Blake Rudis has been into art his entire life, not necessarily Photography, but art in general. He received his Bachelor’s in Fine Art with a concentration in Printmaking from the University of Delaware in 2006. Blake dabbled in a variety of artforms, including photography. But just as he was about to give up on the camera he discovered High Dynamic Range photography. In the heat of passion, he packed up his paints, easel and desk and delved fully heartedly into the new found world of highly detailed, highly colorful, and most importantly, accurate photography. Blake now runs multiple successful websites, on WordPress, including Everyday HDR and a membership site formally called HDR Insider and now f64 Acadamy.
WordPress/Photography Related News:
This week we have two bits of news. The first is from the plugin Jetpack. They recently introduced two new features to the plugin. One is a Sitemap module, which will create a sitemap of your website. This is great if you are not already using Yoast SEO or another SEO plugin that creates a sitemap. The other is a social profile widget, which is useful to share where your site visitors can find you on social media.
The other news is from iThemes. They recently launched a new feature in BackupBuddy, which offers real-time backups of your website. Their goal is not to impact performance and still protect its customers with backups that are as up to date as possible.
- New Jetpack Modules
- iThemes BackupBuddy Live
- What Is The Best Placement For Successful Social Media Buttons?
- Search and Replace
- .htaccess file
- GoDaddy Managed Hosting
- Paid Memberships Pro
- Divy Theme
- Yoast SEO
- Thrive Leads
Where to find Blake:
Scott: Welcome to episode 8, 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: Good. This is going to be a fun episode. Last weak, or, yeah, it was last week that we recorded it, we spoke with Jake, who actually, there's a connection between our guest today and Jake, so it will be nice to hear where that connection is and whatnot. We learned a little bit about Blake from Jake's conversation with us last week.
Rachel: Yeah. He had very nice things to say about you, so that was a nice ending.
Blake: Don't believe him. Don't believe him.
Scott: Today we have Blake Rudis, he's been into art his entire life, not necessarily photography, though, but art in general, like painting and whatnot. He received his bachelor's in fine arts with a concentration in print making from the University of Delaware in 2006. My brother, my younger brother, also went to the University of Delaware, little fun fact.
Blake: Go Blue Hens.
Scott: Yes. Blake dabbled in a variety of art forms, including photography. Just as he was about to give up on the camera, he discovered high dynamic range photography, or what is commonly known as HDR. In the heat of passion, he packed up his paints, easel, and desk and delved fully, heartily into the found world of highly detailed, highly colorful, and most importantly, accurate photography. Blake now runs multiple, successful websites on WordPress including, Everyday HDR, and a membership site called HDR Insider. Blake, welcome, I'm very excited to talk to you about all of this today.
Blake: Thank you, I'm honored to be here. Thank you for having me.
Scott: Totally. Before we dive in to what's going on in world of Blake, let's talk about, we actually have 2 little snippets of news this week. First one coming from the plugin JetPack, which was just recently updated. It's a very popular plugin, across the board in all genres of websites, but JetPack was recently updated with 2 new features. The first one is a site map module. I personally used YoastSEO as my site map, because I use YoastSEO for all my SEO techniques and tactics and whatnot. It has a site map feature built in, I don't need the JetPack one, however, JetPack now has a module that will enable some standard site map functionality on your website. If you don't use YoastSEO and you do use JetPack, then there you go, you got a site map built in as well, you just have to turn it on.
Rachel: That was my question, do you have to turn it on or is this going to be one of those modules that come pre-turned on?
Scott: I believe you have to turn it on ...
Scott: Because not everybody needs a site map.
Rachel: Right. If you do have Yoast, will there be a conflict between the 2? That would be my two immediate questions.
Scott: Yeah. You do not want two site map plugins on your websites unless it's an add-on. For example, Yoast has a video SEO add-on, a news SEO add-on, a commerce add-on, those all work with the site map that's already there. But, if you installed 2 different plugins that do site maps, you can have a conflict. If you're going to use the JetPack one, remove the other one, or just turn the feature off, because you an turn off-site maps in YoastSEO as well.
Rachel: It's good to know that it's there in both places. Site maps are important for SEO in terms of Google when they're referencing your site, so you do want a site map. We should go all the way back to the beginning and say, you do want a site map.
Blake: You do.
Scott: If you want your site to be listed in Google and be updated with any changes you do regularly, then you want a site map. If you don't care about your site being listed in Google at all, for whatever reason, then you don't need a site map.
Rachel: As photographers and business owners, you want a site map.
Blake: I want to tell you something very interesting. I didn't have a site map on my site until six months ago.
Blake: Yes. I didn't know anything about it. Five years blogging without having a site map.
Scott: Yeah, it helps. It's not a big factor, but it helps.
Blake: [inaudible 00:04:02] Yeah.
Rachel: Wait, we wanted him as a guest? No, I'm just kidding.
Blake: I told you I learned everything through failure.
Rachel: Site maps are important but you don't want 2 of them.
Scott: Yes, you do not want 2 of them. The other thing that JetPack added was a social profile widget. JetPack always had a social sharing option, but now they have, in their enhanced widgets, or extra widget module or whatever, there's a social profile widget where you can add your Facebook profile, your Twitter profile, and it will add icons into your sidebar, whatever widget area you use, with those icons. Nice little thing, if you don't already have one, and you use JetPack, you have an easy way to add it.
Rachel: Is that different from Publicize?
Scott: Correct. Publicize is actually sending your content elsewhere.
