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Posts Tagged ‘photography’

Instagram, Twenty20, and Picture Sharing/Selling

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Twenty20 Gallery Account
My Twenty20 Photo/Art Gallery

Last week I began an adventure. It started with signing up for an Instagram account back in 2013. It’s not that I was keen to share photographs of what I was doing at the moment but rather I wanted to learn about Instagram by using it. For me the most useful aspect of Instagram has been the ability to share content to Facebook, Flickr, Tumblr, and Twitter (I don’t use Foursquare). The least useful aspect is that it is an app-based service – meaning it is only fully functional when accessed from either a smart phone or a tablet via the Instagram app. My major annoyance with the app itself is the frequency with which it crashes.

I recently learned of an Instagram-associated service – (formerly Instacanvas) which connects to Instagram and allows people to purchase various products that feature the photographs from your Instagram account. There is an application process so evidentially not everyone is accepted into the program. I was accepted. This acceptance led me to create a Flickr account in order to take advantage of that service as well.

My Twenty20 Gallery

In configuring my Twenty20 gallery the first action I took was to turn off the feature that automatically adds all of my Instagram photographs as product art. My rationale is that I do want to continue to use my Instagram account as a way of sharing photographs that are not meant to be used as product art. I may yet change my mind on this as it does make my Instagram account content look less professional.

Regarding Twenty20 products, I was surprised by the range of products on which they will print your Instagram photos. Product options are stretched canvas, framed prints, photo prints, iPhone case, greeting cards, T-shirts, pillows, magnets, and prisms – which are 1-inch thick acrylic photo glass with the image laser etched within.

Photos that are published to Instagram are all reduced to 640 x 640 pixels. The image that Twenty20 pulls from Instagram is also 640 x 640 pixels. This left me wondering about Twenty20’s option to print at 20″ x 20″. In terms of pixels per inch, that is 32 pixels per inch. When I print my photographs or artwork, I print at 300 pixels per inch. In searching through Twenty20’s help section, I came across the following:

How is the quality of printed mobile photos?
About Our Products
Twenty20 galleries are only filled with photos from Instagram, so they are all 612 x 612 pixels and 72 DPI. (Note: I think the 612 x 612 is outdated information) They look fantastic on all of our products due to our proprietary print sizing technology which makes photos from your phone look great when enlarged. However, if you ever order a print that you don’t love for whatever reason, we offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee and will refund all the costs and pay for shipping both ways.

It is worth noting that the 640×640 pixel limitation applies only to images pulled from Instagram. Photographers do have the option of uploading larger images directly to their Twenty20 account.

Instagram Sharing Review

When posting a photograph to my Instagram account, I have the option to share that photograph with Facebook, Flickr, Foursquare, Tumblr, and Twitter. Not being on Foursquare, I won’t be covering that option. Note that all of the illustrations that follow have been cropped for presentation here.

Instagram Picture Post
My post as it appears on Instagram

Instagram to Facebook

The handshake between Instagram and my Facebook account is perfect.

Instagram to Facebook
My post as it appears on Facebook

The content I post to Instagram is exactly mirrored on Facebook. Nice job.

Instagram to Flickr

When shared to my Flickr account, the picture is fine and the Instagram caption field copies to the Flickr caption field. However the tags area consists of Instagram-related tags instead of my own tags. I don’t know why this only happens with Flickr and I’m not sure if Flickr or Instagram is to blame. To fix the hashtags, I have to log on to my Flickr account, manually delete their hashtags and add in my own hashtags.

Instagram to Tumblr

When shared to my Tumblr account, my content (photograph and caption text) is perfectly mirrored on Tumblr – I don’t have to do anything. Hurrah.

Instagram to Twitter

Instagram to Twitter
My post as it appears on Twitter

In creating the tweet for my Twitter account, Twitter’s 140 character limit has to be kept in mind. If my Instagram caption is more than 140 characters, something is going to get truncated. Fortunately I’ve consistently reserved the end of my Instagram captions for the hashtags so it’s only those – and not my link – that get dropped. Of course I could have limited the length of my caption to Twitter’s 140 character limit but that would have entailed limiting the amount of content on the other four social media services. So Twitter draws the short straw and I will live with the truncation problem.

