Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pinhole Pro is Perfect for the Part-Time Pro Photographer

Part-time professional photographers are transforming the wedding photography market. Each year, more and more budget conscious brides select a photography enthusiast who is a friend or family member to photograph their wedding instead of a full-time professional. The pictures they take are often very good, but after the wedding, the bride is stuck with a DVD full of images and no idea how to transform them into high quality albums and gifts.

The Pinhole Pro service from Pinhole Press provides a creative solution to the bride’s desires while providing a supplementary income source to the photographer. Pinhole Pro allows a photographer to create an account to generate their own unique Pinhole Press web address. This address opens a page on the Pinhole Press store featuring “Beautifully simple photo products” targeted to the new bride. Any photo books or gifts ordered through that page generate a commission for the photographer.

To try it out, I created an account and was assigned the URL: .  Follow the link and take a look at the Pinhole products.

The Pinhole site is designed to appeal to the young urban female consumer. Each of the photo book and gift templates feature elegant graphic design and are printed on high quality fine art papers from Mohawk Fine Papers. Each product has predetermined photo sizes and placements to make the creation process simple and the final product elegant.

My personal favorites are the Panoramic books which open perfectly flat and allow the images to flow seamlessly across the center of each two page spread. I am slightly biased in this preference because these books are built using the TRU-Flat binding method developed by my company Convertible Solutions.

Pinhole Pro is an example of creativity in designing a new web business model to solve a problem for the final customer while providing a unique incentive to new channel partner.  Are there potential customers for your product with needs that are not currently being met?  How could you reach them?

                                             Example of a Wedding Cover Offered at Pinhole Pro

                        Panoramic books at Pinhole Pro allow the images to flow seamlessly across the center

Monday, February 21, 2011

Blurb Empowers Personal Storytelling

In the age of creativity, empowering your customer’s personal creativity is a powerful business strategy.  This approach has propelled book publisher Blurb to sell over 121 million pages of user generated content since they started in late 2006.

I had the opportunity to listen to Blurb founder and CEO Eileen Gittins explain the formation of the company at the DScoop conference in Orlando this week. Gittins was a photography enthusiast who decided to photograph each of her friends doing something important to them. In the process she realized that the stories behind the pictures were as important as the pictures themselves.

“Stories are a collective memory of who we are at a point in time,” Gittins observed.  She decided to assemble the pictures and stories into a book, but found the personalized publishing options available at the time to be lacking.  “I wanted to make a book of great beauty, a real book like you would buy in a bookstore,“ she explained.  “I couldn’t be the only person out there with that desire.”

Gittins decided to turn her idea into a business.  She took the courageous step of quiting her job and spending several months presenting her concept to the venture capital community, eventually securing $2 million dollars in funding. After assembling her team and building out the site, they launched and generated $900K in revenue in the first six months.  According to Gittins, “we had tapped into the passion of people wanting to share and tell their stories.”

After that first 6 months in 2006, Blurb generated $29 million in revenue and became profitable in 2007.  2009 sales exceeded $45 million and today 45% of their sales are generated outside of the United States. The urge to share personalized stories is a worldwide phenomenon.

While there are many sites that encourage people to share personalized content online, Blurb built their model on customers wanting to move digital content offline, into physical products.  The company realized not only that digital content can drive printing, but also “when it goes to print, it has to be even more luscious.”

Today the company is moving beyond sharing of personal stories with friends into matching stories with interested readers to generate a whole new business opportunity for aspiring writers. The company has already shared $2 million in profits with Blurb authors.

Blurb has succeeded because of the vision and persistence of Eileen Gittins and the ongoing dedication of the Blurb team.  What interests do you have that are likely to be shared by others?  How passionate are you about making those dreams become reality?

                                          Check out this beautiful story from author Lesley Graham 
                                            at: .

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Books in the Internet Age

Physical books have several advantages.

1.  Books don’t have to be recharged
2.  You don’t have to turn books off for takeoffs and landings
3.  If you lose a book, you don’t have to change all of your passwords
4.  You can fold the page corners to mark the best parts
5.  You can underline passages and write in the margins
6.  You can loan a book to a friend legally
7.  Books make great office decor

However, paper and binding is not the point of this post.  Let’s consider the content of books rather than their form factor.  With the immediacy of information available on the web through new sites, blogs and social media, are books still relevant for learning or entertainment?

The advantage of a well written book, is the depth that it can bring to a subject. The longer form gives the author space to present their subject with more research, more examples and more nuance than is possible in a news story or blog post. In addition, the process of writing and editing a book gives authors more opportunity to refine their thoughts and presentation.

As readers we also approach books with a different mindset.  Typically we read a book from beginning to end over a period of a few days and most of us read books in larger chunks of time than we would dedicate to a 140 character tweet or a one page blog post.  This allows us to absorb, consider and remember the information more thoroughly.