Rachel: Oh, okay.
Scott: It's sending your content to Facebook and Twitter and whatnot. This is just social icons that you can put anywhere; that's in a widget.
Rachel: You know, we should co-schedule, which we've talked about many times on the plugin, their latest blog post is actually where you should put your social media icons and why. We should link that because I thought that was a great blog post about the data behind where your social media profile should go.
Scott: Yeah. Do you want to add that into the show notes as I'm talking about the next snippet of news?
Scott: Thank you. The other news is from a company called iThemes, they make one of the most popular backup plugins available, it's called Backup Buddy. They've recently launched a new feature in Backup Buddy, which offers real time backups of your websites instead of scheduled backups. Their goal is to not impact performance and still protect its customers with backups that are as up to date as possible. Which means, if you upload an image, you create a new page, or a new post, or whatever, in theory, Backup Buddy's new live feature, which I think is called stash live, will actually do the back up at that moment in time so you're not, en-sconed to their cloud, the Backup Buddy stash is their cloud.
It's actually going to do it in real time instead of it having to wait until the next scheduled hour, or day, or whatever for it to do your scheduled backup. It's a neat feature. I don't think there's many backup tools, or plugins, that offer real time backup, that real time. Usually they're hourly or 30 minutes, or something like that, or daily, or weekly, or monthly, not true real time. It's a pretty cool feature that they just released.
Rachel: I recommend Vault Press for real time. Is this different from that?
Scott: Vault Press is not real time. It's, depending on what plan you're in it's either hourly, or daily, or weekly, or monthly, or whatever.
Rachel: Oops. This is even, wow, awesome, great.
Scott: Yeah. This is the moment of change back up.
Rachel: Wow, awesome.
Scott: Yeah. It's pretty cool. That apparently was a long year in the works, from iThemes to do that. First of its kind so I can see why it would take that long. Great. We've got the news out of the way. What's going on with Blake?
Blake: All kinds of stuff. I'm in the middle of a re-brand, so that's not fun. Other than that, life is great. Just had a webinar yesterday with Topaz Labs, so I can't complain. I enjoy the teaching aspect of what I do. There's something about those webinars that just energizes me and I get this whirlwind effect where I can't touch any technology for another 8 hours, or my head will explode.
Rachel: I love that. I don't love that your head would explode, but I love how passionate and excited you get about it.
Blake: I do. I love it. I love it. I get so fired up. If you've ever watched one of those webinars, it's like 45 minutes, and I condense, probably like 6 hours worth of content in to 45 minutes. It's mind boggling. I just have so much to say, I can't stop.
Rachel: Do you want to talk about your re-brand a little bit? I know you current brand is HDR and that's where you started.
Rachel: Where are you going? Where is your passion for teaching photographers taking you? What is the journey for you?
Blake: The journey for me has been, I guess we'll start from the very beginning. I'm going to fly through this, like webinar style. I accidentally met Matt Laskowski on a photo walk in 2010; it was complete accident. I was going to a photo walk for one of the companies that printed their books for Kelby. I didn't know where I was going, I knew nothing about photography, really, I was just going there because my wife said, "Hey, here's a photo walk, go." I went, accidentally met Matt, and then Matt says, "Hey, come to PhotoShop world. You seem to like this is something you'd be interested in." I grabbed his card; he gave me a sweet discount on PhotoShop world. I get there, still not knowing who this guy is, I just think he has a funny last name, don't tell him I said that.
Then, I get there, and I see that he's one of the keynote speakers at PhotoShop World. I was like, "Wait a second. Okay, you never told me this stuff." We had some sidebar conversations, and he's like, "You should start a blog." If somebody in that position tells you to start a blog, you drop everything you're doing in life, in life, and you start a blog. The whole way home I started thinking about blogging, I was like, okay, let me just do this HDR thing because I don't know a whole lot about it, and I figure, if I blog about it, then maybe I'll learn more about it as I go, either through my failures, or through comments, or you know how people can be about commenting.
I learned quite a bit a long the way. HDR isn't something, back in the day you had to do HDR to get my style of photography because the sensors in the cameras were just not powerful enough to pick up all of the information in the scene. You had to do the 3 exposures, merge them together, and do all of that fun stuff. Now, with sensors being the way they are, you don't have to do the HDR process. I've noticed that I'm not blogging as much about HDR stuff. Recently I sent out an email to somebody about being a speaker at a seminar. Usually, these things come pretty easily when you have a foot hole in the industry.
I emailed them about speaking there and they said, "Well, HDR's kind of dead so I don't really know if this is going to be the right place for you." I'm like, oh God. My life is over. My wife, my kids, and myself eat on what I do for a living. I just got told that HDR is dead and we might not want you at this seminar. Even though I don't really blog about HDR that much anymore, it's all about photography and photo education, more specifically PhotoShop education. I wanted to re-brand at the end of this year, that was my goal, but then I found out at the beginning of this year that I need to re-brand now, because if I don't, it could be the livelihood of everything I've put together.
Those three little letters, HDR, are like the bane of my existence. I love HDR photography, but at this point, I'm not an HDR photographer as much as I am a PhotoShop and photography educator. So, who do I want? Do I want the people not to come to me because they see those three little letters? Because that happens to me all the time. This is an important lesson for anyone who's even considering getting into any business, is consider the niche, consider how long that niche is going to last, and consider if you can sustain that for longer than 5 or 6 years. Now, I've branded myself into a hole, that if I don't get out of it, I literally could be, I could be like Kodak and losing everything that I've put out there. Obviously, not quite the clout as Kodak, but you know Kodak, they failed to embrace digital photography and look what happened to them.