One nice thing is that in posting my Twenty20 link to Instagram, it gets picked up and pulled in by Twitter and is viewable via the Twitter View Details option. A nice feature. Unfortunately, while Twitter now does support the posting of images, my photograph does not get passed to Twitter – only a link back to the image on my Instagram account. Perhaps Instagram has just not gotten around to updating their service to reflect this newish Twitter capability.

Instagram to my Twenty20 Gallery

Instagram to Twenty20
Importing Instagram to my Twenty20 Gallery

As I have selected to not automatically add all my Instagram photos to Twenty20, I must manually add them individually. This is no loss though because Twenty20 only pulls in the image file. None of the text content is carried over and in order to have your image found via a search, you need to go in and populate the Photo Details, Tags, and Caption fields.

Here is the workflow associated with each photograph I add to my Twenty20 gallery:

  1. Open Instagram on my tablet/smartphone.
  2. Either take a photograph or grab an image from my tablet/smartphone.
  3. Enter caption text and tags.
  4. Share to Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and Tumblr.
  5. Press the submit button and I’m done on Instagram.
  6. Go to my computer, open my browser, and log in to my Twenty20 account.
  7. Go to the Manage Gallery option.
  8. Select Add.
  9. Select Import from Instagram.
  10. Twenty20 displays thumbnails of all my Instagram photographs. I select the image I want to add and click Done.
  11. Select that same image from my Twenty20 image gallery.
  12. Edit the Photo Details field to specify a category, add the hashtags I want to use, enter the text I want for the caption, and click Save.

And there you have it. I hope you take a moment to have a look at my site and "like" my photographs and art as that will give me a boost in the site’s search results.

Jim Plaxco’s Twenty20 Photo/Art Gallery

I will be adding new content on a fairly regular basis.


Annoying Advertisement: I just now visited the Twenty20 site as a visitor. I must say how annoying I find it that when doing a search on the site I am presented with the same “Instacanvas is now Twenty20” pop-up advertisement on every single search results page. Note that this only happens to visitors – not to people logged in to their account.

The advertisement that overlays every search results page when I search the site as a visitor

For visitors the ad takes over the screen and must be manually dismissed. Someone at Twenty20 really needs to have their head examined. I’ve reported this as a problem and am very curious to see what their response is. I’ll report here what I hear back from them.

No Search Engine Results: In using Google and Bing to search the site for my content I get zero search results. Similar searches for other seller’s content yields results. I’ve opened a problem ticket with Twenty20 to find out what the problem is. It may be due to the newness of my account. Granted my account is less than a week old but I would think that is a sufficient amount of time to have been found by the search engines.

I hope you found this information useful. Please feel free to share it with others who may be interested in monetizing their Instagram photographs.

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From Capricon to Floral Photography

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

The Flyers of Fomalhaut b Digital Art Painting
The Flyers of Fomalhaut b Digital Painting

Part 1: The Capricon Science Fiction Convention

This year Capricon was a short affair for me. While the con ran Thursday thru Sunday, I only attended Friday and Saturday and then only until 6:30pm as I had made plans to attend the opening of a photo exhibition at the Prairie Arts Center in Schaumburg. And because I was not returning on Sunday I did not participate in the art show. On Saturday I did make sure to go through the art show and was happy to see work exhibited by a couple of my friends. What I found disturbing though was the fairly large number of empty display bays in the show. In my experience the Capricon Art Show generally has little, if any, unused space. Unfortunately I had to leave before the start of the art auction so have no idea how well that went.

With respect to programming, my only job Friday was as a panelist on Pluto Is Still a Planet in Illinois with Bill Higgins (Fermilab physicist) moderating and copanelists Brother Guy Consolmagno (Vatican Observatory) and Steven Silver (Capricon Fan Guest of Honor). This was a really good panel given that Brother Guy was a part of the IAU meeting at which the Pluto vote was made and Steven was a friend of Clyde Tombaugh, the man who discovered Pluto. If you were at Capricon and missed this panel – it was definitely your loss.

