How To Fix Broken Google Webmaster Tools for Meetup.com

How To Fix Broken Google Webmaster Tools for Meetup.com

For years, meetup.com let us use “custom domains”. As part of their rebranding and refocus efforts, they are doing away with this feature. Fortunately they are grandfathering (kinda) those of us who were smart enough to brand our groups with a unique URL. But this change has broken access to Google’s Webmaster Tools.

The Issue

And by Kinda Grandfathering, I mean that Meetup.com will accomodate those who already have a domain pointing at meetup.com, but then submit a redirect to your group on their domain. In other words, if you own “houstonphotowalks.com” and point it at meetup before June of 2013, everything worked pretty snazzy. After June ’13, your group members started being redirected to http://www.meetup.com/HoustonPhotowalks/.

Ok, as if that wasn’t bad enough, for those of you tracking your branding and traffic using Webmaster tools, you suddenly realize Webmaster Tools says you don’t own the domain. The reason is your domain cannot be Verified with the Google Webmaster Tools. And to add yet more insult, a lot of the Webmaster Tools aren’t going to be useful because any “houstonphotowalk.com” traffic is automatically shifted to “meetup.com/HoustonPhotowalks”. [sigh] (One note, so far Google Analytics will still work as long as Meetup doesn’t disable those too.)

Workaround

Google will also search your Zone File for TXT entries when trying to verify a domain. If your domain management software (I use godaddy) allows you direct access to edit the Zone File, then open the Webmaster Tools, go to Verification methods, and select Alternative Methods. Simply add a TXT entry with the google-generated TXT Value and pop, you’re verified!

Let me know in comments if you found this helpful!

Sharing Images on Facebook Groups (most bang per share)

Sharing Images on Facebook Groups (most bang per share)

Get the most out of your Facebook Image Posts (and keep from getting ignored)

As a member and admin of several Facebook groups, I see a lot (a LOT) of posted images. This often includes unintentional pitfalls, missed opportunities and non-preferred behavior by members who don’t understand their options (or etiquette). Here are some suggestions to help group members get the best possible results from image posts.

BTW, this posts comes with a couple of notes.

First, regardless of the advice below, follow the instructions of your Facebook group Admin(s). If they say do something that’s different than this article suggests, they are in charge, not me.

Next, the moment I publish this, Facebook will change it’s interface and all of this will go out the window. What can I do?

Group image posts

We post for exposure and comments. Many of us work on the economy of Kudos, some of us want to market our professional services. Either way, being an active and participating member in a group can certainly help.

To understand why there is etiquette when posting images in a group, you have to know three important details:

  • Group members may have “Notifications” enabled, meaning, they receive an email every time you upload a photo. Upload 15 images, they get 15 emails. This can lead some members to
    • leave the Facebook group thinking it’s too spammy
    • turn off notifications, reducing their participation level in the Facebook group
  • Your group posts represent you and your business, its part of your marketing and branding! So if you just finished your first 15 HDR image attempts and want critiques, upload 1 or 2 of the best ones, not the entire blurry mess.
  • Image and album management for Group Admin(s) isn’t terribly easy. For example, moving images from album to album is (currently) impossible.

Photo-posting (*sharing*) methods

Members usually post to Facebook groups in one of several ways:

  • Direct upload by clicking “Add Photo / Video” on the group’s main page
  • Direct upload by clicking “Add Photos” on a group’s album
  • Uploading to your personal timeline, and then “Sharing” to the group
  • Uploading a personal album, and then “Sharing” to the group
  • Uploading to your company/fan page, then “Sharing” to the group
  • Uploading an album on your company/fan page, then “Sharing” to the group

Each of these methods has different pros and cons. Instead of providing a specific method that will be successful in all situations, here is a list of each method and the pros, cons and best times to use them.

Direct upload by clicking “Add Photo / Video” on the group’s main page

Pros:

  • Really quick. This is the equivalent of impulse shopping. You see the button, you have an image, click click click.
  • Privacy. If you post a photo of the oozing boil on your foot, but don’t want your employer to see, posting it directly to a private group keeps it off of your personal timeline.

Cons:

  • Posting multiple images results in multiple notifications.
  • If you want to share the image on your personal page or profile, you’ll have to upload it twice.
  • Its one image, clicking on it does not result in seeing your other images too.
  • Someone other than you can delete the image! A real pain after getting 50 “likes” and 40 positive comments.
  • Once the image scrolls down the timeline of the group’s conversations, your exposure is essentially over.
  • Really (really) difficult to locate the post after days/weeks/months of time have passed.

