Posted by: In: Just Chat 02 Apr 2013 0 comments Tags: , ,

Spam shoes... A two in one deal...I‘ve just been checking my blog for comments and I have over a hundred and fifty comments now in about a week. All of it is spam…

You know what I mean by spam right? These are the comments that make very little sense and are stuffed with links to other websites. More often than not – they are footwear based sites.

Initially, it annoyed me – mainly because I had to go through and delete hundreds of emails asking me to moderate bad comments. That was until I discovered Askimet – a free (for personal use!) WordPress plugin that catches rogue spam. Now all I need to do is have a read through the comments to double check they aren’t spam, then hit the “Delete Spam” button.

So if you’re suffering with lots of spam comments on WordPress, give Askimet a go. After all, reading through all that spam isn’t very interesting is it…? Just in case I deleted some in error though, I thought I’d respond to the ones that weren’t too obviously spam in this post. I’m sorry I deleted your valuable contributions!

The next time I read a weblog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as a lot as this 1. I mean, I know it was my selection to read, but I in fact thought youd have some thing fascinating to say. All I hear is often a bunch of whining about some thing that you simply could fix for those who werent too busy searching for attention.

I’m so sorry you didn’t enjoy my post. I didn’t enjoy your lack of apostrophes much, but that’s ok, we’re all different. I’m so glad to see that you felt better 12 minutes later when you sent this…

Wonderful Post.thanks for share..more wait.

Another reader has recently been on holiday and seems to be regretful that another blogger of similar style is away from his/her computer at the moment.

Last a few years has been to Ibiza, so met a person there whose style of presentation is very similar to yours. But, unfortunately, that person is too far from the Internet!…

It’s hard to imagine being too far from the internet in this day & age. I feel for you sir, I really do.

Thanks designed for sharing such a fastidious thinking, article is fastidious, thats why i have read it entirely

You’re welcome. This reminds me of being at school and in an English lesson, being tasked with the problem of coming up with a sentence with the word “fascinate” in it. Cautiously, I replied – “I have nine buttons on my coat, but I can only fasten eight.” Thankyou again for allowing me to relive that memory.

kidding, who eats donuts?

I do. It’s better than eating paint. Far safer, and at least my sentences make sense within the context of my posts.

They think just like flip-flops. I would really like Hxxxxx Bags reduced i never like they can stoop downward all of the time thus i will need to drag Hxxxxx Bags way up usually. Furthermore, they drag my own footwear downward, some other downer.

The number for emergency services is in your phone book. When you call be sure to have the tablets you took close to hand so that you can tell them what medicines you’ve taken. And no – eating flip-flops can’t get you high.

Have a good Easter!

Posted by: In: Plug In's, Software 03 Feb 2013 0 comments Tags:

Following on from my posts about setting up your own website and getting started with WordPress, I have had a look at some of the premium themes that can really make your blog/portfolio site stand out. The following themes are themes I have either downloaded myself, or had an extensive look at. They were all shortlisted as potential photo-blog websites and would appeal to anyone considering paying for a theme. Yes – these are premium themes. They are designed for photographers looking to showcase their images rather than deliver blog content. Don’t get me wrong – they all provide blog pages, but they’re not the main reason for the theme.

In looking at these themes, I also considered how responsive they were. By responsive, I mean how well do they scale down to smaller displays – typically the smartphone sized displays. Do you need a responsive template? the best thing to do is check Google Analytics to see what browsers are visiting your site.

Some things to watch out for when looking at a Theme:

  1. How do images respond when you resize the browser window? (a good test of responsiveness)
  2. How easy is it to modify basic colour schemes? (some will have an option field in WordPress, others will require you to edit the .css files or more!)
  3. How does the theme cope with images that are different sizes? That wonderful Panorama might not look so good when it’s been auto-resized to fit your screen. Even worse with portrait images!
  4. How do galleries cope with different sized images? Images in galleries should resize automatically – but some don’t!
  5. How quick does it load the pages? Whizzy html 5 code, or scripted galleries might look amazing, but if you spend more time looking at a “loading” icon that’s not great. Bear in mind, if you are uploading hi-res images, this will likely be worse.
  6. Look at a “Page” (i.e. “About Me”) as well as a blog post (usually “Blog” or “Latest News”) and not just the landing page.
  7. Does it do what you want? Think about your site as you navigate the menu.
  8. Social… Most themes now have social network icons built in. Do they have the ones you want? Do you know how easy it is to modify them? Can you add/remove at will?