I arrived back at the con Saturday morning shortly before I was scheduled to give my presentation The Art of the Exploration of Space. I especially liked that I had 75 minutes to speak as this allowed me to go at a leisurely pace and engage in conversation with the audience as I went along. This was immediately followed by my moderating a panel at the opposite end of the convention on Goodbye, Space Shuttle. My copanelists were Henry Spencer, Chris Gerrib, and Kent Nebergall. Kent had the misfortune of being in the audience of my space art presentation whereupon I drafted him for the Space Shuttle panel as I knew that he would have valuable insights to contribute.

I next attended The Coming War on General Purpose Computation presentation by Cory Doctorow, the author guest of honor. It was a fascinating presentation. While I agreed with Doctorow on SOPA and other aspects of attempts to stamp out the theft of intellectual property, I came away dissatisfied that he offered no remedy for the authors, artists, and musicians who are having their work stolen. I was also somewhat surprised by his stance towards Facebook in that he seemed to believe that people should not be given the choice of sharing their information on social networks. I viewed this as being inconsistent with what I would characterize as a free and open internet perspective.

The last panel I attended was the most boring panel I have ever attended at any science fiction convention. Now with a title like Civil Disobedience: Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party Movement you would expect there to be an invigorating debate between the panelists and between the panelists and the audience. However, this panel was run by the brown shirts. No audience participation was allowed. There was a short period at the end where 5 people were identified and allowed to ask one question each with no follow up or commentary by the questioners permitted. In short, this panel was a total waste of time for the audience.

In summary, I’d say that the best things about Capricon were:

  • The accidental meetings
  • The conversations in the halls
  • The food in the green room
  • Prowling the Dealers Room
  • Checking out the art show
  • How well my The Art of the Exploration of Space presentation went and the ensuing conversations
  • Being on the Pluto panel with Brother Guy Consolmagno, Bill, and Steven
  • Friday lunch in the Green Room with Brother Guy, Bill Higgins, and Henry Spencer
  • Drafting Kent Nebergall to serve on the Space Shuttle panel.

Only one more year until Capricon 33!

Part 2: The Photography Exhibition at the Prairie Art Center, Schaumburg IL

Departing Capricon, I swung by home to grab a bite to eat and then headed over to the Prairie Art Center to take in a photography exhibition that was opening that night in the Herb Aigner Gallery. Titled Flowers in Our Soul, the show is devoted to artistic photographs of flowers and consists of 27 separate works. The photographers that I identified as having work on display in the show are Maria Aiello, Mary Angelini, Debbie Beller, Cindy Brumm, Susan Couch, Randee Lawrence, and Karie Strangeway. I had the opportunity to speak with several of them about their work. I was also curious to learn whether they printed their own work or used an outside service. If you would like to see the show, it runs through the end of February. See Prairie Center for the Arts, Schaumburg IL.

The Illustration

To illustrate this post I decided to use a piece of science fiction art that I just added to my web site. Titled The Flyers of Fomalhaut b, it is an imagining of what the life of exoplanet Fomalhaut b is like (note: not only is there no evidence of life on this planet, there is some question as to whether or not the planet even exists). Fomalhaut b appears to be a Jupiter-like planet that is about three times more massive than Jupiter and which orbits the star Fomalhaut once every 872 years. By comparison Pluto takes 248 years to complete an orbit of the Sun.

For more about this digital painting, see The Flyers of Fomalhaut b.

Until next time, Ad Astra, Jim

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Disappointment with Chicago Artists Coalition

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Chicago Artists Coalition
Screen shot of Chicago Artists Coalition email

Imagine my surprise and disappointment when I opened an email blast from the Chicago Artists Coalition (CAC) and discovered that it contained three photographs taken from my web site. The three photos are part of a set of seven that I had taken at the Chicago Art Open Preview and Benefit Party at River East Art Center on April 20 and used to illustrate an article on my web site – Chicago Art Open Preview and Benefit Party at River East Art Center. For a view of the article in question, see this CAC email screen shot. Of the four photos shown in the screen shot, the group photo in the upper left (deliberately blurred) is not mine while the other three photos are.

Not only was I not asked if the photographs could be used but I was not given credit either. One would think that an organization representing artists would know better than to use copyrighted material without first getting permission. As a rule I’m pretty open about allowing non-profits to use my art at no cost. In fact if I had been asked by the Chicago Artists Coalition, I would have gladly said yes to letting them use the photographs. I used to be a member of this organization but did not renew as their dues continued to increase and their charge to artist members to have art shown on the CAC web site is far too expensive.

