Old-School Meets New School: The Portragon 100 f:4

PortragonObliFrontAs part of an ongoing lo-fi experiment I have been acquiring a number of old-school lenses that are known for being less than perfect, and I’ve modified good lenses, all in the quest to find just the right level of ethereal beauty. Lomography’s recent release of their Petzval reminded me of another lens released decades ago; the Spiratone Portragon 100mm f:4. This sole purpose of this lens was to re-create the effect of the very early single meniscus lenses used on bellows-focus cameras of the time. I had never owned a Portragon, so I had no personal reference regarding it’s Image Quality (IQ). That said, I was off to google where I found… well, very little in the way of examples. One YouTube video and a handful of photos – none of which gave me any real sense of the strengths this lens might posses.

The now defunct Spiratone company was largely a reseller of inexpensive knock-off type accessories. They would buy in bulk, rebadge the items and sell them for as cheaply as they could afford to. While a good amount of their products were a disaster waiting to happen under professional use,  a portion of their product line was quite usable in their day. The less complicated an item was, the less likely it would fail, so items such as extension tubes were pretty safe. Very little of their items would be considered heavy-duty or pro-grade, and granted the pro was not their audience. Their full-page ads in the back of Popular Photography and Modern Photography were aimed straight at the budget minded amateur. I knew that if Spiratone sold it, chances are it was sold in the hundreds of thousands of units so I should easily find a few on ebay. And that I did! Fourteen dollars plus shipping, and two weeks later it was sitting on my doorstep.

The lens sports a T-Mount thread and arrived with a Canon FD adapter installed. Two minutes later it was dressed with an adapter for Nikon-F.
I was pleasantly surprised at just how well made the Portragon is. The body is all aluminum with buttery-smooth helical focusing from 3.2ft to Infinity with approx 170° throw. That’s a lot of fine-tune accuracy for a lens that has very little inherent sharpness.

This lens is amazingly small. Here is it compared to an 80’s era Nikkor 50mm:

Nikkor50mmOnBody

Nikkor 50mm

Spiratone 100mm f:4 Portragon

Spiratone 100mm f:4 Portragon

 

The Portragon 100 is very susceptible to flare, but the shooter can use that to their advantage.

The Portragon 100 is very susceptible to flare, but the shooter can use that to their advantage.

The ethereal properties of this lens look best to me under diffused light.

The ethereal properties of this lens look best to me under  bright diffused light.

Taking the lens for a test-drive had its challenges; primarily that the IQ in the viewfinder was nothing like the rendered file. Oddly, the viewfinder showed an image of much tighter focus than was yielded in the file.  Being fixed at f:4, there is no stop-down aperture to blame for the discrepancy. It’s just one lens on the end of a threaded barrel – that’s it.  Nikon’s focus assist helped me to find focus as did live-view at full zoom. The sweet spot for the Portragon lens is a small zone that’s dead – center of the image circle. Bokeh is a tiny bit smeary at the edges and it’s as soft as a baby’s back-side throughout. And forget about apo-correction – there is none. But that’s part of the Portragon’s lo-fi charm!

 

 

If you shoot strictly jpegs, or if you use them for proofing, you might find a custom shooting mode helpful with this lens. I tend to shoot hybrid (jpeg and raw together), for the post capture flexibility.

This lens shoots flat - really flat.

This lens shoots flat – really flat.

A tweak to contrast brings the image around easily. A custom shooting mode could also be used compensate for the lens' lack of contrast.

A tweak to contrast in LightRoom brought the image around easily. A custom shooting mode could also be used compensate for the Portragon’s lack of contrast when shooting jpegs.

For the cinematographer, this lens just might be a secret weapon for certain sequences. The lens is soft, yet sharp and the color-smearing, well you really need to see it for yourself. Lo-fi and other artsy shots like lens-whacking are presently gaining popularity on commercial TV for edgy transitions and B-roll, so having a readily available tool in your kit just might make that producer a bit friendlier. The lens is so small, it fits in a vest pocket with ease.

 

All of the images and the video have been shot using a Nikon with APS size sensor. A larger sensor would certainly yield a slightly sharper looking result. If I get the opportunity to test that one day, I’ll be sure to add some samples to this post.

The portragon 100mm F4 is pure bokeh

The lens is corner to corner bokeh – even in the “in-focus” areas.

