Episode 46 – Know Your Audience w/ Ugo Cei

Ugo CeiUgo Cei is a landscape and travel photographer from Italy. Besides taking photos for himself, he loves helping photography enthusiasts sharpen their skills so that they can take amazing photographs.

He does so in various ways. First, through his website, which contains a collection of resources ranging from tips and techniques to use in the field, to post-processing tutorials, and stories about how to get the best shots in some of the most sought-after travel destinations.

In recent years, he also started leading photo tours in some of those destinations, including Cinque Terre, Tuscany, and Venice in Italy, the Greek Islands, and more recently Oman.
In addition to that, he is the co-host of a weekly travel photography podcast, The Traveling Image Makers, that on most weeks features an interview with an established or upcoming photographer.

WordPress/Photography Related News:

  • Content Blocks was delayed due to a licensing issue in Facebook’s javascript library which was being used.
  • Disqus commenting system had a data breach. Change your passwords.

Referenced Links:

Where to find Ugo:

Transcription:

Transcription was done by Rev.com

Scott: Welcome to Episode 46. My name is Scott Wyden Kivowitz, and today I'm joined by my guest, Ugo Cei. I've know Ugo now for, I would say a couple of years online. We finally got to meet in Chicago, which is really cool at the, at a Chicago Photography conference. Ugo is a landscape and travel photographer from Italy. And besides taking photos for himself, he loves helping photography enthusiasts sharpen their skills so that they can take amazing photographs. He does so in various ways: through his websites, which contain a collection of resources ranging from tips and techniques to using the field to post-processing tutorials stories about how to get the best shots in some of the most sought-after travel destinations. In the recent years, he also started leading photo tours in some of these destinations including, and I might say these wrong, or at least the first one wrong but, Cinque Terre? Did I get that right?

Ugo: Oh, kinda. The correct pronunciation would be "Cin-que Ter-re."

Scott: I was way off. Tuscany and Venice in Italy, the Greek Islands and more recently Oman, which that's a real interesting one. I'd love to hear more about that. In addition to that, he is a co-host of a weekly travel photography broadcast, "The Traveling Image Makers," that on most weeks feature an interview with an established or upcoming photographer and I think we're doing one for your podcast the end of this week, which is kinda cool. So welcome to the podcast. I've been wanting to get you on here for a while. So I'm glad we're finally able to get you on here.

Ugo: Thanks. It's great to be here and thanks for having me today. We've been friends for, as you said for a few years. We finally got a chance to meet in Chicago, at the Art of Chicago Conference and then we decided, yeah we need to do interviews on our respective podcasts, and we finally got down to it. [inaudible 00:02:07]

Scott: Yeah, so the podcast was on a hiatus for a little bit.

Ugo: Its great and yeah, I mean it's, everything you said was right. Pronunciation of that place aside, which I know it's difficult for Americans but basically, the Five Lands because it refers to those five fisherman's villages that are on the coast of Italy, the Ligurian Coast. Those [inaudible 00:02:40]houses on steep cliffs on the sea, very picturesque, very photographic places that I love going there and as you said I recently started bringing people there. I was there in; I was there a month ago. Basically, I was there with two customers, showing them those places. It's always great to be there.

I'm going to Oman in a couple of months. This is a new destination for me being outside of my usual range of places, which are mostly around the Mediterranean Sea but I was there on vacation with my wife, [inaudible 00:03:23]. So I brought home some nice pictures, I would say. I did a few blog posts about those and shared them on the usual channels and then some of my previous customers that have been with me on tours and other locations kept asking me why don't you bring us to Oman? I said okay, let's do it. So we're going to do it.

Scott: That's great. You know that's a country that you rarely see talked about in the photo industry for workshops or travel. I mean obviously, people go there and the United States has its military stationed there and what not. So there's definitely people there of course, but it's not often talked about in the travel industry, so it's nice to see that you're starting to do workshops there, photo tours and what not. So, it's really cool.

Ugo: Yeah, it's not often talked about. Some people might sometimes don't know much about the country. It's not a country. It's in the Middle East. It's right between Yemen on one side, and just across the sea, there is Iran. So some people don't know much about the situation there think it might be unstable or dangerous, but it's quite the opposite, and as you said, it's an ally of the U.S. and Saudi Arabia also. It's very safe, very quiet place to go to, very modern in some respects, but still lots of traditions there and amazing landscapes. So, it's perfectly suited for the workshop tour there.

