Food – a new virtual agency for food photographers

Food Virtual Agency screenshotTogether with other photographers like Marc Piscotty, Laura Berman, David Hagerman and Simone van den Berg I have joined the virtual agency called ‘Food‘. A virtual agency is a service of Photoshelter which makes it possible for a group of independent photographers to link their photo archives together and take advantage of group marketing efforts.
German photographer Oliver Schafeld created this virtual-agency to host all kinds of images having food as main subject matter. Themes may include production, preparation, consumption, plain or stylish presentation. This collection of food photo’s is an excellent place for image buyers to find and license food photos for personal, editorial or commercial use.

Official Photoshelter WordPress plugin review

Recently photo hosting service provider Photoshelter released their own version of a WordPress plugin, making it easier to insert individual photos or slideshows from your Photoshelter archive. Previously a plugin has been offered by Graph Paper Press, who also offers WordPress templates which integrate well with Photoshelter (this site is using it). This official plugin is a joined effort of both companies.

The plugin requires at least PHP 5.2, cURL, simplexml and WordPress 2.9 or higher. In order to verify if you have the correct PHP version with cURL and simplexml support, you can create a simple PHP page with the following code: <?php phpinfo() ?>

After entering the Photoshelter credentials the ‘Add Photoshelter photo’ button on the edit post and page screen can be used. It directly displays a list of all galleries in chronological order.

Gallery list

It is not possible to search for galleries or sort them by name but you can use the search function of the browser instead. For people with a large amount of galleries this might be an issue though.

A gallery can be embedded only as Flash based slideshow in the post or page, which is not really great for SEO and neither for visitors using mobile devices without Flash support like the iPhone or iPad. I am currently working on a Flash free Photoshelter based slideshow (you can see the first prototype already on my homepage) and with the NiO PhotoShelter RSS Gallery Widget it is possible to show the images of a gallery as thumbnails.

In order to insert a single image into a post or page the user can either search by keyword or display the images of a gallery. The search supports multiple keywords and by default it is an ‘any’ search. Use “&” to find images that contain both keywords and “-” to exclude a keyword.

Search result

The user can now pick an image, set the width and has two ways to embed the image in the post or page, either as regular HTML image or as flash object. Both solutions are linking directly to the image page of the Photoshelter gallery.

Embed image

When using the HTML option, the IPTC image description/caption including copyright notice is being used for ALT text of the embedded image. This is the information that Google indexes and displays on the Google Image search results page. The title or headline of the image is unfortunately not being used. The embedded image also automatically includes the Photoshelter watermark (if enabled).

Big watermark on small image

This is fine for larger sizes but is not something I like on small versions, especially since the watermark does not scale. I would prefer to have this as an option or be able to provide a smaller watermark.

Another issue is the JPEG compression rate of this image. The resized version of the 300 pixel wide image of the example is 62 KB large because it uses the highest quality settings. Of course we want provide the best image quality to our customers but photos which are being displayed on a web-page should be size optimized. In this case the image size can be reduced to at least 25 KB without a visible loss of quality.

The Flash object version includes a bright BUY button and an extra copyright notice.

Image as flash object

I thought that the icon on the bottom left looked like it might display more information such as the caption but it didn’t. Personally I prefer the html image solution but would like to see options for the watermark and JPEG compression.

In general the integration between WordPress and Photoshelter is working well and the plugin is easy to use but because of the watermark issue and JPEG compression I probably won’t be using it yet.

The plugin has been released under a GPL license and it available for free on the official PhotoShelter WordPress plugin page.

Update:

I have added the option to disable the watermark and ‘buy’ button and included the display of the image title when the mouse pointer moves over the image.

Tweaked Photoshelter WordPress plugin

Click here to get the modified php file. I have also submitted this change to Photoshelter.

QR Codes with a twist

QR Codes are a popular two-dimensional matrix code, originating from Japan where most mobile phones can read these codes. Originally used for tracking parts in manufacturing QR Codes are now being used worldwide for mobile tagging. While QR Codes can hold any sort of text information, hyperlinks (URLs) are the most common and effective, connecting the real world with the internet. People with a modern camera phone can scan the QR Code and the URL will open in the browser of the phone to display more information. This is often being used for billboard advertisements, on historical buildings or for city tours.
While the standard QR Code is just a simple matrix code, with a trick it is possible to include some graphical elements like text or a logo, as used by the BBC and others.

Vegalicious QR CodeI-love-vegans QR Code

My first adaptation was a green vegan ‘V’ for a Vegalicious T-Shirt in the center of the QR Code, which links to Vegalicious. The next design used a red heart icon in the same pixel style as the QR Code. When someone scans this QR Code it will display a text message.

Creative Commons QR Code Creative Commons BY-NC-SA QR Code Creative Commons BY-NC-SA Button QR Code

The next example links the icon of Creative Commons to their home page and the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license QR Codes to the BY-NC-SA license deed page. This is an easy way to provide a link back to the license page on a visual medium like a record cover, a printed book or a piece of art.

QR Code is a registered trademark of Denso Wave Corp.