Posts in Category: Articles

Five Helpful Questions to Get You Started


It’s time for a guest article! Today’s post is about improving your HDR photography through questioning and scrutinizing your hobby. The author is a Helsinki-based photographer and transformational coach Jevgeni Särki. To see Jevgeni’s work, see his photos and his coaching blog (in Finnish).

Have you ever thought about taking your photographic process to the next level? I’m not talking about taking photos that net you a first award at photo of the year-competition or about going from hobbyist photographer to a full-time pro. I’m talking about hitting some of your photographical goals without unnecessary stress or without turning your beloved hobby into laborious performance.

So, the questions:

1. What are you trying to accomplish?
What kind of photographer do you want to be? What goal do you plan to achieve? How the result will look like, if you succeed perfectly?

2. How your current situation looks like?
How is it different from the situation you want to be in? What stands between you and your goal?

3. What must happen for you to reach your goal?
List three to five most important things or events that must take place before you can reach your goal?

4. What are the five most important actions you must take to reach your goal?
Should you take a course in photographic theory? Should you train your marketing skills? Should you put up a portfolio site? Should you practice more?

5. What are the five most important skills to master before you can reach your goal?
Are you an excellent photographer but your marketing skills suck? Time to invest some time and energy in that direction. Or maybe you handle everything else but your models hate to work with you? Time to pump up your social skills and develop a friendlier personality. Or maybe you feel that you aren’t creative enough? Maybe you should invest in a creativity course then.

And the ultimate control question. I can’t really stress enough how important this is:

Do you REALLY want to reach that goal?

If I got a dollar every time I hear someone saying “I tried really hard to accomplish something and in the end it wasn’t what I wanted and now I feel kind of disappointed”, I would be a really happy man. But because these people rarely give me money, I just ask you all to really really think about your goals before going after them. But if you’re really sure that you want something, then go ahead, I really hope that you succeed!

Each and every question listed earlier of course applies to any other activity as well, not just photography. So if you’re taking any part of your life to the next level, please, give yourself some hard time and really reflect on these questions ;)

Where To Publish Your Photos?


Lately I discussed the importance of publishing your photos. In short, it’s a great way to gain visibility and help yourself and others. In this post I tell you where to actually publish them. I’ve selected four different services for you to read about. Let’s have a look at them!

Flickr

The most popular photo sharing service. Account creation is free. The main restriction is 300MB photo upload limit per month. In other words you can’t upload hundreds of photos a month with free account. Cure? Resize your photos smaller before uploading them. This way you can upload more photos for same price (0€). Clever, isn’t it?

The paid account is $24.95 a year and has unlimited uploads and storage. You’ll also get detailed stats to your account. I haven’t tried it, though, so can’t say much about it. Anyway many people seem to have it. It can’t be all bad.

Flickr also has the coolness factor. As mentioned it’s the most popular photo sharing site out there. The name Flickr raises credibility in many circles. If you tell your photography friends you have Flickr you’ll get points immediately. If you are after that Flickr is your choice.

Pros

Cons

Recommendations

Go for Flickr if you just want to share your photos. It’s easy and hassle-free. Just remember the photo upload limit. If you want to remove the limit the fee is not very much. Just 25 bucks a year. It’s less than hosting your own website. Also you don’t get to customize everything with big F. If you don’t mind it, choose Flickr.

Where to start?

Picasa Web Albums

Picasa is Google’s answer to Flickr. As with other Google products it’s completely free. The photo all-time upload limit is 1GB. However, only large photos count towards the limit. Photos of 800×800 pixels are unlimited. If you happen to be Google+ user the photos can be as big as 2048×2048 pixels without counting towards the upload limit. Should you reach the all-time limit of 1GB your photos are automatically resized. All in all, lots of space.

Picasa doesn’t have the coolness factor of Flickr. You can share your photos just fine with Picasa Web Albums. However with Flickr you can reach a larger crowd. There’s just so many more users with Flickr. Picasa’s interface is also messier and harder to use than Flickr’s (this one being a matter of taste).

Pros

Cons

Recommendations

If you want a lot of space for free, like for online storage, choose Picasa. You can upload unlimited 2048×2048 pixel photos there (if you have Google+ account). Just keep in mind that your photos might not get the visibility they deserve. Also if you are a professional photographer then the union of Google+ and Picasa is your choice.

Where to start?

Hosted blog

Hosted blogs (like Blogger) offer you a free blog platform. Just sign up, upload your photos and you have a photo blog. Your hosted blog is somewhat customizable. For example you can change elements of design or SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Even being customizable hosted blogs are still easy to use. There are still restrictions: for example, Blogger has a 1GB of limit for uploaded photos.