It’s certainly not a lens for every occasion and for that matter, it’s usefulness may be quite narrow in scope; but for an “art” lens, I am quite pleased with the results of the Portragon 100mm f:4. and its amazing potential make it a very powerful tool in the photographer’s kit.

The Portragon 100mm can be had on ebay for under $50, though you can find a better deal if you’re willing to be patient — as I mentioned, I got mine for $14 plus shipping. Some sellers are asking near $100 or more.  KEH occasionally has them in the $40 – $50 range. I’ve seen this lens badged under both the Spiratone and the Kama brand-names — Same lens, just different resellers.

If you’ve shot with this lens and would like to share some of your images with us, post a link to your flickr album in the comments below.

Here’s a few more of mine: 

 

Happy Shooting!

 

Possible Construction Avoidance Routes

It’s actually pretty easy!

coneThat magnificent highway that normally makes it easy to get to us, is going through a much-needed expansion. While we get that in the end it will
make things easier for the commuters who use that highway long-term, it’s making some areas of traffic slower short-term.

We know your time is valuable so we’re providing some possible alternate routes that should keep you clear of the construction related slow-downs.

Click the map for a full view!

BLUE LINES =  Routes that we suggest

DOTTED BLUE LINES = These routes are usually very good, but occasionally have delays

RED LINES = These routes are NOT suggested as they experience frequent delays or closures.

 

Construction Zone

Click for a larger view

Coming from the west we suggest

  • Colfax or
  • 6th Ave.

Coming from the East we suggest

  • Colfax or
  • 8th Ave.

From the South, we suggest you avoid Federal Blvd and come in via

  • I-25 or
  • Knox Ct to the 6th Ave service road, which turns into 8th Ave as shown on the map.

From the north

  • Federal Blvd or
  • I-25

 Google Map

Click for a Google Map of our location

 

Contact Us

As always, you can call us with any questions at 303-573-8084

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Reed E-News January 2014

 

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Recipients of our 2013 Referral Rewards Announced!
By Reed Art & Imaging
We are so blessed to have such loyal friends and fans who share their excitement about us with their network. In a sign of appreciation we are rewarding our top referrers with some pretty cool gifts.
Congratulations to our recipients and a huge thank you to everyone who continues to refer us to their family, friends and business associates!

1st Highest – Most New Customers = Framed Image (Choice of iPad Mini or Microsoft Surface)

2nd Highest – Most New Customers = Karen Rubin ($200 in services)

1st Highest – Total Business Volume From Referrals = Reed Masten ( (Choice of iPad Mini or Microsoft Surface)

2nd Highest – Total Business Volume From Referrals = Andy Marquez ($200 in services)

1st Place – Random Drawing = Alissa Williams ($500 in services)

2nd Place – Random Drawing = Four Reel Productions ($200 in services)

“I’m still shocked about the referral prize. I can’t wait to receive my iPad mini. Thank you so much!!! Not only for the prize, but for the decades of great service Reed has provided me with.”

“I’ve been doing business with Reed Photo since 1982 when I worked for Jefferson County and still used film. Since then I started my own business and transitioned to digital. Reed Photo has always been there for me with great service and expert work. I love their Gallery Mount product and they always get my recommendation when someone comes to me looking for digital restoration, expert printing or canvas transfers. I know they will do a spectacular job!”

Thanks for over 30 years of excellence!

Warm regards,

Reed Masten

Fuji Turns Up the Heat on Retro Design
By Reed Art & Imaging

Image from Verge.comRight on the heels of the successful release of the retro styled Nikon Df, the buzz is gaining momentum for this new entry into the retro styled market. The new camera from Fujifilm rumored to be titled the X-T1 is said to feature a 16megapixel APS-C sensor, interchangeable lenses, wi-fi and more manual controls than you can shake your cable release at. The estimated official announcement date is set for January 28, 2014, with a first sale date projected to be in February, 2014. Sources point to a body-only price of $1,700 US.

Grab more details via Photo Rumors Here

Prepping Your Art for Gallery Presentation
Via cpacphoto.org

cpacphoto.orgFrom exhibition submission to gallery wall, the presentation of your work is vital to how it is perceived. How do you make the best possible print? What kind of mounting and framing is most appropriate? What is archival? What do you ask for in a photo finishing lab? How do you approach a gallery? How do you prepare for portfolio reviews?

