Sunday, 22 November 2009

Tutorial on using my new Zazzlit Gadget on your blog or web site

After something like five or six intense days, I've finished both my Zazzlit Gadget and the tutorial on adding and using it.

What is it?

Regular readers will know that I've recently opened a Zazzle shop (basically they make it dead easy to get your images onto products. No set-up fees.)

In these tough economic times, sales of my work through my web site have dropped off. People aren't really spending on fine art the way they used to. Not mine, anyway (and I keep hearing the same story from other artists).

The shop is a way to offer my work, albeit in a different way, at a much more affordable price. And it's starting to work.

So what is the Zazzlit Gadget? It's a way for Zazzle storekeepers to display just the products they want, in a small gadget in their blogger side panel or on their web site. Zazzle provide a couple of brilliant panels but they don't allow you to narrow down the products displayed.

But my Zazzlit does! I had to write it because I couldn't find one anywhere that did the job half decently, one that any shopkeeper could use. The thing about the Zazzlit Gadget is that I can put one on each of my sites / blogs and get them to display the type of gear most suitable to the folks who visit those places.

Tutorial - a piece of cake

My tutorial shows you in 5 easy-to-follow steps, with live working examples, how to point and click a Zazzlit onto your blogger blog.

Another revenue trickle / stream is always good...

I'd encourage any of the serious artists who follow me to sign up for a Zazzle shop - apart from the effort in uploading images and applying them to products, any sales made are pure profit. If you do, get things moving by using Zazzlit.

I'm not saying this is an instant earner but if you already sell your work and have a good handful or two of regular followers, then with Zazzlit you should see some additional revenue.

As usual, I'm after your feedback. What I want to know is, was the tutorial easy to follow and understand or did it frighten you?!

Secondly would you/will you use Zazzlit on your Zazzle store or does it have any drawbacks that need fixing?

comments / feedback always welcome :)

Thursday, 19 November 2009

I fought Google Gadgets and won!

[UPDATE: 22 Nov. This brief tutorial is now out of date. Please see the new, full-blown tutorial at its new location.]
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[UPDATE:] There was a flaw: clicked links opened the product page in the gadget window. Now fixed to open in a new window / tab. 
New filename is v1_1 (full name: http://hosting.gmodules.com/ig/gadgets/file/100521288542998786592/zazzle-by-highton-ridley-v1_1.xml)
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It's been a long eleven hours! ([update: now 25!!]

Google gadget for Zazzle

I couldn't find a way of displaying search results from my Zazzle store in a small panel, suitable for my blog.

So I wrote my own - which other zazzle storekeepers can use too.

The key things it does are:
  • Searches your store for the tags you decide
  • displays the products, matching the search
  • Make sure you use your associate id in the config (see below) so you get the credit for referrals 
  • clicking the picture takes you to that item in your store
See it  in action at the top of my right hand panel (I can't get it to work in posts).

The really great thing is that you can have lots of them, each for a different search. Wouldn't it be great if you could put all your fun products on a page you've got which is to do with humour?

Simple, use the gadget with a search for all your products that are tagged with "fun". Do the same for your page about your favourite band. The list goes on...

So exactly how do you do this? Well, read on...

Blogger Blog

To get it onto your Blogger blog, from dashboard, choose "layout" and "add a gadget". In the window that pops up to let you choose your gadget, choose "add your own" and give it the following url
http://hosting.gmodules.com/ig/gadgets/file/100521288542998786592/zazzle-by-highton-ridley-v1_1.xml
You then get a chance to configure it. The settings you'll want are
  • Title: Whatever you want.
  • Height: 220 (or, I guess, a multiple of 220 [Update: two require 434]
  • Show Dates: (go on, you can guess this time!)
  • Number of entries: 99
  • Zazzle rss feed. This deserves a few words. Look at mine
  • http://www.zazzle.com/HightonRidley/rss?qs=fun&at=238582202591969585
  • "fun" is the search query - all your tags are searched. If you want the tag "fine art", use fine+art
  • the number at the end is your associate id. Get it from your store.
    Then you'll get the credit from any referrals
  • Note: When you change the Zazzle rss feed (including the query string etc), the preview won't show the changes. You'll only see them once you've completed adding the gadget (grrr!)
    • Box colour: Each product returned is surrounded by an outline. Set the colour here.