Hosted blogs, compared to Flickr and Picasa, are more than just photo sharing services. They offer many more functions. You get an actual website with blog look and feel. Your posts (photos) will be shown on chronological order. You can get your own domain name (yoursite.com) with few bucks. In other words you become a blogger.

Visibility-wise, you have to begin close to zero. Hardly nobody knows that your site exists. It might be shown for short time in some list of your blog service’s Newcomers list. Google wont give your site top rankings in the beginning. With Flickr you’ll have a head start since the users are already there. For example, they just have to use Flickr’s own search engine. Even your new Flickr photos might show up in the first result page of Flickr own search.

Pros

Cons

Where to start?

Recommendations

If you want to publish your photos in an actual website, use hosted blog services. You will have a blog with chronologically ordered photos. You’ll have an own admin panel too. On the other hand, you have to learn a bit how to use your hosted blog service. You have to work to get visibility. If they sound like a burden for you, hosted blog might not be your choice.

Self-hosted blog

This is a pro’s choice dare I say. First, you buy domain and web hosting. Then you download WordPress. Then you set it up. You’ll have fully customizable blog with endless opportunities. You’ll get your own domain name. You can host as many photos as you want. They can be any size. You can do whatever you want. It all costs money, though.

Domain for one year is about nine bucks. Hosting for one year is 30-60 bucks. The boundaries for your website come from your hosting company. They usually give limits of bandwidth and disk space usage. However you don’t have to worry about the limits unless you publish hundreds of large photos a month. And if your site grows you can buy more resources.

How about visibility? Well, you have to start from absolute zero. Your site won’t be automatically listed anywhere. Google will rank your new site very low. Nobody might come to your site in the beginning. Sounds depressing? Well, there’s a reward if you work hard. It just takes time. If you publish quality photos with relevant captions, do your search engine optimization well and wait you’ll be rewarded with visitors. You can very well rise from zero to hero.

Pros

Cons

Recommendations

This blog is a self-hosted blog. I chose it for my photo publishing platform because I wanted to customize it fully. For those wanting to get full control of their site I strongly recommend self-hosted blog. Also if you don’t mind paying a bit go for self-hosted. If all you want is simple photo publishing without learning curve, go for Flickr.

Where to start?

Tsohost Review


Looking for a good webhost? Maybe you want to make a photography website? Or a photo blog? In any way I strongly recommend Tsohost. It’s my current hosting company. I’ve been using it since 2010. Many other companies had disappointed me so I was skeptical about this one too. However it turned out that Tsohost was the best hosting I’ve ever tried. Why? Let me tell you more about it.

Quick Facts

Features They Offer To You

The most interesting service for a typical user – and for a photographer – is their Linux hosting service. All of their Linux hosting packages offer cPanel, PHP5, Perl, MySQL and Webmail. In other words you can run all the most famous blogs and content management systems on Tsohost. These include, but are not limited to WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and phpBB. This means a photographer can easily start a photography website or blog there.

Tsohost offers three versions of Linux hosting: Lite, Standard and Pro. As you might’ve guessed the difference is in the features. The packages differ mainly in the following three areas: numbers of domain hosted, disk space and bandwidth. The Lite package offers 2 hosted domains, 0.5GB disk space and 5GB of bandwidth per month. The Pro package offers 6 hosted domains, 10GB disk space and 150G of bandwidth per month. The Standard package stands in between with 4 hosted domains, 2.5GB disk space and 20GB of bandwidth per month.

What package I bought? Well, I knew I’d probably have more than one website. Thus I needed more than 1 hosted domain. I also knew that photos will take much space. Photos also consume much bandwidth. The price for the Pro package wasn’t bad: only £49.99 for one year (about $80 or 60€). So I went for the Pro package and have been running on it for 1,5 years now. It has been enough in every aspect feature wise.

So what package you want? For a starting yet determined photographer/blogger looking for serious performance I’d say Pro. When you invest 50 pounds there’s no worry you’ll run out of space or bandwidth. It will also handle photo per day publishing frequency and aggressive marketing. After the year you can re-evaluate your needs and perhaps update to Virtual Private Server. If you just want a mostly text-based website without ambitious plans to expand, then Lite and Standard will do.

Anything bad about Tsohost features? Well, just a minor thing. I hope they had more hosted domains included. The Pro package’s 6 is fine. However if you have a habit to test small websites and eventually keep some you might run out of domains. For example I’m using all the 6 domains at the moment. Still you can buy them more (to Standard and Pro) package for £25 per 5 domains a year.

