GoogleHOABadge

Improving your Google Hangout Experience.

GoogleHOABadgeThe rising star in online networking is the Google Plus Hangout On Air, or HOA for short. This medium mixes the experiences of video conferenceing, webinars, screen sharing and chat all in one easy-to-use package. The affordable (can you say free?) tool also comes with the added benefit of increasing your SEO, your personal brand and the leverage of your YouTube channel.

If you are not using HOAs now, I urge you to look into them. Here are a couple of resources I highly recommend to get you on the right track towards understanding the benefits.

Entrepreneur and Social Media coach; Sandra Watson over at EasyFYINow.com provides valuable direction for those new to any social media platform.

Carol Dodsley has a G+ mastery course for those who want to dig deeper into the G+ community. She also hosts several weekly shows on G+ that cover a range of topics. You can find one of Carol’s posts espousing the virtues of G+ HOAs here. 

NewRay.com has a great post that makes a great business case for the use of HOAs

Regardless of the platform, a good video conferencing experience requires some attention to detail to avoid bugs and other road-blocks. 

Having troubles with your video dropping out during an HOA?  Not getting clear video into your stream? Here’s a few things to do before you start your broadcast:

Attach to your network via Ethernet cable and turn off wireless at your computer.  Unless you are running the new experimental gigabit wireless, your Ethernet is likely to be much faster and less problematic.

Turn off all devices on your network that do not need to remain on during the broadcast.  When devices are on , they are routinely sending various signals across the network, potentially creating congestion. This network traffic then get’s “heard” by your computer causing it to take processing cycles to evaluate the traffic and determine if it is something it needs to pay attention to. Quieting things down on your network will help your computer focus it’s attention on your feed.

Speaking of quieting… Network and modem cables should never be running parallel and close to a power cord.  Power cords emit a small amount of radio frequency interference (RFI) that is picked up by your network cables. This causes glitches that will effect data transfer rates ( slows your network down). It’s nearly impossible to route these completely separated as often they at least need to cross over each other to get to where they need to go – in this case, do your best to cross them perpendicular so they look like a plus (+) sign.

Same goes for USB and Microphone cables too. Keep them away from power cords when possible for all the same reasons.

Use the chrome browser when possible. It’s developed by Google and will likely be the most stable for the hangout plugin.

Speaking of plugins, they suck.  Memory and resources I mean. 🙂 They consume ram, processor resources and are constantly pinging the network.  Turn off any plugins, search bars,  and extensions you don’t need for the broadcast.

Close any browser tabs you don’t need open. One tab can consume between 50 and 300MB of addition memory, depending on what is loaded into that tab. Also, tabs that are open could be sending traffic across your network. Shhhhh…. a quiet network is a happy and speedy network.

Turn off ALL other applications – including browsers – you don’t need during the broadcast. Not only are they slowing down your computer, they are likely using your network. Email apps are always looking for new email. You don’t want to be downloading 25MB of attachments while you are trying to stream 3MB per second of HOA video.

If you are running windows, you can temporarily turn of automatic updates to prevent activity during your HOA. Just remember to turn it back on later.

Run a valid copy of a good anti-virus and anti-malware application and keep it current and up to date. An infected machine = a slow machine.

If all of this is not enough to get things looking good then:

In dire conditions where you have done all of the above and are still having video drop-outs, uninstall any applications that you don’t use on your computer. Many of these applications monitor your network to talk to the devices you just shut off. Printer utilities are a big resource sucker and can often be uninstalled. Do you really need some bit of software to nag you when you are low on paper or ink?  Some of your installed applications will also check the internet every few minutes to see if there are updates available that need to be installed – thus slowing your network.

On windows machines: turn off file indexing. This “feature” does make it faster to find files on your machine, but it is also doing a great deal of disk reads and writes, perhaps during your broadcast.

Whew! Sounds like a lot to do, but it’s not really all that much.  Once you have cleaned your machine of any malware and removed old applications you don’t need, and moved your cables the tedious work is done.  When you are ready to do an HOA the easy thing is to reboot. This will close any applications you have running. When the computer comes back up and you login, open just Chrome, launch one tab to G+ and you should be on your way to a great HOA experience!

Don’t discount the benefits of a good mic, and adequate lighting. For more on that, have a look at the post: Easy and Inexpensive Tips for Better Video Meetings

Looking for more LEADS through Social Media? This is a great place to start!

For my very first Google+ hangout I spoke on the panel as a Social Media expert for an HOA (Hangeout on Air) for SMGDenver and I had a blast! Lots of great information was shared. If you are looking to generate leads through social media, or looking to create an online business community with your existing social media platforms, this video is a great place to start.