    Ordinary webpage

    (or an FTP blogger blog)

    Here's the code I use: Copy and replace the relevant bits and put on your page or in your blogger (classic) template sidebar:
    <div style="width: 200px;">
    <script src="http://www.gmodules.com/ig/ifr?url=http://hosting.gmodules.com/ig/gadgets/file/100521288542998786592/zazzle-by-highton-ridley-v1_1.xml&amp;up_show_date=1&amp;up_num_entries=99&amp;up_MyZazzleFeed=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.zazzle.com%2FHightonRidley%2Frss%3Fqs%3Dfine%2Bart%26at%3D238582202591969585&amp;up_ItemBoxColour=96%2C96%2C96&amp;synd=open&amp;w=200&amp;h=220&amp;title=My+Zazzle&amp;border=%23ffffff%7C3px%2C1px+solid+%23999999&amp;output=js"></script></div>
    The relevant bits are:
    • HightonRidley: change to your own store name
    • qs%3Dfine%2Bart: change to qs%3Dyour_search_query%26
      (this does a search for fine+art, note that %2B is used in place of the "+" symbol)
    • 238582202591969585 change to your_associate_id
    • &amp;title=My+Zazzle change to the title you want.
      Note the + is used in place of a space here
    • ItemBoxColour=96%2C96%2C96 change to ItemBoxColour=red_value%2Cgreen_value%2Cblue_value
    Whew! Well, that's it. If you have any questions, I'll try and answer them but remember that I'm not techy. I know just enough to be dangerous! hehe!

    If you use the gadget, drop off a link to your page / blog in the comments, I'd love to see how you use it :)
    comments / feedback always welcome :)

    Tuesday, 17 November 2009

    Christmas prize draw

    I can't quite call this a freebie draw because it's only open to those who have made a purchase from my zazzle store.

    What's up for grabs?

    Win a mounted, signed fine art print, your choice of print. They sell for around £75 ($125) in the galleries where I have work. Imagine it, you buy something from my shop as a Christmas present for someone else and you could win the print of your choice for yourself!

    As usual, there will be three winners (if enough folks enter) selected from The Hat of Wonder And Hope.

    Rules

    [Update] Ends 14th December
    • Buy something from my zazzle shop (see panel below)
    • Make a post about it on your own blog
    • In your post, link to my shop using http:zazzle.co.ukhightonridley* as the destination url (note the asterisk on the end)
    • Comment on this post to let me know you're in and what you bought. Or if you prefer, email me at highton dot ridley (at) gmail.com to tell me instead.
    Just think, with three prizes an' all, if I only make a few sales, you're almost bound to win!

    There's funny, romantic and inspirational cards and wares available here:

    Doh!

    I had a Doh! moment when I sent out my occasional mailing earlier. I mentioned that you, my great followers, with all your interaction, have helped me to become a Gooogle-recommended example site -- yay! \o/

    And I forgot to give a link to it! So without further ado, here it is, Google's page of example sites that are using Friend Connect effectively.

    comments / feedback always welcome :)

    Sunday, 15 November 2009

    My first Zazzle award!

    As you know, I've just opened a zazzle shop (I think US folks have to use the US version of my shop to see the prices in dollars—let me know if otherwise, please.)

    Lucky day for some...

    Well on Friday 13th I happened to notice I was getting postings on my zazzle wall from peeps congratulating me on my "TBA". As I'm a complete zazzle newbie, I had no idea what this was. Some digging around later and I see it's quite an accolade—a Todays Best Award.

