Don Komarechka is a nature, macro and landscape photographer located in Barrie, Ontario, Canada. From auroras to pollen, insects to infrared, much of Don’s photographic adventures reveal a deeper understanding of how the universe works. Exploring the world that we cannot see with our own eyes has been a common thread in Don’s career as a professional photographer.
Don teaches workshops in the areas of nature photography and macro photography, as well as photographic editing and creative compositions.
WordPress/Photography Related News:
- NextGEN Pro release with direct to Pro Lightbox and a fun cart menu icon.
- The WordPress support forum under construction. It's open for new threads, but it looks ugly. Don’t mind their mess as they finalize the changes.
- We published a page builder comparison to help photographers decide which is best for each individual.
- ManageWP Acquired by GoDaddy
- Snowflake 20 Dollar Coin (Canadian)
- Outdoor Photography Canada
- Princeton workshop
Where to find Don:
Scott: Welcome to episode 23. My name is Scott Wyden Kivowitz, and I'm joined by my co-host, Rachel, from FotoSkribe. Hey, Rachel.
Rachel: Hey Scott, how are you?
Scott: I'm doing well.
Don: Hey, hey, hold on Scott. Rachel doesn't have a last name; you get a last name, but she doesn't?
Scott: Good point.
Rachel: Yeah, I like it.
Scott: That's funny, yeah, that is funny so, Rachel Conley, from FotoSkribe. The last episode was great; we talked to Jasser, and oddly enough I was just talking to Don earlier, before we started recording, about Jasser so that just totally slipped my mind that he was the last guest. That was a great conversation but this week we have Don Komarechka, did I get that right?
Don: You did.
Scott: All right, cool. I always worry that I'm going to get that wrong but, you know, anyway.
Don: I saw you spelled it out phonetically in the show notes.
Scott: Of course, of course, I like to do that. Especially when the names are hard. Everybody gets my name wrong too. Don is a nature, macro, and landscape photographer and he's located in Barrie, Ontario, in Canada.
Scott: Barrie, okay.
Don: You got my name right, at least, so you get points for that.
Scott: Yeah, so Don likes photographing auroras, pollen, insects, infrared, and especially snowflakes. Now, if you are not watching the video I'm holding up his book right here so if you're not watching the video you should watch the video because I just showed the book. Much of Don's photographic adventures reveal a deeper understanding of how the universe works. Exploring the world that we cannot see with our own eyes has been a common thread in Don's career as a professional photographer and he teaches workshops in the areas of nature photography, macro photography, as well as photographic editing and creative compositions. You'll learn a little bit about his workshops that he's got coming up later on when we ask him what's going on in the world of Don and we've got some really cool stuff.
Rachel: In the world of Don.
Scott: Yes, in the world of Don, so I've known Don for many years now through social media and different places but we've never chatted face to face until today so this is really fun and as it turns out there's a chance that we might get to meet face to face very soon. That's really exciting, and I would do well to point out that this is the last episode we are recording with Google Hangouts On Air, because they're actually getting rid of Google Hangouts On Air, switching them to YouTube Live so we are either going to be using Skype or YouTube Live for future episodes to record. If you notice that the video, the look of the video is different in the past few episodes it's because we are experimenting with different methods of recording, trying to find what works best for us. Okay.
Rachel: Yep, yep. Welcome Don, we're excited.
Don: Yes, thank you.
Rachel: For clarification, we talked a little bit about macro, are you solely macro for your nature stuff or do you do all sorts [inaudible 00:03:07]
Don: Oh, I do all sorts of stuff, like I love astrophotography, and night sky stuff. I do a lot of infrared landscape work and so you know that then, of course, is in the nature realm. I'm most known for my macro work, I will say that and that includes snowflakes, water droplet refraction's, and other kind of magical subjects within the macro area.
Don: If I could put my photography under one sort of umbrella term it would be the unseen world, the stuff you can't see with your own eyes and so macro is a big part of that, but there are other things in there as well.
Scott: Like infrared, you can't see with your own eyes, so it's a really good.
Rachel: I love that.
Scott: Yeah, that's a great way to put it. Before we dive into what's going on with you, because you've got some really cool stuff in the works, and to share. I want to share three bits of WordPress photography related news. The first one is NextGEN Pro, the premium version of our NextGEN Gallery plugin at Imagely. We just released a new update to NextGEN Pro with two cool features. One is direct to Pro Lightbox, it's basically you can have albums with gallery's in them and then when you click on a gallery within an album, instead of it going to a gallery it actually opens the Pro Lightbox with that gallery in it. That was a very popular request so we added that. Then a new cart menu icon, so if you add a photo to a cart you can have it show up in your navigation menu with a little shopping cart icon and optionally have a dollar value put with that, and also optionally have it only show if there's items in the cart versus all the time. That's a really cool feature.