 

Happy to answer any questions, so feel free to leave them in the comment section below.

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Are You Being Fully Supported In Your Local Market?

Thanks to the internet, many businesses have global reach that earlier generations would have given limbs for.  While the reach potential is huge, so is the competition for attention.  But there is still a very large percentage of companies and organizations that do business locally, either exclusively or as part of their overall model.

November is Local Business Month, and this week is also Global Entrepreneurship Week.  The focusBlue of Local Business Month is to encourage support of the smaller businesses – the back-bone of our economy. You have likely seen the ads encouraging viewers to go out and spend their shopping dollars locally. It’s a fantastic idea and we fully encourage such efforts. But this author feels that there other ways that we can support our local firms that are overlooked by these campaigns. When cash flows into a small business, it often flows right out. So a one-time purchase is only temporary temporary. So today’s post will address some ways that you can support your local businesses and entrepreneurs in lasting ways after you’ve had a great experience buying from them.

Every business thrives as a result of positive brand exposure. The most effective form of that exposure is referrals.  Word of mouth referrals have a massive 80% conversion rate. Unless you give away your product or service, you simply can’t buy that level of conversion.  So refer several of your local business to  people you know.  And we’re not just talking local circles here, social media reach is an opportunity to reach hundreds, if not thousands of your closest “friends”, and just in time for holiday shopping.  While many you reach are out-of-town, the business is still local for you, so support away.  Remember to include a website and/or phone number of the business in your referral – anything you can do to make doing business with them easier will increase the effectiveness of your referrals. Remember to refer often.

Testimonials build all-important confidence in a purchasing decision. Without confidence in the brand or product, the customer will not buy. You can increase the chances of your local businesses success by posting positive, well written referrals on sites such as Yelp!, Angie’s List, Google Local and others. While a 4-star or 5-star rating with a simple “Great place to do business” can help, Take a little time to create a thoughtful, well-written review. Tell a little story about your experience and give some specifics about what you liked.  People love a story, and when they can imagine themselves in that little story, they are more likely to embrace your suggestion and support that business.  If you want to make it even more impactful, pull out your smart phone, add pictures or video to your review. Heck, send the video to the business and allow them to use it on their website and their marketing.  How POWERFUL an unsolicited video testimonial is!  Have a favorite referral site? Share it in the comments below.

The golden rule “So unto others as you would have them do unto you” sums things up. If you are willing to take a bit of time to fully support your local businesses, they’ll step deeper into supporting you. When you are buying goods and services, don’t forget that this is a potential opportunity for networking. Drop a business card, talk with the owner. Make sure they know who you are, and when they find your review online ( every business must monitor their reviews) they’ll remember you. And if they don’t that’s okay too. Doing things for others without expectation of personal gain can lead to some pretty amazing reciprocations.

As a business or entrepreneur yourself, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for referrals and reviews when you ask for feedback. You deserve support too.

Do you have any thoughts on ways to support your local businesses above and beyond making a purchase? Let us know by sharing below:

 

Image courtesy of http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/47/Lens6a.svg/200px-Lens6a.svg.png

Giclee Fine Art Printing – Getting a Great Print Part 1 – Photography of Artwork

A Pigment print is a bit more than just an inkjet print. So what makes it fine art worthy? To qualify, the print must be achieved using archival grade pigmented inks on archival grade fine-art paper or canvas. While we love the look of the watercolor papers and canvas papers we don’t suggest using Giclee “photo papers”. For aesthetic reasons, we recommend that the artist get a fine art photographic print for that. But the quality of the fine art pigment print is not limited to the inks and papers you use. There is quite a bit more that goes into the craftsmanship than just the print alone.

There is a great many details that should be tended to, but the major areas can be broken down like this:

Photography of your artwork
Working the file before testing
Generating a worthy test print
Working the file again to refine the proof
Printing the final units or series

Each of these is important to understand so they may become an effective part of your workflow. Since there is a great deal of information to pass along,  I’ll split the content into a multi-part series.

Photography of art work

Every step in the production chain of your fine art edition is critical, but some steps, if improperly done, can be disastrous to the final viewer experience. The first step, photography of your artwork, is an excellent example. This step is the largest determining factor to the faithful reproduction of your original art. To create a great pigment print, the photography of the artwork should be:

  • Focused properly using high-end lenses
  • shot using a strudy tripod in a vibration free environment
  • photographed using the sweet-spot of the lens
  • in some cases, polarized light and or special lens filters may be required
  • exposed correctly with a critical attention to detail
  • evenly lit using the proper lights
  • correctly white balanced
  • shot in the proper file format and with sufficient resolution
  • shot in a colorspace that is large enough to capture the full range of the painting and supports the full range of the Pigment print

The right glass

Shooting with inferior lenses may result in various distortions, such as smearing around the edges, chromatic aberrations – where some colors focus differently than others, barrel or pin-cushion distortion, lens flares and overall lack of saturation and/or contrast.  Shooting with prime lenses and pro-level equipment will provide the highest possible image integrity and result in a file that achieves the closest honesty to the original.

