Thursday, July 13, 2006

Adobe purchases Pixmantec...discontinues RawShooter

In the few years since I've been shooting digital, I've shot almost exclusively in RAW mode. Initially I used my favorite tool of the time, Adobe Photoshop, to convert each raw image. However that's a bit poorly designed from a raw workflow aspect. It was at that time that I learned about (and soon purchased) the C1 raw converter. It was a really nice tool, which made it VERY quick to browse through raw files, pick out your favorites, adjust them, and then convert them to TIFFs. It worked well, however it had some definite room for improvement. Unfortunately, the manufacturer never cared much to push any major updates (just bug fixes and compatibility for new hardware), and then half the product line was consolidated, many people were upset about support packages they bought that were more or less useless, etc.

It was not long after that when I heard about Pixmantec's Raw Shooter. Apparently several of the C1 developers were dismayed at the company's lack of interest in further developing the product and their angering of many customers, so they broke off and wrote their own product...Raw Shooter. This was exactly what the next iteration of C1 should have been. A bit better adjustment controls, MUCH better workflow (flagging, prioritizing, etc), MUCH faster conversion processing times, and several other features. This became my second raw workflow purchase and before long C1 was little more than an unused icon on my start menu.

Well, I just received an email today alerting me that Adobe has purchased Pixmantec and is going to be incorporating their technology into Adobe Lightroom. On the down side, this means they will be discontinuing RawShooter. Yet another product I purchased which was then abandoned. However, the good news is that Adobe will be offering RawShooter premium owners a free copy of Lightroom 1.0 when it becomes available. At least I'm not being left out in the cold on this one. That's very generous and thoughtful of Adobe. It makes me quite happy because Lightroom (from my casual readings every now and them) is turning out to be quite an interesting product...hopefully a much better product than RawShooter. If it maintains the same ease of workflow but provides better integration into Photoshop, I'll be one very happy camper.

So, I'm initially disappointed about the news, but I'm hopeful that the eventual reward will be much greater. here to read more!

Third show over - another bomb

I had my third show this weekend in Warren, MI. The show ended up being another bomb. Over the 2 days, I only sold about $300 worth of stuff, so I at least covered my booth fee, materials, gas, plus a small profit (probably about $100). At least I didn't lose anything, but that's certainly very little reward for a whole weekend of work.

Even though I've done bad these last few shows, I'm not particularly concerned. I know the problem here is that I've picked these shows all with absolute nothing to base my decision on. I've now got a list of about a dozen shows that I've heard are pretty decent, but they've all passed or I missed the deadline. For this year, I'm just going to tough it out. I've got 2 more shows planned, and then I'm going to try and hit a half dozen more shows this Sep-Nov. The idea is to gain more experience and exposure, pick up more tips from other artists about setup, sales, and good shows, get more inventory built up, and get a better idea of what works and what doesn't. Then I can hit the art show scene full on next year and hope for much better results.

Here's the summary, with less play-by-play than my first 2 shows.

Unlike the last show, traffic was not a problem this time. Although it was nowhere near packed, there was a lot more people that last show (probably 3 times as many). The problem with this show was that fewer people were buying things, and for those that I saw carrying stuff around, most of that stuff was tiny stuff that fit in small bags. While you can't say for certain, typically that means little $10 items. I checked out a couple of the most popular items I saw, and they were indeed around the $10 mark.

This show was handled a bit more poorly than previous shows. For starters, several of the artists were on ground that was half dirt patches. With the wind kicking up dust, those artists found it a bit difficult. During the show, there were no workers going around volunteering to watch booths while you took a bathroom break. You were pretty much on your own. There was also no Saturday night event for the artists. For the raffle, they gave out $20 gift certificates which could be used to make purchases from the artists. However, they failed to provide any information to the artists about this. When I had a customer come in with one, my initial response was "is this for real"? However, it was a nice older lady, and I figured she wasn't likely to be trying to pass off a phony $20 gift certificate, so I took it without question.

A few good thing I will say about this show. First, setup was easy...we were able to drive our trailer right up to the booth, so we didn't have to cart anything. The same was true for anyone in an outside booth (though the boothless artists in the pavilion had to wheel their stuff a short distance, but not far). The second is that the booth plots were roomy, with about 3 feet extra in back and on one side. Coordinating your setup with other artists (pushing your booths to opposite ends of your plots) gave a 5-6 foot area behind and to one side of the booth.

The booth was already feeling quite warm by early Saturday morning, so we ended up opening up the back and side walls. The artist behind me then took her rear wall, and draped it from her canopy top to mine, so we had a nice covered awning in back. Then the neighbors to the side did the same. It gave us all a nice shaded area. We had our own mini pavilion.

I finally figured out a layout for my booth that I'm pretty comfortable with. I took the back middle panel out and put it in the center of one of the side walls, dividing it into 2 areas, with my print bin in the front area. The only problem is that my print bin is almost at capacity, so I'm going to need a second one pretty soon, but I'm not sure where I'd like to put it. It's important to keep my booth feeling roomy and not cramped.