    The product was a greetings / note card featuring my barbican steps image.

    How exciting!

    comments / feedback always welcome :)

    Friday, 13 November 2009

    Funny or not?

    Well, I thought I'd share this one with you... it made me laugh!

    New poster for sale

    I think you might like this one... freshly added to my Zazzle shop.
    i iz snoozin poster print
    i iz snoozin poster by HightonRidley
    See other posters from zazzle

    comments / feedback always welcome :)

    About my new shop's products

    I thought I'd better explain why I've gone for a Zazzle shop and the difference between the products there and those on my website.

    In a nutshell, if you don't want hand-processed, signed prints then they are much more affordable via Zazzle.

    I don't make that many sales via my website—hand-processed limited edition prints of my artwork are relatively expensive (especially in today's economic climate) and are beyond the reach of most of my followers. However, I know that most really like my work, judging by the comments left and if you're one of them, it's now much more affordable to buy...

    Products on my Website are...

    • Hand printed on the finest quality paper
    • Hand mounted using archival quality material
    • Signed, dated and titled by hand
    • Available as limited edition prints as standard
    • For framed options I use a local professional framing service

    Products in my Zazzle shop are...

    • Much more varied, with mugs, t-shirts (to come), cards and more
    • Printed on demand using a high quality process
    • Customisable
    • Much cheaper than the hand-processed prints on my website
    See for yourself. In the panel below you can see my current range of cards and notelets (or if you choose, you can see all products).

    With the Christmas holidays approaching, tell someone you care by sending them one of my fine art prints. What are the chances they'll ever get such a unique card from someone else?

    make custom gifts at Zazzle

    comments / feedback always welcome :)

    My shiny new Zazzle store

    I've been searching for a while for a print-on-demand shop and now I've found one.

    Zazzle.co.uk

    Shops at zazzle are free to run—no setup or placement fees. Immediate appeal to a Scotsman! So I've spent the last couple of days setting mine up and I'm pleased to announce it's now open for business.


    What's really cool is the level of customisation you can do to your products. You can even set some items, such as a card's inside message, as a template item. You provide the initial message but a customer can change or personalise it.

    On top of that you can earn commission when folks follow your link and buy from other people's shops. Not bad.

    The only drawback I found was initially getting used to the way you do things there, especially with the way you create products. But once you're used to it, it's really quite easy.

    I know there's quite a few cat fanciers that follow my blog, so how about this:
    Nedda postcard
    Nedda by cunningba
    Create Full colour postcards online at zazzle

    comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

    Wednesday, 11 November 2009

    Photography composition tips

    As promised a while ago, here are some rules on composition you need to know about. As usual, half the skill comes in knowing when to apply them and when to turn a blind eye.

    The rule of thirds

    ..is a useful one. It says that you divide the image into a grid, jut like the one below. Then, when you're composing your shot, you place significant items along / up any of those lines. Horizons are easy, place on the lower line for an airy feel, on the upper line for a more closed-in feel.

    Put your main subject somewhere where two lines cross and you'll boost its power, its dominance in the shot. Have a look at the following images.

    In Firefox (others?), you can drag the grid and slide it on top of the images here (let go and it'll pop back). Look at what it tells you about where I've placed the various elements in these compositions. You'll notice things don't have to be exact—near the lines / crossing-points works too, I think you'll agree.






    Lead-in lines

    As it says on the tin... lines that lead the eye in and guide the viewer to your main subject. It can be a hit-you-in-the-face, straight shooting line like here (and in the piccies above) or it can be a meandering line that takes you to various points in the image, before continuing to the next.



    Foreground interest


    If you have a shot that takes in a lot of distance that also includes the foreground, then you need something to initially grab the viewer's interest and bring them into the rest of the shot. And that's what foreground interest is. Without that bundle of paper, or the post on the beach, those shots would lose a lot of power.

