blog posts

Four Years of Real-Life Usage: Pros and Cons of the Nikon D3300

The Nikon D3300 continues to be one of my favourite low-priced but at the same time very versatile DSLR cameras. Some call it an excellent ‘entry-level’ camera, but it is actually more than that. I am still quite impressed by most of its features after more than 4 years of regularly using it — or, rather, even two D3300 bodies and a handful of lenses. They have all served me quite well and, over that period of time, both positives and negatives have come to light. I will explain some of them below.

The good sides of the Nikon D3300 really dominate. The camera is easy and pleasant to use in most situations — for photography even more so than for video, although being able to record at a full 60fps in HD1808p with such a low-priced camera was one of the reasons for me to get one — and this is what still amazes me today after so many hours of of HD video recording time spent with it.

Other great features of the Nikon D3300 are its featherweight specs which might even make it fly on a medium-sized multicopter for aerial video shooting, if someone is so inclined and looking for a real high-quality solution and relatively big-sensor camera to take to the skies.

In photo mode, the camera can shoot JPG and NEF (RAW format) stills at up to 5 images per second.

The real-life downsides of this camera are there as well, but they are mostly hidden ones. Most of them got to do with video camera handling. For example, if you want to shoot video remotely, you actually absolutely can not, by any means, monitor what you’re shooting: the Nikon D3300’s menu simply does not allow for any control connections while set to LiveView. (That, however, is a pre-requisite for taking video on this camera in the first place though). Very annoying and partly anihilating the usefulness of this otherwise excellent little guy! I believe it is clearly time for Nikon to finally start thinking a bit more about videographers and not continue to ignore this significant market segment altogether (leaving so many chips on the table that way and really playing in to the hands of Panasonic or even Canon with their plasticky and Digital-Restrictions-laden stuff I’d never touch)… Nikon really ought to fight (and think) a bit harder in order to not rest forever upon their past rewards of having invented some great SLR technology in 1957 (their famous lens mount bayonet) and missing out on everything else after that as a result!

Wake up, guys, and turn Nikon around! (Unfortunately, Nikon continues to exhibit remainders of that old thinking even in their latest top-of-the line Nikon D850 model… Really very sad.) While everybody appreciates good still-photography tools, more versatile ones also doing decent video — and appropriate video handling and UX — are needed to keep your position in today’s market.

Edit: there is a much longer and more detailled article I have discovered after writing the above. Curiously, it includes pretty much the same complaints about handling (or actually, the lack of it!) in video mode (as well as the lack of that, as well)! Also, the article continues laying very similar accusations and suggestions at the door of Nikon (and pretty much every other DSLR maker out there) for not getting today’s market anymore. You may want to read the article, which is, in fact, a Nikon D5300 review, here. Please do let me know in the comments section (below) what you think…

Best Solutions for Self-Hosted Contests, Giveaways, and E-mail List Hosting

Finding the best solutions for self-hosting giveaways, contests, and e-mail lists on your own website is gaining importance. Recent changes with may of the established platforms — or even niche offerings — are making it increasingly difficult for small businesses and independent entrepreneurs to find good and affordable solutions for particular marketing tasks in their daily business life.

It is not just YouTube who unilaterally and even retrospectively (and hence unfairly!) for Channels meeting the 10,000 views threshold between September 2017 and early 2018 significantly upped their requirements. Other platforms appear to b e following suit. We just received word of a number of specialist platforms introducing high fees or others ceasing operation of much-liked services altogether.

self-hosted giveaways, opt-in pages, e-mail lists hosting

It appears that, therefore, taking control yourself and self-hosting your business’ core needs, goodwill building functions, and ultimately your property is what makes the most sense in an increasingly locked-down world.

Depending on whether ‘going the extra mile’ is worth it to somebody, there are great entirely self-hosted solutions (hence independent, free from worries about price changes or program cancelations) available. So if you’re like me and happen to like being in control, then look into WordPress-based plugins like ‘Shortstack for WP‘, ‘Simple Giveaways‘, the FatCat Apps Plugin Contests & Giveaways, or add-ons for WooCommerce like WooCommerce Free Gift. The latter is particularly seamless if you already have a self-hosted e-shop.