Scott: Nice. Yeah, that's cool. I'm excited to see all the photographs that get shared from there, so. So, let's dive into what's going on with WordPress photography industry. We do a little segment on news, so got two bits of news this episode. The first is the content blocks feature that's coming to WordPress 5.0 was delayed. And the reason for the delay is actually because Facebook has a very strict license on the React JavaScript framework that was being used to basically make this Content Block feature work and because of this the team that's actually building the Content Block feature is rethinking what framework to use and they're experimenting with multiple to see.

But unfortunately, I mean I'm kind of surprised that the team that's building actually went with something made by Facebook in the first place because Facebook doesn't really, even though they have open source, they have strong copyrights on things, so I'm kind of surprised they went that route in the first place, but they did. And now they're kind of reaping the pains that came from using something that Facebook created. So, we'll see what framework they wind up using, but in the meantime, WordPress 5.0 has been delayed, so we're going to see a bunch more like updates like 4.9, 4.9.1, 2, 3, and blah, blah, blah until we see, before we see WordPress 5.0. This is a benefit though because it means that the plug-ins and themes that are worried about the compatibility with the new Content Block editor have more time to worry about it instead of having to rush. So, that's a good thing.

The next bit of news is if you use the Disqus, D-I-S-Q-U-S, commenting system for WordPress there was a data breach. Disqus is actually a SAS platform software service, and it's basically a commenting system that anything can integrate with and there is a WordPress plug-in, and the SAS component had a data breach, and so you are encouraged to change your passwords as soon as possible because there is a data breach. And we'll link to that information in show notes so you can learn more about the data breach.

Ugo: Can I maybe ask a question about Disqus because I'm, I use it not on my website, but on other websites that I comment on. I authenticate using Google. So I imagine they don't, Disqus, have my password that I'm not impacted by this data breach.

Scott: So the data breach passwords were included in, they were encrypted, passwords were encrypted but still stolen in this breach. So they could be decrypted. But any integrations you have, like logging in through Facebook should not be an issue.

Ugo: Yeah. That's what I thought.

Scott: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, I think they still force you to make a password, even though you connect through Facebook. I would still log in and check.

Ugo: I come through Google because I created my account there long time ago and then half the time I go there I log in via Google. So they might have one of my old passwords. I'm not sure. I might have to change it.

Scott: Yeah. So, no matter how you create a Disqus account, for anybody listening, I would definitely recommend just reading the article and then logging in and seeing if you need to change anything. So if you use one password, one password's gonna warn you that there's a breach. Then you should change your password as well. Okay. So tell me what's new with you besides from Oman. What other, what else do you have going on?

Ugo: Well I've got a, recently been to Thailand if you want to talk about travel. My first time in Thailand there; great country. It was everything I ever expected and then more, especially from a photographic perspective. It has a little bit of everything because it has city side in Bangkok, which are just a boon for street photographers, just walking around Chinatown there at night with all those stores and cars, selling food and the people on the street. It was crazy. It's also much fun. It has a lot of history because it has those ancient temples, Buddhist statues everywhere. It's, again, great subjects for photography. It has nature. It has wildlife like elephants and so on. It has amazing beaches and great people there, so, great food also for great subject for travel photography. So, what's not to like?

Scott: Yeah.

Ugo: I published a series of articles on my website about Thailand; three episodes so far. I still need to find the time to finish it. It will be probably a couple of episodes more. So, that's one thing. What else? I'm trying to write a book about travel photography, which is something I work on when I don't have much to do, which means almost never.

Scott: Is this going to be a print book or a digital book?

Ugo: I would love to do a print book. I've several e-books for my side, but they're just small books, not specific locations. Just like Venice or the Cinque Terre that we mentioned before. This is going to be more of a long form book. I will try to get it I published here, some traditional publisher if I can. But first I need to finish a [inaudible 00:11:08] draft. I don't know where I will find the time.

Scott: Yeah.

Ugo: A guy of my podcast, "Traveling Image Makers", we just published our 97th episode, which that in three weeks we'll be at episode number 100, which is quite a milestone, for me, at least. It all started two years ago in the UK. I should definitely do a podcast. I was not prepared. I was reading today about somebody saying, "Even if you're not ready, you should just start." So that's what I need. Do you know much about podcast? I say yeah. If I keep postponing until I am ready, I will never do it. So, let's just do it.

Scott: Yeah. Yeah. You know I'm glad that we started one at Imagely as well. And it's something that I would love to have for myself like have my own individual podcast too. But the one thing, as I'm sure you've learned, is boy is it time-consuming.

Ugo: Ah, it is.