Rachel: Is that native or does that integrate with WooCommerce?
Scott: That is native to NextGEN Pro.
Rachel: Awesome. That's great.
Scott: Then the other thing I want to mention is the WordPress support forum, so if you're trying to find support on a theme or a plugin in the WordPress.org support forum, it's under reconstruction and it's kind of a mess. It's kind of like a store that is going under construction but they stay open and they put signs that say pardon our mess while we're open. That's pretty much what it looks like right now, it's kind of just, it looks like the support forum went back in time and removed everything that was visually appealing about it but it's on purpose because they are trying to improve on it.
Scott: I don't understand the method to this madness, but it's supposed to be better for everybody in the long run. It's just been over a week like this, which is ...
Rachel: I feel like they do this WordPress, the WordPress community does this for core updates too. We just don't see it because it's usually on the code side where this is a very visual, on-going thing, you know, you can see it.
Scott: Yeah, so basically what they're doing is there's a plugin called bbPress which used to a separate open source software but now it's just a plugin for WordPress. It's a forum plugin and that's what they use for their support forums but they are updating bbPress to the latest version and then filing it for the WordPress website. That's basically what's happening, it's just right now it's got no styling so it looks really ugly so don't mind the mess. The last bit is we just published a huge comparison, we know so many listeners and viewers of this podcast are interested in page builders, and so we partnered with Corey Potter from Fuel Your Photos and did a very comprehensive comparison of all the different popular, I shouldn't say all the page builders, all the popular page builder plugins out there to help photographers decide which is best for each individual. It's not saying this is best, or this is best and you should have used this. It's literally comparing, showing data behind the comparisons.
Rachel: Yeah, it's really comprehensive.
Scott: Yeah, so and then we got requests to add a couple of others so I'm waiting for new updates for Divi and new updates from Beaver Builder and then I'm going to be doing four new tests. The new Divi the new Beaver Builder and then two others that have requested to be added, so that'll be updated over and over again, I think as time goes by. That's the news.
Scott: Yeah, so Don, it's your turn.
Scott: I'm excited for this. Why don't you tell everybody, first? What do you want to talk about first, your workshops, or the other?
Rachel: All right, so Scott and Don are dying to say something. They didn't even tell me, so go ahead guys, what is it?
Don: All right, well, Rachel, you've admired my work with snowflakes before, right? You mentioned that before we started broadcasting and so there's a really fun announcement that I can finally make with regards to that. One of my images has been adapted and basically made into Canadian currency.
Don: I have one of my snowflakes that are featured on a limited edition twenty dollar, pure silver, coin that is currently available for sale through the Royal Canadian Mint and any of their post offices and things usually carry them as well. The mintage is only six thousand, which is relatively low for a limited edition coin, so it's fun. They put a glittering enamel on top of it to make it shimmer and sparkle like when you change angles of, you know, looking at a real snowflake you would actually see.
Don: That's fun. I'm excited for that, and I'm assuming that they are shipping now because it's not like it's a pre-order on their website, so I'm honored, I'm excited, I'm thrilled that my work is now immortalized on currency.
Rachel: That is amazing, I mean, truly as a photographer you know you have goals of printing in a book and quality, but that is like a whole other stratosphere, right? Wow.
Scott: Isn't that cool?
Rachel: Hopefully you have a whole bunch to collect and you know give to your kids and ...
Don: Yeah, well, they don't give them to me. I have to buy them and ...
Don: I mean, if you design a coin because the Canadian Mint does ... Some of them sell for like sixty thousand dollars, so you're not just going to hand one over to the designer as sort of par for the course.
Don: If they can't give every designer a coin they give none of them coins and if you want them, yeah, you know, the purchase price. The sticker price is twenty dollars, like on the coin, like that's its currency value.
Don: The cost to purchase one is over a hundred bucks Canadian, due to pure silver nature and everything.
Don: I've ordered a few, absolutely, but I don't know if I'll be able to be handing them out like candy at that price.
Rachel: No, no, it would definitely be something to save.
Scott: For anybody who was listening to the podcast, if you want to watch the video portion, I just screen shared the page where you can actually preview and then purchase the coin. We'll also link to them in the show notes as well if you want to check it out. It's so exciting, I know I'm going to be picking up one because that's one of those things that first of all, it's going to be rare and then second, you know, when it's a photographer that you admire and you know, first of all, you know, when you compare the book with the coin, that's like, it's just awesome, you know. It's like I'm proud of you for you.