I don't want to be the one that fails to embrace the fact that I need to change my name. I'm changing the name of my website, probably next week is when that's going to go.
Rachel: Let's take it back, because that was a great discussion for the branding and the high level [inaudible 00:12:26] behind it, but are you on WordPress? Can you talk about some of the technical aspects that you're going through within this transition time?
Blake: Sure. I am a WordPress, I'm on WordPress hosting by Go Daddy. That makes my life a little bit easier in some aspects because, as I've done some tests in the past, if you ever want to change the name of your blog, you just change the URL and press go, and it switches everything over. Now my problem is, okay, when I switch everything over, what's going to happen to all of the previous links to Everyday HDR? Is it going to have the new name with the new string? That's not quite how it works because now I need to go in to the ... As I was talking to Scott about this, he clued me in on the .htaccess files. Now, I've got to go and find a plugin, do some .htaccess stuff so that all of those olds links redirect to the new branded link, with that same string.
There's probably about 10 or 15 thousand links all over the internet somewhere that all go to Everyday HDR. It's not like I'm trying to, I'm not trying to sell my baby, essentially. That's not what I'm trying to do here, I'm just trying to change everything over smoothly, put some new clothes on that baby instead of selling it. That's the hardships I'm going through now, is what plugins am I going to use to do this? If I transition to this, what's going to break? I know something's going to break, I know this for a fact, because like I told you, I learned through failure, so I'm going to fail at some point during this process and I know I am.
Really that just gives me more insight to teach others on, when I do get to that point because eventually I want to teach not just photography, but motivational speaking, making your brand, becoming who you want to be, those types of things. This is the perfect thing for me to fail through because now I have to coach myself through something. As far as the WordPress stuff, on the background, I don't think I'm going to have too many hiccups because I'm WordPress hosted by Go Daddy.
Rachel: You're the managed hosting, we should say, right?
Blake: Yes, the managed hosting.
Rachel: That's a separate plan than, if you're a photographer, and you have a Go Daddy URL, that is different than the Go Daddy managed hosting. They will do a little bit more hand-holding; it is specific to Word Press, correct?
Scott: Yeah, it's a little pricier as well, but you're getting people, like you said, to hold your hand when you have issues, which is nice.
Blake: It's great. They also put you on a different, a faster server that way too. [crosstalk 00:14:56]
Scott: Yeah, it's designed for Word Press, specifically.
Rachel: Right. [crosstalk 00:15:01] The past, especially the past 10, 7, five years ago, their servers were not optimized for Word Press. They had a lot of problems with that.
Scott: I have to give my friend Mendel, who is basically the, I don't know what his official title is, I think he's the Go Daddy pro evangelist or something like that.
Rachel: An advocate or something. You met him here in Boston, right?
Scott: Yeah. No, I met him before that.
Rachel: Oh, okay.
Scott: He just happened to also be at Boston, which was good. Mendel has put a tremendous amount of effort in to improving the branding and reputation of Go Daddy because they did come out with this new managed hosting a while back that isn't very popular, it's not very widely known among the photo industry. Mendel is, every work camp, Mendel's there and he is really, really talking to people and showing that they've improved and whatnot. I have to give it to Go Daddy and Mendel for really turning around this bad reputation that Go Daddy has had over the years.
Blake: I've been using Go Daddy since the beginning of my blogging. I can't say better things about them because every time I have an issue, I pick up the phone, I call them, and I say, "Hey, look, I don't know what I'm doing, can you help me?" Every single time I've not had a person that can't help me through a problem.
Rachel: Have you always been on managed hosting or was that a recent switch over?
Blake: No, I switched over to managed hosting when I created HDR Insider, which was back in 2013, end of 2013. I blogged for three years on the regular hosting. I didn't seem to have any problems, but also, I didn't know what I was doing either, so if I had a problem, I didn't know it was problem. Like I just told you, I didn't have a site map for five years. If I didn't know, it was a problem ... You only know what you know. I didn't know. I had to pursue some knowledge.
Scott: Rachel, another note, speaking of Mendel, he's also a photographer, a hobbyist. We should definitely get him on the show to ...
Rachel: Yeah, I think that would be great.
Scott: Share some of his insights. Blake, during this whole process, there's a couple things that, you and I talked privately about the .htaccess thing, which is basically, you're going to redirect, do a 301 redirect if you're the main, all of the URL's to the new one once you make the switch and you don't have to do them individually, which is good. Once you get to the new domain and you got it up and you notice that your links are wrong and your images are not showing up, there's a plugin called search and replace. Which, you'll be able to go in and 1 clean swoop, say replace hdrinsider.com with whatever the new domain is.
Rachel: Yeah. I've used search and ... Yeah, it's awesome. Let's take it now and go all the way back to, Scott, what is a .htaccess file? If you're listening to this, you're a photographer, you're new to WordPress, you hear that word, and you think, what is that?
Blake: I even need to know this, so go ahead.
Scott: I couldn't tell you the true, technical thing, definition of it, but I'll break it down to how I understand it as. Before I talk about this, most people will never need to touch it.
Scott: If you do touch it, and you don't do it correctly, you will break your website.
Rachel: Also correct.
Scott: .htaccess ...