Choosing a theme can be time consuming due to the amount of things to think about. My suggestion is to try the demo, if you like it – bookmark it. When you have your shortlist, go back to them all and read the comments to see how responsive the developer is. Double check that the latest version of the theme is compatible with your version of WordPress. Discard anything that doesn’t come up to scratch.

Anyway – here is the shortlist I came up with and tried (in some cases) before deciding on the theme you see before you today.

 

1. Agency Fullscreen (DEMO)

agency_front

 

This theme is really all about displaying your work. It’s responsive, and supports the “swish” navigation of various iDevices. It’s more of a Portfolio theme than anything else and things like the “blog” (News) are not as elegant as I’d prefer. Images in the grid on the homepage are all square which might mean that landscape photos (for example) might lose their impact.

2. Crea WP (DEMO)

crea_front

This theme was one of my favourites. It’s quite discreet, with the nav menu across the bottom and a whizzy looking slider on the home page. Background colours and patterns are all configurable from within the theme, which is excellent. For displaying photographs the user experience is “ok”. Navigating between images is done via a thumbnail column on the left of the screen, or by using the arrow keys – which prompted me to ask how one can do this on a non-desktop. The downsides for me really were the lack of description as to whether the theme is responsive or not, and the scroll bar inside the window of posts and pages. These things almost didn’t stop me buying it, because it seems to deal with unorthodox sized pictures quite well. The developer of this also manages the Chocolate theme which is responsive and well worth a look over if you like this style.

3. Photolux (DEMO)

photolux_front

This is another great theme for photographers. The main thing about this is – once again – your image dimensions don’t all have to “fit” the theme requirements (small, large, landscape or portrait). Everything falls into a neat grid. The homepage shown here can also have a filter button allowing your visitor to instantly filter for just the images (s)he is interested in. There is excellent Gallery support with many different gallery options included, and even the blog pages have plenty of space. This would make an excellent “hybrid” site for the photographer looking to showcase their images as well as write about them!

4. Slash (DEMO)

slash

This is a pretty looking theme, and the downsides for me were the fact that it is quite prescriptive in its look. Homepage images are either portrait or landscape with no obvious provision for square cropped images (or medium format neg scans…). The jagged crop to all your images for thumbnail purposes might get a bit annoying, but if you shoot primarily landscape or portrait shots you should be OK. The gallery is very swish, but I found there to be a bit too much clicking going on to see the image I wanted. The blog page is “functional” and not for me, but you might like it… The notes state that this is also a responsive theme – good for smartphones and other smaller devices.

5. Zoom (DEMO)

zoom_front

This is a great theme for landscape photographers and is primarily a portfolio theme. The blog functionality isn’t great, but when it comes to displaying landscape images, this is a lovely theme. Minimalist design allows you to really showcase your shots without having intrusive menus in the way. That little “+” sign in the image pops out a small sidebar with (customisable) contact information etc. Google custom fonts are supported so don’t worry about the “sci-fi” look of the typography as it can (presumably!) be changed.

6. ANAN Photography Portfolio (DEMO)

anan_front

Another one for landscape photographers, this is a portfolio site with a slightly better blog layout than Zoom above. The sidebar folds nicely out of the way to allow a better showcase for your images. There is no mention of responsiveness though in the theme notes, so I’m not sure how well this would translate onto a small device. the clean, minimalistic styling though works very well.

7. Studio Zen (DEMO)

studiozen_front

Another inventive and swishy looking theme with navigation that really seems to sit “over” your images. Lots of custom functions in here including control over how the slides appear and the ability to toggle on/off all distractions to allow the viewer to see just the images. The blog pages work well with the background images as do other custom pages although looking at pictures displayed on a background images – things can get a bit distracting. I guess the key thing here is to have a blank background on the gallery pages…

8. King Size (DEMO)

kingsize_front

 

Where would a review be without a review of King Size. I liked it so much I bought it! There’s really not a lot wrong with this theme. It looks very pretty, the navigation is extremely straightforward and discreet (it can be tucked out of the way for proper image showcasing) and the blog presentation also works well. The reason I’m not still using it is because the blog is a tad narrow for my tastes. Updates and documentation are excellent. Big thumbs up for this theme.