The Value of Metadata

As a rule, before posting any image to the Internet, I try to make sure that I have filled in the authorship-related fields in the image’s metadata. This consists of the Title, Author, Author Title, Description Writer, Description (if any), Copyright Status, Copyright Notice, and Copyright URL. In the case of the photographs in question, I did fill in the metadata fields. Saving the images from the CAC email to my hard drive, I opened them in Photoshop and looked at the metadata. Yep – my copyright notice was still present. (See Photoshop Metadata Illustration)

Of course there is nothing to stop someone from either removing or altering the contents of the metadata fields. For an informative article on this subject, see Why Photoshop doesn’t provide secure metadata

Watermarking Images

In the case of these particular photographs, because of their relatively small size (430 by 322) I did not bother to watermark the images. Typically I will place a textual statement on the image that is of the following format:
Picture Title – Copyright Symbol – Year – Jim Plaxco –

This watermark is semi-transparent with placement depending on the size of the image. For smaller images I locate the watermark along the bottom margin. For larger images I shift the watermark up so that it is more prominent.

Finding Your Images

A relatively new tool available for publishers of images is a search engine called TinEye. TinEye is a reverse image search tool. The user either uploads an image to TinEye or provides the URL for an image on the net. TinEye then searches its database for images that resemble the image you’ve provided and returns their URL.

Unfortunately TinEye’s database is not comprehensive. In the past I found one of my images being used by a city government (from Brazil of all places) by typing into Google the filename of my original image. Can’t say that I have tried that approach lately. And of course there is always the google image search if you have lots of time on your hands.

In Conclusion

All I can say is to be vigilant and don’t be surprised if your art or photographs show up in unlikely places. It is worth noting that copyrights are far more likely to be violated by your average Joe than by your average corporation.

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Photography at Navy Pier

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Windy schooner off Navy Pier
Windy schooner off Navy Pier

I took a photo excursion to Chicago’s Navy Pier last Thursday. It was a beautiful day for it and there were surprisingly few people there. I had brought along several model release forms just in case I happened upon a person that I wanted to photograph. However, no such opportunity presented itself.

One of my first stops was to take a ride on the ferris wheel. It cost $6.00 for the ride. The slow movement of the ferris wheel and partially open sides made possible some decent photos of the Chicago skyline. Unfortunately the backs and much of the sides were enclosed in plexiglass making photos at most angles impossible.

A while later the Windy, a 150 foot 4 masted schooner, came into dock which presented a nice photo op. I stopped by their ticket booth to get details. A one hour cruise was departing at 5:00pm which fit my schedule nicely. I came close to buying a ticket but one look to the east convinced me otherwise. It was a clear day and the Sun was about 35 degrees up in the sky. My principal purpose for taking the cruise was to get photos of the Chicago skyline from a different vantage point. However, given the clear sky and position of the Sun the pictures would not have turned out very good so I took a pass.

I continued to meander about taking photos, including a couple of the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse. By the time I started heading back in from the end of the pier, the Windy was starting her next cruise. It didn’t take long before she had her sails up. Fortunately I had brought along my telephoto lens so even though she was some distance away when she raised her sails, I was still able to get some decent shots. I used one of those shots to illustrate this post.

I also headed up to Olive Park to get some photographs of the John Hancock Building and points north. The sun position was pretty bad by then being low in the sky but still clearing all but the tallest buildings. However from where I was, the Sun lined up nicely with Huron Street and created a nice reflection in that sliver of Lake Michigan that lies between Olive Park and Lake Shore Drive.

Afterwards, I went to Charlie’s Ale House for dinner but got tired of waiting for someone to show up and seat me. A couple waitresses at the end of the bar looked up a few times before returning to chatting. Given how empty the place was they certainly couldn’t attribute their lack of service to being too busy. Obviously they rake in enough cash to not be concerned about the loss of a customer. I headed over to Carnelli’s Deli and grabbed a sandwich and drink instead. They took my order and made my sandwich in far less time than I had spent waiting at Charlie’s. Plus they were a good deal cheaper.

After eating I wondered around the Crystal Gardens. I took a few photographs of plants and the few flowers there. It was then time to head over to the IMAX theater to meet my friends and take in the Hubble 3D movie. For more about that part of my excursion, read Hubble 3D IMAX Movie.

