What is a photo-book?

Link to Blurb
Displaying one’s images is probably the least “considered” thing about photography. Potentially hundreds of pounds on equipment, more money on software, time spent taking and processing the images and what’s the end result? Maybe a Flickr site, or perhaps Friendface where the resolution is too small to be of use to copyright thieves. Maybe you decided to print something out and frame it yourself, or perhaps they just sit on your hard drive gathering virtual dust.

A photo-book is a great way to actually enjoy the final images you took and perhaps do a bit of showing off to the friends. Photobooks also make lovely gifts for grandparents, children or any other member of the family. Finally, you could enter the world of trying to sell your books to make money through a self-publishing means.

A book is a bit different to a photo album. Albums are great – but they are weighty and cumbersome, take up a lot of room on a bookshelf (and often don’t fit) and there’s not a lot of room to annotate your photos. The images are often behind a plastic sheet and often in 6×4 format. Generally they will contain every image from a film – simply because of the pain of getting negs printed into pictures. A book is generally much slimmer and easier to handle than an album. You can add text if you wish, and you can have a large degree of control over presentation.

 

Why Blurb?

So why just review Blurb? There are a couple of reasons for this. First, I have been making photo books for personal use since 2009. My Cewe books (from Jessops) and another book from another (nameless!) publisher were pretty shocking in terms of build quality and picture quality. Everyone has their “standards” for the quality they expect and mine are pretty high. Although they are not as high as some photographers out there. Blurb was simply the best in terms of build quality and image quality. Price wise, Blurb are more expensive than your typical high street chains, but I believe the cost is worth the quality.

Second, the User Interface (UI) for BookSmart (Blurb’s proprietary book making software) just works. You can do pretty much anything you want layout-wise with a powerful custom page builder. “Other” book making solutions don’t come anywhere close. Either the software doesn’t download properly, or it doesn’t work, or it won’t do what you want it to do. However Blurb’s BookSmart can be quite daunting to a new user so I wanted to give some tips on how to use the interface as well as an overview of the UI.

How to Make a Photo Book

The process for making a photo book is quite simple. You have several options for making your book (for which you’ll need an account with Blurb).  You can use the BookSmart software (which is what this review is about), or use their online editor, or download their plug-ins for Lightroom and/or In-Design. You make your book, then you upload it to Blurb’s website. Once it’s on their site, you can then order it. Orders can be for physical books themselves as well as pdf versions and e-book versions. Once you’ve made one order, your book will stay online forever.

The reasons I use BookSmart:

  • It’s less “laggy” than the online editor and I can work offline (at speed) and just upload the final product.
  • I tend to add a lot of text and custom pages which BookSmart is best suited for rather than using the Lightroom plug-In
  • I don’t have the software tools (In-Design or any other sort of pdf maker) or the inclination to put together the book “By hand” then upload to Blurb for printing.

BookSmart

BookSmart is Blurb’s offline book making software. It’s really versatile for making custom books – especially if you want to add text to (for example) a cookery book, or an A-Level Portfolio. Once you’ve downloaded and installed the software, you’re presented with an options screen.

blurb book choices

There are several book choices here, and size is important! If you’re making a photobook, then there are three basic choices.

Landscape (best for your photos if they are mostly landscape), Portrait (best for portrait photos) and Square (best if you have a mix of portrait & landscape). The large square 12×12 book is a big book about the size of an old “LP” and is unlikely to fit on a book shelf.

The important thing about choosing the right size and format is that you can’t really change it later. Images are sized appropriately, and your text is all formatted for the page size, so if you go from a book that’s 10×8 to a book that’s 12×10 you’ll end up with lots of gaps. Likewise if you go smaller, text will likely wrap onto new pages. It’s possible to make these sorts of changes, but it’s a lot of work to correct, so getting the book size right is a key decision. In terms of dust cover or not, I have come to a decision that no dust cover works best for me. The quality of image wrap printing on the hard-back part of the book is incredible, and the papery feel of the dust cover doesn’t “do it” for me and has a tendency to get ripped or damaged.

Price is also a factor. Bigger books cost more (not just initially but price-per-extra-page too). The “Pricing” button takes you to the website where you can see not only the cost of the different sizes, but some example books too.

Once you’ve made a book selection, you can continue on with the wizard. I tend to like starting with a blank slate, but there are auto-fill options which can take a chunk of images and just drop them into the book. If you’re in a hurry, this can be a timesaver, but I enjoy taking the time to design and populate my book by hand.

