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New Eye Candy

In the past couple of years I have been lucky enough to be asked to photograph some really beautiful properties in the French and Italian Alps. Some are commissions by private individuals for their own websites and others are photos requested by Airbnb and other companies doing rentals and sales of apartments, chalets etc. in this region.

I have created a selection of my favourite interior photography images from the past year – head on over and check them out by clicking on the below photo !


New portfolio of my interior and exterior architectural photography

Tech Talk

For those of you photographers out there who maintain your own websites, you may find the following observations useful.

I have started to move more of my portfolio over to my Alps Photo Smugmug site which I use to deliver images to my clients. The SmugMug site is already integrated with my current site by going to the menu item for customer downloads and the sites link back and forth to each other on the menus so there is no getting « lost » between them.

For a downside, I find that the Smugmug platform has very weak page building and blog support, with little variety possible from one Smugmug site to the next. So I won’t be changing to that as my main platform. I also like idea that some day I may want to change my theme and WordPress gives me so many options (and such good plugins for SEO and for translations of the same page into more than one language with Qtranslate etc.) which Smugmug totally misses out on (a multi-language site is something they absolutely price gouge you on and they are extremely USA-centric – I still am annoyed that they do not list sizes in centimetres for ordering photos).

However the Smugmug galleries for displaying your work in my opinion are so much more attractive than what is offered by WordPress plug-ins (very poor security and usually really wonky) or the « for photographers »  Photocrati theme I am using here on WordPress.

Smugmug also has great integration with several photo labs including one in the UK (they really really need to add one for continental Europe!!) so that you can sell directly from your site, and they have an option you can turn on or off to allow downloads of photos from your galleries, or ways to purchase photos that are superior to what Photocrati offers. You can also lock galleries to a password or hide them from anyone without the link to make client deliveries a snap.

There is also really great integration between Adobe Lightroom, which I love to use to catalog and work on my images – and Smugmug. I also have Photoshop but I find that 98% of what I do on a daily basis can be accomplished more quickly in Lightroom, and I love the non-destructive editing that lets me export my edited image to any size I need.

Whereas (listen up Photocrati) the integration between Photocrati and their own « slide show » galleries (NextGen galleries or legacy Photocrati Galleries and Albums – another confusing concept you must learn) and Lightroom is pretty bad – requiring a 3 step process. First I must upload photos from Lightroom using the NextGen Lightroom plugin. Then in WordPress, I have to « import » those NextGen gallery photos into the default Photocrati gallery. And albums and galleries are two different things which I can never keep straight. I don’t use NextGen directly because I couldn’t stand how NextGen originally looked, and though supposedly it looks better now, just reading the hundreds of online bug reports and people screaming about it not working when it’s upgraded gives me the heebie jeebies). Then you have to associate the Photocrati gallery to your WordPress post, which is not the same as adding media to your post.

The interface that Photocrati gives you is so mixed up now that they purchased NextGen too, that it’s usually difficult to tell if the settings you are trying to tweak are for their own legacy galleries or the NextGen product they purchased. But I’ve never gotten either of them to look beautiful on a page the way that the Smugmug galleries do.

And I can’t get Photocrati to acknowledge, much less fix, a bug that every time I upload photos from Lightroom into my NextGen gallery and then put those into the Photocrati galleries, it creates one duplicate image – and if I try to delete the duplicate, it duplicates a different one. Clearly there is a programming error but they don’t care.

So for me, it’s just impossible to do easy updates to my portfolio – stored as Photocrati slideshows –  from Lightroom, and it looks dated to boot. Also the database in WordPress is constantly mismanaged by the Photocrati software, resulting in dozens of copies of the same photo to litter up your WordPress database (I have had to go in to manually tweak the database on multiple occasions when setting up my portfolios).  As an added bonus – the photos you upload to WordPress via Photocrati will never show up in the Media Library so you can’t re-use them as « featured photos » to make the newer WordPress post styles work easily – it’s just a « lose-lose » proposition.

I started out using Smugmug with it’s clean interface, beautiful presentation pages and excellent integration to Lightroom – to deliver wedding photos to my clients. But then I realised the photo galleries there looked better than my portfolio of wedding photos on my Photocrati site.

Expect an eventual update of all my portfolio images to Smugmug at some stage (at the moment it’s a lot of work that I don’t have time to finish just now).

I love that Smugmug makes updating my online portfolio a such an easy process indeed. Using Lightroom settings you can tell LR what types of changes to a photo should trigger a notice to « republish » your images to the publishing services when you have tweaked one, and it lists all those photos as requiring a refreshed upload to Smugmug.