Scott: I mean, major kudos to you for being able to do that while also traveling the world so, you know, I couldn't imagine having to do it and travel at the same time plus having a family just, you know, on top of everything else that you've got going on. Know what it's like ...

Ugo: [inaudible 00:12:36] It's recorded. It's not live. So that means I can arrange and do batch recordings when I'm home when I have some time but then I need to count, I mean it's interview-based, so I need to count the guests and agree on times and try to fit them into my schedule, which is not always easy. And then there's the other thing and the publishing part. I was in Thailand for almost three weeks, and I didn't do anything on the podcast for those three weeks. I didn't do any recordings. I didn't do anything. I had everything batched up and scheduled to be published every week even when I was away. I had four weeks of content ready to go on schedule because I knew I was away for three weeks.

Scott: Yeah, that's what I do for this podcast as well. Like the end of this month is Photo Plus Expo-New York City and this episode's coming out right around that time and I don't want to worry about the overlap because we're recording and I know. It's a nice thing.

Ugo: It's a lot of work, but it's great. It has great returns. It's something that people keep coming back to old episodes, so I don't have to, of course, I publish new content but old episodes unless some blog posts, which sometimes nobody reads them anymore most of them podcasts episodes can be popular even after a long time.

Scott: True.

Ugo: It allows me to do a lot of great networking with great people. You mentioned Mark Silber which you had as a guest as well, [inaudible 00:14:21]. You have really great people on the show and it's allowed me to keep in contact with them. So, it's a great thing overall.

Scott: So

Ugo: Go on.

Scott: I was gonna move into something else you did recently with complete redesign of your website, right? So let's talk about that. Let's talk about what you did, like an overhead view of what you've done, and some of the reasoning behind what and what some of the decisions you made and what not. So, let's dive into that.

Ugo: I've had WordPress blogs for I can't remember how many years. Think I sold my first domain, which was based on a WordPress blog in 2003. It could be going for at least a few years. So its almost 20 years and so is Bean Blogs, pure blogs mean just typical chronologically based, home page with all these different, most recent posts and so on. That's one thing that a lot of people do and it's fine. As photographers, what many other photographers do is having a portfolio site, Generess, which sometimes integrates into the blog and so on. It might be on the same platform all of these group of people who have WordPress or I don't know SquareSpace blog or Blogger and they have their portfolio on [inaudible 00:16:02] something like that which more or less integrates with it. I was a bit, we started thinking that tends to be, I wanted to get more. I wanted to do more with my website.

I wanted to turn my website into just a collection of stories, blogs into my collection of resources with a certain organization because I wanted, as you said in the beginning, my mission so to speak is to spread knowledge. I mean I love teaching. I do a lot of teaching here in Montalban [inaudible 00:16:41]. So I don't think a chronological blog is the best format to do that. I wanted to have a collection of learning resources, pics, tutorials, series of tutorials and so on. So I wanted that kind of organization, which would be easily browsible and findable. And chronological just doesn't cut it.

So let's say my system in progress, work in progress, remove the [inaudible 00:17:15] blog from the homepage and created a series of well-defined sections, which might be the learning resources and travel stories, which is my main important part and podcasts and then photo tools. They're all very prominently presented in the homepage. So there's still the blog. It's still there. It's still where most of the content display. It's still blog post. Travel stories are still blog posts.

Scott: Right.

Ugo: Its still a work in progress; Still have to find the best way to present everything in the homepage without making it overwhelming, not having too much stuff in the homepage but not at the same time, not having stuff that is so hidden that people will not be able to find it. Certain function there, only finding my home page.

Scott: And that's something that you're probably going to wind up testing for a long time of what is working, what's not working. This approach is not something that is brand new. It's something that exists. We see it more outside of the photography industry. And I think we're starting to see it more and more now in the photography industry. But if you look at, for example, ProBlogger, right, they do this. If you look at Digital Photography School, actually, which is actually the same company as ProBlogger, they also do this now. They show you the content but they're showing you, instead of it being chronological, they're showing it to you sort of by niche, about a topic, you know. So, it's a great approach to especially for an education. this wouldn't work so well for, necessarily for just a photographer that is trying to share their services you know. But for an educational resource, it's definitely an ideal approach.

Ugo: I think it's the right approach. I mean I can understand the photographer don't have the time or the necessary skills to do that and don't want to do that. It's perfectly fine. I'm an IT guy as well, not just a photographer. [inaudible 00:19:39] I wanted to do something different. And the other thing is I wanted to, I mean I understood sometime ago that probably the most effective way of reaching people and keeping in touch with people is to have a newsletter, to have mailing list.