Blake: I love it, I love it, I love it, doom and gloom. Thank you.
Scott: There's the pre-warning. Basically, an .htaccess file is a file that can perform server-based actions, changing URL's, or adding more memory to a server, or caching, it can implement caching on the server, they can do things like that. It really is, it's basically a text file on your server that is usually hidden, you'd have to actually view hidden in order to see it.
Rachel: Because if you modify it wrong, it breaks. That's why they hide it.
Scott: Yep. It's basically a whole bunch of source code, like a whole bunch of code that you would normally never need to work with. I'd recommend, if you plan on doing something like this, definitely seek help from whatever new host you're going to, because they'll be more than happy to log in to your old host and do it all for you, by modifying whatever they need to modify. They want your business so they're going to do it, they'll do it.
Rachel: I've got the Wikipedia, it says, "An .htaccess, hyper-text access file is a directory level configuration file supported by several web servers, used for configuration of site access issues such as URL redirection, URL shortening, security access control for different web pages and files, and more." The reason it's relevant to this conversation is because we're talking about re-branding and moving from one existing website to another. In normal every day, you wouldn't need it.
Scott: Yeah. Speaking of securities, that's a good one, in NextGEN Gallery and NextGEN Pro, we sell photos and the photos that are displayed in the front end are usually re-sized down, so they load fast. The photos you're selling from are sold from the original, full-size image, which is actually protected by an .htaccess file so it cannot be downloaded just by anybody. There's another use case for an .htaccess file, is it can actually protect files from being downloaded.
Rachel: In that case, who modifies it? Does the plugin?
Scott: Yeah, in that case we do it in the plugin. The plugin modifies it.
Rachel: Again, a normal photographer wouldn't have to go in and change anything.
Scott: Correct, yep.
Rachel: Okay. Just want to bring it back.
Blake: Watching this, I've got a sticky note that says, "Don't touch it, you'll break it. Can it be genetically modified?" That's what I'm wondering. Can I genetically modify this to make it like an apple banana or a ...
Rachel: I think you will do bad things to your server if you did it.
Blake: Or great things with it too.
Rachel: Yep. It's very important. I have to tell you, as a sort-of web person, I sort of fake it until you make it, but the .htaccess scares the crap out of me because it can break things.
Blake: Over Christmas break, I was having a serious issue with my website, where I would be trying to work on it and when I would press update and then preview changes, through WordPress, it would say access denied. I'd have to wait 30 seconds, and then after 30 seconds it would load. Working on it, I just didn't want to work on it, I didn't want to touch it. I had a sale coming up so I had to get this stuff right, so I called Go Daddy and I'm like, "What is going on?" Nobody could tell me the problem because they weren't seeing it on their end. One guy figured it out, he said, "Oh yeah, we just need to increase something in your .htaccess file for your memory."
s soon as he did that, I'm talking like, when I'm plugged in, I've got my WiFi plugged in here. When I'm plugged into my WiFi, I get about 250 to 300 megabytes a second on this connection. I've never seen my site load so fast on my end before until this guy went in to this .htaccess file. You have to know the right people. The people at Go Daddy, they know this stuff but some of them don't know that they don't know what they don't know about it. They don't get in to that. I contacted 3 different people at Go Daddy about it, and this one guy, he knew exactly what he was doing with it. He went in to it and he modified it, and it was perfect. He's one of those people, I think, that was pretty comfortable with the .htaccess. He might know .htaccess on a first name basis instead of a last name basis like you and I.
Rachel: I think that's a good point for managed hostings in general, because the reason you're paying for, and Imagely is going to be managed hosting for photographers, there's WP Engine, which is another big one, and then Go Daddy, they have their managed slot. Is that you're paying that extra price to have that super hand holding through the process. If you don't have a Scott in your life, like we do, to have someone walk you through that. I want to make a note, too, that you called 3 times to get the answer. I think that's a good note for photographers too, call your host, if you don't get the problem solved the first time, call again. That's what you're paying for in your monthly fees.
Blake: Right. It was even one of those things that everyone I called, did something different that helped, but it was just there are so many different ways to do this process. When you talk about it being more expensive, I put it in perspective like this. I think I paid something like $400 for 3 years with 5 websites. Someone's like, "400 bucks, that's crazy." What would your rent be on a studio for a month? It would be over $400. If you look at it in perspective, think of it as renting a building. This is your online office, essentially. If you can get an online office for 5 different office spaces at $400 for 3 years, I think I got a promotion, so don't quote me on that one, that's incredible. That's an incredible price. At first you're thinking, "Well, I can get hosting over here for 30 bucks a year." Is that really going to help you when you put it in perspective?
Scott: You definitely get what you pay for with hosting, because for one, managed hosting, it just has so many advantages. This is definitely a topic for another show, about differences between hosting, but managed hosting has so many advantages because you have servers optimized for WordPress, specifically. You have the people that are hand holding, everything monitoring the server for you, in some cases, updating your themes and plugins in WordPress for you, doing your backups for you, keeping them safe, making sure your website loads as fast as possible. $400 for 5 sites for 3 years [crosstalk 00:25:27]
Rachel: Yeah. If your site goes down, it's $100 an hour just to pay a web dev, if you're that far in to the process. To bring it back to WordPress, was there ever a question in your mind, Blake, about using anything other than WordPress? When you first started, when you transitioned, what was you process in the back end?