Press the « publish » button from Lightroom and  it neatly replaces the old copy with the newer changes – no database messes.

On Photocrati because they have no linked plug-in from the Photocrati slideshows to Lightroom and you have to « pass » through NextGen as an intermediary, this simply is too tedious to bother with any longer.

And then we have customer satisfaction issues with NextGen. Using the WordPress ratings as a guide, I have avoided updating to the latest NextGen (which may or may not have actually better looking slide shows to try) – simply because 1. NextGen has as many one star ratings as five star – have the users seem to have very large problems with their releases and 2. The NextGen customer support says the same repetitive things on internet forums – never resolving problems and always blaming the users – this kind of defensive customer-blaming support is exactly the kind of software one should RUN from. They do not seem to fix any bugs much less acknowledge them.

PS – In case you wonder since I live in France – Yes, I did try out a couple of French sites for portfolio and delivery to clients – one called Jingoo. Many French photographers do use it, especially event photographers it seems and some wedding shooters. It’s not bad, but it’s not great either. It seems to have been designed on Linux or something geeky so it has a lot of choices to make to actually get to the stage of uploading photos and it’s a bit confusing but once you go through it, you can manage. It was free to host photos, which was actually amazingly great so I did try it for many months. The galleries are also attractive and apparently they are working on improving the photographer dashboard interface to not look like a 1990s x-windows interface. It does easily integrate to your main site as a way to do photo delivery to customers.

But – there is no direct integration to Lightroom from Jingoo so that is a kluge. But then there was the one downside which totally turned me off and which in the end I could not ignore.

On Jingoo – whatever order you upload your photos in to a gallery online – that is the order they stay in ! (??? Really ??? A grade school programmer could fix that ! ) When I enquired about this lack of most basic feature – which was basically a show stopper for me – I got some extremely lame and defensive excuse about how impossible it would be to program a fix (do not say that if you yourself are not a programmer. I am also a programmer and I know that is a lie someone told you from the r&d department).

So  – had it not been for that problem, I actually was going to use them as they have a fully French interface with English translations and many other things were great such as working with European photo labs for delivery of prints and photo books.  I had kluged a way to publish shots from Lightroom to a hard drive folder which then became my Jingoo upload gallery (though further updates or re-ordering were impossible on Jingoo).

Because when I deliver photos into galleries, I do not always upload them in the exact order I took the photos. Often for weddings I deliver a smaller set of photos first (obvious stand-out shots or important moments), followed by more of them at a later date and sometimes I will do this over a period of a few weeks. Sometimes after editing at night or if I was tired, I will decide to tweak a photo after I’ve uploaded it and see it in daylight. I want that photo replaced (not replicated) on the site – and I do not want to be limited by showing them to a client only in « the order you upload them ».  I want to be able to order the photos in the way that I want to once they are on the site so that they look nice and usually in time order for my wedding clients as an example. I think even Facebook can do this !

I also tried another site that was French-developed called Zenfolio. It’s really beautiful and similar to Smugmug. It ticked so many boxes. But it is ridiculously expensive to get any features you want to use to deliver to end clients – you can’t even justify the prices they charge – it’s highway robbery. I also felt their SEO possibilities were very limited (as are Smugmug’s but since it’s attached to my WordPress site I don’t need to worry about that). And once again I had the defensive response to my complaint (after direct mail asking for my feedback) about lack of ability to control my own SEO.

WordPress makes this so easy to get to with plug-ins – why in the world do you think you can defend taking control of someone else’s website SEO and giving them no say in how it is presented to a search engine Zenfolio? It’s just not good business. Sites that try to make things « simple » for people are all well and good but if you don’t give more advanced users a way to get in there and tweak things to their liking you will not capture the big market. To be fair, I have no idea what Smugmug does for SEO but I don’t care as I use my main WordPress site for this.

Anyhow – enough tech talk about the hows and whys of where I have decided to start moving my portfolio images and how I chose my client delivery platform !

I do hope you enjoy the new nicely presented portfolio of my interior and exterior photography of chalets, houses, apartments, B&Bs, hotels and more ! For once I can say I truly enjoyed putting it together 😉

Thank you Smugmug for your easy to integrate platform. Please get a Continental European photo lab on board – one that uses centimetres- and don’t imagine that everyone in the world speaks English or that you should charge triple or double price for being able to have your site in more than one language when WordPress offers this as a FREE plug-in.

This entry was posted in Photo Tech Tip, Photography.