 

 The BookSmart Interface

mainwiindow

The above image shows the main window with one of my example A level books. The main workspace window is split into 5 areas.

  1. The main workspace window is here. The page shown is the page you have selected in the mini-preview pane (5). Within the workspace, you are generally shown a single page. Each page of your book has space for a header, a footer, and a mix of image containers or text containers. text is added with a word processor style interface and can use any custom fonts you have installed on your PC. Images can be manipulated within the container and shrunk or enlarged as you require. Clicking on an image within a container allows you to then use the delete key to remove it if you so desire.
  2. The main toolbar. This toolbar across the top is handy for making changes to your book. Adding/removing pages, setting default backgrounds, or generic themes and customising pages are all done from here.
  3. This is the page layout area. Blurb comes with a metric ton of default custom pages. By clicking a page type in this window, the page you see in the main workspace area will change to that setting. Be careful doing this if you have text in the area as it can easily disappear if you’re not careful!
  4. This is where your images are. You can load them in here from the GetPhotos button (main toolbar window – 2). To save a lot of time, I use Lightroom to export all my “book photos” to a specific folder, then all I need to do here is select that single folder. I did write about this here. I tend to also select the “Show only unused photos” to avoid duplication as this removes the images from the list if they have already been placed in the book. Adding an image is as simple as dragging it from your image pane into the main window (1) over an empty image container.
  5. This is a mini-preview pane and is handy for navigating through your book. It’s also a great management tool as you can shift click to select multiple pages and CTRL+C/CTRL+V to copy/paste selections. The Delete key also works to just delete pages that you don’t want. You can also drag pages around.
An image of a double spread picture in Blurb

Blurb’s BookSmart now has the capability to have one picture across a double page, really giving powerful presentation ability to Panoramic pictures.

All the areas are resizeable, and all have their uses so it’s not really worth “disabling” anything.

Book Making Workflow

My book making process follows a simple pattern that seems to work well.

  1. Get the book title sorted out. Decide on an Image Wrap cover or Dust Cover
  2. Decide on a standard Theme & Background. I prefer plain white paper with black text although I have done a black paper book with white text. It’s not so easy on the eye though. I like using custom fonts and prefer to have this than patterned backgrounds. It feels more understated.
  3. Decide on standard Header/Footer combinations and populate those through the book. I generally just have a page number in the centre of the footer and if it’s a chaptered book, I’ll have the chapter title as a header.
  4. Import all my images from Lightroom. Set the “Photos” panel to “Show Only Unused Photos” to make sure I don’t have any duplicates.
  5. Design the cover, inside page, cover flaps (if using a dustcover) and set up a dummy contents page (will be filled out as I populate the book)
  6. Populate the main content.
  7. Spell-check & grammar check after each chapter.
  8. Final preview read through. Get someone else in the family to read it for spelling errors, grammar errors and just plain stupid words.
  9. Upload to Blurb.
  10. Order your finished book!

One key point here is to make use of the specific pages that Blurb has. Things like “Book Title”, “Author”, “Chapter Layouts” and “Table of Contents” can auto populate if you fill them out right. Using (for example) “Chapter” in the header of a page, makes no sense if you’re not breaking your book up into chapters using Chapter Layouts.

A Word On Backups…

I have lost 2 books due to backup problems and corrupted files. It’s not a happy place to be. Blurb saves “as you go” which is really great if your PC gets switched off for some reason without you having saved anything. Your book though is basically saved to a folder which has all the images in it as well as the BookSmart file. If that file gets corrupt, you’re dead in the water. I would recommend making at least one complete backup of your BookSmart folder at a suitable point during your book making process and a final backup once you’ve finished it.

Each book is usually stored in “My Documents/BookSmartData!. Simply copy the entire contents of your book folder to another location. If you have a disaster (like a corrupt file), you can just delete the existing corrupt folder and copy over your backup. Open Blurb and it will see your backup just fine. It might take a while to back this up/copy it to anther location because all the images are stored in this folder too, and if you have a modern DSLR, these images are quite large in filesize terms. my A-level ARTF3 book (1/4 of an A-level) rolled in at a shade under a Gb in size!

BookSmart Custom Pages

custompage resultThis is a powerful feature of the application and not to be underestimated. My example image here shows how I wanted some contact sheet style images across the top, two “blown up” images in the pane to the right and a chunk of text. Contact sheets were a typical requirement for my studies and building a “contact sheet” custom page meant all I had to do was do it once then just select it from “My Page Layouts” in the page layout dropdown.