Blake: No. I didn't actually. I actually, when I was in the PhotoShop world, I was told that, on the [inaudible 00:25:54] site, they had a course that I could take on how to set myself up with WordPress. You have to understand, I'm this guy off the street who has no idea what the web is, other than maybe going to YouTube to find stupid, funny cat videos from back in 2010. I had no idea that there was this whole world of creating your own domain, and when I got in to it, I just thought it was fascinating. WordPress is all I've ever known, it's probably all I ever will know, especially for how easy it is to make things work.
I don't have any coding experience in the past, I wasn't a software engineer, so for me being just your average Joe off the street, never touching any web stuff, I found it fascinating that I could, essentially, be building a website with the same technology that you'd be using to write an email. It's almost what it seems like, put a subject line, you put a body, oh, you add a body, look at this, just like an email. For me, it was, I've seen no other way, and I probably won't use anything else other than WordPress.
Scott: You mentioned you didn't have any coding experience, and you still have a WordPress site. Let's, back in the intro, I mentioned your connection with Jake. Why don't you talk about how that connection has helped with HDR Insider and, potentially, future things as well. What is Jake doing for you that is beneficial for you as the photographer, educator, and site owner? Jake is not that for your sites.
Blake: This gets in to, I guess, one of the more, things about just life in general. Jake is a mentor for me in many capacities that I do not know at all. Jake and I's connection, he is a coder, he knows how to do all the crazy stuff that I don't know how to do. Most of our conversations with Jake and I are, we really hang ideas off of each other and brainstorm off of each other. It's really helpful for me and my business to have someone like that, especially like Jake, who, we're very open with each other. Our conversations are really kind of funny that we have when we're sitting here on Google Plus. I'd say, almost every day, we have Google Plus chats with each other, and sometimes we're on there for like 2 hours, just talking like little girls in high school, I guess.
He helps me in ways, you know, I'm talking about this re-brand, he's like, "Okay, what do you need, I'll do this. Or, if this doesn't work, I'll figure out a way to code this." Which is really helpful for me but it's also one of those things that's become a hindrance for me because I like to have a lot control. I've been in control of my website for 5 years now. Jake will probably, I think he thinks it's really annoying how much control I like to have. If there's a process that I don't know how to do, I want to know how to do it. It's not because I'm a micro-manager, it's because if everything were to fall through tomorrow and I needed to fix it right now, I would be the one that could it.
The coding aspect behind that, and where Jake comes in is he has helped out a lot on HD Insider, keeping things going. He informed me about SEO. I had no idea was SEO was. I knew it was 3 letters, but I thought it was part of a song, like Blake Rudis has a website, S-E, S-E-O. It's not part of that. This is not old McDonald had a farm with SEO. SEO, for me, was something that I wasn't doing on my site so when Jake peered in to my site for the first time about a year ago, maybe a little less than a year ago, we haven't known each other long, but we've become like brothers in less than a year, he says, "You have no SEO here." I said, "Well, I tagged myself with my post." He says, "You have no SEO." I was like, "What is SEO?"
This wasn't that long ago. We're talking, like you said, you'll fumble your way through things, you fail your way through things. Then he says, "You know, the only reason why your website is known is because you have over 600 blog posts over the last 5 years. You were just randomly being grabbed by random things to get you on the internet." It's been, it was one of those, I though I was so successful, like, "Yeah, look at my website." Then you learn all these things about the back end of what you're not doing. He was able to point these things out.
He is my mentor on things I don't know, or probably ever will know, on the website. I'm his mentor on things about photography and business management, stuff like that. Between the two of us, we're like an unstoppable force for everything that's man. [crosstalk 00:30:33]
Rachel: Or woman, no.
Blake: I'm just saying man in general. If we're being politically correct here, all that is human. If you've ever seen him, he's like this big dude, giant human.
Rachel: We just spoke to him. No, he's so sweet.
Blake: He's very nice. We do workshops together. We did this workshop in Cannon Beach and that was the first time I met him. Actually, before that we went out to South Dakota and met up for the first time. It was kind of like walking around with my giant, have you ever seen that movie back in the day? Here, I'm like 5'11" and a half, for the rest of my life, I'm going to be a half inch off of 6 foot, and here's this guy, towering over me. It's just a funny combination of people. We do these workshops together, it's just interested. You'd think that a guy that large would be intimidating and scary but he's the biggest teddy bear of a human being that will just help you in any way. He literally gave the shirt off of his back to somebody that got hit by a wave. That's the kind of guy that he is.
Rachel: I think it's important to highlight that the relationship that you guys have, in terms of a more technical person and a more business minded, higher level person like yourself, is that I think photographers can benefit from those. Solo-preneurs, they're sitting in their houses, they're listening to these podcasts, don't be afraid to go out and make those connections and find someone that you can joke around with. At the same time, understand it might be a mutually beneficial relationship.
Blake: I've been death, death, deathly afraid of doing something like this for the longest time. The reason why is because I had somebody that I tried to start this with before and it didn't quite work out between us. He was more of a manager type of person, where he could get things done because he had great ideas, but I was doing all the work. That really irritated me. You have to find the right person. I've had this relationship for, I mean, I think it was April or March of last year that we started talking, it was just one of those things. He was on my subscribers list on my email and he sent me a little message that said, "Hey, I like what you do, do you do workshops?" Then, that evolved in to a conversation.