Join CPAC Director Rupert Jenkins, Reed Art & Imaging General Manager Gary Reed, and photographer Jessie Paige, at this special Gallery Standards seminar. Using examples from our current juried exhibition, One by One, and the instructors’ own collections, this seminar will cover preservation and conservation standards, options for display, mounting and matting, and best practices for approaching a gallery. If you value and care for your own and others’ photography, this seminar is for you.

Gary Reed graduated from the Art Institute of Colorado in photography, and since 1991 has been the General Manager of Reed Art & Imaging. From 2004 – 2010 he co-managed the Reed Photo-Art Gallery in Denver’s Art District on Santa Fe and in 2005 became an art district board member. He is currently the Treasurer/VP and has been an integral part of their growth and success. Still an avid photographer, he occasionally exhibits and sells his work in various local galleries and art fairs.

Read more and get details at cpacphoto.org by clicking here.

See and Be Seen
By Reed Art & Imaging

Gallery showings and events can be key to sales for the artists as the go-to event for art buyers. Openings and the ensuing sales are the life-blood of successful galleries. We’ve put together a few resources for the artists and the galleries that rep them.

 

Call for Entries:

These lists are national and current. If you have a favorite list you want to share, let us know and we’ll pass it along next month.

A few places to get exposure for your gallery:

These may not be the usual place you list an art show, but the usual places might not be the first place the potential buyer looks. Adding these to your existing list can widen your marketing reach and increase buzz.
 
Zvents.com. The feedback we have heard directly is that zvents.com has helped get events listed first page on Google and increase event attendance. 
 
Yelp.com.  Yes it’s a review site, but their mobile app offers up a “Things to do in the area” list. Perfect for drawing in folks who are already out on the town and in your neighborhood. Ask your artists and your attendees to leave a review. 
 
Foursquare.com.  Another mobile friendly way to bring locals right to your door. Encourage your artists and show attendees to check in to foursquare and leave a review. The more reviews, the better the exposure and the higher the traffic potential. The potential from crowd-sourced marketing is huge. 
 
Have some great ideas? Drop us a line and we’ll add them next month. 

Reed Customer Service & Products

trueart@reedphoto.com * PH: 303-573-8084 * TF: 800-999-8084 * FAX: 303-573-8087

www.reedphoto.com


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Reed E-News October 2013

www.ReedPhoto.com
 

Dear Artist,

FTAF 10 

We Want To Thank You!

In years past, many of our loyal friends and associates have been kind enough to send quite a bit of new business our way during the holidays. So this year we want to say thank you. We’ll be rewarding that good behavior with some pretty cool gifts.

Here is how we are saying thanks...

Artist Interviews

An Interview with Mark Sink

Photographer/curator /artist and probable wearer of many other hats, Mark Sink has been as integral to the Denver art community as a certain quarterback has been to the Denver sports scene. An artist who, despite his many successes, has remained as easily approachable and true to his art as he was as a kid studying painting and printmaking at Metro State College in the seventies. Sink is a strong proponent of the ‘less is more’ school of photography; capturing stunningly beautiful images with low-tech tools like the Diana toy camera and the age-old Wet Plate Collodian process. As he made a point of telling us: “My career is very non-photo serious, I’ve used toy cameras much of my career. I’m a ‘reverse technology-o-phile’— going the other direction, you know? The Big Picture comes from that.”

Amongst his many achievements, Sink is responsible for Denver’s Month of Photography (MoP), one of many “Month of Photography” events around the world that bring together an eclectic mix of local artists, galleries and creatives for a month long celebration of the art of photography.

Reed Art & Imaging sat down with Mark in the kitchen of his home in the old Highlands neighborhood of Denver to talk primarily about MoP, but it was hard to limit the conversation to just one facet of a thirty five-plus year artistic journey. The life of Mark Sink has been anything but uneventful…

Read More:

Has This New Sony Changed the Photo Landscape for the Better?

Smartphone photography has been lacking some important features – that is, until now. With Sony’s release of their QX Series “Lens Style Cameras” the camera-phone concept reaches new turf.

The two features I miss most when shooting with my Samsung Galaxy or my iPad are depth of field control and real optical zoom. Both are now possible with this fantastic add-on.