    Distractions

    Well, I haven't got any examples from my work for this heading! I'm always very careful with distractions (a bit of a pedant actually!). So what do I mean? Well there's a couple of things that fit here. (I'm assuming here you're past the point of shooting people with telegraph poles sticking out their heads!)

    First Contrasting areas near the edge of the frame. For example, if you have mainly dark borders with a light blob next to the image edge, then the viewer's eyes will be pulled right to that blob and then likely right out the picture. Even if they're looking in the body of the image, as soon as their eyes get anywhere near that blob, bang, they'll be drawn right to it. Or maybe it's a tree branch sticking its nose in, or some other distraction intruding into the frame.

    Second For example, one or two birds that are just dots in the sky (or maybe there's one or to spots of chewing gum on the pavement in a street scene). If the sky is uniform and those dots contrast against it, again the viewer's eyes will notice. But once their attention is drawn, there's nothing but dirty smudges to see. Sorry, they've got to go. A stray crisp bag, one corner poking into the scene from under a bush?—get rid of it.

    Simplicity

    If there's no good reason to include something in your shot, don't! Of course, when you're shooting from the hip because there's lots going on, well, the finer points go right out the window then anyway.

    For other situations, those where you have more time and control, simplify, simplify and simplify again. Ok, again these are extreme examples, but they serve to illustrate.



    Another example, say you're taking a macro (close-up) shot of some mushrooms under a tree. Remove any stray twigs, leaves or other detritus—it's mushrooms you're photographing after all!

    Height

    Don't always shoot standing up. Varying the height from which you shoot can have a huge impact on the final shot. Shooting kids / pets? Get down to their eye level, get below it if you can. Shoot a worm's eye view of a scene, getting as close to the ground as you can. Jump up on a wall to introduce foreshortening or just to get interesting lines.



    In a nutshell

    Place important elements along those powerful thirds' lines / intersections. Consider how to bring the viewer's eye into the picture, look for what can serve as lead in lines and / or foreground interest. Have a quick glance around for distractions and watch out for areas of high contrast along the frame edges.

    Next steps

    Use and abuse these rules the next time you get the chance. Try to get a feel for which compositional approach suits each scene you take a fancy to. Walk a few steps in each direction from the first viewpoint you naturally gravitate towards. See how any possible lead-in lines change their relationship with the scene as you move. Crouch down, step up high, look for foreground interest.

    ...and let me know how you get on, post a link in the comments. I'm looking forward to seeing how you get on.


    comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

    Tuesday, 10 November 2009

    Main site galleries updated with new images

    I've spent some of today updating my main site

    New images

    I've mainly been adding all my recent and new images but I've also simplified / de-cluttered my home page a little. If you like, have a critical look at it and let me have your honest feedback. You might have something to say about the following:
    • Is it easy to find your way around? Did you notice the tabs at the top?
    • Was site search easy to spot and use?
    • Are you ok with the level of interaction via the Friend Connect stuff?
    • Should I have some of my more popular images on the page?
    If you have time, I'd love to get your feedback.

    Have a great week all :)

    comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

    Monday, 9 November 2009

    A shot on the juggle

    In between ferrying a friend around while he dropped of his car for his wife (long story...) and us visiting a friend in hospital, I managed this opportunistic shot...

    Dodging the traffic

    ..well, not quite. There were only a few cars around and I was stood in the cross-hatchings in the middle of the road. I did have to seek the pavement (sidewalk) a couple of times for safety while I was looking for the best viewpoint. It happened to be outside the rear car-entrance to Plymouth's Charles Cross police station and I got a lovely smile from a woman police driver who saw what I was up to as she turned into it.

    It just so happened that the only parking space I could find near to the Uni was just opposite this spot and as I got out the car to stretch my legs while I was waiting, The first view I had of it was from this angle and, as it turned out, it was the best viewpoint—I only had to get closer to fill the frame.


    Sanity's Edge


    Ok, I've given it a bit of a film-noir treatment, as that's how it spoke to me, but what really grabbed my attention was the way that the glassless window-opening framed the stairwell and its lovely bold shapes—patterns framed by patterns.