Don: Well, thank you, Scott. I appreciate that. No, it's been a long time running. I mean, I've been working with the Mint in various fashions that I can't necessarily describe because of non-disclosure agreements for a long time and to have this as a final product that I can announce my involvement in. I am very happy about that.
Rachel: The fact is that it's a direct image that you created, you know?
Don: It's got my initials on it too.
Rachel: That's awesome, so the question that I've been dying to ask is you, you know, you focus a lot on the quality of your prints and making sure that your art is represented not only by the creation but then by the reproduction, and how does that translate to your website and how when people come to view your work?
Don: With my work, and it's my website, it's my social media posts, it's part of my brand. I don't just share my images, I share the story behind my images. I share a bit of a narrative about how they were created, why they were created, you know, the challenges that were faced with that particular image or just the details of the photograph. If you go through my website you'll notice that there's a few paragraphs, or at least a few sentences, on every single image that's there to give some background information. Some of them will even have behind the scenes images alongside the finished product just to give people as much information on the photo as they can. I've found that a lot of my work is better enjoyed when people have a greater understanding of it. I was recently working with the BBC Science on a documentary, a series, called Forces of Nature and I did a lot of footage throughout the series but also my footage of a freezing soap bubble is used in the title card sequence of that documentary.
The words immediately preceding that, spoken by Dr. Brian Cox, are, "The world is beautiful to look at but it's even more beautiful to understand." I think that that comes through with a lot of my work as well where looking at it as just a photograph is wonderful, but there is a secondary level of beauty that comes in when you understand what it is and that just adds a lot more value to it. I make sure that I create as much of that feeling as I can with my work everywhere that I share it.
Rachel: Yeah, that's wonderful, so I'm assuming you are on WordPress?
Don: Yes, so WordPress is the backbone of every website that I've ever designed going back to some of the earliest versions of WordPress. Some of my very earliest websites might have used other CMS engines but as soon as WordPress was discovered, in its infancy, then everything was like a magnet towards that. I've designed my own websites but like I've built other websites like the Outdoor Photography Canada website which is a magazine that I write for in every issue. I designed their website based on WordPress as well and it's just really fun because even if you don't know how to do something, all you have to do is figure out the glue to stick different things together.
Don: You don't have to create any of the pieces. Like, we have paid photo contests where people pay a very nominal fee to enter the contest, and I was like okay well how do I do that, there's no plugin for that? Using WooCommerce to then make somebody buy something, when they buy something it adds them to a group, and then you can use that group as a filter to figure out if they've paid for the contest, and only if they're in that group then use a little bit of php code to show them the contest upload form, and so on and so forth. Yeah, WordPress is key to just about everything that I do.
Scott: Isn't it amazing that you tried to, you wanted to do one task and even though the plugin that you needed didn't exist from you know using another plugin and an extension and then another thing, it was a lot of work in the back end to make it happen but now in the front end, it's seamless?
Don: It's seamless, nobody can tell what's going on in the back end. It's like okay, I click this button to pay and then, oh, well now I've got this wonderful form to upload my stuff.
Rachel: You don't have to be a professional coder, you're a professional photographer, but yet this is something that you can figure out.
Don: Yeah, well I mean I do have, like I've dabbled in coding. I've got some of my formal education is technically in software development.
Rachel: Well that helps.
Don: I'm a bit of a ringer in that regard, but I flunked out of that program and then graduated from advertising instead. My formal education has been all over the place and had nothing to do directly with photography.
Rachel: How long, you mentioned you've been working with WordPress since it's infancy, how long have you been doing photography as a business?
Don: Let's see, I got my first camera in 2007, so that's less than ten years since I've actually been learning photography. I would say that professionally I've been pursuing it for about six years now.
Rachel: Okay, and then where did it correlate in with the growth of your photography business into the growth of what WordPress was becoming? Did those work together or was it sort of like a step and a grow, and a step and a grow?
Don: Yeah, well I had originally done a photo blog which still exists somewhere, I think. I mean I haven't updated it in, I don't know, four or five years. That was one of the first inceptions of using WordPress to promote my photography, and I found some really interesting plugins at the time. I was, geez, what was I doing? My wife and I in 2009 we traveled across Europe, just backpacked and what have you, and I would log in and post photos and some narratives to that. Afterward, I had a little GPS Geo Tracker that was just sort of in the camera bag, pulling down geo-location information, this is before GPS' were you know attachable to cameras in a convenient way.
