Online Images (reprise)

I will keep flogging that old horse – my image bank. Years and years of photography stashed on various hard drives. ‘Stuffed into’ would be more accurate, because the hard drives are so full, they won’t allow me to do anything to the photos languishing there. There are pics on PC and on Mac, and on external hard drives compatible only with PC and only with Mac.

I started up a photo library many years ago … could it be ten years ago? Longer. Fifteen, probably. I was still shooting on film and the first DSLRs weren’t even available yet (was there once such a world?). The notion seemed quite alien to web designers at the time, and it took some searching to find a company who thought they could do it. They were a large company, used to dealing with complex websites. Yet it took them a year and R80 000 (about US$8 000) of my hard-earned, long-time-saved cash to cobble together a cumbersome, rather unattractive site. It wouldn’t allow me to do my own uploading, and the site could neither resize the images nor allow me to keyword them.

First I had to scan each picture and resize it in Photoshop. Then I had to number each picture and then resize each one to three different sizes: small for thumbnail images, medium for larger view and high res for download. After resizing hundreds of images individually, I managed to work out how to batch process in Photoshop – it must have cost me more in Photoshop books than it cost me to buy my computer equipment. All I had to do once I figured that out, was to separate the portrait format and landscape format images, otherwise one of the two formats would be resized incorrectly.

Then I had to type the image numbers and keywords onto an Excel spreadsheet – making sure that I matched the correct image number to the correct keywords. I found it easier to work on two computers then: one computer had the images open and the other had the spreadsheet. Then, once I had a batch of no more than 100 pics, I saved the pics and the spreadsheet to a disk and drove across town to the web designers  – now the web hosts – to deliver my disk. Then I had to wait for them to find the time to upload the pics, which, apparently, took them a few hours. All this for a monthly fee of R600 (about US$ 60). 

As this was over a decade ago, my fiscal dedication to my craft was quite impressive .. or foolish. Probably foolish.

Eventually I realised that this was an inefficient way of trying to earn an income from my images and terminated my relationship with the web designers/hosts/whatever they called themselves. Online Images disappeared from the Internet and again took up residence on my computer and on a large pile of CDs.

Photography became the preferred mode of income for thousands of people over the years, and some clever people realised that need for ready-made, easy-to-navigate websites. Hobby photographers and pros began uploading their images to photo communities such as Flickr, JPGmag, MyShutterSpace, Whoophy and ePhotozine, These sites still are a great way of showing your pics while being inspired by the amazing work of photographers around the world.

These photo communities are in addition to a professional website, however, and although Flickr and JPGmag had become my new drug, I still needed a proper website where clients could see (and buy!) my work. Much Googling and numerous free downloads and trials later, I decided to start up an ifp3 website. The cool thing about the new websites (and the photo community sites) was that they allowed you to keyword the images after you had uploaded them – no Excel spreadsheets! The other very cool thing was that I needed only to create a low res (72 dpi) version of the pic and the website would automatically resize it to create a thumbnail and medium view image.

Hours and hours I spent, deciding on the design, uploading and keywording pics, creating galleries and categories, learning what I could about SEO and banging in more keywords. And then I kind of ran out steam … Okay, honestly, I ran out of cash … The site went dormant for a while and then, one day, it was gone. Just gone. Thousands of pictures and hundreds of hours just gone. The nice people at ifp3 must have sent me an email to say that they were going to nuke my site, I’m not sure. I know I never read anything that resembled a warning.

So I started again. But by now I had learnt about software that could be used to keyword my pics – that funny Adobe Bridge thing that came with my Photoshop CS, apparently, could be used for this. I had finally learnt about meta data and could bandy about acronyms such as IPTC. I bought Photo Mechanic and could, with one keystroke, add my name, web address and any other details to all my photos at once. Then I could type in all the keywords and they would become part of the image data … the same pic could be uploaded to Flickr, ePhotozine, Woophy, Facebook – anywhere – and would have to be keyworded only once. What sorcery is this?

I now use ACDSee to do the same job. The main reason for the switch is that I upgraded my computer and had to transfer all my software. I emailed the Camera Bits people to ask how I was to transfer their software to my new computer, but they never responded. So, since they weren’t going to support me, I moved on to a new product. This is always a risk when buying software off the Internet – there’s no disk that you can use when you need to reinstall, and the support guys are nameless, faceless and very, very remote.

The trouble I have had with ifp3, though, is that it doesn’t support high res images. I have also found the upload to be slow at times, and often I have had the ‘A script on this page is causing Internet Explorer to run slowly. If it continues to run, your computer may become unresponsive. Do you want to abort the script?’ message. Although the ifp3 support team respond very quickly, I have never been able to solve the problem. I have also grown a bit tired of the ifp3 design and, although it’s a great website, I have moved on.

Online Images has been resurrected for the fourth time. This time at Smugmug:

I haven’t worked out the design yet – it’s far more complex to navigate than ifp3 – and am just focusing on getting my images uploaded. I am aiming at uploading 100 a day. It feels as if I am training to run a marathon. But if I chip away at 100 images a day, I should have 3 000 uploaded in three months, and almost 10 000 by the end of the year.

Wish me luck …!







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