To access the custom page builder, select any page (I try to find one close to what I want) then click on “Edit Layout” in the main toolbar window.

This will populate your screen with a new window allowing you to customise your page as shown below.

This screen shows the main “Edit Page” preview window. You have basically two options here. Either Add/Remove a text box, or add/remove an image box (1). You can also duplicate a box and/or delete one too. I tend to use the Delete key and CTRL+C/CTRL+V for deleting/duplicating as it’s quicker, but the buttons are there for you if you need them.

custompageAll the boxes in this window can be altered and moved. One thing I have discovered though is that you can’t select a box (outlined above) if it’s hidden completely under an existing box, so watch out for “hidden” boxes in this way. The shaded areas around the edges of the page show where your image/text might get cut off in the book production so stay clear of these with any content you absolutely want to keep.

As you can see from the image, I’ve dropped a new text box onto the page. I’ve now got warnings about overlapping text boxes (2) which is really handy for making suer everything aligns properly. if you hover over a box, it also shows a pop up (3) which gives details about the container size in real-world terms. This allows you to visualise how large an image will appear.

Once you’ve finished customising the page, you can either Cancel, Apply, or Apply & Save. If you Save it, you will be able to access the same custom layout for future pages within the book (4). This ability to make custom layouts with a drag & drop interface is really what sets this software apart from others.

Sometimes it’s also worth flipping between the Edit Layout page and the main workspace view. You can then add an image to your new text box, then if you flip back to the Edit Layout page, you can see how well the image sits within the image container. You can also resize the container to better fit the image. I tend to use the “Apply” button for this rather than Apply & Save simply because if I need this particular format of page again, I can copy & paste from the mini-preview pane (5, above) and just delete the images.

 

Viewing the Result

When you think you’ve finished, it’s always worth previewing the finished product. The “Preview Book” button from the main workspace window clears out all the clutter on your screen and allows you to look at the finished product without any box outlines and/or grey image container

preview

“leftovers”. It’s well worth reading through any text at this point, paying particular attention to grammatical errors. The BookSmart software does have a spellchecker which is wonderful, but it won’t correct badly formatted grammar! I can’t count the amount of mistakes I’ve found whilst proof-reading my final work in Preview Mode. Getting someone else to read through it too can really help. Sometimes you can get a bit “word-blind” reading through your own written content over and over again.

The preview button also allows you to see how things like the dustcover will look, and how well balanced the words are with your images. Once you’re completely happy with the final result, you should make a duplicate copy of your book folder (backup!), then upload it to Blurb.

Uploading can take a long time as it’s likely you will have a lot of large file-size images to upload as well as the book content itself. Best to go make a cuppa and have a rest. Once uploaded, the files remain on Blurb for a certain period of time. Once you have made at least one order though, this book is “safe” from deletion.

 

Ordering Your Book

There are many different options for ordering your finished product. Depending on the book type you ordered you may end up with Hardcover (Image Wrap – The front cover image is printed physically on to the cover), Hardcover – Dust Jacket (a paper dust cover with flaps), or Softcover (like a paperback book). You may also have the option to download a PDF copy or various other e-Options for other devices.

You also get a paper quality option. Now I have read that the standard paper isn’t great, so I have never ordered it. Current prices (Feb 2013) show that it’s no more than a fiver for Premium paper (lustre or matt, your choice!) and that’s always my choice. I’ve never ordered the high end papers either (ProLine Pearl, ProLine Uncoated) so I can’t vouch for them. if you do have experience with these papers, I’d appreciate a comment!

End Sheet is the last choice. I tend to leave it mid-grey (and free!) rather than pay £2 for a different colour, but that’s just me. It isn’t that important to me.

In terms of delivery times, I used Blurb back in the “olden days” when 4-6 weeks was the norm. I’m never in a massive rush to get it delivered, but I have to say that Blurb delivery times have improved dramatically over recent months with a 7-10 day quote on their site currently. If you want a quicker delivery time, you can pay a premium for that service, but I find the basic service to be exceptionally good.

Selling your Work!

The last option when using Blurb is to consider selling your book to a public audience. My personal view on this is that whilst vanity publishing is wonderful, using Blurb is not something I’d do on a professional basis. Blurb prices are quite high, and the only way to make money is to add your “cut” onto Blurb’s fees. This can make a book quite expensive to some people. However Blurb do offer the option for pdf and e-versions of your book which are much more affordable. These can be marked up to allow you to make a little profit without burning the wallets of your customers. This tactic though is really beyond the scope of this article!

Wrapping Things Up…

That just about wraps things up for getting started with Blurb books. I’m about to start thinking about some other creative ideas for using my photos and will be sure to post some ideas up here from time to time. For now though, I’ll shut up. I haven’t peppered this post with links to Blurb, but I have added a couple of banners. If you decide to click on these and go to Blurb to find out more (and eventually make a book!) then I will receive a small commission which will help keep Shuttercount up and running.

Take care, and thanks for reading!

Ian.

Link to Blurb

What is High Pass Sharpening?

Every digital image you capture records the scene in front of you depending on the settings in your camera. The sensor measures the light hitting the cells and the camera processor turns this into an image. Depending on how you shoot, it might be heavily processed into a JPEG file (if you shoot in JPEG format) or it may be lightly processed into a RAW file. Either way – the important fact to remember is that it is processed in some form.

Once you review the image at your leisure, you may decide that it’s not sharp enough and want to do something about it. Some reasons for lack of sharpness are:

  • Missing the focus point: Maybe you hit the portrait subject’s ear instead of their eye and the eyes are a bit blurred.
  • Poor lens quality: Some lenses are not as good as others and things like edges of photographs can sometimes be a bit blurred, especially on wide angled lenses.
  • Lens out of alignment: Maybe your lens is faulty?
  • Not sharp enough: Maybe the processing in-camera (either RAW or JPEG) didn’t sharpen the image enough for you.
  • Movement: You moved during the shot and blurred it.
  • Aperture: Some lenses are considered to be “soft” at their widest apertures. (f1.4 for a 50mm f1.4 for example, or f2.8 on a 70-200 f2.8 lens)

Software can take care of sharpening for you. Lightroom has excellent sharpening tools for example, as does Adobe Camera RAW. However the High Pass sharpening method (in Photoshop) allows you to have a degree of control not only of how much sharpening you apply, but where it is applied too.

So you can see for yourself, here is a landscape image that was a hand-held HDR, so there is a blur to the branches of the tree (you may need to do a page refresh to see the image whilst I iron out some creases). Drag the slider (or just click on the image) to see how sharpening has improved definition in the tree branches but hasn’t affected the sky or foreground.

 

 

High Pass Sharpening In Photoshop (CS5): The Process

The process is very simple and has a lot of flexibility.

  1. Open your image in Photoshop
  2. Duplicate it with CTRL+J
  3. Click on Filter>Other>High Pass. This should make everything go grey. Don’t panic. The pop up box should be asking you for the pixel radius. Now, the radius you set and the effect it has will depend on your overall image size. You want to adjust the slider so that the edges are peeking through the grey. For my 50D which has an example 5000 x 3000 pixel image, I tend to use a radius of between 3 & 5 pixels. On lower resolution images though this will have a more pronounced effect.
  4. Change the Blending Mode from “Normal” to either Soft, Hard, Vivid or Linear light. “Soft” will give a much more delicate effect. Linear light gives a very pronounced effect. I find “Hard Light” to be the best “middle ground”.
  5. (Optional) Reduce the Opacity if you need to. This allows you that last degree of control over the whole sharpening process.

That’s it. Dead simple.

The last step is another optional one. In y example image above, I have just applied sharpening to the trees. How is this done?

Optional Step: Layer Masking

Layer Masking is quite a simple technique and really useful for other areas of Photoshop and not just sharpening. It does require a bit more work though.

If you look down at the right hand lower corner, you should see your background, with “Layer 1” above it (your sharpening layer). Photoshop builds images in layers so you have to imagine that you are looking down at your image (the background layer) through the sharpening layer. What Layer Masking does is “erase” bits of the sharpening layer to allow some parts of your image to be sharp, and others to retain their blur.

  1. On the bottom row, next to the “fx” button, you should see a rectangle with a little hole in it. Hovering over it should give you an “Add Layer Mask” pop up. Make sure your “Layer 1” grey sharpening layer is selected, then click on the rectangle. You should end up with a white box next to your grey layer.
  2. Press “D”, then “X”. This should set your foreground colour to Black and your background colour to white.
  3. Pick a soft edged brush and set the opacity to 50-80%.
  4. Start Painting on your image. Now, wherever you paint black on the mask will “block out” your sharpening. “X” will swap your foreground to white which will “reveal” your sharpening.

If you start getting black paint on your image you’ve probably selected the background by mistake.

