Rio Grande School uses photography to make their case

Good photography is crucial for school websites and other communications, but having worked with several schools on website projects, a common mistake I see is for the schools to think that any kind of photographs will work, so long as they include children.

Often there’s a big difference between what the images shows, and what the image says. It might show some students having fun on a project, but if it’s a poor quality image what it might actually say is more cluttered and confusing.

People are bombarded by mediocre images all the time, but the rarer good images still make an impact. The day in the life project (the link goes to my other site) I shot at Gentle Nudge preschool shows this well.

So when Rio Grande School in Santa Fe asked me to take some photographs for a mailer advertising a 7th Grade options evening, I was pleased to help. Even something as apparently simple as a postcard can communicate quality and trustworthiness if it’s done correctly, and communicate lack of care if it’s not.

The brief was to show some of the older children at work at Rio Grande (an elementary school), as these would be the kids whose futures would be explored at the meeting. The room where I was shooting was pretty dark and a little cramped, but I was pleased to deliver some high-quality shots, including the one the school and designer selected for the card that shows a couple of the children engaged and committed in their learning.

The visual busyness in the background is downplayed by being out of focus, and the composition highlights the girl, who has attractive catchlights (the white twinkles) in her eyes. She’s placed to the right of the frame to give her eyes some room to look into, and the papers she’s holding give some balance to the framing.

The boy in the shot helps fill the middle ground, and the focus of his attention underlines the girl’s — they’re both looking in the same direction.

It would have been easy to take some bad images in this tight space (and believe me, I did), but I think this one works well, and does a good job on the finished card.

If you’re interested in photography for your organization, I’d love to talk to you.

New version of New Mexico Community Foundation site

We’re delighted to announce a new version of the site for the New Mexico Community Foundation.

Four years ago we worked on an earlier redesign of the site and we’ve maintained and updated the site in the meantime.

But with a new CEO and changing priorities, it was time for a major overhaul. Working with Eric Griego of Firestik Studio, we helped the NMCF identify their key audiences and objectives, and translate that into a structure for the new site that would be easy to navigate and expandable.

Firestik worked on the look and feel, with input from me on best-practice and practicalities, and I built out the infrastructure of the site, including a homepage slideshow, video and social media elements and online donations.

A key challenge was satisfying the different audiences for the site, including potential donors, professional advisors and potential grant-seekers working in other non-profits. Each group has different expectations, different levels of experience with non-profit processes, and uses different vocabulary.

Another key requirement was to show the excellent work the NMCF is involved in across the state, so the Impact section includes case studies and examples of the NMCF in action. Freelance writers Carmella Padilla and Megan Fleming worked on these stories and gathering and fine-tuning the rest of the content.

Excellent photography from Don Usner is used throughout the site.

This is an excellent example of the team approach that works well in larger projects, and underlines the importance of using high-quality writing and photography. Too often well-structured, well-designed sites are let down by poor photographs and hastily-written content.

The result of all our efforts is an attractive, well-written and easy to use site that elegantly satisfies a range of audiences, and drives involvement in the work of the Foundation in a number of ways.

Site address: nmcf.org

Photographing the q-bio conference

I was delighted to be booked to photograph an evening of the q-bio conference in Santa Fe this weekend.

Held at St John’s College, but organized by the Center for Non-Linear Studies at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the event explores cellular information processing and ‘is intended to advance predictive modeling of cellular regulation’ — (no, I don’t really know what that is either, but everyone there obviously did).

The organizers wanted photographs of the biologists enjoying pizza and beer after the daytime sessions, then heading in to take part in the evening events.

These included a brilliant talk (complete with songs) by iconoclastic Israeli scientist Uri Alon, who gave a compelling account of the need to acknowledge the subjective and emotional side to life as a researcher.

You don’t expect a guitar in a science lecture, but Uri Alon’s not the average scientist

And then the attendees broke out into the poster sessions, where their fellow delegates put up posters outlining their projects and then discuss them long into the night.