This concept replaces the traditional camera’s body with your mobile device giving you the potential of a really massive view screen. Imagine a point and shoot with 10″ LCD and you get the idea. These lens-style cameras are compatible with any iOS or Android device that will run Sony’s app and can connect via wi-fi or NFC one-touch. Because the camera contains it’s own password protected wi-fi hotspot, no separate wi-fi network is required.

Read More:

Contests and Entries

Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest 2013

Smithsonian Magazin Photo Contest 2013

Enter photographs in any of their five categories and compete to win cash prizes.

  • The American Experience
  • The Natural World
  • People
  • Travel
  • Altered Images

This year theyare also looking forward to highlighting the best photographs taken with mobile devices, so as you enter your work into the aforementioned categories, let them know that it was taken with your phone or tablet reader and show the wonders of this new generation of photography.

Read more: 

You can also follow them on Twitter: @SmithsonianMag

Yosemite Renaissance XXIX

Yosemite Renaissance Call for Entries

International Deadline: November 16, 2013 – Yosemite Renaissance is an annual competition/exhibition which is intended to encourage diverse artistic interpretations of Yosemite. Its goals are to bring together the works of serious contemporary artists that do not simply duplicate traditional representations; to establish a continuum with past generations of Yosemite artists; and to help re-establish visual art as a major interpretive medium of the landscape and a stimulus to the protection of the environment. Historically, the arts have played a very important role in the establishment of our State and National Parks. It is our hope that they can be just as important in future efforts to preserve and protect that heritage.

More Details and to Apply:

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How Colors are Created in the Digital World

This short basics post will prime you to understand how colors are specified in digital files. In the reproduction market, of which Reed Art & Imaging is a part of, we use digitally driven devices to make faithful reproductions of original art, photographic captures and digital graphic designs. To accomplish this task with any hopes of repeatable accuracy, there must exist a standard system by which colors can be recorded, transferred, translated and output. These standards exist in theoretical color models. These models are a virtual shape, such as a box, sphere. polygon or other shape that if it were real, would contain every color visible to the human eye.

By SharkD (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The RGB color model mapped to a cube. The horizontal x-axis as red values increasing to the left, y-axis as blue increasing to the lower right and the vertical z-axis as green increasing towards the top. The origin, black, is the vertex hidden from view.

Because the model is represented by a shape, they are referred to color “spaces”, for the space the object would occupy in the theoretical environment of all colors – visible and invisible. The graphic above is an example of a space that uses Red, Green, and Blue to yield the final color we want to create.

Colors come to our eyes in two ways – or transmitted from a light source or reflected off of a surface.

RGB is called the “primary” space and it’s numerical system can be equated to the brightness values of transmitted light – or how intense the Red light, Green light, and Blue light are shining. As the numeric value increases, the lights get brighter and the closer to white they become. More on that in a bit.

In a CMYK model (the secondary space) we are representing pigments that absorb light. So as the number increases in their scale, the more light is absorbed. So with CMYK, the higher the number, the darker the color appears – exactly opposite of RGB.

In either space, the ratio of how the colors are blended determines the color, while numeric values contribute to how bright or dark it is.

For simplicity, the rest of this article will use only one color model. I’ll use the RGB model for these examples because it’s the model that our clients use and best supports high-end reproduction digital printing.

How Color is Expressed

Color is usually expressed in human terms by it’s

  • Value (light to dark)
  • Saturation (how close to pure is it)
  • Hue (red, purple, green, yellow, orange, etc.)

In the data driven world, it’s expressed as a recipe of the colors required to build its final value, saturation and hue. Image and graphics applications usually use the standard scale of 0-255 ( what is called 8-bit color) to represent the amount of each color present, with 0 being none and 255 being maximum. Dark colors being closer to 0 and light colors being closer to 255. Equal amounts of each color create neutral hues ( grays ) and as the numbers increase from 0 to 255 the value moves from black to white.

Darker values are closer to zero and lighter values are closer to 255

Darker values are closer to zero and lighter values are closer to 255

 

These numbers from 0 to 255 are called “Levels” and in our examples fall into a model of 256 levels – with zero being included as a level.  In an RGB color space, each color is built using various levels, or recipes, of Red, Green and Blue.  Dark Red has a different recipe than Light Red, and the recipes are different for a saturated versus less saturated red.