Use When:

  • Probably best used for short-run exposure, such a special notice or event announcement.

Direct upload by clicking “Add Photos” on a group’s album

Pros:

  • Allows related subject matter to be maintained in a specific location
  • Group albums can be created for specific functions (critiques, event, contest, etc)

Cons:

  • One of the more difficult-to-manage information nodes for Facebook group Admin(s).
  • Individual image posts still trigger individual notifications.
  • Member-created albums may have little or nothing to do with the group’s subject or interest.

Use When:

  • When asked to do so by an Admin of the group.
  • The image fits the album’s specific topic or event.

Don’t willy-nilly create albums, it creates several problems:

  • They are a pain for Admin(s) to manage. Just about the only thing an Admin can do is “Delete” it.
  • It appears on every single member’s Lightroom plugin drop down forever!

Uploading to your personal Facebook Timeline, and then “Sharing” to the group

This has identical Pros, Cons and Use When of uploading directly to the Group’s Timeline with one additional Con.
Cons

  • Your personal default security settings take preceidence over the Group’s security. If you upload an image to your timeline as “Friends Only” and then share to a group, everyone in the group will get notified that you posted, but won’t be able to see your image even if you can.

Uploading a personal album, and then “Sharing” the image (or album) to the group

By far, I have found this to be the best way to post an image to a group! Here’s why:

Pros:

  • You can post multiple images around a single subject, but trigger only one group-wide notification of your “share”.
  • People can view the single image, but click left-right to view other images you share.
  • People who are new to the group that might be interested in your work have quick-access to previous posts.
  • You can share one image, but all other images you shared are available by clicking back-and-forth.
  • In the case of a “situation”, you can quickly remove ALL the images by simply changing the privacy level.
  • The “description” you used on your personal posting is automatically available to the Group.
  • Your “likes” and “comments” are aggregated in one spot, not spread in two or three different uploads.
  • You control the image, someone may delete the group posting, but can never delete the image itself.

Cons:

  • People outside your personal network can comment on your photos. This could be a pro-and/or-con
  • People who posted comments may receive email replies from other people. So if your mom said “wonderful” and the next guy is a stranger that rips you a new one, your mom is going to get that in email.
  • Or your boss. Or your friends. Or the client in the photograph (oh yeah, that’s happened to me).
  • As mentioned, if your security setting for an image or album is restrictive (“Friends Only”), members of the group who are not your friends cannot view your images.
  • Thusly, you have to leave the album and image available to “the world”.

Use When:

  • When appropriate, but almost always.
  • This provides the best possible exposure, ability to link back to your other images, and combine your “Likes” and “Comments”

Uploading to your company/fan page, then “Sharing” to the group

Identical to “Uploading to your personal Facebook Timeline, and then Sharing to the group”

Uploading an album on your company/fan page, then “Sharing” to the group

Identical to “Uploading a personal album, and then “Sharing” the image (or album) to the group” except one additional plus:
Pros:

  • It points users directly to a full album of images on your company page, where they may choose to linger and “Like” what they see.

Other considerations

  • Post images in groups where it’s appropriate. Don’t post your blurry lensbaby shots in the Canon L-Series group trying to be funny. Don’t do it. Just don’t be that guy.
  • Think about the audience before tagging a person. If the audience is a brutally honest critique group, don’t tag your client. If they have shared it to their wall, all of their friends who post “you look wonderful” will get follow up replies that say “the head position accentuates the subject’s excessive double chin.”
  • A watermark will never prevent your image from being stolen. 15 minutes with photoshop can remove just about any watermark. If you watermark for branding, then keep the ‘subject’ of the photograph the most important thing on the screen; your watermark is secondary.
  • People do not buy pictures of watermarks, they buy pictures of themselves, their family, or places they think are cool.
  • Always remember that any upload or post is going to trigger notifications. So don’t post 15 individual images unless the goal is to destroy the group.
  • Careful about marketing to peers. If you’re in a group of 200 photographers, do you need to post an image with a watermark that takes up 2/3rds vertical space?
  • The height, length and cleverness of your watermark does not specify your level of professionalism. If you JUST got your first camera, and you have NEVER sold a photograph, and your are posting “what went wrong with this photo” messages to Facebook photography groups, a 3″ high watermark is completely unnecessary.
  • If you spend more time creating and placing your water mark than actually composing the image before you took it, you have priority issues that will be apparent in the quality of your photography.

