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Vivid Light Photography, digital and film photography online
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Significant Changes at Vivid Light 
New Features, an Online Photo Community, Free Stuff for Camera Clubs, 
Three New Editors, 
and a New Policy on Advertising 

by Jim McGee

Those of you who have been with us for the last three years have seen considerable change. As a matter of fact if you go into the back issues archive and look at some of those early issues it hardly looks like the same magazine!

Much of that change has been driven by you our readers; including changes in what we cover, how we cover it, and how often we report on things. Reader feedback has helped form our policies on advertising, subscriptions, and classifieds. It has also determined what you don't see in the magazine including certain types of advertising and content.

Changes in the Web, in the way people use it, and the way advertisers view it have also shaped the magazine. In the online world three years feels like a decade.

In recent months you've become more vocal about things you'd like to see, particularly our newest readers. In response we've spent the last several months working out what a new Vivid Light Photography should look like.

OPC, an Online Photo Community 
"I read everything in this month's issue in the first few days. I don't want to wait for the new issue. I want something new right now."

We've always gotten these types of emails. But they're coming with an increased frequency of late, not to mention a more insistent tone. There are a couple of common threads to what you've been asking for: 

  • A place where you can quickly get questions answered. 
  • Mid-month articles 
  • More interaction with staff and other photographers. 
  • A chance to show off your best shots and get them critiqued 
  • More photography related "stuff" to browse and read through. 
  • Better organization for the classified section.

Our staff is still relatively small. That makes a weekly magazine impossible right now. But for the first time I'm willing to say I won't rule out mid-month updates. Particularly when new camera models are introduced. This month there will be several mid-month articles added in the next week or so as we add first look reviews of the new digital SLRs from Canon and Pentax, the new Canon Rebel K2, and several new digital cameras from Minolta.

To address some of your other requests we're creating an online photo community called The OPC. I'll admit it's not the most original name in the world but it gets the idea across. The online forums will allow readers to communicate with each other, relate their experiences and opinions, and get answers to questions more quickly. There will be a bunch of "standard forums" for Nikon questions, Canon questions, landscape questions, etc. and then you the readers can create any forum topic you want to ask about, talk about, or complain about.

Another forum will be the critique forum. It's a place where you can post your shots and hear what other photographers think - if you dare.

Another part of the online photo community will be reader portfolios. Disk space is a common problem for photographers wanting to get their work on the Web. The space you get with a standard Web hosting package doesn't give you enough room to post your photos; and packages that do provide enough space are too expensive. The online photo community will give you enough space to post your best images and will allow your images to be critiqued (if you want) by other photographers. It will give you a place online to showcase your work to the world and to share your images with family and friends. Your portfolio will be listed in an online index to make it easier to identify what portfolios might be of interest to you or to other photographers. Best of all the package will be cheap. We've been able to put it together so that we can offer portfolio space for a fraction of what you'd pay from most Web hosting services.

We'll also be offering low cost photo domains for readers on our server. These will also be indexed for easy browsing by other photographers and will allow you to put YourSite.Com online on our server; and with enough disk space for your photos.

On a related note we'll make space available for camera clubs on our servers, either within our domain or we can put you club's site on our server. You'll still keep your existing Web address. Nothing will change except that you'll have more disk space for less money - and it will be easier for photographers to find you. Camera clubs serve a vital role in the photographic community. We're hoping we can help bring clubs and photographers together.

Better Classifieds 
Truth be told our classified section is a mess; a victim of it's own success. In any given month there are about 700 items listed for sale. Some have been there for a while and some are new listings. But because items are only sorted into general categories it can be pretty hard to find something specific. Some folks have pointed out that some of the listings are pretty old. But items from those old listings do routinely sell. After all a lens or a flash doesn't go bad.

Another problem is that you can't see what is for sale. We're a photo magazine but there's no way to attach a picture to a classified listing!

Click on Samples Below

Walk-Around 360 degree Example.
Panoramic Image Example
Detail & Slide show example.
Product animation Example, smaller file size than animated gifs.

To fix these problems we've teamed with Advantage 3D. These folks make it easy to create 3D animated images that buyers can rotate and spin. These images are much smaller than competing formats and require no special software or plug-in to view. It's a service they currently provide for folks like eBay, OKI, realtors, and online auto auctions. Starting this month they'll be taking over our classified section. Individual ads will still be free, but you'll have the option of adding animated photos for $5, something that might help sell a $500 camera or lens. Advantage 3D postings will be free for the first 30 days to introduce the new system. After that the $5 charge will begin. To make it easier Advantage 3D accepts all credit cards and PayPal. Listings without Advantage 3D images will still be free.

The classifieds will also be moved into a database to make it easy to search for specific items by type or brand. That way if you want to look for a Minolta lens, a Nikon flash, or a classic Leica it will only take a couple of mouse clicks.

New Editors 
You may have noticed some new faces over the last few months. We're pleased to have Joe Farace, Jack Neubart, and Frank Phillips contributing fresh articles. Joe is covering fashion, glamour, and fine art nude photography. Jack is digging into the technical nuts and bolts of digital cameras and printers, and Frank is delving into macro photography with some up close and personal bug portraits this month.

The Changing State of Web Advertising 
Pick up one of your photo magazines. You'll notice that it's thinner today than it was two years ago. There simply isn't as much money being spent on advertising in the current economy (though things are beginning to look up). Now flip through the pages of Vivid Light. It doesn't take a degree in rocket science to see that Vivid Light, or any other online publication for that matter, is getting far less advertising revenue than printed publications. Despite numerous studies that show the Web is now the place where folks research their purchases, advertisers are intimidated and confused by this new media and cutbacks in advertising budgets hit the Web much harder than printed media. When times are tough people tend to go with what they know - not with what's new.

Like any other publication we rely on advertising to keep the lights on and to keep film in the cameras. So over the next few weeks we'll be finalizing agreements with at least one of the large online ad agencies. In plain language that means that we're renting them space on our pages. In return they get to place whatever ads they choose in that space. With limited exceptions we'll be giving up control over the kinds of ads you'll see on our pages. There may even be the occasional pop-up ad. Though we've been assured some limits on pop-ups can be imposed.

If it sounds as though I'm less than thrilled about this arrangement you wouldn't be wrong. No publisher wants to give up control of any of the content that is going into one of their publications. But the current state of the Web is that a few large agencies control the majority of ads being placed. We can either conform to this emerging standard or we can close our doors. The choice is pretty clear. That said we're still concerned about keeping readers happy. Otherwise we wouldn't be doing a major overhaul of the site to meet your requests. So we're setting up an advertising feedback link. If there are any ads your find offensive please let us know and we'll pass this information back to the agency. In some cases we may be able to pull the plug on individual ads if too many readers find it to be offensive.

We're targeting the second week of September to bring the Online Photo Community live and online; and about the same time frame for the new advertising contract to begin.

It's always been our goal to grow and make Vivid Light a better place for our readers. There's a link you can click on to send us feedback on the bottom of every page. Something few other Web sites do. Time doesn't always allow me to answer every email I receive but I can assure you I read every one.

So after reading about all these changes click on the link right below this line. Drop me an email and let me know what you think - good or bad or just "hey I'm OK with all this". Tell us about other ideas or things you want. We really do want to know.

Jim McGee 
Managing Editor 
Vivid Light Photography Online Magazine

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