Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The book's available!

Well, that was faster than expected. I had the first batch of books arrive today and no surprises, they look great, so I'll get the pre-orders out tomorrow and there's a couple left for anybody else who wants one. Go to my books page for ordering options.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What's in the book?

For those of you who want to know exactly what's in the new book before purchasing, I've set up one of my usual preview pages.

A note to models - if you're reading this and wondering why I didn't send you a note to let you're in the book - I haven't done any kind of mass mailing yet, and might not because many of your email addresses are on a dead machine (I can get to the info if I have to... probably... but not easily). So I'm just mentioning it to people I've kept in touch with as I talk to them, and I know a fair number of them keep an eye on this blog so if you don't know if you're in there or not hit the preview page...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

New Model: Marion

The set with Marion is up now. This was kind of a "safe" shoot for me - lovely woman (French, too - hearing an accent like that makes me think I should be taking some video!), relatively short shoot but she's a very good model and we just did simple stuff and I think the results are nice.

The next two shoots (as currently scheduled, they seem to be moving around a lot lately) are intended to be much more experimental, so we'll see how that goes.

This is only nude shoot #2 for the year - my intent is to post new sets at a somewhat accelerated schedule until I'm caught up, but not as fast as I'll be shooting since I'd like to build up a bit of a backlog which should help avoid this kind of big gap in the future.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Book update

I got my corrected copy of Beauty and it looks great. So I've updated the books page with a direct link to the printer for those of you who would rather buy one that way. If you click on the cover it will take you right to a preview of the first few (of 80) pages so you can get the idea.

I think it's only good for another couple of days, but the code TWENTYPERCENT will get you... wait for it... twenty percent off if you buy through Blurb.

I'll be in "pre-order" mode here for a while longer for people who want signed copies. I used the code above to order a small number of copies to start. Depending on how much things pick up now that there's a preview out there, it may or may not be enough to cover anything past some initial orders so basically the bottom line is that if you want a signed copy from me, that's great, but if you don't order soon you might be in the second batch and it might take another couple of weeks. (The first batch will go out around early April). I'll put some on eBay at some point for people who prefer that, but only once I have some extra copies on hand and nobody's waiting for their order.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Post Shoot Notes: Marion

This morning I had a nice shoot with Marion. As always I just grabbed a couple when I was copying the set over and checking out that everything was working OK. Good thing too - I wrapped the counter from 9999 to 0000 mid-shoot and the way the camera organizes things into folders half the shoot vanished... until I realized what had happened and copied those over. But I definitely had a scary moment!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Book news

That's the lovely Brooke on the cover. So I have some good news, and I have some bad news. The good news is that I got my sample copy back from Blurb and it looks really good. It's not the same quality as the prints, of course, but very nice.

The bad news is that I had to make a couple of little adjustments. Out of an abundance of caution I'm ordering another sample copy, and won't order in bulk until I've received it. So by the time I get any kind of decent number of copies to sell it's probably going to be early April.

But back to the good news - I know now that I know enough to go with Blurb and what the cost will be. So I can take pre-orders now, and once I get that test copy I can turn on direct sales with Blurb (which has some annoying features - their author payment setup STINKS compared to Lulu). I'd be doing pre-orders anyway since I'm going to start with a decent number of copies and that helps with the up front cost and also gives me a better idea how many to order.

So all that being said, if you would like a pre-order go to the books page and there's a link for the US or international. The books are $39.95 plus shipping (varies by location). Such a deal!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Little updates

If anybody's looking for some really excellent imported wild fennel seeds, check out Sausage Debauchery's eBay store. I hadn't made sausage for a while - it's actually pretty easy, and fun, and yummy, but the fancy-pants fennel definitely makes a difference. (Update: His website's live now - Sausage Debauchery).

As long as I'm plugging random folks, I get casings and the curing salts for when I make bacon from Butcher Packer.

Blurb printed the book sample faster than expected and it turns out they ship them from Washington so I should have it Wednesday according to the shipper.

My lab does framing now and I ordered some for the studio and they look GREAT. Part of why I got them was so I can have some pictures handy, up on the wall, where I can point and say that's an 8x10, that's an 11x14, that's a 16x20 and they can see what they look like framed without running around the house and finding some. I'll also offer it as a service to portrait clients - I got a little sample thing with pieces of the different frame choices and all that. It probably doesn't make sense as a website option, so I won't be adding it in any formal way, but if you've been thinking "Gosh, I'd love a print, but I hate getting things framed" drop me a note and we'll talk.

And as I'm sure everybody's tired of hearing, there's lots of cool shoots scheduled, but we're not there yet.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Time marches on

There's a little amphitheater behind the music building at Mills College. If you look at the work of Imogen Cunningham you'll see it occasionally (see this one as an example).

This is just from my little point and shoot. They're not really using it now - it's pretty messy but nothing a pressure washer couldn't fix. But the thing that amuses me? The safety rail. I wonder when they added it and if it was in response to somebody actually slipping or if they were just being paranoid. It's not a very strong looking rail, and I'm guessing most people don't use the stairs much anyway. They've also painted that wall in the front (not pictured in my shot) bright white and it looks kind of strange versus the concrete - you don't really get the same effect in the wider angle shots.