The organizers used the images as part of a slideshow at the banquet held on the final evening of the conference, and will use them in print and online publicity for next year’s event.

One of the joys of being a photographer is being invited into a world you’d normally never venture into to. This is what drew me to print journalism — just for a little while, you get to explore what other people’s lives are like, and try to understand things enough to tell an interesting and accurate story about it. The same is true with photography.

Attendees talking through and debating their projects with other delegates in ‘poster sessions’

Full-page photograph used in New Mexico Magazine

The current issue of New Mexico Magazine includes a full-page photograph of mine from last year’s Santa Fe International Folk Art Market.

It shows a little girl standing in front of the lovely decorated archway at the top of the stairs at the Market, and it introduces the magazine’s Going Places section.

I’m particularly pleased because the model in this case is my daughter. I try not to include her in my work too much, but I made an exception in this case.

More of the images I made at last year’s Market are here in a Flickr set.

Updates to Clearing the Vision Photography Website

Just as the cobbler’s children need new shoes, often a web designer’s own sites get neglected because they’re too busy working on other people’s projects.

So it was with the site for my photography business, Clearing the Vision. I had a new logo and a clearer focus on the sort of work I was doing — mainly children’s photography for parents and organizations. But I needed my new site to reflect these developments.

It wasn’t necessary to tear down the site completely to incorporate these changes, which is one of the benefits of a site driven by a content management system. Modifying templates rolls out a new look across the whole site without have to adjust every page.

As well as a new palette and new logo, I added a homepage slideshow that uses JavaScript not Flash, so it works well on iPads and iPhones. I also stripped the rest of the content down on the homepage to give the images and welcome message more prominence.

My site is integrated with Photoshelter to display both public and private client galleries, so I adjusted the Photoshelter custom templates to keep the same look and feel throughout.

For my portfolio section, I added Photoshelter’s new large-size displays (which also work well on mobile devices). A few tweaks to the blog to add the email newsletter signup box and we were done with the technical part.

As ever, re-writing the text content and choosing the right images to accompany was where the real time was spent. That’s the key material that really repays attention.

How to Spot a Great Web designer from 250,000 miles

Grover Sanschagrin, co-founder of PhotoShelter recently wrote a helpful blog post outlining things photographers should think about when choosing a web designer. He makes some good points, and then very kindly recommends me personally.

I’m one of eight recommendations, and Grover explains

I’ve created a list of designers (many of them are also photographers) who I feel are worthy of consideration. All of these designers are also experienced with PhotoShelter’s advanced customization capabilities, which means they know how to integrate all of PhotoShelter’s tools into a website or blog.

If you’re a photographer looking for a new site, especially if you’d like it to integrate it with PhotoShelter, I’d love to hear from you. And you don’t just have to take my word that I can help — you can ask Grover.

You can read Grover’s full post here.

Cattle Drive article for New Mexico Magazine wins award

An article I wrote last year for New Mexico Magazine has just been awarded an Award of Merit for Travel Feature from the IRMA (International Regional Magazine Association).

The magazine asked me to go on a cattle drive at the Burnt Well Ranch near Roswell, NM. I hadn’t ridden a horse in 20 years, and had no idea about being a cowboy — which was why they sent me, I think.

There’s an excerpt from the piece here, and here are some of the photographs I took (in an amateur capacity on this occasion) while on the drive.

Social Media Case Study — Santa Fe International Folk Art Market

Having a solid website is a great start, but increasingly a good social media offering can really make the difference with your online presence.

I built the website for the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market several years ago, and have been maintaining it for them ever since, adding new artists as they’re selected for the Market, and keeping the press releases and press cuttings up to date.

But the organization became increasingly aware that they needed to do a better job of communicating what was happening with the Market throughout the year.

