Virtual University Offers Photography Course for Writers

Book cover: Non Fiction Writer's Guide to Digital PhotographyWRITERS. ARTISTS. DESIGNERS. According to photojournalist/author Ronald Kness, non-fiction writers can earn more money when they submit photos along with their text. That’s why he wrote an e-book entitled “The Non-Fiction Writer’s Guide to Digital Photography.” But knowing the basics of taking good photographs could be equally beneficial to artists who are documenting their everday work or exhibitions or designers who are creating promotional materials.

If you’re new to photography, you might benefit from the new e-course Kness has developed for The Virtual University. Entitled “A Beginner’s Guide to Digital Photography,” the course is designed to help you cut through the confusion of digital camera menus and learn how to take high-quality, vivid shots every time. You can study at your own pace from the comfort of your own home.

The course provides plain-English explanations of common terminology as well as: 

  • Digital camera features (how and when to use them).
  • Camera menu systems (how to select the best settings based on lighting, distance, and other factors).
  • The Golden Triangle (how to use ISO, aperture control, and shutter speed to take the quality of your images to the next level).
  • The Rules and Composition (the 10 elements that have the greatest impact on image quality).
  • Lenses and Filters (how and when to use them).

The course includes tutorials, suggested readings, and optional homework activities. Plus, you can upload your images and receive helpful guidance and critiques from Ron Kness.

Head shot Photojournalist Ron Kness
Ron Kness

If you need a bio picture (or “head shot”) for online publishing or self-marketing purposes, Kness will explain how to shoot self-portraits in the most flattering light.  He will also provide tips for selling photos on popular websites such as iStockphoto, Bigstock, Dreamstine, and Shutterstock.

Kness has taught digital photography in a traditional classroom for the past seven years and is a featured columnist in “Writer’s Journal” magazine. Plus, he has ghost-written books on how to make money with digital photography and how to make money selling micro-stock photography.

The fee for “The Beginner’s Guide to Digital Photography” is $20. The suggested e-book (“The Non-Fiction Writer’s Guide to Digital Photography”) can be purchased in PDF form for $9.95.

All course materials will be available to you when you start the class, so you don’t have to wait for weekly lessons. You can learn at your own pace. You will have three months to complete the course.

LINKS

Virtual University Course: A Beginners Guide to Digital Photography

The Non-Fiction Writer’s Guide to Digital Photography

Self-Publishers Can Use iBuildApp.com to Produce iPad Publications

iBuildApp ScreenShot of iPad AppsIf you would like to produce your own iPad magazine, catalog, or book app, check out the free iPad Publishing solution announced by Silicon Valley-based start-up iBuildApp.com. The company  has created templates that make it much less complicated for authors and other non-coders to format and publish content to mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPad.

The solution was designed to deliver a good experience for the reader. “We believe that a digital magazine or newspaper should feel like a media app, not like a magazine reader,” said Rafael Soultanov, of iBuildApp.com “When someone swipes from page to page they can choose different stories to read. Images are vivid, and video is optimized. If a reader wants to comment or share what they’re reading, they just tap a button.”

The fully functional publishing app takes about 2 to 3 hours to create and publish content. Just copy/paste content into the pre-made templates for the iPad for free. With the templates, self-publishers can focus on their content and leave the formatting, publishing and distribution to iBuildApp.

The company plans to integrate the iBuildApp iPad solution with other CMS platforms such as WordPress, Drupal and Joomla. It will simply require snippets of code from iBuildApp to be inserted into the CMS code.

Unlike other services, iBuildApp Self-Publishing Solution provides authors with a free online editor, free formatting and design templates, and integrated publishing for iPad and Web.

Founded in 2010, iBuildApp is headquartered in Foster City, California. Their goal is to make it easy and affordable for businesses of all sizes to build and manage mobile apps.

iBuildApp’s first product was a do-it-yourself platform for making iPhone/Android apps without knowledge of coding. As of the end of March, the iBuildApp solution had been used to produce about 2,000 of the iPhone apps available on iTunes.

LINKS

 iBuildApp.com iPad Self-Publishing Solution

 About iBuildApp.com

Sculpteo Can Convert Photos of People into 3D Figurines

Picture some of the photo-merchandise possibilities of the latest 3D printing service offered by Sculpteo. After you upload front- and profile-view photos of an individual, Sculpteo artists will interpret the visuals to create a 3D model of that person which they will send you for approval. You get to choose the clothing and colors.