The above listed, along with other useful functionality like E-mail list management or A/B testing for opt-in or landing pages and other marketing or online-selling functionality, should pretty much take care of all of your online business needs.

Granted, there is a learning curve as well as some admin work involved with using any of these solutions but these may be outsourced, if needed, and the control over your business given back to you by these Plugins is definitely worth the effort. Eliminating any counterparty risk for these parts of your entrepreneurial property is what it all comes down to! There is little use in building a business or goodwill or any other portions of business assets on someone else’s servers where they can all be taken away from you just at the punch of a button.

Youtube Customer-Service Speak: Can You Go Even More Overboard…?

Customer service is all about ensuring customer satisfaction — even for an unsatisfactory (or flat-out bad) product or service. A certain “speak” has been developed as a tool for achieving just that, and users in the customer service and marketing industries have gone increasingly insane with the euphemisms they use, the phrases they develop, and their attempts to brush off legitimate complaints or concerns in order to make their product or service shine, no matter what…

Part of this is the “proud-speak” variant of language where these mercenaries of big or even not-so-big corporations boast their tremendous qualities, insights, and ingenuity for their product or service. Touting customer service dedication and 24/7 availability is, of course, a huge part of that (even as it’s most certainly not done out of compassion for the poor troubled customer, but for corporate greed and promotional reasons only). Google have now gone completely overboard. Topping it of, delivering the absolute maximum, the ultimate in claimed largesse, they apparently cannot help using the following paragraph as part of their instructions among YouTube help topics:

*Please note that flagged videos do not automatically get removed. We have trained internal teams, fluent in multiple languages, who carefully evaluate your flags 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year in time zones around the world.

Actually surprised they stopped short of intergalactic availability throughout multiple gravitational zones and solar systems, but they already manage topping the list of dumb claims and wordings by some margin! (Even if it should be true, although it isn’t, at least for the “trained” teams part as we all know how much these call-centre agents know — or don’t.)

Thank you YouTube. Apart from your latest rip-off policy changes in the YPP (YouTube Partner Program), the 2018 demonetization wave against small Channels and YouTube creators, it gives us additional stuff to talk and post about on our Blogs…

 

Camera Popularity Wars in a Vlogger-Dominated World — Annoying

Camera and product “suitability” questions are increasingly often decided by Spartan-style popular outcry instead of reasonable consideration of actual product features and strengths. I find this quite annoying.

The former is now common in a world dominated by vloggers, full-time YouTubers and similar self-proclaimed “experts” who, upon closer scrutiny, are often using and operating their equipment more like Silly Sally than a tech-savvy photography or video specialist.

A recent (infamous) example can be seen on YouTube here: an actually promising review of an even more promising camera (the excellent Nikon D850, already called “camera of the year 2017” by many!) turniong out to be an idiotic time-waster full of user error, useless anecdotes about what the camera does or doesn’t compared to a smartphone and resulting failed conclusions.

On the positive side, here’s also a Steve Perry Nikon D850 camera review to make things up to you. This one’s by someone who’s a real pro and actually knows the stuff he’s talking abou!

While it may be true that Nikon, indeed, still continue to overly focus on the photography segment of the market (where they came from, you might want to note), neglecting large amounts of features needed for DSLR filming on many occasions, that would not be a very smart strategy on the part of a camera manufacturer. I normally love and do prefer Nikon over Canon all the time, but quite clearly their way of thinking needs to be modernised back home at Nikon HQ. It is not a smart approach in the day and age of “video is king” to still stick with slow autofocus technologies, excessive shutter roll, lack of selfie-mode displays etc on a camera as that will give your excellent products a bad name as a result. Nikon should keep in mind that nowadays vloggers are all over the place, and thanks to YouTube and similar platforms they are the most vocal group (as in Spartan popular outcry)…

Maybe I would not go as far as saying, it’s not even meant for video (or designed) because, if so, they should say so on the packaging or other sales materials :) Also, maybe the entire concept of DSLR-video is overrated as “real” as in “good video” is still done on VIDEO cameras, not DSLRs.

Panasonic might possibly come to the rescue here, single-handedly topping even the shrewdest and most “popular among vloggers” Canon features by orders of magnitude in a single product update :) Actually, Panasonic are doing that with a mirrorless camera though (not strictly a DSLR then).

YouTube Monetization: Revealing the Real Profit Source for Online Video

YouTube monetization may be a nice feature — but it’s also a big smokescreen (or at least distracting most everyone from what posting a video online is all about, and where the real money can be made with it)!

People are barred from seeing the real deal as a result. They are fooled into believing that those measly pennies make much sense earning. So everyone and their grandmother are out to lecture us about Casey Neistat and the likes and what they supposedly “make on YouTube”. Then these smart [ones] come up with all these educated-looking calculations about what a View is “worth” and oh-so expertly do the simple math multiplying the stuff, whereas the lion’s share of income is made NOT from measly AdSense-style or ‘monetization’ payments but Affiliate links — a totally different thing! Many of the true experts in the field confirm that the ratio is roughly 9:1 in favour or the latter.

The real YouTube benefit for “real YouTubers” or full-time video shooters on there is the site’s characteristics of also being used for “search” (albeit a bit ridiculous when actual search-quality really matters — not the way to go) and by posing as a “social platform” at the same time. YouTubes objective here is attracting and retaining people spending their time on there which, in turn, plays into the hands of savvy video producers and online marketers. All this combined together into one big package deal — also including those 11% or so in monetization income if you insist — is what makes YouTube successful, and also useful from a business point of view. Visit an Experienced Online Marketing Consultant to let them guide you to business growth and success with internet marketing and online video.

If you want to go it alone and already have a really neatly working YouTube channel plus everything else in place and are sure you’re not overlooking any of the crucial ingredients, the next thing you may want to set up would be a number of affiliate opportunities. These can either be found on affiliate portal sites or, sometimes the better choice, individual websites onboarding affiliates. (It’s usually at the bottom of the page or in ‘about’ sections, not too easy to find but not too hard either.) It’s always an option to go it alone if you already are sufficiently well-versed in this area, but remember that we’re here to show you how to get farther, faster, so any consultation cost may be money well spent.

Web User Experience: Browser Issues Solved with Opera

Website interaction has become an ever increasing part of overall computer use for most of us. This means that web browsers have even more importance as one of the most widely used application programs on your box. This is true for PCs, be it as a desktop or laptop variant, tablets, and all sorts of mobile devices used for accessing the Worldwide web.

The Google-dominated Firefox browser, derived from the original “Mosaic Netscape” flavors of the olden days, has been the web browser of choice for the majority of web users for some time now. Frequent updates of this browsers mean frequent improvements, but sometimes they may spell trouble or are less popular. This is one of the reasons many users disable auto-updates and try staying with a tested and proven browser version for as long as possible. (It is never a very good idea to auto-update blindly into everything some developer or other forces down your throat without thorough real-life testing by other users.)

The recent Firefox update which introduced a new browser layout (among many other less visible updates) is a good example of a version update many would rather do without. Not only is the new layout not popular with everyone, but the fact that Firefox is becoming more and more bloated and demanding on system resources alone is sufficient reason to be not happy with this. That this version update has been forced upon users even where auto-update had been disabled does not help the measure’s popularity either.

Reason enough for many users to start looking into better solutions than Firefox again.

This is precisely the time when attention turns to the Opera browser which has been well-known for many years now and is always a good option when it comes to solving problems caused by the “big two”, Firefox and Safari (or Internet Explorer, for those who still believe in or for some other reason are stuck with some flavor of MS-Windows).

The Opera browser has a long-running reputation for gentleness on overall system resources as well as “running on all platforms”, i e versions available for all operating systems (which even included Atari, BeOS and IBM’s old OS/2 systems earlier). It is not only worth a try, but Opera is definitely a good — if not better — solution for everyone concerned about general performance and system speed. Opera also includes a highly functional and slick-looking e-mail client. Dissatisfaction with recent Firefox updates — or general Mozilla products, if their dumbed-down attempt of an e-mail client called Thunderbird is included in our considerations here — may serve as a good reason for finally solving the problem with that browser named after a rock on the Svalbard Islands off northern Norway.

Bitcoin, Crypto coins: Breaking All-Time High after High

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Bitcoin and other Cryptocoins have been drawing a lot of my attention again with a truly breathtaking series of price high after price high (measured in dollar and other paper-currency terms). The latest high is $9771 so far, happening last night. Most of the recent highs did not hold for long but were rep[laced by even higher ones, often within hours. Altcoins are doing similarly exciting things. The overall coinmarketcap is now up more than 300% in just six months.

This might be a good time for more businesses to consider accepting Bitcoin as payment for their products or services. Overstock have been the first to do so, introducing Bitcoin payments in 2014 or so. My own images are available for download for Bitcoin and Altcoin payments as well. Current rumors are, that eBay, Amazon and other large online sellers are considering accepting Bitcoin payments, too. The time might be right, as U. S. tax regulations are about to be amended and include a tax-free threshold of $600 for Bitcoin payments, giving Crypto payments the same status as any foreign (paper) currency from an income-tax point of view. (In fact, the amendment might have been brought up by lobbying by Amazon and similar interests in order to give them an easy way to open up additional customer interest by accepting coin payments without having to worry about resulting income-tax implications.)

It should not only be me selling images for Bitcoin and Altcoins but the time for large stock image agencies accepting Bitcoin may be right around the corner. Wouldn’t it be nice if Dreamstime, Videoblocks, Nimia or Shutterstock, for example, started selling stock image downloads for Crypto coins?

On top of opening up new markets, it would also benefit contributors and image buyers alike by reducing payment processing fees as well as sizeable allowances for losses due to credit-card charge-backs priced in to prices these days.

Video Marketing: Top 6 Reasons It Is Essential

There are statistics and numbers left, right and centre showing that video marketing is much more effective than marketing without video. These are pretty convincing for some time now, and they just sound right. It is amazing, though, how many online “marketers” still haven’t heard about it, or still haven’t really got the message in that they still don’t know how to apply video (properly).

Initially, let us look into the major facts making video marketing such an effective selling tool. I discovered the following list of pretty straight-forward top-6 facts here plus the additional list further down to the bottom, both hammering home the basic idea and making you get the message right away:

  • Companies from A like Apple to Z like Zappos, the online shoe retailer, use video extensively; Zappos, for example, makes product demo videos for every one of its shoes, and their video team produces more than 2300 videos per week
  • Why? Because, according to another set of Zappos data, the company’s conversion rate grew by between 6% and 30% for items that included product demos. In addition, site visitors who viewed a video prior to buying a shoe were 52% less likely to return it
  • Stacks & Stacks, the online kitchenware sellers, reported shoppers to be 144% more likely to purchase from their site after watching a product video compared to those who didn’t
  • Companies and brands from Adobe to Adidas, Volkswagen to Amazon continue to shift their online marketing strategies aggressively toward online video
  • According to internet research company comScore, users share more than 700 YouTube videos using Twitter every single minute
  • You will be using video in the marketing effort for your business — not because it seems “cool” but because your audience is demanding it

It’s pretty obvious that marketing for your business can’t afford to ignore online video marketing. So, why video?

  • Search for video on YouTube is serving as the second largest internet search engine
  • YouTube scores an overall third among the most visited websites in the world
  • Video shows up on page one of current “number one” popular search engine Google
  • A single video is worth 1.8 Million words
  • According to comScore, 45.4% of online users view at least one video online per month
  • The average user is exposed to an average of 32.2 videos in a month
  • Over 100 Million people watch online video every day
  • According to comScore, viewers spend 16 minutes and 49 seconds per month on average watching video ads
  • The average website visit without video is 50 seconds
  • The average website visit with video is over 5 minutes
  • 73% of sellers say they would promote their listings with someone using video to market their item
  • An Australian marketing group reports that real estate listings with videos receive 403% more inquiries than those without videos.

Learning Stock Photography from True Sources?

