Welcome back to my monthly Behind the Camera feature. In this entry, I typically talk about things surrounding my photography that might come up in comments or other questions. I had some basic ideas about things to cover, but after really considering it, I decided to talk about something that has been a pretty major part of the last two months. I’m sure that by now you have noticed that while the address is the same, pretty much everything else about the website has changed. If you haven’t, hit the home button above and start to explore. What has been going on is as much behind the scenes at it gets, so I figure I might as well talk a little bit about it here in the blog to let everyone know the reasons behind the changes, and some of the things that have developed from this.
I’ve discussed my website from years ago that I had built from the ground up, and my most recent version that was pretty much just a high powered Blogger page with some tricks to it. When I developed that website, I was looking for an easy and cheap way to get my photographs out there with a blogging platform. It did everything that I needed, but I was starting to outgrow the structure that I had developed. I had limited room to expand the rooms to include different categories of photographs, and with the way I had the rooms set up, it was a pain to expand the tables to include more pictures. Add to it the limited web applications of the entire site. I knew I needed to do something different, but wasn’t sure how to proceed.
Enter my friend Nicholas Harvey who started to really examine my website and tell me all sorts of ways that I could stand to improve on it. I kept putting him off knowing that I didn’t want to build another website from scratch. I remember all too well the 80+ hours I spent the last time I built a website and had no want to do that again. His response….”Give me an hour.” I gave him an hour and he produced a skeleton website for me that looked like it had promise. He was insistent on helping me build this new platform with a lot more functionality included. I gave in finally and he took off building a brand new website for www.gkiserphotography.com.
Oh yeah, I have to mention here that Nicholas is a bit underhanded in his methods. He has been after me to do workshops, videos, and other things to improve my brand. Well, since he had the reigns on the website, guess what was getting added to the site map? You guessed it. He was already putting workshops, 1 on 1 instruction, videos, and an actual store within the website. I let it ride, but I had to admit, it was looking really good. I was starting to see his vision, and I then started to make moves to see that vision turn into reality. My first workshop is actually going on as you are reading this (December 1st) at Hanging Rock. This is a little out of my comfort zone, but I have to say I’ve been looking forward to it. I’ll get into more detail about how that worked out when I do my Year in Review later in the month.
The website continued to grow and we consulted with each other on how things should look and function. What I was really liking about the new website was how the gallery was looking. As I had mentioned, I was pretty much at a wall for my site navigation in the current website because I had no more room on the top navigation bar to add other rooms. I had moved many parts of the menu to other sections of the home page/side bar which worked, but was cumbersome and things were no longer easy to find. With the new design, I could have as many gallery rooms as I wanted which gave so much room for growth over the coming years. The grid that was developed to showcase the pictures was also much easier to deal with than the current table set up which had to be done in html code. Adding additional pictures meant rebuilding the entire page each time so I just swapped out pictures as new ones were deemed worthy of adding. While this was nice to keep choices limited, there were times I just wanted to add to the page rather than swapping out. Now, I can do either just as easily and that gives me plenty of wiggle room with what pictures are displayed and where they are placed.
Speaking of my images, something that was added completely new, for the first time ever was a way to purchase prints directly from the website. Having a cart feature included was always well out of my skill set and I was excited to see how this would actually turn out. There were some issues with it when it came to ordering a print. Signing up for workshops and 1 on1 instruction were simple, but the prints were giving us some issues. He had developed it to have the sizes represented which was great, but there was no way to indicate which print was desired. This was the hardest hurdle to overcome, and actually didn’t get fixed until the site was live. We figured that having a free form entry block for the print title would do the job and allow the client to order a specific print at a specific size completely online. Of course, I am always available to discuss choices with the clients.
Around the middle of October things were getting polished up on the website and it was nearly ready for release. With the passing of my Mother on the 18th, I had to put the website on hold. I just couldn’t dedicate the time and energy to working out the last little bits that needed attention. It was about a week and a half later that I was able to sit down on the phone and hammer out the last details. I realized while I was talking that this was probably not the best time as I found myself saying to myself “I don’t really care how that looks” far too often. I was rolling with it, so we kept it going and at the end, the switch was flipped and the site was live. Honestly, I didn’t really care at the time, but was glad that was behind me. Normally I would have gone all through it and tested things and posted about the grand re-opening, but instead I just turned the computer off and thought “guess they will figure it out.” I didn’t like being that way, but my heart wasn’t in it at all.