By the time we got out of the restaurant, Navy Pier had been closed for over 90 minutes. I only got to take a few pictures before being directed by security to leave. In total I took over 150 photographs. In the days of film, I would have been far more judicious in the number of photographs I took. But this is the age of digital photography so I shoot away.

For me, the hardest part of photography these days is not taking the photograph. Rather, it is going through all the photographs afterwards: deciding which to delete and what to do with those I keep.

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Schaumburg Prairie Arts Festival

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

Schaumburg Prairie Arts Festival
Schaumburg Prairie Arts Festival

Saturday the kids and I attended the Schaumburg Prairie Arts Festival. It was beautiful weather for an outdoor fair. This is the 22nd year for this annual juried fine art festival. Over 150 artists and artisans participated in this year’s festival.

My prime motivation for attending was to see what other artists were up to. I confess to having largely ignored the artists specializing in sculpture, blown glass, jewelry, and pottery. My focus was on the work of the photographers and painters.

With respect to photography, one thing was evident: digital photography has become the dominant form of photography. Photographic works came in three basic forms. The first form was what I would call pure photography which consists of photographs with no apparent digital manipulation. The second category would be photographs in which various types of digital manipulation were evident – at least to someone experienced in such matters. The third category would be photographs that had been digitally altered to resemble paintings – a path most frequently taken by those working with Adobe Photoshop or Corel Painter.

I have no personal bias either for or against any of the three aforementioned categories. Rather, the only thing that matters to me is the end product. If someone can take a well composed photograph and skillfully manipulate it to create a convincing painting that is superior to the original photograph, then kudos to that photographer-artist. After all, the final image is what counts.

There were a number of traditional painters present at the art fair as well but for the most part their work, mostly executed on large canvases, was uninspiring. I found this to be particularly true of the abstract artists – though there were a few whose work was inspired.

Thinking back, one thing I don’t recall seeing were any purely digital paintings. Nor were there any artists whose work was the result of a 3D render. Being a fan of space art and astronomy, I was also disappointed to see no space art nor any astronomical art. The closest was a digital photograph of the Aurora Borealis.

Speaking of space art, the reason I am writing this entry so late (oops make that early) is because I spent Memorial Day and this evening (now yesterday) preparing artwork for the Space Art Show at the International Space Development Conference in Orlando Florida. I also created a 13 x 19 inch congratulatory space art card for Peter Kokh, the recipient of the National Space Society’s 2009 Gerard K. O’Neill Award For Space Settlement Advocacy. I do hope that Peter enjoys the card/artwork.

Until next time, Ad Astra

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Hiking Moraine Hills State Park

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009
Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird at Moraine Hills State Park, IL

The family and I spent Saturday hiking around Moraine Hills State Park, IL. This was our first visit to the park and we spent most of our time on the trails in the vicinity of Lake Defiance. It was an overcast day with light rain on and off but even so the trails had a fair share of hikers and bikers. This early in the year, the only thing green at the park is the grass.

Lake Defiance and the surrounding terrain were formed by the Wisconsin glacier which covered the area some 15,000 years ago. The park’s name, Moraine Hills, is a direct reference to the glacial process that created the terrain and lakes. About half the park’s 1700 acres is wetlands and lakes. Because of its diversity of habitats, Moraine Hills is well known for the abundance and variety of birds present. For example, the photograph of the Red-winged Blackbird used to illustrate this post.

For photographers interested in marshlands and birds, Moraine Hills State Park, located just east of McHenry IL, is an excellent destination. I don’t know why I didn’t visit before now. I do hope to have the opportunity to revisit the park in the coming month at which time I will concentrate on hiking the trails that run through the marshes. I must confess that on this trip I didn’t even take a dozen photographs. The sky was basically a flat gray and the only thing not brown was the grass. I expect that my next visit will be both greener and bluer.

The Photograph

The photograph used to illustrate this post was taken with a Nikon D50 fitted with a Nikon ED AF Nikkor 80-200mm lens. I brought the photograph into Photoshop and performed some digital manipulation on the picture leaving the blackbird untouched. I then shrunk and closely cropped the image to fit the web page.

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