Most readers overlook the bibliography in the back of non-fiction books.  Don’t!  In the same way a friend’s Facebook postings can lead you to new sources of information, the bibliography is a list of books and articles to take you deeper into the subject.

Whether you prefer hardbacks, paperbacks, a Kindle or an iPad, find time to read more books.

This photo of books is from: . Check out their 26 reasons to read more books.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Resources for Studying Graphic Design

Since my last post talked about ways to use blogs, Twitter and Facebook as learning tools, I thought it would be helpful to share this link from which I found in my Twitter feed a few minutes ago.  It lists and describes dozens of documents, blogs, websites and podcasts with educational resources in graphic design.

Here is the link: .

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Blogosphere and Twitterverse

Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networking sites make it easy and fun to follow the most innovative thinkers in any field.  The best information is in the blogs, but your friends on Twitter and Facebook will help you find it.

Over the past decade, blogs have evolved from online journals into a mainstream publishing tool. There are more than 125 million separate blogs and highly creative people are some of the most prolific bloggers. Whatever your interests, someone is blogging about it and some of the blogs are excellent.  Bloggers are typically the most educated and passionate people in their field.

Several sites, including index blogs and this is a good way to initially find some blogs to follow.  Many professional journalists and professional writers are also bloggers. So when you read a great book or an interesting magazine column, be sure to check out the author’s blog. Bloggers also tend to follow and comment on other blogs, so an interesting comment may link to a new source of knowledge and inspiration.

When you are following several blogs, it quickly becomes unwieldy to visit each site individually to discover if it has been updated.  Set up an RSS reader page and use the RSS button at each blog site to set up an automatic headline feed to your reader.  That makes it easy to spend only a few minutes each day to see which blogs have been updated and decide which articles you want to read.

Searching on and reviewing RSS feeds are good sources of information.  Your friends are a better source. Who are the most interesting people you know?  Chances are, they are interesting online as well.  People who are intellectually curious have a talent for finding interesting information and sharing links to it on their own Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn pages. If you follow them on Twitter, friend them on Facebook, or contact them on LinkedIn, they become your news sources and news filters.

Twitter is the best way to find new sources of information because most Twitter users allow anyone to follow them and the “retweet” feature makes it easy for people to share the most interesting tweets.  When one of the people you follow retweets something interesting, you can choose to follow the original tweeter to gain more of their insights.  If it turns out that someone you follow generates a lot of useless or uninteresting tweets, it is easy to unfollow them.

This process works in both directions.  When you find a particularly interesting article, share the link on your page.  Your friends will appreciate it, and if they share it too, it might bring you new followers which you can choose to follow yourself.

It is important to set aside time every day to follow your social networks and read the best blogs in your field.  Then turn everything off before beginning your real creative work . Focus your full attention on your own project.

What are your favorite blogs?  How do you keep track of the latest trends?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Since the Big Bang

According to LemaĆ®tre’s Big Bang Theory, the universe originated from a single point 13.7 billion years ago.  

Since the Big Bang, all acts of creation have been derivative.  Everything that has been created or will be created contains the components from that original event.

Ideas fit the same model. All forms of creativity build upon the ideas of other people, whether historic or contemporary.  Great new ideas result from combining existing ideas into new forms. To enhance your own creativity, you need to expose yourself to the ideas of other creative thinkers.

When you approach a new design challenge, your solution will be pulled from your knowledge and experience. When those experiences are broader and deeper, you are able to blend them together in more innovative ways.

Studying the work of the most creative people in your own industry is only a baseline. It’s also important to understand trends in related fields.  For example, a photographer could benefit from understanding graphic design or fashion.  Knowledge that seems unrelated  is also useful and interesting. Perhaps the mechanics of the eye of a fruit fly will lead to entirely new approach to image capture.

To expand your creativity, begin by expanding your intellectual curiosity.

                                        Illustration of big bang from Science on

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Are You an Artist?

Are you an artist?

Hallmark artist and author Gordon Mackenzie asked that question of children in elementary schools when he visited to demonstrate his art of sculpture.  In every school, the first graders all jumped up and enthusiastically proclaimed themselves to be artists. By the second grade, that number was down to about half.  By the sixth grade, no more than one or two students per class was willing to admit to being an artist.  What happened between the first and sixth grades?

What about you?   Are you an artist?  

If not, why not?  

The Wiktionary defines an artist as “a person who creates art” or “a person who is skilled at some activity.”  I hope that each of you are skilled in some activity and growing more skilled every day.

The proverb declares that “If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well.”

My mission is to encourage each of you to embrace your inner artist!  Whatever you do, approach it as an artist and do it with skill and passion. 

Paula C. is an artist in the kitchen and you can read how she made this cake at: