Seshu is a father, husband, photographer, and blogger based in Avon, Connecticut. After working at ESPN.com as a photo editor and an Assistant Director of Communications for a prep school in Connecticut, Seshu returned to his photographic roots to create striking but natural portraits of people from all walks of life.
As a blogger, Seshu's Tiffinbox is a labor of love. He seeks to inspire photographers to fearlessly cross the bridge between craft and commerce to ultimately create a sustainable and creative photography business.
WordPress/Photography Related News:
- There is a beta plugin currently in testing and consideration for WordPress 5.0 which will enable front end editing similar to Medium.com. I’ve been testing it and although it has some bugs to work out, it’s beautifully designed.
- WordCamp US is around the corner. It’s the event where Matt Mullenweg does his official State of the Word keynote. Like last year, this one will be held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Next year it will be in a new location. If you haven’t purchased a ticket or can’t attend in Philly, there are live streaming tickets available.
- The 2017 and 2018 WordCamp US events will be held in Nashville
- WordPress 4.7 is around the corner!
- WordPress 4.7 is removing auto generation of ALT text when using the Media Library
- SEO Friendly Images
- Genesis Design Palette Pro
- Social Warfare
- Skip Cohen University
Where to find Seshu:
Scott: Welcome to episode 28. My name is Scott Wyden Kivowitz , and I'm joined by my host Rachel Conley from FotoSkribe. Hi Rachel.
Rachel: Hi Scott, how are you?
Scott: I'm doing well. Last episode was a fun one and I'm really excited to dive into today's episode because we have somebody that I've known for many years on the show and somebody I've respected for many years and happy to call my friend. Somebody that you and I have been working with for some cool stuff here in Connecticut. There should be a lot of cool stuff to talk about, plus there is a lot of news today.
Rachel: I know.
Scott: A lot of news. Today we have Seshu. He is a father, a husband, a photographer and a blogger based in Avon Connecticut. After working at espn.com as a photo editor and assistant director of communications for a prep school in connecticut, Seshu returned to his photographic route to create striking but natural portraits of people from all walks of life. As a blogger, Seshu's Tiffinbox is a labor of love. If you haven't heard of Tiffinbox you'll learn more about it today. It is a fantastic resource for photographers on the internet. Seshu seeks to inspire photographers to fearlessly cross the bridge between craft and commerce to ultimately create a sustainable and creative photography business. Welcome to the show Seshu, we are very happy to have you.
Seshu: Thank you so much for the great introduction. I appreciate it man. It's great to be here.
Rachel: We are very glad to have you. Tiffinbox is definitely a resource that I've gone to many, many times. I'm excited to share with our listeners and then talk about things WordPress and others.
Scott: Before we dig into photography, I just wanted to share, a little backstory on my relationship with Seshu. I've known him for, I don't even know how many years at this point. We met on probably Twitter many years ago if I'm not ...
Seshu: I think you were stalking me yes.
Scott: Yeah, i might have been stalking you on Twitter, I don't know.
Seshu: That's the story yes, or I was stalking you. I don't know.
Scott: Seshu was on my list of photographers that I would want to photograph my wedding. If you haven't seen any of Seshu's wedding photographs you need to check them out. I would say, do you still mostly, the weddings that you still do, do you still mostly do Indian weddings or they are a mixture now?
Seshu: I consider them multicultural weddings. Invariably either the husband or the wife or the bridegroom, whoever, they are from different walks of life. They are not from the same culture. They are usually from different cultures. That usually excites more than anything else.
Scott: The photographs are always so vibrant, so much fun, and that attracted me to his work instantly. I decided that when I was eventually getting married I would want Seshu to photograph it. My wife and I got married in Mexico. We could not afford to bring a photographer with us. Instead of hiring Seshu to photograph the wedding, Seshu did our engagement photos. We went up to Connecticut and spent a weekend there and he photographed us. I was very happy to be able to have somebody that I enjoyed their work to actually hire that person.
Seshu: There you go.
Rachel: I never knew that. I love that. That's awesome. Seshu and I met at Inspire which is a conference, here in the Northeast for photographers, many years ago when it first started. We have sort of grown, I've grown FotoSkribe, and you've grown Tiffinbox along the same trajectory for sure. It's been interesting to watch businesses grow and people grow.
Seshu: I think it's important to state that I've learned from both of you over the years. That's the beauty about all of this is that yes, you may have liked my photography Scott, but every time I look at a resource for WordPress, I'm looking at you. You are my speed dial, I told you that before. Rachel, blogging is such an important part of my life, I look at you and everything that you've done on FotoSkribe, amazing, truly amazing. You haven't done this just for yourself, you have helped many photographers really advance their business in a way that they would have never thought of. Think of it, when I came into the photography business, honestly I remember. I won't mention the name of the photographers but they were telling me, they were spending something like, $5,000-6,000 for ads space in magazines.
Again, I won't mention the magazines either, but it would, it boggled my mind. I was like, "Why are they doing this? There is no way they are tracking any of that stuff? There is no way of knowing how many people are looking at that ad and then calling you and saying, "Hi, I saw you on this magazine, and that's why I'm calling you."" Blogging can do that, and that's why I have a huge amount of respect for both of you for doing what you do. It's a really, it's like a one, two punch on both sides, right?
Seshu: You teach about WordPress, you teach about blogging. Its a great fit.
Rachel: Think of five years ago, ten years ago, those magazines were so much more relevant than they are now, just because of how we consume media. To be a photographer you have to learn the craft, and then you have to keep up with all this other stuff which is so hard because it's constantly changing. We should go right into the WordPress news on that note because we have some big changes.
Scott: Yeah, there is a lot of stuff. Usually we have about like two or three things of news, today we've got I think six or so. The first one is, there is a beta plugin currently in testing, and I've been playing with this, it's in consideration for WordPress version 5.0. This plugin enables frontend editing, tongue twister, similar to medium.com. If you've ever used mediun.com which is a Twitter company, you could basically go to a page or a post that you've made and click edit and the edit right in the front without going to a backend interface.
This plugin which we'll link to in the show notes requires certain things like the REST API. Sorry, that's very advanced but it's another plugin that's not yet fully included in WordPress core but they are slowly bringing it into WordPress core. It requires that and it requires a beta of WordPress, not the current WordPress, in order for that to be used. There is a possibility for being included in WordPress 5.0 which would be brilliant because it would be beautiful, very quick and easy to edit any post or page content from anywhere on the frontend.
Rachel: What level of knowledge of WordPress do you think you have to use for it? It doesn't seem like a beginner thing to me.
Scott: Here is the cool part. You know on the frontend of WordPress normally where you are logged, you've got the admin bar at the top?
Scott: Right now, if you hit edit, while you are on a post, if you hit edit it goes to the backend to the edit post, right? With this plugin installed, when you hit edit you can just edit right inline, it doesn't go anywhere.
Rachel: No, I understand the theory of it, but like installing it and making it work.
Scott: Right now, I would not recommend for any novice to try it, because it's, first of all still beta, I wouldn't use that on a live site. Two, it requires two other things. It requires that plugin, plus the REST API plugin, plus the WordPress beta. I would not recommend anybody to, any novice to try it. I will just say, it's beautiful, it's still kind of buggy, it still needs a lot of work, but it's beautiful and if they do adopt it in the WordPress 5.0, I will be so happy.
Rachel: Definitely [crosstalk 00:07:45].
Seshu: I have a question for you guys. Is this adoption, is that going to be something that comes only because of all of us start pushing WordPress to say, "Hi, you've got to put this in there, because it's going to make our lives easier?"
Scott: Yes and no, basically, the way that WordPress core development works is, people who see a need for something WordPress can develop what they call a, I think they call it like a core plugin which basically is a plugin intended to go on WordPress core. Then, the people who are in charge of that next version of WordPress, because that gets rotated at every version, they actually vote on which will be included. They have meetings to discuss it and then it goes out to be beta tested, which this one is right now. Literally anybody can install it but, it's just a matter of I guess the influencers for that version of WordPress to want to make it happen.
Rachel: They have a really good team structure for each. You would think WordPress 5.0 would be a huge jam.
Scott: It should be.
Rachel: But they really try, each, like 4.7 it has significant increases, 4.8 will have significant increases. They don't only do it on the .0s, they are really good about rotating it through. They try to do two to three updates a year, which is a really rigorous schedule to be on especially on opensource which means anybody can contribute.
Scott: 5.0 should be a pretty significant release because typically the big 1.0, 2.0, 3.0. The big .0s releases usually have some sort of significant change. By the looks of it, 5.0 might be a user interface thing because again one of the biggest complaints to WordPress is it's not as pretty as Square.
Rachel: For sure.
Scott: My guess based on the betas and what's happening right now in WordPress, my guess is 5.0 will be a big user interface improvement.
Rachel: We'll keep an eye on it.
Seshu: To the point that one of the webinar attendees mentioned just a couple of days ago, Scott and I were on a webinar and one of the attendees said, "For a photographer who has no knowledge of coding, how crazy is WordPress?" I think what Scott and I said, it's not that crazy, you just have to get used to the user interface."
Seshu: And this sounds like it might just make it even easier for people like her. That's great.
Rachel: You'd think WordPress is aware of it and that's what they are trying to do, that's where they are trying to go.
Scott: The next bit of news, WordCamp US, the big WordCamp. There is WordCamps pretty much every week all around the work. Once a year is the WordCamp US. It used to be called WordCamp San Francisco. Last year it was Philadelphia because last year was the first year they switched it from WordCamp San Francisco to WordCamp US. This is the one where Matt Mullenweg does his big official State of The Word Keynote. What they did decide to do is WordCamp US will be in the same location for two years and then rotate. This year will be the second year in Philadelphia. I will be there, I know a coworker of mine will be there. I hope others will be there. It's going to be a really fun WordCamp.
Next year it will be in a new location though. Before I get that, if you haven't purchased a ticket for WordCamp Philly you still can, and they are also selling livestreaming tickets. If you can't actually make it to Philly, you can stream the sessions if you really want to that way.
Rachel: Which I recommend. I did that last year and I got the t-shirts. I felt like, I wasn't there, but I was as close to being as you could get.
Scott: This episode of the podcast is actually going to be live on Thanksgiving here in the United States. Next Thursday, one week from today.
Rachel: When is the WordCamp?
Scott: WordCamp is December 2nd. Tickets might be a little bit tighter at that point. I think the livestreaming, I don't think they have a cap on it.
Rachel: I don't think so.
Scott: You better do that. Speaking of WordCamp US, next year, they just announced, 2017-2018 will be held in Nashville. I would like to attend that. We'll see what happens.
Rachel: That would be awesome.
Scott: That would be awesome.
Rachel: Isn't Imaging in Nashville normally too?
Scott: Yeah, I think it's in Nashville this year, Imaging. The photo conference.
Rachel: And they have been in the past. It's a good place to have a conference is what I hear.
Seshu: It's a good party town but it's also known for its technology. It's really a good make up.
Rachel: And music, it's very well known for music.
Seshu: Music, absolutely.
Scott: The last two bits of news are kind of related. One is, WordPress 4.7 is around the corner. Right now, 4.7 beta 4 is out, which means the first RC version will be out very soon. Basically its a release candidate, it's post-beta, this is going to be a final release where they fine tune and more people will wind up using it and find more bugs. They usually do a release candidate in 1, 2, and 3 or so, depending on bug finds, and then it gets released. Expect WordPress 4.7 very soon. There is not any major changes except for the next bit of news that I think is super important for photographers to know.
This will be a good conversation. WordPress 4.7 is removing auto-generation of alt text when you use the media library. Currently, if you upload a photo that you did a title or a caption inside of light room and you upload that into WordPress, right now, pre-WordPress 4.7, it will automatically fill in the alt text for SEO purposes, for that image, based on either the title or description or caption of whatever is included in the metadata that WordPress can see.
Rachel: For photographers this was a good thing because you could rename your images to include the keywords like wedding at Boston and then the name of your photography company and then those keywords would automatically go up into the alt text to be used positively for SEO without you having to do those extra steps.
Scott: There is some positives and negatives to this. The positive is that screen readers for people who need the computer screen to be read to them, somebody who is blind for example.
Rachel: With a disability.
Scott: With a disability, the screen reader would all the text in the page and then read the image. The image, which might have an automated, alt text generation. If all it is a keyword.
Rachel: It doesn't tell you what it is.
Scott: It doesn't tell you what it is.
Rachel: Which is what the alt text was built for.
Rachel: The change is good for what the alt text is built for not so good for the SEO purposes that it's been pulled into using by Google, and what we as photographers rely so heavily on.
Scott: Correct. The downside is, I said 4.7 it will not automatically fill in, and if you are not paying attention and just inserting the image, your image would have no alt text.
Seshu: You know what? This is really interesting to me because you know this, I have a couple of Squarespace sites as well, and we have the same sort of issues going on at Squarespace. It's interesting how WordPress is going in this direction though. I don't know, I'm a little on the fence about this. I like the idea of having to manually add my own keywords into the alt text space but if it's once and done, I think most people will like it. Would it have been easier and simpler a path to just tell people how to do or how to use alt text tags rather than to do this kind of sort of going around thing?
Scott: Yeah, there is two solutions or a few solutions to this. One is, learn about alt text. Learn about the importance of it. As somebody, as a website owner, as a photographer who has a website, you need to learn about alt text. It is extremely important and yes you want a keyword in there but you also want it to be accessible.
Rachel: I agree with that and I think the owners isn't necessarily on us as business owners or photographers as business owners but why is Google pulling that and using it for SEO when the original purposes is truly for screen readers and for people with disability? I think the system is broken. You want to raise higher for SEO and you want to be, and so we are learning all these tips and tricks. In the conversation between Squarespace and WordPress, this was a big boon for WordPress in terms of photographers who are like I said, just have a thousand things on their plates. It's one last thing they have to do, where in Squarespace you did have to manually update it. Now you have to manually update it in WordPress. I really have mixed feelings about it because it's just one last thing that photographers had to do and now you have to do it.
Scott: I will say that there is a plugin, there is a few plugins out there that are made for image SEO. I had to come up with, think of the name, I think it's just SEO image optimizer or something like that. My guess is that plugin will be updated to bring that feature back, to order generate. That's my guess because right now its purpose, the purpose of that plugin is to crawl your site for a missing alts and to fill it in based on the file name or metadata that's there. My guess is it will do just that. It will bring it back.
Seshu: What's the name of that plugin?
Scott: I have to double check, I think it's SEO image optimizer. I'm going to look, if you guys want to keep talking, I'll see if I can find the name of it.
Rachel: Yoast has the ability too, as part of the Yoast diagnosis of any particular post that you have it on, it will search image and alt text. The functionality is there but it was just, when you are talking a photographer who is overwhelmed by this technology, it was just one last thing like, keyword it before you upload it. Upload it, it automatically gets put into alt tags.
Scott: SEO Friendly Images. It's made by a Vladimir who also makes ManageWP, or used to, I guess he still does. Godaddy just acquired them, which we shared. It has two hundred thousand active users. Its job is to automatically add alt and text attributes to added images.
Rachel: You are right. Maybe that's where we are pushing people, it's not in core anymore, which again I understand what the alt text is built for. For a person with disabilities, it really helps them to have an internet viewing experience. Those are all good things but why is Google pulling from it? Obviously these are questions we can't answer. That's my cell box, I'll get off.
Scott: Just to make sure, if you are a photographer you either, if you are a photographer with a website, which you are listening to this, hopefully you are, or you are building, either install that plugin once you update WordPress 4.7 or start manually creating your alt tags, because ...
Rachel: Just be aware of it.
Scott: Be aware of it, or just get into the habit. It's going to import the title most likely. Making it a habit, just copy, paste and title to alt, when you enter an image. It could be as simple as that.
Rachel: If you have a Scoresquare site, you should be doing the same thing there anyway. The Squarespace site strips the title totally. You still have a benefit with WordPress in that the title will come up. Squarespace changes it to what Scott? Like static.1. some very strange random image names.
Seshu: It's a string of numbers.
Rachel: Yeah, it's not good.
Seshu: Numbers, I think.
Rachel: At least WordPress still pulls in the title, with Squarespace you have to touch it, you have to change the alt tag because the title doesn't come in. If we are comparing Squarespace to WordPress, I still think WordPress has the advantage of it in this situation for photographers with image names.
Scott: There is also the advantage of being able to install one plugin, and fix it all.
Rachel: Which you can't do with Squarespace, you have to manually do it, for sure.
Seshu: I have a question for you guys though. You guys have mentioned Google and alt tag, I think somewhat important. As of Google looks at all tags and ranks your sites. Am I mistaken, is that an important attribute to look at for a photographer?
Scott: Yeah, SEO-wise, one of the components of image SEO is alt text, with your keyword in it. You want it to be a descriptive keyword of the photo but to also have the keyword that you want that image to rank well for.
Seshu: I get that but I'm trying to figure out, in terms of how a page is ranked, in terms of importance, how important is an alt tag? If there is no alt tag for an image, is that going to degrade your rank?
Scott: You won't rank.
Rachel: We don't know, because Google changes things all the time.
Scott: Yeah, they do change things all the time, but there is a few things that are a must haves and you won't rank if you don't have these must haves. What these must haves, the percentage of importance is unknown. You could have these must haves but still not rank, but you are guaranteed to not rank if you don't have these must haves.
Rachel: It makes sense why Google is pulling the alt text, right? Because it is a text based representation of the image. To rank in the Google image search is they pull very heavily from the alt text because you can't search an image. I'm sure they'll figure it out some day. I get why they do it but that's not the purpose of why the alt text was created. This is the fundamental conflict that we are having. It affects photographers more than plumbers because your business is photography. Your business is those images.
Scott: Yeah, totally.
Rachel: Beat a dead horse.
Seshu: I think one last point of that is, you just said it. I think it's even more important for photographers to not rely on just photographs on their blog or their website, write. People should be writing text. Really, stories about their weddings or their photo sessions or whatever it is. This is an opportunity to sort of remind people that writing is key.
Rachel: Three hundred words is the minimum. Three hundred words aren't hard per se. It's only like two paragraphs really if you think about it.
Seshu: I think Scott showed us a slide, it was three paragraphs. You are not that far off really.
Scott: It depends on how big your paragraph is.
Rachel: It depends on if you have a beginning, middle, and end. I agree with the three thing but if you are just writing for words and not writing a story based which I strongly believe in. These are the relevant topic that we could dive deep into or skin the surface. This is how photography businesses are represented online nowadays. Whether you choose WordPress, which obviously we prefer because of the functionality and the customization parts, or Squarespace which is easier to use, for sure. There is a benefit to both. Then there is a thousand other options that we don't even talk about because there are so many variables that this conversation to us, it really is WordPress versus Squarespace. Knowing what both of those technologies can do and where your own personal strengths are.
Coding makes you cry, to the point where opening of WordPress is something that you just can't do. In 5.0 you may not need to open it. You may just need to have the frontend loader come in, editor, which would be great. You still know need to know about these alt texts and how you are naming it. You need to know about that even if you are using Squarespace as an easier platform to use. There are still some tweaks and functionality issues that you have to know about as a photographer there too.
Scott: Seshu, let's talk about what's going on with you.
Rachel: I know, that's what I wanted to go, what's going on with you?
Seshu: Let's see, on the photography front, I've been busy with photographing prep schools here in New England, working with an all boy school to stand in the road actually and doing a lot of work for them. Then there is families. I love photographing families and there are so many amazing families to discover right here in my own backyard. I don't have to go very far. I have to just get out there and make photographs of the kids and the parents interacting with each other. I love that.
Bringing this all back to WordPress, I've been sort of dreaming of a new version of Tiffinbox, a new design actually and because it was custom designed, I'm going to have to probably go that direction again. I say that with real joy because I think I do want Tiffinbox to be more than just what it is right now and one of the few people who I will consult happens to be on the show right now. It works out really nicely.
Rachel: Scott is my go to too.
Seshu: The cool thing is also, Scott's invited or asked whether I'd be interested in hosting my site with Imagely and I think it's going to happen too. The new year is full of great amazing things happening, and I'm looking forward to it.
Rachel: What was your decision? You are currently on Squarespace for some of your sites?
Rachel: You are having the conversation of WordPress, what are the factors for you as a photographer, as a blogger, to consider when you are thinking of those things, because I think they'll be relevant for anyone let's say.
Seshu: I think so, I think the big draw was of course not wanting to mess with plugins and not wanting to just, I wanted to just post photographs, bring people in, have them look at it, and have a neat clean, little form that says, "Book a session with me," or something like that. It's easier to do, it is easier to do on Squarespace. It doesn't really take a whole lot of time. WordPress is definitely bringing me back to reality in that I want it to be more SEO friendly and we all, we have already talked about it. Squarespace is not as SEO friendly as WordPress sites are.
I want to make sure that more people find out about my works, see my work. I'm starting to write more as well. I love the interface. Even though we have talked about how crazy and ugly perhaps the WordPress interface is, I like it. I have a great time in the editing section. I love really, I enjoy the writing process. A lot of people will write in word, blocks of word and then copy and paste into word. I've never done that actually, I've just gone right to WordPress.
Rachel: You don't want do do that, because there is formatting things that come on.
Seshu: You probably know it too.
Rachel: Don't do that.
Seshu: The formatting issues would drive me crazy. It's always that idea that we can do better, and if the technology is moving in that direction why not embrace it?
Scott: Tiffinbox, why don't you share what Tiffinbox is and then we can dive into stuff that, you paid to have Tiffinbox designed?
Scott: Actually, I was going to say, recently but it's what? It's been like two years now or something like that.
Seshu: More than that, it's been longer than that.
Scott: Share what Tiffinbox is and then we'll talk about some of the custom stuff that you outsourced.
Seshu: For Tiffinbox, I'll give you sort of the genesis of Tiffinbox. I was finishing up my graduate degree in journalism and as a photo journalism major I was having a hard time finding information about photography and in my head I was like, "If I'm saving these links and enjoying these photographs or these galleries online, I'm sure my peers in school would enjoy it too." I started posting these links. It was essentially a big warehouse for, or a directory for photographers websites.
Rachel: What year was that?
Seshu: This was back in 2003.
Rachel: That makes sense because ...
Seshu: Back then it was just whatever it was. It was just a way for me to keep track of what was going on, who was doing what and projects. I was heavily into documentary photography and photo journalism. That was my core interest, and still is if you see bits and pieces of the conversations I have with people now, it always sort of comes back to how do you stories about people, and that kind of thing. It's grown, it's definitely grown from having me write these blog posts to having guest posts and guest bloggers on the site. That really I think grew the website to a great degree, because I have no shame in asking people and saying, "Hey, would you like to write a guest post?"
If it's a no, it's a no, it's no big deal. If it's a yes, then everybody wins, because then I can tell, "Rachel just wrote a guest blog post on Tiffinbox, go check it out." People come to check that post out, but they also check out your site. They also check out everything else that you have going on. That's the thing, that's the beauty I think of the blog as far as the way I've structured it is that, it's not really about me. It's not about me, I know that for a fact. It is about photographers and everything that's going on in their lives. For me I say, I do want to bridge that from commerce to creativity. There has to be that bridge. If you don't have that bridge, or you are not on that bridge, you are obvious, that's fine, and that's okay too.
I always like to promote the fact that this is a wonderful profession and it can be a business if it can be just sort of dealt in that way. I want to promote photographers, that's the thing. That's my goal is to promote photographers, find resources that photographers are going to really use and immediately see a result for their own business. Elevate their business in a way that they have never been able to. That's what Tiffinbox is all about.
Scott: I'm just going to, my room is getting darker, I'm going to put on some light.
Seshu: Your light just went on us.
Rachel: Just [inaudible 00:31:13]
Seshu: You guys asked about customization, here is a simple thing really is that I, the sites built on the Genesis Platform, and it's thanks to you Scott, really because I think I was going back and forth. I was in TypePad, initially, then moved to ... That's how old this is. I always moved from TypePad to WordPress. When I was looking for a theme, Scott just said, looking at StudioPress and get the Genesis Platform, I really enjoy it. I think they've done a great job and they keep up with things. It's clean code, it's light, it's all the things that you'd want a website to be. It's fast.
Rachel: Yeah, they are definitely industry standard. There is other drags and drops that you could argue in terms of depending on your level of comfort, but Genesis themes is just where everybody keeps coming back to. My question to you is, running a resource for photographers, and then being a working photographer yourself, do you, what are your opinions about seeing both sides of the industry? There are conversations around, there are educators and people in the space that don't have working business and then obviously there are working photographers who are just photographers. Where do you live in that spectrum and what has been your experience doing both?
Seshu: My opinion is that it helps. It can only help that you are a working photographer. It doesn't mean, there is no judgement against people who are not full time photographers.
Rachel: No, safe space.
Seshu: It comes down to, let me give you an example. Let's say there is strobe that's in the market, and it happens to be something that I'm interested in using myself. There is more of a chance that I'm going to be posting about that strobe or talking about it if I'm actually in the market to buying it. Like Fuji system, I'm about to go full on Fuji basically.
Scott: I thought you did go all Fuji.
Seshu: No, not yet. I am. The fact is, I am researching right now. I'm finding all kinds of amazing researches. I just talked to a guy named Damien Lovegrove who is an amazing photographer in England just this morning. He's got a book out and I'm going to be promoting it because it's all about the Fuji system. He's guiding people through the process of finding these, this is the kind of thing that I bring to Tiffinbox where I say, "If I'm going through this myself, it makes sense for me to talk about it as well." It's an easier sort of jump. I think that's what people see in the post as well. They wont see it as a straight hit on, "Go buy this because I'm trying to sell you a flashlight, or a camera system or whatever." It's really from, I'm really interested in this sell, maybe you are too. That's it.
Rachel: I didn't mean it to be as sensitive of an issues as I think it is. I just appreciate that you talk a lot about guest posting, you talk a lot about, but you are also living it. You are not afraid too if someone has guest posted for you, to go and guest post for them, and then to walk the walk. The fact that you have both WordPress and Squarespace, I think it's really relevant that you can have a conversation about both, because you are living it. You are living in both worlds and understand the limitations and the qualifications of both.
Scott: I kind of want to dive into the custom part of Tiffinbox a little it. We talk a lot about outsourcing on the podcast, even since the way beginning of the first few episodes. I think we've talked to people that do outsourcing, Rachel does outsourcing. I think it'd be nice to hear from your point of view as somebody who has hired somebody to design their website, although it's not your actual photography site, although it's Tiffinbox and not your actual making photos photography site. Talk about the process, did you reach out to somebody, did they reach out to you and offer something and how did that whole process go, any bumps? Things like that?
Rachel: It's a great question.
Seshu: As soon as you turned me on to StudioPress, and you asked me to go, I think it was like, "Go check it out man." That kind of thing. I did, and one of the things they have on their site is a list of designers that they recommend or they have worked with in the past. Being on that website and seeing people's names is a sense of, sort of peace and calm, because you know they are legit. They are not the high-schooler who just said, "I'm going to start up a business kind of thing." These people all have real businesses, and so I reached out to one that seemed to really have it together I guess in a way, and I liked their style perhaps. I said, "Can we talk about putting this together." She was so professional, she was amazing. She had sort of a website or a place where all the steps that she was going to be taking was outlined, number one.
Seshu: Then, every time she did something, I would get an email saying, "Hi, it's done. Check it out." Then I would know on the beta site that, I can go and see what she's done and then give her comments. I can comment back to her. I can say, "Hi, listen. This is not the color I really wanted. The buttons are kind of ugly. I want it to be changed." Whatever it is that I wanted to say, "I can make those changes." We went back and forth, back and forth, probably for two, three weeks.
Scott: Was there an initial brain dump conversation that happened or was it all through email?
Seshu: Yeah. I wanted to give her the idea that I wanted the site to do this and that. The other thing, and really wanted to get her to understand who my audience was and what they were looking for and what kinds of thing they would appreciate, and what kind of things they probably wouldn't care for. She was really very patient and professional about all of it. She was like, "Okay, no problem." Then she came back with a proposal and said, "This is what it's going to cost. These are the changes you can make and if anything you go beyond that, then there'll be an extra charge." Everything was very transparent. I think having that transparency is very key. Having a line of communication was fantastic. I would recommend her in a heartbeat because I just loved the way she just communicated, back and forth. I knew that I was getting exactly what I was expecting.
No surprises, honestly and no speed bumps or whatever it was. Unless I decided, "Hey, listen, I want to do this thing." She'll be like, "In that case it would be another couple of days before I can get to it." I had to accept that. She was being real and I was being a little ambitious perhaps once in a while. She would set me straight and she'd say, "This is going to be another couple of hundred bucks." I'll be like, "I guess I don't have that."
It would always come back to a conversation and it was nice that she was keen on seeing it succeed. I think that's another thing too. I think a lot of people would just get into a situation that's just a money thing. She actually added my site to her portfolio as way of saying, "Hey, look, I've worked with a photographer." That may have been one of the reasons why she'd worked with me. I don't know. She had that sort of feeling that, "This is going to work for both of us, let's get this going and get it done."
Rachel: I think that's great that that was the communication, when you chose her, when you were looking at the page from Genesis, these are the people that we recommend. How did you narrow it down to just her, was it a style aesthetic, was it going to the websites? It's sort of like picking a photographer, a designer, a web designer, how did you get to that point?
Seshu: I think it was really about style and just seeing what she had done before, and really understanding that this is, and you go to her own website of course from the StudioPress website and you just see the other projects she's worked on, testimonials from her other clients, getting an understanding of what her process is like. She didn't have the whole process I think laid out but she said, "This is what we are going to do first, we are going to do this second, we are going to do third. Then delivery is going to be in a couple of weeks," or whatever it was. I love, from my perspective, if somebody is going to take the time to explain what it is that the process is going to look like, they are-
Rachel: I resonate with that too. I totally agree.
Seshu: They usually have got it together. I didn't have a whole lot of resources to just say, "Okay, $1,000, go for it." I have to be sort of very smart about it as most people will be I'm sure with their websites and just say, "This is what we want. How can you make that happen?" I think having that conversation is very important. A no obligation conversation for fifteen-twenty minutes and say, "This is what my ideas are, what do you think they are like? Am I crazy?" Then they'll come back to you and say, "It's doable, it's just more time, more money, whatever it is."
Rachel: How did you get to customization versus just modifying a template? I know a lot of photographers look at resources like ProPhoto and they have already templates that need small tweaks but aren't a complete customization like Tiffinbox. Did you think about that when you were beginning, or did you go right to full customization?
Seshu: After playing with TypePad for such a long time, I thought it was time to just sort of make the leap and make it happen where people would take notice of it. I had plans of having guest bloggers and things like that and so, if you start inviting influencers to your site, you better look nice.
Scott: I want to talk about your design evolution. As you guys were talking, I just dug into the internet archive. You want to hear some fun stuff?
Scott: For anybody who is listening, if you go archive.org and put in Tiffinbox.org in the search, you can actually look at the complete internet archive of Tiffinbox. Right now there is three hundred and eighty captures of Tiffinbox over the years. When I say over the years I'm talking from his evolution, like the beginning of Tiffinbox. It goes back to 2004. Over ten years right now of Tiffinbox is there.
Rachel: That's a legacy to leave behind.
Scott: I'm talking like, even like whatever is showing up. This may not have been yours, it might have been somebody owned it before you. No, it is you. 2004 was I guess this is TypePad. Anyway, I went back four years or so. In 2011 Seshu is using the Thesis theme and it was blue. The color was blue. It's a lot of blue.
Seshu: it was very hard to read.
Scott: It was very hard to read, 2012, same theme, same design but it was a white background. The reading had gotten easier but the Thesis theme he was using, the design he was using was very basic. It looked like a blog. It didn't like a media platform like Tiffinbox looks today. It looked like a blog. 2013, Seshu switched to the Genesis theme but had as is, all he did was customize the axing color, like to use this orange that he uses around Tiffinbox today. 2014, it's when he had it customized. He used the Genesis theme again but he had one custom built. That right there, that's four years of evolution. Then of course he's had very minor changes since 2014.
Rachel: After investing the time, and the money at that point, you don't need to do. Hopefully you are at a point where you'll love it and your brand can sustain. Again, this is where being on WordPress, all the backend stuff is being updated in terms of the functionality, and you don't have to change a theme that you paid all this money for, because hopefully it grows with, and knowing that it's on a Genesis theme, it will grow with it. What a great example? This is really good?
Scott: Isn't that cool? If you look at Tiffinbox today, you'll see how organized it is, how it's more of a platform, a media platform than just a blog. It is, there is many different things. There is resources, there is interviews, where he does with guests about different products for photographers and what not.
Seshu: I think the most important thing that sort of was a catalyst for my change from Thesis to the StudioPress option, Genesis framework was because I wanted it to be mobile friendly and responsive, and Thesis was not. I think, it was never going to be I think. I don't know, whatever happened to Thesis I have no idea but it's the ... It's a thing that really concerned me is that people were not seeing my posts on mobile devices. I was like, "We've got to move in that direction." I think that was ...
Rachel: That's great to be a fast adapter of that, because I think there are still photographers that aren't ... 80% of web traffic now, especially brides and families, are on the web. That's only growing. Last year it was 70, and the year before that it was fifty. It's like an exponential curve.
Seshu: I think as you probably will agree, Google is looking at mobile sites more than anything else now, anyway.
Rachel: The component of it. They are looking to make sure that it is there and it is functioning. It's a big component, but it's not the whole thing.
Scott: That's a great, really great example of the reasoning for doing, having just an eloquent website, having one that really stands for your business. Sometimes, it just requires outsourcing and doing on a budget, like Seshu did. Set a budget for yourself and talk to people, see if they can work into your budget, you'll find somebody that could do it for you. Or just get a theme that just looks great, that has customizations in itself. Let's move right into recommended plugins or themes or both. You are welcome to recommend one you've been talking about or something else, whatever you want to do, what is your recommended WordPress plugins or themes?
Seshu: I think the theme that we mentioned was the Genesis Framework. You can't go wrong with that. Scott and I talked about Divi and Scott doesn't really care for Divi but I have used Divi for one of my sites as well. It's good, it's fine, it works quickly and yes it creates short codes and all that stuff. For my client who's got a pretty much of a static website, it works fine and he's happy with it. Let me go back, Genesis, probably is the one theme I think you'd want to look at. They have come out with some really cool, I think their third party templates that are really nice looking actually for photographers in fact.
Rachel: Imagely has some. Imagely specifically has Genesis themes that are built on the Genesis framework specific for photographers. Then there are other resources that do as well to all industries, not just photography.
Scott: I will say that for any photographer who likes the Genesis themes. Genesis themes are designed for simplicity. There is very few options in it, very few color and font changes that you can make if any. They are very basic. For any photographers who would like a Genesis theme but find the options too limited, the customization I should say, too limited. Check out the Genesis Design Palette Pro. It works with pretty much every StudioPress designed Genesis theme. Studiopress is the company who makes the Genesis theme.
The Genesis Design Palette Pro is a plugin that adds pretty much endless color and font and whatever customization for Genesis themes, but they specifically make sure that it works with all the official Genesis themes from StudioPress. It does work with a lot of the third party ones but it's not guaranteed. Genesis Design Palette Pro, we'll link that in the show notes as well. If you are a Genesis user and you want that extra, I would recommend checking that out. Anything you want to add to close with Seshu, anything you want to share or advice?
