Wednesday, January 25, 2012

In with the old and out with the new....

January can be a brutal month in Calgary.  In the early part of the month, the sun rises at around 8 am, sets at by 4:30 pm and sometimes the temperatures can dip way below freezing (try - 45 C with the wind chill).  Not the most ideal conditions for photography.  This year, in keeping with the January theme of starting the new year off with some resolutions, I decided that a good way to beat the winter blahs would be to bury myself in my "cave" (as my husband likes to refer to my office), and take some time to re-evaluate and update a few basic things.

First on my list was tackling my Smugmug website.  While I enjoy having a Smugmug account, I wasn't particularly happy with the cookie cutter look of my site.  There are a lot of examples of sites that others have customized, so I viewed a number of these sites to get some inspiration, and set about to personalize my own site.

Along with my Smugmug site, another thing that I had been neglecting for a long time was acquiring a  domain name to make it easier for people to find me.  There are a number of places where you can go on the Internet to purchase a domain name, but I decided to try the Smugmug Custom Domain site to get mine.  It was really easy to do and there were plenty of instructions available to help set everything up at Smugmug's Help for Pros page.   Links to this page are easy to find in the Smugmug control panel (for those of you who have a Pro account) under the "Pro" tab.  Once my domain was purchased and working properly, I used the same Smugmug Help page to begin customizing my site.  I added my newly created logo, took out a few things here, modified a few things there, and "Presto!" In reality, it took about three full days to get there, but I now have a new (and in my opinion) and a more professional looking site.  I will say that the instructions were, for the most part, pretty clear, but it did help to have some experience with CSS and HTML.    I still have a few things to tweak, but overall I'm pretty happy with the results.  You can check it out at

The second thing on my list of goals for January was to get a handle on all my photo files.  I have been a Lightroom user for a long time, but didn't really have a good working knowledge of all the features available to me in that program.  I am pretty much a 'hands on' learner, meaning I learn by doing and not by reading textbooks, so I have tended to quickly figure out the features that I most needed by clicking around the program.  I knew that I was not taking full advantage of everything the program had to offer, so in December, I  decided to attend a Lightroom Workshop that was hosted by The Camera Store, to fill in some of the gaps in my knowledge.  The big take away from this workshop (for me, at least) was gaining a better understanding of catalogs and keywords and how they can help organize photos into different categories.  I had been basically putting all my photos into one main catalog without any kind of key-wording system.  As our instructor pointed out, this may not be the best idea, as there is a danger that the catalog could get too much information in it to function properly and it is difficult to find photos quickly.

Now I don't know about you, but I have thousands and thousands of digital photos files that I have taken over the last ten years.  Compound that with the fact that I have four computers containing family photos, scanned family history photos, client photos and my own photography photos, many of which are exact duplicates and you can see the big mess I had created.  How easy it is to neglect putting into place a good filing and organization system until you have filled up a couple of large hard drives and are on the brink of a nervous breakdown every time you sit down to upload even more photos.  

Lightroom has made it so easy to organize and delete duplicate photos.  I have now created several catalogs (My Photography, Family Photos, Client Photos, etc) and was even able to import the settings from my original catalog into the new catalogs so I wouldn't lose the editing work that I had already done.  Using the Grid view, I am able to quickly see everything that I have in each folder and easily delete any duplicates or photos that are just not worth keeping.  My life has become a lot easier and I've freed up some much needed room on my hard drive.

The last thing that I accomplished, which I have been meaning to do for a long time, is to start this blog.  I have been blogging for a while on another topic and have now finally taken the first step to become a photography blogger as well.  And now, with my January goals pretty much accomplished, I am looking forward to another productive year of taking great pictures!

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