This technique allows you to “paint out” sections of the image you don’t want sharp with a very fine degree of detail. So what about when you want to reverse the process? Let’s say you have a portrait where you want the eyes to be really sharp, but not the rest of the face, it’s a very long job to sharpen the image, then spend hours painting everything around the eyes.

In step 1, before you click the “Add Layer Mask” button, hold down the Alt key (Alt+Click). This will create a mask that’s automatically black and you can paint white straight onto the image. This will save a lot of time if you’ve only got eyes to sharpen (for example).

Hope you enjoyed this short tutorial. High Pass Sharpening is a great and simple to use technique.

Ian.

Posted by: In: Computers, Full Versions, Software 23 Jan 2013 2 comments Tags: , ,

Way back a while, I talked about how you could set up your own website using WordPress. I stopped at the part where you’ve got WordPress installed and left it there.

This is a follow up post to that, so if you need to find out how to install WordPress, or how to go about getting setup with a domain name and hosting then you need to read this first.

WordPress: Posts and Pages

WordPress is made up of Posts and Pages. Both are designed so that you can put galleries on them, pictures, videos, text and many other things, but they really differ in a few aspects.

Pages are static parts of your website. Their content rarely changes. Pages like “About Me” or “Contact Me” are easy examples of Pages. Pages can easily be linked from drop down menus. As a photographer, a gallery would likely be a Page with a Gallery embedded in it. Or it might be a Page with four galleries embedded in it that link off to four other Pages that go into great detail about each gallery. A Home page is another example of a Page. It might have a greeting on it, a flashy photo gallery, and an excerpt from your blog.

Posts are dynamic pages on your website. They are designed to roll on and off your site. “Latest News”, or “My Blog” are examples of Post type pages. “Latest Posts” for example might show the last four posts you put up. Posts are used generally when you have content that is being added every day. Posts generally have such things automatically embedded in them like “This post was published on x date by y”.

That is not to say that you can’t have Posts as Pages, or Pages as Posts. This is just a general definition here for the new user to WordPress.

Beyond that, and having read through the WordPress help files there’s not a lot more I can add other than get cracking! The WordPress Codex is an excellent resource if you’re just starting out, but here are a few more tips that I would have liked when I got going…

Site Framework

Before you begin, it’s always worth knowing what you want from your site. Here are some examples…

A Vanity Site

A “vanity” site is simply a bit of your personal space on the web. You’re not trying to sell your images or photographic services (wedding photographer for example), you just want a bit of “you” on the web. Maybe it will be part blog, part photographic showcase. You don’t care too much about Google search rankings, you don’t need a shop front to sell your images. You might have a link to another site that might sell images for you (stock image sites for example, or something like 500px or RedBubble). You probably want a connection to Facebook and/or Twitter to interlink your online identity. You can more than capably manage with WordPress and your own tinkering ability. You’ll have a mix of Posts, pages and Galleries.

A Working Photographer Site

Photography is your living (or maybe it’s about to be!) and you need a site that showcases your work as well as giving details for people to contact you. It’s likely that you want heavy integration with social networking and you want to be high up on the Google search rankings. Other search engine rankings are also a concern. Blogging is something you probably only want to do to keep traffic coming to your site, and to keep your search engine rankings high. Achieving all this is possible on your own, but it requires a fair bit of work to keep on top of. You’ll need to do research on SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) to keep your site ranking high.

An Image Selling Site

You want to sell your images. Your site is likely to be image heavy with lots of galleries and will probably need an online shop to allow customers to buy prints of your work. You may want to put the “purchase” point on someone else’s shoulders (see 500px and/orRedbubble above) or may decide to go “halfway” and use a site builder that specialises in selling images (such as the excellent Photium). You may just decide to shoot stock photos. Your blog may likely be just a “Latest News” feed to let customers know you’ve added more images.

A Blog Site

A blog site is more about your writing skills than photography. You want to show some images (and may have a separate vanity site like me) but this site is mainly about the writing. You’re likely to have lots of Post pages but not many “Page” pages.

One way of putting this all together would be to use some software to plan things out. A very simple way of doing this would be to use something like Text 2 Mindmap (free) to draw a quick plan of how the pages will all link together. A very quick example shown below…

Text2MindMap (1)

 

Once you have an idea what you want the site to do for you, and you have a rough plan of how it’s all going to sit together, you can start to think about appearance. But before we go there, let’s take a quick look at some useful plugins.