I'm happy to say that I did win an honorable mention ribbon for my West Point Impressions photo. I received a ribbon but no cash prize (cash was only for the top 5 in each category).

During tear down, it was a bit windy (but not bad). One artist who was new (not that I'm a veteran or anything) had borrowed his booth (one of the lower end easy up styles) from a friend. He had tied his concrete weights to the booth and suspended them about 4 feet off the ground (a big no no, especially with a booth that flimsy). A little push from the wind sent the leg at an angle, causing the frame to bend and the front of the booth to fall to the ground (at least it didn't happen during the show). Myself and 2 other artists rushed over to give him a hand standing the booth back up, untying the weights, and getting things back under control. We told him not to hang the weights in the future. I then showed him my newly purchased ratcheting cargo straps (which by the way worked great for holding the weights to the booth) since they are much easier to setup and tear down than tying/untying knots.

Anyway, that's how things turned out.

A few things I learned:

1) I definitely need to get some very inexpensive items. I've already picked up some notecards to work on before my next show. I'd like to find some good greeting card options before then too.

2) Keep an eye out for other artists, and be ready to lend a hand when they need it.

3) I need to start focusing on tying up some of the loose ends of my business, like building an email list, getting descriptive tags on each item, etc.

4) I need to get my panels covered soon, so that I can open up the back of my booth without people being able to see right through the grid walls. here to read more!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Online ordering available

I spent the last 5 days or so (or at least, what time I had available) working on getting online ordering available from my website ( I thought I'd just post a little about what I did there.

It starts with your standard process: view each image, when you find one you like, click the buy now button, and then choose your print size. From there is where it deviates a bit from what most other photography sites I've seen do. Typically, everyone sells prints online unmatted. However, I feel having the prints matted provides a much stronger product offering.

Of course, the problem becomes how to show them online in their matting. You could take a photo of each photo in each matting combination you offer, but that can get to be time consuming and tedious each time you add a new photo to your collection. You need to setup the print and your camera, adjust it all so it's at the proper angle and so that there aren't any glare or reflections on the print, load it into your photo program, do any color correction, cropping, transformation, etc. It really can get to be a lot of work. And then what happens if you later want to offer a different color matting on a photo. Start all over.

I set out to solve this with a bit of my computer programming know-how (after all, web development is a large part of my day job). I started by taking a piece of each color matboard, scanning each one into Photoshop, cropping it down to a 200x200 pixel image, touching it up so it can be tiled seamlessly, and saving it to a jpeg file. Then I created a database table to catalog each mat color with a unique id#, color description, file name, and core color.

GEEK ALERT: the following paragraph contains some web development techno-jargon which may not mean a whole lot to you!

Next in the HTML for my web page, I took the photo's IMG tag and wrapped it in 4 DIV tags. The first (outermost) one represents the width of the outer mat. The second one represents the bevel of that mat. The third and fourth tags represent the width and border of the inner mat. The 2 mat DIVs were CSS styled to have enough padding to give them their appropriate dimensions. The web page (which is actually a PHP script) then dynamically generates a series of CSS classes for each mat color. Each CSS class simply specifies to use the corresponding jpg file to tile the DIV's background. I also generate a corresponding CSS class for each mat color which defines border colors that will give the bevel DIVs the appearance of white core or black core bevels. Finally, I have javascript code which, when given a pair of colors (or a color and no second mat) assigns each of the 4 wrapping DIVs to have the appropriate CSS class to give the appearance of the desired matboard (or matboard combination).


For each photo I have defined an "Artist's Pick" color combination(which I think best accents the photo), a simple single layered white mat option, and a pick-your-own custom mat option.

Now we are back to the ordinary shopping experience. After you make your selections, you can add the photo to your cart. The cart stores all of your choices in a database, calculates prices and totals, and handle discounting options. The discounting option was bit complicated to work out in a reliable and flexible manner, but I eventually got it working...I'll leave it at that save you from having to sit through another geek alert.

When you are done and go to checkout, you are presented with 2 options. The first is to order online, which sends all of your cart data over to paypal, where you can pay with either a credit card or a paypal account. The other option is a mail-in order form, where you can pay by credit card, check, or money order. This option gives you an order form with all of your photos and pricing filled in. You simply print the order form, fill in your name, address, etc. and payment information, and mail it to my PO box.

Now I just have to sit and wait for my first order to come in...any blog readers want to volunteer (you know one of my photos would look perfect in your living room) :-) I'm always nervous when rolling out new features like this. I did extensive testing but I'm still paranoid I overlooked something critical.

Now that this is done and out of the way, I can get back to working on my prints. Maybe I can get everything all done and ready in the next day or 2 so that I don't have to stay up until 1AM the night before this weekend's show. It's feeling really good to have my initial shows out of the way and to start to fall into a regular, less panic-filled routine each time, as all the additional pieces of the puzzle gradually fall into place. Maybe one day soon, getting ready for a show will be as routine (in a good way) as getting up for work each weekday. Probably not, but one can always hope. here to read more!