Image courtesy of http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/47/Lens6a.svg/200px-Lens6a.svg.png

Chromatic aberrations of cheaper lenses result in out of focus images with color fringing.

Image courtesy of http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/91/Apochromat.svg/200px-Apochromat.svg.png

Proper apo-chromatic focus results in all wavelengths (colors) focusing on the same plane for maximum sharpness and detail.

 

Image courtesy of http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/66/Chromatic_aberration_%28comparison%29.jpg

Bottom photo clearly shows effect of apo-chromatic aberrations.

Distortions, or bending of the image are another issue with lesser quality lenses with “pincushion” and “barrel” being the most common. Pincushion distortion has the effect of the center of the image being further away than the edges while barrel distortion is just the opposite. With barrel distortion, the center of the image appears closer to the viewer than the edges.

Image courtesy of http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/5b/Pincushion_distortion.svg/200px-Pincushion_distortion.svg.png

Pincushion distortion created converging lines towards the center of the image

Image courtesy of http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/63/Barrel_distortion.svg/200px-Barrel_distortion.svg.png

Barrel distortion creates diverging line near the center of the image

 

A quality image capture is not dependent exclusively on a good camera/lens combination.

A high quality pro level tripod is a must for the artist who is serious about photography of art

A high quality pro level tripod is a must for the artist who is serious about photography of art, and they are expensive.

All elements in the photographic process are important. For example: how the camera and art work are handled during the exposure process will add a measurable difference to the final product.

A good solid vibration free tripod is a must-have if you are serious about photographing your own work.  Any vibration in the camera or the original artwork during exposure will result in “motion-blur” that will visibly carry over to your reproduction prints. While lesser tripods may be appealing just because of their price, they are susceptible to vibration, “ringing”, sagging and slipping during exposure. Think of it this way, if cheapo gear would lead to professional results, then why would there be a need for “pro” gear, and why would the pros invest the top grade gear?

If you want to get the best looking print, and your are committed to doing your own photography of your art do yourself and your art buyers a big favor and use the gear that will get you fine art quality instead of drugstore quality.

A stable support for your artwork is equally important. Any movement in your art during exposure will result in motion blur issues that will leave the image looking out of focus or double-exposed. While it may be tempting to take your art outdoors for the photo session, keep in mind that your painting is much like a sail in the wind. The slightest breeze will result in movement in the artwork. Heavier breezes or gusts may damage your art. And shooting with only one light-source, such as the sun, does not provide even lighting across the entire painting. I know this sounds crazy, but it has to do with what is called “angle of reflection” This is basically a measurement of the angle the light-path takes as it reflects away from the subject towards the viewer or camera and it is always equal to the angle of incidence (the angle the light path takes to get to the subject).

The propensity of light falling on a subject will reflect away at an angle equal to that of it's source.

The propensity of light falling on a subject will reflect away at an angle equal to that of it’s source.

Light falling on your canvas is more likely to scatter in a direction away from the light source. So let’s take the example to the right. The light source, in this case the sun, is to the left of the painting and the camera is directly in front of it. As we move across the canvas from left to right, we have less light reflecting in the direction of the camera lens. This results in the right side appearing darker than the left. This is called “fall-off”. Our eyes and brains adjust for fall-off for us, so we tend not to see it with the naked eye. While much of the light will “scatter” off in multitudes of directions, it is not enough to eliminate fall-off.

Since our light source is high and to the left of the subject, the brightest area will also be high and to the left.

Since our light source is high and to the left of the subject, the brightest area will also be high and to the left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shooting indoors gives you the greatest control over your environment for lighting and stability. When possible, setup your tripod on a concrete floor. Wood floors have flex and tend to amplify vibrations like a spring-board. If you must setup on a wooden floor, try to locate the load bearing supports under the floor and set your tripod in that area to minimize vibration. The farther you are away from the supports, the more amplified the vibrations.

Stay tuned for the next post in the series on Proper Lighting and Exposure. You can subscribe to our newsletter or via RSS to be notified automatically.

