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A new program called creepy might convince you to stop geotagging your photos.

Type in a username from Flickr or Twitter and it will map out when and where all the user’s photos were taken.

It also works with the following photo hosting sites by pulling EXIF data:

  • flickr – information retrieved from API
  • twitpic.com – information retrieved from API and photo exif tags
  • yfrog.com – information retrieved from photo exif tags
  • img.ly – information retrieved from photo exif tags
  • plixi.com – information retrieved from photo exif tags
  • twitrpix.com – information retrieved from photo exif tags
  • foleext.com – information retrieved from photo exif tags
  • shozu.com – information retrieved from photo exif tags
  • pickhur.com – information retrieved from photo exif tags
  • moby.to – information retrieved from API and photo exif tags
  • twitsnaps.com – information retrieved from photo exif tags
  • twitgoo.com – information retrieved from photo exif tags

Even more creepy is that you can export all the data to .csv format and save it….like a stalker…or a good marketer scouring info on a client’s lifestyle habits, I guess.

Some people like geotagging, and we use it in conjunction with Google Maps to digitally “scout” locations before we travel there.  But we’re not too fond of making it easier for you to come kill us or wreck our photo shoot  minutes after we post a behind the scenes shot on Twitter.

You can avoid geotagging altogether by turning it off in your apps and mobile devices, or by using a scrubbing software like Geotag Security.

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For some time we’ve debated whether to use a contact form on our main website, like we do at whiteproductphotography.com.  Years ago, people weren’t familiar with them enough, so to use one would have seemed a bit stand-offish.  Now people fill them out on a nearly daily basis, so we’re interested in the pros and cons of using a contact form versus putting text-based contact info out there for clients to use.

Pros:
– A contact form can act as a screening pre-qualifier for potential clients.  Someone who invests the 30 seconds to enter their contact information and reason for contacting you has already shown you they’re serious about having a dialogue with you.  A contact form can screen out tire-kickers.

– Contact forms still make pretty good spam filters.  Putting your email address out there either as text or a “mailto:” hyperlink can quickly turn your inbox into a spam-infested mess.  Spam bots scour the net looking for uses of mailto links and text with the @ sign, hoping to get a viable address to send junk mail to.  Sometimes you can curb this by typing your email address as “myname[at]domain.com”, but you’re still forcing your client to manually enter the correct version into their email client before hitting send.  A contact form isn’t foolproof, as spammers have more sophisticated bots now, but it cuts down on the spam significantly.  More info below.

– Contact forms can make it easier for a visitor to give you feedback about your site.  Rather than hassle with an email to let you know you have a typo on your About Us page, they can simply fill out the form and go on with their day.

– Contact forms can be tracked and analyzed.  A contact form can be used as a conversion goal in Google Analytics and other tracking programs, so you know how many people make it to your contact form and how many then use it.  You can also use contact forms to more easily send an autoresponder to the client, letting them know you got their message.  You can do this with incoming emails as well, but it usually involves creating a special email address to receive those inquiries and then autorespond.  Then you use your regular email address to further communicate with the client, which can be confusing.

Cons:
– Contact forms can look impersonal on an artist’s or small business site.  When someone is hiring you to perform a service, they may expect you to appear available.  A contact form can seem a bit corporate to some clients, and they’d really prefer to see your phone number, address, email and such on your website.

– Contact forms may not format right across all browsers.  This isn’t as big of a deal now as it used to be, but depending on your contact form platform and coding, some browsers and mobile devices may not display your form as you had planned.  If you’re a design snob and that one drop down menu simply has to be in a particular location, a contact form may not be for you.

– Contact forms are still a source of spam.  As mentioned above, contact forms can still fall victim to spam bots.  It’s a good idea to use a CAPTCHA image for clients to verify they are real humans, before submitting the form.  This can prevent most spam from making it through.

CAPTCHA

In our opinion, it would seem that the benefits of a contact form outweigh the negatives, and Radiant Photography will be converting to a contact form system soon.  But we’re interested in your thoughts.  Did we miss a pro or con here?  Do you use, or refuse to use, a contact form and why?

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A custom 404 error page can inject some fun into your company website, should a client get lost while navigating your site.  It doesn’t take much time and it looks much better than your browser’s stock text-only 404 page.

We at Radiant Photography just finished our first custom 404 page, and plan on rotating out some more creative ideas in the future.  Here is a sample:

Radiantphotography.com 404 error page

Radiantphotography.com 404 error page

To make a page similar to ours, you can take a screen shot of your original homepage, play with it in Photoshop and saved it as a jpeg on a colored background in your favorite html editor.  You would give this html file a name like “custom404.html” or something similar, then uploaded the picture and the html file to your server.

After uploading, you need to figure out what type of server your files are on and pick an appropriate method of redirecting your 404 errors to your new page (list of server types and methods here).  In our case, we use an Apache server, so if you’re in the same boat, here’s how to redirect to your custom page:

There should be a file called .htaccess in your root directory of the server (usually where your “index.html” file is).  Us using a Windows-based platform (and being first timers at this), we couldn’t modify the .htaccess file, so we found a workaround.  Open WordPad or another text editor and enter your 404 error command in the following format on one line:

ErrorDocument 404 /errors/”your404filename.html” (in our case we named our custom page “custom404.html”)
Save the text file as ‘htaccess.txt’.  Open your FTP client and drop the file into your root folder.  After it uploads, delete the existing .htaccess file and rename your htaccess.txt file to .htaccess.
Test your modification by typing in a non-existing URL at your domain, like “http://www.yourdomainname.com/iloveporkchopmilkshakes.html”.  You should see your new custom 404 page!
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It’s no surprise that photographers and designers love Flash-based websites! Flash portfolios are dynamic, interactive, and offer a decent level of “right-click, save-as” image protection to keep people from stealing images. As of this posting, Radiant currently uses an XML based flash portfolio plugin for our portfolios, primarily for the protection aspect. The rest of the page is designed in CSS for accessibility across various platforms. But, like other photographers with Flash-based content we had to rethink our design when the iPhone came out. This topic has been covered before, but it’s worth a revisit, and we’re giving you the HTML code to solve the problem.