There’s this gal I am following online. It is a lot of fun, though not in the way you might imagine. I don’t dislike her or anything, but the problem is she’s working for a seminar provider “teaching” people how to earn money as writers online, as house-sitters for holiday homes abroad, or from stock photography. In one of their initial teasers I saw, she mentions how nice the feeling is being able to make a car payment from one’s stock image income.

Well, or so they make you think.

The “fun” part comes in when watching the entire show more closely and marking those claims to reality. I have been mean enough to do just that for two years or so now. The reality is, unsurprisingly, not as simple as these claims, which are, in fact outrageous. That does not mean that it cannot be done at all or that it is not worthwhile nor fun doing it, or at least trying it. Some people still make good money in that business, even today.

Here’s what I found out:

Maybe, she even is overly unsuccessful and others can do better than she does (or the market has slumped so badly that even I am underestimating that slump, and I am just lucky to do better)? Anyway, she sells about 20-30 images at Dreamstime annually, and she’s doing this out of a portfolio of 88 photos she has for sale with that particular online image agency. She also is a fully-qualified photographer (learned photography, worked for a local photographer in the Pacific Northwest for a few years, and now is in the employ for that seminar provider for the very reason that she has those credentials. Apparently, these are supposed to add “credibility” to the pricey seminars they offer). She has learned the Ins and Outs of photography basics over multiple years of hands-on work in that very field.

In her seminars, she teaches you what to shoot, how to shoot it, and how to post-process it (and what software to use, which is an Adobe product — why am I not surprised)… She does exactly the same things for her own stock photography shots, and they are technically flawless and looking really good. She even uses models and does “all the right things” (which includes shooting all that crap that is supposed to sell so nicely as stock images in today’s “multi-cultural” and oh-so tolerant marketing industry). This type of content has recently been parodised by Vince Vaughn and the entire cast of “Unfinished Business” — so it’s not just me thinking these “messages” are ridiculous. There are even has those proverbial “business-people high fives” where that African-American face is smiling at the Half-Asian, and our girl also has the image of a box of “valentine’s treats” with some rather meaningless “Love, Oh-la-la” plastered across the picture.

At the end of the day, she has sold a total of 186 images over a whopping seven-plus year period with the agency. At the stock photography going-rate there of between 34 cents and $2 dollars (a little more for XXL-size images purchased without a subscription, which rarely happens these days), she would have all of $70-odd spread over more than seven years which equals roughly $10 bucks of income per year. (Even at the maximum conceivable in case she always managed selling XXL-sized images to a non-subscriber — which is entirely wishful thinking –, those earnings would still be under $500 total over a seven-year period).

Even considering the fact that she has a larger portfolio with iStock and also with Shutterstock — and Shutterstock is supposed to sell a significantly higher rate of your images albeit at a measly 25¢ a pop, which in my experience is not even the case — the original claim of making more than a totally negligible amount cannot be upheld in her case at all.

So much for that making-a-car-payment claim. So much for the overall credibility of that Publishing company offering those $$$ seminars.

Every time I make another sale from my (even smaller) portfolio with that same agency, I go and check if she has also sold something. She hasn’t. For the last four or more sales I had, and counting. Considering that I think my low sales rate is normal in today’s over-saturated microstock market and in light of my own very small portfolio of stock photos available through this particular agency, at least I must do something right there — and a lot better than that “coach” herself.

But she’s the one giving us advice.

WordPress Basics: Useful Modifications (1)

WP, the popular WordPress CMS (or Content management System), is an enormous powerful tool for every small business, private individual running a Weblog, or even larger E-Commerce Websites.

Out of the box, WordPress is ready to be used for any of the above purposes — and then some.

This is a great thing. The CMS comes with the famous 5-minute installation feature, you basically just download the WP version you want (not necessarily always the latest but at least one of the more recent ones), punch in a few basic settings, and you’re good to go. A video showing this process as an easy-to-follow tutorial will be posted here soon. This will even help total newbies to be all set in no time!

The ease of installation is one of the reasons — if not the chief reason — for WordPress’ popularity all over the internet. WP websites make up a huge chunk of all Weblogs on the internet (between 40% to 70%, depending on how you count). WordPress’ ease of installation is a good thing — on one hand. It comes with a few disadvantages though, on the other.

For example, when a total Noob (or newbie) starts out with WordPress, all these nice “Get WordPress Now” helpers point to the very latest version of WordPress (that would be WP Ver4.4, as of this writing — and possibly 4.4.1 or something as soon as later this week). The “current” is usually the “best” version for most purposes, security-wise or when it comes to certain bugfixes or similar. As soon as you start adding something more specific for your purposes, maybe a special WP Plugin to do specific tasks, you may soon find out that not all the great Plugins there are will support the very latest of WordPress versions. It may well be, that your favourite (or most-needed) Plugin “only” supports WordPress’ previous version (which may have been top-of-the heap as recently as this morning but is kind of “old crap” in the afternoon).

Even worse, since WordPress 3.7 there is an “auto-update” feature activated by default. Pretty much as the name implies, this auto-update forces your website to automatically update to the latest version of WordPress once such a new version becomes available (maybe over lunchtime, in order to stick to the example above). This means that a somewhat modified or specialised website running some we–maintained and useful Plugin for specific extra tasks you may like or absolutely require for your purposes may or may not be incompatible — and, in more severe cases, possibly even causing your website to crash — from, well, lunchtime or whenever that next WP update happens to be. Not good.

Some plugin aren’t completely compatible with WordPress updates as soon as the updates come out.

So one of the more useful “modifications” you might want to make to your installation is disabling this somewhat questionable WP auto-update function. This is easy to do. It only requires adding one line of code as described below:

  • Go to your WordPress server.
  • Go to the subdirectory of …/yourwebsite/
  • Find the wp-config.php file”
  • Open the file in an editor
  • To completely disable all automatic updates (of any type), add the following line to your wp-config.php file:
define( 'AUTOMATIC_UPDATER_DISABLED', true );

This will save you from waking up one morning and finding that some auto-update has broken your installation.

Still, you may want to manually update to a fairly recent version in order to eliminate vulnerabilities or exploits that may come up over time as attackers try to find ways into websites. Once you know that a more recent version is not doing any harm to your configuration and Plugins used, do a manual update to a later version (or the latest one, if you are reasonably sure that it will work with your Plugins).

There are also Plugins of their own to more comfortably control WP updates in a Graphical environment. Disable Automatic Updater https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-disable-automatic-updates/ and Update Control http://wordpress.org/plugins/update-control/ are two Plugins doing just that.

 

Basic Website Security — Part 1: Why You Might Want to Change Settings

Attackers use certain exploits in software. This is a well-known fact that everyone knows throughout both the multi-media and IT-security industries.

Standard software or at least popular pieces of software everyone and their grandmother use are particularly vulnerable — think allocation of resources, the bigger the target the more attractive it seems from an attacker’s point of view.

This doesn’t mean that you needed to avoid popular software like WordPress for content management, nor avoid any other widely-used solutions. (“Security by Obscurity” does not usually cut it, anyway.) All this just explains why you might want to stay informed about existing vulnerabilities (or, if you don’t have the time or expertise for that, trust the developers to fix any security holes and simply update to the latest and “best” version).

Beyond this, you might add some common-sense measures though:

  • do not use trivial passwords (no need for overly fancy ones either)
  • watch your server logfiles for latest goings-on on your website
  • respond accordingly, if you detect any irregularities
  • these usually include login attempts to “standard user IDs” (such as admin)
  • change your Administrator account to a different user ID
  • avoid your own domain name as a user ID (script kiddies try to brute-force that name regularly)
  • deploy some security features (most CMS-es have special security add-ons, “plugins”, or packages)
  • set those packages correctly (a fire extinguisher is of no use, unless you know how to handle it)!
  • make frequent backups so you can recover in case of an attack

With just a handful of common-sense procedures or reasonably easy-to-use add-ons, your website should be safe and run for years without any successful attacks or even serious-enough incidents (almost-successful attempts) whatsoever. Attackers aren’t that smart, and just stopping their most stupid attempts usually leaves them clueless and moving on to easier targets.