Sculpteo Mini Figurines

Within a few days, you will receive a personalized figurine (or 3D avatar or mini-action figure) between 3 to 4 inches high. The figurines are manufactured on a 3D digital printer, which builds and solidifies a material layer by layer until the finished object is created.

Sculpteo Bridal Party

The mini-action figures could be popular for graduation, birthday, and retirement parties or bridal showers and weddings. You might also create mini-action figures for sports-team banquets or as gifts for children of military parents serving overseas. You can figure out many other possibilities as well.

LINKS

Sculpteo

How The Transformation of Publishing Might Affect The Careers of Creatives

WRITERS. DESIGNERS. At the inaugural Publishing Xchange Conference held in Washington, DC this week, some of the best and brightest analysts of the printing and publishing industries discussed some of the technologies that are totally transforming how content is delivered and consumed.  Their advice was intended primarily to help owners of traditional printing and publishing companies figure out how to revamp their business models.

Publishing Xchange ConferenceA lot of the advice given at the conference can also apply to creative professionals who sell writing, design, or photography services to publishers. You may want to adjust your own career objectives and business plans once you consider what the publishing landscape might look like two or three years from now.

A Quick Overview
Here’s what I learned in three different sessions: The consumer is king. Content is king. Data is king.

So which is it? Publishing’s future will probably be ruled by all three. Feedback and data supplied by consumers will dictate the type and quality of content that gets produced and delivered.

Most speakers agreed that the iPad is a real game-changer. Its full effects on printing and publishing are only beginning to be understood. For one thing, media tablets such as the iPad open up whole new ways for publishers and advertisers to engage with readers, measure their behavior, and deliver targeted advertising. Here are some of the other themes that emerged from the discussions.

The publishing universe is expanding very rapidly and in unpredictable directions. Today, anyone and everyone can publish, distribute, and monetize content. New groups of publishers include corporations (who once supplied most of the advertising revenue to magazine publishers) and authors (who supply the content from which book publishers earn their revenues).

The demand for content is growing. Smartphones and iPads have made the Internet portable. Because we are connected all the time everywhere we go, we expect instant and constant access to entertainment, news, educational material, social networks, product information, and advice that can help us make more informed choices.

 Print is not dead, but it will be regarded differently in the future. Books and magazines will be printed in shorter runs, with more visual content and higher quality paper. Printed pieces will be viewed as more permanent, physical objects. In cross-media marketing, various forms of printed communications will be used in coordination with digital tools.

More businesses are adopting data-driven cross-media marketing. Every individual has their own preference about how and when they want to be reached.  Cross-media marketing helps ensure that the right message reaches the right person through the right medium at the right moment when they’re ready to make a buying decision.

Data is becoming increasingly important. The quality and freshness of the data collected and stored will determine the cost-effectiveness of cross-media marketing. With the right data, marketers can reduce the overall volume of marketing materials that must be produced and distributed.

Magazine publishers and advertisers will use more sophisticated data analytics. Instead of simply measuring how many people are reading content, they will want data that tells them more about each individual who clicks on the content.

Businesses now realize that people visit sites for different reasons. The key is to determine which 10 to 15% of site visitors can be converted into paying customers.

Publishers who use Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite to produce magazines for the iPad and other tablet computers will be able to get a real-time picture of how readers are interacting with each story or ad in the publication. Advertising can be delivered based on the demographics and interests of the reader.

How publishers sell advertising will change. Publishers will no longer sell ad space. Instead, they might sell advertising based on the type of content that will be published.

Currently, ads must be reformatted from standard PDFs into a multitude of formats for tablets and smartphones. This is a challenge that Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite also helps address.

Over the next few years, publishers will continue to derive less of their income from print advertising. So, they will need to find supplementary or alternative sources of income. For example, the National Geographic Society produces TV programs, educational resources, DVDs, games, maps, travel guides, museum exhibits and much more.

Branding matters. Consumers will turn to the brands they trust to consistently provide the type of content they want. It doesn’t matter if the brand originated as a newspaper, magazine, book, or TV show, because the distinctions between media types are disappearing.