Seshu: Can I mention two plugins?
Seshu: Initially I didn't think I was going to mention these but the ones I really, when I started using on Tiffinbox or my other websites are the ones you've actually suggested. Warfare, right?
Scott: Social Warfare, yeah.
Seshu: Social Warfare and OptinMonster.
Scott: OptinMonster. Those are two great ones. Social Warfare is a social sharing plugin, but it goes beyond just the standards of sharing.
Rachel: It's really growing up too. It's made some big changes in the space, and some of the other plugins that sort of fell out of this space. It is definitely emerging as a leader.
Scott: In fact, Social Warfare was born out of the Genesis community. It holds the same code quality and speed standards of all of the Genesis themes. Yes they work very well together, but social warfare will work with any theme that's well coded. It does, it holds up to the same standard which I think is an important thing. OptinMonster is a pop up lead generation type system that is not just a plugin, it's a [inaudible 00:50:06] service, you have to pay for the service in order to use the plugin. In my opinion, that is the best of all of them out there, and I've used a lot, but there are many others out there as well, which if you go back into the history of this podcast, a lot of guests are recommended. Many of the other lead generation plugins that are out there.
Rachel: OptinMonster has definitely come up a couple of times too. I think that's a good one to check out for what it does.
Scott: I'm using my webcam, I don't know, maybe the sun keeps going away, but it keeps getting dark in my room even though I keep adding more light.
Rachel: This is our first winter with the podcast, right?
Rachel: Because we started in December, right?
Scott: Yeah, we started recording in December but it didn't air until March for [crosstalk 00:50:57]
Rachel: I can't believe we are at twenty eight. I know it doesn't seem like a big number. For an every other week it's a big number.
Scott: We have twenty-nine scheduled. We are going to have, for anybody that's listening, we are going to have Angela Bowman next week, our next episode. She teaches a lot of photographers about WordPress in Boulder Colorado.
Rachel: I'm really excited for that because I love women who also do WordPress or use WordPress or utilize it. I think that having the conversation with both intelligent men like Seshu and women like Angela are important.
Rachel: I'm really grateful that we get to have all of these varied opportunities.
Scott: Seshu, anything you want to end with, any advice for any of the listeners that are thinking about moving from Squarespace to WordPress or thinking about outsourcing and design, anything you want to share?
Seshu: I think I'll go back to the idea that, hopefully 2017 is a really successful year for all photographers. In my opinion and my experience actually, a lot of the success that you want can come through really just doing the work first. That work can be as simple as writing three hundred words or three fifty words per week on a regular basis. As Rachel would say and teach and has taught, do it on a consistent basis, on the same day and the same time, push it out there.
Start connecting with your clients in a way that is real, that is you, that is authentic. All that will come together. The first few weeks may seem like a struggle, trust me, writing isn't the first thing I'd think of when I look at the WordPress backend. I enjoy their process once I get going but the first few minutes it's like, "What the hell do I talk about?"
Rachel: Yeah, and that's so relevant and I'm glad you shared that because it's not easy for anyone, even professional writers, even myself I look at that blank list and I'm like, "Here we go go again." But once you are into it and once you are doing, just like photography, ten thousand hours and you are a professional.
Scott: It's that blinking cursor effect.
Seshu: I think one thing to avoid that and I've just started to do this is is, and this is an idea I'll have to give credit to Skip Cohen who said this at a, I think it was at Shutterfest a couple of years ago, in a marketing presentation. He said, "The easiest thing to do is to go out into the world, into your community, interview people and talk to people and just highlight their life." Make those connections and I'm telling you, it's opening doors. Honestly it is the way to go. It's inexpensive as in $0, yes it's going to take a little bit of time, but what are you going to do with that time anyway?
Rachel: I agree.
Seshu: Sit on Facebook? Really, I've had the pleasure of meeting so many wonderful people in my community because every week I make it a point to go out and just meet people and say, "Hey, can I take some, make some portraits of you and then get a little interview going so that we can talk about you?" That series is coming and it's going to be something that I'll be using on my new website for seshuphotography.com.
Scott: That's awesome.
Seshu: The seshuphotography.com is no longer going to be on Squarespace, it's going to be on WordPress very soon, take that.
Rachel: And Imagely. That's amazing.
Scott: I'm excited to help you with that conversion.
Seshu: Thank you, man, I appreciate it.
Scott: It's going to be an eventful conversion because converting from Squarespace to WordPress is not easy as we've discussed on the podcast many times, but-
Rachel: But do it.
Scott: It will be worth it. It will be worth in the long term. Thank you Seshu for joining us today and thank you, Rachel, for being an awesome co-host.
Rachel: Thank you, Scott.
Seshu: Thank you guys. It was fun; it was real fun. A lot of fun.
Scott: Totally. Two closing notes. One, you can find the show notes from today's episode at imagely.com/podcast/28.
Scott: Episode 30 will be a Q&A. Please, we need one more question to make ten for the ten questions for episode 30. Please submit your question or questions, because we can use it for our future episodes, at imagely.com/podcast/q.
Scott: Until next time ...