In other news, I have three model shoots scheduled in March. I had four but it's looking like I'm going to have to reschedule one to April. Unfortunately the one that was rescheduled as the first one so it will be a couple of weeks. Which is also probably when I'll get the test copy of my book and if the quality is fine I'll do things like post the cover and pricing and so forth.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

More on the book

Well, that was painless. Blurb's software for assembling a book is really very user friendly, especially for this kind of book where you're mostly swapping pages around. I actually did the whole thing in one session with a baby in my lap, although the big monitor helps. One bit of good news is they can print everything flush to the page without borders, so the image size will be a tiny bit larger even though the pages are a bit smaller than Lulu.

So now we wait. I get a copy (which will take a while - they have to print it and send it UPS ground from Lord knows where). I decide if the quality's impressive enough versus Lulu to justify the 50% price increase (sigh) and if I need to make any little tweaks. I may need to reorder another test book if I make enough changes that I feel nervous, but otherwise I just mark it as public and roll with it.

These aren't a big money maker compared to the prints, but they're fun, and people give them as gifts so in some ways they're kind of a permanent advertisement (put the URL in the book!).

Monday, March 08, 2010

Craigslist Find

I got this on craigslist - red Weber kettle, old style wood handle, three vents on the bottom instead of the modern "one touch" system with a big handle. As far as I can tell it was made from 1976-1978. That's when I was 6-8 years old, so I like to think of it as the charcoal grill we would have had if my family had some common sense. (I have happy memories of outdoor cooking but also of lots of problems with the cheap cooker and almost non-functional electric charcoal starter. With one of these and a chimney starter there would have been a lot less cursing.)

Cost? $15. I had to do a little sanding and put some tung oil on the handle to make it look nice and protect it, and I removed a little light surface rust here and there, and I went ahead and replaced a couple of key parts like the grills. Luckily Weber hasn't changed their grill dimensions since then so you can just pick that sort of thing up at the local hardware store... that's a sign of a great product, by the way - 35 years later and you can still get parts for it.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Book progress

So I went through the 47 shoots I identified earlier and came up with 86 shots, which is more than I want because I want to keep it under 80 pages and you lose some pages to title pages and such (although two will be front and back cover shots). This isn't really a problem because some will naturally drop out when I start caring about what order they go in. It's basically an exercise in pairing up pictures - compare and contrast - maybe two pictures of the same model that are interesting, or the same lighting, or two different models in the same location, or similar poses, or similar moods, or very different moods... you get the idea. And it seems like there's always something that doesn't quite fit. So with any luck maybe some will just drop out.

The next steps are to figure out exactly what dimensions I need, if I'm going to use their software to assemble everything or use a word processing program and generate a .pdf, and then just sit down and do it. That last bit usually takes a while if you're not just throwing everything together at random.

I'll probably also try some cover mockups with a fake title. Finding a cover is always challenging - you need not only a strong image and one that sums up the book but one with a lot of empty space where you can put text! So even if I can't make the final version sometimes it's useful to make some mockups so I at least know what image I'm using so I won't use that in the book itself.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Book update

So I started item #3 (these don't all necessarily have to be done in order) - checking into Blurb. Here's what I found.

1. With the options I need, the Blurb books are slightly smaller (8x10 versus 8.5x11) and cost about 50% more. This is supposed to be a low cost alternative to prints so cost matters!
2. Opinions on print quality vary. Some people seem to think one's better, some the other. But I do notice the more recent ones are impressed - they may have had a major quality upgrade at some point.
3. The way their pricing works it's not per page, it's within a range, so if I go with them I might as well go with 75ish images to keep on the high end of a tier.
4. It's not that much more expensive to print a 80 page book versus a 20 page one so there's no point in doing a pre-test, I might as well upload all the images.
5. They apparently have some nice formatting software which might be easier than doing a PDF.

So I think I'm going to go with that route in mind - reformatting the images to Lulu's spec and changing printers won't be difficult if the quality isn't high enough to justify the price.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Book notes

So here's my to do list:
1. Identify shoots since last book - done - 47 that are suitable
2. Identify 1-2 pictures from each shoot, including keeping an eye out for good cover shots
3. I've traditionally used Lulu - check Blurb since they seem to be popular now. What's their pricing, are there any format gotchas, and see if it's worth sending in a minimal short form book just to test quality. (Depending on minimum page lengths and stuff)
4. Make final decision on printer
5. Get their templates and per page dimensions
6. Format everything to that spec
7. Come up with a !@#$ title (always the hard part)
8. Format covers to their spec
9. Assemble book, including title page, choosing picture order. Identify any text that needs to be written.
10. Write the text, format that.
11. Send to printer for test run.
12. If it looks good make it available for sale

I'm not sure how long it's going to take given my other commitments, but I have three shoots scheduled but they're all in the last two weeks of March so let's see how far I can get before then.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Little updates

The posters thing didn't perform and I've removed it. There was interest but somehow no actual sales. But hey, now I know, and oddly enough sales of some of the high end stuff have been really strong. It's interesting - I used to sell mostly 8x10s but now it's mostly 11x14s and 16x20s.

I would like to have some lower cost option, partially because it lets people try out my customer service (excellent!) without risking lots of cash, so I'll probably step up plans to whip together a book. Same sort of thing I've done in the past, for those who have one, 60ish pages, and I skipped a year so I have two years to choose from so I'll probably do anywhere from 0-2 pictures per shoot. There's not a lot of text so it's pretty straightforward if you already have the pictures - basically just a question of choosing and assembling everything, then I'll probably try a different print on demand company just to compare, and then go ahead with whichever one impresses me the most. I'll try to get those first steps started because it does take a while to get a sample back.

I have some cool shoots scheduled, but none as soon as I'd like, sorry about that. But if even some of what I have planned works out I think folks will be pleased.
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