 

 

 

 

Balancing act with street performers

Digital Photographs: Lost but not Forgotten

I just can’t help it when I see articles about lost photographs. I feel the urge to expose someone Balancing act with street performerselse’s pain on to everyone and anyone who cares to listen. Last week I wrote about saving your memories (photo albums) from a natural disaster like the fires in Boulder Canyon here in Colorado. People have been rescuing their photos for many years by grabbing their “photo albums” and running for safety.

I personally have not read about anyone grabbing their computer, CD’s or whatever they have their digital photo’s on and running out of the house. It’s probably happened somewhere and I would hope people would consider their digital images to be just as valuable as their printed photo albums. Then again, we are in the digital age where people share their photos on face book and cellphones and never even consider a print as a way to show off an image.

Consider this story I read in the Denver Post just this week. A staff writer misplaced her cellphone one morning on the way to work. Was it forgotten at the gas station, left under a pile of stuff in the car or misplaced at home somewhere? Either way by the end of the article it still was not found. Several things run through a persons head when their cell phone goes missing like what about all the information I have stored in there? It’s not only a hassle to replace but time and expense too, at least for what you can replace.

This writer mentioned being distraught over several photos taken with the MIA phone that could not be replaced. Maybe not life changing images but something deemed worthy of taking and saving in the first place. The fact that so many cell phones are lost, broken or destroyed every day that contain photographs that will never see the light of day again makes me pucker, at least a little bit but probably not as much as the person that lost them but it’s still not a pleasant experience. So what’s the moral of the story here? No moral, just an observation from me about how photography has become such a disposable act anymore. People shoot like crazy because it’s fun to record images of events and people’s lives they are part of. The sad thing is that when a new cell phone/camera model comes out those images are usually not saved. As I have been told by more teens and twenty-somethings than I care to remember, “it’s no big deal, we’ll just shoot more!” I hope they all have really good photographic memories because that’s all they may have in the future.

How to get great color, save your profits, and never have to work color or density in Photoshop. Part 1

I’m going to fill you in on the secrets of how to get great color, save your
profits, and never have to work color or density in Photoshop. All without
the use of ICC profiles, confusing work-flows or batch conversions.
If you understood the above and it applies to you, chances are you are a
professional photographer. Professional print quality is much easier to achieve
than most photographers are aware.
Getting there requires Five crucial elements. With these five in place, you can go
directly from camera to print and get excellent results.
Yes, that’s right, higher profits and more free time with:

  • No Photoshop work.
  • No profiling magic.
  • No bag of tricks or fairy dust.

Rule #1 – If you have to adjust the density of your files, your metering is
inaccurate.
You may find this hard to believe, but truly consistent exposures rarely come
from TTL metering. I know that’s tough to swallow, but reflective metering is just too fallible.
Don’t believe me? Here is a simple test to see if this rule applies to you.
1. Take a look at the average corrections you are making on your files in
Photoshop or Lightroom.
2. Jot down the number of exposure and color balance corrections you make
in a work week.
3. If the answer is any higher than zero, guess what, I’m right – your TTL has failed you. So how do we
correct this?
Get a GOOD new or used hand held incident flash meter, and calibrate it to your
camera using Will Crockett’s “Face mask Histogram Technique” copy and paste
the following web address into your browser: Go to
http://www.shootsmarter.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=116&acat=16
Keep in mind that digital cameras have only 1/8th stop of exposure latitude. If you
have an incident meter, compare it against Will’s meter reviews and see how it rates. Some
well known meters are unprofessionally inconsistent . Up to a horrible deviation of +- 1/3 stop from
reading to reading. This is definitely outside of the acceptable range for a
professional photographer by approximately 300%! In other words, that exceeds
professional limits for exposure control by 3 times.

Next week:
Rule #2 – If you don’t have custom white balance, you don’t have correct color.

To make sure you get the rest of this series, you can subscribe to this blog at the top of this page.


Black and White Chromagenic Prints

Black & White Chromagenics Offer Stunning Tonal Range and Detail.

Using a chromagenic process to printBlack and White Chromagenic Prints Black & White on canvas offers visually stunning B&W Prints in the same sizes and pricing as we offer in all of our Gicleé Pigment Prints. You will be amazed at the beauty of the expanded tonal range and clarity of detail in these exhibition quality fine art  pigment prints. The standard features include continuous-tone like look, image permanence, tonal control and exquisite appearance while offering the unique advantage of greater dynamic range over conventional wet process printing.