Then I geotagged all the images from that entire trip and then I found a way using some weird Google Maps plugin to put them as like little thumbnails on a map and so you can kind of have a breadcrumb trail of that kind of going through the entire thing. That was fun, and I enjoyed trying to figure that out, that was my first real dive into making WordPress do strange things. It took a bit of work but it was possible, and I realized right then that this is the platform that is basically infinitely scalable for whatever idea you have.
Don: You get the idea . First, that's the hard part, and then you do a plugin search, and maybe there is one that exists for you, maybe there isn't, maybe you've got to glue different pieces together but now that ecosystem is so well developed.
Don: One of my customers, they've got a website, and they are using Joomla for it, and I just do a facepalm.
Don: That's, and I mean they are using an antiquated version that can't be updated unless they completely redesign their website and so there're security holes, and I'm like, okay that's just bad. I feel sorry for you, I weep for you, start over from scratch.
Rachel: That's common to photographers too, I think. I mean I interact mostly with the wedding and portrait photographer, but I think being on these legacy systems and then needing to grow their business. If they are not on WordPress they get stuck somewhere, they get to a point where they can't go any further, and then they have to redo it. I just think it's such a relevant topic for photographers, like getting the WordPress on premium.
Don: Exactly, it was so funny because I thought okay well, we were just doing an email exchange me and this guy with this Joomla website. I figured well I'd just send him a link to find him a tutorial to upgrade the website. That should be easy to do, well, no, you have to update to the latest version in that series, then they say back up everything, of course, but they say this with a much stricter warning than I've ever seen before. Then you have to upgrade the database from that version to another version, restart the website, reinitialize it, then back everything up there, and then do it to another version which brings it up to the current standard. These steps are like fifteen steps within each of these and then from there you are on the current track and then you have to do a subversion update. I'm like, no, that's not.
Rachel: I'm just going to mention that's Joomla, not WordPress.
Don: Yeah, that's Joomla, yeah, nobody's going to do that. Has to be broken.
Scott: That is why that website is so out of date.
Don: Exactly, yeah.
Rachel: Then it just cascades in on itself because you go farther and farther out of date, and it's just like when do you just do it? Just take the plunge and redo it, you know?
Scott: You know, and that's one of the reasons that WordPress started doing forced updates for certain versions.
Scott: You know, when there's a major security issue that they're actually forcing the update so that you've got no choice and a lot of plugins are doing it now too.
Rachel: It didn't start because users weren't updating, although they weren't, but it was the ones who had started a blog, had started a website and then forgotten about it, so they were just sitting on servers somewhere you know with no real content and not getting updated.
Scott: It wouldn't surprise me if it was the host that actually petitioned for that to be implemented, you know the actual hosting companies. Speaking of hosting companies, something interesting happened and I guess it should have been added to the news so I'm just going to backtrack real quick because this actually happened, I think was announced yesterday or two days ago. ManageWP.com which is a website and a service to actually manage multiple sites, run backups, do SEO scans, to update plugins and themes and WordPress remotely. You can even do it from your phone, really great software that a lot of WordPress consultants and businesses use for their clients, that system, that service was just purchased by GoDaddy.
Rachel: Oh, interesting,
Scott: GoDaddy's plan is to leave it separate because manageWP has such a loyal following GoDaddy doesn't want to risk, this is actually my perspective on this. GoDaddy doesn't want to risk you know hurting the loyal customer base for manageWP. They're leaving manageWP separate, as a separate entity, but they are also creating basically a duplicate of it to integrate into their own GoDaddy Pro hosting.
Scott: GoDaddy Pro customers are basically going to have manageWP for free, which is a nice service for them.
Rachel: Yeah, well, we've talked a lot about hosting. Don, where are you on that, I mean, again you have this unusual sort of software and computer background to your photography, you know, what do you recommend for photographers who are just starting out?
Don: I use HostGator as my hosting company, and they've been pretty rock solid reliable. Unlimited storage, unlimited bandwidth, unlimited domains and etc. for that. I've been with them for a long time, and they've given me no reason to change. I also personally know their CTO, so you know. I remember at one point I had some sort of malware infestation years ago, and I said, "Hey Dave, can you take a look at this?" Like, he had engineers on it within seconds, and I'm like okay, that's fantastic. That's not an inside track that most people get access to.
Don: Later on, because he's a busy guy and I can't put in those requests anymore, I just contact them if I have an issue. Say, you know I gap, an SSL certificate expires, and I'm like, oh snap, I need that fixed right away. They've been pretty good at immediately rectifying the situation just by their chats and whatever, so I have good luck with them. I use Hover predominately now for my domain registrations; they're just easy, and they don't try to oversell me on things.
Scott: They're a Canadian company.
Don: They are a Canadian company, so I'm happy to support local whenever possible. That makes it relatively easy, those two companies, you know, HostGator now has enhanced services for WordPress websites as well. If you are only doing WordPress, then they tailor make their server software to just basically knock it out of the park when you are using WordPress. Yeah, they've got a lot of good stuff going for them. As far as a photographer or as a visual artist of any kind, you don't want to get bogged down with all that technical stuff, I mean, you just want it to happen, right? I have technical knowledge, so I can't say for sure that somebody without said knowledge would find it as easy as I do, but I think they would.
Scott: Cool, so do you have any advice for fine art photographers, and now I'm not classifying you as a fine art photographer because you're, which it falls into it but it's quite a bit different than the average fine art photography, right? I'm going to say fine art photographer just for the general sense, what type of advice for fine art photographers would you have to try or to just implement on a website? Things that you've done, that you've found effective to reach new audiences, or to sell more prints, or license more photos? What would you recommend for other photographers?
Don: Right, well, I had mentioned earlier that one thing that is a success for me is building that narrative into the image. That's great SEO juice right there as well because now it's not just a photograph, you've got accompanying text that is distinct for that particular page etc. I would say, try to promote your most unique things. Everybody on the planet is a landscape photographer quote unquote, so you're not going to make any waves or splashes being a great landscape photographer even if your images are fantastic the competition out there is just astronomical. While that can be part of your portfolio, try not to build a brand around it because then you'll get lost in kind of the white noise of the internet. That being said, if you've got any unique twist on landscape photography then promote the heck out of that and try to build that into your brand, build that into the front page of your website and promote that predominately more than anything else. Then everything else kind of glues together around it.
Rachel: When you say have a unique, are you thinking more of like specializing, so say I only do barn landscapes, or landscapes of Alaska, is that what you like?
Don: Yeah, exactly, build that into the niche. Maybe you only photograph red barns in Alaska.
Rachel: All right.
Don: I mean, sure, that's really small but I mean I've made waves with me photographing snowflakes, and I've even created a separate website just for that particular work and designed that around a selling experience specifically for snowflakes.
Don: That tends to work very well for me. If you don't have that particular niche, well then, find the unique elements of your landscape photography. Sell them. I mean, where they were taken specifically, that could be a unique quality. The types of trees that might be in that landscape photograph could be a unique quality. You know, and so if you can make sure that some of those words are associated with that work, you know, that that particular species of coniferous tree that happened to be in that image, well maybe somebody is looking specifically for that tree online but nobody is necessarily branding towards that thing. Then you'll find a way for your work to rise up. To a limited audience, yes, but to an audience that is specifically looking for what you have and so there could be some merit to it.
Rachel: Can I ask a technical part of it? Do you recommend, I mean we've talked about Alt tags versus image titles and then you're recommending adding words, where do you add that? Do you add that in the caption portion, do you add that in a blog post? I mean, what do you recommend for a photographer as to where to put those keywords in?
Don: Yeah, so I would have it in the body text predominately. I mean, yes, you could do image tags sure, I mean everything that you could possibly do to improve your SEO is going to be a value to you.
Don: I think that if you put stuff in text that can be read both by a search engine and by a user then that's going to be your double hitter right there because you're both adding value to your SEO but also adding value to the person browsing your website and I can't speak highly enough to that. I mean, sure, a search engine, you can rise to the top of that but then once people are viewing your content an image can speak for itself but in most cases when somebody's browsing your website they want to know a little bit more. If you're not there to tell them and they have no reference for what that image is or why they should care about it then they disappear.
Rachel: I agree, you're speaking my language.
Scott: This is awesome, so before we move into your recommended plugin that you have. I want you to share a couple of things, one being, talk about the book, right? You've got this beautiful book on snowflakes, as we've mentioned a few times already.
Rachel: We should tell you the title if you are not watching.
Don: Yes, Sky Crystals, which can be purchased at skycrystals.ca, by the way, and so you can get a copy of it there, and it's a 304 page, hardcover book on the topic of snowflakes. You might think, "Well how could anybody write so much on the topic such a small thing?" A third of the book is all the photographic techniques that I use to create these images, so there's like a hundred pages dedicated to the equipment, the shooting, and the post-processing, a hundred pages dedicated to the science, why snowflakes form the way that they do, and then a third of it is kind of a coffee table to flip through and enjoy all the different designs that snowflakes can come in.
This was a project that was crowdfunded, and is I blew past my original goal for funding and that allowed me to produce more books, and make the quality better, or so I thought initially, and I was really excited. I sent the book off to the printer and they came to me with a number of recommendations on the file, like okay well this one page has a bleed that is one-sixteenth of an inch not far enough, do you want to fix that? They made like a whole list of small little points on that, but they missed one huge point and they just about destroyed the entire project. That was, the type of press technology that the book was being printed on was incompatible with the content in the book. That might be confusing to some but I'll explain that most of my snowflakes have black backgrounds, and that's a very heavy amount of ink that goes on to those pages.
Don: If you were to print that on a web press, something bad happens. For those that are not familiar with press technology, a web press has a gigantic continuous roll of paper that is under tension that then goes through rollers of the CNYK colors and then it goes through a rapid drying process which uses a heat of some sort to rapidly dry it and then a cutter and then what have you afterwards and then it gets bound and everything else. If you have paper under tension, that has a rapid amount of ink that's applied to it, that is rapidly dried afterward; that will cause the pages to ripple.
The more ink, the more heavy this happens. When it's a very light thing, it's technically called fluting, and it can sometimes go away over time, or it's not very noticeable. With heavy ink content, it looks like water damage and so I get the entire shipment of books to my door, 3000 copies of this book, and every one of them is defective. Talking to the printing company to fix this mistake, because clearly, it's nothing that would have been in my purview to understand, that's outside of my area expertise, but it's exactly in their area of expertise.
Rachel: Why didn't they do quality control before they sent you 3000 books?
Don: I mean, the back part of the book is the one that rippled the heaviest and then it cascaded through the rest of it and they thought that that was the way that it was, and I think I might still have some copies of the original print run just as reference, but the way that that was put together they thought was inside their quality control standards and I thought that it most certainly wasn't. I mean, I'm a perfectionist with what I do, and so I realized that this is going to hurt my brand if I ship this out the way that it currently is. I argued back and forth, and they were basically saying no, you can sell this. I said, "Well, I can't sell it now. You're saying to wait six months for this to settle down, well I don't have that luxury. I need to ship this book out to people right now."
Don: I shipped out a test sample of like fifty or sixty books to people because I knew people were going to come back to me and say, "Hey, Don, I think my book is defective. I think it has water damage," and they did, and so that was my ammunition to bring back to the printer and say, "Okay guys, this is what people are saying about my product. Clearly, this means that I can't be selling this." Finally, there was a few more discussions back and forth and I ended up writing the president of the company directly and they were able to find some sort of a solution for me in which they were able, they were going to reprint the print run on a sheet fed press which their not under tension, they have to dry before you print the other side of it by air, and so it was going to work out well. They said well we'll do that but only if you'll agree to pay the difference in production cost and that was not a small amount of money.
That was, the difference was fifteen thousand dollars, so you know that's out of my pocket, and now I'm delayed to right up against the Christmas window for shipping, so I can't ship anything ground anymore I've got to ship it all air. That cost me probably another five thousand dollars of unexpected expenses, so there're twenty thousand dollars just disappeared to fix a problem, but it's a problem that I needed to fix. I absolutely needed this book to be the best possible product that it could be, and I'm almost completely sold through the first production run.
Scott: The book, for anybody who picks up a copy you're going to see the amount of effort that went into the final, you know, the good copies. Even the, just every photo of the snowflake, of snowflakes, looks three dimensional on the paper. It's the weirdest thing.
Don: Each one of those images took like over four hours on average to put together as a combination of on average about forty separate images and focus stacking.
Scott: Focus stacking, yeah.
Don: I'm sitting there like losing my sanity one snowflake at a time as I'm putting this together. Thankfully though the effort has paid off. I mean, the book, at the end of it, it's a happy ending. It is a success story, and I'm thrilled with that but it was that I'm going to say, it was passion driven. If I did not care about what I was doing, I would not have tried to get it redone, and I would have been happy enough with whatever I had received.
Rachel: I think that's the lesson there, and that's the lesson that you can carry through to anything to do with your brand. Whether it's your website, your prints, your, I mean, the fact that, yes, you had to spend extra money and, yes, it was a considerable amount of extra money but then the fact there, I mean, you just got a minted coin from one of these, you know what I mean?
Don: Yeah, I'll even show my business card too because this card it has spot gloss and foil stamping on the front of it. On the back, it has one of my iconic images, but it's also glossed where the leaves are, and then the snow background is matte. These cards are not cheap to produce; these are fairly expensive, and I buy them in volume to make the cost a little bit better, but they make an impact.
Don: You have to, oftentimes as a visual artist you've got five seconds of somebody's time as a first impression.
Don: That's it, that's all you've got.
Rachel: Yeah, if that.
Don: When I do art shows and things like that, I had somebody come up to me at one of the big art shows that I do, in fact, the only one that I do on a yearly basis. They say, "Hi, I remember you." Then they dug through their wallet, and they pulled out my business card that they had put in there last year and could not throw it away, and so I'm like, okay, I don't expect you to keep my card handy, you know, close to your chest for an entire year but that's a great compliment to the design of that first impression product. Whether that's business card in person or your website, the same attention to detail needs to be given.
Rachel: Yeah, absolutely.
Scott: You don't want to just use a slideshow to use a slideshow, you don't want to use a thumbnail gallery to use the thumbnail gallery. You want to make; you don't want to use you know a certain color scheme just because it is what it is. You want to make sure that whatever it is, it complements your brand, and it compliments your photographs.
Don: I remember I was designing my website, and I used a theme that was designed for photographers and displaying images and then I just tore it open and rebuilt it in the way that I wanted. Not everybody can do that; I understand that, but I looked at the core functionality that it had, and I said okay, yep, I like that now let's make that mine. Let's tweak every single corner of it so that it is representative of me.
Don: It has this really cool thing when you are looking at the images if you move your mouse over one of the images in the gallery, the image moves up and then the title of the image is underneath. Then when you click on to it, it will give you a fuller version of that image plus text on the side, and you can click on to it to see it in the light box. Some of the images will have a secondary box underneath that has a making of photograph that was not compatible with the template in any way because it's breaking the mold of what that is, so I created custom page templates for those specific images that add in the extra code to have the making of image.
Will anybody really appreciate the back end effort? No, but they appreciate the front end look and so that's really what people look at those images and they get inspired by it sometimes to try to make those images themselves, or to take one of my workshops. They see that I am willing to give away all of my secrets, and all of my knowledge is free for people to receive so in essence, I give it all away for free, and then I ask people to pay for it and people are more than willing to sign up for the workshop and learn it in person.
Scott: Yeah, because there's one thing to see a video tutorial or to read a blog post tutorial. It's another thing to actually see the artist do it in front of them. That's a huge learning advantage. Let's dig into real quick because we are getting a little short on time, let's talk about your upcoming workshops because we want people to find, to take them, and then we'll dig into your recommended plugin and then we'll close up for the day.
Don: Sure, so I've got two workshops coming up. I've got one that will be happening after, or sorry, before this airs. This will be airing after a full day seminar that I'm doing in Windsor, Ontario that I call Vision Beyond Seeing. It's a wonderful talk, so much fun, sorry all of you listeners missed it, but in October, I've got. October 8th, I'm in Princeton, New Jersey and I'm doing a full day macro photography workshop. There are still spots available for that one. It's going to be a lot of fun. I don't know how many spots are left, they are filling up, so if you are interested in that look up Princeton photo workshops and I am in their international pro series and so that's coming up October 8th. I'm looking forward to that. Also in October, I'm going to be kind of in your neck of the woods, Rachel, I'll be in Seekonk, Massachusetts, just outside of Providence.
Don: I'll be doing a macro photography conference put on by Mike Moats. It's sold out though so no seats available for that one so I don't know why I'm promoting it but I'm going to be in the US a lot in October and so if you're around those areas let me know and maybe we'll get together for a coffee or something. I know, Scott, you and me maybe going to grab a breakfast or something.
Scott: Yes, yes because I live very close to Princeton, so we're going to meet up hopefully. Okay, so anybody who wants to find out about his future workshops you can click on the subscribe to the newsletter at the bottom of his website.
Don: Yeah, I should have put that in bigger text, but you know what it bugs me so much when I go to a website, and they give me that big pop up saying sign up to the newsletter. Like, I've just been to this website for like two seconds I don't want to sign up to this newsletter, especially when it's being shoved down my throat, thank you. I'm a little bit more subtle with that, but yes, if you want to be kept abreast of my current adventures then click on that link.
Rachel: Do you come stateside often, or are these sort of exceptions to the rule?
Don: These are more exceptions, I mean, Windsor is just like on the border of Detroit, so I go to Southern Ontario quite often, but I'll be in Buffalo in I think it's April for the CanAm Photo Expo. Yes, frequently but not all the time.
Rachel: Yeah, no that's great.
Scott: Yeah cool. Okay, so what is the plugin that you recommend for photographers to check out that you're using in your business, tell us about that?
Don: It may have been mentioned before but it has really allowed me to make a photo business out of my website and that's WooCommerce. I know it's integral to a lot of stuff that a lot of photographers do but if you are not familiar with this it is a brain dead simple e-commerce solution that is unbelievably extensible. I use it for selling books and posters on one website and I use it for booking workshops on another website. I use it, I built it into the Outdoor Photography Canada website for taking subscriptions to the magazine, and for paid contest entries, and for everything else when they sell merchandise like hats and what have you.
I don't have to custom code any of that, if you want a plugin for Canada Post because that's what I use to ship things then that's already written, and it will plugin directly to my Canada Post account for the proper calculations, and everything just happens, it's perfect. It lets me figure out tax rates because when I'm selling a book, I can sell that particular product only charging the GST portion of HST because Ontario tax is weird. I only have to charge 5% tax on that product, but for anything else I have to charge 13% tax, and it just all happened seamlessly. It's so easy, like, in the past I used CartPress, I used ZenCart, and none of those were easy, or convenient, or understandable when you were putting things together.
Don: WooCommerce, I just I fell across it. It was recommended to me, when it was in its infancy as well, by Frederick Van Johnson of the This Week in Photo Network. Frederick said, "Don, you've got to check this out. Stop whatever you are doing with any other e-commerce solution and check this out." I did, and I never looked back, so WooCommerce is my recommendation.
Rachel: It's got the support of the WordPress community behind it, especially Automatic which is that parent company. I think it speaks to what you were just talking about, about giving everything away for free so that when you're ready to pay for it, you know, you're ready to pay for the best.
Don: WooCommerce is free, absolutely. I can't tell you how much I've spent on plugins. I mean, the plugins not that they are necessarily that expensive but the more obscure the plugin the gets, the more expensive it is, and that's just the nature of it. That's fine; I don't mind paying for it because I know it's going to fit in like a perfect piece of the puzzle.
Don: I don't have to do anything, it's just going to fit, it's going to work, and I'm back off to being the creative person that I am, not worrying about all the technical stuff.
Scott: The WooCommerce extensions, they renew every year so if you like, the WooCommerce itself is free, there are a bunch of free extensions for it, but there's a lot of paid extensions as we just said. They are renewed every year and what they do is they give you a discount for each renewal year.
Don: We should say that if you don't renew, your plugin doesn't disappear.
Scott: It'll still work.
Don: You no longer get updates to it, so if there's security patches, or new features, or it becomes incompatible with WooCommerce as a core or WordPress, etc., then you are left in the dust a little bit. You then can say okay well it's time to upgrade this and now that version is not compatible, and you haven't upgraded, well then you pay again, or you keep it updated yearly, and you pay less.
Rachel: It's the cost of doing business, I mean, part of this is, you know.
Scott: It is so cheap, because if you are doing this yourself, the cost of you putting these pieces together is a drop in the bucket compared to what a professional web designer would charge you to do this whole e-commerce roll out for you.
Scott: It's never been cheaper to do this. That's for sure.
Rachel: That's a great way to end. The power of WordPress.
Scott: Yeah, so and, you know, I used to use Easy Digital Downloads for my e-books and presets that I sell and that kind of stuff, and I wind up switching to WooCommerce because the little bit it did extra that Easy Digital Downloads didn't do, it suited my needs for me to sell that. I'm using WooCommerce to sell my e-books, my presets, and my courses and I'm using NextGEN Gallery and NextGEN Pro to sell my photos and license my photos. You can use a lot of different things to do different tasks to make you know your life easier and you can do a lot of things that don't butt heads, that just work side by side.
Scott: The power of WordPress is amazing.
Rachel: That's why we're here.
Don: We're preaching to the choir, though, I mean, people listening to this podcast. They're probably already using WordPress.
Scott: There's actually a lot that listeners that are trying to convert from Squarespace to WordPress.
Don: Oh, okay. Cool.
Scott: They're trying to learn, you know, the different things that they can do to make their lives easier when they convert.
Scott: Anyway, so anything you'd like to add, Don, before we close?
Don: No, I think we kind of covered everything. I've got a lot of stuff in the works right now, some stuff that I've just announced, like that snowflake coin. Some other stuff that I will be announcing shortly. I'm working with like I mentioned, that BBC series just aired and I'm working with Discovery Channel and National Geographic on some projects that I can't talk about yet.
Don: There's lots of fun stuff happening, and I'm really excited for when I can announce those next wonderful projects.
Scott: Oh yeah, I'm looking forward to it. I'm sure everybody else is going to be looking forward to it as well. Thank you, Don, for joining us today. Thank you, Rachel, for being an awesome co-host, and you can find the show notes from today's episode at imagely.com/podcast/23.
Scott: Yes, so until next time.
— Imagely (@imagely) September 15, 2016