Fully saturated red is a different build than a less saturated red.

Fully saturated red is a different build than a less saturated red.

Dark Red has a different build than Light Red.

Dark Red has a different build than Light Red.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see in the first example above, a fully saturated hue has 255 of it’s requisite colors and none of the other colors. As the color desaturates, it gains some of the other colors; it’s moving closer to a neutral gray.  In the second example we can see that the Darker Red contains none of the other colors, but the Red number is dropping closer to zero; thus making it “blacker.” This darker red is as saturated as it can get at this present value.

A critical point to understand is that in an RGB or CMYK file, color and density are inter-connected. Meaning that any change you make to color data will result in changes to density and visa-versa.

 

The other primary colors are built in the same way, like this:

Color builds of fully saturated Red, Green and Blue.

Color builds of fully saturated Red, Green and Blue.

 

The secondary colors are built from equal amounts of two of the three colors:

Graphical representation of the secondary color recipes

Secondary colors are built from two of the three colors

These secondary colors are thought to be the “opposite” colors to those in the previous example. You will notice their recipes are directly inverse. Red is R255 G0 B0 and Cyan is R0 G255 B255.  They are opposites because when the two colors are combined, they cancel each other out and make gray.  Equal parts of Red and Cyan make gray, same goes for Green with Magenta, and Blue with Yellow.

Intermediate colors such as Orange, Brown, Purple, Daisy Yellow, Lemon Yellow etc. are built by using various values of the three colors where at least one of the colors is greater than 0 and less than 255:

Intermediate color builds

Intermediate colors result from builds using two or more colors.

 

This 8-bit model, using it’s 256 level per color channel architecture allows for approx 16.7 million variants of color and density.  (256 x 256 x 256 = 16,777,216).

Other bit-depths exist that extend the number of available colors; the concepts are the same, but the numbers differ.

For example: 12-bit color – the depth that most digital cameras record in raw format, has 1,728 levels per color channel (instead of 256) with a total number of 5,159,780,352 available colors, much higher than present technology can reproduce in a print or display.  The commonly used 16-bit depth has 4,096 levels per color channel with a total number of 68,719,476,736 available colors – yes that’s 68.7 Billion!  While some professional pigment printers and their RIPs can support a 16-bit file, getting the subtleties from that many colors on paper and dots via a limiting 8 to 12 different ink colors is still problematic.

If you have questions, post them in the comments below.  If you want to see how this all ties together with Photoshop channels, stay tuned, that’s next!

 

Photoshop Channels De-mystified

Color channels are often thought to be the exclusive realm of mystics and Photoshop gurus. If you are willing to dedicate a few minutes of time to learning, I’ll take the mystery out of channels, and give you the power to improve your workflow and your end results.

The colors we see on our monitors and in print are created by combining specific amounts of either Red, Green, and Blue, or Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black with the result being a new intermediate color.  Since the majority of our readers are using the RGB model, I’ll stick with that for our examples. If I get requests in the comments below, I’ll add a section explaining CMYK.

Most users of image editing applications like Photoshop or Gimp, as well as users of other graphic design applications are familiar with, or have heard mention of the 256 levels used to define color and density.  Most often these levels are represented by numeric values from 0 to 255 with zero being one of the levels.  In the RGB model, these levels can be equated with visual light, zero being no light, or pure black and 255 being maximum light – pure white.

The 256 levels represent visual density ranging from black through white.

The 256 levels represent visual density ranging from black through white.

When we build colors in the 8-bit RGB model, we are using 256 levels of Red, Green, and Blue in various combinations called a “build”. You can think of the color-build as a recipe for that specific color.

Intermediate colors result from builds using two or more colors.

Intermediate colors result from builds using two or more colors.

Collectively the color channels are nothing more than a representation of those recipes. And when the recipes for all the pixels are put together in the right order, we have our color image. Viewing our color channels is effectively changing the way your cook-book is organized. So rather than finding the recipe for the pixels on one page of your cook-book, your color cook-book has three pages, one each for Red, Green, and Blue. The Red page tells you how much red to use and where, the same goes for the Green page and the Blue page.  So in our example above if we assume that each colored square represents 1 pixel, the Red page would tell us the first pixel would have 255 red, the second pixel would have 68 red and the third pixel has 126 red. The Green page would read: 1=128 and 2=68 and 3=0 and so on for the Blue page.