Now go post, or don’t.

You now have some good suggestions on how to post, when to post, and what to post. Your photography is an important part of your brand and how you are perceived to others. Don’t blow a good opportunity by posting images in a way that annoys those around you!

  • Don’t create an “Album” in a Facebook group unless asked by an Admin.
  • “Share” images from your profile rather than posting directly to the group.
  • Stick to the subject matter.

Did I get it wrong?

Feel free to post comments and suggestions for changes to this article below.

Class: Understanding White Balance

Class: Understanding White Balance

Class Description

White Balance is a fundamental photography concept, but it’s often not discussed — or discussed incorrectly — in many fast-paced “Introduction to Photography” classes. Photos are sometimes too “orange” or too “blue”.  This is often caused by selecting the wrong white balance setting, or using Auto mode.  We use the camera’s “White Balance” settings to compensate for the off-color, ambient lighting.  And in some cases, we use “customized” white balance settings.

Your camera, monitor and printer all lie to you!

White Balance (or incorrect White Balance) is one of the biggest things that can make an image look “first-class” or “amateur”. There are too many factors working against you when trying to correct an image’s color. So we often rely on “Auto-White Balance” (AWB). This basically wild-cards your photographs, promising inconsistently incorrect color on a consistent basis. (Like how I did that?) 🙂

White Balance settings, good bad and ugly

Believe it or not, there are white balance settings you should absolutely avoid. We’ll discuss each white-balance type, what they were intended for, what makes them useful, and which ones to completely avoid using.

Using bad White Balance Creatively!

You can get some very interesting and beautiful images by incorrectly using White Balance. We’ll even discuss how your flash impacts creative color photography.

Using Custom White Balance tools

There are several tools for creating color-perfect images in-camera (before you take the photograph). We’ll look at each of these tools and discus what they are used for. Then we will focus on the “White Balance Lens Cap”, and how to use it.

To help you best understand these concepts, you will be provided a FREE WHITE BALANCE LENS CAP, and we will work several exercises to learn how to use it correctly.

Summary: White Balance is a fundamental photography concept, but it’s often not discussed — or discussed incorrectly — in many fast-paced “Introduction to Photography” classes. Photos are sometimes too “orange” or too “blue”. This is often caused by selecting the wrong white balance setting, or using Auto mode. We use the camera’s “White Balance” settings to compensate for the off-color, ambient lighting. And in some cases, we use “customized” white balance settings.

One-on-One: $169.00
Group (20 ppl): $35.00
Instructor: Joe Lippeatt
Bring to Class: Camera, lens(es), paper & pen, enthusiasm!
Provided: Class Notes. “White Balance Lens Cap” so you can start using CUSTOM white balance during class!
Length: 2-3 Hours
Group Classes Available at: HoustonPhotowalks
Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate

Class: Demystifying How to Buy a DSLR Lens

Class: Demystifying How to Buy a DSLR Lens

Class Description

Sometimes people ask me “what lens should I buy”. I joke that picking a new lens is harder than picking a baby name — you don’t ask others to pick your baby name (“Joseph” is quite nice though).  🙂

It can be really confusing for new DSLR owners to buy that next lens.  There are an insane number of choices, an insane array of acronyms and number specifications, and many seemingly identical lenses have a price difference of $1,000 or more.

And some folks (more than once) have bought lenses based on the focal length (MM) and price, and 6 months later realized they made a very bad, and expensive, lens choice.

What this class is *NOT* about:

It’s really easy to “geek-out” on lens specifications.  If you’re a high-end, pro-minded kinda person who likes to read MTF charts and study lens grouping schematics to help you wake up in the morning,this class is NOT for you.