Scott: Right.

Ugo: I wanted subscription forms, incentives and [inaudible 00:20:05] forms to be something that is prominent on site without using annoying pop-ups so I took some time to find a way to present content for free and then maybe use content upgrades. Okay, this is a blog post about photography [inaudible 00:20:26] of that is "But if you want to, here's nice e-book, just give me your email address and I'll send PDF to you." That's very important for me.

Scott: So with the emails that you're doing now, what are you doing to add value to the people who are actually subscribing, besides giving them this PDF of whatever, you know, the upsell is for the content, for the blog content, what are you doing sort of ongoing to people who give you the email address?

Ugo: So, I've got a series of educational emails from various aspects of photography, which right now includes about a dozen different topics. So if you subscribe, you start getting those emails. Of course you can unsubscribe any time. I'm actually thinking of repurposing a lot of the content of the educational content that I have on the blog as a series of scheduled emails. So you will soon you will start getting more of it.

Scott: Yeah, it's a good idea. I meant that's basically content marketing in general. And for the photographers listening, even though we're talking about things that are really targeted to photographers, keep in mind you can do this with any of your content targeted to your, you know personal clients, for family photos, for wedding photos, whatever. Content marketing is basically the idea of creating content and then repurposing it in multiple ways to promote, to market your business, right.

So, you're creating blog content but you're also creating a podcast that in many times will wind up overlapping with, you know, blog content and then you can then take the combination of the two or one of them or the other one and turn it into an email series, which then also provides value to those who subscribe and then of course you can share all that on social media, which is also content. So you can take all this and just reuse it, recycle it and repurpose into many different formats, including email order responders, which is nurturing the leads that you get and adding immense value and improving the chances that they will buy a product or buy a service.

Ugo: Absolutely I mean if I upload like 50 articles, let's use an example, I have an article about ways to properly use a wide angle lens, which has its own things you have to be aware of like distortion and so on, so I have an article about that on the blog but it's buried deep. Leave it there and it's not ranking high on Google. People who find my website and then subscribe because they find ebook or because they like what I'm thinking about, they don't even know that article exists.

Scott: Yeah. So are you -

Ugo: Sorry. My article is released. That article with a link to the original and send it out. I mean it's basically free.

Scott: So that's actually what I was going to ask. If you were taking the text word for word and pasting it into email or if you were doing the summary and linking to the blog post?

Ugo: In some instances I would just maybe if it's a short article or it's only one, I would just copy into the email.

Scott: So, so -

Ugo: Not even ... Go 'head.

Scott: But what you just said is very important for everybody listening is you can link to articles that you've created on line and on your blog but people will begin to think, okay well this person just sending me stuff that I can find already, that they've already written. But if you share just text without a link, something that you can track the opens but you don't necessarily track the clicks, cause people have nothing to click, that is gonna make people think, okay this person sending me something new and fresh, even though you recycled it maybe from five years ago because its evergreen. It's something that is not dated. So if you mix your order responders between, even if it's repurposed content, if you mix your order responders with linked content, as well as just text content for somebody to read, that is going to increase your opens and clicks overall.

Ugo: Yeah. My idea of the moment is you have to test it cause you just started to process is that I would probably just send out the whole article. Either email without some people don't need to click. So the article might link to [inaudible 00:25:24]. In case if I have longer article, so maybe a series of articles, I'm a send like in different installments I would maybe send the text on the first one and say okay if you want to read more about this topic the next episode I will not maybe send emails about those. I would just put links in the initial email. These are just ideas I mean to test and practice how they work, how the opens go, how the clicks go and so on.

Scott: Right. So what else are you working on for your site? Are there any other big changes you plan on making besides from you know the organizational aspect and the repurposing of content?

Ugo: So, one change that I just made I still have to work it and provide more content basically completely redesign my galleries, the galleries were ... I wasn't actually taking care of my galleries. I only had a handful. They were not up to date and so on cause I wasn't really seeing a lot of interaction with my galleries so I decided okay I needed to show more of my work because that's important. People want to come to tours with me and they want to know what I'm capable of, what photos I take. Because if I want to teach them, I need to be able to great photos in those places.

So I needed to revamp my galleries so I switched to the NextGen plug-in, which is great the NextGen Pro that you know very well of course. There was one feature there that I love, what you call [inaudible 00:27:14] linking right? Being able to go to the light box view so you go the gallery, you click. The image opens up big. And then you get the nice share button, which will create a post on Facebook, on Twitter, which links back to the same. I don't know if this is unique in the world ...