The big takeaway is, no matter where you are in your life, whether it's WordPress, or even your business working life, is you don't turn down opportunities and understand that every single person that you come in contact with has something for you. You can always learn from someone. People get these big heads on their shoulders, "I don't need anybody else." That's not true. Even the best people in this world ... I just read a book called Lincoln on Leadership, it was about Abraham Lincoln. If you ever get a chance to read that book, it's phenomenal, because he was just a lawyer, that's all he was, and became the president. He really relied on all of the people that he met throughout his presidency to make it what it was.
It's really important life lesson to learn that even someone like him, where we think back to honest Abe, we think about the presidents, 2 presidents come to mind when you say, "Name 2 presidents." George Washington and Abe Lincoln. Boom. Then maybe you might say Obama because he's the most recent president. Those things are really important so that you can lean on these people and understand that everyone you meet in your life has something to offer you. Don't turn those things down because if I never would've talked to Matt Laskowski, if I'd have been at that workshop, he didn't even have a camera, so here I'm thinking, "Who's this guy who comes to a photo walk without a camera?" The thing is, he had a photo walk before and he just wanted to walk around and talk to the guys [inaudible 00:33:55].
It was like, if I would have said, "How does this guy have a leg to stand on if he's at a photo walk, with no camera?" Then I'd have been using those preconceived judgments to maybe not make him as credible as he was. You can't take aspects out there. You have to open your mind and open yourself, especially if you're in this blogging world.
Rachel: Yeah. I love that, in relating that back to WordPress, there's no stupid questions. That's a lot of, Scott and I [inaudible 00:34:21] we're actually going to do a Q and A session, so we welcome some input from you guys, if you want to comment. A lot of people I talk to, they're like, I won't even touch WordPress because I'm afraid to ask the questions and sound stupid. You can't sound stupid because you're out there asking the questions and you're putting yourself out there. I don't know. You can ask me anything.
Scott: I started a Facebook group called WordPress for photographers that, we're getting questions almost every day. Some of them are what others might consider stupid questions, but, you know, we answer them. It's a community of people answering questions. Then, that's actually linked, if you're watching the podcast or if you're on the podcast show notes page, or on the Imagely blog at all, then it's actually linked in the sidebar of the blog too.
Rachel: We should say, Jake, the person who we were talking about here, and who we spoke to in the last episode, does those things. There are other resources within the WordPress community that you can reach out and find a person like that. You see, from Blake, how important that is.
Blake: It's huge.
Rachel: Just having someone to bounce stuff off of can make a world of difference.
Blake: I really wish that, I'm in that WordPress for photographers group, but I'm the silent lurker. I like to just peak in the windows of the conversations. I do that in a lot of different Facebook groups. I don't talk a lot. I talk a lot when we do this kind of thing, but I don't talk a lot socially in those social atmospheres, but I do watch everything and I'm like, "Oh that's a great question. I really wish I would've had the answer to that when I first started." If you're just starting in this whole WordPress thing, get in that group because Scott does a great job with helping people out with those questions and there's other people in there that do a great job of helping out with those questions. There really is no dumb question, all of them are actually dumb questions because there's a hundred different ways to do it. If you really think about it, every question could be either really smart or really dumb, it just depends.
Scott: We're getting close to the end. I kind of want to touch on one topic before we get in to your recommended plugins or themes. You've got 2 websites right now, you're going to be re-branding, but right now HDR Insider is a membership based site.
Blake: It is.
Scott: I actually am wondering, now we had a conversation with Bryan Caporicci in episode 6, I believe, about podcasting for for clients. I'm wondering, from your point of view as running a membership site for photographers, really, what your thoughts might be on creating membership programs for clients? For example, wedding photographers could share private content with their clients to help them plan their weddings, real estate photographers could share private content with their clients to help them with staging homes or properties, and landscape photographers can share private content about color theory and what photo to hang where. Is this something that should just be emailed or is this something you can do like an online course and put it behind a membership gateway?
Blake: That's an awesome question because, really, I think there's many different ways to handle a membership site. Even if you look at them all over the place, all the different membership sites, there's a bunch of them there. The reason why I started HDR Insider, another thing I fumbled my way through the whole time, was because I had somebody ask me if I could full work flow tutorials. Now, if you follow Everyday HDR, and here's the difference between the two, Everyday HDR is free content, usually snippets of tutorials that I just want to do because I was sitting there in PhotoShop and I was like, "Oh, that would be great to show people." They're just little snippets of 10 to 15 minute little things. Those are great, but how do you take those 10 to 15 minute things and pull them in to 1 concise work flow?
Someone said, "Hey, can you post your whole, entire HDR workflow on YouTube?" I was like, "Well, I could, but that's kind of my thing. If I do that, I'm giving away the whole farm instead of raising some crops." So, I started HDR Insider, and that was mainly to do a couple of things. The only thing I really want to do is show workflows, but I was like, how can I justify just showing 1 workflow a month, or 2 workflows a month? I made it a workflow, I made it a project so every month people get a new project. That project is, "Hey, do something with this." Then, I pick a winner at the end of the month, from that project, to win one of my tutorial packages or something, if a company donates something, they win that.
Then, I do a workflow tutorial on what, the project that I gave them at the beginning of the month. They do it. They see their peers do it. Then, they see me do it. Then, halfway through the month I do a critique session where I take 10 images. I don't turn any images down, if they come in, I just put them in different slots for different months, and I'll critique 10 images right there on PhotoShop and it's all anonymous. It slowly developed into more things.