Photoshop shows us these channels in a way that our minds can easily process: as images. We can grasp the concept of images much easier than looking at the potentially millions to billions of numbers required for single image. Photoshop’s default is to show you these images as various shades of gray (256 possible shades to be exact). Here is what our example above looks like as color channels:

Red Channel

Red Channel

Green Channel

Green Channel

Blue Channel

Blue Channel

 

 

 

 

 

Where the build calls for zero of a color, that channel represents the area as black. Where it calls for all of that color, it is represented in the channel view as white. All intermediate values show up as the appropriate shade of gray.

 

Real World Examples

This image is pretty much straight out of a raw conversion. The file has been optimized in the conversion to make sure that none of the channels contain either pure black or pure white. This is to mimic the way the eye naturally sees. We’ll compensate for its somewhat flat appearance when we show you how to optimize your files without damaging your color fidelity.

copyright John G Harris

Full color view. This is called the “composite” view.

Here is the view of the red channel, remember lighter areas indicate more red, darker indicates less:

copyright John G Harris

Red channel contents.

Here are the Green and Blue channels, you can click them for larger viewing:

Copyright John G Harris

Green channel contents.

Copyright John G Harris

Blue channel contents.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notice that the lighter areas of the scene show as lighter in all three channels, and the darker areas of the image are darker in all three channels. You can also see that the areas of the image that are green show as brighter in the green channel in relation to the other two.

Also, all three channels have complete detail from shadows to highlights, nothing is lost. This is critical for full color fidelity. This full range of detail is essentially how channels should be. When channels look muddy or if there is “clipping” to full black or full white, there is a loss of color fidelity. I use channel views regularly to examine the state of a file’s “health”. If the file’s channels are not right, then I know right away I can’t generate the best possible print.

It is key to understand that in an RGB color space, a channel is both color and density information. Any change that you do to a channel will affect the color, saturation and density of your file. If you increase any value in a color channel, let’s say moving the red value of an area from 180 to 185, the resulting color will be more red and lighter.

See, no mystics required.

Reach out in the comments below with questions and comments.

Your Social Media Avatar Could be Killing Your Business

Self-portrait by the depicted Macaca nigra female. See article. (Daily Mail) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Self-portrait of a female Celebes crested macaque (Macaca nigra) in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, who had picked up a photographer’s camera and photographed herself with it

Selfies, party-snaps, cell phone shots, vacation pics, cartoons or just pain “gnarly looking”. This pretty much sums up the bulk of the avatars you’ll see on-line today. For your Facebook page, where you are primarily sharing with family and friends, that might be fun. But for your business related accounts a quality head-shot is not just a good practice. A proper head-shot is becoming critical to the online survival of your business. Since fourth-quarter of 2013, what we do online is becoming increasingly watched and evaluated by the software that drives Google Search. Code-named “Hummingbird”, the new technology being employed evaluates what we put online – our text, videos. audio, and pictures are all being examined for its content. The software can “hear” what is said and “see” what is in a photo. What’s found in your content is then evaluated for its subject matter, type of content, and the tone of voice used. What results in the end is a quality score – essentially a “grade”. What Google is attempting to do is give the highest quality search results to its users. This scoring method effectively eliminates the keyword strategies we used to adhere to for getting good search rankings.  The new system no longer needs keywords to understand what you are talking about. It’s smart enough to get the meaning – or semantics – of your content without the use of keywords. In other-words, according to a 2013 PUBCON keynote address by Matt Cutts of Google, I can write a blog-post about photography, and even if I never use the words: photograph, photography, photographer, or photo, Google will still know what the topic is because of the words I use or who I mention that are related to the craft.  When fully activated, this system will stop looking for words that match what you are searching for, and will look only at the general meaning of your search.

Giving credit where it’s due.

Okay, I get it, right now your likely asking: “Why all this search engine stuff, I thought this was about the picture I use on-ine?”  Well – it is, and all of the search engine stuff is a just a beginning to explain why your head-shot quality is important to your business survival. Gone are the days that your head-shot was just so humans could recognize you. Google wants to make sure that any good content you create is appropriately credited to you, and someone else’s junk content is associated with them and NOT you.  According to video interview featuring Mark Traphagen of Stone Temple Consulting: part of how Google identifies your content is through facial recognition of your head-shot, and partly through other technical means – and the latter can lead to mistaken Identity. The better the headshot – the better the chances they will know it’s you while no head-shot at all could result in failure. This is not to say that your mug is the only way they know it’s you, but it ups the odds for accuracy. To keep things working smoothly, it’s recommended that you use the same avatar across all your social media accounts.