  • NOT a “Joe, what lens should I buy?” Q&A – I’ll show you how to evaluate lenses so YOU can make this decision!
  • NOT a Specifications / Mathematics / Physics / Geek-fest
  • NOT an argument over “Bokeh” quality
  • NOT a debate over “third-party lens options”
  • NOT a tutorial on reading MTF and Adoration charts

What this class *IS* all about:

  • The basics of understanding lens specifications
  • The different classifications of lens types
  • Know which specifications to pay attention to
  • Understand why 3 lenses with the same “mm” are drastically different prices
  • Evaluating lenses based on what you intend to do rather than what you think you need or can afford
  • Why lenses with a smaller focal range is better than those with a larger range.
  • How to evaluate conflicting “Reviews” on Amazon
  • The one lens that everyone should own

Bonus 1: Discussing using UV Filters for lens protection – are they worth it?
Bonus 2: Discussing the basics of lens care

Summary: Sometimes people ask me “what lens should I buy”. I joke that picking a new lens is harder than picking a baby name — you don’t ask others to pick your baby name (“Joseph” is quite nice though). 🙂 It can be really confusing for new DSLR owners to buy that next lens. There are an insane number of choices, an insane array of acrynums and number specefications, and many seemingly identical lenses have a price difference of $1,000 or more. And some folks (more than once) have bought lenses based on the focal length (MM) and price, and 6 months later realized they made a very bad, and expensive, lens choice.
One-on-One: $129.00
Group (20 ppl): $25.00
Instructor: Joe Lippeatt
Bring to Class: Camera, lens(es), paper & pen, enthusiasm!
Length: 2 Hours
Group Classes Available at: HoustonPhotowalks
The “Nice Shot” Comment Myth

The “Nice Shot” Comment Myth

Don’t let the Comment Haters slow you down.

Most people appreciate and maybe even crave feedback, especially positive. When it comes to photography, there are those who are very comfortable providing constructive, well crafted critiques. These paragraphs of personal opinions are often (at least hopefully, always) provided with the best intentions in mind, to help the photographer understand what works, and what doesn’t, in a particular photograph.

But there has been a growing trend of fellow photographers withholding their positive encouragement for the most silly of reasons: embarrassment and shame.

How Can Leaving A Comment Be Embarrassing?

Recently I have seen or heard photographers suggest (or outright telling) someone that if they can’t “intelligently” explain why they like someone’s image, they shouldn’t bother posting a comment. In other words, if a photograph catchers your attention, you show your own ignorance by posting “Nice image!” Telling someone they are unqualified to post a comment on photographs is frankly one of the most degrading remarks one photographer can say to another.

I’ve heard HoustonPhotowalks.com members mention mention occasionally that they loved one image or another from their fellow community member, but didn’t comment because Joe Blow Pro Photog told them that “Love it!” Or “great pic!” is amateur. Frankly, telling you that you are not qualified to “like” a photo makes Joe Blow Pro Photog lame and amateur-ish. (Point him to this blog post is he disagrees).

All Feedback is Important

It’s true that learning to read a photograph, how to detect subtle use of intersecting lines, angles, strong color (or not), and other composition techniques is very important. And providing details when commenting on a work is always helpful and informative, even if that feedback may include some “suggestions for improvement”. The end result is that we help each other grow, right?

As we grow as artists, we slowly learn to talk the trade, learn the language, etc. And as we grow, we can spot areas that seem to “not work” both in our own photographs and others. These are important steps for an artist’s maturity. So by no means am I saying that learning how to “Read” a photograph or provide constructive critiques aren’t important skills to grow into.

But someone should never feel intimidated or uncomfortable telling another photographer that their work had an emotional effect … even if the viewer is not prepared to specifically explain why.

It is Rude to Look at a Sketch Without Making a Nice Comment …

We are not required to withhold friendly feedback for other art forms. If someone shows you a quilt, lawn, drawing, or pottery, do you withhold positive feedback because you don’t know specific technical terms?

If someone shows you their drawing with stunning detail, strokes, and perspective … do you just hand the image back with no comment because you haven’t taken a proper sketching class? No, you say “OMG”, because you recognize skill, and its polite and encouraging to our peers!

So if someone creates a composition that affects your perception positively, they have knowingly or unknowingly tapped into the skills of artistic expression. They would like to see your “Like”, “Fav”, or “Amazing” just as much as a three paragraph examination. Don’t let the rules of a staid and inflexible photography critiques keep you from telling a fellow photographer, “I really love your work.”

If you like it, Like it! Don’t be shy, don’t feel judged. The recipient will really appreciate the time you took to comment. Don’t let some cranky old photographer make you to think you are unqualified to like something … or to express your appreciation for someone else’s work!

Feel free to post comments on the subject, I’m interested in hearing your view … or if you find this article helpful.