That's just one kind of idea of content that can be on a site that like that in the background. What you're trying to do here, with a membership site, in my opinion, is give something that is even more value that you over deliver on, than your normal site. I always suggest doing something for free. If we equate this to that gateway drug concept, like, "Hey, here's a free one, come back later and you'll get more." That's kind of a bad analogy, but that's the thing, it's like, here is something that I'm showing you that I think is very valuable, but there's a lot more stuff over here that's even more valuable and I can't just give this stuff to you for free. But, you can pop in and watch it for a month if you want, then you're done. I don't have restricted contracts. If you sign up for a year, you're in for a year. If you sign up for a month, you can back out at any time.
Rachel: So, for a photographer, with their clients ... I'm assuming you're running this on WordPress?
Rachel: The membership site. What's the benefit of doing it on a WordPress in their own site versus starting a Facebook group or building a community in another way?
Blake: I think the idea of putting it on a site instead of a community social media site is that, I think I would feel kind of odd charging someone money for something that I post on Facebook. It's just not a, to me it's not a legitimate form of a closed group. When I think closed group, I'm thinking something that's so secretive, so closed, that the only way you can get in there is with a user name and password, and that content is not shared throughout the world. HDR Insider has like 700 active members, they aren't really active, but 700 memberships, how many are active, I'm not really quite sure because it's kind of hard to manage. It's very restricted to just them.
Now, I do on top of that, have an HDR Insider Facebook group. On there, we run different things too. If you want to do a bi-weekly project, every 2 weeks there's a project, you can do that too, that's on the Facebook site. That's where people can kind of talk with one another in an outside forum, which I could've put a forum on the website, but I found, I did a forum on Everyday HDR at one point and it was horrible. It didn't go very well. It was hard for me to moderate, more spam got in there than anything. The Facebook side of things, for that part of the aspect, I think is great, to have a closed group on Facebook where they go off of HDR Insider and just hop in over there.
Then, you can post your updates to HDR Insider to that community in Facebook. People are more sociably friendly on Facebook, then that gets them back over the website. There's ways that you cross communicate [crosstalk 00:42:11]. The whole HDR Insider being just on Facebook, it's difficult because it's not managed ... I just lost an ear bud. It's not managed content. It's, you post it and then it gets lost in the feed. You post, it gets lost in the feed.
Scott: There's also the idea of branding and ownership. On Facebook, yeah, you still own the photos that you put there, but really, Facebook could take whatever you put there bear it anywhere. You're agreeing to that when you use Facebook. Then there's also branding. Yeah, you can put your logo in the group box for your image, but that's it. You have your own website, you control every aspect of it from top to bottom, left to right.
Blake: There's so much more in that. I installed, I think the plugin on there is paid memberships pro, and it was really simple to set up, it was really easy. I was actually shocked how quickly that set up. I launched it after only, maybe, a month of working on it and I thought it was going to go nowhere. It became pretty successful for me. That's the difficult aspect of this, though, is, okay, now I'm re-branding out of the HDR stuff, now I have to re-brand 2 sites. That's difficult.
Scott: My recommendation to you would be, put them together under one roof and have the Everyday HDR content just being free content and then having all the HDR Insider behind the gateway.
Scott: That way you're managing one website that has both and you're offering it all in one spot. I will say, by the time this podcast is out there, your re-brand should be done so hopefully we'll have that, the domain linked up once that's all done.
Rachel: It will be really interesting to see ... The people that are listening now can go to your new site and know that, at the time we were recording, you were going through all this and maybe make it ...
Scott: Hopefully, yeah.
Blake: If I fail, you won't see the re-brand. You might not even see a website.
Rachel: Normally we move in to the guest recommended WordPress product, and I love that you talked about the plugin that you used for the membership site. Is there any other WordPress products or plugins that you use on a regular basis?
Blake: I'm in love with the Divi theme, you can call me a Divi groupie. The thing is, it makes it really simple and easy, especially because, when you get in to the product sales of things, now, some people might just be thinking about blogging, but when you get in the product sales of things, one of the most important things when you're doing a launch of a product is to not have any clutter on the page at all. No header, no footer. It was so hard for me with my first product launch, I didn't understand how to do that with WordPress on my regular theme that I was using. So, I didn't do that and my sales weren't nearly as good as my next launch when I was using Divi and I was able to make all that stuff disappear and make a really simple, clean website for product launches that way.
You always have the product for sale on your website, but when you're doing a launch there's something to the psychology of not seeing any clutter and only seeing what's in front of you. If you ask my wife, if we were to go to a plaza where they had 15 restaurants to eat, I say, "Okay, it's time to eat, what do you want love?" She's like, "Um, I don't know, there's too many choices." It's the same thing with a product launch. If you have all this stuff all over the place, there's too many ways for people to get out. Divi made it really simple for me to not only build the site, but it also gave me options to really optimize my launches in a way that I couldn't have done without it. I have nothing but praise for the Divi theme on that aspect of things.
Scott: Regarding, Divi, for anybody listening or watching, also check out episode 7 with Jake, where we talked a lot about Divi and Divi's page builder as well. There will be more insights there. Divi's fantastic for giving people who don't understand code, ways to create things that easily. Anything else? Paid membership pro, for membership sites is what you use, Divi theme is what you use for your site now. Anything else you want to throw out there that you recommend?