    Well, it appealed to me anyway!

    In answer to a comment a little earlier by Donna I said to watch out for my next post. I hope it was worth it! It's certainly turned out better than I'd dare hope. What do you think? Does it do anything for you?

    comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

    Saturday, 7 November 2009

    Trawling the digital darkroom

    Here's another from Felixstowe I finally got round to processing...

    Huddled together


    Beach Huts At Felixstowe Seafront

    Just like penguins huddled together for warmth, these beach huts hunker down, over-wintering and dreaming of the summer to come.

    comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

    Thursday, 5 November 2009

    Printing, framing, prize winners and new gadgets

    A busy few days... nice busy :)

    Gallery prep

    The frames arrived today so it's been a good few hours of printing, mounting and framing—mostly framing as I'd already printed and mounted most of them. Even so I'm glad that's done and now it's just a case of delivering them to the Gallery Guest House in the morning.

    £5 of each sale will go to the Poppy Appeal, which is very appropriate as the owners are ex-service folks.

    October prize winners

    Two of the prize winners from my October draw have been in touch, just waiting on the last one now. Where are you, Betty Manousos?

    Slew of new gadgets

    The Gooogle Friend Connect team have been busy! They've released some cool new gadgets, have introduced a way of making newsletters available and have made wholesale changes to the way you interact with the member / follower gadgets.I'm sure most of you will already have noticed some of these.

    It'll take me a few days to get my head around them all before I work out which are most useful for my site and blog. Watch this space!

    comments / feedback always welcome :)

    Monday, 2 November 2009

    Winners of my October freebie prize draw

    [Update: Doh! forgot to change the title from September to October. Done now.]
    Did you win? Read on...

    Hat of Wonder and Hope

    So, who won the three prizes? You'll have to click the image and see!

    If your name was one of the three out of the hat, now's the time to claim your prize. Just email me highton.ridley [@] gmail.com and confirm which piccy you'd like to get as a signed mounted print. Don't forget to include the full postal address where you'd like it delivered.

    To the unlucky folk—better luck next time!

    Watch out for the announcement of the October November [double Doh!] freebie prize draw.

    comments / feedback always welcome :)

    Sunday, 1 November 2009

    Making the draw and other bits 'n bobs

    So, a big day today—the day you've all been waiting for...

    October giveaway...

    So a little later I'll be drawing the winner from the Hat Of Wonder And Hope. Come back this evening (uk time) to see if you won. Good luck to all who took part!

    Gadgets...

    I also spent a little time this morning maintaining my blog, updating the template. Nothing huge—I added the top 10 Member Visits gadget, replacing the Member Links gadget. The links one had to go, as it didn't respect the blocked members and allowed anyone to leave spam links.

    On a similar note, I had to block one member who was a bit zealous (i.e. spam-and-run) in leaving proselytising statements about his brand of Christianity. I don't have a problem with the various forms of religion, it's just forcing them down folks' throats that I find off-putting.

    Similarly I've blocked another couple of followers with no interest in my blog but who were just spam-following (i.e. hoping folks will click their heads and then click the link to their dubious / mucky / commercial sites).

    A social week...

    I've had good friends staying as house guests this week while they were visiting their eldest son who has just started at Plymouth University.

    Their young daughter had great fun seeing and playing with him again. Of course she misses him a lot, even though she skypes him almost every night from back home.

    On Friday they all went to the circus in Ivybridge and had a great time and on Saturday we went to Mansour's for them all to try their hands at throwing pots. Everyone got messy with clay and had huge amounts of fun.

    The rest of Saturday was spent getting my house back in order after their visit. It's a real joy to have the house filled with gurgling laughter and the to-ing and fro-ing of growing kids, relived as you go around tidying up after they've left.

    ..And now I can get back to catching up on all your blogs, which will be nice!


    comments / feedback always welcome :)

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