Scott: Yeah, it's not unique. [inaudible 00:27:36]

Ugo: I'm going to use it more and more for sharing my work on social media because I don't want my photos to be on Facebook and there. I want my photos to be shown on Facebook, but then when people click on the photo, they go back to my site and then they have the whole gallery and they can browse. There's one thing that I would love. It would be possible to have it as a feature and then maybe the next version of the NextGen plug-in is to have each photo be possible to link, maybe to a page in order to have something more than just a simple caption or description of the photo. I have some pages where I describe how I took photo, the story behind or how I processed it. Maybe there's a little post-processing tutorial. But we'll be able to browse the gallery and then say okay, you want to know how this was taken, click here and go to a page where you get that.

Scott: So you can do this. If you want you can add in your description, you can actually add a link and we actually parse the link appropriately. So you can add text and description with the link and it'll work.

Ugo: I'll take advantage of that then.

Scott: Yeah. That's great. It's nice to see the changes and I'm excited to see what else you do with the website. It's really fun to see the, so we're going to link to an article where you go through the redesigned thought process and what changes you're making and what's really cool is to see screenshots of historically of what the site look like and where it started and where it has become. So it's fun to see. So if you want to see the progression of this website, it's useephoto.me. We'll link to the actual blog posts in the show notes so you can check out the show notes to find that. Okay. So let's dive into your recommended WordPress plug-ins. I know you have two that you're recommending so can you talk about the two plug-ins that you recommend?

Ugo: Okay one that I definitely recommend because, you mentioned the podcasts, I actually have two podcasts at the moment. One is "The Traveling Image Makers", which is the long established, 97 episodes already published. We do it every week. It has a little bit of polished [inaudible 00:30:09] with interest address and everything. Then I have this other podcast on my side, my personal side, Ugo Cei Photography, which is more of a casual one that I publish whenever I have something in my mind that I want to talk about. Do recording and editing, then put it out. But for both of those I use the [inaudible 00:30:30] Displayer plug-in by [inaudible 00:30:33], I think. I believe-

Scott: Yeah.

Ugo: Who makes the plug-in. Nice, they're very nice plug-in, very good-looking, very usable interface where you can just [inaudible 00:30:47]. Just looks great on all platforms. So that's my, if you want to start a podcast I would definitely recommend looking to [inaudible 00:30:59].

Scott: Awesome.[inaudible 00:31:06]

Ugo: The other one that I'm using I mean I'm not freely in position to recommend it. You know we do marketing through our website. Marketing means with ads. We marketing where we targeting people through those Facebook plug-ins that track visitors that allow you to target Facebook ads to them and I struggle for a while with the putting and managing the Facebook pics on my pages [inaudible 00:31:38]. I recently started using pixel [inaudible 00:31:42], which is a nifty little plug-in. It does everything that I need to do. There's probably more that I need to do, I don't understand.

Scott: It does a lot. It does a lot.

Ugo: Pictures I will probably will tracking complex stuff but it just solve the problem of how to manage my Facebook pixel in the page.

Scott: So that plug-in we recently did a blog post about it on Imagely so I'll be sure to link to that blog post, which will also link to how you can download it. It is free so it's a nice thing for anybody who wants to do Facebook tracking. And I imagine that they're adding more than just Facebook tracking as the plug-in progresses, but, yeah. So the last thing I want to do is ask if you have a question for the listeners. For anybody listening please, the question that you're about to hear, please go to either the YouTube video of this episode or go to the show notes, which I will give you a link at the end of this and just comment with your answer to Ugo's question. So, what's the question?

Ugo: My question is a question that I have in my auto responder sequence the first email we send out. It is "What are you struggling with? With all the things in your photography that you find you're not progressing with, might be something technical, like using manual mode. Might be something about finding [inaudible 00:33:14] anything that is blocking you that you're struggling. Let's see if I can help. I do it because I like helping people. I do it because I like having something to maybe write about. And so some email that I haven't thought of and this is also a suggestion that I have to people who want to blog on a website they want to really help people sometimes. So what should I write about?

Scott: Yeah. Ask a question to your audience and they will give you ideas for content to create.

Ugo: Exactly. So, that's my question. Please give me ideas, something to create and I will try to help you. Even if it's something that I've already written about, maybe I just link you to one of my previous posts or pages.

Scott: Exactly. Awesome. Well thank you Ugo for joining us today. You can find the show notes from today's episode and where to find Ugo at imagely.com/podcast/46. So, until next time.

Ugo: Right. Thanks for having me. Its been a great life.

Scott: Totally.

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