Great material, no time

The Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, produces the largest international folk art market in the world, and its success led to Santa Fe’s designation as a UNESCO City of Folk Art. The Market hosts an annual festive, weekend event on Museum Hill in Santa Fe, New Mexico attended by hundreds of hand-picked artists and thousands of visitors.

Selecting the artists, putting on the event and tracking the impact of the money raised by the artists when they returned home produces some amazing stories. But the Market, a non-profit with a small staff, didn’t have the resources and skills to tell those stories effectively online.

So they asked if I could help.

21st Century story-telling

Together we devised a publication schedule for blog posts and Facebook updates that would lead up to the Market in July and beyond. Some of the stories introduced new artists who would be attending for the first time, while others looked at the impact the Market makes on the artists’ communities when the artists return home with the money they’ve made in Santa Fe. We also looked at the role volunteers play in making the Market happen every year.

I then wrote the blog posts, often interviewing people involved, or working from suggestions and notes from the Market staff. As the Market arrived I also photographed artists and shoppers, and kept Facebook and Flickr up to date with shots from this year’s event.

This combination of writing, photography and internet knowledge is a crucial part of contemporary story-telling, but often its overlooked or undervalued. People can see the need to spend money (or commit internal resources) on technical infrastructure or graphic design, but somehow think that good content and images will magically appear without any work or expense.

Inviting contributions from visitors

Another part of a successful social media campaign is to involve your followers as much as possible. To this end, we invited people who had attended the Market to upload their best images to the Market’s Flickr pool, building a beautiful crowd-sourced overview of the event.

The Market currently has nearly 2000 people in its Facebook group, and monitoring and replying to the posts and comments there is another important part of fostering conversation between these committed supporters of the Market.

Conclusion

In the eight months between May and December 2009, four blog posts appeared on the Market site. Once we started working on this for the Market, we published 24 blog posts in the 8 months between January and August this year. We also gained around 1000 Facebook followers in the same period. The feedback from visitors to the site and the Facebook page has been positive, and we’ll be working on another plan for the 2011 Market.

AIA Santa Fe chooses Moore Consulting to design new architects’ site

We’ve just launched the new site for the local Santa Fe Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), and we’re very happy with it.

With over 130 Regular, Associate, Emeritus and Allied members, AIA Santa Fe focuses on local design and construction issues, supports New Mexico architecture students, provides continuing education opportunities for its members and circulates news and event information. Its lecture and film series are open to the public to bring diverse groups together to discuss architectural issues.

Updating their previous site meant calling its developer, and the site content had grown a little disorganized over time. So two key aims for the new site were that it could be updated by AIA volunteers and that it was structured to allow for additions.

Given the site’s main audience is architects, it also had to look good.

We developed a clean and spare design that incorporated the AIA colors but also left lots of white space. The most recent items added to the site’s News section appear automatically on the front page of the site, and other sections include sublevel navigation that can grow as more pages are added.

A Member Directory and Search feature make it easy to find the contact details for the chapter members, while integration with Paypal allows members to pay for their monthly lunches via the site.

And because the site is built using the WordPress content management system, all the updates and additions across the site are now performed by AIA volunteers.

Site address: http://www.aiasantafe.org

New Website for Santa Fe Architect Steve Shaw

Shaw Architecture, P.A a long-established architecture firm here in Santa Fe chose Moore Consulting to design and develop their new website, which has just launched.

Steve Shaw was looking for a clean and elegant design that showcased his high-end residential and commercial work, which includes the new ranch headquarters facility at the Flying Diamond Ranch, the Madden-Follingstad residence and the Santa Fe Business Incubator.

We chose a dark background to show the photography to best advantage and used an elegant display solution to allow visitors to click through multiple images for a project without having to reload the whole page.

The site is built using WordPress, making it easy to maintain. However, we developed a set of custom templates for the site, allowing for control over every detail, from the homepage slideshow to the unusual sub-level navigation which appears above the main navigation bar, allowing the full width of the page to be used for images and text.

Site address: http://www.shawsf.com