Who you are matters.

The first step in your customer’s buying cycle is to recognize they have a need. The second step is to learn how to meet that need – and preferably through doing business with you. Almost all the information gathering about a business, service or product starts on the web, and now, the great majority of it begins with a search engine. The search results delivered to the user is moving away from how well our website is optimized for keywords and towards deep dependency on what really matters to people: your reputation on the internet and what the user is actually looking for.  How you present yourself online – i.e. the good and the bad of what you post, is added or subtracted to what others are saying about you in conversation and online reviews, to generate a reputation score.  As David Amerland, author of the book Semantic Search so perfectly stated in an online broadcast via Google+:  It’s a shame that it took software to make us behave online, but that’s the truth of what is happening.
And behave you should – assuming you care about the future success of your business. Google no longer sees your business as separate from you, but rather your business AS you. Post a ton of negativity on the web and your business can suffer as a result. All things that lead to you, or anyone that Google knows for sure contributes to your business website, blog, social media, etc. may be factored into your business’ online reputation scores. And you certainly don’t want a mistaken identity tarnishing your hard-earned reputation.

It’s all about you, and it always has been.

Increasingly your personal brand will factor into your business or your employ-ability.  Prospective customers and employers are looking to social media and the web to learn about you before giving the green light to proceeding any further with you. It’s really just a matter of time before software emerges that can give the user a reasonably accurate estimate of your reputation score – along with those with whom you are competing. I estimate that soon your personal brand will carry as much weight or more than your résumé when decision time comes. If you change companies, your score goes with you, while your companies score remains with them. Your score could some day soon become a marketable benefit to hiring you.
Recognition for a company comes in the way of their logo, or a distinct appearance of their products. For you, this recognition comes in the way of your face. So in the very same way that a business keeps the same “visual identity” across all of it’s marketing, so should you. And just as well designed identity-package is important to a brand to build buyer trust, so is a well done head-shot important for your personal brand.

Expectations

Presently the generally accepted suggestions are this:

  • Show your entire face, no close cropping.
  • Both eyes are clearly visible.
  • Good quality lighting – no direct sunlight and no back-lighting – soft light is great.
  • The background is simple, of low contrast and clutter free.
  • Selfies are just a bad idea if you want to elicit trust in your prospect.
  • The picture should look like you. Yes it sound crazy, but we’ve all seen avatars that look little to nothing like the person when you meet them face to face.
  • Hats, scarves, sunglasses are all strongly discouraged.
  • Logos, text and other graphics are not visible.

 

A good head-shot is not out of reach for the budget-minded

Some pro’s will offer a discount to shoot your entire office or team in the same session. If you are a solo-preneur, call a pro and find out how many people you need to get a discounted rate and then call your friends, associates, or work out some other way of getting the minimum numbers you need. I suppose you could have your Ol’ Uncle Joe take the shot with your cell phone, but let’s be real, we can ALL tell the difference between a shot done by a “friend” and one done by a seasoned pro. You can bet your prospective customer can too. Purchasing only happens when the buyer has confidence. A not-so-great shot doesn’t exactly scream “You can trust me to do my best for you”.

Easy and Inexpensive Tips for Better Video Meetings

BadVideoInMonitor

So there you are, trying to video conference with the a client, vendor, investor, or mom and your video feed, well…. stinks. Nothing makes a bad impression like a bad impression.  I recommend that you always test your video setup a couple hours before you need to go live, making sure your webcam is working and the picture looks good. And just in case you need to call your tech support team or fix it yourself. Here are some basic and straight-forward things you can do to make sure a working system performs well.

 

Keep it clean!

Lens cleaner and microfiber are your friend. Get a cleaning kit from your local optician and keep your web-cam clean. Spray solution on the microfiber NOT on the camera. Gently remove junk and dust. The lens on your webcam is super tiny, so even a small spec of dust, lint or hair can have a major impact on image quality. Finger prints are worse, and can make your video look like it was shot through plastic bags – yuck. Leave the soft focus effect to Glamour Shots.