One dilemma that digital-content producers face is determining where to reset the boundaries between editorial content and advertising. To what extent can they integrate advertising into their content without losing the brand trust and loyalty of their readers?

The rules of the game are still being written. Technology is changing so quickly that printing and publishing may be in a permanent state of transition. Constant innovation will be required in terms of products, services, workflow, and business models. Consider this: Three of the most disruptive influences in the communications field (Facebook, Twitter, and the iPad) were all introduced within the last five years. We can’t even predict what new technologies might arise over the next five years.

New types of businesses will emerge from the chaos. Some publishers will continue to aggregate and distribute branded content. Others might set up systems that make it easier for individuals to publish and distribute their own content. Still other companies are making it easy for publishers in the U.S. to outsource routine digital-imaging and content-production tasks to companies in India or other nations.

Advice for Publishers and Print Providers
Here are some of the tips that were given to publishers and print-service providers. (And yes, some of it also applies to creative professionals who sell their services to publishers.)

  • Remain flexible.
  • Be willing to try new things.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail at some things.
  • Use data extensively (both for targeting your messaging and measuring what works).
  • If you find something that works, keep doing more of it.
  • Use your “artistic vision” to look for opportunities that others haven’t yet recognized.

Advice for Creatives
I’ll be following up with some of the outstanding, insightful analysts who spoke at the Publishing Xchange Conference to see if they have any tips to add to this list, but here are a few of my own thoughts:

Never stop learning. Printing and publishing companies will need staff employees and freelancers who are willing and able to continually learn new skills. Remain curious about the many different ways a new technology might be used.

Demonstrate your value to employers in a positive way. When creatives are perceived as being “difficult” or resistant to change, they risk being the first to be let go when a publisher decides to outsource more tasks to workers in other countries. The more you are viewed as a supportive and talented team player, the more likely it is that you will be reassigned to more challenging projects, or asked to help incorporate the next round of technological innovations.

Prepare to have your work more closely measured. If you don’t already publish a blog, start one. Blogging is a great way to learn the basics of analytics. You may experience an almost Pavlovian response after seeing those first encouraging spikes in traffic and favorable feedback to certain posts. Analytics can be weirdly motivating.

Devote chunks of your time to creating and marketing some personal projects. This can be a stress-relieving way to fulfill your need for self-expression and create work that reflects your vision and capabilities. But it can also make you appreciate some of the hard realities of developing a profitable business.

Where’s the Humanity?
At one point during an in-depth discussion of analytics, one brave soul stood up and asked: “Won’t all this emphasis on data inhibit creativity?”

Depending on the nature of your employer or client, an over-reliance on reader data might temporarily stifle some creativity (and limit the ability to reach out to new readers). But publishers and printers will constantly need to experiment with new ideas.

And, my well-honed editor’s “intuition” tells me that data analytics will only confirm what creatives already know: People want content that reflects and respects our humanity. Consumers will engage with content that inspires, surprises, delights, amuses, intrigues, tantalizes, entertains, persuades, clarifies, educates, or evokes joy or wonder.

If you can prove that you’re exceptionally good at storytelling, crafting powerful imagery, stirring emotional connections, or stimulating reader participation, then your talents will definitely be in demand.

Future posts on this blog will delve into these topics in more detail, calling attention to some of the remarkable speakers from organizations such as Outsell, InfoTrends, The Seybold Report, What They Think?, and the IDEAlliance + IPA.

Kudos to Publishing Xchange Chair David Zwang and Questex Media Group for pulling together such a thought-provoking conference.

What’s The Difference Between Cross-Media Marketing and Transmedia Storytelling?

Do you know the difference between cross-media marketing and transmedia storytelling? What about interactive advertising?

I hadn’t given any of these buzzwords much thought until I started compiling a list of technology-related trends that creative professionals probably need to think about as they try to anticipate where their next opportunities might come from.  The more I learn about these trends, the brighter the future looks for creative professionals with a natural gift for conceptual thinking.

Cross-media marketing is defined by InfoTrends as “the use of two or more media types (print, e-mail, Web, mobile, and/or social) in an orchestrated campaign targeting a specific demographic and/or psychographic segment…A cross-media campaign delivers relevant content and a call to action through multiple media simultaneously as an integrated campaign.”

