What to do with all those photos?
Travelling to other parts of the globe or living in a different culture has its consequences. Not only does it expand your horizons but it stretches your mind and senses till they bulge and re-shape themselves, steaming and cooking in a huge melting pot of experiences . Everything looks, smells, sounds, tastes and feels different. Things are done in ways you'd never imagined before, or may not even get done at all. Life moves more quickly or more slowly. Ideas or values that are considered priority in one place may become irrecognizable elsewhere. Yes, travel challenges you to discover a new way to look at life and confronts the narrow mind, urging it to become more elastic.
If, like me, you are keen on photography, then you will most probably find that your senses run amok and one of your favourite past-times will be observing life in another place through a lens and capturing those daily scenes on your memory card to look through later. I can't begin to tell you how many photos I have snapped over the last five years since we came to Mexico City to live. With well over 25 million neighbours who clearly live a totally different lifestyle to what I'm used to, there is no shortage of opportunities for people-watching. Add to that 4 million vehicles ranging from the ubiquitous and much-loved Beetle Bug, bullet-proof vans, ancient peseros (small green tin buses) falling apart and tricycles overladen with wares, and a simple drive anywhere turns into a gold-mine of potential snapshots. Then of course, there are the hundreds of museums and cultural sites in the city. In fact, the entire Centro Histórico was designated a World Heritage Site since the experts were unable to decide which buildings to include. And being Mexico, the food, the traditions, the festivities and customs literally beg to be photographed as I make my way through each day.
WHAT TO DO WITH ALL THOSE PHOTOS?
Please don't ask my family how many photos I've accumulated over these 5 years. They will just roll their eyes, shrug their shoulders and probably mention a figure in the millions. Even I don't know how many I have! The question is: "What to do with all those photos?" I take photos for myself and my family, obviously, and make up albums for friends and family. I put some on my blog posts too. But what about the thousands of other shots digitally stored somewhere in my house? What to do with them? That has been my dilemma.
A couple of years ago, I had an idea which may sound complicated but isn't really. Not only does it give you a showcase for your travel photos but it also helps you to organize all those pictures lurking virtually in your hard discs or memory sticks, those shots which haven't seen the light of day for a very long time. I decided to try and set up a travel photography website. Actually I'm a whole lot better with the technicalities of camera modes than I am with computers so if I can do it, just about anyone can also have a go. The result is a website which I can add to or modify as I desire, completely free of charge. And I have the satisfaction of looking at my photographs on-line, nicely organized. I'm not talking about a business, but just a nice fun place to store your photos, look at them and show them to others.
SETTING UP YOUR OWN TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY WEBSITE
This is all about a fun, DO-IT-YOURSELF, way to set up your own site so I'm just giving you a few ideas from my own experience. I am far from being an expert web designer or anything else.
1. Website company
There are many companies on-line to help you create your own website. Some are free or also offer more sophisticated options for which they charge an annual fee. Many are exceptionally easy to use for anyone without a lot of computer knowledge. This was important to me as I wanted to be in charge of everything, so that I could add photos or change the site whenever I wanted without having to do it through someone else. If I can do it, it is entirely feasible for anyone to do! I use WEEBLY and have found it more than suitable for my needs. (Although I have WEEBLY in Spanish, you can also set it to English).
2. Domain name
Choose a domain name for your site. The free ones usually include the name of the hosting site at the end. For example, mine is:
3. Site name
Choose a name for your site. Mine is clear and direct.
MARGARET METCALFE PHOTOGRAPHY - DISCOVERING MEXICO
I decided to keep this particular site exclusively for my Mexican shots rather than including my pictures from other countries.
4. What sort of website?
Think about what sort of website you want yours to be. For example, I wanted mine to be a showcase for my photos taken in Mexico where the photographs themselves would stand on their own with little extra information. There is very little written text apart from the Home Page and the titles and one or two captions where these are strictly necessary.
When we first moved to Mexico City, most people had the idea that it was a dangerous, polluted metropolis, not entirely apt for a family to move to. What I have discovered since living here is that it is an incredibly lively, colourful place brimming with people, culture and traditions. The idea behind my website is that when people see my photos of Mexico City or other places in Mexico, they will re-consider their pre-conceived ideas and want to learn more about this city and the country as a whole. My site is also useful for people who come to live here and want to discover interesting places to visit.
Next, you need to have an idea of how you want to organize your pictures and this will, of course, depend on whether you are showcasing a round-the-world trip to many countries, or just concentrating on a single country or place. You may want categories such as Nature, Landscapes, People or Food. Or you could categorize your shots into the different trips you have made. A good idea is to browse other travel photography sites on the Internet to get some ideas. Some are exclusively made up of photos, others have texts, blog posts and maps. Get creative.
6. Creating your site
Gone are the days when you had to be a computer programmer to set up a website. Most of these D-I-Y sites have a very easy system of "Dragging-and-Dropping" items so you can choose how to arrange your content on a pre-designed template. Need a title? Drag-and-drop the "title" icon where you want it and write the title in... A slide-show? Drag-and-drop the Slide-show icon and load the photos you want to appear there. Change the order if you want. Text? Gallery? Contact Form? The same applies. Practise a bit first and see what's possible.
7. Tabs and Pages.
You can organise your photos under various HEADINGS. Without running off the screen, you can usually have about 10 major headings but under these, you can add many pages and sub-pages, even at later dates whenever you want to. For example, I have 10 major headings:
HOME - IDENTITY - DIVERSITY - MEXICO CITY - LIFE - ROOTS - MUSEUMS/SITES - THEMES - SOCIAL ISSUES - CONTACT
Under each of these headings, I have a varying number of pages and sub-pages. As you move your cursor over the main headings, other tabs drop down vertically and as you move over these ones, some have sub-pages which appear to the right. In this way, you can have a fairly large number of pages and keep adding as you need them.
For example, under LIFE, I have been organising the pictures in the following categories:
PEOPLE - FLAVOURS - MARKETS - DEVOTION - ON THE MOVE - ARTISTIC EXPRESSION - TRADITION - FESTIVITIES - COLOUR
Under some of these categories, over the two years that my website has been up and running, I've found that I wanted to make some more detailed pages and so have added sub-sub pages. For example, under ARTISTIC EXPRESSION, you will find:
CRAFTSMEN - MEXICAN TEXTILES - WEAVING SHAWLS - TALAVERA POTTERY
The good thing is that you don't have to do this all at the beginning. Start off with some general categories and as you get more photos on a particular subject, you can create sub-pages.
8. Preparing the photos
I choose the shots I want, then re-size them to about 3000 pxls, and add my watermark (name etc) to them. That way, if people do want to purchase or use them, they need to ask me for the original size. Then I upload them to the appropriate pages. You can choose the format, design and layout, how many per column, the spacing size between the photos and write captions for them.
9. Other additions
You can easily create links to other pages in your website or web pages which are external to your site. Other options are adding videos, social media, blog posts, documents etc. The possibilities are endless.
I have a link to my Travellerspoint blog, "Wherever Life Leads Us", as many of the blog posts are about Mexico.
10. Publish your website
Finally, when you are happy with your design and have everything ready, publish your site. As soon as it's on-line, you can see your photographs displayed and let others know where they are.
After more than five years living in Mexico, I have experienced certain festivities year after year, such as Day of the Dead or Mexican Independence Day. As I take more pictures (with a bigger and better camera than when I first arrived) these are added to the categories, or I change the photos for better quality ones. When I travel to different places, I also add more cities, sites, museums or experiences. After uploading, I then publish the site again with the new additions or changes.
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As you can see, this is not a detailed step-by-step description but rather gives you an idea of what is needed and what is possible. It's fun designing and creating your own travel photography website and gives you a reason to get all those photos out of their virtual storage, dust them off and put them on display! And you never know, you may even attract a bit of business at the same time. Be inspired and get started!