Blake: We already talked about Yoast. I'm an analytics freak. I love seeing that little green light, red light, orange light. For me that's like, "Oh I got a green light, I'm good." I love Yoast. I do like some other things for lead generation like hybrid connect is one that I use to generate email leads that I really like, and bloom. Bloom is also in the elegant stuff. Those are my top, that if you were to say, okay, you can only have X amount of plugins, what are you going to have? Those would probably be it.
Scott: Is hybrid connect the same thing as bloom, or is it something different?
Blake: It's something different. I don't even know if it exists anymore. Thrive themes is the company that made it. Hybrid connect was the first part, then they came out with thrive themes and Thrive Leads. I really enjoy hybrid connect because of the ability to control what pages my pop up pops up on. It can do some things that some of the other lead generation things can't do.
Scott: I just checked it, it's no longer available, they're not redirecting to Thrive Leads.
Blake: Thrive Leads, yeah.
Scott: In the show notes, I'm going to link to Thrive Leads, but anybody that's listening or watching just know that Blake was actually using hybrid connect which is what is now Thrive Leads.
Blake: Thrive Leads is their new form of ... It actually has a lot more options, but to me, it's too much. I liked what they had before because it was so simple and easy. That's the thing about how long is that plugin going to work now, though? I don't know, because if they aren't updating it any more, I might have some issues.
Scott: Yeah. There could be security issues, there could be compatibility issues.
Rachel: Our last episode, we talked about the social media ... What was it? The one that Mailchimp is no longer supporting.
Scott: Right. Social by Mailchimp.
Rachel: Social, yeah. We had evangelists of that plugin come on, and now ... Again, this is why, as a WordPress podcast, we're always trying to update you on the ongoing things, because when things do change like that and you're so used to one product. You can equate it, because I know, Blake, you do a lot of PhotoShop work, there's a lot of photographers who are stuck in a PhotoShop release, because they understand it, they know it, but it's that same mentality of you have to keep going and growing with the software, even though it might take you out of your own workflow and head space.
Blake: Exactly. That's the thing, you're going to get thrown for a whirl. Once they create those new products, they stop developing the other ones and you don't want to be stuck with that. I probably should look more in ... I have Thrive Leads too.
Scott: You also have Bloom.
Rachel: What is bloom?
Scott: Bloom is just like Thrive Leads and OptinMonster and all those. It's an opt in.
Rachel: Oh, okay.
Scott: A pop up, or a slide up, or a bar, whatever you want to do. It's one of those type of call to action plug ins.
Blake: What I like about bloom is the ability to lock content. You can actually use a short code to lock a certain button. When I do these webinars, I will lock the PDF, it's masked by, "Hey, enter your email for this PDF." As soon as they do that it doesn't give them the PDF via email, it just unlocks that part of the page, so the box goes away and then there's the button, "Hey, download the PDF." It takes out the middle man of having to get something for giving your email address, wait for it to come in the email, and then get lost in the translation of, "Okay, where is my thing that I put my email in for?" That's the number one thing I use bloom for, is the lock content aspect of things.
Scott: Bloom's a really, really, really nice plugin. I've said it before in the podcast, I like OptinMonster the best of them all. I've tried so many. I haven't tried Thrive Leads. I've played with bloom and there's only one thing holding me back from switching to bloom from OptinMonster and it's that bloom does not support Mail Chip groups. If you use Mailchimp groups, then bloom is not the plugin for you.
Rachel: Versus Mailchimp lists, correct?
Scott: Correct. Bloom can work with as many Mailchimp lists as you want but if you, I use 1 list with multiple groups to segment on the fly, and it can't support it.
Rachel: That's interesting.
Scott: Unfortunately. Yeah. This was a great conversation.
Rachel: Yes, thank you.
Scott: Any final thoughts you want to share? Any advice for photographers working on their sites? Or anything like that?
Blake: Yeah. Just one of those things, if you're having any reservations about it, just do it and fail through it. That's the idea. I should quote that, just do it, fail through it. It really is. You can't hurt anything by going in there and doing it. If you are an advanced user and ... Reach out to other people, learn from other people, and always have an open mind to the other people around you. This isn't the world, this WordPress and photography world, this isn't the type of world where you want to think that you're the best of the best and there's nobody that can be better than you, because it's not that type of competition. Yeah, there's competition out there, but you have to embrace the knowledge that you're going to receive from other people because if you don't, you wouldn't develop relationships like Scott and I have, or like Jake and I have.
Those are things that you don't want to turn your back on because you might think that you're better than somebody else. That might not be a conversation that you think you need to have with people, but people get those reservations, like, "Oh, I do this and this person came out with something else." You've got to drop all that stuff and just embrace the fact that we're all in one big, big pond. We're all different sized fish but we'll all get to the same place at a different time in our careers.
Rachel: Oh, I love that. What a great way to end. Thank you so much.
Scott: Yes. I have officially titled episode 8 as Just Do It and Fail Through It.
Blake: That's awesome.
Rachel: Like the anti-Nike.
Blake: The story of my life.
Scott: Now you have to use that quote in many places. [inaudible 00:52:49]
Blake: I said circus mama in a webinar, now I say it all the time.
Scott: That's a good one.
Blake: That's with overly saturated images, I call them circus mamas.
Scott: That makes perfect sense, too, that's the funny part. Thank you, Blake, for joining us today. Thank you, Rachel, for being an awesome co-host.
Rachel: Thank you, Scott.
Scott: Yes. You can find the show notes from today at imagely.com/podcast/8.
Scott: Yes. Until next time.
Blake: Bye, thanks again.
— Imagely (@imagely) February 18, 2016