Can they hear you over all that noise?

Use a separate mic and turn off sources of background noise. The built-in mic on your laptop will

Head-worn mics sound much better than built-in computer mics and aren't as noise prone as a lavalier.

Head-worn mics sound much better than built-in computer mics and aren’t as noise prone as a lavalier.

likely pick up a great deal of background noise including the sound of your voice echoing off your walls. An inexpensive lavalier (Lapel clip style) mic can be plugged directly into the mic input of your computer. USB podcast mics can be reasonably priced if you don’t need portability. Head-worn mics are super the best of both worlds and unlike the lavalier, they won’t pick up the sound of your clothing as you move about.

When possible, use ear-buds instead of computer speakers. The sound from your speakers will be picked up by your mic and can lead to echos , feedback, or muddiness in your audio. Cheap ones can be purchased at the dollar stores but they’re not so good on your ear health. Be good to your hearing and invest in the best you can afford.

You can also get a head-set that has both head-phones and a boom mic. These are available from bulky down to slim and lightweight. Go light-weight if you’re not into that 80’s air-traffic-controller look.

A combo headset like this is portable, sounds great and can eliminate back-gound noise and echos

A combo headset like this is portable, sounds great and can eliminate back-gound noise and echos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heloooo? Is anybody there? It’s important to use sufficient lighting.

CFL’s run cooler than halogen and incandescent.In low-light conditions, your camera has to amplify the signal it sees and this results in noise that looks like graininess, ugly color and lack of sharp focus. This get’s worse with lesser quality webcams. The light coming from your monitor should not be considered sufficient.  A minimum of two 60-watt equivalent lamps within 6 feet of your face is a good starting point. A couple of cheap Harbor Freight or hardware-store clamp-on work-lights – one pointed directly at you and one bouncing light off the ceiling can create a soft and pleasing look. Use compact fluorescent bulbs since they run cool and won’t heat up your office.

Avoid back-lighting else you look like a talking silhouette with glowing edges. This type of lighting can also create havoc with the auto-exposure systems in your camera that can result in a visual pulsing that will serve quite well to annoy your viewers.

Inexpensive and available from tool and hardware stores. The larger the reflector, the softer the light. Get better light by using two or more.

The bigger the reflector the softer the light. A 10.5″ dish is better than a 6″ dish. You can also paint the interior white to soften the light a bit more. This will help reduce pore detail and the visibility of wrinkles too! Not that any of us are actually concerned about such things…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yeah okay but those work-lights look terrible in my carefully designed office. What then?
Ikea has some great looking work lights in both clamp, table and floor options.

Certainly a step-up from the look of a shop light. Would also make a great background light.

 

Nicely styled clamp light. Moves easy and clamps about anywhere. Larger reflector provides a decent light. Point one at you and bounce the light of the other off an opposite wall for great looking light.

 

Part of the same Ranarp series, this could easily be combined with a couple of clamp-ons to create some fantastic light for your video sessions.

 

China Ball style lantern from Ikea for wrap-around soft light

China Ball style lantern from Ikea for wrap-around soft light

In the professional video world there exists a type of light called the “China Ball”. Inspired by the round paper lanterns of China, these cast a omni-directional light that is super soft, very flattering and somewhat mimic the look of a professional soft-box except they throw the light everywhere – not in just one direction. The lighting is not inspiring from an artistic cinemagraphic point of view, but the lights look nice in the home or office. The lanterns are intended to be hung from the ceiling pendant-style and can be found at Ikea and import stores for around $5. http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/70103410/ These are just the lanterns. You will also need a light kit that includes socket, cord and built-in switch. http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/70103410/

Ikea has many stylish lighting options that mimic the china ball for under $20
Floor: http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/categories/departments/living_room/10731/?priceFilter=true&minprice=7&maxprice=20
This model allows for both bounce and direct lighting in one. It is a torchiere with a side light mounted on a gooseneck that can be pointed where you like.
Table:
http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/70096377/
and
http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/40172462/

 

Quality video streaming also requires a good network, fast internet and a computer that isn’t running at a crawl. For more tips on improving your video chats, check out the post: Improving Your Google Hangout Experience.

Do you have some tips you would like to share? You can show your stuff and help others by adding your ideas to the comment stream below.

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