JWT Transmedia Rising CoverTransmedia storytelling, as explained by JWTIntelligence, “involves narrative threads tailored for different channels (from mobile to big screens, from social to traditional media) and audiences (gamers, readers, Tweeters, etc.)…For brand marketers, this means that rather than striving for consistency across multiple touchpoints, the goal is for different channels to communicate different things (within the overarching strategy), with an emphasis on putting the brand community at the center.”

JWT’s Dean Baker explains it this way: “What we need to do is figure out the story behind the brand, the place it wants to occupy in the consumer’s mind, deconstruct it, make it relevant and reassemble it for the relevant audiences on the appropriate channels. Then, through social media, let the experience and associations grow organically.”

Interactive advertising, as described in the excellent documentation on The Barbarian Group website, is “any advertising that a potential customer can interact with.” While most interactive advertising takes place on the Internet, it could also be advertising on a mobile phone, a kiosk on a salesroom floor, or a billboard on Times Square. Interactive advertising is not human, it is not e-commerce, and it is more than banners and websites. Most importantly, says The Barbarian Group, “It is the one form of advertising that the customer initiates.”

I learned about The Barbarian Group when I read a news item about a billboard they had created that uses facial-recognition technology to interpret the characteristics and movements of viewers and adjust the advertising content accordingly.

Is your mind boggled yet? Mine certainly is.

But the reason I feel optimistic for creatives is because success in all three of these areas will require higher levels of both analytical and conceptual thinking.

For marketing execs (analytical thinkers), these trends add new layers of complexity to planning and measuring integrated marketing strategies.

Marketing-service providers will have to innovate in order to help their clients execute all of the elements of cross-media, transmedia, and interactive campaigns in the most cost-effective, efficient, and timely manner.

Then, it will be left up to conceptual thinkers (the creatives) to come up with the novel ideas and fresh approaches to storytelling that will effectively engage targeted consumers at every point in the process.

This could present some refreshing opportunities for creatives, because so much of the work formerly trusted to creative professionals has been boiled down into “formulas,” then automated in the form of templates and artificial intelligence embedded in graphic-design and image-editing software.

Perhaps because of the sheer volume of fresh content that must be continually fed to the Internet, creative professionals often find themselves regarded more as assembly-line production laborers than as potential contributors of innovative strategies.  In my opinion, creative talent is sometimes under-utilized.

Hopefully, creative professionals will find new ways to contribute as marketing (and entertainment) becomes more dependent on finding new ways to construct and deliver coherent and emotionally powerful stories across multiple platforms.

Resources

The Barbarian Group defines themselves as “a digital services and creation company that delivers the best possible experience for the consumer through the integrated and disciplined use of the best possible practices, good ideas, people and technology.” The portfolio portion of their website features examples of interactive advertising, including a trade-show backdrop projection wall in which blades of grass sway in a virtual breeze created as visitors walk past.  Their Barbaripedia includes a wealth of information about how interactive production differs from traditional advertising and broadcast production. They recommend way to avoid potential pitfalls.

InfoTrends is a worldwide market-research and strategic consulting firm serving the digital-imaging and document solutions industries. Their recent study, entitled “The Cross-Media Direct Marketing Opportunity,” explains how marketing executives are using print, online, mobile, and social media in their businesses.

JWTIntelligence, part of the JWT marketing-communications agency, is described as “a center for provocative thinking.” They describe their mission as follows: “We make sense of the chaos in a world of hyper-abundant information and constant innovation—finding quality amid the quantity.”  Their trendletter entitled “Transmedia Rising,” explains why “The days of broadcasting to consumers are over, a new era of entertaining, engaging, and empowering consumers is upon us.” The report highlights examples of transmedia projects such as Mattel’s Ken and Barbie campaign and The Old Spice campaign featuring The Man Your Man Could Smell Like.

 

Practical Advice for Making and Selling Custom Products

DESIGNERS. If you’re curious about how to convert your designs into custom-manufactured products, check out some of the how-to guides and tutorials featured on the Ponoko Blog. Or subscribe to the company’s newsletter.  

Ponoko operates the Personal Factory for making, buying, and selling custom goods online. According to the company, more than 75,000 user-generated goods have been instantly priced online, made and delivered from Ponoko’s network of digital factories in San Francisco, Berlin, Milan, London, and Wellington, New Zealand.

The Ponoko blog is filled with articles and guides that explain the manufacturing technologies, different types of materials and design software available, and how to make a profit selling the goods that you have designed.

