inclination needed to get the best from it, then WordPress could be the ideal platform for you. However, if you want a website that looks great and is easy to set up and use, Squarespace is for you. Although, just like iPhone and Android, once you get into a system, you tend to stick with it.

Me? I’m a Squarespace guy (and an Apple guy). The reason is simple. Squarespace is pretty much hassle-free.

Although I have a grasp of coding and consider myself technically minded, Squarespace has everything I need. It is simple for me to work with now that I know my way around its features. There is support on hand should I need it, and the pricing difference isn’t big enough to make me move over.

I have had WordPress sites before (and am looking at it for a project I am working on right now), and I know lots of successful companies who use them (DPS for a start). I like the minimal hassle and if that comes at the expense of customization, then so be it. However, that’s me. What do you guys think?

The post So You Want to Make a Website? Part 1: Squarespace versus WordPress appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

Top Tips for Editing Music Photography

So in my last article, we looked at how you can get to shoot live music. Hopefully, some of you will have used that article as the motivation to actually get out there and shoot. Great! If you haven’t, what are you waiting for?

This time, I want to write based on a comment I received about how to edit music photography, with some top tips to get your music editing to rock god standard. There is no right or wrong way to edit photos. You have your style of editing, and I have mine, so when looking at this if you think ‘I prefer more contrast’ then simply add more contrast.

I use Capture One Pro editing software. I know a huge percentage of you use Lightroom, but in reality, things are very similar. The buttons are in different places, but they do the same thing. What I want to do with this article is give you some pointers, rather than an exact step-by-step guide. Like all good recipes, you need to adjust for your oven and how spicy you like your food. With that said, let’s get cooking.

Speed

The thrill of a gig fades, for the fans, for the bands and for the publications that put the images out there. While speed is not super important when editing for small bands, I would always advise you to get your editing done as soon as possible. That way if you are delivering images to the band, they will still be hyped about the show and seeing your amazing photos will make them even more excited.

When I am editing for a publication, the idea is to get the images out as soon as possible. Therefore my editing technique is designed with speed as a factor.  For portfolio images, or ones you love, by all means, go into Photoshop and remove things, touch up the skin, etc., But in general, this is not required.

This tight deadline means you have to sometimes decide against removing the distracting lights or fire exit sign. It is much quicker to do now that Capture One, Lightroom, et al. have these features built-in. However, be warned, you can still easily get caught up in this process.

Many of you may be starting out, so you can spend time finessing the details a little more. There are many great tutorials on DPS about Photoshop and more advanced editing techniques, so make sure you read up on them if this is something you want to do.

Editing Starts in Camera When Shooting

I can’t stress this enough. The tendency to overshoot is strong! In a digital age, we can shoot and delete so quickly that we get carried away. The thrill of being at an event shooting live music can add to this, as you want to get THE shot. However, try to restrain yourself a bit. Every image you shoot is something you have to go back to and edit, so bear this in mind. That said, I have been guilty and when a singer is bursting around the stage, shooting at the camera’s max FPS is something that can help you get that great shot.

Metadata (AKA the Boring Habit That is Good to Get Into Early)

Metadata is the information that is attached to your file. It includes camera settings etc., but when you shoot for organizations or stock agencies, you need to include metadata within your images. It is best to get into this habit early.

Make your contact information into a preset, so it can be added easily on import to save time. The first data you need to add is the content field, which contains the following sections:

Headline

Description

Category

The ‘Headline’ is simple. Put the name of the band performing live at XYZ Venue. If you have a shot of the lead singer, then add that information. For example, on this image, the Headline is ‘Diet Cig. Live at The Rescue Rooms Nottingham. Dot to Dot 2015.’

With the description following as ‘Alex Luciano of the New York band, Diet Cig play at Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms as part of the Dot To Dot Festival.’

I saved the most important until last – ‘Keywords.’ You use Keywords for image searches within your catalog, or within a picture library or publication where you have submitted the image. For example, on this shot, the image includes keywords such as ‘Fender Guitars’ and ‘Vans.’ It’s amazing how many times people ask for a musician playing a specific guitar brand, or playing in a particular brand. So make it easy on yourself and use keywords to find them. I think the weirdest request I had was for artists performing in slippers. Unfortunately, I have none in my catalog. However, this goes to show how keywording in all the details, may come in handy.

Start this process early. Otherwise, before you know it, you’ve shot so many gigs without it that the thought of adding metadata to so many images means you don’t do it at all. Get into the habit, and it is painless. Leave it until later, and you won’t do it. Trust me! My first year of shooting live music has no metadata to this day!