 

 

 

 

Publishing an E-Letter

This week’s blog is about publishing an e-letter. This summer, Reed Photo-Imaging decided to publish an electronic newsletter. I went on an expedition to investigate whether or not we should use a service like Constant Contact or make and publish our own. I initiated a trial with Constant Contact for 60 days. During that time, I worked with their templates and basically had a test drive. Even though we ultimately made and published our own, I found Constant Contact, fairly easy to use. I use Adobe’s Dreamweaver to design and create my HTML e-letter. Dreamweaver offers tools that allow me to design and create rich content in a HTML document. Once the design was approved, I saved that as a template. That is what we use each month to generate new content for our e-letter. We use an email program called Autoresponder to send out the e-letter. This program helps us to comply with the CAN_SPAM act. These federal laws, must be followed or you can be heavily fined. Here’s the website address to download a pdf file of these requirements from the Federal Trade Commission.:

http://business.ftc.gov/documents/bus61-can-spam-act-Compliance-Guide-for-Business

Below is a rundown of CAN-SPAM’s main requirements:

Don’t use false or misleading header information. Your “From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” and routing information – including the originating domain name and email address – must be accurate and identify the person or business who initiated the message.

Don’t use deceptive subject lines. The subject line must accurately reflect the content of the message.

Identify the message as an ad. The law gives you a lot of leeway in how to do this, but you must disclose clearly and conspicuously that your message is an advertisement.

Tell recipients where you’re located. Your message must include your valid physical postal address. This can be your current street address, a post office box you’ve registered with the U.S. Postal Service, or a private mailbox you’ve registered with a commercial mail receiving agency established under Postal Service regulations.

Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you. Your message must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting email from you in the future. Craft the notice in a way that’s easy for an ordinary person to recognize, read, and understand. Creative use of type size, color, and location can improve clarity. Give a return email address or another easy Internet-based way to allow people to communicate their choice to you. You may create a menu to allow a recipient to opt out of certain types of messages, but you must include the option to stop all commercial messages from you. Make sure your spam filter doesn’t block these opt-out requests.

Honor opt-out requests promptly. Any opt-out mechanism you offer must be able to process opt-out requests for at least 30 days after you send your message. You must honor a recipient’s opt-out request within 10 business days. You can’t charge a fee, require the recipient to give you any personally identifying information beyond an email address, or make the recipient take any step other than sending a reply email or visiting a single page on an Internet website as a condition for honoring an opt-out request. Once people have told you they don’t want to receive more messages from you, you can’t sell or transfer their email addresses, even in the form of a mailing list. The only exception is that you may transfer the addresses to a company you’ve hired to help you comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.

Monitor what others are doing on your behalf. The law makes clear that even if you hire another company to handle your email marketing, you can’t contract away your legal responsibility to comply with the law. Both the company whose product is promoted in the message and the company that actually sends the message may be held legally responsible.

Do not ‘buy’ a list. The best results always come from people who opt in and that know or know of you. Also, Constant Contact does not allow you to use purchased lists. We work within our own customer base or use an opt-in to receive the e-letter. We include an unsubscribe feature and honor any request we receive to opt-out from receiving the e-letter. Our e-letter has monthly contests that I find (This month, the photo contest being promoted is by the Smithsonian Magazine). We hold monthly contests for our Facebook fans too! Every week the theme changes and around once a month we hold a contest and the winner is chosen by the amount of likes that their image receives. Whenever we find something that promotes a community group, we try and let our readers know about it. This month’s e-letter showcases the recent Facebook winners and their images. Additionally we promote through a short video, selected customers. Each video has an interview and a slide show of the customers work. Our basic belief is that when our customers win, we win. Our community feature this month is: Denver’s Big Picture – Putting Cameras into Children’s Hands to Jumpstart Creativity – A Project with Deep Sleep Imaging LLC.

Larger and Faster Storage is on the Horizon

At the current rate at which silicon-based technology doubles – approximately every 18-24 months, it won’t be long before our cameras outgrow their present storage form-factors. Nikon, SanDisk and Sony have announced their joint effort for a new portable storage specification aimed at meeting the future needs of music playback devices, digital cameras and video capture devices in a new standardized format. The new proposed specs show a transfer rate of 500 Megabytes per second – far exceeding the present 167 Megabyte per second of the current CompactFlash specifications. Yes, that is a full gigabyte transferred every two seconds. The maximum theoretical storage capacity for the new devices are expected to exceed two Terabytes. These new memory cards are planned to be rugged, similar in size to the existing SD form-factor and have a lower power consumption and longer battery life – thanks to integrated power scaling. With the data speeds and power savings, I suspect we will see this new technology integrated as solid state drives (SSD’s) on laptops, smart phones, and other intelligent devices in sectors like medical and transportation. A projected production date for the new cards was not announced.