For example, a recent issue of the Ponoko newsletter highlighted a lengthy blog post that described in detail the Ten Simple Steps to Make and Sell Your Custom Product. Here’s a quick rundown of the ten steps covered in the post:

  1. Create a clear design brief for your product.
  2. Get the idea out of your head and sketch it out on paper.
  3. Choose your materials and components. 
  4. Choose how your product will be made.
  5.  Finalize your design for the chosen material and method.
  6.  Make a physical prototype of your design.
  7.  Assess the outcome of your prototype and adjust your design.
  8. Set a wholesale and retail price for your product.
  9.  Make your product available for purchase.
  10.  Promote your product to your target market.

Here’s an example of the type of practical business advice Ponoko provides: “When selling your product online, make sure you take high-quality photos and write useful and imaginative descriptions of your product. Describe what it is made of, what the dimensions are and what it feels like. Don’t be afraid to share a bit about yourself too, so that customers can identify with you as a real person.”

“We really cannot emphasize enough the importance of crisp, well lit, high quality photos. It’s these images which will catch the eye of your potential online customers, who will assume that the quality of your photos reflect the quality of your product.”

The blog on the Ponoko website features case studies showing the wide range of products that designers have created and how they have benefitted.

Ponoko Boxes by Yyvonne Hung
San Francisco urban planner Yvonne Hung founded The Harbinger Co after joining Ponoko. Yvonne realized that her interest in traditional arts such as drawing and painting extended to creating objects. Laser cutting enabled her to branch out into intricately decorated wooden boxes and jewelry. Photos courtesy of Ponoko.

LINKS

www.ponoko.com

Ten Simple Steps to Make and Sell Your Custom Product

Are Designers Making the Most of Digital Textile Printing?

DESIGNERS. As I have watched digital-printing technology evolve to enable fabrics, wallcoverings, automobiles, and other surfaces to be custom-decorated, it always struck me that the printed examples shown in trade-show booths seemed a bit unimaginative.

It could have been due to time or budget limitations, but it’s more likely that the printing-equipment manufacturers first needed to demonstrate that the technology they were selling could replicate existing printing processes. So they simply used designs similar to what was currently being produced by designers experienced in textile or wallcovering design. Likewise, to show digitally printed T-shirts, the booth planners used designers whose work typically needed to conform with the limitations of screen-printing presses.

A recent post by Kristen Turner on the Ponoko blog indicates that I’m not the only person who feels that many designers haven’t yet caught up to everything that’s now possible in textile printing.

The post showcased some digitally printed silk and wool scarves from the spring/summer 2011 collection from Charlotte Linton and appeared under the headline:  “These Scarves Show What Digital Printing Is All About.”

Turner pointed out that “One of the greatest things about digital textile printing is that designs can have unlimited colors at the same cost as a single color. Yet designers using digital fabric printing still cling to flat designs with a few, flat colors.”

In her post, Kristen Turner highlighted Charlotte Linton designs that “have all of the life of hand-rendered illustrations and all the depth of photography,” including designs that looked like pages from a silk sketchbook. One Charlotte Linton scarf featured a polka-dot design of marsupial face photographs.

Image of colorfully printed scarf by Charlotte Linton
Digitally printed scarf designed by Charlotte Linton

The post attracted comments from Andy McDonald of the Centre for Advanced Textiles at the Glasgow School of Art who argued that “the greatest thing about digital textile printing lies in the ability to make an item only after it has been purchased, coupled with the potential for each item to be unique.”

McDonald also raised these questions: “What are the creative opportunities for designers once production shifts from just-in-time to on-demand? Why is digital textile printing not being explored in the same way as 3D printing?” Andy further commented, “The greatest thing about digital textile printing is that collections can have unlimited designs at the same cost as a single design. Yet designers using digital fabric printing still cling to fixed collections, with a few fixed designs.”

If you have come up with some fresh ideas for digitally printed textile designs, we would love to see them!

Note: Ponoko is an online service that enables creative people to turn their ideas into real things, and sell them to the world. More than 75,000 user-generated goods have been instantly priced online, made, and delivered from Ponoko’s digital factory network in Wellington, San Francisco, Berlin, Milan and London.  

LINKS

Ponoko

These Scarves Show What Digital Printing Is All About