9. Photopassion (DEMO)

ScreenShot001

 

Another theme that I have downloaded and paid for, Photopassion is a really good hybrid/blogging theme for photographers. It is clean and minimalistic and it’s “newbie friendly” in terms of actually putting some of these fancy effects into posts and pages. This clean style makes it easy to read posts and the various gallery options make displaying your images very easy. I wouldn’t choose this theme though if I were just after a portfolio site. That’s why it’s important to know what you want from your website (and ultimately your theme!) before purchasing anything!

10. Black Label (DEMO)

ScreenShot002

Another great portfolio theme for photographers. Black Label is very minimalist, allowing those landscape images to really shine. The Blog aspect is also very serviceable, however the slideshow background can be distracting (it’s optional!) Black Label does require a degree of work though to get it looking just how you like and I must admit that my attempts with it never really came to fruition. It’s now available with a white skin (White Label) which adds some options, but as a blogger primarily, this isn’t an ideal choice. Black Label also comes with a variety of Gallery options allowing you a degree of choice over how to display your images.

 11. Clean Space (DEMO)

ScreenShot003You might recognise aspects of this theme as it’s the current theme here at Shuttercount. My reasons for choosing this were mainly due to the minimalist design which is really clean. It’s also very simple to configure with drag ‘n’ drop boxes to layout pages. The responsiveness on other devices is excellent, and the full page spread really gives me a lot of room to arrange my writing. I haven’t yet uncovered or exploited all the features but I’m working on it! It’s a very “blog” oriented theme, but has the capability to add some really impressive slideshows with the Layer Slider gallery feature. If you’re after a more portfolio style feel from the same author, then the John Doe theme is well worth a look.

12. Self Titled (DEMO)

ScreenShot004

Just a quick look now at a couple of themes that cater for portrait style images rather than just landscape. Self-Titled is another minimalist and responsive theme that has an impressive looking home page. Posts and Pages within the site look a little narrow, so this again is more about displaying your images than putting written content at the forefront of your site.

13. Softymedia (DEMO)

ScreenShot005

 

Much like Clean Space above, this theme looks really professional, elegant and clean. It’s a responsive theme and it’s well worth having a look at the Projects page and the Blog page to see how they look. This is more a theme for blogging photographers as the focus is clearly on written content, but the large landscape style sliders across the top of the pages make it possible to have some lovely images alongside your words.

14. Blitz (DEMO)

ScreenShot008

I did it! I found another theme that can display portfolio images that aren’t just landscape! I really quite like this theme despite a few shortcomings. Getting the “bad” over with first… Hmm… I can’t think of anything. Maybe the fact I can only have a light & dark template… Or maybe the niggle that there’s no real room for a header image. Even that seems mean. Navigation is really simple, which means I can find what I want very quickly. This is always a bonus! Looks like images all have to be the same height, but they can be really narrow or really wide and everything seems to slot together nicely. Have a play with the various portfolios on the bottom left nav. Social icons are fun to play with too and apparently you can add your own. I really like this and can see me giving it a field trial in the not too distant future.

15. Spaceship (DEMO)

ScreenShot009

 

This theme has grown on me as I’ve had a look around and I’d recommend you do the same. Galleries can be set to “fit to height” so that whatever the crop on your images, they will always fit. Blog-wise it’s a bit poor, but if all you want are pages and some way to showcase your photographs, you’re in for a bit of a treat. Well worth a poke around as there seem to be many ways of adapting the style to work in a variety of ways. The menus can be hidden (light bulb on the left hand edge) and the drop-down arrow on the top right pulls down essential information about you and/or your site. It feels clean and responsive and as with the other themes here – I can get to what I need to get to quickly.

So there we have it. 15 themes for you to have a think about. I really hope you enjoyed looking through these. Finding the right theme can be time consuming and I found so many of this type of post helpful, so decided to do one of my own!

Thanks for reading!

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.