In it’s stock form, the iPhone doesn’t allow flash content to be seen on the device. If an iPhone user jailbreaks the phone or uses a third party app, they can enable flash content, but many people don’t want to pay for this functionality or risk voiding their warranty. It’s really annoying that the iPhone doesn’t show Flash content out of the box. Furthermore, as of November 2010, the iPhone controls 28.6% of the smartphone market share (Nielsen chart). I’m comfortably guessing most photo buyers, art directors, and editors are Mac and Apple users, so they’re an important demographic to appeal to. Until the iPhone enables Flash content viewing, what’s a photographer or designer with a flash portfolio to do? You need an html version of your portfolio that can be seen on the iPhone.

We didn’t write the script below, but were given it by another photographer, who found it online as well. We’re no coding geniuses here, just sharing the wealth. Plop this script above the tag on whatever page you want to redirect to a mobile version, then make an alternate HTML-based portfolio to redirect to. In our case our WhiteProductPhotography.com “Portfolio” page has this code in it to redirect to a “/mobile.html” version upon sensing the viewing device is an iPhone (see our mobile portfolio here).

Code:

<script>
if(navigator.userAgent.indexOf(“iPhone”) != -1)
{window.location = “type your alternate html portfolio URL here”;}
</script>

Our iPhone version of WhiteProductPhotography.com’s portfolio has been online for just a few weeks and has already garnered just shy of 10% of the site’s total page views. The average visitor spends four minutes looking at the images and it has a 16% bounce rate. While that’s not bad at all, it prompted me to review the mobile page for usability and add two links, one to our FAQ and one to our Pricing/Contact page. That way users don’t have to back out of the mobile portfolio page get back to these features on regular home page. We should see even less bounce rate now that we’ve given clients some navigation options. (Edit: went down to 12.5% in next day after revisions)

If you’re using flash for your portfolios and you’re comfortable with some simple coding, put yourself ahead of your competition with an HTML mobile portfolio.

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I’ve been semi-active on a couple social networking sites for some time now. For me, the best use of social marketing hasn’t necessarily been to acquire new clients, but to continue relationships and dialogues with existing clients. I update Twitter with strictly business stuff because of the one way nature of the updates, but I use Facebook’s more interactive interface to inject some personality into my postings. Myspace has fallen off my radar a looong time ago, but I still have a page I check every couple months.

After being published in Entrepreneur magazine this month, I’ve fielded a couple requests on how I made that happen. Did I know a guy who knows a guy? Did I get a hold of the editor directly? Um, no and no. I simply interacted with the magazine’s fanpage on Facebook. Here’s what went down:
Entrepreneur’s FB people posted up an inquiry if any small biz owners had been affected by having their credit lines pulled. I definitely had something to say about it, so I posted up a synopsis of what happened, but also posted that we were not going to seek a replacement line of credit, instead opting to save cash for the foreseeable future. This answer differentiated mine from other answers.

Something clicked with the Entrepreneur folks, because I got a FB message a few days later asking if I was open to a reporter contacting me for a story they were writing. Um…let me think…ABSOLUTELY!

That’s it! No pulling strings, PR blasts, or magic fairy dust. Just simple interaction and adding value to a conversation where others were being vague.

Earlier in the year I also won a book for posting in another Entrepreneur FB post, about how I use social media for marketing.

So while I’ve approached social media as a way to engage existing clients and spread news about Radiant happenings, being proactive about posting to others’ conversations seems to be paying off. Go out and actively seek social media pages where you’re opinion might be valued. In short time, with intelligent postings, you might find yourself being rewarded for being a valuable contributor.

Follow Radiant:
Facebook – New Radiant fanpage (under construction)
Facebook – New Whiteproductphotography fanpage (under construction as well)
Twitter – Radiant
LinkedIn – Ryan

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We don’t normally do commercial website design outside of handling our own needs at radiantphotography.com and whiteproductphotography.com. However, we are a sponsor of the Fabulous Sin City Rollergirls, handling all their roller derby photography needs, and we had a cool opportunity come up.

We’ve been maintaining their website for some time now, but it was in desperate need of a redesign. It was difficult to update, html-formatted in FrontPage 2000, and simply lacked modern website features and expandability. After many hours of research on content management systems, we decided to give Joomla a try, and so far we couldn’t be happier. The up-front work is extensive, with all the pitfalls and joys of learning a new system, but once the bones are there, the updates are fairly easy.

Joomla isn’t right for every client. We have no intentions of rebuilding the Radiant or Whiteproductphotography.com sites using Joomla, as it just doesn’t look as custom as what we have now. That’s probably more a shortcoming of our abilities than Joomla’s, but for now things will stay put. However, for realtors, sports teams, nonprofits, financial companies, and other organizations that need scalability, live feeds, and easy to use galleries, Joomla is a perfect match.

The Fabulous Sin City Rollergirls website now features CSS compliant coding, cross-browser uniformity, easier to navigate page structure, expandable photo galleries, a live news feed from Derby Network News with the latest derby news, voting polls to get fans involved, and more. It’s a work in progress, but it’s a nice start.

Check out the Fabulous Sin City Rollergirls at http://www.sincityrollergirls.com
If you live in or are visiting Las Vegas, you really should come see a bout. These girls are tough cookies.

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