Culling Images

You now need to narrow it down to a reasonable set of images to edit. I recommend around 10 to 15 max. You have to be ruthless in this selection process! When choosing shots, you may need to focus on minute details (and sometimes even perceived differences) to narrow it down. The key here is to be ruthless. Just like a holiday slideshow from your relatives – no matter how fantastic you think they are, nobody wants to see all 128 shots of a band that are in focus and well exposed. You want a small set of images that capture the intensity of being there. That way, they have much more impact. You will wow people rather than have them thinking ‘isn’t this shot just the same as the last one?’

This is what a typical image out-of-camera will look like. The color is out, there are some exposure issues, but this is a great starting point.

White Balance / Color Correction

White Balance and Color correction are the hardest part. You find so many variations of color at a concert that getting a realistic skin tone may be impossible. In this case, you can either embrace the colors or go to black and white. It comes down to your eye, and you may have to compromise.

As the screenshots show below, in mixed light, this can be quite extreme because your cameras’ white balance can miss by quite a way. Regarding camera setting, I leave the white balance on auto. Lighting changes so much in a concert situation, that even guessing what mode to set it to is not practical. Leave it in auto. Let the camera do its best, and then (and I hate to use this term) fix it in post.

This is where you choose if you want it in black and white. Sometimes you have a great shot, but the color is beyond fixing (red light is killer, and for some reason, lighting guys love red!). So the only option is black and white. Now as I said in my last article when doing this for media outlets, black and white is generally a no-go, but for personal work (and even portfolio) there is nothing wrong with black and white. I love the look.

The other option is to go with the color and let it be part of the atmosphere of the photo. I have a shot of Ian Brown from the Stone Roses (whom I idolized as a youngster) looking through his tambourine and straight down the lens. The lighting meant that I would never be able to get natural skin tones, so I embraced the color and edited it with that in mind.

Alex Luciano of the New York band Diet Cig

Colour balance makes this image much better, but there is still work to do.

Exposure

Once you have your color set, you can begin to work on exposure. Similar to any other editing you do, but the main difference is how much you use the ‘recover highlights’ and ‘shadows sliders.’ Concert lighting is usually high contrast, especially if you have the background lights in the shot. Using the recovery sliders can help here. Background lights are generally the only time I do a bit of retouching. If I have a fantastic photo with a distracting background light, I quickly remove it. This is the beauty of only having ten images to edit rather than 75. You can spend a little more time with each image, even when you are on a tight turnaround. Another tip here is to lower the saturation to help take the edge of hard colors. You can also work with individual colors too, which helps.

For the image we are working with here, I reduced exposure by just under 1-stop and recovered the highlights. I also added a little clarity & contrast to the image for more punch.

Levels/Curves

For my final tweaks, I use ‘curves.’ You can also use ‘levels,’ but this is down your preference. Whichever you use, it is a case of working with each color channel to create a more balanced final color. Tweak the contrast until you are happy.

With the image we are using here, I tweaked the ‘mid-tones’ a little. I adjusted each of the red and green channels, making subtle changes (subtlety is key here) to get a better balance of color in the image.

Crop

If needed, you can crop the image. I’m not going to bore you with how to, but it is just something to keep in mind. Remember, a little crop can remove things like fire exit signs a lot quicker than Photoshopping them out.

Final Tweak

I always like to add a small vignette to my images. Usually very subtle, but I just like the way it draws attention to the subject. I think sometimes it is more a force of habit rather than necessary. Again, this is up to you.

Last Check

Walk away from your monitor for a couple of minutes. Grab a drink, or go to the bathroom. The key is to get away from the screen for a couple of minutes. You can easily push things like contrast too far without realizing. So take 2-minutes away then come back and check if you are happy.

The final image that went to the publication.

Copy, Paste, Tweak, Repeat.

When editing more images from the same show, the starting point is always copying and pasting the settings form the image you already edited. Generally, this gives you a great starting point. However, the lighting for the first song and the third song are not always the same, so you may have to start from scratch. As with anything, the more you do, the easier it becomes. 

Black and White

The color version of this show just wasn’t working for me, but I loved the energy, so decided to go black and white.

Finally, let’s go through black and white. I always follow the same process as for color photos as above. It helps me to know if a photo works best in black and white or color. With this image, I couldn’t get the color right. To me, it lacked something, but I loved the energy. So, I decided to try black and white instead.

When converting to black and white, I always start with a preset because I find ‘Capture One’ has some great ones. The preset is used to get the image close to what I want and then I tweak to my taste. Using black and white is a savior for when the light is mostly red. Red can make for some amazing black and white photos. However, when you know you have to deliver in color, it’s great that the sound of the music drowns out your swearing at the lighting technicians!

Black & White made this image pop, and a quick crop removed the distracting photographer to create this final image.

 

I hope you found this article helpful. Unfortunately, there is no preset or magic bullet to offer, as all lighting situations are different. However, I hope you found this article helpful for editing music photography images of your own. 

As always, pop any comments below and I will do my best to answer.

The post Top Tips for Editing Music Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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