I started to do my previous Behind the Camera feature and went into the dashboard portion to enter the blog. I saw that there were some updates available so I did what any good techy guy should do and I hit update. Well, the site locked up and couldn’t even be seen on the front end. Well isn’t that great!?! I haven’t even been in my website 30 seconds and I’ve already broken it. I put an emergency call into Nicholas who said something to the effect of “no problem, we will get it fixed right up.”
He didn’t know how badly I could break internet things.
He followed up with something to the effect of “This might take a while, I’m having to call tech support.”
Like I could handle one more thing going south. I reverted back to my old Blogger page and did the entry there and just gave out the link to the blog as normal. It wasn’t too long after that I was given word that the site was back up and running again. There was an issue with compatibility on one of the plugins which had been resolved. Now I was able to go in and post the blog entry and finally succeeded in my first use of the website. It was at this point I started to look around a bit and see how this was really looking.
I discovered that we still needed to get the store fixed to where it would work the way we had discussed. This took a bit of doing, but after about a week or so, that was ironed out and was functioned properly. I started to learn how to manipulate my products and eventually even added my Badge on Thin Blue Line product to test whether I fully understood it or not. The workshops, 1 on 1 instruction, print sales, and special products were up and running now and the website was ready to start earning some money, but Nicholas had some other ideas as well.
I was already an affiliate with Singh-Ray and was able to get folks 10% off of their purchase of the top of the line filters they make. It made perfect sense to have a Gear Page with the website where I could list out my equipment and show the promo code off, which is “KISER10” by the way. In addition, Nicholas was kind enough to introduce me to the Amazon Affiliate Program. This was a bit more involved, but essentially, I link to products through Amazon and without it costing the buyer any more, I actually get a small percentage of the sale price on certain items whether or not I am linking to them specifically. To really make this cool, I had also found out about the “Smile Program” through Amazon where they will make donations to a charity of your choice. Combining all of this together allowed me to put a link on my page where you can sign up for Amazon Smile and support any one of these photography charities, and then I get a small percentage of any purchase price as well. In short, when you use my link, you are not only helping out a charity, but also helping fund my photography which I am imagining that you enjoy or your wouldn’t be here. All of this without costing you any extra off of what you were already spending. Not too bad at all. I am also in the works of getting a similar program set up with B&H Photo which I have been an affiliate with years ago. I’m hoping to get back in that program again very soon.
Note: My temporary account with this program has been closed due to non-compliance with their website standards, so I am no longer an Amazon Affiliate.
Some things that will be coming down the pike soon enough will be some new videos. In fact, poor Nicholas is working on editing a video for me currently which is about waterfall photography which will coincide with the Winter Workshop that is going on right now. With the videos, I am planning on starting to do some product reviews which I used to do years ago in print. The decision hasn’t been made yet if the reviews will be completely in video form, or if they will be a mix of video and print. Either way, I feel that I have spent enough time with my current kit to talk about how it works for me and things that I might wish were a little different.
It seems that there is a lot going on with the website and my photography here lately, and that really is the case. Something that might have gone unnoticed within the gallery is the addition of a new page. I managed to add a new gallery room to take advantage of the new space for growth. I have always had a hard time with my waterfalls since I shoot them grand and do intimate abstract captures with them. I originally added a details/abstract room to capture these abstract images along with the abstract automotive shots. In short order, the water shots were kicked to the curb and that room became solely about metal. Now, I have the room to bring that Water Abstract room into the mix. The biggest news here was I didn’t break the internet doing this, and actually had very little problem making it happen.
Here we are, right at a month since the website went live. I’m still getting used to it, but I can see so much potential with it already. I have to thank Nicholas for building this for me, and taking the time to walk me through my growing pains. He really is a lot of fun to work with and he is starting to do website design as a side gig. If you are interested in utilizing his services I would be happy to get you in contact with him.
Look for the next installment of Behind the Camera on New Year’s day. I hope everyone has a great holiday season, and remember if you are ordering through Amazon……