Plugins

Plugins are little bits of software that add functionality to your site. Want to add a Flickr feed like I have in the footer of this site? Want to see who’s visiting your site and where they come from? Worried about spam comments cluttering up your blog? How about a three dimensional tag cloud?

Installing a plugin from inside WordPress is extremely easy. Just navigate to the Plugin menu on the left, click on “Add Plugin” at the top of the screen and then do a search for what you’re looking for. Here are some “essential” ones to get started…

Jetpack : For me, it’s the stats and the social networking bits of Jetpack that sell it (it is free!) but as you can see from the WordPress site, there’s a lot of goodies available here.

WordPress SEO : This will add Search Engine Optimisation functionality to your pages, allowing you to describe to the search engine just what your page is all about. Every Post/Page should have a drop down box allowing you to add search engine friendly descriptions, terms and keywords to your content.

Google Analyticator : You need a Google Analytics account for this, but when you add your tracking code to your website, it allows Google to start to build up some comprehensive stats surrounding visitors to your site. To see these stats (which are more detailed than Jetpack) you need to log on to your Analytics account.

Bulletproof Security : This adds a degree of security to your website and ensures that you are better protected against hacking and unauthorised messing about with your WordPress installation.

Askimet : If you intend to allow comments on your blog, you might want to check that what people are saying is legitimate. Some bots and humans will go around blog sites and just post a comment in order to leave a link to their site in your comment. This potentially increases web traffic to their site and their links may not be something you want on your site. If you decide to pre-approve all comments, you will quickly find that as your site becomes more popular, these bots will visit more and more often, vastly increasing your housekeeping. Askimet checks all comments against its database and if it looks like spam, it will automatically move it out of the way – giving you the time to moderate comments that are written specifically for your blog.

Appearance

Once you’ve got the basic plugins sorted, and a map of the pages you want to have, it’s then best to look for a nice theme for your site. A theme is basically a collection of scripts that tell the web browser how to display your content. These scripts are easy to find and hard to understand if you’re not familiar with the language. Fortunately, there are some very talented scripters out there who have written some very swanky looking themes.

There are several ways to get hold of themes for your site.

1. Search for “free wordpress themes” in your favourite search engine. This will throw up a lot of results and will require a lot of work to dig through the chaff to find your wheat. Free themes are great for adding a bit of style to a site for no additional cost.

2. Use a WordPress themebuilder tool. This usually provides a front end user interface so you can build your theme without knowing any code. these tools are often paid for software, although it is possible to download free trials to see if it’s for you. There are many out there – just search for “WordPress Theme Builder”. Be sure to read the fine print though as some reviews indicate that they are not perfect.

3. Buy a theme. Some sites (for example Theme Forest) allow you to purchase themes for a one off fee. Searching for “just the right” theme can be a pain and there are several things to bear in mind when buying an “off the shelf” theme. It can be easy to be swayed by flashy animated things when looking at demos, however the ones that you browse through have been built to show off that particular theme. The ease with which you can make your site look like this is directly proportional to the quality of the documentation and the “user friendliness” of the back end as well as your bravery in modifying other people’s code. I have downloaded a few premium themes over time and intend to review those and some others in a follow up post.

WordPress Content

Lastly, content is the key to your site. If you want people to find you, you need to have something to allow them to find you if they are searching the internet. Search engines – like Google – will trawl web pages and pull off what they think is relevant information. This information is ranked, and your site is catalogued ready to be displayed when someone types something relevant to you in the search bar. People who link to your content increase this ranking (other people find you interesting enough to link to). Making your content search engine friendly is an art form in itself and a full time job to some people. But how can you compete with this?

The simple answer is that you don’t – but you do use relevant words in your articles. If you’re that interested, you could buy a book on SEO, or hire someone to improve your website, and if your website is your main source of income you may have to do this. Writing unique content though will get you through if you write articles that people find interesting.

Some tips from me:

  • DO Use headings to break up your content into smaller articles, much like you would sections of a document, or chapters of a book.
  • DO “bolden” important content.
  • If your site is mainly images, make sure you use all the information available in the Caption/Alt Text/Description boxes. These are considered “content”.
  • Think about what someone might use to search for your article. Use those words in the article itself.
  • DON’T copy and rehash other people’s work.
  • DO consider different ways of getting your article out into the world. Social buttons (Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ etc.) are there for a reason. Not only do they create links back to your site, but they raise visibility of your article to others.

Content is what drives people to your site.

Have a good week!

Ian.