They Serve Their Customer Well

Perhaps the previous chapter about the Features didn’t convince you. It didn’t convince me either. Many other offer the same for lower price. Or they offer unlimited space, bandwidth and domains. Well, the thing that Tsohost really convinced me with was their customer service.

For starters there’s a variety of ways to get in touch with them. They got online knowledgebase, online ticketing system, telephone support, email support and customer forum. They also offer their full postal address which is a plus. Many companies don’t and it’s very suspicious. Tsohost announces that their average support time is 12 minutes. It might sound too good but I tell you it’s true.

Those times I’ve asked them something by email they’ve replied right away. I just went to eat, perhaps answer some other emails or had a short AFK (away from keyboard) moment. When I came back the answer was there. And not only any kind of answer but a helpful and thorough one. Let me give you an example.

When I was ordering Tsohost in 2010 I was bored of bad hosting companies. I had a feeling Tsohost will be just another money greedy bad host in the crowd. From previous hosts I had been asking pre-sale questions such as clarification of TOS, IP address to test ping, location of datacenters, availability of SSH. With Tsohost I didn’t have to. All the information was found in their web site. As if they knew that some customers want to know more than the basic stuff. They were prepared for them. Excellent thinking!

Another example occurred lately. It was May Day (a big celebration here in Finland). My Finnish friend from Stockholm was visiting me. In the evening he decided to make a website. I said he could use my Tsohost account. So we made a FTP account for him. Then we opened WinSCP (FTP program) and tried to connect Tsohost. Too bad we were a bit intoxicated and we mistyped the username several times. As a result Tsohost locked our IP address out. It was 2:34 on Sunday night when I wrote request to Tsohost support. And it was 2:46 when the lockout was removed.

What did we do? Well, we mistyped the friggin’ username again. Only after 5 minutes of the unblocking. I didn’t dare to contact them until next evening. The clock was 21:35. And at 22:01 a reply arrived. The lockout was removed again.

I’d say these examples and the general functionality, speed and friendliness of their customer support make them a very good choice. They answer you in the middle of the night. Even Sunday night. And they don’t get pissed if a drunk moron mistypes username and requests unblock two times.

Other Stuff That Make Tsohost Stand Out

Their Terms of Service guarantee 99.9% uptime. It is the basic uptime guarantee of hosting providers. It means that your website can be no more than about 43 minutes down every month. What makes Tsohost so special? I guess it’s example time again.

On 7th of February I got mail from them. Here’s a summary:

At 15:48 on Monday 6th February Tsohost servers experienced a Denial of Service attack. Some of their shared hosting accounts were down or at least slow. They dispatched an engineer to the datacenter. Everything was fixed at 16:38. They regretted deeply about the downtime and asked to accept their sincere apologies. They also offered SLA credits added to your account. This means that you could’ve got free hosting time.

The mail explained the cause of the downtime very thoroughly. It also explained very well what they did to fix the problem. Furthermore the mail was written in very friendly way. It really showed that they care about the company-customer relations.

Is there something more? Yes, a clear Terms of Services. No hidden fees, no hidden contracts nor hidden terms. Also they don’t have to put hidden limitations about the resource usage. Many hosting companies offer “unlimited” disk space, bandwidth and domains but “forget” to clearly tell there’s still a limit. A CPU usage limit. Even if you have unlimited everything you can still use CPU too much. A bad host will then terminate your account. Tsohost doesn’t do this. They openly show the features for each hosting package on their website. There are limits but they are shown in a correct manner. Not hidden in TOS.

The Bottom Line

If you want to have a website, take Tsohost. If you want a photo blog, take Tsohost. If you have a host already and it sucks take Tsohost. I’m confident it’s excellent choice for your money. In fact I’m so confident I’ll direct you to their web site right now. It is an affiliate link meaning I’ll get a little commission should you trust me and choose Tsohost.

I understand if you are doubtful about this article now. You found out I get money if a visitor buys Tsohost through my site. Maybe I made this article just to make you buy Tsohost? Maybe I’m a cunning little bastard and all I want is your money? Well, Tsohost has 60 days money back guarantee. They used to have 30 day guarantee but they doubled it to 60 days. If you are unhappy with them they’ll give you money back. And I get nothing. Wouldn’t be a good deal for any of us. Plus, I never talk bullshit to you. There are enough of bullshit in the world already. So do the right thing and choose BlogForPhotos fully approved Tsohost hosting!